Remember those jars my mom and I spent weeks creating? They're no longer mine.
I remember walking into our venue on the morning of Sept. 1 and feeling stunned by how well everything was coming together, thanks to the early-morning efforts of our wedding planners, Kim and Meredith. The burlap runners, the jars wrapped in burlap, twine and lace, the simple and pretty daisies from Robyn's Nest, a Vermilion, Ohio florist, complemented each other and our log cabin venue, Vermilion on the Lake Historic Community Center, so well. (If you decide to book the same venue we did, Aunt Ruth's Family Store is right across the street and will deliver all of your bar needs.)
I recently sold the jars my mom and I made, along with the burlap runners, the burlap signs I created and more to a bride I know. It was a little bittersweet: A part of me was sad to let go of things that were crafted over so many weeks with my one and only parent during such a special time in my life. But the other part of me is happy to imagine those beautiful things bringing to life another couple's special day.The Bartering Bride now has a page, where those of you who *like* and follow it can be among the first to know when I post new blogs and perhaps divulge bigger plans for the brand I've built. I'm hopeful, too, that having a Facebook page will encourage more people to ask the wedding planning, bridal blogging and bartering questions on their mind. I've learned far too much NOT to share it.
With engagement season upon us (I don't know about you, but sparkly rings were cropping up on my Facebook feed for a while), I figure it's time for me to come out of blogging hibernation and share some of the best vendor decisions I made for my new husband and me. I know many of you newly engaged get right at it, after all.One thing I urge you not to do as those first price quotes roll in: expect the world for nothing. I said this during my recent chat with a magazine writer (who interviewed me about bridal bargaining and negotiating): Wedding vendors are small businesses, not nonprofits. They are here to share their talents and to make your wedding tasty, memorable and successful, but they also are here to feed their children, pay their mortgages and achieve financial success using the skills they've spent time and money to build.
I hear too often brides complain that wedding vendors take advantage of people getting married, that they charge WAY too much for photos and that they charge more for wedding cupcakes than they would for corporate events. Well, of course they might! Don't you want them to take extra care to ensure your once-in-a-lifetime event's treats are fresh, stunningly piped and delivered without a hitch? Shouldn't a cupcake baker, or a florist, or a photographer be prepared to meet your expectations, which likely are higher for your wedding day than they would be for a family reunion? Remember: You get what you pay for -- or barter for, of course!These were the cupcakes delivered by SweetPea Sinsations. We received so many compliments about these, even weeks after our Sept. 1 wedding. (All photographs in this blog are by our easy-to-work-with, talented and kind photographer, Ken, of Cavanaugh Photography. I could tell you all about his work, but I think I'll let it speak for itself.)
I also accidentally fed my new husband a cupcake liner. (There were two on each one -- who knew?!)
Jenn from SweetPea Sinsations was professional, had exquisite pride in her product and delivered to our venue. I never even saw her on our wedding day; she was in and out, took care of business and provided exactly what she promised she would in our barter agreement. You know who else I never saw the day of, but would hire again without hesitation? Elegant Assets Events. The linens were delivered early in the morning to our wedding planners, just as we asked and for every size table we needed, the linens were steamed on site as the company's owner promised they would be, and they were picked up at the end of the night. We asked their company to do very simple ivory tablecloths, but they do a heck of a lot more. See it all on the company's Facebook page.There are so many perks to hiring professionals to handle your wedding, not the least of which is having them take your event very seriously and deliver as they promised. And then, you may find as we did that some vendors OVER-deliver. Something New Entertainment was incredible. They impressed for all of the reasons we expected -- playing our party's music, manning our party's karaoke, which was sung on the best equipment we've ever used to sing, and really transforming our venue with amber uplighting. They played every song we selected for special moments, including for our outdoor ceremony, and they were right -- the wireless microphone they provided did ensure our vows were heard, loud and clear.Yes. We do take our karaoke seriously.
Something New Entertainment also designed and executed this lighted monogram on our dance floor, using the same fonts we used in our invites and printed materials. It may just be the journalist in me, but I think consistency, even in fonts, elevates an event.
Look at the uplighting they did, but better yet, look at the party Something New fostered. Photos like these are my absolute favorites because I wanted our family and friends to let loose and have fun, and it sure looks like they did.
Something New's Anna-Jeannine and Justin did more than handle the entertainment, though. They brought us water. They asked more times than I can count if they could do anything for us. They were there not just to do the job we hired them to do; they were there to ensure our wedding was a success in all ways they could.
