Monday, February 23, 2015

and we're going to get married

Are you sick of my wedding posts yet? Hope not because we've only just made it to the church and I still have more to share!

But first let's back up... We had a challenging time finding a church to get married in.  We looked at our university campus chapel which was my first choice, and then the church I attended when I was in college but neither worked with our dates. It was important to me to get married in a church and I was worried we would have to have our ceremony at the reception venue which I really didn't want. Fortunately my sister is a member at a local church and I had visited with her a couple times. It was a little bit further from the reception venue but otherwise perfect. I loved that it had some country charm like the rocking chairs on the front porch, and that the inside had a sort of rustic look with high vaulted wood beam ceilings, it was basically a blank canvas for our decor.  When my mom and I came to town to do a bunch of the wedding planning, we found out that a previous bride's family had built a custom pallet wall to cover the front wall of the sanctuary, and they had left it for other brides to use. It was the perfect addition and absolutely framed the alter beautifully. And once our florist added her magical touch the space was transformed.
When our limo arrived at the church it was still raining so with the help of our wedding planner and my dad I was ushered inside to wait in the children's nursery with my bridesmaids and my parents for guests to arrive and take their seats.
While we waited we practiced the hymn I'd chosen, Be Thou My Vision, grandmas stopped by our "holding room" to say hello and give kisses, and my bridesmaids prayed over me as we lined up to process into the sanctuary.

I heard the music for the seating of the grandmothers and mothers begin, Jesu' Joy of Man's Desiring, and then the transition into Canon in D for my bridal party's entrance. Soon it was just my dad and I alone outside the double doors. We reassured each other, I held my breath, and then the wedding planner opened the doors.  The music took a breath and then picked up with the more lively, joyful verses of Canon in D (you know, the middle part where it gets fun),  the congregation rose and I kept my eyes locked on T.J. and my arm tight around my dad's as we made our way to the alter.

Dad placed my hand in T.J.'s, and we attentively listened to the counsel and encouragement of our officiant. I handed my bouquet to my sister and we turned to face each other, whispering I love yous and beaming from ear to ear. Unity candles we're lit, prayers and worship songs were sent up, promises of forever and ever were made, vows were exchanged, then rings, and finally, after only waiting for the past year and half, but really I've been waiting for my whole life, with a kiss we were husband and wife. 
**So grateful to Chris Isham for capturing these once in a lifetime, fairytale, dream come true moments as it was a sparkly blur on the day of.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

going to the chapel

Before heading to the church we had set aside some time for pictures with immediate family and my bridesmaids and for T.J. with his groomsmen. First though, I had asked to have a "first look" with my dad. I still wanted to save my first look with T.J. for the church but I knew my dad needed to have a moment just the two of us before he had to walk me down the aisle. He had yet to see my dress so the photographer had him stand just outside our hotel with his back to the door. My mom and my bridesmaids gathered just inside the glass windows to catch his face and I went out to meet him. Tapping him on the shoulder I could see him bracing himself and I had to do the same. 
Once we pulled it together, we grabbed umbrellas from the concierge of the hotel since it was pouring down rain at this point. We had planned to take photos outside but we rolled with the punches and instead hurried across the street to Peace Center which is a performing arts building in town with a big glass atrium with tons of natural light. I know everyone prays for sunshine on their wedding day, and while I definitely could have done without the rain, the gray skies and the overcast light really made for beautiful light and we didn't have to worry about squinting.
Isn't my mom's dress fantastic? She found her dress the same day that mine arrived in to the boutique, which I think was fate.  Have you ever seen a more beautiful mother of the bride gown? I love that it perfectly complimented our wedding colors but that she still stood out, as she should! Because how many times do your daughters get married?! 
The trolley and limo pulled in just in time to take everyone to the church. This is where I had to be a little sneaky because I didn't want T.J. to catch a glimpse of me while he was getting on the trolley. So my parents sister and I hung back while the bridesmaids and groomsmen boarded the trolley (green of course, in keeping with the theme) but I couldn't help sneaking a peak myself and my mom caught me in the act.
And right about then is when the emotions, that I'd done such a good job of managing all morning, got the best of me. I surprised even myself with how calm I'd been up till then, how not nervous I'd felt even during all the excitement of getting ready. But the second I caught sight of T.J. my heart caught in my throat and the tears welled up. There he was, the boy I was going to marry. What had his morning been like? What was he feeling right then? Did he have butterflies like I did? I just absolutely could not wait to see him at the alter. While I had no idea what his morning looked like (though I know it involved a much later start time, and a lot less hair spray), fortunately our photographer captured some shots my very handsome groom and his groomsmen as they got ready and took  their portraits together on the front porch of the church. (I just love the rocking chairs.)
Once the bridal party was on their way to the church and T.J. was hidden out of sight, my mom, dad sister and I got in our limo and headed off. I wanted to have this last quiet moment with just my family, just the four of us, before it grew one bigger and everything would change. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

