What goes into planning a wedding? While Wheely Good Smoothies does catering for weddings, bachelorette parties, and everything in between, we're not privy to what leads wedding parties to hiring us for their events. We don't know how far along the line someone goes "Hey, let's get a smoothie bike for our reception, it'll be a hoot!" or what's involved with other aspects of planning like the venue, the guest list, or the music. Since we're involved with some aspects of it, we thought it could be useful to get a more in-depth look into what's going through the bridal party's mind as we start gearing up for working the 2022 wedding season.
A friend of mine, Marnie Silverman, is getting married soon at the Irvine Nature Center in Maryland, somewhere Wheely Good Smoothies has catered events in the past. According to Jessica Moran, Irvine's Rental Coordinator, the nature center has nineteen weddings (as well as dozens of other private and corporate events) scheduled for this year including Marn's. Because I love hearing about my friends' lives and I thought it would be cool to learn more about a venue we've worked with before, I reached out to Jessica with some questions and asked Marn if she'd be willing to sit down with me for an interview.
Marn is an interlibrary loan specialist at the Johns Hopkins Library. Outside of working at Hopkins, Marn is also a game designer and writer. She and her fiancée Alyssa actually write a web serial together called Prairie Song, which is about finding connection in a post-apocalyptic world.
Alyssa and Marn have been together since 2013 and got unofficially engaged in December of 2020. They became officially engaged in February of last year when their rings finally arrived. Her and Alyssa's wedding is set to be in November of this year.
So to start off, what thing are you most excited about for your wedding?
Marn: Oh god, um…
Or a few things?
Marn: (laugh) So I'm excited that we are basically doing an extremely tiny, like, elopement-style ceremony. We don't even have to worry about that. The actual reception is going to be that weekend, and it's honestly really nice to have them split up that way so that we can rest.
I love the phrasing of "elopement-style ceremony."
Marn: I had a cousin who did the same thing and then had a big reception that all of the family and friends were invited to and it was really nice to not have to sit through the whole eight hours of the ceremony and reception and [instead] just go to the party and hang out. I feel like after the ceremony and the rehearsal dinner or whatever it would be nice to like… go home and go to bed. I think if people are allowed to do that for bar mitzvahs they should be allowed to do that for weddings.
So the vibe of your wedding is obviously small, chill elopement, but what's the vibe for the reception? How's Irvine as a venue fitting into the vision of what you want?
Marn: We knew even before pandemic stuff started happening that we wanted to do an outdoor fall wedding so it wouldn't be super hot out and we wouldn't have to worry about packing a bunch of people into an indoor venue.
Why did you choose Irvine specifically?
Marn: My parents live [about] five minutes away from Irvine so I've been there a bunch and I really like the space there. I've also always been a big outdoor party person. It's also nice because of the pandemic. We will hopefully be able to have that outdoor tent space where people can social distance. It's not like an enclosed area where there will be germs flying around.
Plus, the tent at Irvine is really pretty. They have lights already strung up in there and they have a chandelier. Everyone we've taken to see it is like, "Woah this is a way nicer tent than we thought it would be."
(photo of reception tent courtesy of Irvine Nature Center)
Do you have all of your vendors and caterers picked out yet?
Marn: Nope, we're still looking. Mostly for caterers right now. We have to actually figure out what our catering budget is and then look at Irvine's pre-approved catering list.
So what are some of the activities you have planned for the reception?
Marn: What we think we're probably going to have the first hour of the reception be [set up so] the wedding party goes to take pictures and the rest of the guests get to wander around in the woods.
There's also a playground that's [near] the wedding tent… and we're having a no-kids wedding so I'm excited to see how that's gonna go. We're also considering getting a bounce house for our wedding. [It is] shockingly cheap.
[Irvine] also has fire pits that we're allowed to use so we're probably going to do s'mores. Obviously we're going to have music and dancing but that's probably our lowest concern because me and probably another of our friends are going to handle the music.
It's also nice to, like, have different activity stations to keep people spread out a little bit so you don't have like your whole party crammed into a tent.
So that does bring up the elephant in the room here. How has Covid-19 affected your wedding plans?
Marn: We already knew we were going to have an outdoor wedding but it did kind of affect how we picked our space. The tent at Irvine has flaps…that we can choose how much we keep it open depending on Covid numbers and how spread out we want everyone to be.We were always banking on having a smallish reception so it's kind of nice to have an excuse to invite less people like built-in to the venue.
The hardest thing that it's affected is actually being able to go out and meet potential caterers and vendors. We're trying to set up a meeting with one of the caterers and having such a hard time trying to figure out when and where to meet up with her. We don't want to meet up inside a restaurant but there's no normal place to meet up at noon on a Wednesday, especially in the dead of winter.
Meeting with vendors has been the main difficulty with Covid?
Marn: Yeahhhh. It's also hard to [meet with vendors] because everybody who had to cancel their weddings in 2020 is rescheduling for the back half of 2022. So it's also very hard to find a time to go places and meet people who are already working on a bunch of different weddings.
Especially now that there's been another Covid surge, people are being real stubborn about still having their weddings in 2022. Like, we're one of them, but especially the people who had to reschedule their wedding two years out already.
That does bring me to another question. Since you and Alyssa got engaged unofficially in 2020 and officially in 2021, were you expecting to not have to deal with the pandemic for your 2022 wedding?
