Wedding Wednesday: The Dress!!

As I write this blog post, I’m having a hard time staying awake. And no, unfortunately it’s not very late in the evening.

I woke up at 5:00 to go to the gym (highly unusual!) and actually got out of bed and went (more unusual!) I was feeling SO good and really proud of myself . . . until I left the gym at 6:30 and promptly got a phone call from school that we had a two-hour delay.

Excuse me, what!?

At least I could come home and take my time getting ready and do a few things around the house before going in. But still. 5 a.m. Sheesh.

Wedding Wednesday

In other news, it’s Wedding Wednesday!

Once Justin and I got engaged, one of the very first things I started planning was . . . my wedding dress!!

A few things I have learned about wedding dress shopping through my own experience and also from several friends sharing their experience with me:

1. Set a budget! Wedding dresses come in a VERY wide range of prices and it’s easy to get sucked up in the tulle, rhinestones, and chiffon and get carried away into a dress that is way more than you want to pay. Be very upfront about your budget to the wedding dress sales associates and be very clear that you only want to see dresses that are actually in your price range. Also don’t be afraid to shop the clearance racks or buy a dress right off the rack to get a discount.

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2. Take 2-3 people dress shopping with you. Too many people = too many opinions. This is your day and your dress and it should be exactly what you want! I went dress shopping two different days; the first day I went with my mom and future mother-in-law and the second day I went with my two sisters. For me, having two people there was perfect! Just enough people to get feedback and affirmation but not too many that I felt overwhelmed with opinions. This also worked because everyone I took had a clear idea of what I wanted and what was going to work on my body and was super supportive; I do not recommend taking anyone who you think will try to make you wear the dress they want even if it’s not what you want or be critical of your taste.

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.com

3. Take pictures along of dresses you like . . . I took 3-4 magazine pictures of dresses I loved. Again, you don’t want to take along too many pictures — just enough to give the sales associate an idea of what you’re looking for.

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.com

4. . . . but keep an open mind! While I ended up getting a dress just like I was picturing in my mind, many of my friends say they got something the complete opposite of what they originally thought they wanted. One girl wanted a floor length mermaid gown and ended up with a tea length dress full of tulle. Another friend thought she wanted something very glitzy and beaded but she ended up with a beautiful floor length gown with lots of tucks and not one single bead. So be willing to try on a few dresses that are nothing like what you thought you wanted; you might surprise yourself! Also be willing to try different veils, belts, and other accessories to make the gown “yours.”

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5. Have fun! This is not supposed to be a stressful day. When I went with my sisters, we made it a whole day: lunch, shopping (not related to weddings) and lots of girl talk. We laughed and joked during all the dress fittings and the sales associate did a great job of keeping it light and fun. Don’t put tons of pressure on yourself to find the “one” dress immediately. It took me two shopping trips to find the “one” so don’t worry if it’s not one of the first few that you try on.

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All the dresses above were ones I tried on and liked for different reasons, but there was always something about the dress that didn’t feel quite right. The dress I ended up picking out was chosen for me by the sales associate. She saw the pictures I brought in and selected a few from their racks that she thought would fit what I was looking for. I wanted something with lots of detail and I wanted a very dramatic train. I also wanted something fun that I could have a good time and dance in without worrying about messing up the dress all day (I’m a pretty big klutz!)

I chose this stunner from designer Justin Alexander. I don’t want to sound cliche, but the moment I tried it on I knew it was the ONE. It was exactly what I was picturing in my mind and I didn’t want to take it off! (All photographs below are taken by the phenomenal Rothwell Photography — check them out here)

Copyright Rothwell Photography
Best part about this dress? It was SO easy to move in and the train had so much going on that I didn’t worry about every time I bumped into everyone – – even if I snagged it on something, no one would be able to tell! And I could definitely get my groove on and boogie all night long which was so fun!
 
This is actually inspiring me to go try on my dress again. Maybe I’ll prolong sleep for a liiiiitle while longer . . .
Have a fantastic “hump” day and for those of you brides out there: happy wedding dress shopping!
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Today’s outfit. Deets on “wear” page. Enjoy!
02-05 LookDress: Kohls
Cardigan: Express
Boots: CL by Laundry
Belt: Bluetique
Bracelets: ShopRuche.com
Earrings (not pictured): Target
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Wedding Wednesday: Begin Planning!

