Ok Bridechillas and Groomchillas, get ready to be punched right in the feels with this one. Catalina and Stephen were married in September of 2017 at the William Penn Inn in Gwynedd, PA. Catalina reached out to us with the most touching story about how they ditched their first set of wedding plans in order to accommodate her dad who due to health concerns would otherwise be unable to make it to the wedding. Guys, this is what love looks like. Family and friends coming together and celebrating. Get the tissues ready!
Tell us about your wedding!
CATALINA: My fiance, Stephen, and I got engaged in August of 2015, two weeks before he moved 7 hours away for a new job. Our original plan was to wait until I finished college and a 2-year program at my job to get married and decide where to live, pushing the wedding almost 3 years out. Long distance engagements are difficult, especially when you know they're going to be almost 3 years long, and I think that in the back of both of our minds, we wanted to get married sooner than that.
The first time we discussed pushing up the wedding was because of a coupon (yes...a coupon) for a off-season wedding at a beautiful venue a whole year earlier than we had planned for. Although that plan didn't work out, we decided to roll with the "get married a year earlier" idea.
Planning during college was so, so hard - so that year was mostly spent day dreaming and Pinterest surfing, especially because I knew I had more than enough time to put details together. After I graduated and started work, plans really started to fall together - we asked our awesome bridal party to be part of our day, picked our date, venue, caterer, baker, dress, etc...
Long Distance Wedding Planning
I was planning long-distance in every sense of the word. 7 hours from my fiance in one direction, 2 hours from his family - and the city where we wanted to have our wedding - in another direction, and 6 hours from my family in yet another direction! I would often travel on weekends to travel to look at venues and meet with vendors, dress shop with my mom, and plan with my fiance. On these long trips, I binge listened to the Bridechilla Podcast. I felt like Aleisha and everyone from the Bridechilla community kept me company, calmed my nerves, made me laugh, and most importantly - kept me awake on the late-night drives!
Change of Plans
About 2 months before our wedding date, I learned that there was a possibility my parents wouldn't be able to make it to the wedding. I was shattered. My Papi has been sick since I was in high school, and his mobility has suffered significantly over the last few years. Our wedding venue was 4 hours away from my parents' home, there were huge medical risks in getting my dad from our house, on a 4 hour ambulance ride, to a hospice since hotels couldn't provide the accessibility or care he needed.
We were stuck. Should we continue with our wedding as planned and just hope that my Papi could make it - or should we completely scrap everything and try to re-plan everything closer to home? After many tears, hours on the phone, and prayers, we decided on the latter. Even though we knew there was still a possibility that my dad wouldn't be able to make it to the wedding no matter how close our venue was, we wanted to do everything in our power to make it as easy as possible.
The part I struggled with the most was giving up the work I had put into the original plan, even when I knew it was the right decision. I had been thinking about my dream wedding since I was a little girl, and I watched it disappear in a matter of a day. This was a time when the Bridechilla podcast kept popping into my head - remembering that your wedding is only one day (it's an awesome day, but it's still just one day), and no matter what, things weren't going to be perfect.
Planning a whole new wedding!
After sorting through the emotional stuff, we got to work. Everyone pulled together - my fiance, our families, and our friends. Within 2 days, we found a miracle venue. The William Penn Inn is a beautiful, historic inn, restaurant, and event venue from the 1700s, and offered everything that we were looking for. They had a cancellation for our date just a few days before my mother-in-law called! It was all-inclusive - ceremony and reception venue, food, cake, flowers, bar, bridal suite, and a wedding coordinator, all in our budget, even after cancelling everything on the other side of the state! We only had to hire a photographer and DJ. The most important thing about the William Penn Inn: It was only 25 minutes from my parents' home. My sweet mom dropped everything to visit the venue, meet with the coordinator, Monica (who was a rockstar!), and make sure the entire venue was accessible for my dad to get around in.
