Dating Your Spouse

I don’t remember a lot of advice I was given during the newborn haze of the first few weeks of LJ’s life, but I will never forget these words from our pediatrician at his 2 week check-up: “You are the foundation of his life.” Basically, he said we can do a lot of things to help LJ grow and develop but the thing he is going to see every single day is US. The stability of our relationship and how we treat one another is going to be one of the biggest things that he watches as he grows. Our marriage is a huge part of LJ’s life and will form the foundation for his childhood. The pediatrician took a few minutes to specifically encourage Justin and I to make sure not to lose ourselves or our marriage to our new job as parents, but to continue to foster our relationship and prioritize one another as well.

I mean, wow, right!? What an amazing reminder to brand-new, slightly-overwhelmed parents to not get so wrapped up in parenthood that they forget what started the journey in the first place: their relationship. Justin and I were so appreciative of this reminder that we can love our son SO much, want the absolute best for him, try our hardest to be great parents, and still want to prioritize our marriage.

I blogged about our recent trip to Chicago last week. We take LJ with us on a lot of trips, but this was one we took without him. It was so wonderful to have a few days away together and we both felt reconnected and rejuvenated and ready to get home and love on our boy on Sunday! Obviously, it doesn’t always work to do something big like a multi-day getaway; but Justin and I have really tried to take our pediatrician’s advice to heart and remember to prioritize our marriage and spend time together. It doesn’t mean we have to spend a lot of money, or even any money at all, but it is important for us to connect and enjoy our marriage together every once in a while. Sometimes it’s just talking on the couch during LJ’s naptime. Other times we go out for a movie, sporting event, dinner, putt-putt golf, etc. It keeps our marriage strong, helps us focus on our love for each other, and is just plain fun. We are always ready to come home and give LJ so much love and attention afterwards!

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Together again – ready to love on LJ!

Today I’m sharing a few ways that Justin and I utilize to spend one-on-one time together. These are ways that work for us – they may not work for you and that’s totally okay. I encourage you to find what works for you and your partner and carve out some time to focus on the relationship that started your little family: your love!

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Relax together after LJ’s Bedtime

We have a few shows we both really enjoy watching (This is Us, A Million Little Things, and occasionally The Bachelor depending on the season and main person). Some days one or both of us may still have some work to finish on our computers so we will have those up while we watch but it’s still fun to be together while the show plays so we can discuss our thoughts during and after. Some nights we both are totally finished with work and there isn’t a show we want to see so we’ll curl up together on the couch, usually with bowls of ice cream, and watch a movie together.  It’s such a fun, relaxing way to just spend some time together! Of course, there are days when it feels like Justin and I are just counting down the minutes until LJ goes to bed and we’re both so exhausted from our long days that we just kind of zonk on the couch and do our own thing. It’s always nice though to watch something together.

Screen-Free Time

Occasionally during naptime or after bedtime, we’ll intentionally set 30 minutes of screen-free time. TV is off, computers are shut, phones are away, and Justin and I just sit and talk. We might talk about our days, our dreams for the future, our plans for the week, or whatever else is on our minds, but it’s always just nice to have focused, uninterrupted time to reconnect. The busier the season of life, the more important I think this time is!

Utilize grandparents (if possible)

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I know we are SO lucky to have parents who want to be very involved as grandparents. Both Justin and my parents adore LJ and love to love on him. We are also lucky that my parents only live just over an hour away and frequently babysit LJ (we know Justin’s parents would love to do this too but they unfortunately live several states away). I personally think it’s important to take them up on their offers to babysit not only so Justin and I can have some time to reconnect, but also so LJ can develop a relationship with his grandparents. It is so sweet to watch their bond grow! My mom often offers to come watch LJ at our house so we can have a date or take him to their house for a day/night/weekend. I had no problem leaving him in their care early on (they first babysat him at 2 weeks old for 2 hours so we could attend Justin’s work Christmas party nearby) but I did take much longer to feel comfortable leaving him overnight. They first watched him overnight when he was about 8.5 months old. It went so well though – they loved it, LJ had a great time (they sent lots of pics and videos), and Justin and I got to enjoy a little getaway for my birthday (read the recap here). Once we did it once, it became much easier to continue to do and increase the length of stay. My parents just had LJ for 4 nights while I joined Justin in Chicago and it was amazing. They all had a fantastic time and Justin and I both agreed that it was so nice to have time away together to relax, explore Chicago, and just spend time together.

