How To Marry A Guy In 16 Days

This morning I got an email from a woman named Cate. She was slighty panicked—though in the good, excited, happy kind of way—because four days ago, she and her boyfriend had decided to get married. But why would she panic?, you ask. Is she secretly afraid that her soon-to-be-husband is suddenly going to start recieving Allure magazine every month in the mail for no discernible reason?


(Seriously, has anyone else's husband started receiving Allure magazine, unbidden, in the mail? Sean swears up and down that he didn't subscribe, but there it is, every month, with his name splashed across the mailing label. It is really very weird. I mean, I'm not complaining, someone's got to teach me 25 ways to do a smoky eye, but still.)

Anyway, our lovely new friend Cate wasn't panicking because she had a case of cold feet or anything. Our lovely new friend Cate was panicking because her wedding is in 16 days.

No, don't go back and read the top paragraph again; you had it right the first time. She got engaged four days ago and she's getting married in 16. Why the rush? Well, her boyfriend's father has an incurable form of leukemia. His doctors gave him a prognosis of three to six months, and that was two months ago. And as Cate says, so sweetly and simply, "we want him to be part of the celebration."

So Cate was writing for advice. "I know you're a planner," she wrote, "so I'm curious how you'd handle this feat." 

I read her whole email and then I took ten deep breaths in quick succession because I kind of got the feeling I needed to do it for us both. Seriously, I planned a wedding in eleven months and I don't think I unclenched my jaw the whole time—well, maybe for the catering tastings, but only because I didn't want to miss out on free truffled french fries—so the thought of anyone doing it in 16 days did make me start to hyperventilate just a little bit on her behalf. You know, like sympathy hyperventilating. It's totally a thing.

But of course it can be done. Of course it can. It's just a case of starting immediately, prioritizing quickly, and being incredibly organized. I thought I'd give Cate a brief idea of how I'd approach the task right here, and then open it up to you guys to see if you had any further thoughts. I know you guys are planners too. That's why we're friends.*

*(Well, you know, Internet friends. Inside the computer and everything. And you know way more about my life than I do about yours which would be super awkward if we ever met in person and I started telling you a story and you were all "oh, I totally know how that one turns out, and also the names of both of your cats and that you threw up in the ocean on your honeymoon." So okay, yeah, it's actually kind of weird if you think about it too long. But I still like to pretend we're friends.)

Here's where the situation stands. Cate and her boyfriend, Ian, live in Calgary. They have been together for nine years. Their wedding will be on Friday October 7th—which means they have the rest of this week, all of next, and four days of the one after—and a quick email invitation sent out a few days ago indicates that they'll be looking at about 40 guests. They have a venue booked—a gorgeous private dining room, which means food and wine will be taken care of through that—and they've pretty much pinned down a justice of the peace to marry them. (The pinning down of the justice of the peace, though an awesome mental image, was not meant literally.) A friend is making the wedding rings, and while they have other friends who are professional photographers attending, they're torn on whether it would be appropriate to ask them to capture the big day.

Basically, Cate and Ian are kicking ass and they are already way ahead of their game. This is going to be a piece of cake. (Wait! Cake! They also need cake!)

So this is what I'd do. I'd keep it as simple as possible, let everyone enjoy the planning—well, insomuch as it's possible to enjoy running around for 16 days like a chicken with its head cut off (okay, I would be running around for 16 days like a chicken with its head cut off, but your mileage may vary; you're probably all a lot calmer than me)—and try to look forward to the whole affair without giving way to stress and panic. In order of priority, I would tackle:

1) The marriage license
I am woefully unknowledgable about Canadian marriage licenses, but when we got ours down in San Diego, Sean and I had to make an appointment for it that was harder to obtain than front row tickets to a Justin Bieber show. (Uh, so I've heard. Asking for a friend.) If Cate and Ian can get this squared away as soon as possible, it will be a huge weight off their minds.

2) The photographer
Truthfully, I would just ask the friends. Professional photographers, feel free to weigh in, because I may be way off base here, but if a friend asked me to do a favor like this for a special occasion and a good cause, I'd be delighted to be able to help. Cate is concerned that the friends might feel like they're being asked to "work" the wedding, which I think might be a different story if it was a year away, but there's a pretty slim likelihood of her being able to find and secure a professional wedding photographer she likes and trusts in 16 days, so my guess is that the friends would be happy to help out where they can (and truthfully, they may even have been planning to bring a camera anyway.) I'd stress again and again to the photographer friends that they certainly shouldn't feel like they had to be "on" all night—just a shot here and there while they were enjoying the wedding like the rest of the guests—and I'd send a sincere note of thanks and a bottle of good champagne (or a gift card to a local restaurant or some other nice token of thanks) afterwards.

If that doesn't work out—and, quite frankly, even if it does work out—I'd invest in some disposable cameras to keep on the table for people to take their own snaps. I'd also set up a brand new Flickr account where people can upload the pictures and videos they take on their phones or digital cameras, then I'd either print out a little card for every place setting that shows the URL, user name, and password, or just email that information to everyone the next day. (Sean and I did the latter and we got some great pictures from our guests. It was so much fun to see the wedding from other people's perspective.) If Cate and Ian have a video camera, or can borrow one from a friend, I'd give it to a close relative—but, you know, maybe one from the younger generation, NOT TO STEREOTYPE—and let them go to town with it on the wedding day. (Within reason, obviously. Like, maybe make a caveat that stresses no naked butt shots. I mean, you'd think you wouldn't have to stipulate that, but you'd be surprised.)

3) Cate's attire
This is the fun part. I'd go on a bit of a shopping spree. I'd forgo bridal boutiques entirely—way too late in the game to order a dress; some woman with overplucked eyebrows and a lot of costume jewelry would look at you so incredulously that you'd be able to see her shock even through all that Botox—and hit regular stores instead. I'd shop online first, order a few things that struck my fancy, then go to a few brick-and-mortar stores while I was waiting for the online stuff to be delivered. There are a surprising number of lovely white dresses—assuming Cate wants a white dress; if she doesn't, the task is even easier—in regular, non-bridal stores, and even a Marc Jacobs frock from Neiman Marcus is going to be a whole lot easier to swallow, price-wise, than a traditional "wedding" dress. I'd also probably check my local area for trunk shows over the next couple of weekends, just in case, and maybe even put the word out to friends in case anyone suddenly remembered the vintage Chanel in their grandmother's attic. If Cate wants a veil, 16 days is probably still time enough to order something cute from a willing Etsy seller.

