Monday, January 31, 2011

Our Family Is Growing!

But not in the way you might think… Though we don’t plan to have kids for a couple more years, we decided this month that we were ready to expand our family in another way. So, a little over a week ago, these two beautiful girls came home with us.



Both kittens are four months old, rescued by the Northern Virginia SPCA after being found with a hoarder who has 18 adult cats living in a one-bedroom apartment. Many liters of kittens were removed from that home, including this last one, before all of the adult cats were at last neutered and spayed by the SPCA.

Even though Molly and Twix were a bit shy when we first brought them home, that wasn’t the case for long, and they now spend their days exploring, playing and getting into all kinds of adventures. So far, we can tell that Twix is a real daredevil, fearlessly climbing up onto shelves, burrowing under the covers on beds, and racing around chasing her mice toys. Her cousin Molly is an adorable and sweet little kitty who likes to play, but also loves to curl up on my lap while I work, purring happily as she keeps me company.

Since I grew up in an apartment building that didn't allow cats or dogs, adopting these two has been a really exciting change for me! In just the short amount of time we’ve had them, I already feel a strong connection to these girls. They’re fun, loving, and such a joy to have in our home!

Do you have pets? What are their personalities like?

(Photo Credits: Personal Library & SPCA)

Friday, January 28, 2011

DC Ladies Post: Wedding-Planning Web Standouts

As bloggers, we already know how many great resources are out there on the web when it comes to wedding planning, along with which ones have been the most helpful to us. So, to help newly engaged brides who are just getting started, I’m sharing info about three of my favorite planning sites – Weddzilla, Get Married and WeddingWire – over on The DC Ladies site.

Feel free to check out the post, whether for yourself or to help a fellow bride-to-be, and share your own opinion. Which online sites have you found to be the most helpful in your planning?

(Photo Credit: My Wedding Favors)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Putting A Bow On It

Without a doubt, one of the most fun things about getting hitched is being able to announce to the world that you and your groom are “just married,” finally united in love for the rest of your lives. Though we didn’t rent a wedding day limo, we were just as happy to spruce up our trusty rental van with a festive bow I’d snagged at Party City on the cheap. Silly? A little. But fun? Definitely!  

Did you or will you decorate your getaway car?

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography)  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What’s Hot, What’s Not? WeddHOT On Facebook Lets You Decide!

Love everything about weddings and think you have impeccable taste? Well, here's your chance to prove it with Weddzilla's brand new Facebook app, WeddHOT. With WeddHOT, you can check out pictures submitted by real brides as they plan their weddings, and judge for yourself whether they are WeddHOT or not!

Get inspired by browsing thousands of images from real brides and wedding professionals. Want to get in on the action? You can even submit your own pics to WeddHOT by grabbing the Weddzilla Weddmark now!

Collect, browse, and get instant feedback on pics from your family members, friends and social networks with just one click. It's all about making planning your wedding fun and social.

Have you tried the Weddmark or WeddHOT app, and if so, what do you think?

Monday, January 24, 2011

On Feminism, Weddings & Being ‘Given Away’

I’ve always considered myself a feminist, in the sense that I believe men and women should have the right to define themselves within society, rather than being pressured to live their lives within the parameters of societal expectations and boundaries. So, when I got engaged, I’ll admit that the symbolism behind certain wedding traditions initially rubbed me the wrong way, especially the “giving away” of the bride. Why, I thought, should I, a financially and emotionally independent woman, require my parents' walking me down the aisle and physically placing my hand in Stephen’s, as though this marriage were somehow their choice, or something over which they had the final say?

I should note that unlike is true in some religious traditions, the Catholic Church does not advocate a formal giving away of the bride, and the Church often prefers that the bride and groom actually walk down the aisle together as symbol of their equality both before and after marriage. I thought about having this type of processional, walking down the aisle alone, or even having Stephen meet me halfway so that we could make the rest of the walk together.

But as I became more involved in the planning process, something changed, and I somehow I started to feel an attachment to classic weddings traditions, in spite of myself. In the end, I allowed myself to be walked down the aisle, and I allowed my hand to be placed in my groom’s. Though I did put my foot down on being introduced as "Mrs. Stephen Walrath," and would have objected strongly to a typical “who gives this woman” opening phrase, the other traditions in some strange way just felt right.

The way I see it, walking down the aisle with my parents was a sign of my love for them and all they have given me throughout my life. And seeing Stephen waiting for me at the end of the aisle filled me with tremendous joy. Does my going along with these traditions mean I am no longer a feminist? Not in my opinion. In the end, by choosing to honor tradition, I made my own decision and defined myself in the way that I chose, which is what I believe feminism is really about. I had a choice, and I made the best choice for myself, without any doubts or regrets.

What do you think? Do certain wedding traditions make you uncomfortable, and how did you or will you deal with these issues?

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gifts That Glittter

Though I may have suffered a major creative failure when it came to asking my bridesmaids to be a part of our wedding, when it came to choosing the right gifts, I had a lot more time to think and consider different options.

