I could write a whole book about all the things that went wrong during our wedding ceremonies. Boy could I! However, my extremely charming and positive husband told me to focus on the beautiful things that went right, rather than the negatives. Then, as if God was trying to tell me something, while listening to an old sermon on the Elevation with Steven Furtick Podcast, Pastor Steven mentioned that sometimes when we complain, the real problem is that we need to change our focus. So here I am, practicing what I’ve been told. Changing my focus to only the positive things that really matter and sharing the best part of my wedding planning experience. Maybe a bride-to-be out there will find this helpful.
Getting to marry my best friend
“First comes love, then comes marriage…” How can I talk about planning a wedding without talking about the love of my life and my best friend, Brandon. If you’ve seen his proposal video, then you saw me crying my eyes out in disbelief that he was asking ME to marry him. I’ve never had someone, anyone, love me the way this man loves me. Despite my flaws, and I have many, he still wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.
From my entry into this country, to our eHarmony matching, to our life now, I have to say, all our steps have been ordered by God and our love story is nothing short of a miracle.
All the above being said, we knew we needed God to be in the center of it all (he actually said as much during his proposal speech). Also, one of my father’s conditions when he gave his blessing was that we should get married in the family church and in order for us to get married in my family church, Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), we had to be counseled by a pastor in the church. So in the months leading up to the wedding, we actually found ourselves attending about 4 churches. We went to marriage counseling every first Sunday in South Carolina (the pastor is a family friend), and on other Sundays we either attended my church (another RCCG church in North Carolina), Brandon’s church, or Elevation (I just loved the worship experience and felt like I learnt a lot here).
As tedious as it may sound, I actually had fun doing this. We had cute little dates every Sunday afternoon and sometimes got to hang out with some naughty ducks at the lake. Those long days actually brought us closer especially when the wedding planning stress started getting to us.
Makeup and photo shoots
The day we got engaged, we took some good old fashioned selfies because we were too excited to remember to ask someone to take pictures of us. So, when I started working on the website, I realized we needed to schedule a professional photo shoot. We found a photographer on Groupon and started making plans.
There is a lot I can say about how pricey this guy turned out to be thanks to hidden fees and so on, but that wouldn’t be very positive of me.
Prepping for the shoot was so much fun. Who doesn’t like a good pamper session? I got to shop for dresses and accessories, get my hair, nails, and makeup done professionally, and started to feel like a bride.
In the end, I have to say, I loved almost every picture he took of us. It actually turned out to be a good thing that we had to narrow down our choices and pick only our absolute favorites. He was also very accommodating of my outfit changes and was a pleasure to work with.
Because we wanted to take some more pictures at our wedding venue in Greensboro, we ended up scheduling another photo shoot. This time around, we were experienced "models". We were introduced to an amazing photographer, Hossein Amini and had the best time working with him and his lovely wife. We loved the pictures so much that we now consider him the family photographer. Also, his prices were just right, no hidden fees, and we got way more bang for the buck (we got to keep all the pictures). Thanks Hossein!
Touring venues and mini getaways
Since Brandon’s family lives in Greensboro and mine live in Nigeria and other parts of the world, we decided to have the wedding in his home town so that only one side of the family has to travel. This made things a little tricky since we both live in Charlotte and most venues in Greensboro were already booked.
We got engaged in March and the wedding was set to be in October so the short notice gave us a slight disadvantage. As soon as we realized this, we hit the ground running and started calling venues to see what was possible. When we narrowed it down to 3 or 4 places, we scheduled some site visits. Since Brandon travels for work, and site visits can only be done on week days because most venues and vendors almost always had events on weekends, we had to go down on Fridays and pack as many wedding errands as possible into the day.
Sometimes, we would take advantage of Brandon’s hotel points and just make a mini vacation/weekend getaway out of it. We would almost always treat ourselves to Maxie B’s cakes and ice creams.
Yes, all our dates revolve around food. We are very proud foodies.
By the way, we found our locations pretty fast. The 2nd venue we toured for our white wedding and reception took our breaths away.
We also fell in love with the 2nd house we looked at for our Nigerian traditional ceremony.
Double Oaks Bed and Breakfast
In case you missed it, we are glorified foodies, so we were very much looking forward to the food tasting portion of the planning process. We had a food tasting appointment scheduled at Grandover Resort. Unfortunately, at the last minute, Brandon was scheduled to be out of town so I went with his mom instead (they have similar tastes so it worked out). The food was delicious and very pretty. I mean A+ for platting. Too bad we decided to skip the platted dinner option and chose a buffet to accommodate the very different taste pallets of our guests. I took pictures and videos of everything so that Brandon could still be involved and I even got him a small to-go box with some desserts. I was going for Fiancé of the year!!
