One of my favorite quotes is by J.R.R. Tolkien: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." Here I'm giving glimpses of all I am deciding in the time that is given to me. Enjoy! All pictures and posts are mine, thank you! Please ask permission for photo use.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

wedding DIY and savings

Do-it-yourself wedding invitations, programs, and favors not only save money but are also more personal and are fun when family or friends pitch in to help. I purchased stamps, special ink, and embossing powder from Michael's craft stores, and they regularly offer coupons. A heating tool for embossing is not that expensive, and you can emboss cards all year round for an extra personal touch to all of your messages to friends and family (they're a fun craft for kids, too!). I purchased card stock from Paper Source and a family member had nice printers she used for printing the invitations, address labels, RSVP labels, and wedding program. All of the pictures below are examples of using the embossing technique with stamps:

For our favors, I used fancy card stock from Paper Source and decorated them with quotes about autumn, our names and date, and a stamp/embossing powder. The card and the favors were stuffed into paper bags that had been embossed as well. I was never a fan of typical wedding favors (Jordan almonds, bubbles, etc.), so instead I gave individual packets of organic mulling spices, purchased in bulk online to save even more money. It's also becoming increasingly popular for couples to donate to a charity on behalf of guests rather than handing out favors, which I think is a lovely idea.

Other ways to save for the budget-conscious bride and groom:
  • Plan your own wedding. I created a spreadsheet of everything--it had tabs for my budget, to do list, guest list, announcements, gifts received with a column where I could check off when I had sent the thank you cards, and etc. Of course, I kept my wedding as simple and non-complicated as possible. Had I money (and the desire) to throw a grand, lavish wedding with millions of details, and especially since our wedding was in a state different from that in which we live, I probably would have hired a wedding coordinator. Needless to say, I saved a lot of money by planning my own wedding.
  • Ditch the DJ and use your own wedding playlist for the music.
  • Ask friends and family to donate their talent in lieu of a gift. For example, my incredible, talented sister created my bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, and floral arrangements that were used at the reception. I paid for the flowers and she worked her magic--because of her generosity, I saved hundreds on flowers.

  • Buy a dress that's out of season. My dress was a Casablanca dress, and a quick Google search showed me that their dresses retail online from about $800 to $1500. I purchased mine for less than $300 at a bridal boutique in Lexington, NC. It had never been worn and it wasn't their latest design, but none of my guests (myself included) follow bridal fashion and would know this. It already came with a bustle for the train, so the only alteration I had to pay for was to get it taken up (I'm a shorty!).
  • Don't splurge on expensive shoes. No one sees your shoes unless you're wearing a short dress, and even then you can get away with shoes that don't cost a fortune but still look cute. Mine were flats (I insisted on comfort) and were $20 from Marshall's. Sold!
  • Don't splurge on jewelry. I had my wedding rings, never really wear bracelets anyway so did not wear any, and didn't wear a necklace because the top of my dress had beaded detailing. The earrings I wore were a gift from my in-laws, given to me on my birthday a few years ago. They are elegant and simple, my hair didn't cover them up, and I decided to wear them instead of purchasing new earrings as a loving gesture to my new family. Work with what you have; or, if you really want some new jewelry, be sure you'll be able to wear it again so you're not wasting money on one day's use.
  • Cut out the traditional wedding cake and get multiple cakes instead. We both hate fondant and have never been a huge fan of wedding cakes, so we decided to purchase multiple flavors to please our guests and purchased them from a local natural foods store. The guests raved about them and we saved a ton of money.
  • Do what works for you, not what other people want to work for you. So many people put pressure on brides to do things a certain way or do things because they've always been done that way. Some families expect huge weddings that are essentially a family reunion. We were lucky in that our families didn't push us to do anything or question our planning. We were on a budget and that meant we had to have a small wedding. It was very hard to narrow down our guest list to a certain number, but thankfully our friends and family were completely understanding and didn't make us feel guilty. I chose to not wear a veil because, A. I'm not a veil person, and B. they're crazy expensive! It's such a small garment (would you call it that?) and I'd be wearing it for just a few hours...I decided to put funds toward other things. We chose to have a "mini-moon" instead of a long honeymoon because we were already taking a lot of time off from work to prep for the wedding and we were too busy paying for the wedding. If other couples have parents pay for their entire wedding, and given that paid time off isn't an issue at the time, I can see why people might take a week-long honeymoon to some exotic location. We decided to wait and take our time when it comes to taking a larger, expensive trip--to make it when it works for our budget, not for the sake of having an instant honeymoon. There were a couple of naysayers, not many, but luckily we're both good at ignoring naysayers and we do things that work for us. Whatever trade-offs you make to help keep your combined wallets and sanity intact, know that in the long run you'll be glad you did instead of caving in to outside pressures.

