Hey, wedding people! Welcome to our second issue. Over the last few weeks, I've been connected with so many wonderful vendors and real brides and feel blown away by the interest in sharing stories together. Read on for some real wedding inspiration that I hope will help you plan your dream day, whatever the circumstances may be.
From meeting on a movie set to completely pivoting their Jamaica destination wedding to an elopement in Colonie, NY, Anna-Kay Jeffery-Sutherland and Dean Sutherland’s love story is one that has overcome many of life’s unexpected twists and turns. I had the opportunity to chat with Anna-Kay to learn more about their one-of-a-kind story and, now, we get to share it with you!
I have to ask, how did you and Dean first meet?! “Dean is a cinematographer and jib operator, and I am a registered nurse. At the time, I working as a set medic. We were both on the same filming job for a couple of months, and one day at lunch, we were all sitting at a table talking and laughing, and he came over and jokingly offered to rub my shoulders. That's where it all started back in 2010.”
That is so romantic! So, when did you start dating? "We first explored a friendship for the next few years. During this time, in 2014, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which challenged our friendship. But rather than stepping away to give me space, Dean took on the mantle of being a part of my support system. Without even really realizing, we moved towards exploring a relationship. Then in June of 2015, he asked me to be his "girlfriend." I was scared because of what I was going through but elated that even though I had health challenges, he wanted to explore life with me. In 2017, he asked the question and gave me a promise ring! And then we planned to get married in August of 2020. Flash forward to 2020, and our wedding year had challenges we could never have imagined. With the Covid-19 outbreak, we began to rethink our wedding plans. And then in March, we lost Dean's mother who was the most important person in his life. We then decided not to change our wedding date, as life was too short. We started to work towards an elopement-style ceremony and later have a party to celebrate with family and friends."
Could you tell us a little more about your initial wedding plans? "Our initial plan was a larger wedding with a lovely bridal party: a maid of honor, three bridesmaids, best man, groomsmen, etc. You know, the whole works. The celebration was set to take place on the island of Jamaica, our home country. But, of course, due to COVID, we had to tweak this plan as not everyone was comfortable traveling. We originally wanted to have our wedding beachside in the evening, with the after-party under the moon. Most of the planning was completed, like the color scheme, bridal party style, and our cake."
How was the process shifting from a big wedding in Jamaica to a smaller local wedding? "There were a few moments we felt discouraged due to the process and often felt overwhelmed. The hardest part was getting the idea of an elopement across to my husband-to-be. Overall, we both had the support of our best friends. My maid of honor, Tremone McLeod, still took the time to bear the burden of helping us navigate even though she was miles away. She truly brought calmness to the situation while offering great insights and presenting us with more feasible options. Overall, Dean and I mastered effective communication and together managed to ride the waves of challenges that presented themselves throughout this whole process."
How was it working with different vendors than you had initially planned? “Our vendors made the elopement very smooth sailing since it was now limited to just the courthouse, a florist, and a photographer. Our minister, Susan Pellegrini, recommended we use the gazebo at the Colonie, NY courthouse for our ceremony. Our florist was great and offered suggestions with color coordination so the flowers would pop in the pictures and gave us options that moved away from the bridesmaid carrying a bouquet to instead wearing a corsage. Our photographer, Cheyenne, was simply the best! She was not overbearing, nor did she make the shoot complicated with unnecessary poses. She was great at capturing our whole story in each photo.”
On Instagram, I saw that you were able to travel for a honeymoon getaway! Could you share with us a little bit about your experience? “We traveled to the beautiful island of Jamaica! It is originally our home country, but this time we went as honeymooners. We had a lovely time, though we had to observe the restrictions until we were cleared by the health department. Overall, that did not take away from our experience. As long as we were together, that is all that really mattered to us. As far as traveling went, it was not as horrific as we had assumed from how the news and social media had portrayed it. Appropriate guidelines were observed by airports and airlines, and most of the travelers did abide by the rules put in place to protect us as we made our getaway during the pandemic crisis.”
I first met Madison Snider when we were studying at Fordham University in New York City. In 2018, she announced that she was launching a jewelry brand, namedFewer Finer. I was thrilled to follow her new journey. Since then, she has created so many beautiful custom pieces, dropped new lines, and has been featured internationally in publications likeVogue.
When Madison describes her designs, she calls them “a collection of pieces to love and live in.” A quick glance at Fewer Finer’sfeedwill show you how her rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces achieve the perfect balance of elegance, quality and comfort. Madison’s personality and humor are evident throughout the line with cheeky product names like “The After School Snack Ring” and “The Ping Pong Bracelet."
All Fewer Finer pieces are made by hand in New York City, but that’s not all. She curates a collection of vintage pieces too. Each Friday on Instagram, she has avintage charm drop, sourcing some of the most unique and adorable charms I’ve ever seen, like a gold cowboy boot and a martini glass. (Psst, these would make some fantastic bridal party gifts!) Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with Madison and ask her for some wedding jewelry advice, and it’s all pure gold!
My fiancé and I are starting to think about our wedding rings and I don’t even know where to begin! How far in advance of the wedding should couples start the wedding band process? "A typical custom project takes between 1 and 3 months to complete. The timeline depends on the intricacy of the piece, the rarity of the stones we will be sourcing, and how motivated the client is to have it done in a specific timeframe. I've sourced a vintage wedding ring for a client the week they were getting married and worked on engagement ring design projects lasting over 6 months. The best time to approach a designer about a custom piece is when you are ready to move forward. The more lead time, the better, but 2 months is a very safe bet!"
