Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year & Winter Wrap Bridal Style

Happy New Year's Eve! With the holidays ending and winter here to stay for the next couple months, it’s the perfect time to share some of my favorite cozy bridal wraps over on The DC Ladies blog. Since winter and its chill are not my cup of tea, I never once thought about getting married during this season. But for those braver brides who decide to go for it, the options are endlessly beautiful, whether in terms of location, décor, or of course, bridal fashion.

Are you doing anything fun for New Year's Eve? After a couple weeks apart, Stephen and I are planning to cook a special dinner right here at home, while enjoying some of our favorite wines and delicious Christmas goodies from friends and family. Then, we'll walk down into Old Town Alexandria for fireworks and more fun. Here's to a great start to 2011!

(Photo Credit: Etsy)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Being Married Means...I'm Never Alone

An early happy New Year, friends! After a whirlwind holiday, I'm back in D.C., where I'm busy reorganizing and rearanging as I transition to the next phase of my career and life. I've had my ups and downs recently, but in the end, I'm feeling excited, positive and hopeful about what's on the horizon. Blog posting has been a bit lighter lately, but now that I'm back, I'm looking forward to getting caught up and hopefully announcing a couple great new projects in the new year.

As you can imagine, finally moving forward feels great, especially since my last few weeks on Capitol Hill post-election were nothing short of draining and depressing, wrought with oftentimes sticky and very uncomfortable meetings and conversations. Some days, even simply heading into the office was tough, while staying positive in the face of discussions that filled me with anxiety and distress was next to impossible.

But one day, just before heading into a particularly difficult meeting, I had an epiphany. Looking down at my wedding ring shining reassuringly on my finger, I remembered that although I might be physically walking into that meeting alone, emotionally, I am never alone. As I sat there in my empty office, I envisioned my husband, along with my family and friends, standing right there beside me, supporting me, loving me, and raising me up in all that I do, now and always.

As I gathered my binder and headed out the door, I momentarily found the strength to let go of all the stress and fear inside, focusing instead on how blessed I am to have a strong support system and a loving marriage that sustains me. We walked into that meeting confidently, my ring and I, Stephen and I, together as a team, unbroken, unwavering, and neither one of us alone.

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography) 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wedding Albums: Expert Photo Selection Tips (Part Three)

My two-part interview series with Daniel of Richmond's dmfoto is now a trilogy, thanks to PartyPlannerGal, who asked a great question that definitely calls for a follow-up. Have even more questions about album design? Keep them coming!

Do photographers mind if couples go to them just for the purpose of having a professional album created? Or is this a service that's offered only to clients?

Designing an album using another photographer's photos is something that a select few photographers will do, but most won't. It wouldn't hurt to call around and ask, but if a bride is trying to save money on an album, I definitely don't think this would be the way to go. Albums purchased a la carte from most photographers are usually considerably higher in cost than when purchased as part of a wedding day package.

I have thought about designing albums like this in the past, but this year alone has told me that I simply wouldn't have time. We shoot an average of 40-50 weddings a year, and almost all of them include albums that I design. At my slowest points during the year, I have the first album design ready for a couple to see about three or four weeks after the wedding. But during my peak time, it can be close to four months after the wedding before the couple sees their first album design. I design my albums completely from scratch, so it definitely takes time putting each page together.

This is also a sensitivity issue for a lot of photographers. For example, we shot a wedding reception a few years ago here in the United States, while the actual ceremony took place in Ireland. We unfortunately weren't taken along to shoot the wedding itself, and since the couple purchased an album from us, we had to get permission from the Irish photographer to design an album with those photos included.

Did you purchase an album as part of your wedding photography package?

(Photo Credits: dmfoto)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Love & Christmas Wishes

Whether you’re busy traveling or are staying close to home this year, Stephen and I wish you a joyous holiday filled with love, friendship, good food and lots of fun.

Though the two of us may be apart this week, we know that while Christmas lasts just one day each year, the love that comes with marriage enriches our lives every day we share. Merry Christmas!

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography) 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spreading Cheer Far & Near

Along with decorating our home, Stephen and I decided that our first married Christmas meant sending holiday cards to family and friends. Shutterfly, my go-to site for albums and photo gifts of all kinds, made it easy and fun to design a beautiful card showcasing a few of our favorite wedding photos.

And now that our mailed copies have all gone out, I want to also share our card with each of you, whose friendship and support I value so much. I hope you're enjoying these last few days before Christmas! I know I am!

