Monday, May 31, 2010

Wedding Week Countdown: With This Ring…

Stephen, take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Heather, take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

In just four days, Stephen and I will stand before our family members and friends as we speak these simple yet powerful words to one another. It all feels so close, and yet still so surreal.

I can’t wait.

(Photo Credit: Stephen Walrath)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wedding Week Countdown: Up, Up & Away!

First, a big congratulations to Hannah from A Very Gator Wedding who’s tying the knot this weekend! I hope you have a fabulous day, filled with all the fun wedding ideas you’ve shared with us! :)

As for me, this is it! Stephen and I are off to the airport, wedding gown and honeymoon luggage in hand, with less than a week to go until our big day!

Now, you’d think that given all of the bags we’re toting along – including everything for the week before the wedding, the wedding itself, and the honeymoon – we’d be prepared to pay a hefty number of luggage-check fees before we board the plane. But we’re not worried at all. Not in the least.

Why? Well, as a wonderful pre-wedding surprise, Stephen’s dad snagged us first-class tickets, meaning that not only can we enjoy an especially comfortable, relaxing flight, but also that we’re able to take a pass on the airlines' infamous nickel-and-diming on everything from checked luggage to food and drinks.

This is probably the first time in my life I’ve actually been looking forward to a cross-country flight, and is even more of a reminder of what a generous, thoughtful family I’m about to join. Have a great weekend, everyone, and I’ll catch up with you in Cali!

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wedding Week Countdown: Blame It On The Weatherman?

Well, friends, after over a year of planning, scheming and dreaming, I can hardly believe that this is really the final countdown!

Stephen and I are spending the day packing and tying up loose ends before flying out to California tomorrow to start our final week of preparations. And exactly one week from today, we’ll finally tie the knot!

Of course, one thing I’ll be closely tracking throughout the coming week is the weather report. Now, with our wedding taking place in Southern California, I’m not wildly concerned about rain or bad weather interfering.

On the other hand, you never know. After all, my mom told me that last year on June 3, a freak rainstorm swept through. And with wildfires all too common in our area, heat and high winds are a major risk factor, too.

Well, The Weather Channel’s Wedding Planner feature has put my mind at ease, at least for now. The average temperature for June 4 in Thousand Oaks is 76 degrees, with a bit of a morning cloud cover, plenty of afternoon sunshine, and an 8 p.m. sunset. The last two years held up to this promise, with 2009 bringing a 71-degree day, and 2008 topping out at 67 degrees.

This year’s predication? It should be a comfortable 68 degrees, with mostly sunny skies and low winds. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that nothing changes, but for now, I’d better switch my focus right back to getting everything ready to go!

Engaged ladies, do you have wedding day weather concerns? Married girls, did untimely weather surprises threaten to put a damper on your day?

(Graphic Credit: Google Images)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Our Engagement Shoot Video!

I promised you more photos from our engagement shoot, and I’m staying true to my word! I hope you enjoy the slideshow Damien created for us, which includes both photo and video highlights.

We can’t wait to share it with our guests at the wedding!


(Video Credit: Damien Smith Photography)

Our Engagement: Here Today, But Gone In a Flash!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may recall that last fall, I shared the story of our DIY engagement session. As I mentioned then, these photos were shot by my talented sister, since our photographer’s all-inclusive package pushed the limits of how much we wanted to spend.

Well, guess what? With our engagement quickly coming to a close, my good friend Damien Smith, a top Los Angeles wedding photographer, treated us to a fabulous photo session during his recent visit to Washington, D.C.! I’m absolutely thrilled that these pro shots capture all the joy and excitement of our final days as an engaged couple, just as our DIY photos reveal the hopefulness and energy of the early months.

Though certainly not without its momentary frustrations, our engagement has been the happiest time of our lives, and I can’t wait to get married and move on to the next phase – that of husband and wife! It will happen soon enough, but for now, here's a sneak peek from our pro engagement shoot in our hometown of Old Town Alexandria. Stay tuned for more!

At what point in the countdown did you schedule your engagement session?

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Program Allows Businesses and Wedding Vendors To Easily Support Wish Upon a Wedding

It's easier than ever to support Wish Upon a Wedding! Read on for details!

Wish Upon a Wedding, the world's first nonprofit wedding wish granting organization, is asking for the support of wedding vendors and industry professionals. This new organization, dubbed “The Wedding Industry’s Charity,” provides weddings for individuals facing life-threatening illness, at destinations across the United States, regardless of sexual orientation.

