Monday, September 8, 2014

The Roommate's Wedding

I got to watch my sweet roommate tie the knot this weekend and it could not have been more special. Truly it all came together so perfectly and I loved seeing her look more beautiful and more happy than ever. I've been to my fair share of weddings and I've been a bridesmaid before but I definitely noticed the tears coming more quickly at this one, which is saying something because I always cry at weddings.

It's just that it was so much more evident to me at this wedding that everything is changing. That we're crossing this line I didn't see was there before. Into marriage, into our own roommate-less homes we'll share with a boy, into years that are farther away from college and closer to grown up land.

Don't get me wrong, the tears were all happy this weekend. I loved anxiously walking down the aisle and seeing her beaming groom at the other end. I loved sitting in the first pew and catching the bride's eye or looking over at our other roommate sitting next to me and just feeling so amazingly lost for words that I have been blessed to do life with them.  I loved smiling for photos and smiling harder while her dad shared the sweetest toast. I loved dancing and staying in high heels from 12 in the afternoon to 12 in morning.
This wedding was also like a little sneak peak of what I can expect for mine and T.J.'s big day and I didn't think it was possible but my excitement ratcheted up to a whole 'nother level. I just can't wait to have all the people who know and love us best in the world all in one place at the same time.
Seriously, since the day my parent's dropped me off at college it has been a revolving door of one fantastic roommate after another. How did I get so lucky? And now I just can't wait for them to stand up with me in just a couple more months. I am so happy for the newlyweds and also slightly jealous as they are now on their way to Hawaii...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My dress came in!

Last week I got the call. My wedding gown had arrived at the store!
I scheduled the first appointment I could to try it on and it worked out perfectly for my mom to come in to town for this day as well! We also included my Mema and it was so special to have both of them there to see me in my dress.

We arrived at the bridal salon and mom and Mema took their seats out in front of the mirror while I was escorted into a dressing room. And there she was, hanging in front of me in all her ivory perfection.  I was a little nervous to see it again. I was worried I wouldn't love it as much as I remembered. This was mostly because we had ordered it in a different color than what I had tried on and I was anxious it wouldn't be quite as lovely (and I seriously couldn't find a single picture of it online in the ivory color to compare). But oh no! It was even more dreamy in the right color.

The assistant helped me slip the dress over my head (and stuffed a pillow in the back to make it snug since even the smallest size I was able to order is still too big) and it just felt right. My dress, the one I fell in love with several months ago. It's so me and it's just so darn pretty and I never want to wear anything else. I was a little misty-eyed and overwhelmed seeing it on my body and knowing that in just a few more months I'd be wearing it as I marry T.J.

Oh, how I can't wait for him to see it!! 

But first, I got to show my mom and Mema. I excitedly lifted up the skirt (it needs a hem) and headed out into the main salon area. And I got just the reaction I wanted! We ooh and ahhed and happily snapped pictures (which you're not allowed to do until you actually own the gown) and we face-timed my sister so she could see it since she was there when we first found it. Then we popped on a veil and I died and fell in love all over again. 

Sorry to blog about the dress without sharing a picture of the dress, but if you couldn't tell from my goofy grin, I'm actually wearing it in the top left picture. That's all you get for now though...
I'll leave you with these pictures of three happy generations of women at the bridal store. We celebrated the end of our fun evening with dinner out and then called it a night.  Now I just have to wait for my first fitting to wear it again. If every day involved wearing a wedding dress, I would be an endlessly happy girl. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

labor day comings and goings.

I drove a couple hours across Maryland and over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to spend the lovely long weekend with my parents and some family over on the Eastern Shore. We enjoyed sunshine-y days and a breeze off the water. Lots of sun and sunscreen. We celebrated my dad's birthday with cupcakes in one of his happy places, on a boat on the water.  We discussed possible father-daughter dance songs (still haven't nailed one down yet) and reminisced about our days and summers spent on our own boat, learning to ski, napping in the sun, anchored in a quite cove.

We had pretty much perfect weather, it actually felt like summer every day compared with the pretty mild temps we had the rest of the season.  And we only got rained on once.  A quick stormy summer shower, blew in and and out on Sunday night. It was one of those great big proper storms with sideways rain and spiderwebbing lightning in the sky.  And in it's wake we had clear blue skies and a sticky humid labor day. We enjoyed a few more hours in the sun by the marina pool and soaked in one of the last days of summer all together.
And now we have a short week and mine will be even shorter since I'm leaving work early on Thursday and taking off Friday.  This weekend I get stand up next to my roommate as she becomes a Mrs, actually I think we'll be sitting down since it's a Catholic mass, but either way I'm so excited. Lots to do before then though and I feel like I won't be able to sit still until I'm sitting in the church pew while they exchange vows. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

winter wedding worries

I'm not really worried about the wedding.
Every time I start to venture into worry-land I just remember that on the actual day I'm probably not going to care one iota about anything except that guy I'm marrying.