the morning of

We got our wedding photos back from our fantastic photographer, Chris Isham!!!! Just in time for me to start blogging about the actual wedding day. I could not have timed that more perfectly if I tried. So be warned.... I have no self control when it comes to filtering through which photos to include here. Definitely an over-sharer.

On the morning of our wedding, I woke up really early before my alarm went off. I looked over at my sister and nudged her awake. "What do you want to do today?" I asked her. We giggled and took a selfie, of course, to commemorate this special morning. It's like I woke up and BAM it just hit me, this was it! Today was my wedding day! This once in a lifetime day that I've been dreaming of my whole life and planning for the past 6 months was really and truly here.
I hopped in the shower to start getting ready. Forget what any hair dresser says about not washing your hair right before having it styled. I knew I didn't want to have last night's hair on my wedding day and they can always add product to "dirty" it up if it's too silky smooth to work with. We both popped on our robes and fuzzy socks and padded down the hall to my parents suite where all the bridesmaids would be gathering to get ready. One of my girls had texted me to get my Starbucks drink order and I was promptly handed a grande non fat white chocolate mocha no whip with my name for the day written on it.
We set up a breakfast spread of grandma's cranberry bread, clementines, yogurt, granola, and mimosas and the rest of the bridesmaids piled in and took over the suite. The hair and makeup girls arrived soon after so we kicked my dad out of the room and settled into the morning. It was a flurry of "dusty shale" gowns being steamed, hair spray, nail polish, fake eyelashes, and sweet girl time with my friends and my mom. I loved every minute of that morning. It was so relaxing and fun taking our time getting ready.

I had a hair trial back in December but by the time the day rolled around I decided to go in a completely different direction. I had always thought I would wear my hair up, not sure why, I just pictured a romantic, simple up do. At my trial the very patient stylist did 4 completely different looks in an attempt to find one I liked. None of them were how I envisioned myself on my day and I left feeling discouraged, confused and really disappointed. After some soul searching (a.k.a. mom and sister talked me off the ledge) I decided to wear my hair half up/half down instead (or "down up with something in it" as I used to refer to this style as a little girl). While I was a little nervous going in to the morning not knowing how my hair was going to look, I was so much happier when she was finished and I felt so much more like myself.
One by one hair was finished and makeup was touched up. The videograher and the photographer arrived and got right to work, we had lunch delivered to the room, and T.J. and I exchanged sweet letters through intermediaries. Then our amazing florist arrived with our beautiful bouquets which meant it was time to get into my dress. While my bridesmaids stayed in the main room to put on their gowns, my mom and sister and I went into the other bedroom. This is one of those moments I'd envisioned in my head for years. Nervously stepping into my dress, my mom and sister buttoning the corset, tying the bow of my sash, fixing my veil, us laughing and smiling together.  I got just that and more. 
I put on my new earrings, and sprayed my chosen wedding perfume, and then the paparazzi left us alone for a few minutes to ready the bridesmaids in the other room so they could capture their first look at me in my dress.  My mom shared about the little "episode" that transpired next. And she said it so beautifully in her words that all I'll add is that it was a near disaster turned beautiful mother/daughters/God moment, something that's not captured on camera but very much captured in memory.
From there we did the final sash check and veil fluff and that's when it felt like time started speeding up. All of sudden I realized it was time to leave the hotel and in barely one hour I would be at the back of the church. Here we go!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Welcome Y'all