Oh, the best part of the story is that the chef decided to modify the Nigerian Jollof rice recipe I gave him and added way too much pepper. He said he’d heard that Africans love spices. I don’t think anyone could take more than 2 spoonfuls. We all started sniffling and chugging our cups of water to keep from choking. Aside from the overdose on the pepper, he actually did a great job.
Unfortunately, we got a different chef on our wedding day (though they promised us this would not happen), and the "Jollof rice" he served was more like a bed of tomatoes covered with rice. It was an absolute and very expensive joke! I mean I was furious!
But never mind that, staying positive...
We also got to enjoy some very delicious wedding cake samples from both The Wow Factor Cakes who made our Traditional (Nigerian) ceremony cake, and Delicious Bakery who made our White (Christian) wedding ceremony cake (respectively).
Family & Friends reunion
I haven’t been back in Nigeria since 2007 and although I have been blessed to have my parents visit, they’re only able to give me a small taste of home. Thanks to this wedding however, my uncles and aunties, and family friends from all over the world were coming to town. I got to reconnect with my favorite aunt who ended up playing a huge role in the planning phase, my favorite uncle who came in from Ireland, and many faces I hadn’t seen in ages or even since I was a baby. In the end, I got my mini family reunion and for that I am so grateful.
And since I consider her family, I should also mention that because my best friend lives all the way in New York, I hadn’t seen her since she moved there back in 2013/2014. We had been roommates in graduate school and although we made sure to keep in touch, I have to say this wedding in all of its chaotic glory actually rekindled our friendship. We spent hours texting or talking on the phone. She got to see my Bridezilla side (that I tried to keep in check) and never judged me for it. Talk about Ride or Die!!
For my bachelorette night we actually got to have an old roommates reunion/sleepover at the Grandover Resort the night before the weddings. Our third roommate from Boston who was also one of my bridesmaids came in a day early to surprise me and we had so much fun catching up, playing dress up, eating (as much as you can when you need to be able to zip up your wedding dresses), and just getting up to our usual shenanigans. It was the best night I'd had in a very long time.
I love to surprise people. So, as much as this wedding was for us, I wanted to show my appreciation to everyone that helped in some way or another. We wanted our parents to know it was their day too so we left them out of the loop on a few things and surprised them at the ceremonies.
I wanted to thank my husband to be for putting up with me throughout the very tough months leading up to the wedding. So I surprised him with a belated birthday cake from his favorite bakery, Maxie B's Bakery and Dessert café.
I also got him his dream car, a Maserati for our traditional ceremony so he and his mom could arrive in style. He was in utter shock when he realized the car was waiting for him.
We wanted to thank our wedding party for all they did to support and be there for us so we put together some thank you gift bags and boxes for them.
Lastly, I wanted to surprise the guests by sneaking some unexpected things into the mix that they didn't see coming like our amazing saxophone player Mr. Shola Iyiola.
In the end, Brandon actually managed to surprise me with a gift of his own. A very beautiful Gucci wrist watch to match his. You have no idea how long I had been eyeing that watch for. He so gets me.
Wedding band shopping
I absolutely loved Shopping for our wedding rings. I mean who doesn't get excited at the thought of receiving new jewelry?
When Brandon designed my ring, there was already a matching band to go with it so we did not have to think too hard on that one. Shopping for Brandon on the other hand was more fun. First of all, we had no clue what ring size to get him so we went to Belk and tried on a few until we figured it out. Good thing we did too because he had been leaning towards a certain style online and when he tried it on in person, he realized how uncomfortable it actually was.
We also struggled because of his nickel allergy. We were not sure what carat of white gold would be safe for him to have against his skin for so long. But I'll let him tell you all about that in his blog post.
What has two thumbs and loves opening presents? This girl!!
Because I was an international student for so many years, I avoided buying anything I could not easily pack up and travel with like kitchen appliances and furniture. But since we were going to be setting into this non-normadic lifestyle, I knew we would need some help acquiring some household items. Also, to the majority of our guests, our wedding was for all intents and purposes a destination wedding, so we expected that they would be limited on how much luggage they could traveled with.
The online registry was the way to go because they could have items shipped right to us in Charlotte and save themselves the effort of wrapping and traveling with bulky items. It also saved us the hassle of trying to fit all those presents into our cars. So, I had a good old time registering for wedding gifts online.
We also went a little non-traditional and signed up for an online cash registry using Tendr. This turned out to be a blessing as some guests decided to send in their cash gifts before the wedding. How thoughtful is that?
If you are reading this, then I'd like to take a minute to thank you for hanging in there this whole time. I know this was quite a long one.
What was or is the best part of your wedding planning. I know it's different for everyone. Please share with us in the comment section below.