Friday, April 29, 2011

Checkmate, Kate!

Fair warning, if you're sick of hearing about the Royal Wedding, you may want to skip this post.
But let's face it, you're reading a wedding blog.  You probably love it as much as I do.

Hands up, ladies - who woke up to watch the Royal Wedding this morning?  When I first started hearing about the RW (that's what the cool bloggers call it, right?) I wasn't all that interested.  Sure, Kate Middleton seemed nice, and had fantastic hair, but what did a $34 million dollar wedding have in common with mine?

But as we drew closer, I grew more obsessed.  I eagerly read wedding predictions, dress ideas, rumors that cropped up... by Monday I was at a fever pitch, waiting for the week to be over so the WEDDING could begin!  (I can't even imagine what I'll be like the week I get married)  M was pretty indulgent, even when he saw me making weird faces before going to bed and asked me about what I was thinking....

"Oh... nothing."
"Is it about the Royal Wedding?"

Ah-hem.  Of course, maybe the worst was setting the alarm for 5am without telling him and sneaking out of bed this morning so I could watch the wedding, leaving him unable to get back to sleep.  But he should have seen that coming, right?  Nonetheless, this morning I donned a fancy hat, brewed a cuppa tea, and settled in to watch The Wedding.

First and foremost... the dress.  My first reaction was LACE!  (I love lace)  I was happy to see her in a Princess Grace style, since that's what I predicted she'd wear.  I know not everyone was happy with a conservative choice, but let's be honest...

Kate says it best. [src]
For what it's worth, it's not something I would have picked, but hey - I didn't have the entire monarchy judging me.  I think it was classy and timeless, and complimented her figure.  It won't be setting trends for the next 10 years, but I think women have enough inspiration.

To me, the most interesting part was the ceremony itself.  For some reason, I loved the tradition of William facing away from Kate as she processed down the aisle.  One of my favorite moments was when Prince Harry peeked at Kate, then turned to tease William, who in turn couldn't help but sneak a quick look.  Adorable!

Harry gets a sneak peek [src]

I also enjoyed the readings, even though I'm not overly big on tradition or highly religious readings, I thought they had some great public speakers with real words of wisdom.  In any case, I wasn't as bored as William!  The choir was lovely too, singing some very original pieces.  "Jerusalem’, (by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, words by William Blake) was my favorite and really captured a modern take on a traditional hymn.

Kate and Will, I wish you the best of luck - thanks for sharing your engagement with the rest of us and letting us see a fairytale wedding come true!

Have a great weekend!  [src]

Monday, April 25, 2011

Countdown to Fun

Friends, we are almost 13 months out from the wedding and being a frugal and utterly practical bride (right) I've been very good and refrained from doing too much buying or planning.  But I'm itching to get my DIY craftiness on and start whipping up some adorable decorations and stationary!  So what's a girl obsessed with party planning to do?

Throw an engagement party!

Buying this game probably would have been cheaper [src]
My parents are visiting on Memorial Day weekend this year, and since that nicely coincided with the negative one-year anniversary of our future wedding I bullied them into hosting they graciously offered to host an engagement party.  And by "host" I mean put-their-name-on-the-invite-for-etiquette-reasons since I've already started planning the whole thing and also, it's at my and M's house.

We're calling it our "Countdown" party, a la Mrs. Bruschetta and it's a complete departure from everything we've planned for the wedding so far.  I wanted something whimsical and casual - we'll be barbequing in our backyard, entertaining throughout the house, and friends and family should feel welcome to come and go.  But most of all, I wanted the theme to reflect M and I and some of our shared history.  You all remember my obsession with themes, right?

Here's the thing - M and I love Disney.  We sing duets to "A Whole New World" during car trips, we watch Mulan on rainy days, my favorite coffee mug has Mickey all over it.  Our first vacation as a couple was to Walt Disney World, and we still reminisce about how much fun we had.  So our engagement party will be Disney themed - hopefully in a very classy,  "child at heart" way.

NOT LIKE THIS.  Never like this.  [src]
More details ahead... stay tuned!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dresses Part 2

Okay, so you've seen the dresses I didn't like.  What about the ones that made it into the Top 3?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dresses and Family

Last weekend I headed to New York to see my sister/MOH starring in HMS Pinafore and spend some quality time with la familia.  This was actually the first time I'd seen my family since Christmas, so they hadn't even seen my engagement ring yet! 

Family and extended family congratulating my sister after her show
(From left) Me, Mom, Dad, and Sister

I didn't really have any plans except for seeing MOH's show, so when I had some free time with my parents on Saturday I was really surprised when they suggested looking at wedding dresses.  See, I had this whole schedule for my planning process in mind, and that included not shopping for dresses until 9 months before the wedding (September-ish).  I've heard too many stories about dress-regret, and wanted the chance to tone up a bit before I picked out a dress and had to worry about alterations.