By donating just 1 percent of any sale (or percent of your profits from one event), you can help Wish Upon a Wedding grant these very special wishes. Participants will be recognized for their generosity with an "I Support the Wishing Well" badge.

Launched in January, the organization now receives new wedding wish requests on a weekly basis. Currently lacking the funds needed to bring long distance families together, these special celebrations may often be missing something (or someone). One of the organization’s goals is to fly up to four family members or loved ones to the weddings of every wish recipient, so they can spend a few days with those who matter most. There are many other expenses that Wish Upon a Wedding would like to cover, as well, but they need YOUR help.

Founder Liz Guthrie explains, “Many people facing life-threatening illness do not have the money or resources to plan a wedding. At last, the wedding industry has joined forces – and together we are making some incredibly special wedding wishes come true, by providing the celebration of one of life’s biggest milestones.” Guthrie adds, “No matter what the setting, Wish Upon a Wedding wants to provide everything necessary for these individuals, including making sure they are surrounded by their most special family and friends.”

It’s really easy! To participate, just visit the Wishing Well web page. As a supporter of the Wishing Well, participants will receive a custom-designed badge for their blogs or websites, that lets their clients and peers know that they support “The Wedding Industry’s Charity.” For information on other ways to help Wish Upon a Wedding, please visit the national website.

(Graphic Credit: Wish Upon a Wedding)

Fit To Be Wed

As you know, I eagerly (anxiously?) awaited the arrival of my Alfred Angelo gown ever since I ordered it back in February. After a lot of last-minute hustling, things at last seem like they'll work out, and I’m thrilled to slip into the gown of my dreams for the wedding!

Since this was my second gown selection, I’m definitely no stranger to fittings, bustles and fabrics. Here, my top tips for a stress-free fitting – the first of which is to order your gown more than four months ahead of time, so that you don’t end up scrambling the way I have!

• Don’t forget your shoes! The height of your shoes will have a big impact on how much of a hem, if any, your gown needs. You definitely won’t want to be caught without them.

• Also, be sure to bring along your wedding day lingerie. Undergarments can make a difference in the look and fit of a gown, so have these items already selected by the time your first fitting rolls around. A good seamstress can often even add bra cups to help with the fit, so don’t forget to ask about that option, if you're interested.

• If you have a fitness or weight loss goal, try to have met it by the time of your fitting. This will spare you from having to make further dramatic (and expensive) alterations to the gown closer to the wedding date.

• If you have a certain look in mind for your bustle, or a type of bustle you don’t want, be sure to let your seamstress know, and come prepared with photos when possible. Some bustle designs, including the French style, have multiple ways they can be crafted.

For example, on my old gown, we planned for an elaborate eight-layer French bustle with time-intensive ribbon ties. With my new gown, I’m going for a much simpler style. Before you agree to a certain design, be sure to take into account the exact look and bustling process, including how much time you’ll have and who will be available at your wedding to do it.

• If you can, snap a few photos. A gown can look different in pictures than it does in person, and this may give you some insight into other alterations you’d like made.

Have you done your gown fitting yet? What’s your best advice for a smooth session?

(Photo Credits: Alfred Angelo)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wanted: Wedding Day Nail Advice!

My time as a bride-to-be is quickly drawing to a close (in just 10 days!), but I still need your help. One of my final dilemmas in the run-up to the wedding is how I should do my nails. I’ve already got a mani and pedi lined up the day before, but am a bit stuck about exactly what to ask for! Here, my top three ideas.


A rich purple shade (definitely not neon-y) would match the sash on my gown, and would help add a slightly modern twist to my otherwise classic and romantic look. On the other hand (no pun intended), I don’t want my nails to be too flashy or distracting.


Light pink nails seem to be a classic fallback of brides everywhere, but do they scream “boring”? Plus, would pink nails look silly next to a bouquet with a grape ribbon?

French Tips

My own nails are too short and in no condition to sport French tips on their own, so this choice would mean a full set of acrylics. I’ve had them once before, and liked the way they turned out, but I do remember they were a bit expensive and took the salon a long time to apply.

What do you think I should go with, and what will you or did you do for your own wedding? Thanks a bunch!

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dress Drama Update – 11 Days Out!

With only 11 days left until I walk down the aisle, things are finally looking up in the dress department, ladies!

As I mentioned in my dress meltdown post a couple weeks ago, I ordered my new Alfred Angelo gown late in February, and it wasn’t even scheduled to arrive until after May 7. If that weren’t already cause enough for a freak-out, the Alfred Angelo shop then told me they wouldn’t be able to start my alterations until May 20 – nine days before the trip out to California!