I wouldn't hesitate to hire Tom's Country Place again, too. They catered our event, and the food was tasty, the mashed potato toppings bar was executed just like I requested, and importantly, their service was top-notch. Their staff was incredibly attentive. I kind of felt like a movie star. Empty plate on our table? Gone quickly. All night long.We struck gold with the vast majority of the people we paid or bartered with, and I think we did it in a few ways:
- One, we tried to be kind and transparent with our vendors. Isn't it easier to strive to do a great job for someone when you actually like them? So I tried to be the kind of bride people liked working for, albeit a bit Type A. That said, I made it abundantly clear what we wanted. No one can meet (or exceed) your expectations if they don't know what they are.
- Two, I did my research. I Googled these businesses. I read their blogs. I scanned reviews on various websites. I interviewed them myself. Though I didn't do this, one also could look up potential wedding vendors on the Better Business Bureau site in their region. I personally checked with the local health department to see which catering companies had clean records, and I also asked other brides what they wish they'd known when planning their own weddings in my 30 Days of Wedding Questions. You could do the same exact thing in your own geographic market. Harness the power of social media to your benefit.
- Finally, I didn't simply go cheap because we didn't have the money to hire high-caliber vendors. You get what you pay for in this world. The reason some photographers charge $2,000 for wedding coverage is because they've done enough of them, captured some pretty terrific images and generated enough buzz that the market will pay that price. Period. Of course, as you likely know, I bartered for vendors' work. I exchanged publicity on this blog for discounts. I did what I could to WORK for what we couldn't afford.
I'll leave you with a little more vendor love and some other vendor-selecting advice.Before Harleigh M. Hodge stood before our guests and married us, she met us to get to know us better, provided us with documents that helped us know how ceremonies are structured typically and also gave us page after page of readings we could select. Later, she recorded herself reading through the ceremony we wrote so we could hear her delivery before the big day. It felt like she really revels in the joy of weddings.
I loved that I wasn't yanking my heavy dress up all night long, and Miranda, my alterations expert, was easy to work with and suggested something I hadn't considered could be done: She transformed my gown into a sweetheart neckline, which I adored. That dress fit like a glove, thanks to her. And I found my bracelet and earrings in her adorable shop. Shoes? Payless. I never bought things for my wedding based on brand. I bought based on what I liked.
I love our wedding invite designer. Literally -- she's my sister. If you haven't seen the incredible invitations Stephanie designed, read this past post and see below. Of course, brides and grooms can order wedding invitations off any number of websites. But you also can hire a custom invitation designer (like my sister), who will listen to the type of event you are planning and create invites that reflect it. Ours were rustic (with a wood grain touch) and tied together with the same materials my mom and I tied around some centerpiece jars. Email my sister for more information.
This was a little detail, but such an affordable, nice added touch: my personalized hanger from Whiskey & Wedding Bells. Our wedding planners were clutch. Of course, they decorated the venue in the morning and distributed vendor checks and tips (yes, we still tipped most vendors with whom we bartered). But bottom line was this: It was nice to have Kim be there to handle the timing of everything, to direct people and answer questions, to help tear down at night. It was nice not to be the one people were turning to for instructions, and it was nice to let my mom be a guest at her daughter's wedding.When it comes to finding a wedding planner, you'll want to go with someone who fits your style of planning and orchestrating. Kim is caring, but serious as a heart attack, and, after all of the research and planning I did, I wanted someone to handle the day as if it were her own. She was on top of things all day and all night long.To say I am glad we had a florist for our event is an understatement. (And frankly, flowers were the wedding touch I might have cared about least.) For whatever reason (I'm no expert in floral matters, but I'm told it was all of the rain), this year's baby's breath did not smell nice. One of my co-workers told me he attended a wedding where the baby's breath smelled like body odor. If I had not hired Holly of Robyn's Nest, if I had just decided to buy and arrange wholesale flowers, I might not have known until our arrangements were cut and the whole venue smelled.But we did hire a professional, and she learned in a seminar mere weeks before our wedding that she'd need to swap all of our baby's breath for white daisies. And she did it for the same price she'd quoted us all along. This, folks, is why you hire professionals when you can. Yes, they can be more expensive than doing it yourself, but as you can see here, there are tangible and intangible reasons for their prices. Well before the baby's breath discovery, I'd been convinced to hire Holly because she has this nurturing sense about her (very calming for a Type A bride), and because she said she only works one wedding a day. Our event would be her focus. I think it showed. I'd never seen or heard the word delphinium until our wedding. I told Holly our groomsmen were wearing blue ties and Steven, a yellow one, and she knew just which flowers to match AND fit to our price range.Makeup and hair is one wedding service you can try on before the big day, and I did -- twice. In the end, the ladies of Fringe and Foundation Studio delivered on their promises: They arrived on time to the bed and breakfast where the girls and I met to get dressed, they finished every woman's look and even the looks for some who asked for one service or another last-minute, and when Allison said the product she used would keep the frizz at bay, she didn't exaggerate.