But I could tell my mom was eager to share this experience with her little girl, and since I don't get to see her as often as I'd like, of course I said yes!

Who could resist her mom looking like this?  [src]  
Continue to read more, if you're not M!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tool Tips: Evernote

With our venue booked, paid (halfway anyway), and signed for, M and I are taking a bit of a breather.  He's in a play right now with performances the last two weekends, I'm heading to New York this weekend for some family time and to see MOH/Sister star in yet another play (I'm surrounded by talented people!), and our 2 year anniversary is two weeks from now.  So our weekends are pretty busy this month and it seemed like a good time to take a break from the whole wedding process.  We're still over a year out, and while I know lots of May 2012 brides already have their caterers, photographers, florists, and coordinators booked... I think we can take a month off.

Does that mean I've stopped looking at wedding inspiration and researching vendors?  Of course not!  I have a list of caterers in my back pocket (ok, gMail) waiting for us to go back to Culpeper and meet with them in May.  And I've spent a few hours looking up photographers and emailing them for rates.  But there's definitely less urgency than there was when we first got engaged and I felt like we were rushing to find a venue.  And now that our spot is picked, I can focus on more enjoyable tasks, like looking at invitations and picking out decorations. 

So what do I have to share today?  How about an awesome new tool?  Fun, right?

Screen Cap from

Friends, this is Evernote.  Now you all know I am ALL about being organized, right?  M and I keep Google Docs on everything, our budget is kept in a super efficient Excel spreadsheet (with macros and everything!) and I use gMail labels like they're going out of style.  But the heart and soul of my organize-y little world is Evernote.  I could write sonnets to how much I love this app.

Evernote has a quick and easy getting started guide, so I won't bore you with details on how it works.  Instead, let's talk features - specifically, wedding related features.  (I apologize in advance if this sounds like an infomercial - it's hard for me to talk about how much I like this app without going a bit overboard!)

Visual Inspiration

I'm a pretty visual person.  I need to see all my wedding choices together in order to really figure out which ones I like the best.  Inspiration Boards have always been an essential tool for brides, but Evernote lets you create dynamic boards - just search with some parameters and it'll show you all your thumbnails for the notes that match in a handy grid.

Screen Cap from
I have a Saved Search for "Paper Products" - anything I've tagged with stationary or invitations.  This makes it extra easy to see all my current paper ideas, and quickly compile, oh say, a blog post about invitation styles (...coming soon).

Everywhere Access

I tend to use Evernote in a few different places - my work computer, both our home laptops, and my smart phone.  Luckily, everything is synched up.  I can snap a picture of flowers on my phone, file it in Evernote, and see it on my computer evermore.  Or I can clip an invitation I like off the web, and quickly pull it up on my phone to show my paper-obsessed cousin exactly what style I was thinking about.  No more trying to google search "Purple invitation with grapes" on my tiny mobile browser to find the image I spotted a few weeks ago.

Android Screencap [src]
Honestly, though?  I'd take Evernote for the web capability alone.  It has browser plugins that lets you just highlight the picture you want, click "Clip to Evernote", and then a popup screen to fill in tags and file it in a folder.  Couldn't be easier to save your wedding inspiration.  So even if you have a no bells-and-whistles phone, it's worth it to create an account.

Screencap of Evernote plugin for Firefox

Staying Organized

Ah yes, the meat and potatoes of this post.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most brides reading this blog probably have a folder on their computer with a ton of inspiration images saved.  And that folder has subfolders and creative titles and other mnemonics to help keep those pictures organized.  Here's what I really like about Evernote - labels.  Just like the tags we all use for blogging, Evernote lets you assign different labels to a note.  So that picture from Style Me Pretty of the awesome cake you love can be filed under yellow, brown, cake, and flowers.  Which makes it easy if you want a quick inspiration board of everything "Yellow and Brown" you've found so far, or all the cakes you've saved!

Now lets say it's not a picture you want to save, but a quote or a snippet from a ceremony that you lurve and don't want to forget about?  Yep, you can clip those too.  They won't show up with cute little thumbnails (unless you highlight a picture as well) but they'll be saved and what's more - searchable!  You can search by text in your notes, or in your images!  Oh yeah.  So snap a picture of that florist's business card and rest assured you can find it later by just searching her name.

And here's the best part - Evernote stores the url for every clip you take from the web.  So if you're, say, writing a blog post and want to make sure to give credit, it's easy to look up where you found that particular image or quote. 