Most importantly, have fun! What happens on one day doesn't define your love or your marriage.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

wedding playlist

For the music at my wedding reception, I used a playlist I created on iTunes. It took a lot of time, and I was lucky that the house where our reception was had a wonderful sound system that could be adjusted throughout the house as well as outside of the house. The day before the wedding, my friend Becky was helping me connect my laptop to the sound system. My parents were in other parts of the house, setting up spaces for a snack and bar station, and they heard our music as we tested it on the speakers. Later that night, dad was remarking about "weird music" he heard at the Wrights' house. I laughed and told him it was a part of my playlist, and told him I considered it a "multi-generational" mix that was supposed to please a variety of people.

I am so glad I decided to provide my own music (and that I was even able to get away with this). We started it a little late and paused it for cake cutting and toasts, and it lasted us until people left the party. Throughout the night I'd hear snippets of songs and smile as memories flooded me.

There's the memory of my friend and colleague, Christa, riding with me in the car to Luray as we blasted Cee Lo Green, both of us with tears in our eyes as he sang exactly what we wanted love to feel like and how we wanted to be loved: "One rarely finds a lady that happens to be three times a lady; God is good, but he took his time when he designed you baby...that's why I want you. Oh I'll even quit my job, loving you I'll make it my job, thank you Lord, thank you Lord, this is it, my God."

There's the memory of my partner and I driving around eerily quiet neighborhoods after a massive snowstorm shut down the D.C. area, just days after I saw a friend and former colleague buried, listening to Robin Thicke's 2 Luv Birds and Leona Lewis' The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face as I tried to remind myself of loved ones still present in the world rather than focusing on the string of people I had lost in the past few years. He consoled me with good food and good music and I will forever be grateful to him (and he distracted me with laughs as we watched Groundhog Day with my roommate at the time and her then-boyfriend-now-husband).

I remember crying in England and Scotland when I was five because my sister, Heather, had beautiful purple flowers surrounding her that were also called heather, and I had no flowers named after me, but that's when my mom told me about Nat King Cole and his daughter, Natalie Cole. I remember listening to Nat King Cole (along with Paul Simon, who somehow didn't make my list...shame) on long road trips with my parents and sisters. I still equate Nat King Cole, the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack, Paul Simon's Graceland album, and the Lion King/Rhythm of the Pridelands cassette tapes with trips out west.

I hear Josh Turner ask if I'd go with him and I think of my friend Natula and our time together on the horse farm. I hear Darius Rucker's Wagon Wheel and think of Lauren, Steph, Bridget and I driving to the Great Smokies and our hiking (and somewhat scary Tennessee) adventures. I hear Jack Johnson and songs from the Garden State soundtrack and I think of my best friend growing up, Coley, and the 20+ years of friendship we share. I hear Guster and Jack's Mannequin and think of Kathryn and that drizzly night we spent on the cool ground at Ravinia just outside of Chicago, hearing those bands play while we drank red wine and ate a picnic we had made. I hear Colplay and think of Rebecca and Becky, our magical times in high school and college where we cared nothing about what the world thought of us and dreamed and danced pirate dances and made films for Latin class and for fun. I hear Josh Groban tell me I'm loved and not to give up, and I think of Genevieve and how we sang this song at the top of our lungs as we blasted it in our Raleigh apartment we shared in college. Other songs remind me of my friends at the animal hospital where I worked when I first moved to the D.C. area. One song in particular reminds me of a friend whose life was taken too soon by someone who didn't deserve her. I think of my sister when I hear Keane singing about somewhere only we know, and that weekend where we listened to Keane's album over and over again in her car, the same weekend she cheered me up after a breakup with a college boyfriend. I hear Michael Buble and I think about the day my mom and I drove to Charlotte to see The Lion King on stage for her birthday, listening to Michael Buble there and back again.

Throughout the evening a number of people commented on my playlist and how much they liked it, and so I've decided to share if anyone wants a rocking mix of music (I'm biased, of course) or wants ideas for their own wedding music. I've nothing against DJs and I think they can be really fun (as long as they're not obnoxious). Still, I'm glad I chose to utilize my own playlist, because it felt more personal, I get to play it anytime I want to remember the fun evening and smile, and, as Coley put it, "it was us."


