Introducing Guest Blogger (and Bride-to-Be) Ilana Stern

Real Weddings
Guest Blogger Ilana Stern's Engagement Photo

Photo: Erich McVey

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Over the next two months, guest blogger and Weddington Way founder and CEO Ilana Stern will share the ins and outs of planning a California wedding, running a business, picking the perfect wedding planner, and customizing your dress.

Ever since launching my own business, Weddington Way, in 2010, I've been living and breathing all things weddings. You would think that since I run a company specializing in selling bridesmaid dresses online, I would already have my day perfectly planned out. However, that's not the case! My life is dramatically different than it was just a few years ago when I founded my company. I not only launched my business, but I also met and fell in love with Jeff, the man with whom I am going to spend the rest of my life.

I met Jeff while we were both MBA students at Stanford more than two years ago. After moving in together in San Francisco, we talked about what kind of engagement ring I wanted. I still had no clue when he was going to pop the question! It was the morning of my 29th birthday and Jeff and I were enjoying a weekend getaway at the Cottages of Napa Valley, an awesome boutique hotel in Napa. Each morning the hotel delivers pastries from Bouchon Bakery in a basket outside your door for breakfast. Jeff knows how much I love these pastry baskets, so he decided to hide the ring among the treats. After opening my birthday card and present, I unpacked our breakfast to find a white box sitting inside. I thought that it was butter until I looked to my right and saw Jeff down on one knee!

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern and Weddington Way CEO

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

After I said, "Yes!", Jeff opened the box and slid the beautiful engagement ring onto my finger. Shortly after we took a bunch of photos to capture the moment, some of which were taken by a stranger passing by—we are so happy to now have those pictures! We then spent five hours (yes, five hours) calling friends and family. It was really fun, but if I could do it again, I would save the calls for the next day and instead focused more on enjoying the moment together. That insight is exactly what inspired Jeff and I to take a break before we started planning our wedding. We were both very busy with work (in careers we are extremely passionate about), and I also found myself at a loss for where to begin the wedding planning.

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern's Engagement Announcement

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

We opted for a blissful month of non-wedding planning. That included absolutely no venue visits, no dress shopping, no invitation selections. Many of my recently married friends gasped at the thought of this hiatus: "There's so much to do and prepare, Ilana," they would say. While I understood that there was a lot to be done, I also felt strongly that preparing for our big day should be a joyful experience—one that I intended to savor. Jeff and I made our first vows to one another. We vowed to live in the moment and make the months of planning leading up to our wedding special and stress-free (ambitious goal, I know). It should come as no surprise that our mantra is "don't stress the small stuff."

During our 'Us Month,' Jeff and I focused on the things that would keep us centered during the whirlwind of preparations in the year to come. Some of those things we did together, as a couple, like having a party with a big group of friends in San Francisco the night after we got engaged (it was the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, so we had champagne on our roof to watch the firework show!). Then, we went on a romantic getaway to San Diego the weekend after to make sure we had a little R&R time. We also focused on our own, individual passions to help keep us sane. For Jeff, it was golf and poker nights with his friends. For me, it was yoga, drinking wine and spending time with my friends. Taking these moments of "us time" in addition to our "me time" as we embarked on a new life stage together helped us be present and not stress the little things that, in the long run, don't really matter as much.

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern's Engagement Party with Friends

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

My hope as I begin blogging for Brides is that I can do something similar for other modern brides out there—through my mistakes and my triumphs I hope that I can remind myself, and you, to pause in the midst of our crazy schedules, take a deep breath, and truly appreciate each moment of this experience. It only comes once in a lifetime—pace yourself and enjoy!

—Ilana Stern

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