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. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dragging out the celebration.

So basically my mom is definitely doing a better job recapping and documenting the wedding. If you're sick of my slow pace, feel free to pop over to see what the fabulous Mother of the Bride has to say. She's already posted about the rehearsal dinner and I'm still back in October mailing out invitations....

But I'm back at it today. Here goes.

I was worried that having our wedding so close to Christmas and even closer to New Years would be a problem for our guests or that it would create issues with booking flights and hotels. I figured it could go either way. Either guests would already have too many holiday travel plans and they wouldn't be able to squeeze in one more thing at the busiest time of the year, or it would be easier for guests to make the trip since they were already off work anyway.

One of the things about our wedding that really made my heart swell and the tears come more quickly was seeing all the people who made the effort and travelled from near and far for us. It was one of the most overwhelming parts of the entire experience that I wasn't prepared for. Sure I knew who all would be there since we'd been obsessively tracking rsvps and the changing headcount every day, but when I started meeting T.J.'s extended family, and when my friends started pouring into town, and when people we love but hadn't seen in years started to arrive I just felt so blown over.

We had done this! We had made this amazing reunion happen. I wanted to see everyone, talk to everyone, make sure everyone knew how amazed and grateful and blessed by their presence I was. We had gathered up all the people who love and know us best and gotten them into the same place at the same time. I don't think there is ever another time in our entire lives when that will happen.

Having our wedding the weekend after New Year ended up being perfect timing, in my opinion, because almost all of our wedding party came in to town early to celebrate New Year's Eve with us. It meant that we got to have almost an entire week to celebrate with our friends instead of just a Friday/Saturday sort of deal. Plus having this extra time before the day took a little bit of the pressure off us on the actual day and gave us time to greet those we hadn't seen yet. We had a big group dinner downtown and bought tickets to a NYE party at a local spot which was great because we made up the majority of the crowd. (Yes, it almost the end of January and I am just now blogging about New Years. So sue me.)

We got to drag out the party as long as possible, much like I used to drag out my birthday celebrations for at least two weeks as a kid, much like I'm dragging out these blog posts...

The next phase of festivities took place on the Friday before our wedding.  I planned a little luncheon for my bridesmaids, my mom, and soon to be mother in law (who unfortunately couldn't make it as she was setting up for the rehearsal dinner later that night). I knew the rest of the weekend would be a blur and I didn't want it to go by without telling each of these girls how truly madly deeply I love them, need them and appreciate them in my life.
I made reservations at Brick Street Cafe (if you visit you have to get their famous sweet potato cake) and brought along gifts and some emotions to pass around.  I gave each bridesmaid an ivory pashmina to cover up with on the cold January wedding day,  wrapped sweetly in a pretty personalized label from Sweet Pea Sunday etsy shop.  (Unfortunately it looks like she doesn't offer these anymore, thought she still does pretty print work.)

I also had a necklace made for each girl from L Rose Designs' etsy shop. They were dainty gold chains with a gold pine cone, a smoky brown quartz, and a gold disc with each girl's initial. I liked that they weren't huge or distracting and that were a nod to our  wintry "theme."
Finally I included a plaid robe and warm fuzzy socks for the girls to wear while we got ready in the morning. I also got my mom and MIL a small packet of tissues to wipe away happy tears. While the girls opened their gifts I went around and shared a little something that I love about each one of them. It was hard to share just one thing thing,  but I knew if I said all the things I love, we'd still be sitting there today. 
After lunch I headed back to my sisters apartment, where I had been staying during that wedding prep period,  and we loaded up her car, and our parents' car, and her boyfriend's car with all the wedding things and made our way downtown to check into the hotel that we'd be staying in on my last night as a single gal. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

you're invited!

One of the most fun parts of planning our wedding was designing all the things. I didn't start out planning to design our own invitations and all the subsequent pieces. But when I reached out to a couple stationery designers and received astronomical quotes for the type of custom work I wanted, I knew DIY was the way to go. I wanted our wedding to be personal, and unique and so I took this chance to be creative.