Did you send out holiday cards this year?

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Home For The Holidays

The Christmas week is finally here, and I'm off to California for a little BlackBerry-free and completely uninterrupted holiday fun for the first time in nearly five years. But even though I won't be at home in D.C. with Stephen, I've spent the past month enjoying our decorations and getting in the spirit before heading out of town.

For our first married Christmas, we decided it was high time to make our apartment a little more festive, so we snagged a 4-ft. starter tree, along with some fun ornaments, including bulbs representing our universities, the annual House of Representatives ornament, and a "First Married Christmas" photo ornament from my mom. And then, after we had the tree all ready to go, my in-laws surprised us with a too cute set of embroidered stockings that Stephen's mom handmade!

Our collection is still small, but it's growing and will definitely be fun to add to as the years go by. How have you decorated for the holidays? Do you have any fun travel plans this year?

(Photo Credits: Personal Library)

Friday, December 17, 2010

DC Ladies Post: Honeymoon Timing Tips

It’s Friday, and do you know what that means? If you guessed that I’m back over on The DC Ladies site today, you’re right!

This time, I’m sharing my thoughts about the pros and cons of scheduling your honeymoon immediately following the wedding.

What do you think? Be sure to weigh in, either here or on The DC Ladies blog!

(Photo Credit: Personal Library)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Farewell To Capitol Hill

This is it. After nearly five years of making memories, tomorrow’s the day I’ll finally say goodbye to the congressional office I’ve worked in ever since I first arrived in D.C. as an innocent college graduate. The times have changed, and so have I, but although I know there are bigger and better opportunities waiting for me, it’s still tough to say goodbye and let it all go.

But because I don’t want the difficulties of the past two months to define what this place means to me, I'm using this week to focus on the happier times, including the ones seen in the images below. Say what you will about Congress and politics, since I have my criticisms, too, but at the end of the day, I know I'm very lucky to have worked here, playing a role in a way that was meaningful to me and hopefully to at least a few others, as well.

When all is said and done, I've had the time of my life, and I know things can only get even better from this point on, even though change can be so hard. I'll always remember...

Attending meeting and events in the fabulous new Capitol Visitors Center...

Working hard, but also taking time out to laugh and have fun with my coworkers...

Giving Capitol tours to constituents and visiting friends...

Visiting the White House for a fantastic West Wing tour and meeting with Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card...

And so much more. Have you ever faced losing or leaving a job? How did you say goodbye? 

(Photo Credits: Personal Library)  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Let’s Get One Thing Straight

I’m talking about my hair, ladies. After years of hassling with my thick and naturally frizzy hair, the past couple months of stress pushed me completely over the edge. Between finals, cleaning out my office and keeping up with personal obligations, something had to go. So, I finally decided to cut back on the amount of quality time I spent each day with my blow dryer and trusty hair-straightening products.

A bit anxious but very burnt out, I recently headed to a small Korean salon recommended by a friend at work. There, they gave me a Japanese-style “magic straightening perm” for just $250. Was I nervous? Yes, especially since I used to color my hair, and chemically straightening color-treated hair can be damaging. But the staff at Mr. Lee’s Hair Place really knew their stuff, carefully trimming away a few end pieces that still contained traces of dye, while also explaining things to me each step of the way.

Was the three-hour process good for my hair? Probably not, especially given all the harsh chemicals that were used. But “healthier” treatments, including the more expensive Keratin complex, just hadn't given me the super-straight hair I wanted. Plus, Japanese straightening is permanent, whereas the Keratin treatment eventually washes out.

Now, instead of spending a solid half hour or more styling my hair, I spend less than 10 minutes blowing it dry after just a quick spritz of spray. And if it’s the weekend, I can just let it air dry, no product required, becasue no matter what I do, it comes out straight, smooth and not even slightly bulky every single time. And in my busy world, that’s completely awesome.

Have you ever tried a straightening treatment or other major styling service?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Heavenly Voice

Without a doubt, one of the best things about our wedding ceremony was the inclusion of family members and friends, either as bridesmaids, groomsmen or readers. Perhaps most special of all was having both our psalm and recessional sung by Gianna, one of my best friends, who traveled all the way from Germany to share the day with us.

Though she only met the pianist once briefly before the wedding, Gianna confidently took to the podium without a whole lot of direction, but with years of experience as a cantor backing her up. As for me? It was all I could do to keep from crying as her gorgeous voice filled the church.