Despite it being 80 degrees and it misting rain throughout our day, see how tame my curls stayed?
Finally, one of my favorite vendors we hired is our videographer, the trained journalist, Ryan Loew. We just received our video and watched it last night, and I cried. A lot. It was incredible to be able to not just see images of our day, but to hear our loved ones' voices and watch them and us live our wedding. Ryan's camera work was superb and surprising -- in no way, shape or form was it run-of-the-mill or predictable. The way he weaved together moments of our day with an interview he videotaped that morning made our wedding videography fun and so sweet to watch.So there you have it: the men and women who made our wedding a professionally executed, memorable and happy event. To them, I say: Thank you very much, and I wish you many continued successes into the future. You deserve them. To those of you planning a wedding, I say: Hire them.
Last week, after confirming that our florist had received our final payment, I asked her (as I ask all of our vendors) if she needs anything else from me in advance of our big day. Her response made me smile."No. I don't worry about you like I worry about most brides." Me: "Did you receive the timeline of our day?"That, she replied, is why she doesn't worry about me. The timeline accounts for every little thing: hair and makeup, flower pinning, toasts. I've edited it several times based on feedback from our vendors, whom I've relied on to tell me if we are allotting enough time for our ceremony, for first look photography, for all of these things I've never planned before.As an example, I had been planning to get to the venue much closer to our start time, until I was reminded by one of my wedding planners that I'll need to be inside and out of sight of early bird guests. Valid!I am privy to invaluable advice, know-how and some very fitting accessories for our wedding because I've hired Kimberly Lehman from Love, Laughter & Elegance, Wedding and Event Planning out of Massillon and Meredith Masaveg from Rain Wedding Planning in Painesville. They answer my questions, Kim has sent me wedding ideas for months now and they both will report the morning of to decorate the venue.Here's Kim, at a few weddings she helped coordinate. She did seven last year, and is available to help brides in all of Ohio and contiguous states. "I've been obsessed with weddings since I was about 12," Kim said. "All I had to do was watch Princess Diana get married. That was it, that's all it took for me to get hooked. I guess I believe in the fairy tale for everyone."In exchange for a Story of Your Life, created by the company I co-own with my sister, Kim and Meredith are Steven's and my wedding planners. Kim will serve as what the industry calls our "day-of coordinator," and Meredith will help decorate the venue and lend us some cute, rustic cupcake towers, among other things. I've provided Kim and Meredith with a drawing of how we want the venue site arranged and a description of our centerpieces, and they will decorate the ceremony and reception sites, using the jars my mom and I made and a lengthy list of other items Kim will pick up from us soon. She also will deliver to each of our vendors remaining payments that need made, manage any issues and hiccups that may arise and tear down at the end of the night.I am very much a do-it-myself type of woman because I would rather do things on my own rather than badger others to do them the way I want them done. But, I can tell I can trust Kim. She is extremely detail-oriented. She took notes during our recent venue visit. She's collected all of our vendor contracts from me, plus the names and numbers of our bridesmaids, groomsmen and mothers.I know there are many brides who don't hire planners. But I have my reasons for hiring Kim and Meredith. 1) I didn't want my family and friends to lift a finger to execute our day. I wanted them to be our guests, to experience that magic I've felt walking into a venue and seeing the finished space without having made it the finished space.Kim actually told me she felt bad after she put her mom to work on her wedding day 14 years ago. "When I saw my mom running around the day of the wedding, trying to keep tabs on the caterer, on the bridal party, I thought, 'This isn't fair to her,'" she recalled. "My mom should be beaming as the mother of the bride, enjoying every moment. This wasn't fair to her."2) I wanted someone who would handle any issues that arise. Someone running late? I don't want to have to deal with it. Selfish as it might sound, I want to savor every moment of this day, not fuss over the details. People tell me it flies by, so I don't want to waste time worrying.3) Wedding planners have know-how, experience in tackling issues in a graceful, effective manner, wedding materials a bride can borrow and industry connections. The shepherds hooks from which we're hanging jars of flowers along the aisle will be borrowed from Meredith, too.Here's what a shepherds hook looks like (courtesy of The Knot):
Getting married this year, or even this month? Both Kim and Meredith offer day-of coordination separate from full and partial wedding planning services, so it's not too late to hire a helping hand.
