Friday, October 11, 2013

It's Coming!

The big day is coming fast!!

There are only 9 days left - where did all the time go??

Things are actually pretty calm over here - after what can only be described as one of the worst Septembers ever, we are rounding the corner and enjoying a peaceful October. Most things are in order at this point, and what's left is totally doable.

In the past few weeks, I've gotten almost all of the decorations organized - the things that are going to the florist and the things that are for the ceremony are totally ready to go! Of course, everything comes with something that looks like this:

That's right, I'm totally insane, and I've made directions for the decorations. Now, not everything requires directions - I'm hoping that the venue people can figure out what to do with the cake server - but anything that I am particular about has its own set of directions.

I'm not sure if at the end I will feel that it was worth it, but all of this work is definitely for a purpose. I have spent over a year now working hard on all of the various pieces of this wedding - at this point, especially since I have time to spare right now, I have no one to blame but myself if my directions are confusing and things get set up wrong. Sure, there will still be a few mistakes - but I'm hoping that with clear, visual directions, people will have an easy time understanding how best to help set up.

Aside from going nuts putting together these directions, I have been busy with a few other things. The programs got put together this week, and the place cards got put together the week before. Now that everything necessary is basically done, I have been focusing on gifts for people and fun extras, which is nice.

I've also finally had a little time to really let it sink in - I'm getting married in 9 days! That's 9 more days of being single, folks. It doesn't feel like a huge change for me, since Brendan and I have been dating for over 9 years now - I imagine life after the wedding will be quite similar to life before. But it somehow still feels like a big deal, which I guess I'm happy about. I was a little worried that we'd plan and plan, and have this big wedding, and everything would be exactly the same as it was before. I can feel the excitement coming up for the wedding, though, and I know it won't be exactly the same after. Because what I'm excited for is really the marriage - although the big fancy party will be fun, too! Bren and I have been really close lately, and everything about this just feels right. Even if I still have those holy-crap-I'm-getting-married moments, I know that this is where we are meant to be. The idea of calling him my husband is exciting - and I can't wait until he finally calls me his wife.

I'm sure there will be plenty more to do in the upcoming days, and probably a few fires to put out here and there, but hopefully everything goes generally as planned. Let's hope the forecast stays like this, too!

9 more days! Can't wait!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Invites and Guest Tally

Now that all of our RSVPs are officially in, I want to write a little something about our invitations!

First, we began our invite suite with our save-the-date, which was designed by me, based off of some inspiration from Etsy:

We ordered ours from Wedding Paper Divas, which I had used before for shower invites for BM Ashley. Our invite was the Artistic Maple: Autumn Orange. Here's a peek:

Sorry for the blurring out - gotta avoid having any party crashers!

The invites came out looking very nice - we were pleased!!

Bren and I put together the invitations over a few days - I wouldn't necessarily say it was fun, but it was nice to see the finished product.

The finished invite suite

Me and Bren, hard at work!

The outside of the invites, complete with burlap ribbon and wax seal

These bad babies went out in the mail mid-summer - here is me, hand-canceling the stamps at the Post Office:

NOTE: Any future brides, please PLEASE listen to me and take your completed invite to the post office to see what postage you need BEFORE ordering your stamps. I ordered stamps that were too low in price and ended up ordering new stamps, which both cost $$ and wasted time. Lesson learned!

The finished outside shows off our (new) custom stamps, which have our monogram (also designed by me) on them:

We started getting RSVPs back right away, but they definitely trickled in over time. And we had a few delinquents who needed to be tracked down - but we finally got our final head count!

We invited 124 guests, and 72 total were a "yes." That is definitely a higher than normal decline rate, but we expected it, as we had a lot of out-of-town friends and family members. We expected around 80, so we were only a little below! There were a few disappointments, but overall we are thrilled with our final guest list.

As the day closes in on us, we are finishing up our final seating chart (much more complicated than it needed to be!) and getting the head count on to our venue coordinator. There is plenty of work left to do!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Honeymoon: European Adventure or Island Luxury?

Of all of the various wedding-related tasks Brendan and I have tackled over the last year, we have a few favorites. Cake tasting is definitely among them, as was our wedding open house at Wedgewood Pines – you know, pretty much anything involving food! But recently, we just completed a major wedding-related task, one that we’re very excited about: we booked our honeymoon!

When it came time to decide on a honeymoon locale, Brendan and I actually had a hard time. Because a lot of our relationship has been spent long-distance, we’ve actually only gone on one big vacation together: Walt Disney World. We had an absolute blast there, and can’t wait to go back there (hopefully once more before we have kids!) – but because we’ve already been there, Disney trips were definitely ruled out.

Yeah, we're totally the people who get matching ears (photo from Disney photopass)

There were two major types of vacation Brendan and I considered: the European tour and the tropical beach vacation. He has never been outside the U.S., and I have only been to Germany and Australia (random, I know) – so a trip to Europe sounded very exciting. We love history, and we happen to know several languages between us (him French, and me German and Italian), so it could be very interesting to put our skills to use. A tour of Europe would be filled with beautiful architecture, unique cultures, and delicious food, and it’s hard to deny that it would be a trip of a lifetime.