I know I've already used this phrase a lot when recapping our wedding, but one of my favorite pieces from that weekend, and something that was so fun to put together, was the welcome bags. We had A LOT of out of town guests and aside from our own college friends, most of our out-of-town guests had never been to Greenville before. We were excited to show it off and I used our welcome bags as a way to introduce guests to some of the best parts of our beloved town and to give them a few tips and suggestions for their short stay. I also wanted the bags to be totally us, our style, and to give guests another sneak-peek at what they could expect for our wedding day. Going to a wedding these days is a big undertaking involving flights, and time off work, and hotel stays, and a maybe a new dress or shoes, so I wanted to make sure everyone felt welcome and knew just how much we appreciated them making the trip.

My mom and I gradually gathered all the fixings for the bags in the months leading up to the wedding and then did as much of the prep work as we could before the wedding weekend. (Amazon Prime has never been more worth it than while planning our wedding.) I ordered the brown kraft paper bags first and while I love that simple rustic look I wanted to personalize them a bit. So I designed and ordered another custom rubber stamp and used the same brown ink as the return addresses on our invitations to jazz up the front of the bags.   The stamp declared "welcome y'all" plus our names and the wedding date.
Each bag included a tri-fold information pamphlet that I designed and printed through Stationery HQ (the same place I printed my invitations). On the front cover was a greeting from T.J. and I. Inside we listed the details, time, and address of all the wedding day festivities (aka The Best Day Ever). I hand drew a map (mostly just cute, less geographically to accurate) and noted the church, reception venue, the hotel, and a few other hot spots. Additionally, my parents decided to host a drop in breakfast on the morning after the wedding so we included those details here as well. 

On the back side was a list of things to see and do in town, plus some basic info like our wedding hashtag, our wedding planner's contact information, and a custom Uber discount code for our guests to use to get around town.  
After the pamphlets, we loaded up the bags with all sorts of fun things. I tried to tie everything together within our color scheme (greens, gold, white, brown) so that it would all look cohesive. For something sweet we packaged up four spearmint candies in small glassine bags that we sealed with gold glitter washi tape. For our savory treats I chose Lance peanut butter toast crackers and buttery popcorn from a local Greenville store. I added a custom sticker in our colors and font denoting which one was the bride or groom's favorite snack. I made custom water bottle labels and carried over the pine cone and evergreen theme.  We also included individual packets of advil should anyone have "too much fun" at our reception. Once we stuffed the bags we added in gold and white crinkle paper for filler. (I included a source list for everything at the end of the post.) 

Of course we couldn't transport eighty filled bags in our caravan down to South Carolina so my sister, cousin and I made an assembly line and did all the stuffing once we got to town. Then we delivered them all to the hotel along with a list of the guests we knew were staying there that weekend. The concierge did a great job of making sure each couple got a welcome bag when they checked in and I was so pleased with the end result! 
Welcome Bags Source List: 
Kraft Paper Bags (8" x 10")
Gold & White Crinkle Paper 
Glassine Treat Bags (2.75" x 4.25") 
Gold Glitter Tape 
Spearmints 
Advil Packets 
Lance Crackers
Popcorn 
Snack Stickers 
Water Bottle Wrappers 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

one month

I can't believe that one month ago today I was getting ready to marry T.J. It feels like time has absolutely flown by. For me this month has been a whirlwind of wedding presents, thank you notes, lots of Netflix, and settling in to our home and a new routine. For T.J. it's been a month of overnight shifts spent away from our home in Seattle. Since he has been in Seattle the whole time for work, our transition from long distance couple to married life has looked a little different seeing as my husband hasn't really been around. I get to see him each week on Monday (his only off day) but I can assure you that seeing him once a week is a million times better than seeing him maybe only once a month, which was our previous record. 

