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Be Your Own Kind of "Oprah"

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

How to Give Out of Your Special Talents and Resources.

You Get a Wedding, You Get a Wedding, and You Get a Wedding…. You All Get a Wedding!

I sometimes feel this way with executing wedding after wedding each weekend. My sister-in-law jokes about this with me all the time. But let’s take a look at some really deep insight behind this.

Yes, I am doing wedding after wedding in my professional life. I try to add that little extra magic behind what I’m doing each and every weekend to make a bride’s day extra special. Most of the time I’m getting paid, but it’s my calling and my true joy.

Now, in the last 12 years or so my husband and I have reached a level of success that has allowed us to give generously to our church, go on mission trips, support missionaries financially, donate money and gifts to local non-profits and do community service type projects. But really, not everyone has extra income to be generous in this way despite having the heart to to do so. And sometimes I feel like just throwing some money at things isn’t as fulfilling and meaningful as doing something to help that is within your wheelhouse or even down to what is in your soul to give.

Last year I had an open weekend at my venue, The Loft on Spring. But really the only reason I had the non-booking that weekend in October was due to the very large festival, Harvest Homecoming, that takes place literally on all the blocks surrounding my business in downtown New Albany. It’s a logistical nightmare; with parking for guests, vendors not being able to load-in and out easily and all sorts of issues like that! And although September and October are the BIGGEST wedding months, I usually just have to scrap that weekend and take it as much needed break. But last year I had some issues in the late summer that were a tad disappointing. Well, I’ll be real honest and just say a very amazing opportunity fell through at the last minute and I was devastated. I kind of sulked around a few weeks and into months. Then I kind of had this moment on the inside when I said, “You know what? I can either wallow around in my disappointment. Or just keep doing what I’m doing and just keep going!” Of course I was doing all my usual work responsibilities. But I thought, “I need to do something big, something outside of myself”. And then it happened. I had one of my brilliant ideas. And true to my “Living Perfectly Unperfect” life, all my best ideas come at the WAY last minute. Which usually then involves me scrambling around like a crazy women trying to make these ideas and dreams happen.

So, last year was the 50th Anniversary of this huge festival Harvest Homecoming. It's the largest and most long-running festival in Indiana. I had always thought it would be super amazing to give away a COMPLETELY free wedding. My venue is sitting there. If it’s a free wedding, maybe guests and the bride and groom won’t mind the parking nightmare. If we kept the number of guests somewhat low, maybe it would help. I just started visualizing a sweet couple getting married at The Loft, having a super fun reception celebration and having fun around town during the festival. I literally could see the photos of them on the streets of the festival in my head! I personally have lots of resources; the venue, linens, décor, dresses at my boutique, a Beauty Lounge for a bride’s hair and makeup. But I was going to need help! So what did I do? I reached out to all my vendor friends and one by one, they all said YES to contributing to this great project. So within two weeks, I had all the details squared away. We even named it “Get Hitched at Harvest” with logo, its own instagram and facebook page and the rules and details for couples to apply! Then we gave the community 4 weeks to send emails with their stories of why they wanted or needed a free wedding and/or why they’d want to get married at Harvest Homecoming.

Graphic Design work by Carrie Foster Ahmed

We got a lot of wonderful stories and emails. It was so hard to choose and man did I really want to be Oprah and be able to give away like all 20 entries a free wedding! But at the end of the 4 weeks it was time to select the couple and get busy making their dream day come true, a mere two weeks after the announcement.

Now for the couple… Like I said we had a lot of great stories. But one really stood out. It may be because the groom was actually the one who wrote the entry and it was super poetic. It may have been because he submitted photos of them even though that wasn’t a requirement. That might have been a slightly unfair advantage. But seriously, the photos he sent were of them in downtown New Albany on many of the streets in the heart of the festival and they were model gorgeous! Their story was so sweet. They had never been married before. They had been a couple almost 10 years, they had 3 beautiful sons and had opted to buy a house for their little family instead of spending money frivolously on a wedding.

The photo that James submitted in his email entry. Taken by their photographer, LindseyMcDonald Photography

I was able to make the announcement that Sydney and James won on our local morning show, Great Day Live. The bride was so excited and we quickly went to work! The next day we met at the Bridal Boutique to have her select a dress. She found an amazing dress and I had my great seamstress friend Carol on hand to pin up her alterations and whisk it off to quickly make it perfectly tailored! We both felt somewhat like Fairy Godmothers that day. We walked Sydney down to a super cute little boutique, Sapphire on Main, to pick out a Rehearsal Dinner Dress.