4) Everyone else's attire
If Cate's husband-to-be has a suit he likes—boom, wear that. Done. (He can always buy a new tie or socks or something to perk it up and make it "special.") If not, that's why God invented rental places. (Well, that and for prom.) If there's a bridal party involved—which reminds me, the bridal party should probably be asked, like, now—the easiest thing is probably just to give them as much leeway as possible. Hey, maid of honor, you know that green dress you have that gives you an awesome rack? Yeah, wear that. (Note: Cate should only say this if her maid of honor is a sister or a good friend. Maybe don't say it if the maid of honor is her husband's grandmother or her high school English teacher. Which would never happen anyway, but still. You can't be too careful.)

5) Flowers
I made my own bouquet, my boutonnieres, and my centerpieces for my wedding, and it was one of my favorite DIY projects. If Cate is crafty and up for the challege, she might consider arranging her own flowers; I bought mine in bulk from a local wholesale flower market the day before, made the boutonnieres that night, and my bouquet and the centerpieces in the morning. (If there's no wholesale flower market nearby, there are tons of companies online that will sell you wholesale flowers and deliver them in good time. I haven't used any personally but a quick google should yield some nice results.) I'd also suggest looping in a friend or family member to help with the arranging—my centerpieces were literally big white hydrangeas in mason jars, which meant even my brothers could put them together, AND THEY DID—and watching a few tutorial videos beforehand. I'm no florist, obviously, and a professional florist could obviously have created something a lot more elaborate than I did—in fact, a professional florist did actually make my bridesmaids' bouquets and the corsages for my mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law, because even I have my DIY limits—but I was pretty happy with what I put together, and it was curiously therapeutic to practice. (Which reminds me: I'd definitely try and  practice.)

If doing her own flowers sounds too time-consuming for Cate, I'd narrow down exactly what she wants right now, then call a few local florists for a quote. I've also heard really good things about the Costco flower department creating stuff for weddings. Anyone have any experience with that?

6) Everything else
Honestly, I'm not sure there is a whole lot else. If Cate wants a cake and the venue doesn't provide one, I'd start calling a few local bakeries (although I probably wouldn't disclose that it was for a wedding) and I might have a quick glance on Ebay or Etsy for a cake topper. If speeches are to be made by anyone, I'd start preparing those now. If Cate wants seating cards, I'd buy some pretty cardstock and recruit a friend with nice handwriting (I'm half tempted to volunteer for this job myself, as I have a very specific and desperate urge to write things prettily whenever I can). And if Cate and Ian want to stay in a hotel for their wedding night—or even take a quick honeymoon—I'd try and get that booked pretty soon.

I'm pretty much of the opinion that trying to mess around with favors at this point might, quite simply, make Cate's head explode, but if she absolutely wanted them, I would find an awesome chocolate chip cookie recipe, buy some wax paper at the grocery store, download a free printable template (Martha Stewart has a ton online, like that's any surprise) and put a wrapped cookie (like this) with a cute label glued onto it at everyone's place setting.

So that's how I'd go about planning a wedding if I only had 16 days to do it. Anything I've missed? Any suggestions or ideas from you? Any advice for our lovely bride-to-be?

Which reminds me: good luck, Cate! The entire Internet is pulling for you. Well, not the entire Internet, just us over in this little corner. But we're pulling for you extra hard.

Sep 22, 2011

Oh my GOD, Holly, you're AMAZING! I would never think of all of this.

Congratulations to Cate and her intended; hope it all goes swimmingly!

Sep 22, 2011

Firstly, GOOD LUCK CATE! Wishing you all a very beautiful day.

Secondly, the only other thing I thought of is transport. How are you getting to the venue? Could you possibly hire a nice car?

Also, if you have an evening do, just make a playlist on your iPod or similar for the dancing. Or get a friend onto the case, with suggestions from you. I would definitely delegate a few tasks to close friends.

Look forward to reading how it all goes, and be in total awe at how you arrange a wedding in 16 days. Best wishes to you!

Remember to just enjoy the day with all your loved ones. Everything else is a bonus.

Sep 22, 2011

Good luck to Cate and her soon to be husband!

My friends sister organised her wedding in two weeks because of her mother's illness and it was one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever been at.

Everyone knew that it had been organised quickly and the reason why so the feeling of love and good will at this wedding was incredible.

Sep 22, 2011

Wow, congratulations Cate! Please will you send Holly some pictures after the wedding? And you should totally ask your friends to shoot your wedding. They'll be chuffed to be asked, given your special circumstances.

Other things I've thought of you probably need to organise: Hair and make-up. Go see your normal stylist, NOW and see what they suggest. You've got time for at least one trial, but you should probably book your hair appointment for the morning of right away.
Make-up: You'll probably find it tricky to find a pro with this sort of notice, so I'd either ask a talented friend or do it yourself. Book an appointment at your nearest MAC counter or whatever your favourite brand is for a make-over, tell them it's for your wedding and bring your friend with you. Buy what you need (no need to buy everything they suggest) and you'll be sorted. This is basically what I did and it worked out very well.

Entertainment - have you got someone who could DJ? If not, go with an iPod. Even if you're not planning on having dancing, some background music while everyone is milling about drinking champagne is usually a good idea.

Let us know how it goes and best of luck!

Sep 22, 2011

Hmph. Just tried to post lengthy comment with advice for Cate, but have been DENIED by the spam filter!

Good Luck Cate, and if Holly is able to release my comment, I had some thoughts about hair and make-up for you. xx

Sep 22, 2011

I am not a professional photographer, but I think you should ask the friends. Also, if you are going to do disposable cameras on the tables, I suggest some kind of scavenger hunt list thing of some fun shots to give people focus. Or else you might end up with a lot of pictures of feet. (Don't ask how I know that.)

Best wishes to you and your family, Cate.

