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.
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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.
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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.

Monday, August 18, 2014

While I was out...

Man has it been busy around these here parts. Of course you wouldn't know that since I failed to update my blog for the past two weeks, but I have a good reason and I'm gonna get caught up now. 

Two weekends ago we loaded up cars and headed to Atlantic city for my roommate's bachelorette weekend getaway. We stayed at Revel, which sadly announced it is closing, Saturday through Monday and had an absolute blast celebrating and loving on the bride to be. 

The sweet bride had been dealt a family tragedy the day before we were supposed to leave and we seriously contemplated calling the whole thing off. But sometimes the best medicine for a heavy heart is to be surrounded by all your best friends, laughing and playing, with sand in your toes and the ocean in front of you. The other bridesmaids and I hoped to make sure she knew how loved and special she is to all of us and that it's okay to look for light and laughter even during darker days. 

We had two fantastic rooms directly across the hall from one another on the 46th floor of this massive hotel. The views of the strip were fantastic and we all agreed it felt very posh. The bride to be came into town with her maid of honor later than the rest of us on Saturday night, so while we waited for her arrival the other bridesmaids and I explored the huge property, had dinner at the indoor taco truck, and checked out the casino. Then we all gathered in one room to welcome our favorite girl. 
I had decorated a welcome tote for each girl and my other roommate and I packed them with mason jar tumblers, milk duds (the bride's favorite candy), water bottles, and glow sticks. We stayed up snacking and chatting on the hotel beds late into the night. 
The next morning we chose to be economic and ate breakfast in our rooms. I'd brought a coffee cake and we also has bagels and bananas. Then we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, packed coolers with water and beer and snacks, popped on the fun sunglasses that the bachelorette provided, and headed out for the day. 

Revel had two pools (one with its very own cover charge and dj) but we opted to "revel" in the glorious ocean. Seriously the beach is my happy place and luckily the weather was on our side and we enjoyed absolutely perfect beach-going weather. It wasn't too humid or hot to be laying out in the sun and the ocean was refreshingly cool and had perfect body surfing waves. What more can you ask for? 
I could have stayed on the beach until sunset but we had big plans for that night. We sneakily told the bride that we had dinner reservations for 7:30pm. While she was getting ready we set up a little shindig in the other hotel room.  She came across the hall expecting us to all head out to dinner and was instead greeted with champagne, pre-dinner apps, balloons and a few other treats. We popped a bachelorette sash around her shoulders, filled up her glass, and then showered her with lingerie, the lucky groom ;) 
We then headed out to take a big group picture in the lobby and then on to our actual dinner reservations at 8:30.  Dinner was at Mussel Bar, where more champagne, a sweet surprise from the bachelorette's soon to be sister in law who couldn't make it that weekend, was brought to the table, and we shared steaming pots of mussels, and sopped up the sauces with bread. 
After such a big yummy meal I could've used a nap but instead we headed back up to the rooms for cupcakes and a quick freshen up before plucking up the energy and braving the hotel club. We're not big night club girls. My roommates and I definitely tend to be homebodies and we spend most of our weekends curled up together around or dining table or on the couch. But since this was our one and only big night out we decided to embrace the jersey scene. We danced and did some excellent people watching and went home happy and exhausted many many hours past out usual bedtime.  

There's nothing better than following a late night out with a nap on the beach. So while some of the girls headed out early, we made sure to squeeze in as much time in the sand as possible before loading up the car and going home. 
Phew. One recap down. Bear with me. Now I just need to fill you in on the week of wedding planning that followed and a family retreat to the mountains. Stay tuned...

Monday, August 4, 2014

currently...

currently reading... Fall of Giants by Ken Follet. Another awesome read by Ken Follet. I love everything he writes. He just creates the most fantastic characters. This particular tome of his is set at the brink of World War I which I admit is something I don't know too much about (aside from what I learned from Downton Abbey or the History Channel's mini series). There is so much political drama, romantic scandals, and real life woven into the story.

currently craving... Iced Chai. I already had one this morning and I'd like another please. I think I'm the last person to discover that these are the best things. I've burnt out on Iced Skinny Vanilla Lattes, my usual go to, but  I've always been hesitant to try chai anything because I wasn't sure how to order it correctly. Hot or cold? Do I say I want an Iced Chai Tea Latte, just Chai Tea, Iced Chai? What's the right way to ask for this yummy drink? Don't worry, I figured it out, and now I'm going to have to find a way to make these at home or all money will go to Starbucks. Here are the links to couple homemade recipes I found. Anyone had any luck making this at home?

