• Whitney

Let's Talk About Weddings

Updated: Jun 30, 2018



The Royal Wedding has everyone buzzing and I can't help but think about my own nuptials in 2013. They were perfect! As I mull over the details in my mind, I realize that, while everyone's wedding experience is so unique, it is also very similar. Whether you've been married for 25 years, or are planning the main event now, everyone can take something away from our wedding experience in Scotland.


The Ring


7.1 carats of ridiculousness

This is where it begins right? I mean, yes the love part and all of that jazz, but as far as wedding planning goes, step one is the ring. In my mind, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration. I knew that I wanted a ring that was at least 5 carats. I feel you judging me! But as someone who never felt good enough growing up, I felt that I had something to prove and somehow, having a giant piece of ice on my hand, blinding the bitches from high school was going to make me feel more secure. Okay, it did not make me feel more secure in life, but I did enjoy having a way better ring than all of them. I won't lie to you. You and I are friends!


Thankfully, my husband (boyfriend at the time) puts up with me. We had talked a little here and there about the possibility of getting married someday. I dropped not so subtle hints about the ring that I would want. I wanted three bands because 3 is a significant number in my life (or maybe I'm just a greedy bitch), and I wanted a square, or heart shaped stone. I know you're judging me on the heart shape, but my Barbie's was a massive, (I would estimate) 213 carats on her tiny Barbie finger and I always looked up to her. (She was President, a dog groomer, a gymnast, and a teacher!) So, Ian actually designed my ring and worked with a jeweler in New York, mostly via email to have it made for us. The process was actually pretty simple. I would recommend taking this path because it feels more special than walking into a jewelry shop and picking out a pre-made one, though that can be fun too. Just do whatever you want.


We were living in London at this time and buying a ring here would mean that we would pay twice as much because the American dollar was not strong. It just made sense to have it made it America, but when it was time to ship, Ian found out that if they mailed it to him in London, he would have to pay British taxes on it. This is not a small purchase. Taxes would have been astronomical! So I told Ian that I could wait until we were back in America to have the real deal on my finger. I knew that the question was coming, but not much beyond that. We took a weekend trip from London to Dublin and he proposed with a silver claddah (it cost around 10 pounds.) We walked through Saint Stephen's Green around 9:00am (still tipsy from Guinness the previous evening), and when we reached a lake covered in swans, he got down on one knee, with tears in his eyes and asked if I would marry him. It was incredibly romantic. Between the two of us, he is the romantic one. I am the one who makes sure we don't get lost and we can pay our bills.


When we landed back in America, he brought the ring to me. He placed it on my finger and... holy shit. I think we went too big. It looked like a key chain! That would be the problem with designing a ring from another country, I suppose. My center stone is 5.1 carats and the bands make up 2 more carats for a total of 7.1 carats, a very impressive size in America. I wore that baby around (left hand dragging on the pavement from the weight) with great pride! Especially if I happened to bump into a Real Housewife or a mean girl from high school. "Oh, this old thing?"


When I got back to England, I realized something that I never had before: Most people in the world do not have diamond wedding rings. GASP!!!!! Yes, diamond wedding rings are the standard in America, but in other countries, a pearl, sapphire, onyx, etc. are all considered acceptable wedding rings! Here I was, prancing around with this ridiculously huge bauble on my hand, while some of the wealthiest women I knew had emerald and ruby wedding rings instead. I felt cheated. Growing up in America, we are taught that the man (or sometimes woman) proposes with a diamond. Even a bad diamond, a dirty diamond, blood diamonds are all acceptable, but that ring had better be a diamond! If I had known this before, I probably would have gone another direction. I mean, there are children starving to death in the world. Why are we spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on tiny chunks of polished coal?? The idea is preposterous. Even now, when I leave the country, I never wear my wedding ring. And it's not because I'm afraid it will be stolen. It's because it's so ridiculously huge that it screams, "I'm an American who did reality TV at some point." Nouveau riche as the French say...


Our wedding invitations looked like passports! We got them from Serendipity Beyond Design. I loved them!