Sep 22, 2011

Good luck Kate!
I haven't been married so not of too much help, but a nice favour could be a bulb (plant, not light!) that you package nicely and give to all your guests. It's cheap and easy and will give them a nice reminder of the day when it blooms.
If you have enough professional photographers coming, you could split the day up so they're not 'on' all the time- they could each have a time slot or you could divvy it up like ceremony, portraits, reception. In the circumstances I really don't think they'll mind! If you're still worried about it, you could pay a professional photographer to do all the post edits. And do find a "wedding photo scavenger list" online, adapt it for your own needs and maybe stick those on the back of any disposable cameras you put on the table.

Sep 22, 2011

I have zero wedding advice, BUT I may have the answer to Sean's mystery ALLURE subscription. Amazon often does this bonus mag subscriptions with purchase, and you can opt out and get a rebate check through a not-very-obvious process, or you just start getting the magazine. My guess is that Sean bought something at Amazon (probably for you) that came with ALLURE. And I know this because my own husband was one day all "Where on earth did this Forbes subscription come from??" Same story.

You're welcome.

Sep 22, 2011

Holly, you're a good person. Kudos for helping Cate out. This whole story is bringing out my latent wedding planner personality.

I agree with you about the friends who are photographers. If they are really friends, nothing would make them happier (especially under these circumstances) than being able to pitch in and help. Once the "big day" is over, all you really have are your photos and videos, so I say GO FOR IT, CATE! Ask!

As for the wedding dress, of course a traditional wedding store/ordering routine is not going to work here, but I would check ebay and craigslist and local thrift stores first off the bat. Even if you need a nip/tuck done to the dress, a local tailor could definitely help you out in the time allotted. Lots of folks sell their wedding gowns afterwards to recoup some of their wedding budget, so Cate might just be able to find a great one locally! Give it a go.

From personal experience, I would also advise Cate to tell all her friends and family about anything they can do to help... my wedding was a lovely melange of things loaned and brought and made by friends. Everyone loves a wedding, and if your nearest and dearest can have a hand in helping make it special, they will be thrilled to be included.

Congrats Cate, and best wishes! Let us know how it turns out, will you Holly?

Sep 22, 2011

I'm going to disagree on the photographer. It would be worthwhile for her to hire a professional AT THE VERY LEAST for some family portraits. Professional portraits, especially with her fiancé's father, will be highly treasured.

Sep 22, 2011

Wow, Cate, I'm sure you are going to have a fabulous wedding- best of luck with the planning.

I just got married 2 weeks ago and here are some ideas I had about the organization side of things for you:

Readings: If you want any readings during the ceremony, email them to your friends, ask them to print them out, and then let them get on with it.

Transport: We hired a bus for our wedding 4 days before the ceremony. We took 40 guests from the church to the venue and the driver was brilliant. Just google local transport companies and see who comes up with the best quote for your day.
If you want a specific type of wedding car, check out the car enthusiast's websites. Local owners may want to pick up a days work and rent their car to you, I have a couple of friends that rent their classic Beatles out this way.

Flowers: We did the wholesale market thing too the day before the wedding. For 200€ we bought all the flowers for the centrepieces and bouquets and it took 4 of us 3 hours to put them all together (with no experience whatsoever!) We just shoved them into the oasis and hoped for the best and they ended up looking fantastic, so go for it. Also mothers/mothers-in-law and grannys usually have some basic flower arranging skills so rope them in!

The internet is your best friend. I downloaded templates, photos, ideas and everything else from the internet then printed off programmes, menus, seating plans etc at home. And it was all free, there are tons of sites offering free wedding ideas, you just have to search for them.

For easy favours that won't take up any time at all, how about buying a lotto ticket for each guest, and rolling them all up into a scroll with some pretty ribbon to put at each place setting. Simple and fun, plus they might win big!

For decorations, check out Amazon. I got some fun champagne bubbles, and table confetti from them and they delivered in 24 hours so your stuff should be here in plenty of time for the big day

For the photography, I totally agree with Holly, ask the family friends to do it, they will probably be very happy to help. Our photographer was also a friend/guest and he sat down to eat with us before snapping a few pics on the dance floor later. Also, pretty much everybody has a digital camera these days, so just ask friends to take as many photos as possible and then mail you a usb key/cd with them on.

I can't think of anything else right now, but best of luck to you!!

Sep 22, 2011

Congratulations, Cate! The most important thing for all brides to remember is that the details don't matter that much because in the end, it's a day to celebrate love with your family. People who love you are not going to grumble about the little details, so don't stress over that stuff.

Cake: if you don't want a tiered cake, just go to Cost Co and buy a sheet cake. It's inexpensive and pretty tasty. If you want a more traditional wedding cake, you can fib and say it's for an anniversary party which usually results in a lower price. Another option: check the ethnic bakeries. You know how the fancy places say they need several months of notice to make your cake? The Mexican bakery where my sister got her wedding cake said they only needed a few days' notice, as in two days before the wedding.

Flowers: my sister got a bunch of white flowers at the farmers' market and then we made the bouquets, boutonnieres, and centerpieces the day before the wedding. It took my mom, my two sisters, and me maybe two or three hours to do everything and then we got mani/pedis.

Favors: you really don't need to do this. Seriously. You have tons of other stuff to do in the next two weeks, so feel free to skip this. My husband and I picked out some songs together, burned them onto CDs, used a picture of us together for the cover, and printed a playlist for the back. Quick, easy, and personal (but still unnecessary!).

The dress: white may be hard to find this time of year, so be open minded. As long as you feel beautiful, don't worry about what color the dress is. Don't get caught up in finding something that looks like a wedding dress either. If you find a red cocktail dress that makes you feel gorgeous, get it. You don't NEED to wear a long white gown! Same deal with the shoes with the added caveat: make sure they're comfortable. If you have a long gown, no one will even see them so don't spend the next 16 days trying to find the perfect white shoes.

Officiant: if you can't pin down that justice of the peace, ask someone you love to officiate and then get them ordained on the internet. It's cheap and easy (at least it's cheap and easy here in California) and it will make your ceremony that much more personal. Make sure you get your wedding license and all the paperwork you need ASAP. I had the opposite experience that Holly did (in San Diego, no less): I was able to make an appointment the day before and we walked right in, no line, and got our paperwork filled out quickly. We were probably there a total of 15 minutes (including the five minutes it took for them to spell my last name wrong, have me correct them, then spell my street address wrong, have me correct it, etc.). It can vary though, so try to get that taken care of right away.