Well, my streak of consecutive days at school over the past two weeks will stop at one, since we had no school again today due to icy roads. I am starting to get really stir crazy around the house! At least I am getting lots of snuggle time with my fur babies!

Wedding Wednesday: The Planning Process

A few days after Justin and I got engaged, I created three different documents on my computer to help with organizing the planning process. Since I am still fairly new to blogging and so not tech-savvy, I was not able to figure out how to upload the actual documents I used to my blog. I originally wanted readers to be able to download each file for themselves if they found any of my documents to be useful; however, actually completing that was beyond my realm of knowledge. I therefore did the closest thing (within my capabilities) and took screen shots of my documents to upload as pictures. Lame, I know. But hopefully it still gives you an idea of how I set things up in case you’d like to set up something similar.

Guest List

The first document I created was our guest list. I actually downloaded my guest list straight from The Knot’s wedding planning website so rather than screen shot my guest list, I’ll just include the link to their list template here so you can download it if you wish. We actually signed up for a wedding website through weddingchannel.com (which is now The Knot) and were able to upload our guest list straight to the site. This made it SUPER easy to have guests RSVP through our wedding website and eliminated the need for RSVP cards. We got an e-mail notification when each guest RSVPed — SO NICE! I highly recommend going this route–it’s simple and f-r-e-e.

**Sidenote: The guest list is one of the hardest things to do. It seems easy enough, but when you have to combine you and your hubby’s friends, family, and all the random extras, it can get big fast. I suggest carving out a significant chunk of time to just sit down and list everyone you even might want to invite. (Justin and I did this on a seven-hour road trip shortly after we got engaged–I wanted to get it out of the way!) Then start to systematically work through and take people out. Don’t be afraid of hurting feelings; it’s your wedding!! And in reality, you simply can’t invite every single person in your life.

A good rule of thumb is to expect about 75% of the guests you invite to RSVP “yes.”

Wedding Budget

Wedding Budget

With this one, I created a spreadsheet in Excel and listed every possible expense I could think of. I categorized the expenses into logical groups (i.e. stationary, reception) and listed all the details underneath. I had an “estimated cost” column to list how much money we were going to budget for each item and then I also had an “actual cost” column to list how much the item actually cost.

I set up the spreadsheet to have a “Grand Total” at the bottom and inserted a formula for the box to automatically update and add up the total in each column so I could easily see if I was under/over budget. This made it SUPER easy to keep track of our money and also helped me see where we could try to cut costs.

Contact List

I cannot stress this enough. A master contact list is an absolute must. It is hard to keep track of everyone’s numbers and information and you will want to be able to stay in touch with your vendors in case you have questions or need to confirm details with them.

Wedding Contacts

 

My master list was super simple. Just an Excel sheet with all the vendors and their essential contact information listed, and also columns to keep track of payments. Some vendors require deposits, others want an additional portion of the payment before the wedding. It’s easy to lose track of who you have paid already and when payments are needed so this is a simple way to keep all the information in one place!

Bonus: Wedding Timeline

Another helpful document to have at the beginning of your planning is a wedding timeline. My sister-in-law gave me a copy of Real Simple’s wedding planner and I used the timeline they had but you can find many online. This was a very helpful tool to keep me on track and help me to know when to do things. Had I not had this, I would probably have had way too many things to do close to the wedding and it would have been stressful. I’m so glad I spaced everything out and had some time to breathe!

I hope you find some of these tools helpful! Feel free to take my ideas and tweak them for your own use 🙂

Happy “hump” day!

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No school, no outfit of the day. Even if there’s no school tomorrow, I need to put on some real clothes!!

Wedding Wednesday: The Beginning

Hey y’all!