Well, when I got the call that the gown was finally in, I started hustling to see what other options there might be. I guess the stars aligned for me, because with a little research, I was able to find a fantastic local custom-gown designer willing to meet with me for alterations within the next couple days. Score!

My first two fittings, within a week of each other, went well, with not a lot of work needed, other than adding a bustle, plus taking the dress in a couple inches in the back and at the bust. And my dilemma of not having enough time to ship the gown to California before I leave town? Well, I’m taking a pass on shipping altogether by carrying the gown onto the plane with me, which I already cleared with the airline.

My gown will spend the flight hanging peacefully in the first class closet at the front of the plane, and I can take a load off knowing it will arrive on time, hand delivered by none other than the bride herself. Whew! Crisis averted, big time!

What’s the biggest “crisis” that’s thrown a wrench into your wedding plans?

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

DIY Program Inspiration

It’s time to check the final DIY off the list, because our programs are ready to go!

We started with a few pages of text and graphics, two packs of ivory resume paper, extra printer ink, and an extra-long stapler for binding. What we got? The packets below, which match the simple, classy and clean look of our invites and the rest of the stationary items we’ve created. Best of all, they tie in our grape motif, favorite quotes, and a couple nods to our Irish heritage.

Here, a closer look at all the pieces, although they do look much better in person. Enjoy!

The cover features our signature grape symbol and a favorite Ella Fitzgerald quote. To create the grape graphic, which we’re displaying on most of our stationary, we bought a stamp at Paper Source, made a good imprint on a sheet of paper, and then scanned the design into the computer. We’re saving time by not having to individually stamp each item, and the image looks great each time. Plus, we can even resize it!

The second page includes our welcome message, complete with a tribute to the memory of Stephen’s grandparents, plus a quick rundown of the church’s rules.

The next page displays a list of our wedding party members and church ceremony participants.

Spread out across two pages is the outline of our wedding liturgy. Though we considered printing the words to all of the readings, songs and prayers, we decided in the end that it would make the program too long and cumbersome.

Rounding out the last two pages of the program are The Irish Wedding Blessing, which will be read during the ceremony, plus a Celtic Marriage Promise that reflects our culture. Though not a part of the ceremony, the Celtic Marriage Promise and trinity symbol came in handy at the last minute when we realized we had an extra blank page to fill!

Are you designing your own programs, or will you go the pro route? How much detail will yours include?

(Photo Credits: Stephen Walrath)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sharing The Photo Love

Like most couples, we’re incredibly excited about seeing our professional wedding photos after the big day. But we’re also looking forward to seeing the candid and fun shots our guests capture throughout the evening!

To make it extra easy for them to share these pictures with us, Stephen and I recently created a new Shutterfly account specifically for guests’ wedding photos. By taking this route, even if our guests aren’t already members of Shutterfly, they won’t be forced to create accounts of their own. They can simply use the login and password information we provide, and can then upload their pictures as desired.

Another bonus is that anyone who logs in can order prints directly from the site. We even got an offer of 50 free prints just for signing up!

So, how will we get the word out? First, we’ve posted the details on our wedding website. Secondly, at the reception, each guest will find the card seen above at his or her place setting. The instructions are simple, straightforward, and will hopefully ensure a great batch of photos for us to peruse post-honeymoon!

Will you invite your guests to share their photos with you, either through a website or by placing throw-away cameras at their tables?

(Photo Credit: Stephen Walrath)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Reception Playlist: Hits & Misses

Every good party starts with a good playlist. And if the number of times we’ve revised ours is any indication, narrowing down countless song options can be anything but easy. Still, when all is said and done, the hard work and occasional indecisiveness will hopefully pay off in a fun, high-energy evening our guests will remember long after our wedding day has come and gone.

Here, a quick snapshot of our reception playlist, including our picks for special dances and presentations throughout the night, along with a few must-plays and don’t-plays once the dance party is in full swing. Our main goal is to include a wide range of song genres, so that each guest will hear something throughout the night that appeals to him or her. Take a look, and let me know what you think!