One thing I knew I wanted to incorporate in our formal invitations was gold foil and so first I had to find a place to print them. If I couldn't find a vendor to do the gold foil press and the professional print work for a reasonable cost then it wouldn't be worth doing it myself.

I did a ton of browsing on Pinterest and especially Oh So Beautiful Paper. This pretty site shares lovely designer work and also tells you who created it and where it was printed. I looked into several different options and eventually reached out to Stationery HQ where I was able to get wholesale pricing thanks to my little design business.  They are set up so that I could upload my own designs, select the perfect paper from tons of different styles, folds, thickness, and they do the all printing. The turn around for printing time is 7 days and yes, they offer dreamy foil press in all sorts of colors!

I was so excited about this find, and their fantastic customer service, so I got to work. For weeks ahead of that time, along with doodling my soon to be new married name all over everything, I'd been sketching ideas and doing mock ups and it was finally time to turn my pages of sketches into real pieces. Like my Save the Dates I wanted to incorporate my own handwriting into the invitations so I drew out the words and then scanned my designs into Illustrator. I also found myself inspired by pine cone and evergreen graphics and ended up tying them in throughout our wedding decor. I liked how these elements gave us a subtle wintry theme without being Christmasy and they were also a nod to our new home in the Evergreen State.
(The formal invitation was A7 size. The accommodations and reception cards were A2.)
(The RSVP card was 4 bar size.)
It's hard to tell in these pictures, but the paper is a pearlescent ivory color which gave all the card stock a really subtle shimmer. To complete the suite I ordered kraft paper envelopes for the set and a sage green envelope for the rsvp cards from paper source. 
My mom hand addressed all the envelopes in her beautiful cursive (I know, she is the absolute best, and she also proofread everything and caught where I mispelled South Carolina....) and I designed and ordered a stamp from here with the return address, which we stamped in brown ink on the flap of the outside envelope and on the front of the rsvp cards.

I spent a lot of time designing and pouring love into each piece of our invitation. I am still so proud of how they turned out, simple, clean, but also whimsical and rustic.  It was so exciting to get them back from the printers and to hold my designs in my hand. I think they did a perfect job of setting the tone for our wedding and gave our guests a little sneak peek into what the day would look like.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

a weekend in Seattle

In between wedding posts I still want to record the day to day stuff we are up to as well. Last week T.J. started a month long rotation of overnight shifts at a different hospital in Seattle. He occasionally has these away rotations and while it means I have to spend some weeks alone in our house it also means I get to drive up and spend a few days exploring the city with him when he has a day off.

This month he has every Monday off through till the time his shift starts on Tuesday evenings. I drove up on Sunday and got in around the time he was waking up from his post night-shift snooze. The Army puts him up in an apartment near the hospital during these rotations so he showed me around the neighborhood and the medical campuses. He had to work that night but we made plans to do more sightseeing on his day off.

Monday, the start of our weekend, arrived and I dragged him out of bed in the afternoon. We then stepped out into the sunshine (thank you for that, Washington), and headed out for donuts. It was quite the walk down there from T.J.'s apartment. Let's just say that Seattle is an interesting and kind of weird city unlike other cities I've visited or lived in before.

We found our donuts at the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company in the market by the waterfront and grabbed half a dozen cinnamon and a half a dozen sprinkled donuts (don't worry they're miniature size, though I could probably eat half a dozen full sized donuts....) and took our sweet treats to the pier to enjoy.
After our nutritous breakfast/lunch we headed inside the Seattle Aquarium (not too big, but in a fun location and they have some cool exhibits) where I was able to take advantage of my military dependent status for the first time. Once we'd had our fill of marine life we capped off our touristy afternoon with a spin on the ferris wheel. We had the perfect weather that day, which I get the feeling is rare, so we wanted to take advantage of the clear skies and get a good bird's eye view of the city.
We took a circuitous walk back to the apartment, regrouped and headed back out for a dinner date at Local 360. We shared apps and enjoyed the intimate candlelit table and their yummy food supposedly sourced from a 360 mile radius. I am sure there are a million restaurants and neighborhoods we must visit during our five years in the Seattle area but this one was a good first stop.  (Feel free to pass along your favorite local recommendations, though).  