Marn: So we knew that obviously the pandemic was still going to be a thing that existed. We didn't start formally doing much wedding planning until like September/October of last year so I think we were expecting things to be a little bit less bad than they are now. We were able to actually go to see venue booths and talk to some wedding planners and stuff over the beginning of the fall and the back half of summer, but the past couple of months have been pretty rough because it's all been through email.
Oh jeez, email is hard enough with a regular task, let alone with a wedding.
Marn: Yeah… especially when you don't get emails back in a timely manner. We're renting a synagogue to do the ceremony because the rabbi there is doing our ceremony for us, and they said they were gonna send us the contract for that and we waited for like a whole month and finally Alyssa emailed them and they were like, "Oh no, did we not send it to you?"
Oh no, did it all get taken care of?
Marn: Oh yeah, we have [the contract] now.
What are some other things you weren't expecting to have to consider when planning your wedding? Not just Covid surprises, more in-general.
Marn: Oh, god. I mean, pretty much everything? Literally Alyssa and I sat down last night and had a conversation of, like, here's our list of things we're freaking out about and here's how hopefully we're going to handle them. The answer to a lot of it is [that] we have a very close friend who did stage managing in theatre for many years. We need to delegate this to the member of our wedding party who is a stage manager.
A lot of it is having to create our own deadlines for things and not necessarily knowing what those deadlines should be. No one has told us, "Oh, you should have a caterer by this date" or "You should have figured out your cocktail hour setup by this date." The lack of structure there I think is driving us both f***ing insane.
Is anyone helping you and Alyssa with the planning?
Marn: Yeah! So, it's interesting because my mom was an event planner, but she's very determined not to micromanage our wedding. She's mostly setting us up with other people who she knows who are experts in whatever we want to talk about. Honestly, a lot of our wedding is going to be DIY.
What aspects of your wedding are DIY?
Marn: The music and the sound system are all coming from us, the desserts are going to be done by a friend, we're going to probably bring our own equipment for s'mores and buy flashlights to give out to people. We kind of committed to having as low of a budget as possible and doing as much as we can by ourselves.
What about other wedding-adjacent things? Do you or Alyssa have your bachelorette parties planned?
Marn: So Alyssa doesn't want to do a whole lot for her bachelorette party, which we talked about from the beginning. Our wedding party is very weird because we basically have the same group of friends and we split them up arbitrarily.
The group of friends on Alyssa's side were like, "We'll just stay in and watch a movie or do crafts or something." And Alyssa's like, "Great, that's what I want to do." And then my side of the wedding party is possibly going to Vegas? But not to gamble?
Marn: [My friend] Blake and I have been talking about going to Omega Mart, which is the Meow Wolf thing that's in Vegas, and I was like, "We could just use my bachelorette party as an excuse to do that." And they were like, "Yeah, okay, sure, let's do it." So, Covid-permitting, that's the plan.
I think that is the most Marn thing you could have said. The only more-you thing I could think of would be if you started an ARG for it.
Marn: Yeahh, well, we talked about doing a wedding ARG… Alyssa was like, "I'm not gonna do it. But if you want to plan it, just do it." So my side of the wedding party might be doing that.
For a bit of context, an ARG is an Alternate Reality Game, something almost like a digital scavenger hunt full of ciphers, puzzles, and clues to be solved. Marn co-hosts a podcast about them called ARGonauts.
That's about where my interview with Marn ended. Part of the reason we wanted to write this article is because it's cool to see the rise in activities outside of the standard drinking and dancing at weddings, and Marn's plans were full of them. From the intimate elopement-style ceremony to letting guests wander through hiking trails during a predominately DIY wedding reception full of fun activities, Marn and Alyssa are planning a wedding that truly speaks to them and their relationship.
According to brides.com, breaking tradition and unique guest experiences are both on the rise for weddings. There are so many directions couples and venues are going to personalize their weddings and create a fun experience for their guests.
While Marn's wedding focuses on the trails and fire pits, when I spoke to Jessica Moran she mentioned that Irvine also offers "an Animal Ambassador package that includes a trained naturalist walking around with our very impressive raptors, snakes and other animals," which opens up an entirely different set of engaging experiences for wedding parties. I've even experienced this shift towards nontraditional matrimonial activities firsthand at a wedding in summer 2021 where the rehearsal dinner was a murder mystery party and the reception involved tubing down the Shenandoah River.
As an unconventional wedding vendor ourselves, it's exciting to see people take their unique and personalized wedding ideas and truly run with them. It's the kind of thing we love to hear about not only because we're excited for our friends but because it's the kind of wedding Wheely Good Smoothies can see ourselves at, whether with our blender bikes or with our other Bike Powered Events. I mean, how cool would it be to see someone use our bike-powered bubble blowers instead of throwing rice at the happy couple?
I'm so excited for Marn and Alyssa, and very thankful that Marn took the time to let us interview her. Not only did I get to hear about my friend's wedding, but Wheely Good Smoothies got to learn a ton about what goes into the wedding planning process, as well as what difficulties exist right now with regards to meeting vendors during Covid. Lucky for us, we have a large workshop space with a garage door that can be left open when wedding parties come to meet with us, and we're always ready for outdoor events.