I will say – yes this is a “free” option for us, but we do try to be conscious of the fact that it’s not free for my parents to drive an hour or buy groceries for LJ when they keep him overnight. We try to split driving (I’ll drop him off, they pick him up) and I’ll typically send along some food for him in addition to what they have. If my parents come to watch him so we can go out to dinner, I will try to either have dinner made for them to eat or they know they can always raid our fridge/pantry if they need. We never want them to feel like we’re taking advantage of them and want them to feel appreciated for all they do!

Swap with friends

I realize that many people don’t have the option to have grandparents babysit for a variety of reasons. Justin and I also swap free babysitting with friends. We have close friends who actually live in the same neighborhood as us so it’s super convenient to drop our kids off at each other’s houses. This isn’t something we keep track of, like your-turn-my-turn, but it’s more of a “when we need each other, we’re not afraid to ask” situation. We watch their two little boys if they need us for a dinner (they’re also into intramural sports so we sometimes watch the boys if they have a game in the evening) and they watch LJ if we need a date night or have something else going on. We 100% trust them and vice versa so it works really well for us.

Split a babysitter

There was a night when both we and our “swap” friends needed a babysitter, so since we couldn’t swap with each other, we split a babysitter. It was much cheaper to pay one person to watch 3 kids together and split the cost than to find two separate babysitters. I dropped LJ off at their house and the babysitter was great with all three! Problem solved!

Mega-Swap, or the “Night of Chaos”

One of my friends had the brilliant idea to create a kind of “mega babysitting swap” amongst our group of friends. There are six families with 12 kids between us. Each couple takes one month and picks a night to host ALL the kids at their house so the other couples can have a date night. It’s a pretty hectic night for the hosting couple (hence we playfully dubbed it the “Night of Chaos”) but you only have to do it 2x each year and the other 10 months of the year you have a free babysitter and date night each month! I will say that each couple has at least one member certified in CPR/First Aid and we are all parents who handle a variety of situations, which definitely adds to our comfort level with something like this. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have trust and confidence in each couple that was part of the group. But it works really well for us and it’s a great way for Justin and I to make sure to carve out time each month to do something together!

If nothing else, take him along!

Our friends hosted a Christmas party and we didn’t have someone to watch him so we just took him along in his jammies. We set up a pack n play in their guest room, brought our sound machine and his wubbanub, darkened the room, and just put him down there at bedtime. When we left at the end of the night and got him down from upstairs, guests who showed up after we put him down said “wait, there was a baby up there!?” He didn’t disturb the party and we didn’t disturb him. We’ve done this a few times now and while it is still preferable for LJ to fall asleep at home, this option works well if we need.

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I know not everyone feels comfortable with this and that’s okay. You don’t have to do it if it doesn’t work for you! I will say that the more we do it, the easier it becomes. We travel enough with LJ that he has gotten used to sleeping in places other than his crib in his bedroom and he does a good job in other environments. If we never had him sleep anywhere else, he probably wouldn’t do well with a pack n play in a guest room during a Christmas party. But because he sleeps other places often enough, now it’s super easy to put him down somewhere and have him go right to sleep! He transfers well to the car seat then and back to his crib when we go home. I would just encourage you to try it a few times and see if it works for you. The first time didn’t work flawlessly, but we kept at it and LJ got better at it (and so did we) and I’m glad we didn’t give up.

 

What works for you in making time for your spouse? What dates do you enjoy together?

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One Year Anniversary

I cannot believe it’s been an entire year since my wedding day!

I’ve been re-capping lots of the details of our wedding day in my Wedding Wednesday posts, and I had planned to do a post today on a few of my favorite moments from my wedding day. However, now that the day is here, all I want to do is sit on the couch with a glass of wine and a slice of our (one-year-old!) wedding cheesecake and watch a Redbox movie with my hubby.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Rothwell PhotographyPhoto shared with permission of Rothwell Photography.

Previous Wedding Wednesday Posts

Planning

Wedding Dress

Groom’s Suit

Wedding Party

Operation Honeymoon

Decorations, Part One, Part Two

Ceremony Decor

Reception Decor

Flowers

Wedding Wednesday: Reception Decorations

Jambo!!