Thank you, Gianna, for your love and friendship, on our wedding day and always. Did relatives or friends add any special touches to your ceremony?

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography & Damien Smith Photography; Video Credit: Max MacIver Videography) 

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Makes The Perfect Wedding Planner?

Recently, I had the great opportunity to do an interview for Northern Virginia’s West Belmont Place and National Conference Center about what makes the perfect wedding planner in a bride's eyes. As both a recent bride and wedding coordination student, this was a fantastic way to share my perspective and offer a few points of advice.

But it also got me thinking. As part of the interview, I noted that experience and connections within the local wedding community are certainly important considerations when selecting a planner. I also recognize that, understandably, many established planners are wary of recent brides who decide to go into wedding planning on their own, especially since some of these brides are quick to overstate their qualifications and don’t have a clear understanding of what goes into planning a wedding or similarly detailed event.

But I also find that some people are too quick to automatically write off even those of us who do demonstrate a true passion for weddings and have the potential to pursue wedding coordination as a long-term goal. For example, though the congressional events I’ve been involved with during the past few years bear no direct similarity to weddings, they have instilled in me the very real knowledge that event preparation and execution of any type is incredibly challenging and often fraught with logistical snafus. As the youngest person on our staff to have worked my way into a supervising position, I’ve also clearly proven myself to be a skilled organizer and detail-oriented problem solver.

Furthermore, because I recognize that training and credentials are important in any field one chooses to pursue, I'm taking the time to earn a certificate through Northern Virginia Community College’s wedding coordination program. I am honest about my qualifications and would never claim to have years of experience that I simply don’t. I am, however, actively developing knowledge of the industry through my experience as a blogger, writer, volunteer and advisor to others, while being sincere, enthusiastic and thorough in all that I do.

Wonderfully, I’ve spent the past few months advising a creative bride who is planning a September 2011 wedding here in the D.C. area. Helping her navigate the planning landscape has been a true joy and honor, and I'm hoping to connect with several other brides next year, as well as continue offering daily advice and inspiration within the online community. Interning to gain experinece is also on the table, and I do accept the possibility that this path ultimately won’t work out, or that I’ll decide to stick with writing and publishing as my primary focus.

But I’d ask others to please not instantly count me or other hardworking women out just because we also happen to be recent brides. Everyone has to start somewhere, get their inspiration from someone, and discover their dreams somehow. It’s how we handle it that makes all the difference.

What do you think?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Boudoir Shoot: A Holiday Gift To Myself

As a Wish Upon a Wedding DC board member, I talked our online auction up a storm throughout the past couple months, and I’m so grateful to those of you who took the time to bid in support of couples in need. I even took the opportunity to bid on a couple items myself, and guess what? I won!

One item I won is a car detailing service for our trusty Jetta, but the other much more exciting item is a boudoir photo session for me! I’ve shared before that I’ve gone back and forth about whether to do one of these shoots, but the auction really inspired me to just go for it. I guess it's time to bring out some of my bridal shower goodies...

I’m not sure when I’ll book the session, but probably not for a couple months, partly so that things can settle down with my work transition, but mostly so that I can whip my lazy, eggnog-sipping, pecan-pie eating butt back into shape after the holidays! Talk about motivation!

Any tips for me, ladies, from those who have done a shoot like this before? How should I prepare, and how should I go about choosing an outfit I'm comfortable with? Do you think professional hair and makeup is a must? I’m a little nervous, but think it's definitely time to push my boundaries and take on a new challenge after the past couple months of stress and uncertainty. So, here goes nothing!

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An Old Town Engagement

Our engagement shoot was a last minute decision, made possible thanks to my friend Damien Smith, a true pro who treated us to a shoot during his D.C. visit in May. You probably remember the highlight video reel I shared just before the wedding, plus shots of the blown-up photo we displayed at the church and golf club.

Today, I couldn’t resist also sharing the DIY album I created to showcase our favorite images from the fun Old Town Alexandria photo session. Since this book is much shorter than the wedding album I wrote about yesterday, it definitely took much less time to design and was much more affordable! But all in all, I loved making both albums, and especially love being able to share them with others.

Did you do anything creative with your engagement photos?

(Photo Credits: Damien Smith Photography)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Our DIY Collage Wedding Album

Since Daniel shared tons of fantastic photo album tips over the past two days, let’s continue with that theme, shall we?