Kim's one-woman business was founded in 2000. She prides herself on her ability to organize and to keep people on schedule. And she's thoughtful, too. When we had our planning meeting a few months ago, she brought me a pretty, bright plant. It survives on my patio, despite my inability to remember to water it.
I asked both Kim and Meredith for their wedding planning advice, so I could share it. Kim stressed the need to be organized and to delegate where possible."The best kind of wedding is one from the heart," Meredith told me. "The worst kind of wedding is when you forget that it comes down to two little words -- 'I do' -- when you worry that you have to have the best of everything and if something doesn't go right, your day is ruined. In my book, everything else is just a party. Mission accomplished if you both say, 'I do.'"Meredith founded Rain Wedding Planning in 2008. The company employs four, including her. She named it Rain because, "as the old wives' tale goes, rain on your wedding is good luck."Tangent time: Rain on our wedding day would derail our plans for an outdoor ceremony. Steven, my husband-to-be, is wrapping up a collegiate class in statistics, and one day last week spent an hour analyzing 50 years of weather information for the city where we will wed on the date that we will wed. (We are nerds, we know.)Here were his results:
"So it seems like a very fat chance it's going to be a rainy, thunderstorm-y kind of a day," my meteorologist informed me.My ideal would be 70 to 75 degrees and sunny. (Please, Mother Nature?) But, if you married on a very warm day or a rainy day, feel free to comment below and tell me how you coped. How'd you cool off? Best stayed dry?Back to Meredith. This is her at a wedding she coordinated, and the second image is of a wedding she set up. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.
- The average high temperature: 78.72 degrees
- There's a 52% chance that it will be at least 80 degrees (a bit warmer than I'd prefer)
- There is a 68% chance that our day's temperature will fall between 71.71 (yes, please) and 85.74 degrees (sizzle)
- 68% of the time in the 50-year period, it didn't rain on our date in this city (oh Mister Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun...)
- There's a 92% chance that there will not be significant rainfall (woo!)
Meredith's favorite part of a wedding is when it hits a couple "that they had their perfect day." The part she enjoys most, she continued, is being able to take someone's idea and executing it the day of so that they and their friends and family can be guests. It makes sense, she noted, that it'd be easier for a wedding planner to remember all of the things that need to get done because they aren't as emotionally involved as the bride and groom."Don't forget that those friends and family who have offered their services (for a wedding) are going to want to have the guest's experience," she told me. "Somewhere down the road, they mentally check out. They have a guest mentality, rather than a vendor mentality."It's my job to worry about how things are going to get done," Meredith continued. "If there's a problem, I have to fix it. Something that would fall on somebody else's shoulders, it falls on mine."When our big day arrives, I'll be happy to eat what minimal breakfast I (and my rabid butterflies) can stomach and have my hair and makeup done and my dress slipped on, all the while surrounded by my family and friends and knowing that the decorating, vendor coordination, solving of problems and general management of the largest party I've ever planned are in the hands of two people who've been there, done that.Sound good? Ask Kim or Meredith what they can do for you.