I love how you reimagine a lot of jewelry by resetting family stones or incorporating stones and metals into new pieces. Is this something you would recommend for a more sentimental wedding or engagement ring? “I've been so lucky to be chosen by clients as the person they trust to rework a sentimental or heirloom piece of jewelry into something new. It's something I am proud of because it speaks to their trust in my ability and my design. I have also been surprised by how many people have significant jewelry passed down to them or lost in their jewelry box, mostly unworn. Incorporating a piece with a family history or sentimental value into your wedding design can be a really special way to make something totally unique and custom for only you. Here are a few of my favorite designs I've worked on:”
When choosing a wedding band, I’m trying to decide if I need to match the wedding band to my engagement ring. Any thoughts!? “Great question! I have a few. Firstly, I always recommend for a bride to do what she wants when it comes to a stack. Sometimes there are other opinions from family or friends about how it should be worn, but I see the wedding band as a piece that the bride should have total autonomy in choosing. With that, I do acknowledge that you may have to play around to choose the band that best fits with your engagement ring style and proportions. Working with a designer to make something custom is always an option that will allow you to define exactly what your stack will look like."
When you’re designing a wedding ring, is there a metal you recommend most or prefer working with? “Choosing the metal for a wedding band is a great way to define your current jewelry style. I would say I see about half of the brides going with the same color of their engagement ring, ensuring that the stack on their finger really gives a bold pop and calls attention to the main stone. The other half choose to do something different, allowing them to then mix metals in other places. Something I often see and really love is a Platinum engagement ring - it's the strongest metal and diamonds look amazing set against its cool tones, with a gold wedding band. This mix of metals pairs well with whatever else you layer and allows for a classic and modern look together.”
Anything else you'd like to share with the Upstate I Do crew on this topic? “Wedding rings are a beautiful way to commemorate a special day and person. Put your heart into the process, have fun, and feel free to be in touch with me - whether you're looking to work on a custom piece together or would just like general guidance - I love to help people find meaningful jewelry and enjoy the process!”
If you follow Upstate I Do on Instagram, you may have seen my Try on Tuesday series. Basically, as I’m planning my wedding, I’ve been documenting my experience trying all of the things, from fashion to venues to food! In the last few weeks, I visited both BHLDN and Amsale in New York City. And one trend stood out from the rest: cowl necks. I feel this is a style that you either love or hate, so I would not force all of my bridesmaids to wear this neckline. But the more I tried this style on, the more I started to like it. Maybe I’ll even rock a cowl for one of my wedding events. There are so many to choose from, like velvet midi dresses, silky patterned gowns, or even jumpsuits and cap sleeve satin dresses.
I've known Susan Blackburn long before planning a wedding was even on my radar. She photographed for a summer ballet intensive I attended in Saratoga Springs throughout high school. And ever since, I've been following her for all things photo inspiration. I recently had the chance to catch up with her and ask her some questions from the Upstate I Do crew.
What advice do you share with your couples as they prep for their wedding day? “I always say don’t start planning without a budget. And don’t spend 90% of the budget on the venue/catering. I do advise brides to budget for a professional hair and makeup artist and to do a trial before the big day, this way, you’re going to love your look from head to toe.”
When photographing at a venue, are there certain spots you love to focus on? “I actually do not have a go-to spot at venues. Some photographers gravitate towards porches and windows, but my thing has always been that even if I have been to a venue multiple times, this is the first time this couple is having their wedding at the venue. It is up to me to photograph it as if it is my first time there as well. I actually like to challenge myself to find something completely different to photograph with every single wedding. Recently I photographed, Nick and Rachel, who originally had a larger wedding planned atThe Mansion Inn. They ended up getting married on their original date with just their bridal party and close family in attendance. They did their ceremony outdoors by the pond, which was perfect for capturing the day's beautiful natural lighting.”
A lot of our readers have been asking about bridal party size when it comes to photography. Do you have any advice to share? “Every bridal party is a wonderful one, regardless of size. Big or small, just make sure that the selected people are the ones you want there for this milestone day. I will share that in my experience, large bridal parties require a much greater amount of organization. Everything takes an exponentially larger amount of time—getting ready, transportation, photos, etc. So I’d say maybe consider hiring a day of wedding coordinator to herd the cats.”
Through this challenging time, what advice or inspiration has kept you motivated and hopeful? “I recently read Untamed by Glennon Doyle. She basically said, ‘Yes, this is hard. But we can do hard things.’ This is now my personal mantra. I’ll say it to myself, “I can do hard things.” And together, we’ll all get through this.”
Lastly, do you have any advice to share with 2020 and 2021 wedding couples? “Before you do any planning at all, sit down and have an open, honest discussion about what you both want to do to celebrate your marriage. Maybe you want to elope. Maybe you want to have just your family and a fabulous dinner party. Discuss what you feel comfortable spending and which items are most important. It is easy to spend way more than you ever imagined possible on a wedding—you don’t have to buy into that! And don’t get caught up in what other people think you ‘should’ do. The decisions are yours.”
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