Designing a Dream Daytime Wedding

One of the things that has always struck me about weddings, these “very special days,” is how run of the mill they can sometimes feel. When it came time, at 40, to organize my own wedding, I realized that I wanted to do things a little differently, and that I needed to avoid the bridal market in order to keep things personal and on-budget. In the end, this approach to creating a meaningful and memorable day did cost less, and everyone in attendance felt truly spoiled.

Get Hitched near Home.

Being married in the same church as my siblings was reassuring, and it was lovely to be married by a priest who knew me and my family. Keeping it close to home geographically meant that I could also turn to vendors I knew and trusted — like my florist, John Carter, whom I have known since I was a teenager. Even the cake becomes a less daunting detail when you stick to what you know. We ordered ours — a simple and delicious multitiered, traditional iced fruitcake — from the same local bakery that makes our birthday cakes. It was inexpensive compared to those from wedding cake specialists, and the florist decorated it with real flowers, which looked surprisingly elegant.

Ceremonial Sounds.

It can be easy to forget that the ceremony really is the central part of your wedding. Don’t skimp on it. For me it was the most special part of the entire day, and this was due in large part to the music. We beefed up the experience with an eight-person choir, and the thick and lustrous sound made everyone feel fantastic. The hymns, processional music, anthem and blessing were all incredibly moving – there was literally not a dry eye in the house! Even if your service is not in a church, this is an opportunity that should not be wasted.

Eat Local.

The River Cafe in London is one of my favorite places, one I feel great affection for, because I also love the location, and the owner and all the people who run it are friends. It was smart to hire a restaurant, too, because I never had to speak to a caterer or rent and return tables, chairs, glasses, china or linen. I also knew the food was guaranteed to be outstanding, which it so rarely is at weddings. Guests were served a delicious plate of pasta when they sat down and were then allowed to order from the entire menu. Amazingly, this choice was cheaper than the rigmarole of finding a space, having a party planner make it look good and having a caterer supply it with second-rate food.

Modern blooms.

Flowers don’t have to be hauled in by the dozen from Africa or New Zealand in order to make a statement. In order to fit the very modern aesthetic at the River Cafe, we filled the place with seasonal dahlias plopped into skinny vases. And we avoided putting large arrangements on the tables, which would have prevented diners from chatting with all their neighbors. Considering your environment, rather than simply imprinting your childhood wedding dream on the place, is very important. And if you choose blooms that are in season, they will both cost less and look fresher.

Play hooky on Friday!

I have always rather loathed evening weddings. What really appealed to me was a low-maintenance Friday in the city, which got our guests out of work and didn’t intrude on their weekends. Our friends and family really appreciated the one-day affair — they came in the morning and were home by 5 p.m. — and it was great fun hearing of the different nights out that everyone had afterward. Since our service was at 10:30 a.m., the early-bird special, I booked a small Fiat 500 van stocked with an espresso machine and mini-croissants to be stationed outside the church. It was an unexpected detail that created a very jolly social atmosphere before the ceremony and set a happy tone for the rest of the day.

Keep it in the Family

If your wedding is simple, you shouldn’t need a wedding planner. Instead, delegate certain jobs to friends and family. Ask your brother to make sure everyone knows how to get to the reception after the ceremony. Make sure that your best man is the point of contact for the restaurant, and task him with making sure things are running on schedule. This way, you won’t have to worry about anyone asking you for direction on your big day.

Frame the Shot.

Make sure that you are very clear with your photographer about what you would like to receive — like a full set of 6-by-8 prints, a disc and a website where friends and family can order pictures — and what they should capture on the big day. Also, I recommend including a provision for retouching pictures that will go in frames and photograph albums. Our best shots included people arriving at the church, walking down the street and chatting over lunch. Initially, I told the photographer that I didn’t want any pictures taken once people were sitting down, but he persuaded me to let him, which was great advice. It is also worth reiterating that you want him or her to photograph every single person. It would be a shame to find afterward that people you really treasure have been left out.

Practical Presents.

Because no one has much desire for a piece of fruitcake after an indulgent lunch, I had ours cut and placed in small white boxes for each guest to take home and have with a cup of tea at the end of the day. This does require employing extra hands, as you will need someone to cut the cake and pack it up while everyone is having lunch. I got the boxes through a local bakery and had them tied with red-and-white twine and small luggage tags stamped with “Love From the Eades,” a fun detail that didn’t cost much. The other wedding favor was customized umbrellas, just in case it rained. Being practical in these ways was affordable and chic (and luckily, it didn’t rain).

My Biggest Regret — We spent ages on the seating chart, as most brides and grooms do. I had the table scheme printed on a large poster and filled it with colored Post-its, blue for the guys and pink for the ladies. It helped to see, at a glance, the distribution of men and women, and it was easy to move people around. However, after the place cards were set out on the tables at the restaurant, my piece of art was thrown away. I wish I’d had it scanned, as it would have been fun to remember who sat next to whom.

Designing a Dream Daytime Wedding was originally published on the New York Times T Magazine blog.

Words by Rita Konig. Photos by Dan Stevens.