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currently listening to... Judah & the Lion- my new favorite folksy, banjo-y, christian band. A little Mumford, a little Nicklcreek, a little Needtobreathe. All good. Definitely check them out (you can download one of their songs for free on their site). My favorite song, it's hard to pick just one, is Love Your Love. So good, y'all!

currently dreaming about... Our wedding, otherwise known as the best day ever. But I've started having some weird wedding dreams where my dress is the wrong color, or I don't have time to do my hair because there are Walking Dead zombies outside and we have to hurry. Should I be worried?

currently planning...  In addition to the obvious, see above, I'm also working on some fun surprises for my roommate's bachelorette weekend this coming weekend. I am really excited for a girly getaway and I'm having fun getting together a few treats for the bride-to-be and co.

currently wearing... Not my wedding dress, but I wish I was! It's supposed to come into the store sometime at the end of this month, or the beginning of September, and I can't wait to put it on in my own size and twirl around in front of the mirror and basically never take it off.
(source - one of my all time favorite Friend's episodes that my roommate and I plan to recreate)

currently watching... Season 2 of House of Cards and Season 2 of Orange is the New Black. Basically Netflix is my favorite. Also... I may or may not have rewatched all 8 Harry Potter movies over the last two weekends. But who's really keeping track. (T.J. is... and he's only a little concerned that every time he calls and asks what I'm doing my answer is "watching Harry Potter.") But I saw this hilarious post on buzzfeed from this guy who is who is just now watching Harry Potter for the first time and live tweeting- it's hilarious and it totally put me in the mood.
 

Friday, August 1, 2014

A House Post

I've been wanting to tell you all about how T.J. went out and got us a house. Our very own first house where T.J. and I will live there together as husband and wife. And I can't believe how blessed, and thankful, and flippin' excited I feel! Like cry for joy, overwhelmed with emotion excited, and everything's just been a whirlwind, so this post has been sitting in my draft folder for months.

Back it up a few months, before we were engaged, back when we were still tip-toeing around the marriage talk, we both knew that "you and me together forever" was where this whole thing was headed, and when we got to that point we would want a house.  Since TJ's residency program is 5 years long it made sense to get something more permanent, to feel settled, to be "grown ups" playing house. A place all our own, to paint and decorate and go Pintererst crazy in (..that last part might just be me...).

So before he knew exactly where he would be spending those 5 years, I was all over Zillow, saving houses in the two potential residency locations he was leaning towards. And the second it was confirmed that he would be heading to Washington, I deleted all my other homes and ramped up my Washington searches. I definitely got a little carried away but TJ was okay with that because the main thing that mattered to him was that the house be as close to the hospital as possible. 

This was the #1 thing for me as well, even more important than stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors, believe it or not. TJ is going to be working looonnng hours at the hospital. He's going to be working overnight and on weekends and the poor guy does not need a long commute in traffic on top of that. And I sure as heck don't want share our time with the highway.

T.J. reached out to some local realtors and at the beginning of April he and his dad booked flights for a long weekend to check out some of the listings and hopefully find a place. Unfortunately my work schedule would not allow me to go with them but before he left for his trip we sat together and looked at all the listings the realtors had emailed him, plus the houses I had saved on Zillow. And we were pleased to find that we were on the same page about what we did and didn't like. We weren't too picky, honestly. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a bathtub, not weird. That was our main criteria.

T.J. and his dad arrived in Washington and jumped right into the hunt. They visited a lot of houses their first day there and they were all busts. Too far, too sketchy, funky layouts. And the second day went much the same. We started to get a little discouraged and realized an apartment might be the better option, rather than rushing to find something in a single weekend. But he still had a different realtor to meet with and a few more listings in our prime location to see the next day.

While he was out house hunting I was out shopping with my friend Kelsey. Later in the day I got a text from him with the links to the houses he'd seen that day. He asked me to check them out, especially his personal favourite. I told him I'd look at them later when I was back at a computer. Honestly I didn't have much hope based on what he had shown me the previous days. But an hour later he texted again to see if I had any thoughts, he wanted to call and chat about them right away because we needed to decided if we wanted to "make any moves."

When I saw that text, Kelsey and I rushed home to her computer and immediately started looking at the houses and I immediately started panicking. I don't know why exactly? I guess a part of me had assumed we probably wouldn't actually find anything on the very first trip. I had resigned myself to apartment living so when he called saying he wanted to make an offer on one of the houses in particular, I was surprised. And I think I scared him a bit (oops) as I vocalized all my thoughts in a possibly hysterical tone. In my defense, this was my first time "seeing" the house since it had just gone on the market and wasn't on Zillow yet. Subsequently there was a misunderstanding about a street that runs behind the house and some serious concerns over whether the master bathroom actually had a bathtub or not. I'm not exactly proud of my reaction. So that sweet guy drove back over to the house to take (hilarious) pictures of the privacy fence and the bathtub to put my mind at ease. You may agree with T.J. and think I was being silly but, y'all I have gone 3 years without a bathtub and I need one back in my life!
So then I looked at T.J.'s favourite house with a little more discernment and with a clearer head and it wasn't even a question. I called T.J. back and apologized for my momentary insanity and admitted that the house looked pretty darn perfect. It checked all the boxes and was actually really charming once I was able to calm down. We hung up and T.J. called the realtor and told them he wanted to make an offer.

Paperwork was drawn up, approval letters were drafted,  and the offer was submitted to the owners.
A few days later T.J. called and we were just talking, sharing about our days, for a solid 20 minutes before he oh so casually tells me the offer has been accepted. Just like that. Cool as a cucumber that boy. I did enough jumping up and down and exclaiming for the both of us and we just couldn't believe that he was one step closer to being a home owner.

After a little more back and forth and faxing documents and tracking down forms with signatures from so and so, T.J. closed on the house and moved in at the beginning of June. And I finally got to see our house in person for the first time when I visited at the end of the month and I loved it even more.  And, excuse me while I gush...but I know that even if it was a rundown shack in the middle of no where I'd be just as excited to move in because of who I get to share it with!