These two weeks of dating my husband, living with my husband, waking up with my husband, (being able to say the word husband) have been just plain good fun. Never did I ever think I would be living out in the Pacific Northwest. I have to pinch myself that I get to experience and explore a whole new part of the country. And even better I get to do all this together thing with T.J. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

We can finally talk about the dress...

I've been debating on how to blog about all the wedding things and I've decided that before I dive into the weekend events I wanted to share some of the background details leading up to the big day. So let's just cut to the chase. I know you all just really want to hear about my wedding dress. And I'm done holding out on you.

Mind, you were not the only ones kept in the dark. T.J. did not see my dress, or really have any clue what it looked like until he saw me walking down the aisle to him. I was really good about keeping it a surprise from most people - no easy feat. I love my dress and I fell more and more in love with it with each twirl on the dance floor at our reception and I wanted to wear it every day leading up to the day and now that it's over I still want to wear it every day and sit on my couch and eat popcorn and watch Friends.

My dress was the 5th dress I tried on in the first store we visited. And it was pink, but we'll get to that in a minute.

It was not one that I had pinned or seen in a magazine and just had to try on. In fact I didn't even pick it out, our assistant brought it into the dressing room and said it seemed like something I would like. Going in I said I wanted a natural waist, something flowy and romantic. I didn't like the trumpet skirts or the super fitted look or something too "typical". I also didn't want a huge ball gown or something that would overwhelm me and make me look like a little girl playing dress up.

These were my favorite "inspiration" pins that I had in mind when I set out shopping.
{1 | 2 | 3 | 4}
So after trying on a couple pretty dresses that just weren't me, the sales assistant brought in my dress. And, like I mentioned, it was pink (technically "rose gold" is what they were calling it) and it was two pieces, a corset bodice and the skirt. I was pretty skeptical and definitely knew I didn't want a pink dress. But then I put it on and I understood why those girls on Say Yes to the Dress always buy those blush colored dresses. It was so pretty and girly and special.

I came out and felt like myself in it. It swished and moved just right when I stood in it, it was like a ballet skirt- made of super soft soft tulle-y material with raw edges, it wasn't heavy and it had these beautiful folds to make it fall and sweep the floor just right. It was so fun to wear. The corset had a sweetheart neckline and was covered in lace, almost in a two-tone manner. I stood on the platform looking at myself for a while and was totally surprised that I was falling in love with a pink dress.
But I really didn't want a pink dress, as pretty as it was, so we confirmed that it also came in ivory. A little back and forth over lunch and less than an hour later we were back in the store ordering my dress, in ivory. (Read about the dress buying trip here.)

There were no pictures online of the dress in ivory, either on the designer's website, or on pinterest that we could find, and no fabric swatch, so I was a little nervous waiting for my dress to come and worrying that I wouldn't like it as much in ivory (though I liked that it wasn't a dress you were seeing everywhere).

A few months later it arrived in the shop and I went with my mom and mema to try on my dress for the first time (read more about that day here).  And I loved it even more in ivory!
We also picked up a sash and a veil to complete the look and everything was perfect. It felt like a wedding dress! It felt like just what I should marry T.J. in. So after a hem and tuck, that's just what I did! 
**For your reference, it's a Watters gown. Along with the color choice, there were several other options you could select- I ordered my corset lined (of course), and the skirt without a train because I don't like bustles, though I did have my seamstress leave it a little longer in the back when hemming so it would still sweep. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

a minimoon

A lot of people asked where we were planning to go on our honeymoon and then a lot of those people were surprised when we said we weren't going on a honeymoon. We just didn't have time and I was more than okay with that. I was so excited to be flying across the country, moving in with my guy and setting up our home, that I was happy to put off the honeymoon until we can do it properly in a few years.