Cocktail Hour
“As Time Goes By” – Casablanca
“That’s Amore” – Dean Martin
“California Dreamin’” – Mammas & Papas

First Dance
“Fly Me To The Moon” – Frank Sinatra

Pre-Dinner Party Dance
“Don’t Stop Believing” – Journey

“My Wish” – Rascal Flatts
“And I Love Her” – Beatles
“The Way You Look Tonight” – Frank Sinatra

Post-Dinner Dancing
“Accidentally In Love” – Counting Crows
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – Michael Buble
“Sweet Caroline” – Neil Diamond
“Waking Up In Vegas” – Katy Perry

Cake Cutting
“Sugar, Sugar” – The Archies

Anniversary Dance
“Through The Years” – Kenny Rogers

Bouquet Toss
“This One’s For The Girls” – Martina McBride

Garter Toss
“All You Need Is Love” – Beatles

End-of-Night Party Songs
“Save The Last Dance” – Michael Buble
“(I've Had) The Time Of My Life” – Dirty Dancing

Grand Exit
“Blue Hawaii” – Elvis

Do Not Play
Chicken Dance
Hokey Pokey

Which songs top your must-play list, and which are definitely off-limits?

(Graphic Credit: Google Images)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

White House Wedding Wishes

As a Capitol Hill staffer, it’s no secret that I’m a political junkie. Whether it’s a breaking news story, a dignitary passing by my office, or election predictions ready for release, I’m always excited to be in-the-know.

So, in the run-up to our wedding, it was of course expected that I would send an invitation to the White House, if only to receive the standard response card for our scrapbook. Well, it’s finally arrived!

This memento took me right back to my early days in Washington, when I actually visited the White House, including the West Wing and Oval Office. Then an intern, I was part of a program run by Leon Panetta, a former congressman and Clinton White House chief of staff, who is now the director of the CIA. After a private meeting with Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card, plus a trip to the official press briefing room, I was hooked on D.C.

And the best part? This inspiring time in my life compelled me to stay on the East Coast, where I began my current career and started my relationship with Stephen. All in all, I think things have worked out as well as I could have hoped.

Did you or will you send an invitation to the president or any other famous folks?

(Photo Credits: Stephen Walrath & Personal Library)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Wedding Day Puzzle Challenge

With our big DIY projects now out of the way, Stephen and I have been brainstorming creative ways to entertain our guests during dinner, plus give away our centerpieces at the end of the night. The solution we came up with? A fun word-puzzle game!

Inspired by Hannah at A Very Gator Wedding, I used Discovery Education to put together a 12-question crossword about our relationship and wedding. The online template was easy to use, and afterward, I copied the puzzle onto a separate sheet of paper, where I created my own layout, including the questions and instructions.

Before the reception starts, our coordinator will help us out by leaving a puzzle sheet at each guest’s table setting. Then, during the meal, guests can enjoy answering questions about our hometown, jobs and honeymoon spot.

The questions will also test how much they’ve paid attention during the wedding so far, with questions about the theme, wedding party, signature drink and first dance. I’m really excited about this game, and hope our guests will be, too!

But what if someone doesn’t want to play, or doesn’t want the centerpiece? That’s totally fine. They can either give the centerpiece to someone else at the table who does want it, or just leave it with us at the end of the night.

Or, suppose someone gets stumped on a question? That’s OK, too. They can easily hit us up for a clue as we make the rounds during dinner. All in all, this is designed to be lighthearted and laid-back.

What do you think? Will you include any games or contests at your wedding?

(Photo & Graphic Credits: Stephen Walrath & Google Images)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Your Vote Can Help Support Wish Upon a Wedding!

As you know, I’m proud to be a founding board member of Wish Upon a Wedding DC, dedicated to granting weddings to couples who are facing terminal illness.

Well, the amazing Relentless Bride, who also volunteers with our organization, has entered a design contest through MagnetStreet to help raise money for our chapter. Voting is open for a week, and if she takes the prize, her winnings will go toward making couples’ dreams come true. So, check out the details and cast your vote today for the design below!

Don’t miss a great opportunity to support a wonderful cause! Want to get involved with our chapter? Ask me how!

(Graphic Credit: The Relentless Bride)

Our Washington Post Wedding Announcement!

OK, I’ll admit it’s not in the real Washington Post. But it is in the Washington Post Express, the paper’s free daily!

Each morning, I love reading the Express while riding the train to work, so I was really excited to submit our wedding info a few weeks back, hoping they’d run it before the big day. And now, they have!

While any wedding announcement is tons of fun, the Express announcements definitely aren’t your standard fare. They’re written as Q & A bios, where the bride and groom both share perspectives about their relationship and wedding plans.

We had a good time answering the questions, and an even better time reading the interview in the paper last Monday! Check it out, and let me know what you think!

