Ellie Reagan: Love without boundaries. Planning a wedding from 5309 miles away.

Everyone dreams of the moment they get engaged, right? Better yet, the moment they walk down the aisle? Little times do people dream of spending their engagement thousands of miles apart, with only a few small windows of time when time zones line up to even talk to one another. Well, call me crazy, because after already managing 2 years of long-distance, I hopped on a plane to Europe to make it 3 years. Oh, and I was engaged.

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To this day, Tyler (now my husband) looks back and wishes he would have hopped on that plane with me. Of course, this makes me want to throw every hard and sharp object around me at him for not actually doing so, but who would want to sacrifice that cute face of his? The long and short of it is…I wasn’t done playing volleyball. No part of me wanted to hang my shoes up yet, and I knew what an incredible experience playing overseas would be. Considering we had been playing the long-distance game for what seemed like forever, I had absolutely no desire to extend the distance into what would be my marriage, so it had to be now or not at all. After all, we were already used to managing this type of relationship so what was another year? What’s another year, she said…

After Tyler proposed in January, I had gotten a call to go train with USA for the winter training block in Anaheim, California. Really not knowing what the next year had in store for me led us to decide on a tentative wedding date of July of the following year. A year and a half. They suggest one of the first things you do in the wedding planning process is pick out a dress. So while I was in California, I did just that with the help of a few teammates and friends. It wasn’t until early Summer that Tyler and I actually decided on a place and date to have the wedding. Tyler knew I was considering playing overseas, but I’m not sure he actually took it all seriously until I left for the airport. Regardless, we knew that getting a venue was an important first step in the process and if I did end up leaving, would be crucial in getting any of this to work out. Getting major decisions like this knocked out before I jumped the pond was a huge reason why we were able to manage planning the wedding so many miles apart. Many people enter seasons abroad with loved ones back home, and if they do not there is always the possibility that you will meet someone while you are over there that turns out to be the one. Either way you are going to encounter long-distance wedding planning. To which I believe I can shed some light on after going through it myself. Here’s my checklist for doing so without a hitch:

  • Stay ORGANIZED: I created a wedding binder first thing, so that I could organize my ideas, vendors, communication, and progress all in one place.
  •  Create Checklists: There are many resources to find wedding checklists. Theknot.com, weddingbee.com, or head to the bookstore and check out their wedding section for books and organizers that will make your life easy. Did I mention wedding magazines are your new best friend? Everything from when to send save-the-dates to booking vendors to the final nitty-gritty details are all included with these lists, keeping you somewhat sane…but only somewhat.
  • Plan Ahead: With your checklist in front of you, you can now take a look at what needs to be done and figure out what items need to be taken care of before you leave. For us, the dress, color choice, and venue were items knocked out before I left. Deciding to get married in the mountains turned out to be a huge benefit to our situation because many times this is a “destination” wedding for people, so they cater to being able to work with clients who are not able to be there to plan in-person. I also had a break during Christmas in which I knew I would be home – so I was able to plan a few things around that time frame as well, like engagement pictures, writing and sending envelopes, etc.
  • Designate helpers back home: I am extremely lucky that one of my best friends is a graphic designer. We were able to stay in touch and she graciously and beautifully designed all of our wedding stationary from the save-the-dates to the invites, programs, etc. and ALL from countries apart from me. My mom was also a huge help back home, whether it was ordering and organizing the bridesmaid dresses, or just running errands that I was unable to do myself – having her help and the help of many other family members and friends (and of course Tyler!) took a huge weight off my shoulders.

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  • Use the internet: As if I need to tell this to anyone in this decade and century, but there are things you can now do online that people a few years ago would have never imagined. I picked out my bridesmaid dresses online, all of my vendors (DJ/Flowers), bridesmaid/groomsman gifts, honeymoon, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention IDEAS! I suggest getting lost in the Pinterest Wedding section and never turning back. It’s an easy and fun way to organize ideas and create a vision for what you want your own wedding to look like.

2Bridesmaid dresses by Alfred Sung – located at stores nationwide so my bridesmaids could all try them on and choose a style!

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On our Alaskan Honeymoon cruise, all planned online!

  • Create a website: Now you should know that I am somewhat of a nerd and enjoy doing things like this, but even if you’re not into channeling your inner Steve Jobs, there are websites that do a lot of the work for you, and you can still cater it to your own style. I used iWeb to create mine, but blogger and wordpress are other blog sites that can easily be turned into a wedding site. Places like weddingbee.com and theknot.com will have wedding-specific sites you can create with just a few very simple steps. Either way, it’s a great way to send out information and keep your guests up-to-date on the latest.

Now I don’t want anyone to get the impression that this is a “rainbows and butterflies” experience. It’s not. 9 months overseas is a long time to begin with, but when you know you have a wedding and fiancé waiting for you back home, it’s even harder. Personally, my season went way longer than expected – my timelines started to get crunched and I found myself having taste tests and meetings not even 24 hours after arriving back in the US. Not ideal, but let’s be real…who complains about shoving cake and mimosas down first thing in the morning?

Other unexpected challenges? We got used to not being around each other. I guess 3 years (felt like 10) does that to you. Just as there is an adjustment period when you first leave each other, there was also that adjustment when we were back together. It may take a little while to “get to know” being around each other again. Not in a negative way, but it’s natural to experience this so don’t let it freak you out…just being real over here.

You can also learn from me that wedding chat should be few and far between and is best left for the weekends. With the time changes between us, Tyler would call me early in the morning his time (before work) and it would be around mid-afternoon my time. Naturally, I had so much to share about all of the wedding ideas I found. Naturally, he didn’t really care at 5:30 in the morning. Understandable. Well, the next time we would talk would be anywhere from 11pm-2am my time, around mid-afternoon his time. The roles reversed. I could have cared less about wedding talk and he was finally in a spot to actually communicate.

Looking back, yes it would have been awesome to be together during all of this. But I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. Not to mention, it made my return home and walking down the aisle that much more special. I’ve vowed to myself to never take a single day for granted that I get to talk, see, and squeeze my husband. After reading this, I hope you do the same 🙂

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Our unconventional long-distance relationship made walking down the aisle especially emotional. I was walking towards Tyler knowing I wasn’t going to have to walk away.

Our wedding finally took place July 21, 2012 at Timber Ridge Lodge on top of Keystone Mountain, CO – we will celebrating 2 years this July!

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Ellie Reagan (Ellie Blankership)
www.reaganrambler.com
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