On Sundays I load up my car with clean laundry, and some real food with substance (this week it was homemade fancy mac and cheese, a chopped salad, and Krispy Kreme donuts) to sustain him for another week away and I drive into the city to meet him. I try to time my arrival with his wake up from his post night shift snooze. He still has to work Sunday night and when he gets home in the early Monday AM he pretty much goes right to sleep until 4PM or so.  But Monday nights are our jam, our date night, our only time in the week to be together. 

Yesterday we had a fun night out and I declared it a perfect one month anniversary celebration. First we headed to Golden Gardens Park which has an awesome dog park (someplace I hope to bring a future pet) and a big sandy beach. We noticed that most beaches out in the Washington area are pebble beaches so this was a good one to file away for summer time. There were picnic tables, fire pits and a long coastline for walking. We were surprised by how many people were actually there on a cool windy January evening. Had this been a Sourh Carolina shore we probably would have had it all to ourselves. But it seems people in the Pacific Northwest tend to view any day that's not rainy, no matter how dark and cloudy, as the perfect beach weather, gotta take what you can get. Guess we now fall in to that category. 
After our exercise for the week, we headed into downtown Ballard, a neighborhood of Seattle. And if I had to live in Seattle I think I'd want to live here. It has a homey small town feel and tons of cute shops and restaurants. 

We went to Kings Hardware for a drink first and I'd definitely go back there if only because they have a skee-ball machine! Then we headed to Bitterroot for bbq. We've gone a month without so much as a bbq potato chip so when we saw pulled pork on their menu we couldn't resist. We both got meat and two sides  (they don't know about meat 'n' threes out here) and then we shared everything. Pulled pork, half rack of ribs, cheesy grits, cole slaw, brussel sprouts and corn bread. That should satisfy our southern cravings for a bit. 
To top off the evening we had to get dessert at Hot Cakes. I had come here once with friends and was eager for T.J. to try it. They specialize in decadent molten chocolate hot cakes but also have a slew of other yummy treats. Last time I got delicious creme brûlée with pomegranate so this time we decided to go with their signature dessert, the Dark Decadence hot cake made with rich Theo chocolate, burnt caramel, with toffee nibs and vanilla ice cream. Oh, and we couldn't resist a vanilla bean milkshake as well. The cake is delivered to your table hot and perfect and your first spoonful reveals the ooey gooey insides. It's definitely rich and I was glad we shared. And while I could have used just a plain old glass of milk on the side, the vanilla milkshake was thick and refreshing just the same. They also have "boozy milkshakes" which I might just have to try next time. 
Feeling full and satisfied with our tour of Ballard we headed home and called it a night. It was a fun last weekend in Seattle for us. I am loving being T.J.'s wife. It's really just so much fun to be with him, in the same state and time zone, to get to go on dates with my husband. He returns to the base hospital on Friday and I can't wait for us to be under the same roof and in our own house together for more than just one night at a time. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

a package deal

After heading back to the hotel following the rehearsal dinner, there was still another sweet spot in the night, a sister sleepover.  My sister is forever my best friend so there was never any question that she would be my maid of honor. Who else, but the person who has been by my side since she entered the world, could I possibly ask to stand by my side on my wedding day? I know for a fact that I wouldn't be the same person if I'd never had her as my sister. And I knew I wanted to have a little time just the two of us before T.J joined our family.  