It'd be inaccurate to call our dining room a dining room right now. It's been overcome. Overcome by a large box of 48 pairs of flip-flops, which I bought for a dollar apiece from Dollar Tree for this intended use. Overcome by a large basket I bought to hold the flip-flops and supplies for our restroom amenity baskets. Don't know what those are? Here, another bride blogger explains the idea. Also crowding the "wedding room" are a scrapbook and supplies I purchased a few weekends ago because I've decided, since we've not purchased a professional photo album, to create a scrapbook where we'll place our wedding pictures on the very pages where people write their well wishes and signatures.There also are ever more jars in our former dining room, lol, but my mom and I likely won't need to transform all of them because, voila! We are probably five or 10 crafty jars away from being done! We used lace, twine, ribbon, burlap and other materials to craft more than 40 jars for the centerpieces. Making them with Mom made them even more beautiful.Want to do something similar? Start early (I'm still roughly three months out), buy supplies on sale from a place like Jo-Ann and adhere the materials using foam paintbrushes and Mod Podge.Of course, the wedding industry and people who've been to their share of weddings have told me our guests will notice the food on the table more than any centerpiece, so it's high time I introduce our third-generation caterer, Tom's Country Place.Led today by owner Billy Hricovec, Tom's Country Place was started in 1959 by Tom and Mary Hricovec, Billy's grandparents, on the land his great-grandparents farmed starting in 1855. The company, which averages around 60 weddings a year, hosts them on site, and also offers off-site catering. The most popular wedding entree? Some type of chicken, Billy replied.I could tell you that we chose Tom's Country Place because it's won awards, which it has, but really, it won my mom and me over when we joined dozens of brides and grooms at a taste-testing event in April when the company served its most popular wedding entrees.Intended as a way for people to try foods they've considered serving and others they haven't, the event really impressed us."Superb," Mom said upon tasting the roast tenderloin of beef with Demi-glace. And those mashed Yukon Golds with pan gravy? "The mashed potatoes are to die for," my mom marveled. When I asked someone whether they are homemade, the woman replied that they were the product of 200 peeled potatoes. Yum. I contacted no fewer than a dozen catering companies before we contracted with Tom's. Some charged our entire wedding budget for 80-something meals, and then charged additional fees for cutting the wedding cake, for flatware and china and for linens.If you are seeking a company that provides a price that's all-inclusive, look no further than Tom's. Their buffet service is priced to include china and flatware, salad and dinner rolls, a dessert or appetizer buffet, coffee and tea service and wait staff. And from my perspective -- and I do feel I've done my research here -- they are one of the most reasonably priced caterers in Northeast Ohio. Not the cheapest, but nowhere near cost-prohibitive.We initially planned to do two pasta stations, where guests would choose a pasta, a sauce, vegetables and proteins and watch it all sautéed right in front of them until piping hot. But, when we learned that it probably would take each guest two minutes to get through the line (because people can be indecisive and reheating the food takes time), we realized it meant some guests would have to wait up to 40 minutes to eat and reconsidered. We have a party to get to, right? Plus, when I posed the question to my Facebook peanut gallery, the answer was unanimous: People don't want to wait to eat at a wedding, even if waiting nets them super-personalized meals. I didn't expect that, but it's what they said. Do you agree?I won't reveal the whole menu of our day here because there are certain details I want to save for those we're inviting to share in our celebration, but I will divulge this: We will be serving Tom's melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes, complete with a mashed potato toppings bar (read: scallions, pan gravy, shredded cheese and bacon bits). Given that ours is a rustic event, the scoops of potato-y goodness won't likely be served like this, but we trust our guests will love us -- and the eats -- the same. :]Before I wrap up this blog, I want to share a few things I've done recently as a bride who's getting married in a matter of weeks (yikes!). Not only have I been focused on completing the details I can NOW, so I can somewhat chill out in the weeks heading into the wedding, I also visited the venue with my day-of wedding coordinator to plan how we'll decorate the space, and I sent a floor plan of the venue (which I drew poorly) to each of my vendors, so they're on the same page.In addition, I've become a book worm bride. When I first became engaged and checked out books from the library about wedding planning, they were oh-so-intimidating. They told me things I knew I needed, such as entertainment and a caterer, and then they told me things I never would have thought about, and it all left me feeling like I could take pages and pages of notes and never really absorb a thing.Reading these books now, when we've contracted with almost every vendor we'll have, enables me to focus on the little details, those things we never would have thought were important until we had the time and energy to tackle them -- like now, as the months wind down to weeks and the weeks wind down to days and the time when I marry my best friend draws impossibly (and incredibly) near.
Recently, I asked my Facebook friends: What are the seemingly small details of your wedding that you found, in hindsight, you should have knocked out way sooner?
The answers included song lists. Seating charts (though one person outright vetoed the need for seating charts). Wedding favors. One friend advised, "Anything that you can do in advance should be done in advance, otherwise you'll find yourself in a crunch." And another replied, any small crafts you're doing yourself.
See how well I listen? Five days later, my ever-growing jar collection and I made the trip to my mom's. She and I had plans today anyway: We taste-tested (and happily agreed we should contract with) our caterer. (Steven was out of town groomsmen-shopping, so he missed the food. Of all things to miss, right?!) More on the blog later about the company that will serve our guests some truly tasty food.