Hoping to choose something timeless and classic they’d be able to use again after the wedding, I ultimately settled on a diamond necklace and earring set for each girl. While the matching sets allowed for a unified look on the wedding day, I thought the pave design – a large center stone surrounded by smaller stones – would also be simple and versatile enough to work with a variety of other outfits in the future.

To help set my sister and maid of honor apart in a special way, I let her choose her own unique diamond set, along with a crystal headband she loved. A set of pretty journals rounded out my pre-wedding gift to each lady, which I presented in purple mini-totes the night of the rehearsal dinner.  

A few months later, for Christmas, I also gave each girl one final wedding-related gift – a framed photo of the two of us together just before the ceremony. Since I live across the country from most of my close friends and don’t get to see them often, knowing they have these photos helps me feel connected and close to them, and lets each girl know how much it meant to have her beside me on my wedding day.

What did you or will you give to your bridesmaids?

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography & Damien Smith Photography)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Major Announcement…I’m The Weddzilla Blog's New Editor in Chief!

As you know, the new year has brought about many huge changes in my life, and now, I’m ready to reveal one of the biggest and most exciting. I’ve been chosen by the team at as the new editor in chief of the site’s fabulous blog! Though I’ve worked with Weddzilla before as a featured bride blogger, this new role is far more involved, and is also right in line with my electronic publishing master’s studies.

So, how can you help? In anticipation of our upcoming relaunch and rollout of new features, I’m looking for writers in all of the following categories.

• Real Brides, Grooms & Newlyweds
• Expert Vendors
• Wedding News & Trend Bloggers

I’m also accepting submissions of the following items.

• Questions for our weekly “Ask Weddzilla” feature
• “Real Wedding” photos & stories
• Alerts about upcoming giveaways & events

Want to get in touch with me about any of these? Email for more info, and stay tuned for more updates!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Asking My Bridesmaids, The Uncreative Way

Post-engagement season, I hear tons of chatter amongst brides about the quandary of choosing their bridesmaids and the creative ways they hope to ask these lovely ladies to stand beside them during such a memorable occasion.

That’s why I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that as passionate and up-to-speed as I am about weddings, I was as least creative as possible when it came to asking the girls. The truth is, as soon as Stephen popped the question, I was so happy and excited that I called all seven of them right away to share the news and ask if they’d be in our wedding party!

And since I’ve had the same close-knit circle of friends for years, there was no doubt in my mind from that very first moment which special ladies I hoped to have by my side, along with my sister as maid of honor. I’m grateful that although I may not have gotten any points in the creativity department, they were excited just the same, and they all said yes!

Did you think up a creative way to ask your bridesmaids, and how easy or difficult was it to choose who to include?

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography)

Friday, January 14, 2011

DC Ladies Post: Indoor vs. Outdoor Wedding Venues

You’ve said yes, the planning’s begun, and it’s time to choose the perfect venue. Indoor and outdoor sites both have their pros and cons, but narrowing down the options can be tough. In our case, the Catholic Church's rule against holding ceremonies outside a church building ultimately made the decision for us.

But for those who are still deciding, I’m featuring an expert interview over on The DC Ladies today to help newly engaged brides sort through all the ins and outs. Head on over, and feel free to leave a comment here or there sharing how and why you chose the venue you did. Happy Friday!

(Photo Credit: Alex Neumann Photography)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Birthdays, Books & Business

Whew! I knew 2011 would get off to a busy start, and the first week definitely did not let me down. This week, things get even more hectic, since I'm heading back to grad school after a month-long break to kick off my second semester. During the next few months, I’ll be focused on copyright law and business policies in the publishing realm, while also planning a mock wedding and studying business techniques as the final projects before earning my wedding coordination certificate. Like I always feel at the outset of something new, I’m excited and anxious all at once, ready to jump in and get things moving.

Stephen’s birthday is also coming up on Friday, my “Valentease” boudoir shoot is lined up for Saturday, and I’ll be starting Zumba and ballet toning fitness programs before the end of the month. I’m still adjusting to working from home and not heading into the office each day, but overall, I’m enjoying the freedom and flexibility to focus on those areas that will help me get to where I want to be in my career and life. Time’s flying, and before I know it, I hope to have a master’s diploma in my hand and lots more to look forward to. 2011, here I come!

Are you having a busy start to the new year?

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Love In The Face Of Violence

As an American and former congressional aide, I, like the rest of the country, am sincerely disgusted and saddened by the shootings that took place in Tucson this past weekend. Many have expressed shock over these events, and while I am shocked as well, it terrifies me that these types of sick actions seem to be occurring with increasing frequency, whether at universities, workplaces or events where our public officials are doing what they were elected to do – connect with those who elected them.

Though I was outraged from the moment I heard the initial news reports, the story truly hit home for me when CNN reported that one of those killed was 30-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, a congressional staff member who was engaged to be married. Gabe was no doubt a hardworking and dedicated professional, just like I was, serving his country and making a difference in a way that was surely meaningful to him and to others. That he worked in his boss' district while I worked up on Capitol Hill makes no difference. He was a citizen doing his duty, just like me, and he and all the innocent others who were killed in such a tragic way certainly did not deserve to die like this.