Today is the TEN YEAR anniversary of the premiere of “Mean Girls.”

Wait.

Mean Girls

WHAT!?

Yes, it’s true. Regina George came into my life ten years ago!

Regina GeorgeI seriously love this movie! My friends and I watched it at least once a week in high school — I can quote Every. Single. Line. And it makes me laugh every time I watch it! It is an absolute classic in my book! So of course, I’m celebrating it’s 10th anniversary by . . . wearing pink (because it’s Wednesday, and that’s a rule) and watching it for the trillionth time!

Because of this oh-so-fetch celebration, I’m gonna make my weekly Wednesday post nice and quick!

Wedding Wednesday

My final decoration post is about our wedding reception. We kept things nice and simple — a big white tent in the front yard of the farmhouse with a few decorations to add pops of color! Once again, all photographs are copyright the AMAZING Rothwell Photography.

First of all, MAD PROPS to my awesome hubby for creating these paper flower poms:

DIY flower pom for weddingThe boy spent hours creating 30 of these babies! Each petal was a piece of paper and you need 5 petals to make a flower, 12 flowers to make one pom. Do the math — that’s 1800 flower petals to fold!! I was so impressed with how they all turned out though. We got tons of compliments on them! All we did was hang them from fishing line across the length of the tent at varying heights (we used a hold punch and those paper reinforcer donut hole stickers to hang them).

DIY flower poms :: wedding ceremony decorationSimple and beautiful! And I love the way they pulled everything together without trying too hard.

First DanceThis was one of my favorite shots of our first dance — mostly because I love the way J and I are laughing and loving life in that moment but also because the poms look sa-weet! I absolutely love how they turned out! So proud of my crafty hubby (even if he did only do it to have an excuse to take study breaks! Haha!) See the full directions here for how to make them.

Really the only other reception decoration was the centerpieces. Each table’s set-up looked like this:

DIY wedding centerpieces :: yellow and green wine bottles and tree stumps-Square piece of green burlap

-Large stump cut to a height of about 2 inches (thanks dad!)

-five wine bottles (more on this below!)

-a few bits of moss around the stump

-one small stump with a notch cut in it for cardstock (again, thanks dad!)

-table numbers (each table had a fun fact about us corresponding to the table number i.e. Table 7 — the number of states we’ve traveled to together. It was a fun way for our guests to learn a little more about us as a couple!)

-green, yellow, and white flowers (got these in bulk from my florist. They were all the same types of flowers incorporated into my bouquet and other flower arrangements, which helped tie everything together. By buying in bulk and assembling ourselves, we saved a ton of money too! Yay!)

Justin and my table looked a little bit different. We didn’t have a bridal party table because we wanted our attendants to sit with their significant others so we had our own simple little table:

Simple bride and groom tableA nice green tinted jug with flowers and some Mr. & Mrs. stumps (made last minute with a sharpie marker and some extra little stumps!) kept things sweet and simple. We knew we wouldn’t be at the table that much anyways so why overdo it?

We hung a few strands of white Christmas lights around the tent and called it good! Easy peasy!

Wine Bottles

The wine bottles was a simple project. We collected tons of wine bottles from family, friends, restaurants (not kidding), and anywhere else I could find them. Some were already tinted green and yellowish, so we left them as is! Labels are easily removed by soaking the bottles in warm water (make sure the water inside the bottles is really warm!) and removing it with a kitchen scraper.

The bottles that were clear or a color other than green or yellow got spray painted. I used lime green, yellow, and cream (hotel vanilla, technically) spray paint. I didn’t take pictures of the process but it was super simple:

1- Lay out newspapers in a large space outside. Make sure to lay out a lot of newspapers — the spray paint goes further than you’d think!

2- Place the clean, dry bottle on the newspaper (my dad eventually crafted a bottle holder out of a block of wood and doll rods but most of the bottles were sprayed on paper).

3- Spray thin coats of paint on the bottles. I waited 30 minutes in between coats and each wine bottle got at least 3 coats.

4- Let the bottles dry for at least an hour or two, depending on the temperature of wherever you’re spraying them.

5- Smile! You’re done!

We used rubber bands to create a striped look on some of the bottles (see white bottle above). To do this, all you have to do is wrap a bunch of rubber bands in varying sizes around the bottle between steps 2 & 3. It looks better in the end if the bands are lying flat against the glass and not twisted. I cut the bands off with scissors then — do not remove the bands until the paint is completely 100% dry!