Sep 22, 2011

Oh Cate, best of luck with all of this!

I got married less than 2 months ago and reading about planning a wedding in just about 2 weeks is making me nauseated. But! For flowers, if it's something you want to do - I did centerpieces myself (my dad very kindly cut stems to more or less the appropriate lengths), basically sticking flowers in mason jars, and recommend Blooms By the They delivered exactly what they said they would, exactly when they said they would, and the flowers looked great. Also, I spent $150 when every florist I talked to was quoting $1500.

Seriously though, most of the wedding details are a blur to me - the important thing is getting to celebrate being married with a bunch of people who love you. That's what makes all the insanity worth it. Best wishes!

Sep 22, 2011

Congratulations, Cate! I was just going to chime in and say don't forget the music. At this point, putting together an iTunes playlist is probably the last thing you have time for, so hire a band or DJ for the ceremony/reception.

Good luck! It will be beautiful!

Sep 22, 2011

I have no experience at all with weddings so the only advice I can offer is to breathe. And to try and enjoy it all as best as possible - the wedding as well as the planning.

Congratulations, Cate and your husband-to-be!

Maybe we can hear how it all turns out?

p.s. I would definitely ask the friends!

Sep 22, 2011

Just to chime in on the dress- try some online shops like Shopbop. They have wedding dresses that can be shipped to arrive the next day. If any tailoring needed to be done you could probably find someone local to do the work with your timeline in mind. Good luck and happy wedding!

Sep 22, 2011

Congrats, Cate and Ian!

As a professional photographer, I have to chime in. I'd be really careful about asking your friends to do this. If they are super close friends, they probably won't mind too much, but they are also going to really want to enjoy your day - not work it. And weddings are WORK. It's not just the time at the ceremony, but the hours and hours of editing that come after. Good friends would probably be okay with the editing, but dislike working on your big day. If they aren't super close friends they are possibly going to be offended and taken aback that you are asking them to work for free. There might be a dentist at the wedding, but you don't see him cleaning teeth for free during the ceremony, right?

Also, asking a pro photog to just "take a few shots, they don't have to be perfect, nothing fancy..." is just not going to work. As a pro, they are going to feel pressure to do good work, because they know the importance of these photos. ;)

That being said, Cate knows the relationship she has with her photog friends so she's going to have to make the call. If it were one of my close-ish friends I'd be happy to do it, but I would feel a little irritated if I wasn't at least offered to be paid at my full prices. I'd turn the money down or at least discount, but the offer would make me feel not taken advantage of, you know?

Sep 22, 2011

Congratulations, Cate!! Very best to you both : ) I was engaged for five weeks before our wedding, so not quite as fast, but still fast enough-- and it was absolutely, totally and completely our dream wedding. It sounds like you're doing the right thing for your marriage and your family.

Now here's my advice, based on experience: They've got nearly everything they'll need. Get a professional photographer but NOT one of your friends. But ****ask them for their recommendations****. After all, they're professionals, probably well-networked, you trust them, and they will definitely be able to put you in touch with someone. Wedding photogs tend to book up early, but there are loads and loads of other professional photogs who will do a bang-up job and probably for less cost (Ours was a photojournalist and we hired her for 1/4 the average cost in our area). Don't be sticky on the details or you will lose your mind.

I agree with Holly on the other details. Make your own bouquet so you get exactly what you like of what's available. And ask for help in everything. One of your friends is crafty and can make a bouquet. Maybe another is a hobby baker and would bake a cake. Since it's a short engagement, people will love feeling involved and they will help save you from losing your beans in the next two weeks.

Cate, you will look radiant because you're the bride and all brides are stunning. The wedding will be perfect because it is yours. It will be heaven because his dad will be there. Just breathe, and enjoy your very exciting engagement!!! Everything else is icing on the cake : )

Sarah Meg
Sep 22, 2011

This is great and so timely! I am getting married next month after being engaged for only 2 months.. so I have felt like the post about "Things no one tells you about your wedding" and this one have come at a perfect time!

Sep 22, 2011

I happen to know a Calgary wedding photographer - no idea if she is available, but she did our wedding and was fantastic! Jenn Roach

I'd also suggest that if Cate wants an actual wedding gown, I am positive there are boutiques in Calgary where they sell the sample dresses, which are still gorgeous, from designer lines from past seasons. Or hit up a consignment bridal gown shop. Also, for the bridesmaid dresses, Cate should check out RW & Co. I am sure she already knows this, but they have great dresses anyway, and now they have a "Special Occasions' line, which I think starts around $100.

As for the marriage licence, that only takes about 30 minutes to get at any Alberta Registry Office. Piece of cake!

Kate With A 'K'
Sep 22, 2011

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS, Cate-with-a-C!

I have thoughts on 3 things.

1. Photographer - ask your friends who are pros. Seriously. If you have multiple photog friends, maybe ask 2-3, so that no single person is "on the job" for your wedding. So one would shoot some ceremony pics, one would do some posed family shots, and one would take some reception photos.

2. Music - iPod. If you Google "iPod wedding playlist" there are a ton of personal blogs that pop up with playlists - which at least is a good starting point for which songs to pull together in what order.

3. Dress - on the very slim chance that you are the same size I am (dress size 2/4), I happen to have 2 unworn white dresses that I'd be happy to sell pretty damn cheap. One's an actual wedding dress for a wedding I called off, one's just a pretty off-the-rack thing I found at TJ Maxx this spring and couldn't put down (and is why I'm no longer allowed to shop while jet-lagged). If you're interested (or if anyone else on a budget/quick timeline is) maybe Holly can share my email address with you?

Good luck, I am sure you will have a beautiful day!

Sep 22, 2011

Trust you to have it all down pat:-) I'll add that the venue can provide table centerpieces and that there's no rule that there have to be other flowers. I got married, quite nicely, without a bouquet or boutonnieres, in a lovely dress I bought at a local department store.