Stephen and I did receive a professional wedding album, but I also decided to create a DIY collage-style book combining photos from both of our professional photographers, including my friend Damien, who shot our “getting ready” pictures, and our guests. While our pro album is more like a highlight reel, showcasing the best of the best, the Shutterfly album includes hundreds of pictures that offer a fun look at every aspect of our day.

I won’t lie and say that creating it was simple, because with nearly 500 photos to work with, this project took me a couple months to complete, and the finished 75-page 12 x 12 album cost well over $100. But I think it turned out great, and I can’t wait to give 8 x 8 copies away as Christmas gifts this year. Check it out!

Next, I'll share our DIY engagement album. Have you ever made a photo book using Shutterfly, Picaboo, or a similar site?

(Photo Credits: Damien Smith Photography, Alex Neumann Photography & Personal Library)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wedding Albums: Expert Photo Selection Tips (Part Two)

Today, I’m back with more advice from dmfoto’s Daniel Marks, who's sharing his professional insight to help couples make the best choices. Read on...

When working with your clients, how do you normally start the process of choosing photos for an album?

When we work with our clients on albums, we have learned that it's usually best if we select the photos for them first. For the past couple of years, we have done what we call a pre-design. This is where I go through and select what I feel are the best photos for the album, and then put the album together in a digital format for the couple to see. After seeing it, they have the option to make changes to the album.

This makes the process go much faster than letting the couple choose the initial photos. When they have 700-800 photos from their wedding, it can be quite overwhelming to think about. Since this is something we have done for a long time, almost every couple prefers that we do it this way. About 95 percent of the time, the changes are simply photo swap-outs.

What's your best advice for a couple going the DIY route?

If a couple is going the DIY route with their wedding album, without the advice of a designer or photographer, I would recommend using a DIY album website. Shutterfly and Snapfish are two of the more popular sites I’m familiar with. Albums from these sites are nice products, because they are simple to put together, and have a clean look when finished. But my strongest recommendation is to hire a photographer who designs albums all the time. A professional album will almost always be better.

Do you have any additional advice or comments you'd like to share?

I think the most important advice I can give to any couple with regard to photography is to hire a professional. We live in a world where so many people have nice cameras and feel they can do an adequate job, but hiring a professional can make a real difference. Also, during your first meeting with a photographer, be sure to ask plenty of questions before signing a contract. Is the photographer insured? Does she belong to any professional organizations? How many cameras will he bring to your wedding? Does she design her own albums?

Do you have any questions for Daniel? Do you think you'll have a hard time choosing images for your album, or did you, if you already went through the process? How did your photographer approach this?

(Photo Credit: dmfoto)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wedding Albums: Expert Photo Selection Tips (Part One)

Whether professionally made or DIY, a well-designed photo album is an absolute must when it comes to forever preserving your wedding memories. And the first step to creating a beautiful album is choosing just the right pictures to include.

Here to offer advice on how to do that is wedding photographer Daniel Marks of Richmond's dmfoto. Enjoy, and feel free to share your questions and comments!

When choosing photos for our professional album, my husband and I loved so many of the over 700 amazing shots we received that we had a hard time narrowing it down to just the top 100. Do many couples face this issue, and what's your best advice on how they can make the selection process easier?

In today's digital market of photography, photographers are definitely showing more photos to couples than ever before. I think this is something that definitely makes the album decision a lot harder, especially if the bride and groom select the photographs. The best advice I can give is to try to plan out a story with each page.

I always start my albums with a single photo of the bride and groom, and from there try to build a story that tells how the whole day has gone. I believe that less is definitely more when it comes to a photo album, and I try to use only three or four photos on each page. When you start to add too many photos, the album can become cluttered, and the story can easily be lost.

Highlight the most important parts of the particular story you are trying to tell, and keep them as sequential as possible. For example, when choosing ceremony photos, try to  include only one or two photos each of the ring exchange, the vows and the kiss. Other important photos from the ceremony may capture expressions or emotions from the bride and groom, their parents, or wedding party members, such as the best man, who passes off the rings.

Another good example, this one from the reception, is the toasting and cake cutting. Try to include only one photo showing each of the most important parts of that story, such as the cake alone, people toasting the bride and groom, and the bride and groom cutting the cake. If you are allowed to use a background image, try to tie it into the story with an option like champagne being poured into a glass.