Will you be submitting a wedding announcement to your local paper, or have you done any fun wedding-related interviews during your engagement?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Grand Entrance: Signature Song Snippets

One of my favorite parts of any reception is always the special moment when the wedding party and parents first begin to make their dramatic entrance. The anticipation brings such a rush of excitement to the room, and these fun intros get the crowd all fired up for the bride and groom’s grand appearance.

To mix things up at our wedding, and to stretch this joyous moment just a bit longer than usual, we’ve decided that instead of having everyone enter to the same music, we’ll play a series of signature songs for the different members of our group. Prepping this list been lots of fun, from gathering everyone’s ideas to then reviewing the list with our DJ, who will have snippets of each song ready to go when the moment arrives.

I love our final picks below, as they truly reflect the personalities of our friends and family members, and help infuse even more personal touches into our wedding day.

Parents of the Bride
“Somewhere Over The Rainbow” - Iz

Parents of the Groom
“Could I Have This Dance?” – Ann Murray

Maid of Honor
“Last Of The American Girls” – Green Day

Best Man
“Imperial March” – Star Wars

Groom’s Sisters
“Happy Feet” – Abbie Gardner

“I Will Follow” – Gilmore Girls Theme

“A Little Help From My Friends” – The Beatles

Bride & Groom
“Fly Me To The Moon” – Frank Sinatra

Are you doing a grand entrance? Which songs will you choose?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Simplifying The Name Change Game

As thrilled as I am to change my last name to something much less common after I’m married, I have to admit I’m not especially excited about the headache of going through the process. After all, a name change is a big deal, and is certainly not an easy task to undertake!

Well, you can imagine my delight when I discovered a few months back that I’d won a stress-reducing package from Name Change Express! If you aren’t familiar with this company, Name Change Express is an online service that guides you through the process, helping prepare all the necessary paperwork in just a few easy steps. And depending which package you choose and how much help you want, they can even do all the work for you by mailing in forms and taking care of nitty-gritty details.

Of course, I won’t officially tackle this project until after the wedding, but to get started, I’ve put together a list of key name-change musts. Check it out, and let me know if you think I’ve skipped anything important!

• Social security information

• IRS and tax records

• Retirement savings plans

• Bank and credit card records

• Insurance plans

• Magazines

• Social networks, including Facebook and Twitter

• University records

• Housing and billing records

• Driver’s license

• Passport

• Voter registration records

• Doctor’s office and medical records

Engaged ladies, if you’re changing your name, will you go it alone or use a service for help? Married girls, if you’ve already gone through the name-change process, do you have any helpful tips for the rest of us?

(Graphic Credit: Google Images)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Groom’s Cake: Wacky, Wild & Witty

A few months ago, I thought about surprising Stephen with a groom’s cake at the wedding or rehearsal dinner. But, with our budget already increasing and our regular cake sure to leave everyone beyond stuffed, I decided this was one thing we should probably skip.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped me from imagining what design I would choose if we were having a cake like this. After all, a girl can dream, right? And maybe it can be blamed on a little too much pre-wedding excitement, but I’m now thinking of throwing this into the mix as a last-minute splurge.

Since Stephen is an aerospace engineer and a huge fan of all things science-fiction, I’ve quickly discovered that the sky is indeed the limit, with tons of options for cakes featuring rockets, planes, Star Wars characters, and plenty of other fun motifs.

Here, a few wacky cakes that would surely make my future husband smile and laugh!

Are you doing a groom’s cake? If so, what theme are you planning to go with? Do you think I should order one ASAP, or just let it slide?

(Photo Credits: Google Images)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Reception Sing-Off

So far, it’s been fantastic working with our DJ to put together the timeline and reception music picks, especially since he has a fun personality and tons of great ideas. One of his thoughts to help keep the party rolling? A classic sing-off, pitting the guys against the girls!

At our last meeting, he explained that during past receptions and parties, if the crowd started to tire of dancing or needed a little pick-me-up, he often brought out large poster-sized cards listing the lyrics to a popular song that most people love, like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” He then called everyone out on the floor for the competition.

Will it work at our party? We’ll see. Sizing up our crowd, I know we’ll definitely have a handful of guests who will sit this one out. On the other hand, I do think we’ll also have plenty who are willing to go for it!

What do you think? Would you do something like this at a wedding, or would you rather watch on the sidelines?

(Graphic Credit: Google Images)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Design Inspiration: Avoiding Floral Fallout

I’ve shared with you my floral and decor vision for our wedding day, but what about the practical tips I’ve learned along the way? Here, the important do-and-don’t secrets that have helped me make the best choices to ensure a great day for everyone.