Even still...It's Monday, and there are still lots of lists with a few things on them that cause me to sweat just a bit.

Chasing sunlight.  Really it shouldn't have come as a big surprise that the sun sets earlier in the winter. But when I was drooling over my photographers dreamy, natural light-soaked portfolio it didn't really cross my mind. And then I started to get a little nervous when I first spoke with our photographer and he mentioned this may be an issue. He suggested a first look, which was something I did not want to do (and something T.J. had never even heard of before, and we both think it's weird, to each their own though), or he recommended starting the ceremony earlier to allow for more daylight afterwards.

We had originally planned to start our ceremony at 4 but since sunset is at 5:30 on January 3rd (meaning it's on the horizon at that time, so really it would already be quite low at 5 pm) we decided to change our ceremony start time to 3:30 pm instead. Now we will plan to take as many photos beforehand: all the ones with me and my bridesmaids, and T.J. with his groomsmen, and us individually with our families. Then once the ceremony ends we will take a few larger group shots this time with both T.J. and I, and then send the wedding party and family on without us to the cocktail hour while T.J. and I have some time to ourselves to take our just the two of us photographs.  I feel really good about this plan and our photographer did such a great job calming my fears and reassuring me that T.J. and I would not have to take our portraits in the winter darkness. (And at the very least we won't be squinting.)

I'm going to freeze. January, you tricky month you. I've accepted that it's going to be cold on our wedding day (although with South Carolina you never know...) and so I'm on the hunt for some perfect winter wedding wrap (try saying that three times fast).  I'm not too sure if I'm the glamorous fur-wearing bride type, but regardless I need to be sure my bridesmaids and I have something to snuggle up in when we're outside snapping pics. But I also don't want all my photos outside to have the top part of my dress covered up-it's too pretty for that, I can't wait for you to see it. So I'm also counting on being so keyed up on adrenaline and love that I won't even feel the cold.
{1 | 2 | 3}

No one is going to be able to get there. A part of me thinks it would be fantastically beautiful if it snowed on our wedding day. But it absolutely better not snow any day leading up to the big day specifically the day that the groom is supposed to fly in from the other side of the country! Chances of snow in South Carolina are always slim, and I hear Washington is more of a "rain all the time" type of place so I'm not too concerned about his end, but we do have quite a few guests coming down from the north and I would hate for people to miss out on account of rotten weather.

We won't be able to get our license and thus won't be able to get married at all.
So this one is a doozy and causes me the most stress. T.J. will not be flying into South Carolina until the Thursday before our wedding. This happens to be January 1st, New Year's Day, which means the court system is closed. South Carolina requires both parties to appear together in order to apply for a marriage license (makes sense). Then there is a 24 hour waiting period before you can actually pick it up. I called to see what they typically do in tricky situations like mine because I couldn't find any information online. The first person I talked to told me no exceptions, I can change my wedding date or get married in a different state, the law's the law.  I proceeded to hyperventilate and then burst into tears.

I collected myself, prepared some fighting words and called back. I spoke quite sternly (read: my voice was no doubt shaking and I'm sure she could tell I was on the verge of another breakdown) to a different person and was hesitantly told that T.J. needs to get a notarized letter from his commanding officer, which I will bring, by myself, along with a copy of his military id, his driver's license and proof of his social. Plus the actual application and all my own id's to the court house in advance (I'll probably try to go in November). This will then start the 24 hour waiting period and then T.J. and I can appear together on Friday before the judge to approve and collect our licenses. Okay so reading that back to myself makes me uneasy. What if something goes wrong. I am going to call them back and take names and get something in writing if I can because... yeah still hyperventilating. Might have to get my dad to call and take care of this...

So. I'm putting these worries out there. I'm praying over them and letting them go and it's all going to work out, I just know it. But are there any "winter/military/fiance is a resident/close to a major holiday" brides out there with some advice, or anything else that needs to be added to this list?