Do you feel it's important to carefully balance the number of album images in different styles, such as black and white, sepia, fisheye, and so on? What about choosing shots chronologically?

I think it’s extremely important to keep a uniform look to all images on an album page. If I have one image on a page that is black and white, they are all black and white. I feel the same way with color and sepia-toned images, too. I think telling a story in a chronological order makes a lot of sense, and I feel a story is what makes an album so special. Just having a book full of random photos without any order is strange to me. When I look at albums, I want each page to lead me to the next.

What are your plans for a wedding album? Will yours be professional or DIY, and what types of shots do you hope to include?

(Photo Credits: dmfoto)

Friday, December 3, 2010

DC Ladies Post: Large Wedding, Small Budget Tips

What do you picture when you think of a “big” wedding? Maybe a reception for 250 guests? How about 350? Well, for my bride-to-be coworker Kim, a “big” wedding means nothing short of 450 guests!

How can a bride with a huge guest list still be budget savvy? Head over to The DC Ladies, where I interviewed Kim about her top tips and tricks.

What's the largest wedding you've even been to?

(Photo Credit: Etsy)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Six Months Ago…

It’s hard to believe, but this Saturday marks our six-month anniversary. Though the time has gone by so quickly, it’s amazing to think about just how much has changed since that beautiful day in June when we said “ I do.” From going back to school to my looming job loss, it’s been a wild and emotional ride, but also a great one, with new opportunities and an entire lifetime of adventures still ahead.

Surveys show that many people are now forgoing marriage in favor of domestic partnership, and that’s just great for those who feel that way. But not me. Being married to my dearest friend has been the most wonderful experience of my entire life, filled with comfort, security, and hope in the face of life’s uncertainties. No matter what happens, I know Stephen will always be there at the end of each day, as six months turns into six years, and, if we’re so blessed, maybe even six decades.

Happy anniversary, love! I am one lucky girl.

What are your thoughts about domestic partnership vs. marriage? 

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography) 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Please Vote For Us In The Weddzilla Photo Awards!

One of our fabulous photos by Alex Neumann Photography is up for a Weddzilla award! Please head over to cast your vote, no login required.

Thanks, Alex, for your amazing work. We’re honored to be in the running!

(Photo Credit: Alex Neumann Photography)

Making The Cut

From the simple yet elegant displays at the church to the wine-themed reception features, I couldn’t have been happier with the way our vision for décor came together throughout the wedding day. The cake table was no exception, and from the moment I saw it, I loved it.

Not only did the team at Skiff’s Cakes do an incredible job crafting a design based on the rough sketch Stephen had created, but our florist at Happy Flowers and coordinator from All Occasions Event Planning made the table look stunningly romantic, awash in rose petals and accented by our lovely “I Do” letters from Creative Custom Card Boxes. A few pretty petals even made it onto the cake itself!

As for the cutting? Stephen and I got tons of questions both before and during the reception about whether we planned to “smash” each other with cake. Did we? Have a look!

Though a few guests gave us a hard time right after the fact, they were soon way too busy stuffing themselves with delicious cake to give it another thought. And with one tier each devoted to cookies and cream, cream cheese and lemon raspberry flavors, I think everyone must have enjoyed it, because aside from the few slices our coordinator set aside for us to take home, there wasn’t a single piece left!

What's your cake and cake table vision? Is "cake smashing" your thing?

P.S. If you look closely, you may notice that, no, I did not remember to place my hand underneath Stephen's during the cutting, which is the proper etiquette. I was eager, excited, and it totally slipped my mind. Deal with it. :)

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography, Damien Smith Photography & Personal Library)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wish Upon a Wedding DC’s Gala Success

The Wish Upon a Wedding DC Blissful Wishes Ball on Nov. 17 was a huge success, and I had an incredible time meeting or catching up with so many fabulous vendors, couples, and Wish Upon a Wedding supporters from all across the D.C. region. Couldn’t join us? Check out the photos below, courtesy of Sweet Tea Photography, for a glimpse inside this elegant evening of giving back and supporting those in need.

Baltimore’s classy Tremont Grand was the perfect setting for a sophisticated affair.

Our president, Shelby Tuck-Horton, presented the chapter's first Shining Star community service award to the Tremont’s own Julie Brown-Edwards.

I’m honored to be a part of our fabulous board, where I work with a team of the most caring, generous and talented women in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Celebrity jazz artist Art Sherrod Jr. wowed everyone during dinner hour, as our team of dancers lit up the floor.