And there you have it! Super easy and it looked great! Plus now the wine bottles make great decorations around the house!

Have a great hump day! Love, me and Mrs. George 🙂

Mean Girls***

Today’s outfit. Unfortunately, there was no pink involved so I couldn’t sit with the Plastics at lunch . . .
Maxi dress & cardigan :: teacher outfit blog Dress: via Ross (no longer available) ~ Cardigan: Target (exact here) ~ Shoes: Nine West (no longer available; similar here)

 

Wedding Wednesday: Ceremony Decorations

Hey Mike! What day is it!?

Hump Day

The students at my school absolutely love quoting this commercial. I have to admit that it does bring some much-needed energy to help push through the day! Whoot whoot! 😉

Wedding Wednesday

Continuing on my decoration trend, let’s talk ceremony decorations!

Since the ceremony was happening outdoors, I wanted to keep the decor to a minimum and let nature do most of the work. We had white chairs arranged on the lawn in a semi-circle with a middle aisle. At the entrance to the main aisle, there were sets of three tall tree stumps of varying heights.

wine bottles and stumps // simple wedding decorEach of the stumps had a glass bottle (these were all beer bottles spray painted in wedding colors) holding a single flower. We varied the flowers to give it a little more pizazz.

easy DIY wedding decor

I really liked the way this turned out! It gave just the right touch without going overboard or taking tons of time.

The only other ceremony decorations were at the front of the aisle. A dear family friend of mine (basically a grandfather for me) constructed a beautiful arch for us. I absolutely loved it!

simple white wedding arch

Side note: I also really enjoyed this moment of the ceremony. 😉

We had some slate tiles to stand on since there was a chance of rain (and it did rain) so we wouldn’t be standing in wet grass or mud. Under the arch I placed an antique table that belongs to my family. I covered it with a simple lace doily from my mom’s house and set three pitchers on top.

simple wedding table for footwashing

The pitcher in the middle was a gift from our pastor. It was handmade (though not by him) and came with a matching basin. Instead of a unity candle, we decided to have footwashing. This is an important tradition in our denomination and we really wanted this to be part of our ceremony. I’ll give more details in a future post!

simple wedding footwashing

The other pitchers belong to Justin’s mother. They each had water in them; instead of our mother’s lighting candles, we had them pour water from the pitchers into the main pitcher we used for footwashing.

white coffee filter pom hanging at wedding

The only other decorations we had were a few white coffee filter poms hanging in the trees. These were made by my sister-in-law and provided a nice little touch.

Other than that, we let nature do the talking. And I was okay with that. 🙂

backyard wedding ceremony

Happy hump day!

All wedding photos are copyright Rothwell Photography.

***

I love maxi dresses; they are so simple but still look like you put in some effort! Today’s look:

Striped blazer, black maxi dress

Blazer: Maurices (exact old) ~ Maxi Dress: Modcloth (no longer available; cute option here) ~ Earrings: Premier Designs (exact old) ~ Bangle set: Shop Ruche (exact here) ~ Ballet Flats: Fergalicious by Fergie (similar here)

 

Wedding Wednesday: The Decorations, Part 2

Not gonna lie, it’s been a long day and my hubster wants to chillax on the couch and catch up on last night’s episode of “The Voice” so I’m gonna just get right down to it so I can go join him! It’s Wedding Wednesday and the decorating fun continues!!

Wedding Wednesday

Our wedding took place on my grandparent’s farm, which is now owned by my parents. My parents decided to renovate the old farmhouse in the months before the wedding, and one of the things they updated was the windows. Putting new windows in = tons of old, rustic wooden windows for me to use for DIY decorations!! YAY!

Here are some of the ways I incorporated these windows into the decor:

DIY Window Pane with blown up photo

Believe it or not, this window frame came with the perfect amount of aging/distressing so I didn’t have to do anything to it. All I did was clean the window with some simple wood cleaner and it was done! I printed out the photo at Costco because it was the only place I could find that would print off a near poster-size picture and didn’t charge a ridiculous amount of money for it. Score!

Engagement pictures in rustic window frame. Wedding DIY.

I used the same process as before (but with smaller pictures) in the above window frame. I’m sure you can find some super crafty way of attaching photos to a window on Pinterest, but I’m going to be very real about the un-crafty way I created these.