Make sure your bouquets are proportional in size to you and your bridesmaids. If you’re a petite bride like me, the last thing you want is to feel loaded down with a heavy bouquet that is twice your size! No matter what type of design you’re dreaming of – cascade, classic round or hand-tied – work with your florist to ensure that your bouquet’s size and style do not overwhelm or underwhelm your figure. A good trick our florist described is to try holding different sized dinner plates in front of you to help get a feel for how big or small you’d like the arrangements to be.

Also be mindful of your gown’s style and design. Don’t want to block the details on the bodice? A cascade bouquet may not be the best option. Keeping your look simple? A dramatic arrangement might appear overwhelming. Your florist should take these things into account when designing your bouquet.

Check with your wedding party members, or anyone else who will be in close contact with the flowers, to be certain there are no severe allergies you need to consider. The last thing you want on your wedding day is a bridesmaid sneezing her way to the altar, or your mom breaking out in a rash because she’s allergic to the flowers in her corsage. Consider these factors early on to avoid any last-minute surprises.

Choose in-season, local flowers to save money. Budget was a huge consideration in picking our flowers, and we saved big by forgoing expensive options that would need to be imported from afar.

And finally, don’t forget to consider your venue and the local climate before making your final floral choices. Some flowers may be beautiful as the day begins, but will wilt in the sun during a warm outdoor ceremony. Chilly locale? Consult a florist to be sure the flowers are hefty enough to handle it.

What are your top tips for choosing the perfect wedding day flowers? What challenges have you faced?

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Cheated…

…on my ring!

A couple months ago, after having my engagement ring resized (hurray for weight loss!), I noticed that one of the small stones along the band had fallen out. I was bummed, but luckily, the jeweler agreed to repair it right away within the week.

This was good news, but it definitely felt strange to be without my ring for even a few days. So strange, in fact, that I instead took to wearing a sapphire birthstone ring on my wedding finger.

While many people didn’t even notice the change, those who did had nothing but compliments about the blue stone. In fact, some acquaintances I rarely see assumed that this fill-in was my actual engagement ring!

Though I was overjoyed to get my classic diamond back, in the end, it was fun getting so much attention for wearing a non-traditional style. Here, a few out-of-the-ordinary designs I love, including the Irish Claddagh ring.

In Irish culture, if the heart on this ring is pointed inward and worn on the left hand, it means the wearer’s heart has already been won. But if it’s facing outward and worn on the right hand, it means the wearer is still looking for love. This tradition is so much fun, I may try to tie it into my wedding day somehow!

Do you have a non-traditional engagement ring, or would you consider wearing one?

(Photo Credits: Sun Jewelry & Google Images)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Celebrate Spring Giveaway Winner!

And the poster goes to…Shanna of Shanna’s Secrets!

Congratulations, Shanna, and thanks to everyone who entered!

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Mother’s Day ‘Thank You’

I’m no stranger to the wedding world, and one thing I hear time and again is the story of the overbearing parent who just has to have his or her way when it comes to crafting the perfect celebration. But not my mom.

Throughout our entire engagement, my mom has been nothing but helpful, understanding and generous. She’s spent her hard-earned money on gifts that make us smile, her weekends graciously making phone calls, and her evenings running errands that are impossible for me to handle from the opposite side of the country. Despite the distance between us, I talk with my mom each day, and couldn't have made it through this process without her, as she has truly poured her whole heart into our wedding.

As a way to honor all of her hard work, here’s a photo of my beautiful mother at her July 1981 wedding. I hope I’ll look as lovely as she did, and that someday, I’ll happily look back at my own wedding photos with my daughter, still grateful for all that my mom has done for me.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Love ya!

(Photo Credit: Personal Library)

Friday, May 7, 2010

No Cold Feet Here!

As our wedding approaches, being nervous is honestly the farthest thing from our minds. Maybe we’ll feel a bit of nervous energy start to kick in the week of the wedding, but for now, we’re focused on the excitement of perfecting our day by putting the finishing touches on all of our projects and plans.

But, even though I know he would never be struck with a genuine case of cold feet, I’ll be bringing in backup by gifting Stephen with a special pair of argyle socks the night of the rehearsal. In doing this, I admit I’m breaking the rules a little. After all, Stephen and I agreed not to give each other gifts.

Even so, when I heard about the idea of “cold feet” socks from Born to be Mrs. Beever over at Thoughts of the All Consumed Bride, I simply couldn’t help myself, especially after I saw the cute Tie That Binds labels to wrap around them!

Like the idea, but don’t want to spend $7.50 on the label? You can easily print your own or just write him a message in a card, instead.

