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Chad Wilkinson and Nicole Cirone were childhood friends. On their first date in 1998, after dinner, they talked on a park bench. College and life’s adventures took them separate ways, but they met and began to date again two winters ago. Just before Valentine’s Day last year, Chad and Nicole walked past the site of their early date. For fun, Nicole sat down on the park bench. Instead of joining her on the bench, Chad knelt and proposed.
On July 23, they celebrated their marriage. To accommodate Nicole’s teaching schedule, and foregoing a long engagement after knowing each other for years, they started summer wedding plans the week of their engagement.
The result: an elegant wedding and reception as tailored to their style as they were for each other. A gown by new designer Theia, hand-made invitations and wedding favors, custom wedding bands, a reception at Haverford College, and the company of loving family and friends at a beautiful ceremony marked the time of a lifetime.
Not all brides and grooms could have pulled off such an exquisite event in short order. Luck and love were on their side.
“I’m spontaneous,” Nicole says, laughing. “My husband is less so—as we found out during wedding plans. I think things will work themselves out. He is organized.” The combination of attitudes and skills worked to their advantage.
A Timeline for a Lifetime Event
According to Kristen Albright, event planner for Albright Events, when brides contact a professional wedding planner at the get-go, they seize an opportunity for someone else to negotiate discounts and extras—ice sculptures or candy buffets. Albright says she can recommend an appropriate venue for a specific size or style of wedding, help create a budget, and reply to numerous text messages from the start of the planning process to the moment of “I do.” A wedding specialist can also set a timeline and help the wedding party adhere to it.
Whether your wedding is elaborate or uncomplicated, guidelines for timing can get everyone—and everything—to the church on time. Here are some timeline tips.
18 Months Beforehand
• Hire a wedding planner.
• Book settings for wedding and reception.
• Select a caterer, if the venue does not have its own.
Event coordinators at Chester County venues concur. Depending on the season and location’s popularity, book a hall nearly two years in advance. Slots for summer Saturdays go quickly. A Thursday evening in February, however, might be secured with as short notice as three months or three weeks.
Some venues work with preferred lists of caterers, bakeries and other vendors, which can save time searching or making decisions.
Chester County can boast of some of the most beautiful venues in the world. On the highest hilltop in Great Valley, The High Point in Malvern offers wedding parties sublime background scenery for photographs and a large hall with great acoustics. The Stone Barn in Kennett Square, with picturesque landscaping and a magnificent stone fireplace, gives brides a choice of rooms: The Hunt Room with a dance floor and elevated stage for a band; and Banquet Rooms that seat 50 to 250 guests.
Looking for a historic feel for your special day? The Saturday Club in Wayne, a quaint Tudor style cottage on the National Register of Historic Places, features a wood-beamed ceiling and hardwood floors.
Hotels and charming local Bed and Breakfasts also provide opportunities for receptions, bridal showers or parties. Area country clubs offer reception sites: the Phoenixville Country Club’s 18th-century farmhouse and, in West Chester, Penn Oaks Country Club’s grand banquet hall, where golf cart “limo” valet service can add fun to the day. (See Wedding Venue directory in this issue.)
After selecting the venue, book the caterers. Like venues, a top caterer might require booking more than a year in advance for a popular date, yet might have an opening three months ahead. Ask caterers what a package covers: number of hours, service charges, tables and special serving pieces.
Perfect Setting Caterers in Berwyn posts an online wedding guide with valuable details—suggestions for food stations, information about cakes and liquor, and specifics about the attire of their servers. For an event of a lifetime, every detail counts … down to the specifics of salt and pepper shakers on reception tables. Perfect Setting’s guide includes that, too!
6 to 8 Months And Counting
• Engage a photographer.
• Select invitations.
• Purchase a wedding gown.
When online communication bloomed, the invitation business changed. Although some couples choose engraved invitations from a stationer, many employ the Internet to order printed invitations, find templates to create them on home computers, or simply e-mail invitations.
The week after their engagement, Chad and Nicole asked an artist to hand-draw 100 invitations. The hand-made paper they ordered, however, did not arrive on time. They made a quick trip to the store and bought card stock, which ultimately worked perfectly. Chad created a spreadsheet of guests’ names and addresses for generating address labels. Later, they used the spreadsheet to track reception responses, menu requests and gifts.
Perfect Dress, Perfect Day
Experts at The Wedding Touch in Frazer suggest ordering a dress five to six months before the wedding. Usually imported, gowns must arrive from a designer, then often require alterations. Some designers will accommodate rush orders.
Some bridal salons carry dresses that can be carried home that day, though the dress might need last-minute changes. Bridesmaids’ and mothers’ gowns and other wedding attire take approximately the same length of time for ordering and altering.
Veils and hats can be ordered at the same time, or later. A fascinator—a headpiece of feathers or flowers whose popularity was renewed by last year’s Royal Wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton—can be handmade or purchased in a jiffy online.
Designer and seamstress Rita Schaer offers other delightful possibilities for wedding attire. The owner of Maridadi Couture (Maridadi—“beautiful” in Swahili, and Couture-—“high fashion” in French, reflecting Rita’s past homes), at a new location in Exton, can transform a legacy dress into this generation’s masterpiece. Recently, she altered a dress worn by a bride’s grandmother and mother. The bride carried it on a plane to Scotland, the site of her wedding and new home.
4 Months To Go
• Arrange for a cake.
• Order flowers.
Flowers by the Greenery in West Chester can usually find tulips for a May bride, New Zealand lilacs in February, and roses, daises and carnations most months of the year. But even when importing flowers, some types aren’t available. Finding and pricing exotic or out-of-season blossoms—not advance time—are the issue.
With a huge selection of so many beautiful blooms, however, brides can find magnificent bouquets and table decorations in colors and styles that suit their tastes, even a month before the ceremony.
Instead of a bouquet, Nicole carried a fan of feathers—peacock, white ostrich and brown pheasant. The custom-designed piece took five weeks from placing the order to arrival at her door. Her bridesmaids carried fans of hand-made paper from Anthropologie’s wedding website.
Just 1 More Month
• Alter gown.
• Obtain marriage license.
• Accept RSVPs.
• Get set for a glorious day.
The Perfect Time
Perfect weddings and receptions can end with a spin in a golf cart, a limo ride to the airport or a coach trip to the castle. Long after the wedding, happily-ever-after is a perfect destination where couples can savor their time together for a lifetime. -CL-
A Package for Peace of Mind
Wedding specialist Kristen Albright of Albright Events says that some brides choose a “Month Of” wedding planning package. At this stage, the planner becomes the main point of contact for vendors and takes calls so the bride can prepare for the special occasion.
Some families even choose a “Day Of” package—Kristen and an assistant greet the bride with coffee and breakfast, answer questions, run last-minute errands, and see that everyone is where they need to be at the appointed time.
“Wedding planning is a place to put your budget that will pay off,” Albright asserts. Guests might not miss extra favors or fewer decorations, “but a family and wedding party can always use less stress.”