When I was 19, I wasn’t looking for my forever relationship. I was happily enjoying adventures with friends, focusing on my studies and soaking in family time.
But then, my future husband walked into my life.
Life has such a funny way of surprising you! He was so sweet, incredibly shy and had a heart of gold. He came from a very traditional family where he valued romance, courtship and building a strong relationship. He really wanted to impress me and his way of doing this was through lavish experiences and gifts like an evening at the ballet followed by the city’s best Italian restaurant.
I didn’t need any of these things to fall in love with him, but I could see how hard he worked to give me personal, meaningful memories. We fell in love fast and hard, and before I knew it, he was proposing!
Our immediate friends and family thought that getting married at the age of 20 wasn’t the best decision, but I am a firm believer that when you know, you know!
When we began to map out simple questions like where we wanted to get married, we immediately slammed into a tough decision. See, my husband Josh is in the military, meaning we met while he was away from his hometown. All of his friends and family lived in Nova Scotia while my current friends and immediate family resided in Victoria – literally on the opposite sides of the country. That simple factor along with my childhood friends being in Ontario meant that we would require the majority of our guests to travel which felt like a big ask.
We realized that the dream wedding — a huge ceremony in a joint hometown, filled with every person we’ve ever known and loved — wasn’t really in the cards for us. We didn’t have a huge budget to work with and the logistics alone were overwhelming. All we wanted was to be married. So, we decided to do something totally crazy!
Less than a week after he asked me to be his wife, I promised to honor and love Josh for the rest of my life. In one of our favourite parks beside romantic weeping willow trees with my sister as my witness and my husband’s best friend as his, we became husband and wife. It’s so crazy to think this was already 11 years ago now!
Now looking back, would I change things? Yes. Absolutely yes. I don’t regret eloping because it’s really what we wanted at the time but now that I’m a wedding photographer and get to witness so many incredible weddings take place, I know things would be very different now. Especially after working as a wedding photographer for years, there are certain things at each wedding that stand out to me as especially beautiful, and, if I could do it all over again, I’d incorporate into a day of my own.
So, what would I do with a wedding day if I could plan one all over again? I’m so glad you asked!
Add In Some Splurge Items
I am a true believer that every bride should look and feel their absolute best on her wedding day. On my wedding day, I wore a sundress, and while I felt pretty I’m sure it doesn’t even come close to the feeling I’d have had I worn an incredible Monique Lhuillier or Berta Privee statement gown.
My gown would have been a statement piece with a skirt full of layers, because I love that added movement in photos. It would also have unique touches like intricate beading, soft lace or feathers, since I absolutely ADORE photographing dresses with texture or unique romantic, elegant details. And I would 100% have a veil, cape or light feminine shawl for the romantic portraits in the evening.
And, in a move that should surprise no one, I’d also spurge on photography. I’d want my photographer to capture all of the gorgeous details of the day, but also document a private heartfelt first look and our families joy. Both the laughter and the tears. Looking back, we have a handful of point and shoot images from our wedding, and while I cherish those, there is nothing I’d want more than to have full coverage on one of the most important days of my life. There are so few life altering dates I can think of in my life, and my marriage to Josh is certainly one that I wish was documented in a more thoughtful way.
Extend Invitations While Keeping Things Intimate
I absolutely love smaller intimate weddings really focused around family and incredibly close friendships. If I could do it all again, I’d want to share this magical day with my closest family and friends so the day still feels calm, romantic and personal.
Not inviting my family (other than my sister) and friends meant that we didn’t get to share in that experience with others. I didn’t get to walk down the aisle with my dad or have that first dance. I didn’t get to get ready with my mom or have her zip me up into my gown. I didn’t share in heart felt speeches or watch my husband tear it up on the dance floor while I awkwardly try to match his mad skills. Relationships are so incredibly important to me, and at my dream wedding, they’d be celebrated as the high point of the day.
