Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cake and hedgehogs

What do cake and hedgehogs have in common, you ask? Well, read on and you’ll find out!

Earlier this year, Brendan and I had our cake tasting at Jacques Pastries in Southern New Hampshire. The bakery has a partnership with our reception venue, and we first met them at the open house for 2013 couples in February. It was definitely love at first bite – all of their samples were wonderful, like little fluffy bites of heaven!

Brendan, eagerly eating a cake sample - wish we'd eaten more!

We made the drive up to New Hampshire one sunny Sunday morning in March. Sure, it was a bit early for a cake tasting – more than 6 months out – but we figured we’d get in a fun task while we were in the middle of a cold winter and seeing no end to the tedium of putting together guest lists and contact information. It turned out to be the perfect activity to cheer us up! We brought Brendan’s parents along for a second opinion.

We entered the shop, excited – the beautiful cake samples in the windows definitely helped set the mood. Our consultant, Cathy, was very friendly and encouraged us to try as many samples as we wanted. Jacques has helpful little cards with all the flavors on them, but we were a bit overwhelmed with all the options. Since we described our wedding as fall-themed, Cathy suggested we try all the different fall flavors along with the basic vanilla and chocolate. Definitely a great idea!

We tried – and loved – every single one of the flavors that they brought out. It was a very difficult decision, since everything was so delicious, but we decided on three different flavor combinations, given that our cake will have three layers. Each tier can have up to three different flavors of frosting, since there are three stripes of frosting in between the smaller layers. We went with:

Bottom tier: Spice cake with two caramel buttercream stripes and one apple filling stripe. This one was Cathy’s suggestion, and was definitely our favorite!

Middle tier: Almond cake with two hazelnut buttercream stripes and one Baileys buttercream stripe. We were all surprised to like the almond cake so much (it seemed like one of the plainer flavors), but it was spectacular. This tier will taste a little more traditional.

Top tier (our anniversary cake): Espresso cake with two hazelnut buttercream stripes and one cinnamon buttercream. The espresso cake was very rich, so we felt like it might be too much for the actual wedding. For our anniversary, though, it should stay moist and delicious!

As far as the design goes, we went pretty simple. Although Jacques has some really cool designs (New England brides, check out their website if you want a really crazy cake!), we wanted our cake to feel like a traditional wedding cake. We went with a “spackle” style buttercream for our frosting, which should look something like this:

Each layer will have an orange ribbon underneath a burlap ribbon, which will all be under a small lace ribbon. Hopefully a perfect mix of rustic and fall and romance! The final drawing for our cake looks like this:

Drawing courtesy of Jacques Pastries

And yes, those are, in fact, hedgehogs on top of the cake. Our cake toppers will be a cute little set of salt and pepper shakers I found in a store back home in MN:

They are magnetic “kissing” salt and pepper shakers – which normally I might consider a little silly, but they are so. darn. cute. Brendan likes hedgehogs, too, and the bakery told us we are not at all crazy for using salt and pepper shakers as a cake topper. Apparently, the little holes at the bottom for filling them work perfectly for putting the shakers on the cake – who knew? We’ve made a little top hat for the “groom” and ordered a tiny veil for the “bride” from, so everything should be set for the cake!

I can’t wait to taste our cake on our wedding day – and you better believe I will be getting some cake; no one comes between me and my cake!

Did you have a fun cake tasting? What is your favorite flavor?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Decoration Inspiration, Part II

When we left off, we were talking about a vintage/romantic theme for our wedding decorations, with a bit of a fall twist.  Both Brendan and I really enjoyed hunting around for inspiration, and we are generally sticking with a fall vintage theme, in keeping with our New England locale.

At the same time, both Brendan and I are not at all traditional. Outside of his job, he loves music, comic books, and video games. I am a scientist and love “quirky” things. We will be incorporating little nods to our passions, making sure to keep people on their toes!

One of the best examples of the combination of rustic and quirky is our cocktail table decorations. I saw a lot of pictures similar to this, and I knew I had to incorporate my scientific roots somehow. This was the inspiration for our table decorations:

Test tubes + flowers = brilliant! (source)

I have already started prepping some wooden test tube racks for our centerpieces, and luckily my lab had a bunch of glass test tubes lying around, just waiting to be thrown away (no one actually uses glass test tubes in labs anymore!). We have a few feathers to add, and our florist has said she will include a few extra loose flowers for the test tubes.

If you really like the whimsical science theme, you can really run with it. We played around with doing this sort of thing, too:

Any wedding decoration that uses ring stands is a major win. (source)

But ultimately, we decided to go a bit softer for the centerpieces in our reception hall. Here’s what I’ve put together so far:

Table mockups - complete with tiny "table square" sample!

The table numbers have been a labor of love – I put them together from wooden numbers and twine. Many a glue gun stick has met its demise for the making of these numbers!

Table numbers

The green-blue glass mason jars will hold flowers, as will the skinny milk glass vases - the bigger goblets will hold candles for a little romantic light at each table.  Everything is all collected from flea markets and antique stores – we got some unbelievable deals that way! In fact, in shopping for things for the wedding, Brendan and I have discovered a new-found love for all things flea market. It’s our new go-to weekend activity, and it’s definitely brought us closer together.

