WEDDING DAY IDEAS, DISASTERS & FRUGAL FIXES by Catherine Lanigan and Rula Sinara

courtesy Getty Images


“I thought all I had to do was pick out the colors for my bridesmaids!”

No, this is not a line of dialogue from my Heartwarming novel. These words were spoken by my nephew’s fiancĂ© this past weekend at my house as we came together along with my niece, Elaine, from Chicago to plan the flowers for my nephew’s wedding next July.

As romance authors, it’s my guess that down to the last one of us, if you haven’t planned your own wedding, that of your daughter, son, or grandchild (these days for me), you have at least had to create a wedding in one of your books. I don’t know about you, but wedding ideas come to my head right along with plots, characters and settings. These are important questions to ask your romance heroine. What kind of wedding? Sophisticate? Country? Barn? Church? Temple? Destination? Large or small? Dancing? DJ or live band? The list is endless, right?

From the time I was sixteen until I got married, various Bride’s magazines were stacked right along with Glamour and National Geographic in our bathroom growing up. My sister, Nancy, was a wedding planner and florist for decades before her death. She went to every class and seminar on floral design, event planning and wedding etiquette she could find in Northwest Indiana and Chicago. Many times I joined her.

She and I spent eighteen months planning her daughter, Elaine’s, wedding. And it took every minute of preparation to pull off the ceremony in Notre Dame’s Basilica and the reception at the South Bend Country Club with an 18 piece orchestra. And, yes, the whole family took dance lessons together for two months.

Nothing was overlooked.

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So, this being June, the official American Wedding Month, Rula and I are kicking it off with some of our ideas to help other authors and readers who just may be helping to plan weddings.

I found it interesting that the average American engagement is 16 months.

My first priorities are setting the budget and working on the guest list. Amazingly, even folks who THINK they don’t have a lot of friends or family are always surprised when you put pen and paper to make a list. Weddings also tend to swell as the months go on, then contract closer to the actual date due to everything from funerals to work schedules.

Peonies from Catherine's garden

Picking the date and grabbing the church and reception hall/club/hotel are both fun and agonizing. To choose the right reception spot you have to know how many guests you’ll have.

Along with the church is the officiant. If not a church, the judge.

I looked at a lot of “to do” lists and I think they are faulty in waiting less than a year to book: entertainment (DJ’s for a June wedding are in high demand). Block rooms at a hotel—especially in a small town where there aren’t a lot of hotels. Nail down the caterer. Photographer and videographer. At least check out the florist. Even a year in advance, florists are booking up for next June.

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Those are the biggies.

The bride’s dress, bridesmaids, invitations, Rehearsal dinner venue, the cake and transportation (Like the rented white Bentley you want) can wait till 7-8 months prior.

I’m a fan of Save-the-Date emails/cards/postcards. Just sayin’.

Once you get down to three months before the wedding, this is where the fun starts, if you ask me. Like choosing music. Flower colors, arrangements, how many strings of crystal lights you want for the tables now that few halls/hotel ballrooms will allow votive candles or tea lights anymore. Menu cards are fun and you can print them out right at the computer, add gold paint or glitter, a silk flower and ta da!

The bride has to think of all kinds of little things. Undergarments. Hair appointments. Diet. Dress fittings. Showers. Writing the newspaper announcement. Playlist for the band. Addressing and mailing the invitations. Thank you note cards. Wedding shoes. Wedding purse? Gifts for her bridesmaids---which I think is a no-brainer. Gift certificates to a nail salon or spa. Groomsmen? Visa cards. I know…so impersonal and not a keepsake. But ask around. The response I got was overwhelming. It was this or tickets to a Cubs Game at Wrigley Field.

Vows, readings, rings, “the day of” schedule for all vendors, drivers and wedding party should at least be checked off six weeks in advance.

If the bride or her mother has been keeping in touch with the vendors, florist, cake baker, etc. everything should go smoothly.

The biggest reminder to bride and groom---DON’T FORGET THE LICENSE.

courtesy Getty Images

courtesy Getty Images

Given these logistics, all I could think about as I wrote them, was what happened to me on the day of my second wedding.

It was a very small affair, so at least I didn’t have a church full of people waiting. However, members of my family had flown in from Indiana and other family had arrived from Shreveport.

I went to the florist to pick up the bouquets. There was a chain across the door and a bright colored paper taped to the door. “CLOSED BY ORDER OF HARRIS COUNTY SHERIFF.” I couldn’t believe it. The florist had absconded with my money, gone bankrupt and went into hiding.

Not at a loss of what to do, I went to the grocery store and bought three dozen roses and a fist full of baby’s breath.

I went home and tied the roses up with grosgrain hair ribbons I had hanging on the back of my closet door. I made boutonnieres with the roses and baby’s breath.