Before the crafting could begin, we covered her dining room table with plastic (as the label on the glue suggested). Then, we broke out our foam paintbrushes, opened the Mod Podge and the supplies I snagged on Black Friday and embarked upon our DIY project.
My Facebook friends were right: It is best to start early. I thought we'd get every jar wrapped in lace, ribbon or twine tonight. We completed TEN. So far.
I also completely underestimated how much lace and ribbon we'd need, which actually worked out for the best because we decided we want to make every jar different, and new supplies such as dark brown lace and some small flower appliqués will help us accomplish that.
I love them, especially the ones my mom made. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. Here's one all lit up with one of my fake votives:
Luckily, though the jar journey will be a longer one than I anticipated, it won't be a panicked one because people warned me to start early. What else should we do sooner than later?
People say it to me all the time: Guests will remember two things about any wedding -- the entertainment and the food. So, it should come as no surprise that a reporter bride would take notes (and lots of them) during cupcake tastings.
Hey, I never said my shorthand was pretty.
What are pretty are the cupcakes Jenn from SweetPea Sinsations brought not once, but twice, to the city for a pair of tastings involving us, my sister and my mom.
Bear in mind, Steven and I will marry on the cusp of fall, so we were purposeful about choosing fall-esque flavors. Eventually, after two sugar-iffic mornings, we settled on six seriously tasty varieties. The plan is to serve 140 bite-size cupcakes so that guests may try more than one flavor after dinner.
Feast your eyes upon the s'more variety:
That's chocolate cupcake filled with ganache topped with a marshmallow buttercream, mini marshmallows charred with a blowtorch, graham cracker crumbs and a Hershey chocolate bar. Bonfires remind me of fall because high school football in my Ohio hometown always involved a bonfire.Up next is probably my all-time favorite (if picking a favorite is even possible): cranberry orange, which is cranberry- and orange-infused vanilla cupcake, orange buttercream and a sugared cranberry garnish. The cranberry orange flavor was so crisp tasting, so fresh, and I can tell from the cupcake ballots my family and future groom filled out that it was an instant favorite. Yes, I made cupcake ballots. Similar to the voting signs I created for my dress shopping, I figured these would help my budding cupcake connoisseurs organize their thoughts, which in turn helps me to organize mine.
This is Jenn. She is as sweet as she looks. She has bent over backward to ensure she delivered to us enough samples so that we could discern the flavors we really prefer.
But it isn't her sweet nature alone that has her business booming. Jenn is culinary school-trained and worked for some big-name Cleveland restaurants before launching her own company about a year ago. She talks cheerfully about the flavor dictionary she uses, and it comes across loud and clear that those who hire her will taste quality. The apple compote in the caramel apple cupcakes she'll bake for us involves fresh apples of varying varieties, she explained. The carrot cake cupcake is melt-in-your-mouth good and is created with fresh pineapple, golden raisins, carrots (does that need to be delineated?) and walnuts. Then, she tops it all off with cream cheese buttercream and a walnut garnish. Bunnies rejoice.
First up: the caramel apple (apple-spiced cupcake, apple compote filling, caramel buttercream and an apple chip and caramel garnish):
And the carrot cake:
Rounding out our six flavors are chocolate pumpkin (which was super moist and filled with some incredible pumpkin cream cheese), pictured immediately below, and turtle (a chocolate cupcake with a caramel center, caramel buttercream frosting, chocolate and caramel drizzle and pecans on top).
The turtle cupcakes are to the bottom left of the container.
Those turtle cupcakes inspired my artistically inclined husband-to-be to doodle turtles of another variety:
Doodles and notes aside, the taste and professionalism of Jenn's work is bar none. Lucky us, she and I have arranged a barter. She'll cook up and deliver the bite-size beauties, and I'll create for her a Story of Your Life about her business and its early successes. Want to taste why she's so busy yourself? Order here, or visit her Facebook page, where the number of compliments from satisfied customers is as plentiful as photos of her attractive treats.Beyond her willingness to bake up for us many more flavors than the six we actually chose, Jenn also was prepared to take charge of finding us a rustic cupcake tower. Luckily (again!) for us, Meredith, one of the wedding planners on whom I'll be leaning in these final months, has three towers she's willing to lend to us to keep our decor consistent. Fitting, right?
"You don't expect me to smile, do you?" Steven teased me as he agreed to stand still for a picture at the entrance of the one place I'm sure every football fan wants to be during playoff weekend: Northeast Ohio's largest bridal show. He flashed his best version of surly man. Then, victimized man. Tell me that face doesn't make you laugh.
