Bride Bio # 3: Rachael Stevens McNeal

Wedding date: March 21, 2009
The groom: Kevin
Ages at wedding: she was 23, he was 22
Wedding location: Florida
Honeymoon: North Carolina
Now living in: New Jersey
Photographer: Mae Memories Photography

College sweethearts Rae and Kevin tied the knot in their college town the year after the bride graduated.

WBG: What made you completely sure Kevin was the man for you?

Rachael: I don’t know that I could ever pin point one specific thing. From the moment we became friends there was never a time spent with Kevin that I didn’t split my side or shed a tear from laughing. We had only been dating a couple months when one day I was hanging out at the coffee shop where he worked at the time. I looked up from my coffee and caught him looking at me, we locked eyes for a moment and that’s when I knew Kevin and I would get married. It was a simple moment but one I’ll always remember.

WBG: A bride’s ideas about what she wants for her wedding can evolve at light speed. How did you vision change, from pre-engagement to engagement to the big day itself?

Rachael: Certainly in the beginning I imagined more people, but space and money didn’t allow that. For the most part though, our vision stayed pretty consistent. Kevin and I knew we wanted a very bright, upbeat, party-like reception. We wanted the ceremony to be sweet and spiritual but short, and we were able to follow through with those desires.

Were there any big stresses during your engagement and wedding planning process? How did you deal with them?

Rachael: There were several stresses.  If it wasn’t one thing, it was something else. In the beginning the biggest stress was money. I’m pretty sure every bride can relate. I took off work one day to do research for a church and venue. With our teeny tiny budget I couldn’t find anything that fit the vision I had for our wedding. I had almost decided to give up, but I sat and prayed and said to God that I know he is a God of provision. From that moment on things literally just fell into place: A friend gave us some discounts at our reception venue, another friend did our wedding cake for free and on and on.

Other stresses involved people which I won’t say too much about, except that at one point very close to the wedding, I gave my phone to a friend and refused to answer any calls myself.

WBG: When it comes to the wedding day staples – DJ, cake, flowers, etc. – what was most important to you? Why?

Rachael: VENUE. I wanted the absolute perfect reception venue. Which I’m pretty sure is why I had such a hard time in the beginning. I wanted a place that could feel relaxed and people would feel kind of like they were just there to party and celebrate. Kevin and I like to have fun and we also love to host. We love having people over, and feeding them and just showing everyone a good time. We wanted our reception to feel like that. In the end it was the perfect place right on the ocean, with big windows; small, but not too small; and of course there was good food, good music, and lots and lots of dancing.

WBG: As you planned your wedding day, did you add any nostalgic, personal or just plain fun touches?

Rachael: Our cake got a lot of comments. A year later people were still talking about it. I called it the Dr. Seuss cake…I loved it and it was really fun. A friend of ours wrote a song which she played during the ceremony to a photo slideshow. It was beautiful. I carried my Great Grandmother’s wedding hankie around my bouquet. In fact, I made all the bouquets and bouts myself with synthetic flowers. In addition I made all the centerpieces, table numbers and table assignments. Making everything myself made the whole day very personal.

WBG: The old cliché about in-laws doesn’t inspire much confidence in brides-to-be. What’s your advice for forging a happy – or at the very least, functional – relationship with a fiance’s parents?

Rachael: Get your fiance involved! No one understands your fiance’s family more than your fiance. This was very difficult because I didn’t want to cause any more problems or hurt Kevin’s feelings so I just explained where my stress was coming from and he and I figured out a way to deal with it. I would also advise brides to communicate with their in-laws updates on wedding plans.

WBG: Let’s be honest – which was more fun, the wedding or the honeymoon?

Rachael: Yikes that’s a tough question. I guess if I’m being completely honest….the wedding day. The whole day. Not just the ceremony or reception but the whole morning spent with my dearest friends. The whole celebration was completely blessed, and afterward was a precious time for Kevin and I discussing the the whole day and the days leading up to it. Don’t get me wrong, the honeymoon was fun, but we were exhausted the first few days!

WBG: Did any other brides give you some good wedding or marriage advice you would like to pass along?

Rachael: The greatest advice I was given about the wedding day was to be sure I had fun. A lot of brides get worked up about seeing everyone, being sure they have time to visit with everyone that came and some even focus on being sure everything is perfect. A lot of my friends who had been brides before told me that maybe danced 3 dances, one with the groom, one with the dad and maybe one other. So each of them told me to remember that everyone who came to the wedding was there to celebrate with me, not catch up on the every day happenings of my life.

WBG: Is there one specific feeling or moment from your wedding that stands out in your memory as perfectly defining that day?

Rachael: My dad, not one to wear his emotions on his shoulder, right before the doors opened he looked down at me, smiled slightly wiped a tear away from his face and said, “you look so beautiful, I am so proud of you, everything is perfect.” That was one of many precious moment throughout the whole day and in the end is exactly how I felt about my whole wedding, everything was beautiful, I was so proud of how well it came together, and everything really was perfect.

WBG: If you could condense your feelings about your wedding into five words, what would those words be?

Rachael: Will six do? God was there, it was blessed.

[Note: Bride Bio interviews may be edited for grammar, spelling and length.]

~ Laura


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