1. I cleaned the window and glass.

2. I placed one picture at a time behind the glass of the window and moved it until the exact part of the picture I wanted to see was “framed” by the window pane.

3. Without shifting the picture, I carefully pressed it into into the glass. Making sure the picture was flat against the window glass, I used my nail to bend a crease in the picture up against the side of the window frame. This marked the outline of the part of the picture I wanted to see

4. I cut out the picture using my crease as an outline (I left a slight edge around the crease in case I needed to shift the picture. Better to have to trim it a little more than realize I came up short!)

5. I used masking tape to attach the picture to the side of the window glass.

6. I repeated all those steps for the remaining three window panes!

Like I said, you’ll probably find a more conventional, “crafty” way to do this using fancier tools and a more exact method on different blogs or DIY websites; however, this is what worked for me because it was quick and easy! I loved the result and no one saw the back of the windows anyways so the whole tacky-masking-tape-thing can stay our little secret, right?

Engagement photos in old window frame, stacked crates, DIY wedding decor

While I liked the first two window frames (which were placed by the “welcome table” that I talked about in last week’s post), this last one was probably my favorite. I loved the double window; it was so unique! I propped it up against this display of new and old crates found in my parents’ attic near the walkway where people went from the ceremony to the reception. The yard at the farmhouse was very big and thus, difficult to decorate, so this display was a simple way of adding some cool decorations without spending a lot of time or effort or going overboard. I found the J & S letters at TJ Maxx and the wooden hearts were handcrafted by a dear family friend. The wine bottles were part of a whole ‘nother DIY project that I’ll discuss in a later post. I was really happy with how this display turned out!

In the spirit of window crafting, I’ll share one more thing! Our seating arrangement was created using an old storm door found in the attic of the old farmhouse.

Old door used to display seating chart. Wedding DIY

I alternated seating arrangement cards with engagement photos on the windows of the door and absolutely loved the way it turned out! For this, I used clear reusable tabs on the back of the photos and seating cards to attach them to the glass. My dad created a simple arch and used swinging screws to attach the door to the arch to put it at eye level with our guests.

seating arrangement on window pane

If you look closely, you’ll see I used the same tree design on the seating cards that we had on our invitations and programs. It was the perfect way to tie everything together!

All photographs are copyright of the fantastic Rothwell Photography.

And that concludes another Wedding Wednesday! Have a good evening!

***

I am slowly inching my way into a spring wardrobe — here’s hoping the cold winter is finally gone!

Teacher outfit blog: pink and brown, bow belt, flower necklace

Sweater cardigan: Maurices (similar here)~ Cami: Express (exact old)~ Khaki pants: Maurices (similar here) ~ Flats: Target (exact here) ~ Belt: Via Plato’s Closet ~ Necklace: Lia Sophia “Flower Pot” (no longer available; similar here)

Wedding Wednesday: Decorations, Part 1

Hi there!

I hope you all are having a great week so far! My week seems to be going SO slow; Justin and I leave on Friday after work for a vacation and I am so excited! I have to keep distracting myself so that I don’t focus on time or otherwise this week will seem never-ending. Come on Friday!!

Wedding Wednesday: “Welcome Table” decorations

For today’s Wedding Wednesday post I thought I’d start re-capping some of the decorations we had around our wedding. I should preface this by saying Pinterest became my BFF during the wedding planning and it was definitely reflected in the decorations. Wish I could take all these ideas as mine alone but I took lots of inspiration from others. I still tried to put my own spin on things so that counts for originality points, right? All photographs below are copyright Rothwell Photography.

For today, I’m gonna focus on the things on the tables at what I call the “welcome table.” This was the first thing guests saw: where they were dropped off gifts, signed the guestbook, and got programs! I wanted it to be functional, interesting, and helpful to our guests.

I incorporated chalkboards in a couple different ways. I bought mini chalkboards from a local store and used them as signs to give info to guests.

Wedding Decoration: Simple chalkboard sign for cards

I used one small one in front of a wooden box to tell guests where to leave their cards. (Props to my wedding coordinator for thinking to use extra painted bottles and flowers to spruce up the area. More on the painted bottles in another post!)

Chalkboard sign at wedding

I didn’t ask anyone to hand out programs so I used one chalkboard to instruct guests on what they needed to do. I had a basket with song sheets, another wooden box with programs, and a huge tub with bottled waters for guests to grab before they went on to the ceremony.