Having exhibited at the Today's Bride I-X Center show last year, I knew it was going to be one crowded, creative place. And, I was right. Peacock feathers found their place on cakes AND table settings,
and there was crystal-encrusted everything, plus this very sparkly setup:
With so much already chosen for our rustic wedding, the Husband-To-Be and I attended the show to find inspiration for those things we have yet to nail down (flowers, chair solutions and invitations).
I've received quotes from florists, but those quotes aren't probably as accurate as they could be because I never know how to answer the question: What do you want? When I daydream about how that day this fall will unfold, it's not flowers I see: It's his face upon seeing me. It's our friends and family enjoying a good meal and letting loose inside a candlelit, energetic dance party.
We walked away with new ideas from our visit with Vince from Forest Woods. For one, we think this bouquet is gorgeous:
And when I asked Vince what is the most common mistake couples make in choosing flowers, he said having their hearts set on off-season flowers. Have second choices, he advised.
He also planted a seed: One budget-friendly way to keep things simple and pretty for the one Mason jar we plan to fill with flowers on each table is to use Baby's Breath, Vince suggested. Upon looking at the bunch he had on display (below), I started to believe that Baby's Breath might make for a pretty, little touch to tables decked with ivory tablecloths, dark brown burlap runners, tree trunk slabs and lace-wrapped jars. Can you see it?
Carolyn from The Finishing Touch had on display a dark brown, cotton chair cover that would fit a wedding as rustic as ours so much better than most of the satin chair covers we've seen that seem to ooze elegance. A certain Cleveland Browns fan I know started talking about the perfection of the colors at play here, which gave way to the perfect opportunity to ask: Could Carolyn do something more rustic for the sashes?Carolyn's response has me hopeful that we've found the solution to the seriously ugly chairs our venue provides (described and pictured here). She told us that while she doesn't currently have lace or burlap sashes to use with the covers, she'd be open to obtaining them since rustic weddings are all the rage right now.If that could happen, I think it's safe to say we'd be happy to take advantage of the 10% off discount we received ... today.
Other inspirations included one for my curls,
the idea of providing a timeline to guests,
and this hot chocolate wedding favor idea, which seems like it would be relatively inexpensive and straightforward to make, but also fits our wedding theme and offers a source of warmth for the brutal cold Northeast Ohio often delivers this time of the year.
Last but not least, I received some jewelry insight from Nichole of Frosting Accessories, who actually names some of her custom jewelry pieces after the brides for whom she designs them. How does a bride pick jewelry to complement a dress she can't wait to wear and searched hard to find? I asked her.
She first recommended keeping true to the type of jewelry you typically wear, to which I said: What if my ring is about the only jewelry I typically wear?
The gown, then, will be the starting point for inspiration, she replied.
I wrapped up our conversation, asking if she creates jewelry using a certain type of material, the identity of which I won't reveal because, well, the HTB does read this, and there's a very dress-related reason I asked.
Tomorrow, we taste-test cupcakes. Among the flavors we'll be biting into are an apple caramel, complete with apple compote filling, and chocolate pumpkin filled with pumpkin cream cheese. More on these and the barter I've arranged with this culinary-trained baker later.
A final note: If you haven't heard of the Boutique Bridal Bazaar, you should click here. It's a small, intimate show with vendors committed to keeping you creative. Mark your calendars: Jan. 20!Oh, and as for the boy who met the bridal world today, he concedes: "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be."
I love it when a plan comes together.
As I browsed the pictures I took during a recent visit to the venue with the Husband-To-Be, my little sister and designer extraordinaire, Stephanie, and my event-planning friend, Katie, I realized: We have chosen most of the vendors who will transform this wonderful place into our wedding. So, so happy to have such an incredible *cast*!
Capturing it all will be Cavanaugh Photography, which recently gave us access to all of our engagement proofs. We are thisclose to selecting which will be the image for our save-the-dates.
Doesn't this stage seem built for the karaoke and DJing Something New Entertainment will deliver?
And we're excited to have Bill the Bartender behind this rustic bar, too. Nice and spacious:
Here's where our officiant (whom I will introduce in my next blog entry) will marry us. Interestingly, those who get married here have to pay a fairly nominal fee for security because otherwise, there's really nothing separating guests from the cliff into the lake (except common sense, lol):
We still are looking for ideas as to how we can transform this simple gazebo into something rustic and whimsical, perhaps using fabric of some sort. Have some thoughts? I await your email: email@example.com.