Then I went to pick up the cake. The bakery claimed they had written the wrong date down. I had no cake. They offered me an assortment of cookies instead. I was too broken hearted to be furious. I went back to the grocery store and bought a white cake with white buttercream icing and pink flowers out of the cooler. I declined having any words piped on top---for free.

I went home, whacked off the stems of six of the roses and stuck them in the middle of the cake.

That morning, my maid of honor was in a car accident, though she was not badly hurt, her face had hit the steering wheel just above the brow bone. She had one of the worst black eyes I’ve ever seen. The photos were not pretty.

The judge was late.

The ceremony took place in my living room. It poured rain outside and the lights flickered off and on. All through the “I do’s” I prayed the stove would continue to heat the lasagna I’d made. My prayers were answered and we had enough hot food for everyone.

We had a lovely visit with our families and everyone agreed they had plenty to laugh about in the years to come.

The moral of this story is: even most well-thought-out weddings, planned down to the last detail, can go awry. In the end, it’s all about being together with the family and friends in celebration.

Since I didn’t get a proper bridal bouquet, here are some lovelies I’m exploring for my nephew’s wedding.
courtesy Getty Images

courtesy Getty Images

courtesy Getty Images

courtesy Getty Images

This morning I watched THE WEDDING PLANNER. Last week I watched MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING. Love them!!!

There are so many wedding movies it’s hard to list them all. And as most of you know, Hallmark’s June movies are all about weddings and brides. Last month many of you probably watched the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. I watched a National Geographic special on all the planning that went into their wedding from the sewing of the royal guard uniforms to the florist supplier. The security measures alone were daunting. If you get a chance, look it up. 


Catherine, what a wedding story! I love how you kept your cool and your incredible imagination got you through. The ideas you came up with to 'save' your wedding are actually great ideas for anyone trying to throw a wedding on a budget! Cakes can be expensive! 

In fact, I read about another unique, sentimental and frugal wedding cake idea over in the comments on the Harlequin Heartwarming Author Facebook 'What's your perfect wedding?" GIVEAWAY post. It involves donuts, but you really should pop over and find out who made them and why. Very touching. Everyone (readers and authors) are also sharing incredible ideas regarding wedding venues in the comments. Check it out (and like/follow Harlequin Heartwarming Authors on FB so you don't miss any future wedding discussions (and more) as we head into summer wedding season. Besides...there's a GIVEAWAY gong on, so don't miss the chance to win 4 free books from the May Heartwarming authors!

We are curious. Do you have any humorous wedding moments to share? And what’s your favorite wedding movie? Have you had a wedding disaster? How did you fix it? We'd love to hear your frugal wedding tips too!

Catherine’s “Shores of Indian Lakes” stories are available on AMAZON and and online stores.
November will see the next story in the series, “RESCUED BY A FIREFIGHTER.”
            Catherine Lanigan is the bestselling author of nearly fifty published titles in both fiction and non-fiction, including the novelizations of Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile, as well as over half a dozen anthologies. Ms. Lanigan’s novels have been translated into over twenty-four languages and she’s won numerous awards. Lanigan was tasked by the NotMYkid foundation to pen a collection of compelling and informative true stories of teen addicts. Ms. Lanigan’s SHORES OF INDIAN LAKE series for HARLEQUIN HEARTWARMING includes  LOVE SHADOWS,  HEART’S DESIRE , A FINE YEAR FOR LOVE,  KATIA’S PROMISE,  FEAR OF FALLING, SOPHIE’S PATH, PROTECTING THE SINGLE MOM, FAMILY OF HIS OWN, HIS BABY DILEMMA.
   THE SWEETEST HEART, a Hallmark movie, is based upon HEART’S DESIRE, currently airing on The Hallmark Channel.           
     Ms. Lanigan is a frequent speaker at literary functions and book conventions as well as inspiring audiences with her real stories of angelic intervention from her Angel Tales series of books. She is an outspoken advocate for domestic violence and abuse and was honored by The National Domestic Violence Hotline in Washington, D.C.  She has been a guest on numerous radio programs including “Coast to Coast” and on television interview and talk show programs as well as blogs, podcasts and online radio interview programs.  She writes a monthly blog for  Visit her at, on Facebook, LinkedIn,, Pinterest, Goodreads and Google+.

Rula's 'From Kenya, With Love' series is available on AMAZON, HARLEQUIN or your favorite online store. Her latest in the series, The Twin Test, just released in May! The final book of the series, The Marine's Return, will release January 2019 and is already up for preorder.

