If you are what you eat, I am a carb. I love me some pasta. Bagels. Risotto. Pizza. Craft beer. Stuffing. The list, really, is never-ending.

I've been working out consistently since November. (Word to the wise, if you want to keep yourself accountable, buy a dry-erase calendar and write down every time you work out. Then, at the end of each month, record the ratio of days out of the month that you worked out. Keep track of those ratios.)

The husband-to-be and I have been doing that for eight months now, and this month, we amped it up. I've worked out (minimum, hour-long walk) 20 of the 23 days that August has afforded me.

Yet, I step on the scale on Tuesday, and the same number I've seen since JANUARY proves relentless. Clearly, something has to give.

For the next month, I'm going to severely limit my bad carbs in an experiment of sorts to see if that leads to progress. It's not that I think I'm terribly overweight. But, I wasn't 100% happy with how I looked in those 20+ wedding dresses I tried on, and I know I can't blame my displeasure entirely on the dresses.

But, before I take the plunge, I decided a carb-errific trip to the one and only Melt Bar and Grilled was in order. See why?
For those of you who haven't been lucky enough to wrap your mouth around one of these beauties, I'll explain. Melt is a Northeast Ohio treat; its menu features a decadent variety of grilled cheese sandwiches. The one I chose for my carb send-off? The Purple Parma, which featured no shortage of cheese, no shortage of thick, grilled bread and an abundance, too, of breaded eggplant. Here, take a closer look:
If I find that the severe limitation of the most delicious things on earth slims me down, I'll stick to it. Or try. I'm not saying I would ever give up carbs completely. One, I'm told that's not healthy, and two, that's flat out unrealistic.

But the great thing about weight, like so many things in life, is if you don't like it, you can change it. Nothing would tickle me more (yes, I said, tickle) than to go in for my dress fitting a few months before I marry the man of my dreams and hear them say, "Oh geez, girl. We need to take this in a size."

Back to that Purple Parma: Few sacrifices say love like bringing home half your Melt for your better half:
Oh, and Melt? In case you didn't know, yes, we totally do still need a caterer.
 
Sometimes, a discovery makes you bubble with excitement. Like, want to get up and dance a really embarrassing dance, all the while clucking cheerfully.

Or maybe that's just me.

I was responding to a Northeast Ohio photographer who wrote me today, explaining that she'd seen the blog and wanted to photograph our wedding, and I wanted to give her a sense of the type of exposure she could anticipate if she were to become a vendor of ours and receive mention (probably multiple mentions) on this blog, not just in a "hey, this is our vendor" way, but also in entries that share wedding advice.

So I accessed the traffic counter on this blog, and added up each day's unique visitor count, and OMG, was I pumped. In the past month, since The Bartering Bride really got going, it has been visited by 905 unique visitors. Today alone, nearly 190 different people visited this domain. How exciting and humbling.
My head's not bigger. My resolve is. If so many people are visiting, that means I need to step up my game: Offer more bartering and planning advice. Keep sharing my journey and my missteps, so others may learn from (and avoid) them.

Part of that, though, is knowing what other brides and grooms want to know more about, so please don't hesitate to comment below or email me at mrandmrslazette@yahoo.com.

In the meantime, no matter who you are -- another bride, a vendor, a friend -- I thank you for taking an interest in me and my bartering/planning/trying-not-to-become-a-zilla journey.
 
We'd been at it for hours (again) -- bless my friends and family for their patience (again).

After today, I've logged more than seven hours of trying on more than 20 dresses. We narrowed it down to two at the boutique today, and then I asked my peanut gallery to accompany me back to David's Bridal, where I'd fell in love with (and cried about) one particular dress (which shall remain undescribed in case a certain husband-to-be actually reads the blog I pen about our wedding, ha).

When I stepped out and faced the mirrors, a lot of the same feelings rushed back to me. I love the dress itself, but I love more the way it makes me feel. Beautiful. Like a bride. And it makes me think about him and how he'll react.

My friend, Amy, was gunning for another dress back at the other boutique. But she'd missed last week's shopping marathon, so I was most curious about her reaction to this one.

That's the dress, she declared.

Why? I asked her in typical reporter fashion.

When she responded, she cited something about the dress, but what resonated most was when she said I looked happy in it. Indeed, I feel happy in it. The bridal consultant asked me if I was sure, and I most definitely am. Then, they asked me to make a wish and ring the bell, signaling I'd made my decision.