Okay, that's it!  Hopefully I've convinced you all that you should go sign up (for free!) and start using Evernote for all your wedding needs.  Or maybe you have another way of organizing your inspiration?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Also, if you'd like to see my wedding "folder" full of inspiration and whatnot, here's the link!  Wedding Notebook

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty - How we Decided on Our Venue

I can't believe it's been over a month since I first hinted about our wedding location to you.  Moreover, I can't believe it too us that long to come to a decision and sign a contract with our venue.  For some reason I thought we'd see the perfect site and sign within a week.  Well, we knew within moments of seeing the site that "this was it", but like M and I's relationship in general, we waited an appropriate amount of time to get serious.*

To be honest, I love our location, as you could probably tell from my last post, but I think it's worth talking about the process of deciding and how we became sure that Old House Vineyards was the right place for us.

Our first visit to the venue was on the same cold, rainy day we visited Bristow Manor.  While I was planning out our day, I noticed we'd only be about 30 minutes from a venue I'd seen online and dreamed about, and since we didn't make it that far south very often, I jumped on the opportunity.  So our first impression of the venue was this:

Rainy, wet, gloomy, and yet still gorgeous.
We couldn't even make it out to see the island or reception pavilion that day, it was raining too hard!  But we did meet with the owner and liked her right away, and and got to taste their wines (yum!).

My favorite - Rosie's Red
We had our misgivings about how far out from Northern Virginia the vineyard was, and of course, the price tag.  The rates she quoted us were nearly double our venue budget, and we even though we knew it was the most unique and beautiful location we'd seen so far, I didn't really think we could afford it.  But I couldn't give up just yet.  Since the Vineyard didn't have an in-house caterer, I started looking up catering costs in Culpeper, and found that it was significantly cheaper than all the venues we'd seen so far.  My budget was based on spending $50pp on food (a reasonable rate at the country clubs and historic manors we'd visited so far), but in this small town, catering could be had for closer to $20-$30 a head (and at some places for just $15!).  I re-ran the numbers and figured out that if we pinched our budget a little, we could afford this gorgeous location.

But even with that settled, I started to worry that we were crazy for putting this place on the top of our list.  It was expensive and we hadn't even been to the reception location or the island.  Another trip was scheduled only two weeks after the first, this time with FMIL Toshella to give her stamp of approval.  She loved it, the site was even more lovely up close, we got a detailed tour, and had figured out we could afford it.  Old House Vineyard could be ours!

But... was it worth it?  Requiring our OOT friends and family to rent a car and travel an extra hour away from the airport?  Asking all of our local friends to rent a room for the night since it was too far away to drive home?  We deliberated, and began asking friends and family what they thought.  Much to our relief, our friends were excited about the vineyard wedding and were completely willing to stay the night in Culpeper to party with us.  My mom and cousin reassured me that most of our family would rent cars or caravan down, and an extra hour of driving wasn't a huge deal.  We breathed a huge sigh of relief.

M had one more requirement before we signed - find 3 caterers in our price range.  He wanted to be sure that we had options if one or two caterers didn't work out or if we didn't like the food.  It took some creative budget finagling, but I was able to come up with three reasonably priced options that would give us the wedding food we wanted - more on that another day.

With all systems a go, we contacted the owner and told her we were ready to sign.  This began another three weeks of emails back and forth about the contract terms , where we considered just driving back down to Culpeper to sign in person (this got veto-ed when Matt's schedule changed unexpectedly).  The owner was really nice to work with though, and took my crazy emails in stride.  She was willing to change the contract to specify some of the things she'd said she could change in person (like the ending time for the reception), and finally we were comfortable mailing her our signed contract and deposit.

Assuming there are no more bumps along the road (cross your fingers for us!) we are locked in at our venue and date, and couldn't be happier!  Standing on the island where we're going to be married with Matt was one of my favorite moments in this journey so far, and I can't wait until 1 year, 6 weeks, and 5 days** from now when we're standing there for real.  :)

Okay, mostly we just look tired, but I promise, we're happy!

* Okay, not really.  We moved in together only 3 months after we started dating, and if it were up to me, we'd have been engaged about a month in. 

** Thank you, wedding countdown ticker!

All personal photos.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Venue of Our Very Own

Know what this is....?

[personal photo]

Certainly not the world's prettiest envelope, but it does contain our wedding venue contract and deposit!  That's right folks, we are official!

 So now, I can finally, finally tell you about out amazing wedding venue.  Or maybe I'll just show you....


Remember this sneak peak I gave you?  That's the island we'll be getting married on.  It holds up to 150, and has a fountain backdrop that will be turned on as we start the recessional.