Speaking of programs . . .

DIY Wedding Fan Programs DIY Wedding Fan Programs

My amazing sister helped me put together these cute fan programs in the days before the wedding. I used navy and green font and the same tree drawing (which my other amazing sister drew herself!!) that was used on our invitations. Making the fans was super simple! I printed out the programs on cardstock, folded them in half, used spray glue (found here) to attach popsicle sticks to the back of the cardstock, and sealed the fold together. Once the glue had dried, I used a scrapbook corner cutter to round the edges so they looked more polished. Easy! And it was very appreciated by my guests since it was a hot day!

Now on to a few more things!

Also on the welcome table was the guest book.  For this, I found a giant letter “W” (for our last name) at Hobby Lobby and I had a friend paint and distress it using green paint. (Not only was green a wedding color but it’s also a color I use in almost every room of our house so I knew I could use the letter to decorate later!)

Last name initial for guestbook! Last name initial for guest book!

I absolutely loved that we did this! The letter is now hanging up in our living room — the perfect reminder of our special day and all the loved ones who shared it with us!

And speaking of loved ones who shared it with us, there were a lot of loved ones who couldn’t make it to the wedding. Specifically, Justin’s grandparents were both in poor health and lived four hours from our wedding site so they were unable to attend. We wanted to pay respects to them so we put their pictures on a table near the guestbook with a little sign that said “Loved ones celebrating from afar” because we knew they were celebrating in spirit!

Table remembering loved ones who can't make it to your wedding

We also included a picture of Justin’s grandpa, my grandpa, and one of my childhood best friends, all of whom unfortunately passed away long before Justin and I knew one another. We wanted to remember them too so we included a sign that read “loved ones celebrating from above” — it was hard to not have them with us at our wedding but I love knowing they were still watching over us!

And continuing the picture theme, on the other side of the table, we had a grouping of pictures from our ancestor’s weddings. We were lucky enough to find pictures of all of our grandparents at their weddings in addition to our parents. For fun, we also threw in baby photos of the two of us. 🙂

Photos of parents and grandparents weddings on display

I’m glad we had all the photos out because it gave our guests something to look at while waiting in line for the guest book and programs. And it was a great way to pay to tribute to all the marriages that we respect and admire!

And that’s all for now! All of the decorations were super simple and easy — just the way I like it! And none of them took very long to put together except for the fans which did take over an hour to complete.

More decorations to come in the next Wedding Wednesday! Which will not be next week because I’ll be on VACATION!! Whoop whoop!!

***

Today’s outfit was warm weather wishful thinking. Can’t wait to not have to wear cardigans and tights with everything!

black and white dress, cardigan, fun peacock earrings

Dress: Maurices (exact unavailable) ~ Cardigan: Maurices (exact here) ~ Tights: Express (exact here; similar here) ~ Black suede pumps: Target (exact old, similar here and here) ~ Belt: Maurices (exact here) ~ Earrings: Gift from a friend

Wedding Wednesday: Wedding Party

So yesterday after school I had a meeting and then Justin and I had friends over for dinner. No time to blog! Therefore, “Wedding Wednesday” is happening on a Thursday. And in my own little blog world, there is nothing wrong with that. 🙂 So let’s get to it!

Wedding Wednesday: The Wedding Party!

Since the last two Wedding Wednesdays have focused on what Justin and I wore, I decided to keep that theme going and discuss the bridal party!

From day one of planning, Justin and I knew that we wanted our wedding to be FUN — our goal was for the whole day to just be a celebration! Nothing super fancy and stiff because that’s just not us. We wanted our wedding party to be comfortable and happy so we gave them a lot of freedom with their outfits. I did this mostly because I have been in a few weddings and I’ve learned a few things. For starters, while it is a HUGE honor to be part of this special day in someone’s life, it is really kind of annoying to have to shell out $200 for a dress/suit you hate and will never wear again. Nothing against the bride or groom, but if their style is not yours, it’s hard to spend lots of money on clothes that aren’t “you.” In addition to that, everyone in our party was either a young professional just starting a career, starting graduate school, or still in college (a.k.a. BROKE). Our wedding took place in my hometown and many had to take off work and pay for travel just to get there. We didn’t want to put a financial burden on anyone so letting them pick their outfits ensured they not only felt comfortable in what they wore but also spent an amount of money that was comfortable to them.