Sep 22, 2011

Cate! Congratulations. Two things: (1) Wedding cake topper: As a DIY bride (ten years ago, but STILL), I made my own wedding cake and topped it with one of my grandmother's china tea cups filled with fresh raspberries (raspberry filling in the cake). It was free, unconventional, personal and beautiful. (2) Wedding dress: If you are a size 2/4, (and anywhere around 5'2") I've got one for you to borrow! I've lent my wedding dress out one other time with great success. IF you're interested, Holly can give you my e-mail address and I'll send pics and get shipping!

I had a lovely wedding with so many family and friends helping out - still wanting to pay that forward!

Sep 22, 2011

Congratulations Cate and Ian! I am a little verklempt over here at the thought of getting married in a meant-to-be-just-not-this-rushed way so that Dad can be a part of it. It's marvelous.

I second the "ask your pro friends". Unless they're actually wedding photographers and literally do this job for a living (in which case yeah, it'd be a little tacky to ask them to do their job for free), they'd probably be honored and delighted to help for a few hours; people that take pictures for a living usually do it because they love taking pictures and weddings are like crack for any kind of photo gearhead, amateur or pro - all that finery, all that happiness, all those made-for-shutter moments? We are like hummingbirds to that feeder full of sugar.

Sep 22, 2011

Calgary represent! I'm from Calgary, got married in a bit of hurry because my dad was dying (though he died before the wedding), and um, can overidentify with Cate.

1) Online shopping takes forever to get to Canada. I bought my dress at a little bridal shop on Centre Street and about 12th, at the top of the hill. I walked out with it that day. And it's ALWAYS "50% off" on dresses that day. Huge selection of sizes. I wear a street size 12, and still had dozens of options.

2) Marriage licence. You both walk in to registry - any registry, fill out 5 minutes of paperwork, and leave with the licence that then only requires the signatures. Then, if you are changing your name (or just want proof!), you go back a few weeks later to order the official license. Easy.

3) Flowers. No flower market here. Costco if you want to do it yourself, and a random florist if you don't. I found someone in Glamorgan who did all the flowers for reasonable, and they were really pretty. I can give you contact info if you'd like.

4) Get a real photographer, and get a ton of pictures of your fiance's dad. Trust me. Also, a professional can, um, make things look better. The chemo, plus the lung cancer that killed my father, made him look a little, well, skeltal, and frankly, a professional photographer can do a lot with light to make him look his best. You will not regret this. Even if YOU don't care about pictures, getting good ones of him will be an absoulute treasure.

5) Read this: And this: And this: And this: And this:

6) I live in Calgary, and if you want any help tracking things done or need any vendor suggestions, let me know. A Practical Wedding has a small Calgary group, and if you need help, I'm sure we could help out. My email is mpk042 at gmail.

7) Good luck and best wishes! Even in the face of such sadness, a wedding is a bright bit of joy, and everyone needs that.

Sep 22, 2011

Congratulations, Cate! If anything, I'm maybe a little envious that you don't have to deal with the back-and-forth decision making that the rest of us long-engagement brides put up with.

For a dress: check out! I bought mine there for $240 (I'm getting married in June), and it's beautiful and fits absolutely true to size. You may not even need it tailored. They have gorgeous bridesmaids dresses, too.

For flowers and cake: does Whole Foods (or an equivalent) exist in Canada? They have fantastic cake and great florals, they're super super cheap, and because they're a grocer they operate at the last minute.

Good luck! Let us know how it turns out!

Sep 22, 2011

Costco flowers are very beautiful and very cheap. Also a good playlist on an ipod can take care of music in a flash. Good luck!!!

Sep 22, 2011

I got married in Calgary six years ago, just 4 weeks after the proposal! Here's my two cents...

It's super easy to get a marriage license; because you can get one at those licensee places, you don’t need an appointment and it only takes about 15 minutes to do the paper work. Go early in the morning and you won’t have to wait in line.

Our wedding was pretty low-key so I ordered a simple wedding dress from J Crew (they now have flat rate $10 shipping to Canada, whoot!). With such a narrow time frame, I ordered a size up and then had it tailored rather than take the chance it wouldn’t fit. With many at such a reasonable price, maybe even order two or three and return the ones you don’t choose?

I’d suggest hiring a photographer if you can. With friends, you’re either sacrificing their good time or your photos. I have two regrets from my wedding and one of them was making a bad call on how to handle the photos. I can make a recommendation or two if it will help!

Best of luck!

Sep 22, 2011

I think you've hit it spot-on here. Really, for such an occassion, you don't need matching, monogrammed cocktail napkins or your faces stamped onto M&M party favors. It's about celebrating with the people who are nearest and dearest.

I would also suggest getting things like "bridals photos" or "couple's photos" after the wedding instead of before. There's no rule that says they need to take place before, and that's at least a whole day or more of photographing and planning than can be used better elsewhere.

Utahan's are notorious for the world's shortest engagements, and most 19 year old girls here (with their mothers/sisters/aunts/friends) can plan a full-blown wedding in under 2 months. Cate will be juuuuust fine. It can be done, it will be beautiful, and everyone will have a good time. And really, at the end of the day, isn't that what is important?


Sep 22, 2011

As someone who planned a wedding in three months, here's my advice: Remember why you're having the wedding so soon, and let that overshadow any negative feelings that creep up about things not being perfect.

Good luck and congratulations, Cate!

Sep 22, 2011

Holly,like wow, you must plan stuff in your dreams too, and I mean that in an 'I'm-terribly-impressed' way. It's no wonder Cate emailed you about it.

And Cate, Congratulations. :-)

Katie Hammel
Sep 22, 2011

I think in a situation like this it's even more important to remember that a wedding isn't about the flowers and favors and personalized place cards. It's about two people in love. The only thing you NEED for a wedding is a bride and groom, a judge/officiant, witnesses and some paperwork. The rest is all optional. So at this point, cut out every single thing you can, delegate the rest and/or (depending on your money situation) remember that you can pay someone to do anything.

If you can afford it, hire a wedding planner or just a "day of coordinator" to sweat the small stuff. Have the facility deal with decorations and the cake. Pick a friend with great musical taste to put together your playlist as their gift (other than first/important dances) and have them deal with finding speakers to rent (if you can't just plug in at the facility).

I'd ask the friends to be photographers for the day as their gift. I'd also buy a video camera and just ask a friend (as your wedding gift) to tape the ceremony and first dances and toasts.