Important things to keep in mind when you are picking out your wedding ring:


- This ring is for no one else but you and your significant other. I don't care if Chrissy says that halo settings are the only way to go. She doesn't have to wear the ring on her finger for the rest of her life.

- Do not let other people or the media influence your decision. Misery loves company and no matter what you get, some people are going to hate it. It's not about them.

-A wedding ring is a huge commitment. Even if you divorce the sucker, you're still going to have to pawn that thing. Choose wisely.

-Your ring should be a symbol of love, not a symbol of debt. If you don't have cash to buy your ring, keep saving. You should not have to finance this tiny thing, especially when you're about to get married, buy a house, maybe even have kids! A little piece of jewelry is not nearly as important as your actual life and the people in it, who love you.

- Keep in mind, there are many alternatives to a diamond! You never want to go with cubic zirconia for a ring that you plan on wearing for many years, but you can look into moissanite or white sapphires which are real gemstones that sparkle like a diamond. Moissanite is actually more rare than a diamond (I believe it comes from meteors?), just as hard as a diamond, and about a quarter of the price. White sapphires will last a lifetime with proper care and as long as you clean it regularly, will keep its sparkle for about a tenth of the price of diamonds. Plus, no innocent people are getting slaughtered for the mining of them. Not buying a diamond is a more eco-friendly and human-friendly practice. On that same note, why do you need a diamond? I think a sapphire, ruby, or emerald would be stunning too! It's your wedding. You make the rules!


Location


Ackergill Tower

I grew up in Atlantic Beach, Florida, a small beach town on the Atlantic Ocean. I knew from a very young age that I did not want to get married in a place with sunshine and sand because it was par for the course for me. I wanted waves crashing on the cliffs and angry skies!


When Ian proposed, we were living in London. His family heritage on his mother's side is Scottish and they are very proud of this. He grew up vacationing in Scotland, wearing his MacDonald tartan kilts and drinking drams of scotch with his dad. We decided to get married in Scotland and we set off to find the perfect location. Scotland is a breathtakingly beautiful country with a rich, ancient history. It is not hard to find a beautiful wedding venue here. We rented a car from London, and set off to tour Scotland. We visited so many wedding venues! Some were nice. Some were tacky. One had library wall paper and fake suits of armor (very Medieval Times). And of course, the final one that we visited, at the northeastern most point of Scotland, about an eight hour drive from Edinburgh, was perfect. We decided to get married at Ackergill Tower, one year after the date of his proposal (November 14).


I know what you're thinking: "Sure! I'd love to get married in a castle in Scotland, but I don't have that kind of money!" The cost of the average American wedding is a little over $35,000. Let that sink in. That's more than some people make in an entire year! And for what?! One stupid day! I am not the only person who feels like this is outrageous, and I hate to tell you this, but ridiculously expensive weddings are another American trend that you don't see in other countries. I am not telling you this to rub it in. I am telling you this to encourage you to get married in a castle in Scotland, or a cabana in South Africa, or an igloo in a very cold place that I can't think of right now, because it will be the adventure of a lifetime, and you will actually save money by doing it.


For my wedding, we had about 25 guests. We went horseback riding on Brora Beach, had drams of whiskey around a bonfire on the beach with a piper, stayed three nights in a castle, heard ghost stories from a local ghost story-teller, got married in the Great Hall, followed by champagne and canapés in the drawing room, with a three course meal served to us for dinner, and an awesome dance party in the "Smugglers' Den" for about $10,000.


The Great Hall

Yes, a destination wedding does mean that people have to fly to come to the big day, but that will actually work in your favor because paying $135/head (and you know Bob and Lisa are going to bring their whiny kids, and Stephany STILL hasn't responded and the final numbers were due yesterday) adds up quickly! A destination wedding gives people a good excuse to not have to come if they don't want to. It also gives your family a great excuse to take that international vacation they always dreamed of but couldn't justify. Plus, if you send them an invitation, they tend to send you a gift. So, the easy math here is you pay less money, and you still get just as many presents. Win, win!


Dress



I am a little biased when it comes to wedding dresses because my first modeling jobs were primarily bridal shows. I have tried on more wedding dresses in my lifetime than you can shake a stick at. My priorities were the ring and the honeymoon!