Overall, I think we are all ready to go for our centerpieces – we have 30+ jars, milk glass vases, and milk glass goblets collected. The only thing left is to finish the table overlays – and they’re underway. And as a nod to Brendan’s love of music, we will be trying to add song-request pods to each table – but that is up to him to organize!

Of course, going with a vintage theme means a TON of DIY projects. Our house is covered in burlap, lace, glue, and spray paint, and it will be for the next 5 months. The most time-consuming project thus far is definitely the table overlays - they will be my pet project for the next several weeks! I have plenty more projects to share – but we’ll break it into a few posts over time as things come together.

Are you going with a vintage theme? Did you discover the beauty of the flea market?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Decoration Inspiration

Once the details started to come together on where and when the wedding would be, Brendan and I started brainstorming about what we wanted the wedding to look and feel like. It didn’t take too long for us to decide on a theme, of sorts.

Living in the countryside of New England, there is certainly no shortage of rustic charm. Farms are scattered across our town and the neighboring ones, and we love the feeling of being steeped in history and tradition.  So when we started looking for inspiration and saw all the beautiful rustic and vintage weddings out there, we were definitely excited to incorporate some element of vintage decor into our day.

The only problem is, neither of us is particularly “country” in style. I grew up riding horses, and Brendan’s family home is pretty rustic, but our style is typically a bit more modern. We ended up going with a more vintage theme, emphasizing the soft and romantic features.

Vintage romance (source)

As far as colors go, I was adamant that:

1) We won't go totally New England in theme and have a lot of deep red in our color scheme. This is mostly just personal preference, and kind of random, really, but I wanted a theme that was inspired by the fall colors and New England feel, not one that was lifted straight from the farm next door to our venue. I think this goes back to our being more quirky than country (see above), but I wanted to avoid too much of a country hoedown feel at our wedding. For the same reason, I didn't want too many pumpkins, wheat stalks, apples, or corn cobs - I think Brendan actually disagreed with me on this, but now that he sees my vision more clearly, I think he's on board!

and 2) I don't want to run with the late-October thing and have a Halloween themed orange-and-black wedding. Sure, it's totally possible to have an elegant Halloween-themed wedding, and I even saw some really neat vintage-style Halloween decorations in the stores last October, but again, it just felt a little too theme-y for our style. And we're not Goth enough to pull it off!

But at the same time, I really did want to play up the beautiful fall colors outside. I wanted everything to feel warm and cozy, well-worn and comforting. So instead of specific colors, we went with a palette of fall shades:

With an emphasis on ivory, mustard yellow, deep orange, and brown. The deep orange in the picture above may not be as obvious as it could be. Picture it being a little more.....cognac, or rust:

This is pretty much the exact bridesmaids' dress color (source)

These colors should help us play up the romance a bit! There will be elements of lace, pheasant feathers, and burlap to help bring the earthiness and romance in, as well.

Up next - the details about the decor and all the DIY projects I'm tackling!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Searching for the Dress, Part II

When we last left off, I was just finishing my dress hunt at David’s Bridal. I had a clear top contender for my favorite dress, but I wanted to visit at least one other store before making such a big decision.

Ignore the bandage on my wrist - it's a long story!

Unfortunately, the dress shop I visited didn’t really allow for pictures, so I don’t have any shots of me actually in the dresses, but my favorite one was very similar to this:

Still a fit-and-flare, but a bit more glamorous.  I loved how it fit, but somehow all of the Maggie Sottero dresses I tried on felt like they were not quite… Each one would be lovely, but not quite perfect. Add in the fact that they were just at or just above the limits of my budget, and I knew I needed to keep looking. So close, but so far away…

Another of my favorites (source)

So back I went to David’s, this time with my future mother-in-law in tow. I would have LOVED to bring my mom, but with my parents still across the country in Minnesota, it just wasn’t possible to get everyone together. I did my best to keep her in the loop as I was shopping, though!

As we headed to David’s, I had every intention of buying the dress I initially liked. But armed with a bit more inspiration from my dress shopping experience, I wanted to try on a few other dresses.

Unfortunately, this is where we stop on the dress hunt journey. I am not usually that traditional, but I definitely want to keep the dress a surprise!

Yep, really, that's all you're getting!

But I will mention something else: dress regret. When I first bought my dress, I was absolutely over the moon. My FMIL said that I was positively glowing, and I was very excited to tell my parents and bridesmaids all about it. But after a few lukewarm responses, I began to doubt my decision. Comparing the pictures of my previous favorite and the dress I bought, I wasn’t sure anymore. The dress I purchased was poufy – not overly so, but definitely more girly than I usually am. Was it really right for me?

Ultimately, after a few more trips to dress shops, including one to David’s to compare both dresses, I was 100% sure that this dress is right for me. It may be different than I pictured, and it may not be my typical outfit – but this is my wedding day, and this dress makes me feel like a bride. And that’s what counts!

Remembering how happy I was at this moment is what did it!