So, this is the one, and I am THRILLED. I cannot wait to see his face when he sees me in it, when I am HIS bride.

And that reminds me of another question I've been weighing: When should he first see me in it?

I've come to find out through my ongoing photography research that there's something called "first look" photography, where the groom and the bride actually see each other before the ceremony and are photographed as they do. I've actually cried upon seeing such images, notably that of Cavanaugh Photography. But I wanted to gauge other people's opinions (part of my whole need-to-do-research schtick): 
The responses were varied and helpful. As I suspected, some see the beauty of stealing away for a few intimate moments with your betrothed. Others see the beauty in the anticipation of, and the experience of, the aisle reveal.
If I had to choose today, I think I'd choose to have a "first look." But I don't have to choose today, which is good because I can only handle so many choices in a day.

What I will say is this: If you're a bride who's going dress shopping and plan to make a marathon out of it like I did, bring water and snacks (even if they have to be stored in your car for your "judges" because the shop doesn't think food and dresses mix, imagine that). And, if I may say so myself, my decision to bring scoring cards was clutch. Opinions get muddled, but when people are asked to rate a dress in a uniform system like the one I created, it becomes very clear when a dress is adored.

Above all else, find a dress that makes YOU feel transcendent.
 
I came mostly prepared. I'd made voting cards and stored snacks in my car should hunger strike my judges. But what I didn't come prepared for was the moment I exited the dressing room for what probably was the 12th time, looked up and saw my sister tear up.

If you've ever tried on wedding dresses, you know there are no mirrors in the dressing room. So I hadn't seen the dress now making her emotional.

Then, I did. I turned around to show off the train. When I returned to face my peanut gallery, my consultant asked, "Are you crying?" I totally was. Then, I really started crying.

What ensued was a moment I'd come to think probably wouldn't happen (not that I'd expected it to). I literally was on my 12th or 13th dress and no one had cried yet. I hadn't felt unquestionably beautiful yet. Isn't that what The Dress is supposed to do, even if a girl dislikes her arms and her hips?

My mom jumped up and hugged me, tearing up, too. My sister cried more and grabbed me in a hug. Then we fixed the veil and I stood, soaking in what could very well be The Dress I wear to marry the love of my life.

It certainly made a mark on my bridesmaids and my mom:
Other dresses did not. (I'd show you them, but the husband-to-be might see!) See how assertively my mom is saying no?
I almost paid for the dress that made us cry. But I wanted to mull it over. And I'm glad I did. I know myself. I'm a reporter. My best work and my best decisions are made when I feel comfortable with the extent of my research, and I knew, even amid the excitement of the find, that I wasn't there.

So this Sunday, we visit another bridal boutique, and if nothing beats Contender No. 1, nothing beats Contender No. 1.
 
I mailed our contract to officially secure the venue today. But, before that could occur, there was the Message Decision.

Toward the end of the contract, the venue coordinators ask each bride and groom to provide a message they would like displayed on the outdoor sign on their big day. 

We didn't just want congratulations, but we weren't sure what we did want. So I set a piece of paper and a pen in front of both of us one night this week and initiated the brainstorm. Here's what my super-focused fiance wrote:
"You said whatever comes to mind, and I went with that," The HTB (husband-to-be) retorted when I called into question the relevance of his last two suggestions. And G.O.A.T.? Apparently, it's an acronym for Greatest Of All Time.

In other wedding developments, our tree trunks are here, and they are exactly what we wanted. Straight-out-of-the-forest authentic! In the coming weeks, Steven and I plan to have a thrift-store hunt for some super-cheap glass jars and other centerpiece items.
And now, I reveal to you the reason there will be glitter in our rug and on the hardwood floors for, probably, forever: My first crafty project in, oh, a decade. My very best friends (minus one who's out of town), my sister and my mom will be my peanut gallery this Sunday as I try on my very first wedding dresses. (This is actually a moment I would want a videographer to capture, if, well, THAT was in the budget.)

I think first impressions say a lot, so to lend some uniformity to the rounds of first impressions I'll bear witness to, I created scorecards for my five judges:
As with anything that involves paper on the floor, a certain Cora cat found it supremely torturous that I insisted she not fluff all over my sparkly creations.