When we got back to our hotel room after all the rehearsal dinner fun we sat on the side of the tub and soaked our already aching feet so they would be ready for another full day of dancing. We rehashed the night, and shook our heads in shared disbelief that tomorrow was my wedding day. And I stored it all up in my heart, this sweet time with my sister before the crazy day to follow.
My sister was the one I shared many a make-believe wedding with when we were growing up, a pillow case on our head in place of a veil. And the next day she and my mom would be helping me with my real veil. She was always the first person I'd whisper to about boys, and she was the first person I'd run to with a broken heart, and when T.J. came along, she's celebrated the loudest. She was the best maid of of honor, my best person.
T.J. got a package deal when he married me. He knew that with me comes my sister, you can't have one without the other. There is something sacred about a sister, something that is unchanging even as we grow up and seasons pass. And even though we're farther apart geographically than we've ever been before (sad face) she is wrapped around my heart so tightly no distance could alter that.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

the dress rehearsal

For most of our engagement and the week leading up to the wedding I honestly wasn't nervous about the wedding, about saying "yes I do!" to T.J. in front of our family and friends. Mostly the nerves came from the fact that we were hosting a big shindig for 200 people and I'd been dreaming about the day my whole life and suddenly it was here.

The build up to the big day is so great and then suddenly it's the night before. You make it to the rehearsal and it's like the frenzy of the planning is officially over. Anything that didn't get checked off that list is just not going to happen now. All that's left is to do this thing. Here we go.

I had so much fun at our rehearsal.

We headed to the church in all our rehearsal finery. It was a challenge to find appropriate winter wedding white dresses for all the different events so I went a little different for our rehearsal with a gold/creamy dress. It worked since that was one of our wedding colors and you can't go wrong with sparkly and fun sequins!
We practiced the processional, we practiced walking in on my dad's arm, and we went through his hand off to T.J, the hardest part of the whole night...especially for my dad.  Then we were given a quick synopsis of what our actual ceremony and the exchanging of vows would look like. 

Our minister was my dear friend and fellow Young Life leader who made the trip down from Maryland with his whole family. It made it so much more special having a friend, who's faith and marriage I know and admire, perform the ceremony. He did a fantastic job at the rehearsal of not giving too much away while still helping us feel more comfortable and prepared for the next day. I've seen rehearsals where they read through the vows word for word and are practically married save for an "I now pronounce you man and wife".

And then we practiced the kiss, you don't have to ask me twice, and the recessional once more,  and we were on our way to the dinner!

T.J.'s parents planned my dream rehearsal dinner and I didn't even have to ask. It was like his mom was in my head and knew exactly what I would have done on my own. They booked the perfect venue, the Upcountry History Museum. This was so fun because you get to mingle around the exhibits and since we had so many people and family come in from out of town it had a nice "welcome to South Carolina" feel. This was only furthered by the yummy classic southern menu of shrimp and grits, fried chicken (one of my top five favorite foods), collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and cobbler for dessert. Everything was perfect especially because they graciously invited everyone in my family, and we have a big family! 
Once everyone had time to mix and mingle, once the grandparents, and aunts and uncles and friends had blended, T.J.'s dad (his best man) gave the nicest welcome toast and then we tucked into the comfort food. And then more toasts were shared by my sister and one of T.J.'s groomsmen. I may have promised my sister to not make her cry during her toast, and I have may have most certainly locked eyes with her during the first sentence she spoke, and we both definitely lost it. 
After the dinner we all continued to hang out at T.J.'s favorite college bar. We told other friends who weren't at the rehearsal dinner to meet us there so we could keep the party going a little while longer. But only until midnight that is. Right before midnight I kissed my fiance goodnight, told him I'd see him at the alter and skipped back to my hotel room with my sister.
I was sure I'd have a hard time falling asleep from all the excitement and nerves but I went right to bed soon after sister and I finished giggling about how crazy it was that tomorrow I was getting married! Really I think it's because I was never nervous about T.J....he was always my solid during this whole thing. The one choice I never doubted. Even when it seemed crazy or people told us it was too soon, I one hundred percent believed that the Lord brought us together and nothing else mattered.  Do I know him enough, does he know me enough. Probably not. Are we mature enough, financially stable, selfless enough to get married? Definitely not. But we love each other, and when T.J. asked me to marry him, when I said yes, when we talked about forever, I felt nothing but peace. Still do.