A Wedding Planner Turned Bride’s Journey Part 9: Wedding Details & Design

Wedding planning can be really stressful and overwhelming. So the key is to take it step by step.

But the reality is that there are lots of things that go together.

There are lots of things that need to be thought about at the same time.

Like your vendors and your design. They are different things, but they work hand in hand.

One does affect the other.

Your design and vision will affect which vendors you look at and hire. Your vendors will influence what that experience will be like in real life.

Happy bride and groom at their elopement wedding in Muir woods from Passport to Joy online wedding planners
(Photo credit: Vivian Chen)

Similarly, your logistics are also very much wrapped up in your details.

You’re not just working out what time people are coming to setup, but what is getting set up.

You’re thinking about the wording on a sign and how many tables you actually need.

There are seating charts and floorplans you’re working on, but also ceremony flowers and decor.

There are A LOT of details. A LOT.

And so this is when bridezilla can rear her ugly head. Because it gets very overwhelming, very fast.

Because there are a lot of decisions to be made.

And let’s not forget about the budget which plays a huge part in your design and details.

All of this to say, designing your wedding can be stressful!

But don’t you worry, help is on the way! In the form of Stephanie!

In this Part 9 installment of a wedding planner turned bride’s journey, we’re talking about your wedding details and design.

And make sure you check out all of the tips and info from Stephanie and Kirk’s wedding planning journey from the beginning:

Getting engaged during a worldwide pandemic (part 1)

Engagement ring shopping online (part 2)

How to start planning your wedding (part 3)

How to create your wedding budget (part 4)

Wedding dress shopping (part 5)

Finding the wedding venue (part 6)

Hiring wedding vendors (part 7)

Wedding logistics (part 8)

So, let’s pick up the story where we left off …


So usually, working on the design of a wedding is fun for me. I even consider it a perk of the job!

But for some reason, when it came to my own wedding, thinking about the decor was onerous and even overwhelming.

In my head, I felt a lot of pressure to have my wedding look really amazing with lots of nice (i.e. likely expensive) details.

As if all those details would not only be a reflection of my style and taste, but how well I could do my job as a wedding planner.

In retrospect, I know this internal pressure was unfounded. Not to mention unhelpful.

I even knew it at the time, but that didn’t stop it from gnawing at me. 

Even if you don’t work as a wedding planner, it’s not unusual to feel like everything about your wedding needs to be stunning and perfect.

It’s all the beautiful weddings you see online. You want that.

But to do all that means spending a lot of money.

And grappling with that pressure can be stressful… before even factoring in your budget.

Peach, orange and blue wedding bouquet in sunset colors for a micro wedding in Muir Woods from online wedding planners Passport to Joy
(Photo credit: Vivian Chen)

So what do you do?

For me, I had to take a step back and see the big picture.

I remembered that the overall experience of my wedding was what mattered the most, over everything else.

As a part of that, we could have meaningful personal touches that were nice, even if they weren’t expensive.

I also had to accept that my wedding would be beautiful, but it probably wouldn’t look like a styled shoot on Instagram or Pinterest.

And it wouldn’t have to look that way to be acceptable or even amazing.

I think it also helped to have a partner like Kirk, who had very different opinions from me about what was ‘necessary’ for our wedding.

His opinions were occasionally baffling to me, like when he thought that invitations for our small wedding were not needed.

But they were also a good reality check for me from time to time.

*PRO TIP: Weddings being showcased online are beautiful, but trying to create that same wedding can really do a number on your wallet and your mind. Instead of scrolling endlessly through images and blogs, be purposeful in your searching. Find what you need and then get off! It will really help with your wedding mental health.


So how did we approach designing our wedding on a budget? 

Honestly, our first design choices for our wedding were to pick venues that didn’t need much decor.

For our ceremony, Muir Woods offered a dreamy redwood forest as the backdrop.

The park actually doesn’t allow decor or rentals other than personal flowers. But Kirk and I thought that the magical setting amongst the trees was all the decor we needed.