Here are the results (all photos copyright the incredible Rothwell Photography):

Copyright Rothwell Photography

I absolutely LOVED how everything came together! I’m so glad everyone put some personality into their outfits.

While I was very pleased with how everything turned out, there are some things you should consider if you’re giving your wedding party freedom in choosing their own outfits. Here are my top tips:

1. Give your attendants clear guidelines. For my girls, I told them to pick a knee-length navy dress. Since my family is fairly conservative, I asked that hemlines be no more than one inch above the knee. I did not care about sleeves/strapless/neckline other than to ask that there not be cleavage. I also sent them pictures of dresses I liked as examples and a few of them ended up buying dresses that I sent as examples. SHOW THEM PICTURES! They might think they know what you’re looking for but they could be on the wrong page — make sure they see the type of overall look you’re going for with your wedding.  I also told them to pick nude shoes that they would be comfortable in (flats, heels, sandals, etc) but asked that they not be flip flops.

Copyright Rothwell Photography

For the guys, I asked them to wear khaki dress pants and brown shoes (we provided the shirt and suspenders). I did not care about color or style, although in hindsight I wish I had told them not to wear pants with pleats because that ended up looking a little strange with suspenders. For the tie, I sent them a link to the Bows N Ties website because they organize their ties into color palettes. I asked them to choose a tie from a specific page that they liked and would want to wear again.

Copyright Rothwell Photography

2. Make sure to approve of all outfits . . . I had my girls text me a picture of their chosen dress before they bought it just to make sure it was okay. They were all really willing to do this because no one wanted to stick out by being the oddball in a dress that looked “off” from the party. I didn’t ask them to, but most also texted a pic of the shoes to make sure they got approval. We also approved all the guys ties before they bought them to make sure there weren’t a ton of duplicates or one that clashed.

3. . . . but be flexible with individual styles. One of our ushers felt that he didn’t look quite right in thicker ties and wanted a skinny tie that was not offered on the website we sent. We told him to order one he liked (but just double check with us before buying to make sure the color worked) and felt comfortable in. Be willing to consider all requests, and think about what is really important. You might not love lace, but if your sister picks a dress with lace that she loves and is happy in and it fits in with the rest of the dresses, that might be worth letting slide even if it’s not your favorite. If you feel yourself wanting to control the dresses on a micro-detail level, letting your attendants pick their dress might not be the right move for you.

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4. If you don’t want to give up complete control, consider allowing attendants to choose details. For example, consider a dress that can be worn multiple ways (strapless, one shoulder, spaghetti strap) to let each girl wear what they’re comfortable in. Or allow them to choose their jewelry or shoes even if they’re all wearing the same dress. I bought my girls each a piece of jewelry, but I let them pick it out so it’d be something they’d wear again and again and think of our wedding!

5. Make sure it all “fits” by choosing a few details to keep consistent. Giving too much freedom can look chaotic or keep your party from looking like a cohesive unit. For example, if you just want attendants to wear a blue dress with no other guidelines, they might all wear something totally different and not look like they belong together. I’ve seen weddings where you can’t even tell who is in the party because the outfits are all so different. If that’s your style, go for it! For me, I wanted my party to still look coordinated. I had the girls all in dresses of the same length and the guys in the same shirt and suspenders. While our ushers wore white shirts and our groomsmen green, their looks still coordinated well together! Because there was so much variation in style of dress, shade of khaki pant, and style of tie, the party needed a few key details to be the same in order to “fit” together.

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I hope you have found this list helpful! I had many compliments from guests (and even some people who weren’t at our wedding but saw pictures) on how great our party looked and several attendants commented on how much they appreciated getting to choose a style that they liked and would wear again . . . AND that fit their budget! I highly recommend considering letting your attendants in on some of the decision making — I’m really glad we did!

Previous Wedding Wednesday Posts:

The Suit

The Dress

The Planning

My #1 Advice

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I was feeling polka dots for today’s outfit so I kept piling on the dots! Details to available pieces on Wear page.

teacher outfit blog :: simplifythechaos.comSweater: New York & Company

Blouse: New York & Company

Skirt: Kohls

Tights: Express

Pumps: Maurices

Necklace: Forever 21