But then we realized that we would have a few extra days after the wedding before T.J. had to go back to work and we decided to take advantage of it. T.J. sweetly planned what we affectionately called our "minimoon".  T.J. found and booked us a cabin for two nights on San Juan Island and it was the perfect getaway and not too far from our neck of the woods.

We got back to Washington on Sunday night after the wedding and early Monday morning we were up and on our way North. We drove about 3 hours and boarded a ferry and travelled another hour across the smooth, green, foggy Sound until we reached Friday Harbor. Doesn't that just sound like a fun little spot? In the summer San Juan is a really popular vacation destination and the perfect place to go whale watching.  But in January it was quiet and secluded and the perfect place for us to unwind after a whirlwind couple of days. 
We pulled off the ferry and went in search of lunch, which we found at Market Chef. It definitely seemed like a favorite with the locals, it was warm and cozy, buzzing with moms and people on their lunch breaks, all greeted by name by the woman behind the counter taking orders and fixing sandwiches. T.J. and I both got a cup of squash soup and half a sandwich to warm us up before we grabbed some groceries and set off to find our hideaway.
We were booked in cabin 16 at Snug Harbor on the opposite side of the island from the ferry port. Isn't that just the most adorable name for a minmoon retreat? The cabins are equally adorable, smell fantastically like cedar, and the owners have thought of every little detail right down to the smore's supplies stocked in the gift shop. We took the name's advice and snuggled in for the night. I made spaghetti and meatballs and we watched movies in front of the fire in our cabin overlooking the bay.
The next morning we slept in before heading out to explore the island. It doesn't really feel like an island in the typical sense. It's covered in fields, alpaca and lavender farms, artist studios, and streams, a view of the Olympic Mountain region in the distance and the promise of whales along the shores. We first headed up to the North end to Roche Harbor, another resort with lots of big boats and the weirdest mausoleum hidden in the woods. The manager at Snug Harbor told us to park at the "airport" (a single runway for people with fancy private planes) and to follow the signs to something like the knight's templar. It was super foggy and the woods felt appropriately mystical- it was definitely something odd that we didn't expect find, complete with a round table. Oh, and it was called Afterglow Vista.... weird Washington.

After that little adventure we stopped at the English Camp. At one point the island was jointly occupied by American and English troops. Tensions rose and another war almost erupted when an American killed a English pig that was rooting around his garden (men...) but eventually they worked it out and the Americans got to keep the territory.  We hiked around the old camp for a bit and then headed further South to Lime Kiln State Park. Not prepared to pay to park we only peaked around a bit at the view and made plans to come back the next day to see more.
That night we headed back into Friday Harbor for dinner (at pretty much the only place open in town) before heading back to our cabin to enjoy ice cream for dessert. In the morning we were greeted by the sun!! Can I just tell you that it rained our entire wedding weekend and the first couple days back in Washington so we were full on praising the sun on our last day on the island.
We headed back in the car and back to Lime Kiln State park, keeping one eye on the water looking for blowhole sprays though sadly no luck this time (an excuse to come back now). This time we paid to park and trekked down to the lighthouse. Doesn't the sunshine make all the pictures so much better? Guess I need to get used to dark photos for the next five years or learn to compensate for the gray...
We made one final stop at the American Camp and for a moment I felt like we were in Ireland or on the cost of England. One of my favorite parts of our new part of the country is how very wonderfully green it is year round. Makes up for the gray I was just whining about. 
T.J. kept teasing, wasn't this the honeymoon of every little girl's dreams? To be dragged to a rainy, dark, foggy corner of the country to hike around in the damp for two days? Yes it looked a little different than the Caribbean but truly it was so much more than I could have asked for and I love that we spent it in our new home state.  I loved this time with the just the two of us before unpacking boxes, and thank you notes and a month of overnight shifts divided our time again. 
We packed up our little minimoon cottage and made our way back to Friday Harbor to meet the ferry. We stopped for fish and chips and a browse through the best little used book store that I wanted to move in to before heading home to start married life for real.