Screw the seating chart. Reserve a table for your bridal party and immediate family and everyone else can just find a seat (with only 40 ppl chances are most know each other anyways). Forget favors. Few people save them anyways. Most people do not remember the favors, flowers, linens, etc at a wedding so don't sweat those.

Focus instead on adding just a few personal touches that make the wedding about you and your groom and your families. That's what people will remember.

Sep 22, 2011

I've been eyeing some of the gorgeous gowns at Anthropoligie's wedding site:

Might be another good online option for something with character!
Good luck and prayers for your family!

Sep 22, 2011

Food - we got a taco truck. No planning, just have them show up, and you write a check.

Super easy.

Sep 22, 2011

I will pretty much echo all the actual wedding advice above but wanted to add my heartfelt congratulations to the happy couple!

Delegate, delegate, delegate, especially when people offer to help with anything - even if it's picking up take-out for you so you get a meal in the middle of all the planning! Sounds like you are lovely people surrounded by loved ones, so don't worry about "imposing" - people want to help and be part of something joyous!

Sep 22, 2011

My husband gets TWO! copies of the semi-pornographic Mark Eckco magazine every month. He says he doesn't want it and has called several times to get it canceled, but they arrive every month without fail in our mailbox.

If you do want a wedding dress, try some of the shops that sell used dresses. You can get a steal if there's one you like in your size!!

Sep 22, 2011

I don't have time to read all the comments right now so I apologize if this advice has already been offered one or more times! But honestly, with 16 days, there are some things mentioned that I would skip and not feel bad about it. Namely:

-I wouldn't bother putting disposable cameras on the tables. Everyone will bring their own digital camera anyway, so this is a needless expense.
-I don't think there's any need for wedding favours (if they want to, maybe a donation to a leukemia foundation in honour of each guest and just print a card at each place setting to say so?)
-Flowers: I wouldn't take on making your own bouquets if I were Cate. I'd go to Whole Foods and get them to do it. Cheaper than a florist, beautiful flowers!

A few things I WOULD do:

-Ask friends with talents to help you out with anything they possibly can and make that their wedding gift to you. Photographer friends? Absolutely ask them if they would be your photographers. Baker friend? Cupcakes, done and done. Crafty friend? Maybe she could make a scrapbook for guests to sign. I would get either a friend to do your makeup or just do it yourself.
-Book a hair appointment immediately to have your hair done on your wedding day, unless you can do it yourself. Go with a fairly simple style so you can skip a hair trial.
-I would definitely ask a close friend or family member to MC the evening. Pick someone outgoing who tells good stories and has a sense of humour, and ask them if they would write a quick speech. I would try to keep their role fairly casual and not too strict.
-Ask someone who's good with computers to create an iPod playlist for you and man the music for a couple of key points at the wedding: first dance, bride & groom entrance, father/daughter dance etc. When it comes time for guests to dance the night away, just put it on shuffle and be done with it.

And that's it! I think Holly's advice is great.

Sep 22, 2011

nice of you to help. :)

best wishes to cate and ian for their wedding day and marriage and to ian's father every day. and may he have many, many, many more ...


Sep 22, 2011

The photographer thing is a tough call. It's honestly going to depend on the friends. I was asked to shoot a wedding that I also attended as a guest last year. I agreed to do it because they're two of my favorite people and I've known them for years, but I cannot stress how much work it was. It was a LOT of work. And I kind of regret not being able to really enjoy the wedding, though I did still have some fun.

My advice: If you can afford it, at least attempt to look for a pro. If not, ask your friends with the knowledge that they will probably roll their eyes or at least sigh heavily. Make it easy for them to say no without feeling guilty. After all, they were planning to celebrate with you, not work for you. Offer to pay them if you can. If they accept the job free of charge, do something (gift, dinner, card, giant hug) to acknowledge that you understand and appreciate how much work they're doing for you. And please understand that you may not get your wedding photos back for weeks or months if they have other priorities.

Best of luck, and congratulations!

Sep 22, 2011

As in Calgary, Alberta? That's where I'm from. I just ordered a specially designed birthday cake for a friend, meaning I've got the contact info for an amazing cake lady. Please pass my email on to Cate if she would like the info.

Charlotte's Web Florist in Calgary might be able to do something classy & simple for her day.
425 1 Street Southwest #231
Calgary, AB T2P 3L8
(403) 265-4860

Yes, yes, yes ask the photog friends to take photos. Ask 2 or 3 of them and have them shoot different portions of the day...getting ready, in the car, ceremony, formal photos, reception. Perhaps that day, they only have to be 'on' for small portions of the day. AND they'll get some a lovely variety of perspectives of their day.

Good luck and CONGRATULATIONS to them!!

Sep 22, 2011

Good luck! I have a friend who planned her wedding for 60 people in about 4 weeks (fiance got notice that his deployment was being moved up). Here are my tips:
1. Ask the friends to do photography. We had close friends who offered and we were so happy to take them up on it. For small weddings they can still participate and feel like guests.
2. Buy flowers and make the arrangements yourself or have a friend do it (my aunt bought flowers the morning of my sisters wedding from the Farmers market and made some centerpieces and a few bouquets, they were beautiful).
3. Put some playlists together on your IPOD for music (we had a pre-dinner playlist, dinner playlist and after dinner/dancing playlist. It worked great). Maybe a friend with similar musical taste could do this for you?
4. Attire - I second skipping the bridal boutiques. My friend that got married found a gorgeous white dress at Nordstroms.
5. Skip unneccessary stuff like seating cards, etc. At our wedding (35 people) we had a table reserved for us and we asked our attendants to sit with us. Everyone else sorted themselves out fine. Go for a super easy favor (if at all). I like the idea of a plant bulb.
6. Cake - my sister asked a couple different people to make cakes and bring them to the wedding. It was fun to see what people brought and a great way to involve people in the wedding (her future mother-in-law, her godmother, etc).

Usually people offer to help, my overall advice would be to take them up on it! It makes everyone feel involved in your special day.

Sep 22, 2011

i just wanted to say congrats to cate & ian - i love what you're doing and the whole day will be incredible. i think there's going to be a lot of love that day and don't forget to bring a lot of kleenex!