Before I left Capitol Hill, I witnessed that political tensions and anti-government rhetoric in this country are as high as many have ever seen, and primarily over issues that, in my opinion, are far less outrageous than many of those we’ve faced throughout the past decade. However, the purpose of this post is not to tout my own political views, but rather to express solidarity and love in the face of violence. The truth is, no matter how much someone’s views might anger or even outrage me, I respect their right to disagree, and certainly still value them as human beings. What has happened in our nation and society to make individuals feel that senseless violence is the only way to make their voices heard? I'm not sure, but it truly leaves me sick at heart.

So, moving forward in light of these tragedies, I’m asking everyone – readers, friends, family members, strangers and myself – to think before we speak, and to consider how our own actions might unwittingly foster a culture of hatred and intolerance, from saying we hate someone to calling someone an ugly name. Certainly, sick individuals will still continue to carry out violent acts, but I truly believe that we all need to make it our personal mission to stand for compassion instead of anger.

I once interviewed a professor who shared that his favorite quote comes from St. Augustine, who said, “Love, and do what you will.” “Because if you love, you will know what to do,” the professor told me. I believe this and try to live by it. I wish everyone else would, too.

(Photo Credit: Roll Call)

Friday, January 7, 2011

When Parents Meet

When Stephen and I met, we discovered that we have somewhat different family backgrounds, including in terms of economics. Even so, it was important to us, and to our parents, that they meet prior to our wedding day.

Since both families live in California, they decided it would be best to meet for dinner during a trip Stephen’s mom and dad took to SoCal, even though he and I wouldn’t actually be there to participate. In the days leading up to the meeting, I truly hoped things would go well and that our parents would develop a genuine liking for each other. Most of all, I hoped they’d find plenty to talk about and share, despite their varied backgrounds and the fact that we wouldn’t be there to take part in the conversation.

The day came at last, and after a few hours of wondering, I learned that to my complete delight, things went as well as I could have hoped, with our parents finding plenty of common ground, specifically a son and daughter who had decided to spend the rest of their lives together, but also much more than that. Most importantly, meeting ahead of time allowed both families to relax and have a great time at the wedding, where we celebrated not only the union of two people, but also that of two distinct yet now interconnected families.

Did your parents meet prior to the wedding, or will they? Do you and your groom have similar or different family backgrounds?  

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography) 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Accessorizing The Bride, For A Little Or A Lot

While the bride’s gown always steals the show, it’s her accessories that truly help pull the entire look together. On my wedding day, I adored each and every one of mine, from my $10 faux-pearl earrings to my nearly $300 crystal tiara.

Shoes…$25 at Payless

Tiara…$275 at The Bridal Collection salon

Earrings…$10 at Target

Veil…$75 at David’s Bridal

Irish-Themed Garter…$30 from Garters by Kristi

Feeling bridal and beautiful on my wedding day? Absolutely priceless.

LESSON LEARNED: Gorgeous wedding day accessories come in all shapes and sizes, and at all price points. A pair of earrings that costs just $5 can be every bit as beautiful and fitting for the right bride as those that cost $500 or more. At the same time, splurging on an item or two you truly love can be well worth the extra money. As with all other things wedding-related, what matters is staying true to your budget and to yourself.

What types of wedding day accessories did you or will you wear?

(Photo Credits: Damien Smith Photography & Alex Neumann Photography)

Monday, January 3, 2011

My New Year’s Resolution: Happiness

Six years ago, at a New Year’s Eve party right before my last year as an undergrad, a group of friends went around the room sharing their resolutions for the coming year. Of course, there were all the usual goals, like working out and focusing more on relationships, plus those specifically relevant for soon-to-be grads, like launching a job search or getting better grades. When it was my turn, I at first didn’t know what to say, since I don’t typically make specific resolutions at the start of each year. Instead, I simply stated the goal that had carried me through college and has since carried me through right into 2011 – to be happy.

Though setting specific goals for the future is of course important, keeping happiness front and center as a focal point has helped me achieve these very goals, and has allowed me to keep my perspective when things get tough. Focusing on being happy has always pushed me to make the best decisions possible, whether in terms of career, health, relationships…you name it.

When I decided to get fit and lose weight a couple years ago, it was because I knew I’d be happier and healthier once I did. When I decided to leave my childhood hometown and come to DC to start a new life, it was because I knew I’d ultimately be unhappy if I didn’t push myself beyond my comfort zone. And when I chose to leave Capitol Hill last month instead of applying for another job there, it was because I knew I’d grown unhappy with my situation and that my staying would have been entirely motivated by other factors.

Now more than ever, this year brings me a fresh start, new opportunities and a new phase in my life. I plan to focus on doing well in grad school, continuing my work in the wedding industry and being a loving partner in my marriage. And at the heart of all of these is that same basic goal I carry with me in all that I do – to be, and stay, happy.

Do you like to make resolutions at the start of each year? What are your goals for 2011?

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography)