Real Wedding: Dee & Zach

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I promise, this is just a sample of the gorgeous photography from this couple’s two-part nuptials. I’ve known this couple for several years, having gone to high school, and in Dee’s case, elementary and middle school, with them. They’re just as fun as they seem in the pictures, and just as in love.

The Bride:  Dee
The Groom:  Zach
Date & location of your wedding:  Ceremony: July 13, 2012 Secrets Royal Beach, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Reception: July 21, 2012:  East Liverpool Motor Lodge, East Liverpool, Ohio

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Tell us about your wedding:  We had been dating for 9 years when we tied the knot, so we knew that we wanted it to be really special.  Wedding planning proved to be a huge stress for us so we started considering a destination wedding.  After talking with a few friends who had had destination weddings and a few who had not, it seemed that the general consensus was this:  those who had a huge ceremony with lots of planning wished they would have done a destination wedding and those who had a destination wedding would not change a thing.  We had extensive talks with our immediate families to ensure that no one would be offended (my biggest concern was my dad not walking me down the aisle) and they all encouraged us to do what we wanted. 

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Our travel agent planned our entire trip.  We did all of the ceremony detail planning via e-mail with the wedding planner at the resort.  We sat down with her for about 30 minutes once we arrived to finalize the details.  I bought my dress for $15 at Cato! It was actually a convertible skirt/dress and I wore it as a skirt to my Bridal Shower and a halter dress during our ceremony.  My jewelry was from Wal-Mart and the color actually started to come off onto my skin while we were doing our photo shoot due to the combination of sweat and bug spray!! It wasn’t noticeable and we got a good laugh!  I did my own hair and make-up.  The flowers, boutonniere and cake were provided by the resort as part of our free wedding package since we booked seven nights. 

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After our ceremony, we spent about 45 minutes traveling around the resort getting pictures.  That evening, we celebrated our marriage with a private candle-light dinner on the beach with our own butler.  They knew it was our wedding and they made it extra special! For dessert, we had our wedding cake.  It was great to have a wedding/honeymoon combination and it is something that I highly recommend! 

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Our reception took place 4 days after we got home from Punta Cana.  Thank goodness for my mom who worked on finalizing all of the plans for the reception while we were away!  We had around 200 guests at the East Liverpool Motor Lodge.  We did everything that would be done at a traditional wedding reception—I had a dress from David’s Bridal, we had a wedding party, did a first dance, parent dances, and cake cutting. My cousin came to the hotel room and did everyone’s hair and my mom’s best friend did our make-up.  We wanted to have all of the traditional celebratory things without all of the stress of planning –we just wanted a big party to celebrate our love! And that is exactly what we got.  We actually had several family members comment that our reception was awesome because they did not have to sit through a ceremony and then travel to a reception site and wait.  We had a catered dinner, DJ, and we hired a decorator.   Because we had so many guests, the decorating package only covered ½ of our centerpieces but my mom did an amazing job making the other ½!

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What about the ceremony?  Our ceremony took place on the beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on a sunny Friday afternoon.  Our wedding planner also served as our wedding officiant.  We got ready together in our hotel room and she picked us up and walked us to the end of our aisle.  She proceeded to her place and the wedding march started playing over the beach sound system.  The resort photographer was already in place and took some amazing pictures.  After our short ceremony, the resort guests who were lounging on the beach cheered for us and staff members brought us champagne.  They played a few love songs over their sound system as Ricardo, the photographer, took some more pictures.  It was simple and quick, just what we wanted.  

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What was your favorite/funniest moment?
DeeWedding: When we finished our ceremony and the entire beach sound system blasted love songs and we realized that everyone lounging around had been watching and was cheering for us! Reception:  When our DJ was trying to get everyone organized for our entrance and Zach and I were in the back of the line practicing our “turn” that we were planning to do during our dance.  The poor DJ, with whom I’ve been friends since before pre-school, tried to get our attention for a few minutes and we continued with our “1…2…3… Turn” over and over until he finally said forget it and made sure everyone else was ready.
ZachWedding: When the photographer was taking pictures of us signing our marriage certificate I felt like I was the President or something.  Reception:  When we did the Limbo and the two of us had leis on – at the end we were supposed to give them away to the winners but we just flung them out into the crowd… The DJ came out to get them and bestow them on the winners, realized we already tossed them away, and very nearly used a strong curse word directly into the microphone (he stopped himself though and it was really funny)!