One of my gay best friends messaged me about four weeks before the wedding, asking about my dress and I told him that I didn't have one yet. I had just opened a restaurant and was working 19 hours/day seven days a week! I didn't have time to shower, much less pick out a dress. You know the saying, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?" If you think that's bad, you should see the fury of a moderately inconvenienced gay man. Jim was on it! I flew out to Washington DC with my mother, my sister, and two of my best friends to pick out a gown at this outstanding curvy bridal boutique.






If you are plus size, do not go to a normal bridal shop for your dress. One, you're going to feel like shit being sewn and shoved into a sample gown while size twos parade around with their families right next to you. It is not a positive experience and you don't need that kind of negativity in your life! And two, literally everything they have to offer is going to have to be altered within an inch of it's life! You have money. You take that money and support a company who supports you.


I never thought that I would end up in the dress that I did. I wanted conservative, lace, high neck, white... My dress was none of those things! It was even strapless! I wear a bra size E or DDD. I can't ever wear strapless! And it was almost peach in color! But I was in love and I knew as soon as I put it on that it was the one.


Some dresses are $99. Others are $9000. The price of the dress has nothing to do with your self-worth. You are wearing this sack for less than 24 hours. I don't care if it came from ebay and cost $2.17! Do you feel beautiful when you put it on? Will the seam make it through the day without busting? Cool. You are good to go! There is no reason to spend the price of a car on a piece of fabric that you will literally never wear again. There is also no reason to tell anyone what you paid for it. Not one reason ever. What you spend on your dress is private knowledge and even if someone asks you, you tell them that you don't remember because it will inevitably be too expensive or too cheap for them and again, you do not need that kind of negativity in your life!


Make sure that no matter what direction you go with your dress, you have a good seamstress. Everyone is talking about Meghan Markle's Gucci wedding dress because something seems a little off. Her dress was beautiful. She was gorgeous. That dress was not tailored to fit her. She may have lost weight recently, or maybe she's hiding a baby bump, but you can clearly see in the arm/armpit area that the dress doesn't fit correctly. Always, always, even if you pay $2.17 for the dress, take it to a seamstress and make sure that you get a perfect fit!


Food




As a restaurant owner, and avid eater of food, I consider food to be my expertise. Wedding food... Let's just say that it is not traditionally good. It is also outrageously overpriced. Caterers intentionally jack up the prices because they know that this is your big day and they can take advantage of you. I'm sorry. There's just no way around that. However, if you are paying $200/head, you had better be getting more than a buffet with over-cooked chicken and boxed mashed potatoes.


There are fun ideas on Pinterest like having a food truck at your wedding or even grilling out! The food truck one is hard to execute if you have a large party because food trucks are not made to handle 300 people at one time. You and your guests are destined to be waiting in line for a very long time instead of celebrating you and your beloved. If you do want to get a food truck, see if you can get 2 or 3 to accommodate your party size. Grilling out gives you a casual, backyard vibe and is pretty easy to DIY because a lot of the items can be set out in advance. Potato chips, macaroni salad, watermelon slices, and grilled corn do not need to be piping hot for your guests to enjoy them! Do make sure that you have netted food coverings so the flies don't spoil your picnic table. Just make sure that the grill master is someone you can trust who isn't your dad, because he deserves to party on this special day too.


Family style is a cool idea! Try to avoid a buffet if you can. Nothing kills the romantic mood like a Golden Corral-style buffet line.

If you want to go the more traditional route, book a caterer and you won't have to stress about the details. That being said, almost all caterers will over-charge you and many will bank on the fact that once the wedding is over, even if the food is garbage, you aren't going to say anything because you're off to paradise on your honeymoon! This is the one time that I am ever going to say this, but it is fully acceptable to be a pain in the ass about your wedding day food with your caterer. Questions that you NEED to ask:


-"Will you have professional servers taking orders & serving the food?" A good option for taking orders is for them to have the seat number and table number on the menu, and just circle their food choices. Also, ask them how they will be keeping the food warm. You need to make sure that they know you mean business.