Kate in Ohio
Sep 22, 2011


My only advice is to remember that you are getting married because you love this man. Everyone that comes to the wedding is there because they love you and/or your husband-to-be. The more you include the people that offer to help, the more invested they will be, and if something goes wrong, they can all laugh with you.

As far as the photographer goes, I would ask your friends for their advice on what to do. If they want to do it they will offer, if not, they might be able to suggest someone that can help.

Take a deep breath and enjoy your day.

Good luck and my prayers are with you.


Sep 22, 2011

My husband and I are photographers in Calgary - unfortunately we are away on October 7th but can definitely do an e-session or an "after wedding" session for them if they want - because everyone needs AWESOME wedding photos!

We have some photog contacts in Calgary, feel free to contact us at here's our webite

Sep 22, 2011

My wife weighed in above, but I also wanted to step in. We were married in Las Vegas 6 years ago and didn't splurge on the photos and TOTALLY regret it. Photos should tell the story of the day and (aside from the rings) are some of the only tangible items you'll have to take with you at the end of the day. If we weren't flying to Victoria on the 7th, we'd be happy to shoot the wedding, but we'd be happy to sit down with Cate and recommend other Calgary photographers, book an engagement photo session (for this weekend or next) or even to do an after wedding session to give Cate and her fiance some professional photos in wedding attire to look back on. We have an amazing album supplier so they'd be getting wonderful quality products. While a friend might take some neat pictures, I highly recommend hiring a photographer (not because I am one, but because are wedding pictures aren't great!).

Please contact us at the email above and we'd be happy to have a sit down with Cate and her husband if they wish.


Sep 22, 2011

Peaseblossoms in the Beltline is a great florist in Calgary with very nice and helpful staff. I have done many great party arrangements by buying lots of small vessels at Value Village or the Dollarstore (tea cups, wine glasses, small vases) and then making my own arrangements (make a lattice out of scotch tape at the mouth of the vase to make arranging easier). I have always had great luck doing lots of small arrangements and simple tea lights - for a party last Christmas I spent about $120 on flowers and $50 on glassware and made 15 arrangements with about an hour of work.

And not knowing anything about taste/style/budget it is hard to offer up fashion advice, but a few Calgary ideas for dresses (J Crew is a fave of mine, but getting packages through customs always seems to take forever, and usually packages take about two weeks with the normal shipping and I'm not sure if express shipping would help because there is no way to fast track customs) would be Holts (I find the salespeople on the third floor very helpful) and maybe check out BCBG (there's an outlet at CrossIron Mills).

But mostly I think the best advice is to determine what is important to you and focus on that. No one will care that there aren't favours or if the bridesmaids are wearing matching shoes. All the best!

Sep 22, 2011

Quick suggestion on the favors. I saw this on pinterst (Where else!) and very quick and easy!! Use a paper cd cover as a holder for a gourmet cookie.


Well, my husband and I eloped, so I can't really speak from experience here (although we did have a party afterwards). Plus everyone has already come up with all the things I was thinking of (except try J Crew -- not sure you have them in Canada, but they have beautiful, reasonably priced dresses).

Also, in order to minimize the stress, maybe pick one or two things that are really important to you and make those things happen. Delegate the rest to friends and the fiancé. I did a ton for my best friend's wedding and honestly, it was so much easier for me to do than her because I wasn't totally freaking out. And I like doing crazy things like collecting and painting hundreds of river rocks.

Lastly I just want to say, enjoy the day. Be present. It will go by so quickly, so try to remember to take it all in.

Wishing you the best!

Sep 23, 2011


Amber, theAmberShow
Sep 23, 2011

She should scour A Practical Wedding (dot com) for advice, and also for vendors. Although there are a lot of American vendors on there, there might be someone up there who is available for hire, especially photography-wise. I would do it if I was local!

Sep 23, 2011

After reading this awesome list, I think ALL weddings should be planned in 16 days. It would be more fun, a hell of a lot cheaper, and cut out 99.9% of the wedding ridiculousness.

Sep 23, 2011

First of all, this is so awesome! Congratulations Cate and Ian! Second of all, Holly you are definitely amazing! I should have had you plan my wedding! :)

I just got married on the 10th of this month. I have a dress, cake topper, flower basket, ring pillow, etc. I have no clue what size Cate is, her colors, theme, etc, but she's more than welcome to any of them if she needs them and they'll work. I planned my wedding for a year and 4 months. I cannot even imagine, 16 days! Go girl!

Sep 23, 2011

Holly, you really are a sweet person to help Cate with her wedding! I hope one day that I get the chance to meet you and Sean in person. I think you covered all the important points, and I can't think of anything to add!

Beth R.S.
Sep 23, 2011

Congrats, Cate and Ian!

I would have given pretty much the same advice as Holly, along with the same timeline. Others have said iPod for music, and I agree that it's the most fun/easy way to go.

For a dress, I'd suggest J.Crew (they ship to Canada) and you can return later whatever you don't use. Honestly, I order multiple sizes from them all the time when I'm not sure if a 4 or a 6 will be better, and it's never a problem to bring back (even dresses) as long as it's not final sale. And letting your attendants/personal assistants pick out their own dress can work out perfectly (let my sister do this and her dress was basically a short green version of mine, plus she loved it).

Sep 23, 2011

Dear People of the Internet: you are truly amazing. Truly.

At 10 pm last night, I created a wedding planner using a small folded piece of paper and entitled it "To-do and Ideas from NBB".

You are keeping me grounded through reminders about the purpose of our wedding.

You have also given me a really short to-do list that doesn't include going to the gym and making my arms look great.

I'm a cyclist who spent a lot of time in the sun this summer; there's only so much you can do for these ...

You have offered dresses, vendor contacts, and local ideas. Some of you are Calgary vendors!

Short story

Holly suggested free Martha Stewart templates so I was messing around on the website last night. Have you seen the wedding tools on there? Wowza!

I had to keep scrolling and scrolling and scrolling to get to the bottom of the checklist tool. After entering the wedding date, a pop-up message said "Good Luck" and the browser closed.

Kidding aside, I cross-referenced my newly created NBB Wedding Planner and I think that NBB readers have perfectly captured what is most important.


Is it ok if I keep all of our decisions a surprise and promise to share photos afterwards?

