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Here at Robert Ryan Catering & Design, we can certainly offer our broad base of knowledge and expertise as you set out to plan your perfect wedding and reception, but sometimes the best advice comes from someone who just went through the process.

We spoke to three recent brides who were happy to share their insights on what to do — as well as what not to do — as you get ready for your big day! Grab a pen (or your tablet), take notes and get ready to breathe a sigh of relief thanks to these experienced wedding “planners.”

Mary-Rachel Miller

Married at Philander Chase Knox Estate in October 2018


  • Know that this is YOUR day. I often would ask, “What do other couples do?” or “What is the normal?” but in all honesty, none of that mattered. It was our day, and the Robert Ryan staff made it their mission to customize it however we wanted. My event manager and day-of coordinator were amazing at guiding me in the right direction and giving suggestions, but they stressed the importance of doing what my husband and I wanted. Then they made sure that happened.
  • Spend cocktail hour (or a portion thereof) away from your guests. Philander Chase had the amazing option to have a space set aside for the bridal party during cocktail hour. After the ceremony, we walked straight to the side patio, where cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were set up for us. This allowed us to “hide away” and take a few moments to ourselves. It was nice to have time to breathe and take it all in.


  • Worry about the time. I was constantly asking for the time and whether we were on schedule or not. Instead, I should have been enjoying those moments. Other people (photographer, day-of coordinator, etc.) will be in charge of that and make sure you and your husband are where you need to be. I promise, they won’t cut the cake without you! So interact with your guests, dance, eat and don’t worry where you need to be next.
  • Stress over the small details. You most likely will not even have time to deal with whatever it is and your guests won’t even notice. Bathroom baskets, picture frames, extra flower vases and so on are all beautiful and add to the wedding, but don’t lose sleep over them.

Katie George Westerberg

Married at Philander Chase Knox Estate in May 2018


  • Make a priority list before you even start planning. What’s important to you? The style of the venue? The food? Location? Entertainment? Then go from there. My husband and I wanted a venue where we could get married and have an outdoor cocktail hour. When we found Philander Chase, we cut our guest list because we knew this was the perfect venue for us!
  • Talk to other people who recently got married when you are planning your budget. I did some event planning and sort of had an idea of costs, but not for weddings. Some prices shocked me and others were a pleasant surprise. By the way, people remember the venue, food, booze and music. They don’t remember if you had rare roses in your bouquet or those 15 DIY things you saw on Pinterest. And rest assured, they will never be close enough to see the quality of the dress you wore once.
  • Enjoy the planning and the chaos and the love that will surround you! It is the best time of your life! If things get too stressful, take a step back. Kickboxing helped me a lot.


  • Listen to other people’s opinions. This is YOUR day, and it’s up to the two of you to have what you want. If you make your priority list ahead of time together, it also makes it easier to combat people who give you their opinions. My bridesmaid was totally against a band, and guess what? She was on the dance floor the whole time!
  • Invite everyone you have ever known. Just because you kept in touch with Suzie Q on social media for the last two years doesn’t mean she should be at your wedding. If you have not seen someone in a year or had a live conversation with them in six months, seriously think about whether to invite them or not. I know that the “old-school” thinking is that if you invite one cousin from a family, you need to invite them all. Weddings are not cheap, and people get that. It is okay to pick and choose who you are close to.
  • Stress about the weather; there is nothing you can do about it. Same goes for people that call last minute and can’t make it, or the limo that gets a flat or a plethora of little things that will go wrong. It is a happy day, and in the end, people are going to have fun and enjoy the wedding and party! If you have a good time, they will have a good time.

Melissa Santoro Kluger

Married at Columbia Station in April 2019


  • Stay organized. I accomplished this by having a binder that I divided by every vendor. I would print out all important emails or papers from the vendors. That made it easy to find contract information when needed for questions or to help with planning. I would take this binder to all meetings with vendors as well.
  • Keep constant and clear communication with your wedding party and family members. This means reminding them about the rehearsal, dress appointments, suits and so much more. You want to let them know as soon as you make dates for things. For example, if you have a bustle on your wedding dress, you need to make sure a member of the bridal party goes to your final fitting to learn how to work it.


  • Ever give up, even when the stress of family, the wedding party and guests might get the best of you during this process. Your day will be magical. This is you and your spouse’s day. At times, you need to make sure that you put your foot down on things that matter to you.
  • Go with the first option without looking at others for vendors. We had looked at two officiants to perform at our wedding. The first one had great reviews and was recommended by the venue. Then when we met him in person, he was the opposite of what we were looking for. I suggest you meet with vendors in person.
  • Make things harder than they have to be. Choose to make something (some task) a little less stressful. I knew that writing name after name and address after address for invitations was not going to work for us. Instead, we printed out guest information on labels, and it took a lot of the stress out of the addressing of all those items.

Ready to learn more? Schedule a consultation with one of our event managers today!Robert Ryan Catering and Design plans and executes over 400 events each year, boasts a five-star rating on WeddingWire and has received WeddingWire’s Couple’s Choice/Bride’s Choice Award seven years in a row. Learn more about Robert Ryan Catering & Design and tour our venues. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for exclusive offers, up-to-date news and recipes from our executive chef.Kim MacKinnonFeatured photo: Juliana Laury Photography; all other photos, top to bottom: Madeline Isabella; Michael Chadwick Photography; Silent Film Photography