This bench was an early wedding present from the best man, Josh Trafelet, and was the perfect addition to the wedding pictures. Ryan’s parents made sure there were plenty of flowers throughout their property making for a beautiful backdrop. COURTESY OF SAMURRAY DESIGNS
This bench was an early wedding present from the best man, Josh Trafelet, and was the perfect addition to the wedding pictures. Ryan’s parents made sure there were plenty of flowers throughout their property making for a beautiful backdrop. COURTESY OF SAMURRAY DESIGNS

Editor’s note: Paula Barness is a news editor with the Spring Valley Tribune and wrote a personal account of her wedding planning and the ceremony in which she married Ryan Barness. The couple lives in rural Wykoff.

 After becoming engaged on Christmas Eve 2014, my fiancé, Ryan, and I found out even planning a simple wedding can become daunting.

After basking in the newly-engaged glow for a bit, we delved into the crazy and slightly chaotic world of wedding planning.

The date was an easy choice as we decided on Friday, July 31, 2015, our five-year anniversary.

Then it was the location.

After a quick search of outdoor wedding locations around our hometown, we realized they were either too expensive or just not us. So, we took a step back and broadened our minds.

When we first started dating, I lived in Wausau, Wis., and Ryan lived in Rochester, so many of our weekends were spent meeting at his parent’s home in West Union, Iowa.

The beautifully-restored Victorian home is a treasure with an incredible and surprisingly secluded backyard. We spent many summer nights relaxing on the porch swing overlooking this oasis.

We decided this would be the perfect venue for us and luckily his parents agreed to let us take over their home for the weekend.

The plan kept falling into place as family friends, Jeff and Luann Alber, offered to let us take over their restaurant, Brick City Bar and Grill, in nearby Clermont, Iowa, for our reception.

Even finding the perfect dress was surprisingly easy, as we found the lacy, vintage-inspired beauty in the first shop we visited, Bridal Productions in Decorah.

The only piece that took some searching and patience, was finding someone to marry us.

Being Catholics and determined to get married outside can be unexpectedly difficult, as the large majority of priests will not marry couples outside of the church walls. For this reason, we set off on a two-month journey of pastor searching.

After being turned down a handful of times, we finally found our shining grace in the Rev. Ginny Olson from St. Peter Lutheran Church in Eldorado, Iowa.

Interestingly, I spent a lot of my childhood in this church with all my Lutheran cousins, so it felt like a full circle moment when she agreed to be our pastor.

Admittedly, at this point I thought we had done the hardest work, little did I know it is the small details that can create the most chaos.

After perusing Pinterest for ideas, I felt fairly overwhelmed, to be honest. So out came the legal pad and lists.

From the beginning, Ryan and I decided we did not want to spend a lot of money on the wedding or reception, so we stuck to a very tight budget.

Because of this I was determined to create my own invitations and RSVPs.

Luckily, working in a newspaper office with a couple of graphic designers I was able to solicit their advice and expertise, but it still took a lot of trial and error and plenty of early mornings to complete.

By this point I was more than willing to accept my mom’s, Becky’s, gracious offer of help, so she took over the DJ, cake — or in our case cupcakes — and floral details.

Our only job for these was to taste the delicious cupcakes, which the baker sent to us via mail, to make a list of music we liked and send pictures of flower arrangements I liked.

Ryan’s mom, Jeannie, is amazingly creative, so she took over decorating for the wedding ceremony. She created the amazing arch we were wed under and the much-talked-about spray-painted aisle.

Needless to say, our parents’ help saved not only our time, but our sanity as well.

Even though it felt like time crept along, our wedding day finally arrived.

As you might have caught, our wedding was on a Friday, which is unusual, yes, but apparently becoming more popular.

We found that because it was a late afternoon wedding and the majority of our family live in the area, they didn’t have to rush from work or take time off for the event and then we had the rest of the weekend to enjoy/recover.

Between getting my hair done and finishing last minute details for the ceremony and reception I was able to keep the nerves at bay, thankfully.

But as I put on my dress, with help from my amazing sisters-in-law, and began to put on my makeup, it really began to sink in that this was finally the day that would start our next chapter.

Though, admittedly we were both most nervous about doing all this in front of a group of people, even though our ceremony was limited to family and very close friends.

Luckily, pictures began quickly after and the nerves retreated once again.

As our families began to take their seats, my dad, Greg, and I waited for our cue. I think it was then that it hit me again that this was really finally happening!

The rest was a beautiful blur.

Through all of this there are a few bits of advice from our lessons learned.

First, never be afraid to accept or ask for help, but remember to keep your vision. Everyone has their own opinions and it can be easy to sway off the path.

Second, make sure you do your rehearsal at the same time of your wedding. We realized that if our ceremony went over 30 minutes the daily 6 o-clock whistle would interrupt. Needless to say our pastor wore a watch and kept us on a strict schedule!

Third, I know they say it is important to not lock your legs during the ceremony but if your knees are shaking people will notice…though if it does happen I found it helps to at least keep a good steady rhythm!

Fourth, don’t lose focus on what the day is really about – in the end it doesn’t matter what your centerpieces looked like or what kind of sides you offered with the meal – a marriage is a lot more than just surviving the wedding.

Fifth, take advantage of having all your family together and take a group photo. It was a last minute request of mine since we had some relatives that made the cross-country trek and I’ll always be happy we captured that moment.

Sixth, if you aren’t having a formal sit-down dinner, make sure you have your caterers set aside a to-go container for you and your spouse. I’m so glad we thought to ask for this, because, with all the people to talk to, neither of us made it to the food!

Finally, just relax! The day will be much more fun and memorable if you actually enjoy it instead of stressing out about each detail.