-"Will you be able to accommodate dietary restrictions like gluten-free and vegan options?" If they say no, walk away. I always include options on our menus, even if the guests don't request it. Inevitably, someone at your party is going to have a dietary restriction and the food they would use to accommodate these people will cost them less money than whatever you're paying. Unless it's already a vegan meal...


- "How will you arrange the food?" Are they setting out casserole dishes and spoons or will you have large silver serving trays? "Will the food coming out be 'plated' or just slopped on the plate?" You eat with your eyes before your mouth. It is imperative that your food be plated, even if it's chili dogs. You are paying a premium and this should be a standard practice.


- "Do you have a staff that will cut and plate the wedding cake?" Usually, the cake is purchased from a separate entity, but you are not going to stand up there and slice off wedges for your guests. It is standard practice that the venue or the caterer divvy up the slices for you.


I see so many people getting ripped off and I just want you to be prepared for anything that may come your way and to not get taken advantage of.


Flowers



If you have yet to be married, you have no idea how insanely expensive flowers can be. This is another industry that will jack up the price as soon as you say wedding, because they can. It's like buying flowers on Valentine's day. Why is is that those long-stem roses are usually $9.99 for a dozen, but on that day they're $30? Supply and demand, my loves.


Before committing to your dream bouquet, I ask that your first consider two things: What flowers are indigenous to the location of your wedding, and what is blooming around the date of your wedding? For example, I had a bouquet of Scottish thistles. It makes absolutely no sense to import flowers from another place through a chain company when you could just as easily, and for less money, source locally, buy flowers in season, and support a local farmer.


Hair/Makeup



If I have one regret about my wedding day, it would be that I didn't wear fake eyelashes. This has nothing to do with you. I just love fake lashes.


When it comes to the hair and makeup portion of your big day, go with whatever feels natural. If you are bad at doing your own, hire someone else to do it. If you are great at it, just do it yourself! There is no rule that says that you are required to spend money when you are perfectly capable of doing it on your own. Plus, if you're anything like me (a control freak), you won't be satisfied with what they did and will have to "fix it" anyways.


Lingerie

I LOVE the Pinache Bridal Collection!

I didn't realize how important lingerie was until Panache sent me a wedding gift with my bridal lingerie. It is so important that you have the perfect undergarments to wear underneath your wedding gown, or the the perfect ones to secretly change into before your husband takes off your dress for the first time after being announced man and wife, and sees you in ratchet, flesh colored granny spanks. You need lingerie that makes you feel sexy and confident! Plus, good lingerie will last for a lifetime. You can wear these pieces again and again, so it's okay to splurge a little. Unless you buy it from Victoria's Secret, and then I will kick you in the face. I mean, I won't, but please do not buy from them anyways. There are so many amazing lingerie companies that you can support!!! Anyone but Victoria!


Honeymoon


We chose Istanbul for our honeymoon. It's one of my favorite places in the world!

This is the best part!!! You remember all of the money that you saved by not getting ripped off by your caterer and buying a ring that you can't afford and never even really wanted anyways? Now is the time to bring that out! Are you open to suggestion? You can actually go to SkyScanner.com, type in the dates you want to travel, where are you traveling from, and hit can't decide in the destination space. It will show you prices on flights to everywhere in the world! This is my favorite thing to do, y'all. Seriously. Please, for the sake of your sanity, be open minded. I used to want to go to French Polynesia so badly! Those thatched tiki huts on the beach looked so incredible, but then I saw the price and realized what a massive rip off it was. For half the price of Tahiti, I could fly to Singapore, Thailand, and Australia. I am a travel junkie, so that route is preferable to me. Not to mention, once you get to the other side of the world, it becomes way cheaper to book flights! Please, do not spend half a day on an airplane, go to one city, and go home. If you're making the long trek there, promise me that you will at least venture out to a neighboring country, even if it's only for a night or two. You deserve it!


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About Me

          My name is Whitney Lee Thompson Forrester. You may recognize me as the cycle 10 winner of America's Next Top Model (the plus-size winner), but I am also a restaurant owner, travel enthusiast, vegan, animal lover, & fashion fiend...

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