Award winning and USA Today Bestselling author Rula Sinara lives in rural Virginia with her family and crazy but endearing pets. She loves organic gardening, attracting wildlife to her yard, planting trees, raising backyard chickens and drinking more coffee than she'll ever admit to. Rula's writing has earned her a National Readers Choice Award and HOLT Medallion Award of Merit, among other honors. Discover more at, where you can sign up for her newsletter. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog, A Writer's Rush.


  1. I'm not much of a weddings person, although I've enjoyed many of the ones I've been to, including when my kids married. I remember arriving late to my niece's wedding and rather than interrupt the ceremony, we waited outside the doors of the church. The plate glass doors, where we appeared in the wedding video with our noses pressed to the glass...

  2. I love all the details you've given about wedding planning. Catherine, I had an extremely simple wedding but wouldn't have recovered as gracefully if the flowers and cake plans went wrong!
    I've been to some beautiful weddings. There weren't any disasters, unless you count a phone ringing during the ceremony! One summer, I attended a beautiful traditional Catholic wedding in a church, and a guest named Judy's phone rang during the ceremony. Later that same summer, I attended a lovely, elegant outdoor wedding on the bride's family's farm. At the ceremony, a guest sitting near me named Judy (not the same person) also had forgotten to turn off her ringer. It's always a bit startling to hear a phone ringing when you're listening for the vows. :) The looks people give the offender are not always pretty either.

    1. Ah yes. Amazing how times change. There was a time where technology like cell phones couldn't have 'wedding crashed' :).

    2. We have a horrible storm here. I’ve replied to your posts 3 times! I hope this goes up!

  3. Love the photos and the stories. Those bouquets are gorgeous. Seems like so many people have funny wedding stories or about a wedding that nearly went awry, or forgetting the license! That's a new one. Fun post!

    1. It was all Catherine's idea! I just love the bouquet photos.

    2. I am the biggest softie for weddings. I’ll be that old woman crashing church weddings in the back pew crying and happily sobbing for total strangers.

  4. This post takes me back to my own wedding tale, which is too long and convoluted to retell here. I’m looking forward to my first destination wedding - my niece’s in England this summer - and happy to be responsible only for my airfare and hotel! Your peonies are beautiful Catherine - would make great arrangements for a reception!

    1. England! That's so cool! I hope you have a wonderful time.

      I love Catherine's peonies too. I've also been to a wedding where Hydrangeas were used as centerpieces and they were gorgeous. I think they even used a light spray of the paint on white ones to make them match the wedding colors.

      My wedding mishaps were too convoluted and long to tell here too lol. I will say that one part involved the DJ/music man/singer we'd hired dying of a heart attack only a week before the wedding (bless him) and having to scramble to find a new music group who turned out to be terrible to work with during the wedding. They wanted to be the stars of the day. Sigh. We also had a mixed culture wedding and they were refusing to alternate songs we'd brought (cassettes back then) to vary the music for all the guests. Our best man managed to show them who was boss though ;).

    2. I would love to go back to England! I saw some incredible bouquets with peonies. Blush pink, and white. Wow!!

  5. Catherine, your wedding woes have to be the worst, but you soldiered on and all turned out. Both I and one of my sisters-in-law had some seeming disasters that affected our separate weddings, like two months apart. We still can laugh about them now when we get together. And love all of the bouquets you show.

  6. I'm exhausted from reading about all the myriad details involved in planning a wedding! And you showed how it can still be done on the fly, Catherine. Your photos are good enough to eat. Yes, I'm part goat. My wedding was very understated. Simple ceremony in our living room followed by games my husband and I invented--How Well Do You Know Your Significant Other? and Bachelorettes, Choose the Best Bachelor Here! Then, out to a restaurant. It all worked out.

    1. What fun your wedding was!! I gotta remember that!

  7. What a fun post! Catherine, your perseverance and quick-thinking are so inspiring - and the stuff of romance novels! These flower pics are gorgeous. I'm so amazed at how creative people get with flowers. They're one of my favorite things about weddings. My favorite wedding movie is probably Father of the Bride with Steve Martin.

  8. I forgot about that Steve Martin movie and it’s so good!!! Thanks, Carol!

  9. Catherine, you have my greatest admiration. Our pianist got sick just before the wedding, but we were able to find a sub quickly. And the minister called me by my sister's name twice before my dad corrected him (she was my maid of honor and only fifteen, so she was a little freaked out). Now I need to check out that donut cake story. Thanks, Rula.

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  11. I've seen some amazing things happen at a wedding. Perhaps one of the most bizarre was when someone had double-tied the rings to the ring pillow. The best man and one of the groomsmen started having a tug-of-war trying to get it off. Finally, the ring came off with a (by then) dirty bedraggled ribbon still tied to the ring. But, you know, the important thing was still all about two people committing their lives together in love. They just had a good story to tell to their children.


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