In the short time we had to plan, we did everything we could to put as much of ourselves and our families into the wedding. Our colors were pink and yellow -our favorite colors; mine is pink, his is yellow. I had started to learn calligraphy & hand lettering when we first got engaged so I could address our invitations and make signage. I hand lettered all of our envelopes, and made signs from old junkyard windows. My awesome mom made a "guest quilt" for guests to sign instead of a guest book because quilting is such a huge part of our family. Our family and friends pulled together to make over a thousand cookies for the cookie table, a Pittsburgh wedding tradition We had family recipes present that we both grew up eating - both of our families LOVE cookies.
Bridesmen & Groomswomen
My fiance and I decided to have a mixed gender wedding party. The idea came up when we first started planning. I had my childhood best friend as my Maid of Honor, my sister as my bridesmaid, and my four best friends from college as my "bridesmen". They came to my bridal showers, tagged along to bridal shows, planned and attended my Bachelorette party... and even got manis and pedis with us! I loved spending time with the most important friends in my life during this process, and not having to worry about tradition.
My fiance's bridal party included his closest guy friends and family, and had his sister and cousin at his side as "groomswomen". They enjoyed spending time with my fiance and his friends, and even attended his Bachelor party and had a great time! Everyone was excited about the setup, and we made sure to include everyone wherever we could. Bridechillas, this is an example of keeping traditions that you love, and ditching the ones you don't! While some people thought it was strange, the fun we had with them by our sides was well worth all the "Oh...really?"s.
A Perfect Wedding Day
Our wedding day was gorgeous, not a cloud in the sky! Everyone was excited and nervous. The girls got ready at the salon while the bridesmen kept the mimosas flowing while we were stuck in our salon chairs.
The hours before the ceremony were full of sweet, lasting memories. Watching my sister, the self-proclaimed "contour queen" help the girls with their makeup. Reading the letter that Stephen wrote to me (tears). Seeing my Papi for the first time all dressed up and giving him my gift that was personalized with pictures and quotes we used with each other (more tears).
Our officiant traveled from 4 hours away to be with us on the day - he was the pastor of the church my husband grew up in. When he heard about our situation, he volunteered to come all the way across the state to officiate.
As the music cued and my bridal party started walking down the aisle...more tears. I was so filled with emotion, nerves, and excitement. Like many people will tell you, all the butterflies disappeared when I saw my husband-to-be.
Some Favorite Memories from the Reception
1) Entering our reception to the song Stephen picked out, 'Kernkraft 400' by Zombie Nation since it was a song often sung (more chanted) at Penn State football games, since we met at Penn State.
2) My first dance with Stephen - we were both so nervous for the one on one dances because neither of us particularly enjoy being in the spotlight, but the second the music started, everything disappeared and he was the only person in the room.
3) My first dance with my Papi - we were both nervous because he was in a wheelchair and we didn't know how we were going to dance (but we knew we wanted to). But like the first dance, as soon as we started to sway, we were the only ones in the room.
Most of all we loved being surrounded by our closest family and friends - it's such a rare occasion to have everyone there all at once, and it was a beautiful feeling.
Any Advice for other Bridechillas & Groomchillas?
I hope that our story can encourage Bridechillas who are also facing hard decisions to go with their heart, and not worry about what people may think. The most important things about your wedding are you, your future spouse, and the people and traditions you love and care about. Things will go wrong, and it's ok to feel the emotions that come with it. But it's also just as important to process the emotions as best you can, find the positive in the situation, and remember that at the end of the day, the things that matter the most are the people who will still be by your side after the wedding is over.
How did Bridechilla help you plan your wedding?
Bridechilla was not only a great source of practical information, like tips on picking a great DJ, or how to deal with wedding stress and and avoid drama, but it was a great community that reminded me that I wasn't alone in the things I was going through. I learned to let so many things go because they weren't worth the stress, and to ditch traditions that we didn't care for like single-gender bridal parties and garter and bouquet toss. I loved hearing stories of fellow brides from all over the world with different life experiences than mine, and how their preferences and personalities were incorporated into their weddings.
The Vendor Team:
William Penn Inn - Venue, Food, Cake, & Flowers
Remarie Photography - Photography
Marsdale Productions - DJ
Thank you Catalina & Stephen for sharing your joyous celebration with the Bridechilla community and all your insights and suggestions for engaged couples! We wish you all the best!