Now, I just have to keep this a secret until the wedding… And luckily, there’s not a very long time left to wait!

Are you giving your groom a gift? How nervous do you think you’ll be on the wedding day?

(Photo Credits: Tie That Binds)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cake Inspiration: A Classic Original

Who doesn’t love tasting free cake? For us, it was one of the most fun, low-keys parts of planning the wedding! And designing our cake to fit with our wedding’s grape and wine motifs? That was pretty stress-free, too.

One reason this part was so simple? We’re sticking with a traditional cake, for the most part, while at the same time tying in our theme for a unique look. Here, an inspiration photo that shows off some of our ideas.

Our three-tier cake will feature a classic purple fondant ribbon design at the bottom of each layer.
The cake will be covered in purple and silver grapevine artwork, with a luster dust finish to create a sparkly sheen.

And flavors? We’re doing something different for each tier, with a vanilla buttercream frosting as the finishing touch.

Tier One (Bottom) – Marble cake with Oreo-cream filling

Tier Two (Middle) – Vanilla cake with cream cheese filling

Tier Three (Top) – Lemon cake with raspberry and lemon chiffon filling

Yum! I can’t wait to dig right in at the wedding!

What are your plans for the cake? Will you go the traditional route, or mix things up with a unique design?

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

One Angry Volcano = A Big Silver Lining

I’ve done my best to stay upbeat and positive while planning our wedding, not letting the occasional snags and bumps in the road get me down. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my moments of anger and frustration. Hey, as much as I enjoy wedding planning, I’m still human!

Computer glitches and printing problems? It’s Stephen to the rescue, because I have no patience for those types of hang-ups. Stress eating? Some days, it’s really hard to just walk away from the cookie jar. And the one thing that's had me most worried, aside from my gown not being ready on time? Our ceremony music.

You see, my bridesmaid and cantor Gianna lives in Germany, and will only arrive for the wedding a week ahead of time. Our church’s music director won't be available for the rehearsal, and won't have time to meet with Gianna in the week prior to the wedding. His suggestion? Meeting with her about 45 minutes before the ceremony begins to discuss the songs, which verses will be sung, which key they will be sung in, and so on.

Now, while both of them are experienced musicians, with Gianna having sung in church for many years, I was seriously stunned upon hearing this plan. With all the hectic goings-on of the wedding day, from photo sessions to last minute preparations, would the two of them really be able to make it through a practice session with less than an hour to go? I had my doubts, but finally decided there was nothing more I could do about it. If things went wrong, I was simply out of luck.

Enter the volcano in Iceland, which stranded thousands and made travel to Europe a nightmare for weeks. One of those wayward travelers? Gianna, who was out in California visiting her family when the erruption occurred. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, she and our music director could meet during the extra days she would be stuck. I sent Gianna an email about it, and guess what? She had already gone ahead and scheduled a meeting on her own!

Way to go, girl! The two of them met, ran through all the songs, and even reviewed copies of our program and processional/recessional outline. All I can say is, what a relief! That is, for us, anyway, because I’m sure tons of other poor travelers would completely disagree!

Is there a certain part of the wedding you’re worried about that just doesn’t seem to be coming together? Did you ever think something wouldn’t work out the way you'd hoped, but then in the end, it did?

(Photo & Graphic Credits: USA Today & Google Images)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dress Stress & The One Month Crunch!

Next month at this time, it will be my wedding day! Wow! As you can imagine, I started the day off on a cloud of excitement. That is, until I called to check on the status of my Alfred Angelo gown.

Yes, putting a bit of a black cloud over today’s happy milestone is the fact that my new gown has still not arrived at the shop. In fact, while I initially understood that it might be in around May 7, I was told today that May 7 is actually the ship date for the gown, and that it won’t arrive for 5-7 business days after that.

Furthermore, the earliest alteration date available for me is May 20! Now, I’m usually pretty calm about things, and have everything else for the wedding well under control. But this situation has me really rattled and worried that the alterations won’t be done in time for me to either ship the gown to California or carry it onto the plane when I leave on May 29.

In the end, I know this is my fault. I simply waited too long to change my mind about my gown, and this is the result. I’m now scared that it’s somehow not going to work out, and that I’m going to be left without a dress for my wedding day, since I never completed the alterations on my first gown.

Has anyone else been in this situation, or do you have any helpful ideas or thoughts? Advice and encouragement are more than welcome today!