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Challenge Accepted:  When we decided we were going to get married, Zach’s twin sister was already engaged and planning a wedding for July, 2012 (we were both in the bridal party).  After we started our planning, two of Zach’s first cousins got engaged, then, one of our best friends got engaged (again, we were both in his bridal party).  So, in addition to our own wedding, we were part of the bridal party in two others, and needed to attend two additional weddings.  We ended up missing one of the weddings because we just could not travel that much and Zach needed to save his vacation days.  Oh, did I mention that we also moved to Tennessee in the middle of planning our wedding?! It was insane! For every event we had that summer, we spent at least 16 hours in the car!  Thank goodness I’m a teacher and have summers off.  We were traveling to Ohio every other week all summer.  It was so memorable and we would not change anything, though! 

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What would you definitely do again? What would you change? I would do it all again and not change a thing! We basically got to have a two week celebration of our love for less than the cost of a traditional wedding. 

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Your advice:  1) Use a travel agent!!! They are FREE! I can’t believe how many people go through the stress of planning a big trip when you could just have someone do it for you.  We planned our entire trip in 15 minutes with her.  A month before our trip, we received confirmation and luggage tags in the mail.  She arranged for our transportation to and from the airport as well.  This was our first time flying let alone traveling out of the country, so if you’re not a seasoned traveler (or even if you are), let someone help you.  She was also on-call the entire time we were there.  If we would have had any issues with transportation or anything else, all that we had to do was get a hold of the agency. 

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2)  You can’t do it all yourself, so don’t try.  Planning a wedding reception in Ohio while living in Tennessee really stressed me out.  I am definitely a control-freak and I was convinced that I could take care of everything myself.  I was convinced I could do all the planning, arranging, crafting, and paying all by myself.  After we moved to Tennessee I realized that this just wasn’t possible.  I just handed it over.  I felt so much relief!!! My mom made phone calls and appointments, made our half of the centerpieces, and organized the rehearsal dinner.  My best friend/maid of honor organized and threw me an amazing bridal shower and she also helped calm me down when I would start freaking out about being so far away from all of the planning.  My parents paid for the majority of our reception which was an unbelievable help since we paid for our trip.  Right before we left for our wedding, I texted my mom a list of things to confirm for the reception while we were gone.  That was another weight lifted off of my shoulders.  My mom and dad took care of everything for me- they even ran out and bought a 2 x 4 to make the bridge to hold our topper between our wedding cakes since I totally forgot that we needed to do that! Honestly, I don’t think I would have enjoyed our Ohio reception nearly as much if I would not have handed everything over to my parents.  Seriously, if you have parents and family members who are willing to help – let them! The planning is so much more fun when you all do it together!

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3)  Go the extra mile and get top-notch entertainment.  We paid $1,000 for our DJ… we chose one of the cheapest meal combos that the Motor Lodge offered and heard no complaints; however, our DJ got so many great reviews.  Grease Sing-Along with costumes, Bridal Party YMCA with costumes, and Limbo at a wedding reception… how awesome is that?! Much more memorable than what people ate that night!

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What was the most important thing you learned from your wedding? Fun with family outweighs fanciness of the venue and accommodations.  I was so worried about having a super fancy reception and wedding when we first started planning… looking at prices was one of the main reasons that I felt like I didn’t even want to plan a wedding!  First, we did not choose our careers for the salaries… as a teacher and librarian I knew that we could not afford an expensive wedding.  Second, I refused to ask my parents and/or future in-laws to help pay for something that was just completely over the top.  We took a step back and asked if a big fancy wedding was really “us.”  We decided that we wanted to have a huge party with everyone we love to celebrate our marriage and that’s exactly what we did.  No, our reception was not in the most expensive place.  No, the hotel wasn’t high-class, but it was a place for those who chose to drink alcohol to sleep safely.  People continue to say, “I wish it was your reception again.”  Or “You had the best wedding ever.”  The memories that were made that night with all 200 people in attendance will last way longer than the memories of a fancy hotel or expensive meals.  

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So, I’m ready to pack my bags for Punta Cana… this second. Thank you, Dee and Zach, for letting me share your big day(s)!

Vendors you wouldn’t mind recommending: We honestly did not use a vendor that we didn’t love… so here’s the long list:

Engagement Photos:  Limelight
Travel Agency:  Liberty Robinson Township:
Wedding Site:  Secrets Royal Beach, Punta Cana:
Wedding photographer:  WBA Photo
Our reception site, East Liverpool Motor Lodge (Website not in service)
Cake, Frank’s Pastry Shop:
Our DJ, Movin’ and Groovin’ Productions:
Reception Photos:  Sundance


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