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Southern Comfort

After our whirlwind couple of days we all drove over to Tennessee to join the family in the smoky mountains. Partly so we could breathe deep that mountain air, relax in rocking chairs on the porch, and do other things that are good for the soul, like indulging in bbq and fried okra. But mostly we went to celebrate my grandpa's 80th birthday.
{"Sweet Tennessee, color of my soul in memory." ~ Judah & the Lion}

That being said, I still somehow ended up going home with presents. Tis the perk of being someone's fiance. Since this was the first time I had seen most of this side of the family since our engagement I got to show off my ring and share wedding plans. And I was sweetly gifted a cake server and knife with our names and wedding date engraved on them. I also received an apron with the initial of my new last name, and not pictured is the prettiest and most personal wooden sign with our names painted on it in the same calligraphy style as our save the date. I can't wait to hang that in our home!

Anyway... back to the birthday boy, the man of the hour, the grandpa of a lifetime! We ventured down the mountain on Saturday night for a special dinner out. We had a private room at a yummy restaurant (and it's a good thing since we're not a quiet bunch) and we all sat around the long table and shared memories, funny stories and anecdotes about the beloved husband/father/grandfather.

A lot of laughter filled the room. Grandpa is king of the corny joke, speaking of which, did you know that holdsemfromflopin is German for bra? I also know him to be endlessly kind, and loving, and patient, and sister reminded us of how she used to make grandpa do puzzles blind folded. Wisdom was shared. Gained from witnessing over 55 years of marriage, the ups and the downs, for better or for worse. And being that we are who we are (a family who wears it's heart on it's sleeve), and we're human, and life gets broken sometimes, there were also tears shed. In honor and celebration of children and cousins we've lost. Who we carry with us and always feel they are nearest when we gather together in the hills of the Smoky Mountains that are now sacred to us.

I shared not so much a specific story or memory but just noted lifetime of observing grandpa's unending and always evident love for my grandma. The way he is never without her, the way he always opens the car door for her and insists on driving (seriously I've never seen grandma drive ever), the way he still holds her hand, and watches her when she animatedly tells stories. As I prepare, as best you can, to start a new chapter of my life with T.J., I only hope we love each other half as well as they do.

And I also hope T.J. will insist on driving me around because I hate to drive.

Spending this time with everyone is so rare and precious. It is always loud, there are always people talking over each other, and I find that infectious southern drawl spilling out of my mouth as I join in. There are also lots of warm hugs, and grandma's homemade jelly and pickles, and stories about bats that get in your hair and make you crazy.
Both sides of my family bless me with wild and sweet and tender moments and I am so looking forward to having everyone all together again in just a few short months at my wedding! 
{"Sweet Tennessee, God has shed his grace, all over thee."  ~ Judah & the Lion}

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Have my cake and eat it too!

After a big day of wedding planning we still had more to do. Thursday morning we met up with our amazing photographer and it was such a dream. He is great and I am just so excited to have him be a part of our day. We spent over an hour at Starbucks, sitting outside, chatting about the wedding but mostly we just got to know each other and he feels much more like a friend than someone I'm "working with". And I know I'm going to be so much more relaxed around him on the wedding day. He also really helped me work out a timeline so I could more easily picture how the morning, getting ready, and picture taking will all work (which is slightly confusing and has been kind of stressing me out).

After that really great meeting we then met up with my future mother in law and her good friends for lunch before heading to another cake tasting where I felt much more like a pro cake taster and had a much clearer idea about what I was doing.

Side-note: I've been hesitant about how much I want to put on the blog about my actual plans and details for our wedding. I really want it to mostly be a surprise for our guests. Plus I'm planning to drag out the wedding posting for longer than is probably appropriate, so there. Now let's spend a little more time talking about the cake. It's one of those wedding elements that I'm not too shy about sharing on the blog before the big day because it's just cake after all.

So! At the first tasting I had no idea what to expect but I didn't quite anticipate it being as overwhelming as it was. We arrived at the bakeshop where I filled out a form with some details about our wedding, the location, time, number of guests we expect to attend, etc. Then we started browsing through photo albums of all their gorgeous past cakes. Truly there is a style out there for everyone (and some of them are a little bit strange).

I already had a pretty clear picture of the type of cake I wanted. Simple, buttercream frosting, no fondant (blech), and decorated with real fresh flowers. I like the slightly imperfect and roughly frosted style (apparently it's called stucco or swirl) and I shared some pictures that I had pinned for inspiration.

Then we were left to our own devices and we started pairing up cakes with fillings. We weren't quite sure how many flavors would be best for the 4 tiers we need to feed our guests. We ended up picking three and left feeling full but a little confused about what now seemed a sort of hodgepodgy, though undoubtedly delicious, cake.

