Written by Jeannie Stone
Local wedding planner extraordinaire Diane Race has made an interesting side career absorbing the stress of weddings, so brides can breathe a little easier.
With more than a dozen years of experience fulfilling the wishes of the brides in the River Valley, Race counts the relationships she’s forged as high points in her career especially when it came time to plan the wedding of her son and daughter- in-law, Seth Race and Lee Anne Rodgers.
“It was hard to get out of the wedding planner mode and be a part of the wedding party,” Race said, of the day. “Thirty minutes before the wedding started I was spreading rose petals, rearranging ferns, and making sure the punch was okay. They kept trying to direct me to the photographer, so I’d be included in the pictures.”
Engrossed in the business of creating weddings since her niece requested assistance 15 years ago, Race, employed as the Financial Administrator at First Assembly of God during the week, thrives on the stress.
“People can’t believe I can work around all that stress,” she said, “but I’m so driven to making the day perfect for the bride that I often stay up till 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning working on flowers for a couple on a tight budget.” She laughs. “I’m certainly not in this for the money.”
Race’s own wedding years ago, to Jackie Race, retired from the Russellville Police Department, was a disaster. “I knew nothing about weddings,” she said.
One of the glaring omissions was that Race didn’t have a consultant. “We did everything ourselves to save money, but I didn’t know how to put the candelabras together that we rented.”
Her husband’s memory of the day wasn’t much better. “He said when I got into the car I couldn’t stop ranting and raving.”
Along the way, Race learned that the wedding is what the bride dreams for all her life. “I can’t impose my tastes and preferences, and I’m not going to interfere between the bride and mother or the bride and groom. The most successful weddings are those that reflect the couple, whether it is casual or formal.”
The attention to detail really made the difference in Seth and Lee Anne’s wedding, Race said. “Lee Anne saw an arch in a wedding magazine and fell in love with it. She shared it with her father, who works with wood, and he recreated it from bamboo. He went out and cut it, sanded it and varnished it five times. It looked exactly like the picture, and it meant the world to his daughter.”
She has acquired so many tips, contacts and ideas that she began teaching classes through Tech’s continuing education program. The six-week class begins the first Thursday in March. Brides, mothers and maids of honor often attend the classes together. Topics include selecting colors, creating flower arrangements, budgeting and preparing a wedding day emergency kit. Every participant also receives a wedding planner that acts as a Bible covering each step of planning the event. Guest speakers include cake decorators, photographers and videographers.
Race counts the friendships as the top benefit of her job. “I’ve had the privilege of developing phenomenal friendships with brides and mothers, and that has meant so much to me personally as I have a husband and two adult sons, but before Lee Anne, I had no daughters to share this with. “I keep up with all my brides through FaceBook.”
Lee Anne was very sentimental about the importance of being outdoors, Race said.
“Seth proposed to her at their favorite swimming hole north of Hector just as the sun was setting. It meant a lot to her that their wedding day fell on the same exact day two years later overlooking the lake at sunset.
“And, we all know the wedding day is all about the bride.”
For more information on the Spring classes offered through the continuing education department at Arkansas Tech University log onto http://lakepoint.atu.edu or call (479) 498-6035.
Suggestions for a Smooth Wedding Day:
1. Don’t let the candle lighters use all the lighting wick before the wedding begins.
2. Place lit votives on each side of the Unity candle for the mothers to light the tapers in unison before lighting the Unity candle.
3. Very important – do a test run. That includes going to the beautician beforehand and deciding on a style and practicing makeup application.
4. Do not tan 2-3 days before wedding. If you must tan, start tanning 2-3 months beforehand.
5. Choose a dress style you won’t regret in years to come.
6. Always incorporate something personal in the ceremony.
7. If you want the effect of a lavish cake but lack the budget, ask bakery for a Styrofoam base and layer with real cakes. The entire cake can also be created from Styrofoam with a sheet cake for serving. You wouldn’t believe how much that saves.
8. Stage the couple leaving the reception while everyone is still there. It’s sad when there is nobody in the photos because guests have already started leaving, and it’s more festive with all your guests present.
9. Use your friends!