Sydney with her Say Yes to the Dress Moment! Photo courtesy of our Get Hitch at Harvest contributing Photography, Ashley Sedam

Sydney's custom House of K Headpiece all wrapped up pretty with a Bow and Laurel Wreath!

Sydney's Rehearsal Dinner Dress! I loved every minute of seeing the joy on her face!

I could go on and on about the two weeks leading up to the big day, but I think you get the point. All the vendors did their trusted upon duties and Sydney and James were so lovely and easy to work with.

The wedding day arrived and it was so magical in appearance and hopefully for Sydney and James it was to them as well. It’s not to say there weren’t problems or issues; because, I mean it wouldn’t be “The Laurie Life” if things went too smoothly. There were difficulties with parking and unloading for the vendors, a few personal problems for some of them, sickness for others and a whole host of things like that. But at all cost we worked together to make everything perfect for them. My favorite memory from the night was when most of the ceremonious happenings were complete and we snuck Sydney and James out with the photographer to walk the streets of New Albany to get photos. It was exactly how I envisioned and everyone in the streets (our wonderful little community) were cheering for them, high-fiving and clapping as we walked through the streets and into our favorite establishments (many of whom had contributed to this great day).

Catering was donated by my good friend Debbie and her daughter Alexas of Stumler's Catering

Decor and Florals was a collaborative effort between me and my good friend Amy of Merci Bouquet. Cake was done by Sweet Stuff Bakery

We even had fun with the bar and I called in my brother, Greg, to bartend!

One of my favorite "selfies" from the day. My good friend Ashley Sedam, who donated her photography service, having fun as we carted the couple around!

The community support for Sydney and James was so wonderful and it was such a fun day for everyone!

It was one of the most rewarding days of my life. I would never have wanted anything else except for it to happen the way it did. So I encourage you to Be You Your Own Kind of Oprah! Here are some steps that might help you:

1.) Realize Being Generous Doesn’t Have to Be Just Monetary

Seek to look for opportunities where you can use your talents. Get Creative

2.) Trust Your Gut with an Idea About Giving

If you have an idea that seems too challenging or too crazy, just pray and meditate on if its something you should pursue. Rarely are big things, that make a huge impact going to be cookie-cutter, or easy. But you might just be that one person that can do something extraordinary out of a spark of an idea and a little gumption!

3.) Get Others Involved in the Giving

Sometimes your idea HAS to have others to really get the job done. And also too, you are allowing others to shine and use their skills. Maybe you are the one that can help others fulfill some big idea dreams and visions that they may have felt too scared or lacked resources to do.

4.) Follow Through at All Cost!

Once you commit. You really have to follow through! Sometimes you have to readjust your expectations and be flexible to do it a little differently than you originally imagined. That’s ok. But more than likely someone is depending on you. You have to make it happen even if it gets tough or messed up a bit along the way.

5.) Then Give, Give, and Give, and Give To Everybody

This last line is really intended to drive home that “Oprah” point one last time. But really, most things in life costs us something. Sure, a Wedding Giveaway cost some hard dollars for most all the vendors. I still had money involved in a dress, flowers still had to get purchased by the florist, food had get purchased by the caterer. But it was a lot of emotional energy, giving of talents, giving of time. Most anything good in life comes at a price. But I just say whatever that “price” is, we should make it a habit as much as possible to give, give, and then give some more! Who knows, you may just be able to have had a little part in something as beautiful and magical as this!

Our sweet Harvest Homecoming bride Sydney. We were all so glad to be her Fairy Godmothers for a few weeks! I don't think Oprah has anything on me!

Fairy Godmothers for Sydney and James:

Laurel Wreath Bridal

The Laurel and Lavender Beauty Lounge

The Loft on Spring

Stumlers Catering

Merci Bouquet

Spin-A-Round Sound

Ashley Walts Photography

Sweet Stuff Bakery

Alterations by Carol

River City Winery

Beauty by Olivia Louise

Him Gentlemen Boutique

Sapphire on Main Boutique

House of K Boutique

Sew Fitting (Tux)

Hoosier Wine Girl

Extol Magazine (Feature Story)

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