So…it is Wednesday night and I just found out that school is canceled tomorrow. AGAIN. We haven’t had school all week due to MLK, Jr. Day on Monday and snow days ever since. Crazy! It’s like a little mini winter vacation. I’ve been trying to keep busy by cleaning (sort of) and cooking/baking. I’m currently in the middle of making some delicious Oatmeal Wheat Bread using a fabulous recipe my friend Leah gave me. It’s so yummy! While the bread was rising, I started flipping through some pics on my computer to pass the time and I came across tons of my wedding photos (It just so happens to be our seven-month anniversary! Whoop whoop!)

Copyright Rothwell Photography
Copyright Rothwell Photography

I just love looking at our wedding pictures! Justin and I got married this past summer and it was seriously the best day of my life. Everyone told me that the day would go by so fast and I wouldn’t remember anything later, but I actually remember so much more than I thought I would. I made a conscious effort to continuously take in the day and appreciate each moment. Justin and I decided from the day we got engaged that we didn’t want to “just get married” but we wanted to enjoy the whole process!  We tried to keep each other accountable to not blow decisions out of proportion and to realize that this was just one day. We knew things would go wrong (and boy they did! I”ll save that for another post) but we also knew that this day symbolized the beginning of our whole life together —we wanted to just have fun and celebrate!!

As I was flipping through these photos, I thought about all the things that had gone into planning the day and I decided I’d like to share about my wedding day on the blog. Just bits and pieces that went into planning (and the day of) that helped me in case it might help some of you! Since it’s Wednesday and I do love some good alliteration (eh-hem Teacher Tuesday!), I think I shall have a Wedding Wednesday from here until my anniversary . . . or until I run out of things to say about it. 🙂

Since I view today as more of an introduction, I’ll just leave you with my biggest piece of advice:

Plan your little heart out. But when friends and family come into town for the big day, STOP planning and enjoy your loved ones.

My absolute biggest regret happened the night before the wedding. All our friends and family were in already. We had the rehearsal and dinner, and after dinner my friends were all there wanting to hang out. Justin and I told them to go ahead without us. Why?? Because we hadn’t finished wedding slideshow. Yup. I valued getting that darn slideshow done so much that I placed it first and foremost. I truly thought we’d just finish quick and have time to go out, but we were up until midnight finishing it, completely missing time with our friends. And you know what? The day of the wedding, it was too light outside to even see most of the pictures. It was totally pointless. Complete fail. I wish I could go back in time and say “Screw the slideshow! Let’s all hang out!” I missed out on a night with friends that I had been really looking forward too because I let myself get stuck on a little detail that I thought was important.

Do yourself a favor. Do what you can in the days leading up to the day, and when the day comes, forget the small details. They don’t matter. If it’s not done by the rehearsal, it’s not getting done. And that’s OK! Create memories with family and cherish time together with friends. This is probably the only time in your life when everyone in your life is together so ENJOY IT!!!

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Still no daily outfit. Because I’m still just wearing sweatpants all day. 🙂

Fall: Reflect & Recharge!

There is something about the transition to fall that causes me to pause and reflect. The leaves burst into vibrant, warm colors seemingly overnight and the crispness of the air brings new life to my soul. I feel both refreshed and reflective.

While walking at the park today with Macie, I took extra care to step on every crunchy leaf I could find and to inhale extra deep breaths of the fresh air. The weather was perfect and it recharged all my batteries for the week ahead. Not to mention my park excursion wore Macie out so for once she is resting peacefully at my feet rather than racing around the living room. Success!

The weather also brought back memories of this time last year, when I was planning for my engagement shoots. I absolutely LOVED the idea of fall engagement photos and was so excited to get the chance to have two shoots! The first was with Steven Mark Stauffer, an up-and-coming photographer who is one of Justin’s childhood buddies (and an usher in our wedding). The second shoot a few weeks later was with Tim & Sasha Rothwell of Rothwell Photography. They were our wedding photographers and are also good friends of Justin’s family.   Getting to have two fall engagement sessions allowed me the chance to try out different things and see what I really loved, and I thought I would share some tips I discovered through these two sessions.