The photo booth was fun for everyone!

Our silent auction was a big hit! And the best part? You can still bid online for additional items through today, Nov. 30!

Up next, we’ll be working to fulfill a wedding wish for a terminal patient in Morgantown, West Virginia, and another for a very deserving military couple in Maryland. Want to help? Sign up as a wish granter online, donate, or shoot me an email at!

(Photo Credits: Sweet Tea Photography)

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Holiday Hang-Up: Your Family Or Mine?

Before the holidays roll around each year, married couples everywhere face that dreaded age-old question – your family’s house or mine?

For Stephen and I, the fact that our families live across the country in California, in entirely different parts of the state for that matter, meant we were right there with everyone else in trying to decide just how to handle this situation. After a couple months of thinking it over, we finally decided that, this year especially, flying to California for both Thanksgiving and Christmas would simply be too expensive. Plus, given Stephen’s work schedule and all of the uncertainties surrounding my job situation, spending a few days with each family during December wouldn't be practical, either.

Our solution? I’ll head home to spend Christmas with my family, while Stephen will stay here in D.C., working and celebrating with his sister and a few friends in the area. Though some people have simply stared at me in shock upon hearing this news, the truth is, Stephen and I see one another every day, and the simple fact that we’ll be apart on Christmas does not faze us.

Also, since I only see my family once or twice a year at most, while Stephen’s family is more frequently able to travel to D.C., the decision makes even more sense for us. Will it still work out this way once we have small kids? Probably not. But hopefully by that time, we’ll be living closer to our families anyway, and more easily able to see them both more often. But for now, we’re grateful for understanding families that support us in our decision, and also that we’re able to celebrate “Christmas” here together each and every day of our lives.

Have you and your husband or fiance faced the “holiday split” issue? How have you decided to handle things this year?

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography)  

Friday, November 26, 2010

When Fans Plan: Get Married’s Times Square Wedding

With Thanksgiving down, it's time to move on to the next batch of holidays on the horizon. And if you’re a Get Married fan like I am, you’ve surely heard about the awesome Times Square wedding they’re hosting this New Year’s Eve.

Since this celebration is part of a giveaway, one lucky couple has already been chosen, and now, it’s up to the fans to help plan their wedding by voting for the best gown, favor, bridesmaid ensemble, and more. I’m having fun casting my votes and watching the process unfold, but at the same time, I know I’d never want to have a wedding like this myself.

Sure, I love blogging and sharing tons of details about my own wedding, but for many of the same reasons I wouldn’t want to appear on other reality TV shows, I wouldn’t want my day to be quite this public, or to allow others to have so much control over the vendors and items that were included.

Even so, I can absolutely see how another couple might disagree, viewing this as an incredible opportunity to have a unique affair like no one else has ever before experienced. Oh, and then there’s also the important fact that the wedding is free to the incredibly deserving winning couple, two Marine reservists who met in Iraq.

What do you think? Would you consider being part of a wedding extravaganza like this?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Family, Friends & Good Eats

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! This afternoon, we’re off to spend our first married Thanksgiving with Stephen’s sister, her boyfriend, and his family. And from what I’ve heard, a huge feast is in the forecast, so I’m more than ready to eat, drink, and have a great time.

As crazy and unpredictable as things have been these past few weeks, I’m constantly reminded of just how lucky I am to have my husband, a wonderful family, and amazing friends to support me, including all of you who have shared your encouragement right here on my blog.

Since Thanksgiving marks the official start to the holiday season, I thought I’d share my favorite recipe for pecan pie, which Stephen's grandmother learned from a fellow Army wife back in 1958. Since then, it has been a family staple, and we'll be making it again this year. Have a great day!

Mrs. Tonner's Pecan Pie

3 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar (or slightly less)
1 cup or so pecans (1 1/4, if you can)

Stir together all ingredients, pour into an unbaked single pie crust in an 8-or-9-inch pie pan. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 60 minutes longer. Check at 50 minutes to avoid overbrowning.

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Expert Advice: Bridal Handkerchiefs & Embroidery (Part Two)

I hope you enjoyed the first part of my Q&A with Lil Inspirations' Sandra Dexter Kircher, because today, she’s back with even more great ideas and advice. Enjoy!

When selecting handkerchiefs for the bridal party, do most brides order a matching set, or is it more common to customize for each person?