Carefully Select A Location
Thinking back to the days where we were incredibly overwhelmed at the thought of making so many people travel to help celebrate our wedding day now seems silly. I was overwhelmed because I didn’t think about giving people enough time to make it a priority in their lives. When you give people notice, they will either make it a priority or they won’t, and I regret making that assumption for them before extending the invite.
I’d want to hold our wedding outdoors on a private beach on the West Coast. After all, that is where I met my husband and fell so deeply in love with him as we bonded over our love of diving, which my husband was pursuing as career in at the time. The landscape itself is stunning and with the added florals and very limited guests, I think it would make for a beautiful romantic ceremony.
Choose The Perfect Season
If I got married now, I’d likely plan a May or June wedding where the weather isn’t super hot but the days are long, flooding our day with all of the natural light I could hope for. Being a photographer, I get to see how the seasons play a role in the overall timeline of the big day. I’d want to take my time getting ready, really soak up that time with my girls, since that “getting ready” time is one of my favorites to photograph. And I’d make sure to include time for bridal portraits, because who doesn’t want fresh portraits when you feel and look your absolute best?
Incorporate A First Look
I would 100% do a first look and possibly exchange my personal vows before the actual ceremony in front of my friends and family. This is what I loved most about our young-love elopement: I got to see my husbands face without everyone staring at him waiting for him to have a reaction to me. I wasn’t nervous with everyone watching me walk down the aisle. He had the opportunity to tell me how incredible I looked, and we got to enjoy a few moments together before the ceremony took place.
He’s my calm space, so it felt like home having this time with him, and it only excited me even more to share in the ceremony that was about to come. My husband has a wonderful way of calming me down before major events in our lives and for this reason, I would definitely include a first look!
Emphasize Florals And Colours
In my dream wedding, we would be surrounded by fresh, inspiring floral installations, a lush arbour and a killer bridal bouquet finished with a beautiful hand tied ribbon. The colour palate would be pulled from the florals keeping things soft, delicate and feminine. I’ve seen firsthand how a talented florist can transform the entire atmosphere of a wedding day, and it by far makes the biggest statement on a wedding day.
Craft An Invitation Suite
My invitation suite would explode with little details tying our wedding day together. I love the texture of handmade and torn paper. I love the elegance that handwritten calligraphy brings to a romantic day. Because of the limited guest list, I would want them to have an experience opening their invitation and create something truly magical for the photographer to use in the flatlay.
Take The Time To Plan It All
I’ve always been the person that if I have an idea, I need to execute it right away to its absolute fullest. I love that both my husband and I are spontaneous while keeping our values a priority. But looking back, I’d want to enjoy the time as an engaged couple a little more, taking the time to save up for what we truly wanted our wedding to be and giving the most important people in our lives the chance to be there.
I’ve learned over the years that some things just take time and that it is ok so slow down a bit for the best result rather than rushing through to the next big thing.
Find Live Musicians
My husband and I love classical music and find ourselves getting lost in calm jazz numbers regularly. So, adding in live musicians like a cellist during the ceremony, pianist for cocktail hour and for our first dances, a crooner band would be a top priority. We appreciate the personal element a skilled musician brings to a wedding, and we feel as though adding in musical elements for a really small wedding would help enhance that atmosphere.
Plan An Epic Send-Off
Because we both come from very traditional families, we would have loved to do an epic send off at the end of the night with all of our wedding guests. I picture long burning sparklers as we board a seaplane to the closest international airport before departing on our European honeymoon.
While I am grateful for every additional second our elopement has given us as husband and wife, I sometimes like to daydream about the “what ifs.” Whether you’re planning a speedy elopement or a massive wedding that will take two years to plan, I think the most important thing to do is to truly ask yourself what brings YOU joy and what you will treasure in the years to come.
Take time away from the opinions of others to truly think about the wedding of your dreams, and do everything you can to make it come true! There will always be changes you’ll wish you could make as you grow and mature and your tastes change, but find ways to celebrate the love that is uniquely yours on your wedding day, and you can’t go wrong!
Design Proposal Vision Board: Styled With Love Wedding Design
*All images are not the property of Stephanie Mason Photography & Co. and are meant solely for design inspiration.