Music Musts: DJ Tips & Tricks

Our DJ’s motto is “great music…great party,” and I couldn’t agree more. In the coming weeks, I’ll share all the ins and outs of working with him to plan our reception, including the grand entrance, sing-along contest, and playlist. But to start things off, here are my top tips for working with your DJ to ensure a fabulous party that leaves everyone happy.

Remember that it’s your event, and you call the final shots about the timeline, music lineup, and so on. Want to be certain there’s absolutely no garter toss or cake smashing during your party? Have a special announcement you’d like made just before dinner? Be sure to speak up and make sure your DJ knows just when and what to say throughout the evening.

On the other hand, your DJ has likely planned hundreds of parties just like yours, so her suggestions about timing and the order of events are certainly worth listening to. You may go into the meeting thinking your way is the best way, but the DJ might offer a point-of-view you never thought about before. For example, our DJ suggested doing the anniversary dance right after the cake cutting, so that the venue staff will have time to plate it while guests are dancing. It was advice well-taken.

Don’t skip a written pronunciation key. Even if you think most of the names of your family members and wedding party are easy to pronounce, it never hurts to cover your bases. My sister’s name, Kellie, is mispronounced surprisingly often. Neither you nor the DJ wants to kick the night off with a botched grand entrance, so it’s better to be safe by providing a basic guide in advance and going over it a couple times before the big day.

Also, remember to submit your “don’t play” and “must play” lists. We all have special songs we do and don’t want to hear throughout the wedding. Make sure your DJ is kept in the loop.

Ask about his policy for guest requests. How does he handle the situation when a guest comes up and asks for a song on your “do not play” list? Does he set aside a certain amount of time during the party for requests and dedications? Make sure you’re on board with these plans in advance.

And finally, be clear about the equipment you’ll need throughout the night. Since our cocktail hour will take place on the patio, our DJ will need to come prepared with extra-long cables and speakers that can be easily moved from the patio to the ballroom before the grand entrance. He’ll also need to bring along sound cables to hook up to our laptop during the slideshows.

What have you learned so far in working with your DJ? Have you faced any major challenges along the way?

(Photo Credit: Personal Library)

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Custom Wedding Slideshow

I’ve been close to Pooneh, one of my bridesmaids, for 20 incredible years. Growing up, she was always ready with the most unique ideas for games and fun. Today, she’s still one of the most imaginative people I know, and she’s using her originality to help make my wedding spectacular, from designing candy wrappers for our rehearsal dinner favors to sharing creative inspiration galore.
Here, she talks about her latest project – creating a custom slideshow for our reception. I hope her thoughts inspire you, too!

The bride is born; the groom is born. They each grow up, become adults, and start their lives. Somewhere along the way, they meet and start their magical journey. How to document that journey? How to capture that sparkle of love to share with the world? Well, maybe not the world, but at least the wedding guests!

That’s where I come in. As one of Heather’s bridesmaids and longtime friends, I’m creating a personalized slideshow for the reception. I know what you’re thinking…another typical slideshow set to a cheesy, boring song. That’s exactly why I’m trying to make my slideshow different.

Of course, I’ll still showcase the fun baby pictures, along with shots of Heather and Stephen over the years. I’ll still build up to the special day they met, and will then include pictures of them together. But instead of playing just one love song in the background, I’ll be mixing things up by custom-editing the music.

Having known Heather most of my life, there are so many songs we’ve enjoyed over the years that have meaning to us. I’ll also get a list of most-loved songs from she and Stephen, and will then create my own mash-ups and custom mixes for an upbeat, fun combo that smoothly flows. Exactly which songs am I picking? You’ll have to wait until after the wedding to find out, because there’s no way I’m letting Heather in on that secret!

Are you showing a slideshow at your reception? Who’s creating it, and what types of music will you include?

(Graphic Credits: Google Images)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wine Lovers Wedding Registry: $25 or Less

When Stephen and I need to get away from it all for a few hours, we usually venture out to Vintage Ridge, our favorite Virginia winery, where we can sample the new releases and then unwind with a nice chilled glass.

If you love wine as much as we do, here are a few cheap-chic registry picks from Target that will help you get pouring without draining your guests’ wallets. Bring on the sangria!

Sangria Glass and Pitcher 7-pc. Set

Oster Inspire Cordless/Rechargeable Wine Bottle Opener – 4207

Bordeaux 5-Bottle Wine Rack – Black

Party Wine Glasses – Set of 12 w/Storage Box

And a splurge…

Wine Butler Glass Rack – Espresso

What are a few of your registry themes or favorites?

(Photo Credits: Target)