Close up of the ceremony site  [src]
They recently paved the 'aisle' leading up to the pergola with slate flagstones and created a platform for the bride and groom, so no worries about heels sticking in the grass, or slowly sinking while we're saying our vows.  The pergola looks gorgeous draped with white fabric and decorated with wreaths and flowers.  I can't even begin to imagine what we're going to do with it!


The benches in the pictures are above are no longer available, so we'll have simple white chairs for our ceremony, which I think looks just as lovely:

After the ceremony, guests will leave the island and find themselves at the cocktail hour, staged between the ceremony site and the pavillion.  OHV provides several round tables for us to use for stationary appetizers, and we'll have the bar open to refresh our guests.  I want to set up our guest book here, as well as pictures and other activities to keep our guests engaged while we're traipsing along the vineyard taking pictures.

Staging area for the cocktail hour [src]
The pavilion for the reception is gah. or. geous.  It's draped with white fabric, bringing in the tent-look I'd originally wanted, but is completely indoors.  There are large doors on two sides which open, letting guests mingle between the outdoors and inside, and benches we can use to set up an outdoor "lounge" area.

The lanterns and fabric are already set up, and although there isn't A/C the owner has assured us that it stays pretty cool because the fabric traps the heat in the upper ceiling, and the fans circulate the air.  If nothing else, we'll have lots of cool drinks!

Set up with round tables, which is what we'll do [src]

So, do you like?  Was it worth the wait?   I'll talk tomorrow a little bit about why it took us so long to make up our minds and send the contract in, as well as some of the hard questions we asked ourselves when settling on a venue.

Sorry for the lack of personal pictures (such a bad blogger!), my camera died when we visited.  I'll be sure to get plenty of pics the next time we're down there! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

All about Moi!

I've been posting here for almost 2 months now, and realized that you all don't know a whole lot about me or M (...aside from our my wedding tastes).  So I thought I'd join in with a fun game from Keely at Mannland5:

1. do you weigh yourself?
Yes, on at least a weekly basis.  I'm in the process of losing weight, and find that I lose motivation if I stop stepping on the scale.  I measure by other factors too - how my clothes fit, my body fat percentage, body measurements - but the scale is a quick way for me to check in with my goals.
2. what's the nastiest thing you've ever eaten?
I tried making some mussel dish to serve at my first-ever dinner party.  They were terrible!  I'm pretty sure the mussels didn't cook all the way and the wine sauce just tasted like vinegar.  Only one guest was kind enough to choke one down, and I can hardly blame them!
3. snail mail or email?
Email for sure!  I'm attached to my computer and phone, so I like communicating in the easiest way possible.  Though, like most people, I enjoy getting things in the mail other than credit card offers and magazines.
4. do you have any irrational fears...what are they?
Chickens.  Can't go near them.  They have beady eyes and pecky beaks and carry all sorts of diseases, so this is actually a perfectly rational fear.  Yup!
5. do you play an instrument?
Not currently, but I played French Horn for about 8 years from middle school til college, Mellophone in high school marching band, and Trumpet very briefly.  Go brass, baby!
6. would you rather be bitten by a snake or attacked by a bear?
Snake - I figure most venom can be counteracted and don't cause immediate death, unlike attack by bear which sounds pretty brutal and 100% chance of death for my weak self.
7. do you ever go braless in public?
When I have a dress with pretty good cup support, or very rarely when I'm wearing a heavy sweatshirt so that you can't tell.  I figure built-in bra shirts don't count here.
8. today i am thankful for........................?
My sister!  Her birthday was this Saturday, and even though I won't get a chance to see her for another two weeks, I hope she knows how grateful I am to have her in my life and as my MOH.  She's my most dedicated reader, too!  ;)

Friday, April 1, 2011

We Finally Have a Venue!

I know I've held off on sharing our venue for a while, so today, I'm happy as a peach to finally show off... our wedding venue!

I realized I was being selfish with our wedding choices - wanting to including things like flowers, wine, dresses.  After all, those things don't really define us as a couple.  So for our wedding, we'll be embracing one of M's favorite hobbies - paintball.
It took me a while to get into it, but now I'm imagining a picturesque ceremony in the bunkers:

Romantic, no?  [source]
Tons of opportunities for great wedding photos!  [src]

And no reason our wedding party can't be just as formal!

[source] [source]
And forget those costly Trash the Dress sessions - our wedding will be all-inclusive!

Well... what do you guys think??  :D

Okay, I kid, I kid!  Kudos to any bride with the guts to defy convention and go all out country for her wedding.  I think M will be sticking to a paintball bachelor party, though.  ;)