There is usually some type of continuity. The bride will often order the handkerchiefs personalized with the same lettering style but in different colors, or in the same color but with different lettering styles. Someone who is more extravagant may choose our Script-Diane font, which is quite ornate, but someone more understated might instead choose a simpler block style.

A monogram is very popular, as well. Having a hankie embroidered with a friend’s initials allows her to use it at future weddings she attends or at other special functions. Your bridesmaids and groomsmen will remember who gave them such a special personalized gift, and they will appreciate it more than a handkerchief embroidered with the bride and groom’s names.

You designed the most gorgeous handkerchiefs for Erwin and Ed’s Wish Upon a Wedding DC celebration. What inspired you to get involved with the organization, and what was your experience like in designing handkerchiefs for this special occasion?

When I first heard about Wish Upon a Wedding, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. Through my phone calls and emails with Liz Guthrie, the organization’s founder, I could tell just how passionate she was about this cause. It inspired me, and I reflected back on my own wedding day, with all the planning involved, and how my grandfather was not able to attend due to an emergency surgery. Trying to determine whether to postpone the wedding, whether I could get to the hospital to visit him, and whether everything was all set with the caterer, florist, and so on, made for a stressful time.

I thought that it must be next to impossible to plan a wedding while also facing a significant other's terminal illness. I also thought about how sad it would be for a couple in love to not be able to express their bond through the unity of marriage simply because there was no time or financial means for them to do so. What started as “helping” Liz and Sasha Souza, president, with a wedding or two has now turned into the “official gift” for Wish Upon a Wedding, and I couldn't be more honored.

Erwin and Ed's handkerchiefs were the perfect example of creating truly personal keepsakes. The couple requested that the handkerchiefs be personalized with the phrase “E2LU,” and I had to ask, "What is the significance? Why E2LU?" They told me it stands for Ed, Erwin, Lobo and Urbaniak – the “E2” for Ed and Erwin, and the “LU” for their children. It was a beautiful way to personalize the message without being cumbersome. It's their personal monogram.

What do you love most about your job, and how did you first get started?

I love creating and designing wedding handkerchiefs because there is always something new and different around the corner, pun intended. It never gets old for me. I've always loved to sew, and was always designing something or other since I was very young.

Many days, after school, I would go to where my mother worked as a tailor, and there were always scraps of fabric laying around. I would make a handbag, a wallet, a headband, something to pass the time until it was time to go home. I purchased a sewing machine, and in high school, I took a design class and started making some of my own clothes. I then moved on to embroidery.

My father always used cotton and linen handkerchiefs for all occasions, and at first, I never gave it much thought. Then, on my wedding day, I saw my father use his handkerchief, and realized I should have created a handkerchief personalized just for him. I started designing handkerchiefs shortly thereafter and still haven't stopped 17 years later. I'll be adding new handkerchief styles for the upcoming season, plus even more design options. Handkerchiefs are a truly elegant way to wipe away the “tears of joy.”

Do you have a hobby that's turned into a lifelong passion? What's your favorite personal keepsake?

(Photo Credits: Lil Inspirations & Wish Upon a Wedding DC Facebook Library)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Expert Advice: Bridal Handkerchiefs & Embroidery (Part One)

While planning my wedding, I searched high and low for the perfect bridal handkerchief to carry with me throughout the day. Though I eventually found one decorated in a lovely floral pattern that matched my color scheme, I definitely wish I’d been familiar with Lil Inspirations, which offers the most beautiful customized, affordable handkerchiefs and embroidered gifts.

Though I may have missed out, you don't have to! Here to share a lil' advice and inspiration is Sandra Dexter Kircher, the company’s owner and a generous wish granter for Wish Upon a Wedding. Got questions? Don't forget to leave them in the comment section below!

Your company offers a range of beautifully embroidered wedding gifts, from handkerchiefs to throw blankets. Which items are especially popular right now, and what trends have you noticed throughout the past year?

Our handkerchiefs continue to be our most popular item for the bride, groom and entire bridal party. I offer handkerchiefs from the very ornate to the elegantly simple to compliment whatever a bride's style is. Brides also really want to add a personal touch to their weddings, and with an embroidered hankie, they can. I've seen some expressions that made me pause for a moment and say "aw," and some that have made me blush (big time), but I don't judge. With the ability to choose their own words and have the design embroidered in their choice of thread color, many times to match their wedding color scheme, the possibilities are endless. I'll be adding new handkerchief styles for the upcoming season, plus even more design options.