Did you have to shop around by yourself to find the right dress? Did you experience dress regret?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Searching for the Dress, Part I

Before getting engaged, when I watched shows like Say Yes to the Dress, I always imagined dress shopping with at least a bit of an entourage. I thought I’d bring along my mom and a few of my friends and have a lovely girls’ day out. Sounds fun, right?

Isn't everyone's wedding planning just like in Bridesmaids? (source)

But when Brendan and I got engaged, it was time for a reality check. I’m pretty much all alone out here near Boston, and with my family and friends scattered everywhere, it just wasn’t practical to get everyone together for dress shopping. Rather than try to wrangle everyone, I thought it best to start out on my own.

Like many brides before me, my first stop was at Davids Bridal. I’ve never exactly been on the small side, and I wanted to be able to try on a lot of styles – in sizes that actually fit – to see what looked best. So a few weeks after we got engaged, I made an appointment at Davids.

Going in to my first dress appointment, I had a few criteria for a dress I wanted. I knew I wanted a full-length ivory gown, and I had fallen in love with big, poufy dresses. My Pinterest board was full of lace bodices and pick-ups:

Something a little like this (via OneWed)

My first appointment was actually a lot of fun, even if I was all by myself. The consultant was friendly, and I tried on a bunch of styles, from poufy ball gown to A-line to fit-and-flare.

Not quite right, but pretty good!

I found that my favorite style on me was actually fit-and-flare. This was a huge surprise to me – I’m not always proud of my figure, and I expected a fuller silhouette to be more flattering. But somehow, the full ball gowns felt like they swallowed me up, while the fit-and-flare dresses accentuated my waist and made me look slimmer. I was sold!

Another contender - this one I tried on at least three times

I wasn’t really expecting to find the one at Davids, but I ended up leaving that first appointment with a clear front-runner. I sent pics of this one to my parents and bridesmaids – something that I’ll come back to next time – and they all loved it! I tried to hold back my excitement, though, since I wanted to make sure to try out a few other places.

The top contender – cute and simple fit-and-flare

Next up: I try on a few other dresses, find the one, and experience dress regret!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why a Church?

I know I promised you this story before the proposal story, but I couldn’t help myself – we went to Maine last weekend and I was just feeling inspired! But now, without further ado, here is the story of how we picked our ceremony venue.

I never, ever thought I would get married in a church. Although I’d been raised semi-religious, and I’d finished confirmation in my Lutheran church back home, I wasn’t practicing anymore, and I didn’t really feel connected with any specific religion. When I thought of my wedding, a church never even crossed my mind. There were all these gorgeous secular venues, after all!

Tower Hill - one of our favorite venues and definite outdoor-wedding inspiration

But something happened that changed my mind. It’s a bit of a long (and personal) story, but a little over 6 months before we were engaged, Brendan got sick. Very, very sick. We spent a few months in the hospital, and at some points I honestly wasn’t certain that he was going to make it. He’s totally fine now – nothing to worry about! – but that experience definitely changed both of our lives. I’m not going to go on too much about it because there have been too many good posts about the subject, but of course, we learned not to take each other for granted and to enjoy every day together. We also, if only a little bit, moved closer to religion. We started going to a Catholic church near our home, and we felt welcome there. Although we don’t go every week, we definitely have a “home” at St. Richards.

Fast forward to wedding planning. As I said before, one of the first things we talked about was where we would get married. A church wedding had still not really occurred to me at that point, and I was thinking of getting married under a beautiful oak tree somewhere.

Really, really wish our ceremony pictures would look like this!

With that in mind, I was surprised to find out that of all the things we talked about, there was one thing Brendan felt strongly about. Raised Catholic all his life, he felt strongly that if we were going to make things official, we had to make the marriage a sacrament. And to do that, the ceremony would have to be in a church.

At first, I wasn’t too sure about this plan. Although we’d been attending St Richards for a while, I was still Lutheran, and I just didn’t know how to feel about having a more “typical” church wedding rather than an earthy, secular ceremony. But ultimately, knowing that it’s very important to Brendan, it was definitely a compromise I was willing to make. I wanted him to feel good about making our wedding plans, and although he isn’t too religious either, it was something he felt we needed to do.

It won't be decorated like this (this was Easter), but isn't it cute?

Since we made that first decision to get married in the church, a few things have changed. We have attended our Pre-Cana counseling and “Engaged Encounter” weekend, and have met with our priest about what is and is not allowed (our priest is pretty relaxed, so we are lucky to have a lot of choices!). And late last year, I made the decision to become a Catholic, and attended our church’s “Intro to Catholicism” course. Thankfully, our church’s course is much more brief than the RCIA classes that are typically offered, and I am happy to say I am now a Catholic! Of course, I still have the same reservations about organized religion that I’ve always had, and I definitely disagree with the Church on a few big issues. But overall, this was a decision that was personal for me, and one that felt right.

So that, my friends, is how this non-religious Midwestern girl is getting married in a Catholic church in an Irish town. It may not be the oak tree of my pre-planning dreams, but I think it will be just right for us and our wedding.

Did you change your mind when it came to planning a ceremony venue? Did you convert before the wedding?