Buongiorno Principessa by The Ten Tenors
Wait Till You See My Smile by Alicia Keys
Let's Stay Together by Maroon 5
Better Together by Jack Johnson
You Are by Lionel Richie
Feeling Good by Michael Buble
If My Heart Was a House by Owl City
L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole
I Choose You by Sara Bareilles
Unforgettable by Nat King Cole
All You Need Is Love by 101 Strings Orchestra (instrumental)
Marry Me by Jason Derulo
For Once In My Life by Michael Buble
The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face by Leona Lewis
Close Your Eyes by Michael Buble
Can't Help Falling In Love by Andrea Bocelli Featuring Katherine McPhee
I Want You by Cee Lo Green
Your Song by Elton John
Crazy Love by Michael Buble
2 Luv Birds by Robin Thicke
Wagon Wheel by Darius Rucker
The Luckiest by Ben Folds
Take Me Away by Keyshia Cole
Lovely (Just The Way You Look Tonight) by Michael Buble
Love Somebody by Maroon 5
From This Moment On by Shania Twain
Come Fly With Me by Michael Buble
When I Fall In Love by Nat King Cole
Many The Miles by Sara Bareilles
No One by Alicia Keys
Would You Go With Me by Josh Turner
A Message by Colplay
Alive by Celine Dion
Somewhere Only We Know by Keane
You're Still the One by Shania Twain
Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall by Coldplay
She Will Be Loved by a UNC Chapel Hill a capella group (I hate I don't know their name!)
Stereo Hearts (feat. Adam Levine) by Gym Class Heroes
Everything by Michael Buble
Save The Last Dance For Me by Michael Buble
Hey Mama by Mat Kearney
Swallowed In The Sea by Coldplay
Sway by Michael Buble
Heaven Sent by Keyshia Cole
Dark Blue by Jack's Mannequin
Let Go by Frou Frou
Your Song by Ewan McGregor & Alessandro Safina (from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack)
You and I by Michael Buble
The Real Thing by Bo Bice
One Of These Things First by Nick Drake
Why U Wanna Go by Sean Kingston
Your Love Is a Song by Switchfoot
Try A Little Tenderness by Michael Buble
You Are Loved (Don't Give Up) by Josh Groban
A Thousand and One Nights (SMASH Cast Version) [featuring Raza Jaffrey & Katharine McPhee] by the SMASH Cast
Tale As Old As Time (Instrumental) [From "Beauty and the Beast"] by London Music Works
My Life Would Suck Without You by Kelly Clarkson
Do You Love Me by Guster
Clocks by Coldplay

Thursday, November 14, 2013

the calm before a very happy storm

My wedding's in a week and two days. I'm trying to leave my work email inbox in a decent state before I head out of the office but it's fighting against me, tooth and nail. I'm working to take care of every little last detail that comes into my brain to ensure I haven't missed anything when it comes to planning our wedding and mini-moon. Our pastor blessed us and prayed with us the other night, and I've never felt as close and connected to my partner as I have in the past few days. Preparing for this huge commitment has synced our brains, I think.

As excited as I am, it's nice to do things that aren't wedding-related. I'm making an honest effort to avoid making an enormous fuss about the day. I'm not dropping everything else in my life for it and I expect that the day after the wedding my life will go on in almost the exact same manner it has been. Sure it's a huge life change and there will be shifts in how we've been living our lives, but a wedding is a wedding and neither of us is trying to make it anything more than that.

I've been minimizing the amount of time I think about the wedding, because I'd rather not get anxious about trying to control things that are, ultimately, out of my control. Unfortunately, I've been dreaming about logistical details (I help plan meetings for a living, what can I say), and I've never been good at forcing my subconscious in a certain direction when dreaming (otherwise I'd have escaped millions of nightmares throughout my life). We actually are attending a wedding this upcoming weekend, and my goal is to bask in the bride's and groom's joy, to toast them and celebrate them and be present in their moment without thinking about ours to come.

One of the best things that's happened in the last week? Walking in the woods with my fiance, not talking about the wedding, and soaking in the fall colors, drinking in the silence and the peace and the calm before we head into the loud, loving arms of our family and friends next week.

Monday, November 4, 2013

the ABCs of autumn

I love it when butternut squash ravioli, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin lattes start appearing on menus. I love it when you wake up in the morning and realize you need a robe or sweater or coat before you venture further into your day. Last week it seemed like the leaves on the trees changed overnight. Lining the roads, they looked as if they were on fire with their brilliant reds, oranges, and golds. Suddenly I'm craving soup with a big hunk of crusty bread, I'm ready to break open the mulling spices, and I long to watch movies that for whatever reason have historically made their way into my DVD player during the fall season (movies like Anne of Green Gables, Mermaids, and Harry Potter).

What do you love about autumn? I decided to log a few of my favorite things alphabetically:

  • Acorns
  • Boots with jeans tucked in
  • Campfires
  • Dressing up or decorating for Halloween
  • Equinox -- the arrival of autumn
  • Fall foliage
  • Gathering the harvest
  • Hot apple cider
  • Increased deer sightings
  • Jumping into piles of raked leaves
  • Knitted sweaters
  • Leaves falling and rustling in streets
  • Mugs of hot cocoa
  • Nestling under quilts during cold nights
  • Orion beginning its rise into the sky
  • Pumpkins!
  • Quiet nights and mornings when people stay inside cozy places
  • Raking leaves
  • Sweatshirts
  • Thanksgiving
  • Under layers needed to keep warm on brisk mornings
  • Very spooky TV shows (this season is chock full of them -- The Walking Dead, Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, Dracula, and let's not forget all of the fun Halloween movies)
  • Winter coats brought out of storage
  • Yule logs (okay, so this is more of a Christmas-y thing, but I do love the magical Christmas season, too, and autumn is the magical season that leads up to that...that's my logic for including it on this list, anyway)

Any suggestions for X and Z? What tops your list for autumn?