At our second tasting we had a better idea of what to expect and the gal we met with walked us through it a bit more and recommended that we stick to two flavors. And I think I feel more pleased with the flavor and filling choices that day, though I know either shop can work confectionary magic. We also opted to get a separate tier for T.J. and I to save for our first anniversary. It will already be boxed up for us and ready to travel across the country so we wont have to worry about saving it on the wedding day.
 {1 | 2 | 3 | 4}
After we had sufficiently consumed enough cake to last me until the actual wedding, we headed to check out the rehearsal dinner venue and the caterer. I am really looking forward to this part of the wedding weekend and love that I don't have to stress out about it at all. My mother in law has basically made the exact choices I would have made if I was involved in planning this dinner and it's going to be the perfect way to kick off the wedding festivities.

And that was the end of another full day. We collected sister from school and found ourselves in the usual spot on the couch again, worn out from a long, but productive day. I really feel like things are rolling! Those couple day of planning, seeing the venues, meeting with vendors, and making decisions have cleared the way for more things to fall into place. I feel even more excited now that I've seen everything in person and stood in the places where we'll have our first moments as husband and wife. Where we'll tie the knot, cut that cake, have our first dance, and joyfully celebrate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

whirlwind wedding planning

I had barely any time to regroup after we returned from the bachelorette weekend. I just unpacked and then repacked, set my alarm for much too early, and poured myself into bed ready to leave again the next morning. This time I was heading south.

Both my mom and I arrived in South Carolina on Tuesday morning. We grabbed lunch and then met my sister at her new apartment with her new dog, Gemma. We kept that sweet sweet dog company while my sister headed back to work for a bit and then we spent the rest of day catching up and relaxing before heading to bed early. We wanted to be well rested since we had a mighty full day of checking things off the very long wedding planning list ahead of us.
My sister is a teacher and had to go in for most of the day Wednesday, so after we dropped her off at school we headed to our first appointment. Wedding planning from out of state (I'm in one state, T.J. is in a different world, my parents are in a third state, and the wedding is in South Carolina)  has been mostly smooth thanks in a big part to the dream team of vendors we're working with. Until now though, all our communications and planning has been on skype, or through email so I was really excited to meet everyone in person.

I was also really excited to visit the church especially because, while I've attended it for a Sunday service with my sister before, I've never looked at it through my bride-to-be-lenses. It was our first stop of the day and we were joined by our wedding planner and the florist. It was so weird and exciting to be standing at the front of the church where in just 136 days T.J. and will be standing and saying our vows. Our contact at the church showed us the room where I would wait anxiously with my bridesmaids and my parents before walking down the aisle. We admired the pretty double doors that opened down the center aisle and I pretty much just floated around the space, picturing our big day.  It's definitely starting to feel much more real.

I had to break out of my daydreaming to make some decisions about flowers for the church, and we also figured out a really cool feature for the alter, and
 then we were on our way to the reception venue.  There we figured out the flow of the event, and how everything would layout best in the space, which is basically a beautiful blank canvas. From the cocktail hour to dinner to dancing, I am really excited about seeing it all come together. Our wonderful planner and florist also came to this meeting and took measurements and made suggestions and answered my questions, basically they're fairy godmothers because everything seems so much clearer and prettier than it did when I was trying to puzzle it together in my head and on Pinterest.
(Above is just a sneak peek at a piece of the church and the reception venue to tease you with...)

A break for lunch, and a large sweet tea, was quite necessary at that point. My mom and I sat down to get re-energized and to rehash everything we'd decided on that morning.  But we quickly dove back into it, picking out tablecloths and linens and figuring out rentals which was a lot of quick decisions (not always my strong suit) but surprisingly easy I'm pleased to say. Let's just say I like what I like. 
We parted ways with the planner and left her to figure out the quantities of what we'd need and to sort out the contract. Mom and I then headed to pick up sister from her school. She did not want to miss out on our next appointment, the cake tasting. This was actually a much more difficult choice than I expected because there were about a zillion combinations of buttercream, cake, and filling. We tried as many options as our teeth would allow, it's a hard job but someone's got to do it.  
And after all that... we sugar crashed. We slipped into yoga pants, ordered take out for dinner and settled in for the night. And so concludes day one of "on location" wedding planning. A lot of decisions made, a lot of fabric swatches, and cake samples, and twinkle lights.

Figuring out how to blog about wedding planning without giving away all the fun details is a little tricky but I want to give you a snippet of what we're up to and record this fun time for posterity so bear with me and my vagueness.