A view like this would be nice!

Or maybe a few drinks?

As we talked about a European honeymoon, however, we came across a few snags. First, the weather. Since we are getting married in late October, the weather in Europe has the potential to be absolutely horrible during our honeymoon. We’d prefer to see everything in the spring or summer – and we weren’t willing to wait 6 months to go on our honeymoon!

The second thing was the amount of time we needed for a trip. We couldn’t decide on one or two countries to visit since we both have different favorites. To get around this, we looked at longer European tours that spanned many countries, but even though this would probably be the way to go, the tours were pretty long (10+ days) and pricey. With limited vacation time and a limited budget, we had to look elsewhere.

Pretty European architecture, we'll see you someday!

Enter: the tropical beach vacation. Strangely, neither of us is usually that fond of beaches, so we agreed that our destination had to be somewhere unique. We thought about all of the Pacific islands that our friends had gone to, like Tahiti and the Maldives, but those were also quite expensive, and a 24-hour plane trip on your honeymoon doesn’t sound like our idea of a good time. At the same time, we didn’t want to go to a large resort on a bigger island – if we’re going somewhere tropical, we want to be somewhere private. We started looking a little closer to home for somewhere with private cabanas, and suddenly we found it:

Paradise! (source)

Stay tuned for the big reveal – and a bit more detail on our honeymoon!

Monday, June 10, 2013

My Favorite DIY Project: A Garter!

Throughout the past year of planning our wedding, Brendan and I have taken on many new DIY skills. He is the master of spray paint, and has helped me with a few projects that required carpentry knowledge (Not that I can’t use a saw! It’s just the area he is best at helping me in). Our dining room is now, for all intents and purposes, a craft room, strewn with lace, burlap, test tubes, and acrylic paint. There are many different projects we’ve taken on that I love – and some that didn’t work out so well. I promise to share more with you – but for today, let’s start with my favorite project thus far: I made my own garter.

Now, I know it’s kind of a strange thing to have as a favorite project. This is particularly true because we aren’t having a garter toss – so no one will even see the garter (except Brendan, and probably the photographer). I even debated whether I even wanted one – it is, after all, a totally useless piece of clothing, unless you are using them to actually hold up stockings. But then I saw these:

From Etsy seller florriemitton

From Etsy seller TheLittleWhiteDress

From  Etsy seller Glowlightly

And I admit, I had an episode of girly glee. Something about wedding planning has made me all excited about glitter and soft, romantic things, and these definitely hit the mark in that respect.

One look at the price tags of most of these garters made me want to cry – I know they’re pretty, but $80 for a scrunchy piece of fabric that you will probably never wear again? I couldn’t do it – I simply couldn’t!

Enter: the DIY project! A quick glance through various tutorials on the internet made me realize that they aren’t actually that difficult to do. Of course, basic sewing skills are required – but knowing that there would be some projects in the coming months that would require me to sew, I had asked for a sewing machine for Christmas and had actually used it for a few other projects in the meantime. My skills are REALLY on the beginner level, but luckily that’s all that’s needed for this project!

Following this tutorial to a tee, I went from 3 yards each of ivory and gold sparkle tulle, some elastic, lace, and a brooch to a garter in less than 3 hours! Here is my inspiration shot:

Picture from tutorial on Johnna Lynn Johnson Blog

I didn’t take a completely “before” picture since it was just a pile of fabric, but here’s an in-progress shot:

Notice how many pins are required - two for each and every fold of the tulle. This takes a lot of patience, folks! I chose to make my garter a mix of ivory and gold tulle (ivory on the outside and gold on the inside) to give it a vintage look without making it too sparkly.

Finally, everything came together! I added a brooch that I picked up at a flea market last summer – I think it’s a perfect accent to the feathers. The finished product:

Overall, I think it was one of the more fun projects I’ve done for the wedding – and the fact that I get to wear a beautiful garter without spending a zillion dollars makes me so happy! I would say I spent about $10 on fabric, then $5-10 more on the jewels, elastic, lace, and brooch – the feathers I had lying around from another project. It may not be the best quality – everything is subject to my poor sewing skills, unfortunately – but it should hold up for the night, and I love it, so I’m a happy girl!

What was your favorite DIY?

Friday, June 7, 2013

More Fall Photos!

(Warning: photo-heavy post ahead!)

Brendan and I chose to have our engagement shoot in the fall, just about one year before the wedding. Although we thought about maybe wanting to have some pictures in a different season, we both really love the fall, and we wanted some shots outside in our normal clothes.

Like many brides-to-be, I am taking every possible chance to wear white (or something like white) – I usually wear a lot of bright colors and black, so it’s something new for me! For our engagement shoot, we went with two outfits, one casual and one a bit dressier. We matched the outfits to fit our two locations, and we got the ok from our photographer before choosing our outfits – she gave us guidance and a few tips (like lighter shirts photograph better than dark – who knew?). I also took the opportunity to have my hair and makeup done – unfortunately, it was too early in the game for my hair and makeup trials, so I just headed over to the nearest Ulta to get all pretty.

