Back to our advice series, my next bride, Leci Valdes, also got married pretty young (at 23). I love her advice because it's genuine and real - similar to Monique, Leci also married before almost all of her friends and planning was, of course, more difficult due to the lack of available advice (and support). But most importantly, I love, love that she stuck to budget and she made it work beautifully. The series does a good job of portraying the fact that brides dread budgets - they instill fear and to an extent, negativity, because a large misconception is that a beautiful wedding cannot be done on a budget, which is totally incorrect. The most beautiful weddings come from the details and the planning, not from how much money you spent. And that's a fact that's held true time and time over.
Gorgeous Photography by Tony Gajate below.
Bride and Groom: Leci and Danny Valdes
Wedding Date: December 12, 2009
Venue: Hyatt Regency Bonaventure, Weston, Florida
1. How you felt when you got engaged.
I was in complete shock. Although we had talked about marriage extensively, I still was not expecting it to come when it did. He was applying for L.L.M. programs and we were still discussing the timeline of things. After I was able to process the engagement, the wedding couldn’t come fast enough—I really wanted to be married to him.
2. Step One - what you did first and what you would have done differently, if anything.
The first thing I did was confirm a date with my Church and with our priest of choice. The only thing that my fiancé wanted was for his high school priest to celebrate the Sacrament with us, so we made it a point to confirm his availability first.
3. What was most overwhelming about the process?
It was a mix of both budget and people’s questions. I wasn’t a typical bride—I really didn’t care about the wedding as much as I was really processing the reality of what was coming (FOREVER, people). So anytime people asked me about flowers, venue, colors, etc., it really just drove me crazy. I know most people are happy and excited to talk about these things, but because the budget really was a factor, I was focused on making decisions and moving on. I did not enjoy the planning. Call me crazy.
4. Your wedding look - how did you get to the final result, i.e., how you picked your linens, flowers, bridesmaid dresses, color scheme, venue, etc. What sources or people helped and what was their advice?
I knew I wanted something casual and that I didn’t want a sit down meal. My husband and I wanted it to feel inviting, comfortable and have a strong sense of family. Glamour wasn’t my thing. I was so blessed to have been working at a hotel at the time and decided to have it there (discounts!!). From there, everything took shape. The space had an old school lounge feel with multi-levels and it lent itself to the vibe I was going for. My mom found linens online and our family seamstress finished them all and gifted them to me. It was really so sweet.
To really give you an idea of how “whatever” I was about the whole thing, I took my sisters and maid of honor to BCBG to look for dresses. My criteria were that everyone had to like it and it had to come in everyone’s size. They all agreed on a brown cocktail length dress that was $40.00. They were so inexpensive that my mom bought them all. Brown it was!
My mother was the biggest help and master mind in all things wedding related. Because I was the first of many of my friends to get married, we really started from scratch. It was hard to organize all of the information being given to us.
5. Do you feel like a company like HOL, which focuses on event design and vendor referrals, would have been beneficial with respect to your answer in No. 4 above?
Looking back, I think that having HOL would have helped with referrals. Because I didn’t know what I wanted really, I think someone guiding my mother and I would’ve narrowed down some options for us. Half the battle is knowing who is a reputable and reliable vendor. Then it’s deciding if they can accommodate your needs.
6. What you found most helpful during planning, whether a wedding planner, a parent, a friend, certain vendors.
My mother is amazing. She can do it all and she did it all. We didn’t have any help from a planner. I look back and still can’t believe what we did for 200 people on our budget. She really made things happen. She made a lot of sacrifices and made sure that I was not only happy, but felt loved throughout the process.
Our flower vendor, who did flower arrangements as a “weekend” gig was also very helpful. She essentially became a day of coordinator and made sure that the reception space was set.
7. What you found most difficult during planning.
The amounts of options there are were overwhelming to me. I felt that was looking for the next best thing. The better quote, better vendor, better idea, better menu….it was too much.
8. How you found your vendors and how you feel like HOL would've helped and facilitated the planning (including for your wedding planner).
My mother and I started from scratch. At the time, people were still having very traditional receptions and I knew that that wasn’t going to work for me. It was hard to find vendors that understood what I wanted.
I needed a database of vendors and I didn’t want them from TheKnot.com. I wanted a personalized touch, not vendors who would see me as just another bride. HOL would have helped give me options and ideas for creating a unique event, which introducing me to vendor who could make that happen. I would’ve liked to incorporate our personalities a bit more.
I would’ve paid for someone to help ease the planning process. HOL would’ve guided me to know where I could’ve saved and cut corners and what I should focus more attention on. It would’ve been money well spent.
9. Looking back, you would have done this differently (in general):
I would not have stressed everything as much as I did. It really came together beautifully and to this day, people still tell me how beautiful the actual ceremony was (that’s really the most important thing, right people?) and how much fun they had dancing at the reception. It became a bigger party than my husband and I anticipated and I had I known everything was going to be so wonderful, I would’ve let go a little during the planning process.
10. Your advice to any bride planning a wedding is:
If your budget allows, find a planner or someone to help you with the process. The beginning is incredibly overwhelming and then the week of gets hectic. If you can have someone navigate this one for you, it would be so helpful.
11. Your favorite moments during the whole planning process were:
I loved dress shopping. LOVED it. I tried on everything. I originally wanted a lace dress, but when I tried on my wrap dress I knew it was the dress. When I came out of the fitting room, my mother, grandmother, sisters and maid of honor said that it was such a “Leci” dress that I had to have it. My husband had once told me how much he loved how I looked in a wrap dress. It felt so right to me to wear something for him and at the same time, was so comfortable in my own skin. I felt very “me”.