Stephanie and Joe's wedding

Stephanie and Joe's wedding

Ah, wedding planning. These two words are enough to make your head spin (did somebody say checklist?), but designing your celebration can also be a lot of fun. Inspired by Zola, the beloved registry service that now offers free wedding websites, we talked to three beautiful brides — with very different aesthetics — about how they prepped for the big day…

Orcas Island, Washington

Orcas Island Wedding

“My husband and I both have an attachment to Orcas Island, together and as individuals,” Erin explained. “We spent a lot of time there when we first started dating, and actually moved there together! There is so much wildness in the landscape, and the people are really kind. It reflects a lot of the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.”

Orcas Island Wedding

“I wanted our one-year-old daughter to be part of the ceremony, but children can be pretty unpredictable. My plan was for my husband to carry her in, because I had a huge bouquet of flowers. As we were getting ready to walk up the hill for the ceremony, my daughter had a meltdown and needed me to carry her. My husband carried the bouquet. It was disappointing and also beautiful, which is kind of how life is. It’s safe to say she was the highlight of the show.”

Wedding Dress

“Until three weeks before our wedding, I had another dress, but it wasn’t quite right. When I went for my final fitting, I saw this dress on a mannequin and was immediately taken with it. My dad had just passed away, and I was trying to open myself up to signs or help that he might be offering. I equate my finding this dress with him, which is part of why it’s so special to me.”

Three designs for a wedding that celebrates the outdoors: Galata, Camden, Tillage

Zola Wedding Websites

Atlanta, Georgia

Steph and Joe Atlanta wedding

“Joe and I talked about the dress code we wanted and settled on ‘summertime fly,'” Stephanie explained. “We wanted a theme with personality and character, something very bold and bright. I assumed there might be questions from older guests who’d be like, ‘Fly? What does that mean?’ As it turned out, no one knew what it meant. Ultimately, that was fun because I got to send people inspiration photos and share my vision with them. It was so much fun to see people’s renditions of ‘summertime fly.’ If I had to do it all again, I would do the same thing.”

Gold Bridesmaid Dresses

“I chose gold as my color, because I wanted my women to be my goddesses instead of my bridesmaids. Gold is so illuminating. I wanted to let each woman choose something different and fabulous that made them feel like their best selves.”

Steph and Joe

“I wasn’t one of those little girls who grew up dreaming of my wedding, so when it came to choosing my dress, I had no idea what I wanted. I looked at lots of gowns, and eventually it came down to two. I had my mom and best friends vote, and they picked this one. I was really happy with it.”

Three designs for a wedding with a sparkly, glamorous vibe: Franklin, Milky Way, Heaven

Zola Glam Wedding

Brooklyn, New York

Julia and Tom

“We wanted to get married in our neighborhood,” Julia explains. “It was important to us to support local vendors and choose a venue that was part of our community. I was also born and raised in NYC, so this rooftop — with its view of the skyline — felt like getting married at home.”

“The minute I tried on this dress, I knew it was the right one. I could move around easily, and it was a long white dress that wasn’t necessary bridal.”

Brooklyn Rooftop Wedding

“Climbing the water tower was pretty epic. There wasn’t a railing, which was scary, but we did it anyway. Before the wedding, we had planned to take a minute at one point during the reception to step back and take in the scene with all our loved ones. Thankfully, we remembered to do that, and it was my favorite part of the wedding.”

Three designs for a wedding with a laid-back aesthetic: Hume, Willowdale, Freeway

Zola Wedding Websites

If you’re currently planning a wedding (or hope to be in the future), Zola wedding websites are a great option. They let you integrate your registry and your RSVP list, so guests can reply and shop directly from your site. Your guests can also RSVP to multiple events, like welcome drinks or a morning-after brunch.

With over 100 free designs to choose from, there’s something for every style — modern, vintage, rustic, glam — plus all websites have the option of being password protected. Last but not least, Zola’s customer service is ALWAYS available to help couples (and their guests) get the information they need. (Unless your theme is “summer fly”… then you’re on your own. :)

Are you planning a wedding, or attending any weddings this summer? Have you come across any fun themes or special details? We’d love to hear…

(Stephanie’s wedding photos by Our Labor of Love, Erin’s wedding photos by Belathée, and Julia’s wedding photos by Tory Williams. This post is sponsored by Zola, a service we love. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep Cup of Jo running.)