We started our shoot at a local orchard, Meadowbrook Farm, where we set up a little picnic. I fell in love with picnic-themed shoots a while ago, and now was our chance to bring ours to life. We also had a chance to use some of the things we will have at our wedding – you’ll see them later, I promise!

(All photos copyright Samantha Melanson Photography)

Tip - if you want to use a photo with a "thank you" banner for your thank you cards, take the shots at your engagement shoot - so much easier than trying to remember during the wedding!

The first few shots were a little bit awkward – how often do you hold hands and kiss in front of the camera? But this is exactly what an engagement shoot is for – we warmed up to Samantha, and she got a feel for what works for us. As we moved on to our picnic setup, we had a blast!

After this part of the shoot, we realized just how late we were running – we wanted to make it to our other spot, the Old Stone Church, in time for sunset. We raced to change our clothes and drive over to the reservoir.

Obligatory artsy-fartsy shot!

We chose to take pictures at the Stone Church because of the beautiful fall landscape around the area, and the colors did not disappoint. We are thrilled with all of our pictures from there!

As we passed sunset, we snuck in a few more pictures near the church, taking advantage of the beautiful architecture.

And finally, the last shots of the night incorporated another set of props – glow sticks in jars. They were supposed to look like fireflies, and I’m not sure if they did – but they sure did look cool!

Overall, we are thrilled with our engagement pictures. We weren’t 100% sold on having them, but now that we see them, we are so glad we do.

Did you have fun at your engagement shoot? Did you pick the same season as your wedding, or go for a different season?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Choosing a Wedding Photographer

When Brendan and I began planning, we knew that we would definitely have to set priorities for what was most important for us to have at our wedding. Maybe it’s because of all the blogs I have read over the years, or maybe it’s just the sentimental part of me, but I knew right away: Photography is a major priority at our wedding.

I know some people don’t feel as strongly as I do about photography, but I am pretty confident that almost everyone wants pictures of their wedding. Even if you don’t look at them often, your wedding photos will be the longest-lasting souvenirs of your big day. Long after you’ve eaten your first-anniversary cake, long after you can’t even find your wedding dress, let alone fit into it – the pictures will still be there, helping you remember how the day looked and felt.

As I was growing up, my family always took a lot of pictures. My parents recently packed up for a cross-country move (to be closer to me!), and we sorted through many, many boxes of old photographs. Of course, some of them are so grainy and yellowed that you can barely imagine being there, but as time goes on, the quality of the images gets better and better. I am definitely thankful that we are getting married now, when digital photography is excellent and image storage is simple – we know that even if our wedding album gets lost or damaged, we will truly have these photos forever. Knowing that our pictures can actually be timeless (well, except for the outfits and hairstyles!) is definitely a selling point for investing in good quality photographers.

I was probably spoiled by all of my pre-engagement wedding blog viewing (thanks in part to being in bridesmaid A's wedding the year before), but I definitely wanted more than just pictures that captured how everything looked. I wanted artistic, beautiful pictures that captured the emotion of the day - done right, I know that photography can absolutely be moving, and I wanted our pictures to be gorgeous and full of emotion.

I have to say, photography was the first big thing that caused Brendan and I to go through sticker-shock. Wedding photographers are expensive, yo! Everywhere we looked, especially in Boston, photographers’ packages were pricey – even knowing that this would be the case, I was definitely surprised. Brendan and I even prepared to limit what we could get pictures of, or forgo engagement pictures or an album. Luckily, we persevered – with a little bit of digging, mostly on the WeddingWire reviews pages, we found a few good options. One thing we noticed was that the photographers located outside the major cities (in our case, Boston) were much more affordable – and in most cases, they were more than willing to drive anywhere around the metro area, so even if your wedding will be held in the city, I would definitely suggest shopping around a bit!

Not counting the terrible meeting we had with a husband-and-wife photographer pair (truly the most awkward encounter I’ve ever had), we met with two photographers during our hunt. We were lucky enough to schedule the meetings in the same week, which definitely helped us to compare styles and personalities. Both photographers were friendly, and we meshed well with both. Their portfolios were stunning, and we could definitely see either of them shooting our wedding. And both of them had relatively similar package pricing – it was really difficult to choose!

Ultimately, because both of our options were good ones, our decision was made on relatively small details. Although both of the photographers were friendly and professional, one of them stood just a bit above: Samantha Melanson.

Our personalities clicked immediately with Samantha, and her professionalism was obvious. Although she is young, she is definitely on top of her game – she even answered Brendan’s questions about data management and security without batting an eyelash! We could tell that with Samantha, our wedding would be in good hands.

We had our engagement session in the fall, just over a year before our wedding – more on that later, but for now, here are a few teasers!

(all above images copyright Samantha Melanson Photography)

Did you have a hard time choosing a photographer? What helped you make your choice?