With many wedding gowns now featuring some type of floral design element, I've also found many brides asking for a floral design to be added to their handkerchiefs. For a more subtle look, some choose handkerchiefs that have a tone-on-tone hand-embroidered floral design already embellished on the hankie, while others select a very bright and vibrant floral design to be embellished separately.

There's additionally been a big metallic trend this year, which I think has influenced many brides to have their handkerchiefs personalized with silver thread. It's a great color choice that creates an elegantly subtle look and still allows the personalized message to be easily read.

Finally, our wedding throws have been popular as gifts for parents or the wedding couple, since they make wonderful keepsakes for the home. Some choose to use them as decorative pieces, displayed on the sofa or edge of the bed, while others enjoy snuggling up under the blanket on a chilly night while remembering their wedding day.

If a bride is thinking about ordering custom handkerchiefs, how far in advance should she place her order?

I suggest placing an order at least 3-4 weeks in advance. During the peak of wedding season, things can get hectic, and with so many last-minute details already in the picture, it's best to order as early as possible.

Will you carry a handkerchief or special personalized item on your wedding day?

(Photo Credits: Lil Inspirations)

Monday, November 22, 2010

For His Cold Feet...

Today, Stephen reveals how I went beyond our budget to offer a little wedding day surprise for the groom.

Socks aren't usually all that special to me. Typically, I just pick a pair that goes with my shoes, and then don't even give them a second thought. On my wedding day, however, I wore socks that were very special.

While working out our wedding budget, Heather and I agreed that we wouldn't get each other gifts. After all, there were so many other nice things we were spending money on, and we both felt that the wedding itself was the best gift imaginable.

But then, the night before the wedding, Heather handed me a little gift box. She said although we had agreed not to exchange gifts, she couldn't resist getting this one small item for me. I had no clue what it was, but she said I needed to open it before the wedding.

So, the next morning, I opened the box and inside found a pair of black and purple arglye socks, along with a note that said, "In case you get cold feet." It was a fun and thoughtful gift that, although very inexpensive,  reminded me throughout the day that I was marrying a truly caring and wonderful person.

Have you heard about the "cold feet" trend? Will you and your groom exchange wedding gifts?

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography, Heather Walrath & Damien Smith Photography)

Friday, November 19, 2010

DC Ladies Post: Alfred Angelo’s Disney-Inspired Gowns

Happy Friday once again! Today, I’m back over on The DC Ladies blog, celebrating its first birthday today, where I'm sharing details about Disney Fairy Tale Weddings by Alfred Angelo, a gorgeous new line of princess-inspired gowns set to launch early next year. And if you’re picturing poofy, ultra-girly styles, think again! The new designs, including my favorite – the Ariel – range from classic and romantic to sleek and sexy. Head on over for a sneak peak!

Are you a Disney fan? Who’s your favorite princess?

P.S. This Staurday will also mark Bicoastal Bride's first birthday! I can't believe it's already been a year since I started this blog, but I can believe that I'm still loving every minute of writing it.

(Graphic Credit: Alfred Angelo)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Belated Halloween Adventure Recap

Oh my! Life has become so crazy and busy for me lately that I just realized I never recapped our “Big Apple” Halloween, or our Casablanca-inspired old-time costumes. Oops!

Well, in case you’re (hopefully) still interested, we had a blast, both on Halloween in NYC, plus throughout the week during my sister’s visit to Washington for the Rally to Restore Sanity. Of course, I showed her all the major tourist sites, including the Capitol, White House and monuments, plus a couple others that are off the beaten path, like Old Town Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory Art Center, the National Zoo, and the Lavender Moon Cupcake shop, which is just as good as famous Georgetown Cupcake in my opinion!

Then, during our whirlwind visit to New York, we enjoyed a crisp fall day as we toured Times Square, had lunch at the Life Café (of Rent fame), rode the Staten Island Ferry, and enjoyed a leisurely stroll in Central Park, where we witnessed more than one Halloween wedding taking place.

And as for our costumes? I’m sure we looked totally nerdy at the party we attended, but isn’t that kind of the point when it comes to old-fashioned outfits?

I hope you had a fabulous Halloween, and that your plans for the next big fall holiday, Thanksgiving, are coming together! What was your costume this year?

(Photo Credits: Personal Library)