Fall Engagement; Photo Credit Steven Mark Stauffer

1. Find a meaningful location. Our first shoot took place outside my school, a place I dearly loved to work. I loved the view I got to see every day driving in to the parking lot, and it made the perfect backdrop for pictures! The second shoot took place at a local park where Justin and I had our first non-official “date” where we ran the path that circled the park, played frisbee, and ended up playing on the playground for an embarrassingly long time. It was the perfect start to our fun-loving relationship and the perfect place to take engagement pictures. Whenever I look at any of our pictures, I’m reminded of the special memories we have in each location and it warms my heart to think of the meaning those places have in my life.  Whether you take pictures in your hometown, at your college campus, at your favorite vacation spot, or in your backyard, I encourage you to make sure at least a few of them are taken in a meaningful location. Trust me, it makes looking back at the pictures even better!

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2. Embrace fall’s color scheme… I have a soft spot for bright colors. I have several pairs of hot pink shoes in my closet that I frequently wear. I love to punch up an outfit with pops of bright color, but a fall engagement shoot is not the time to bust those out. In my first shoot, I stuck with warm orange, yellow, gold, and brown tones to complement the surrounding landscape and loved the result! We did swap outfits in our first shoot to add a little variety.

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3. …but also be yourself! In the second shoot, I decided to still go with neutral colors, but I chose gray and ice blue as a contrast to the warm fall colors. I then could add a pop of color in my necklace and loved the result! The key to using different colors is to keep it subtle. Now is still not the time for those hot pink shoes.

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4. Explore! I firmly believe fall is the best time to discover beauty in unexpected places. In our first photo shoot, we did some wandering (with permission) on the property and found a small shed that made a nice backdrop for a few pics. At the second shoot, we wandered away from the playground area to a pond. We had never walked around the pond before, but when we did we found some beautiful spots for pics!

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5. Stay flexible with the weather. Our first shoot was supposed to happen on a Sunday; however, on Friday we looked ahead at the radar and saw it was supposed to POUR! We called Steven up and asked if we could bump up the time. He only had about an hour slot to squeeze us in later that same day but we made it work! I was nervous because it was so last minute and I worried about sunlight, but I LOVED the way the pictures turned out! If possible, try to keep a few time slots open to work around weather situations. This will depend on the schedule of your photographer as well.

5a) If it does rain, don’t panic! While I got lucky with two gorgeous days to shoot engagement pictures, it did completely pour on my wedding day (but that’s another post). Suffice to say, rain happens. We deal with it! If it does rain on your day and you can’t change the shoot, get creative! There are some super cute rain boots and umbrellas out there and I have seen some pictures turn out very well with them! Maybe you can even get a Notebook-worthy kiss-in-the-rain picture. 🙂

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6. Consider the fall lighting. When our photographers told us to head to this spot along a river at the park, we thought they were crazy. It looked like just a bunch of weeds to us. But their well-trained eye saw that the lighting was just right for a stunning set of pictures. Check out the ways that light is changing the look of seemingly unordinary things around you.

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7. Add personality in the details. Justin loves mullets. (Yes, you read that right). While he thankfully did not grow one out for the shoot, he did wear a belt buckle proclaiming his love for them. And that turned out to be one of my favorite pictures because it totally embraced the uniqueness of his mullet love. I also think the picture of our shoes is a cute way to some some personality. Find ways to get creative showing your true colors in the detail shots!

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8. Candid. Candid. Candid. Some posed pictures are fine. Having all your pictures in poses can look fake. Find photographers you are comfortable being yourself around, take a few formal/posed pictures, and then have them snap away! I love the pictures that capture Justin and I in a truly spontaneous moment because those pictures show us in our element. They capture our love for each other way better than a posed picture does.

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9. Have fun! I had SO much fun at both shoots! Make sure you are having a good time. It shouldn’t be stressful. It should be exciting and fun! Roll with the punches, don’t try to control everything, and just have a ball! Believe me, I am a Type-A personality and I sometimes have trouble following that advice but I’m so glad I let loose during these shoots. We found this random exercise equipment along a cross-country path on our first photo shoot and we just goofed around on it taking some pictures that now make me smile every time I see them. So choose JOY over perfection and have a great time!

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10. Don’t forget that sunset! Fall sunsets are truly the best. Need I say more?

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