For our reception, the restaurant we picked had a lovely outdoor patio in a lush urban courtyard. The patio sat under a big tree with string lighting hung below the branches.

It was casual, romantic, and just what we were looking for. We even liked the modern, earthy stoneware plates used by the restaurant.

*PRO TIP: It’s always a good idea to start with a beautiful setting. Not only does it set the right mood, but it means you have a lot less to worry about bringing in. And that makes a big difference in your budget.

Couple amoungst the redwoods at their elopement wedding at Muir Woods from online wedding planners Passport to Joy
(Photo credit: Vivian Chen)

The next step in our design process was to try and be thoughtful about the few decor elements we would bring in.

For every element we considered, we wanted to find a balance between looks and budget and practicality.

Because our wedding was small and DIY, we prioritized an easy, low stress experience for ourselves and our guests over coordinating the logistics of various decor elements on or before our wedding day.

For instance, part of me wanted to rent linens and nicer napkins than those provided by the restaurant. But ultimately we decided it might not be worth the money or the time required to pick up and deliver the linens to the restaurant and then return them to the rental company.

Our wedding was so small that the cost of delivery would have exceeded the cost of renting the linens themselves. And doing it ourselves would have required a ton of driving!

We looked into buying napkins, but that was pricey too. After mulling it over, we thought that the impact that the napkins would have had would have been minimal by comparison.

And with either scenario, we also decided that we didn’t want to be collecting and counting dirty napkins at the end of the evening.

*PRO TIP: The more details you have, the more it will cost you. And when it comes to DIY, cost not only means more money, but more time. Make sure that detail is worth the cost before you decide to do it.


So what design elements did we choose? How did we make it OUR wedding?

Ultimately, we decided to keep our decor minimal.

We focused mainly on florals and stationery to add color and texture.

To make them special, we thought about the things that we like and how we could incorporate them into the design.

Kirk is an artist by hobby, and his art tends to incorporate a lot of bright colors. So, the wedding stationery we selected was colorful and abstract like his art.

We wanted the flowers to be colorful too, so we went with peachy sunset tones to brighten up and add warmth to the greenery of both venue spaces. (Sunset is also our favorite time of day!)

Our stationery also included a bit of blue, so we thought it would be nice to have blue in the bouquet too to add contrast.

When we thought about the vibe that we wanted for our wedding, it was intimate, relaxed, and comfortable.

We wanted the floral arrangements to reflect that by looking a little more wild and undone, as opposed to neat and tidy.

Outside of the flowers, our favorite detail of our wedding ended up being the thank you notes that we left for each guest at their table setting.

It’s an idea that I borrowed from weddings Jamie has planned for Mango Muse Events clients in the past, and I love how personal and special it is.

Having a wedding during the pandemic forced us to go small. So Kirk and I decided we would take advantage of that to connect with our guests in a meaningful way we might not have been able to with a bigger wedding.

And I think our guests really liked it!

For us, the personal notes were a design element worth all the time and effort we put into it, and then some! The cost was minimal too, which worked out well.

Long table with colorful centerpieces at a micro wedding at Del Popolo restaurant in San Francisco from online wedding planners Passport to Joy
(Photo credit: Vivian Chen)

When I look back on our wedding day, I’m honestly so happy with the design and decor elements that we included.

They were relatively minimal, but for us, they were meaningful.

And they had so much impact without breaking our budget!

And the pictures aren’t too bad either (wink).

*PRO TIP: When it comes to your wedding details and design the key is ALWAYS to choose things that are personal and meaningful. They mean so much more to your guests and to you. And that’s what makes your wedding YOURS. Not the number of details, but the quality of them.

Are you feeling overwhelmed with making decisions about your wedding details and design?

Feeling a lot of pressure too? We can help!

As a Passport to Joy member you’ll not only get guidance on creating your design, but you have access to a personal wedding advisor for support and to get all your questions answered.

Click here to become a member today.

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