Heaps of love and gratitude,
Cate (@hydec)


Sep 23, 2011

I'm a few days late, but my very quick thoughts are as follows:

- Instead of disposable cameras, buy a few polaroid cameras and lots of film. (Or whatever instant cameras are currently available - Fuji makes some, I think.) We had originally wanted a photobooth for our wedding, but got married a couple of years before they became trendy and readily available, so we went with a Polaroid table instead, and honestly I think it turned out so much better. Our box of wedding Polaroids is one of my favorite things in the world, and we are so happy every time we go through it. Instant photos capture all kinds of fun, spontaneous moments that you might otherwise not catch.

- J. Crew for dress shopping. Order whatever you think might work, in a couple of sizes if necessary, and once you've found your dress you can return the rest to a store instead of back through the mail.

Sep 23, 2011

I like the idea of asking your friends for photography... but only if that is not a HUGE priority to you. I asked a friend of a friend (who was a PHOTOGRAPHY MAJOR) to photograph our wedding thinking, "perfect, all I have to do is pay her way for her and her boyfriend for the weekend and she can blend in, take the photos and then just give me all the film and take it from there." (yes, it's only been 8 years, but digital was not the rage back then.) Unfortunately, she was a shy (failing) photography major and all the pictures that came back are either too dark, too far away, oh and I love all the pictures of the backs of my families heads, etc. There are a TON of photos of the friend we have in common and her entire family. Of course it dawned on me later that she was just too shy to go up to people to take their photos, but not our mutual friend who she was quite comfortable with.

I also had the cameras on the tables for everyone to partake, but again the quality; lame. Most people, if not of the creative type are NOT photographers. And unfortunately for me, it was a priority, I just didn't have any clue that people were uncomfortable with that job.

MY BIGGEST REGRET::: Not hiring a professional photographer!!

So lovely of you Holly to take the time to "plan from afar" for miss Cate. Congrats to them and good luck!!

Sep 23, 2011

HI Cate,
I planned a wedding in 11 weeks in Calgary. I think it was the best. Not enough time to stress about things just had to make a decision and go with it.

If you give your guest, good music, food, and (if applicable) a good bar, people will have a great time.

So many good florist in Calgary, I LOVE the florist at the Calgary Farmers Market.

Only one regret of mine though was having a photographer friend take the pictures. I didn't realize at the time that although he is an accomplished photographer, weddings are not his thing. We got OK pictures, but none that I love. If pictures are important to you, I would suggest getting a professional, even if it is a half day, or session. Or at the least, thoroughly and honestly discussing what you expect and will want from your friend in terms of photos.

Have fun, dance, love, laugh, smile, it is a special day. But as most marrieds will also tell you, It is just a day. so don't get too stressed. There are many more memorable days in a marriage as well.

Sep 23, 2011

We organized our wedding in one month and it was the best wedding ever - we got married on the 4th of July, so we had a cookout, my uncle brought squirt guns, and we got ice cream cake at DQ and just stuck some roses on it to make it pretty. Only thing is, pictures - my sister volunteered to take them and we stupidly agreed, and all our pictures suck. Get a real photographer. You won't regret it. My dress I just got off the rack, cheap, and it was gorgeous. Grocery store flowers, a few coordinated decorations, done. Most of all, just be happy, have fun, and congratulations!!!

Sep 24, 2011

Regarding getting friends to photograph the wedding - my husband did this for our friends (from Calgary in fact, but who had their wedding in Egypt). While he was really happy to do it and honored to be asked, the day of the wedding he was super stressed out and worried that he hadn't gotten enough photos. Plus, selfishly, I had to spend the whole wedding more or less stag while he was photographing the ceremony (while I cried into my hankie at their sweet vows); the dancing (while I stood on the sidelines), etc.

Anyway, my point is, I think, as you said, it is really important for Cate to be really clear on what she expects from her photographer friends if they are to photograph her wedding. It was the first time for the mister to do this sort of thing while also being a friend of the couple, and it was my first time to be the partner of the photographer. I think, basically, if we had all been more clear on what to expect and what the couple's expectations of the photographs were it would have been a little less stressful.

As for a dress - check out J. Crew's wedding options if that's an option in Calgary. I always liked what they had available.

Good luck to Cate and fiance!

Sep 25, 2011

First - Cate, you can do it! All that really matters is you, your fiance, and your family and friends being together to celebrate.

I would suggest checking consignment shops for a wedding dress. If you have more than one attendant, I would suggest providing a general color chart for them to follow, and each of them picking out a dress that works for her. Buy a tie for each male attendant to wear. I love the photos I've been seeing of bridesmaids in different dresses! Plus, they have dresses they CAN actually use again.

Sep 25, 2011

Congrats to Cate! And Holly, I think you've got your second career all lined up!
My husband is a professional photographer and he says the friends won't even think twice about it, esp knowing the situation. So my vote, Cate, is definitely ask them!

Sep 26, 2011

Congratulations, Cate! My vote for the photographer is a friend. I paid a lot of money for a professional and the pictures I got from a friend for our big day were better than the "real" guy. Keep in mind that a lot of people even if they can't attend will want to know about the big event. My nephew got married two weeks ago and a lot of feelings were hurt because they didn't get an announcement.

Miranda Tuttle
Sep 27, 2011

I had exactly 3 weeks to plan my wedding (we grew impatient and decided we didn't want a big thing anyway) and I have to say all of your suggestions are spot on. We had a much smaller group, just about 15 people, so it was a bit easier but we did much of what you've suggested and we haven't once regretted a thing. I will say that we also reserved the huge suite at a nearby hotel and invited people to the room after the dinner and stuff and that was really great. Was relaxed and perfect and oh, this just reminds me of my wedding and I love it. You can do it Cate- and it'll be great! Congrats!

Oct 07, 2011

Congrats on the wedding today! I hope all is beautiful, and that you all cherish these memories forever.

Oct 08, 2011

How exciting! Congratulations Cate and Ian! By now you should be married... I hope it all went well and that you were able to your wedding of love just like you imagined! I hope Holly will get back with some photos or some words from the two, I'm curious!

Feb 06, 2012

Hey Holly,
I was just wondering - did you ever hear back from Cate? Did she tell you how her wedding went? Could you share any of this with us?

Mar 23, 2012
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