There's another vendor I have yet to introduce: OUR CATERER!! But I'm waiting until our taste tests, which are scheduled for January, so I can show off their food. Our wedding meal will be served up for our guests in this enclosed patio overlooking Lake Erie. We figured it'd be a nice view for people to take in while they wait. I'm not revealing our menu yet, but here's a clue: Every plate will be completely customized to each person's tastes.
What remains to be determined is what style and color flowers we'll use. My mom is somewhat allergic to flowers that possess strong scents, so I'll need a florist's opinion on which would least harass her. (Hint, hint: If you're a florist with ideas, I'd love to hear from you!)
I also am contemplating crafting one or more of the 40 DIY projects presented here. Namely some variation of numbers 3, 13, 20 and 21. Maybe you'll see some ideas you like?
In the meantime, I am quite pleased with the collection of pickle, spaghetti and Mason jars we've amassed, as well as the 20+ tree slabs. We're planning to outfit each table with an ivory linen and a contrasting lace overlay, topped with three tree slabs and an assortment of twine- and lace-wrapped jars, a la this (though we only had two slabs during this particular visit):
A word to the wise: Always take a second (or third) walk through your venue, especially if you're responsible for the decorative vision. Top reason I'm glad we did? It solidified for us that chair covers are a MUST:
Waiting to hear why this blog's title references a bear? Behold, our furry friend. My handsome HTB joked that we should dress him up. There will be no toying with the big, dead bear, I retorted.
I guess, when you ask for rustic, a taxidermic animal isn't such a stretch.
We're going to be grocery shopping a bit differently from now on.
A former reporter colleague of mine recently wrote me and suggested something over which my frugal husband-to-be squealed with delight. (OK, that may be an embellishment.)
"This might be weird info to share," she began, "but I keep our spaghetti sauce jars for vases and such... some of them are kinda 'decor-y' under the label."
And with that, plans to buy Mason jars flew out the proverbial window and plans to buy lots of jarred groceries flew in. In fact, I'm regretting throwing out that expired jar of uneaten grapefruit, especially since the HTB says I'm never allowed to buy $5 jars of grapefruit again since I forgot that one existed and let $5 go to waste. (I told you he is frugal.)
Naturally, all of the jar talk has me obsessing over what we will do with the jars we collect. So, I turned to the one place a bride can't live with and can't live without: Pinterest.
We could fill some jars with water, wrap them with lace or twine and float candles in them like this:
What I like about the candle concept is in our dark log cabin venue, I think candles would lend a supremely romantic ambiance as dusk falls.
Of course, we could place flowers in some:
And I literally gasped when I saw this:
All images, Pinterest
I love, love, love the lace, and without giving too much away (because the aforementioned frugal one may read this blog entry, too), lace anything would complement the dress waiting for me at David's Bridal. (Yes, it's in!)
In other wedding planning progress, today I mailed our deposit and contract for another vendor, with whom I won't be bartering but did strike a bargain. More on him later. And, I've agreed (though contracts still need written and signed) to barter my services, specifically a Story of Your Life, with two wedding planners so I can have both a day-of wedding coordinator (who will handle the vendors and details on the Big Day) and a planner to help conceive and execute the centerpieces and general decorating. More on both of them later, too!
The HTB and I likely still will look at thrift stores for jars (since they are super cheap), but we'll keep our eyes peeled for the most attractive spaghetti sauce and pickle jars the grocery aisle has to offer. For one, it means free. For two, as my glass jar informant noted, it's better for the environment than recycling or tossing jars to the landfills.
"If you tell people what you're looking for, they'd probably help out, too," she suggested. "I have some friends that pass along brown glass to me."
Looking to pass along glass jars yourself, or willing to now that you know a certain bartering bride you know wants them? Write me!
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.
Some of the best lessons learned and moments lived have occurred for me immediately after rejection.
Of course, that's never easy to remember in the heat of rejection, when you're told by a photographer with whom you've been talking for more than a month, who told you she'd booked your date for you: Never mind. I don't want to barter after all.
I thought about not sharing this. It's humiliating, and it hurt my feelings. But, once again, in vulnerability, I've learned something about me, something about Steven and something about life.
Late Tuesday night, I started anew my search for photography. I found it hard to sleep. Wednesday morning, I awoke to discover that my husband-to-be had stayed up until 3 a.m., wedding planning. He's never done that before. But in my moment of defeat, he stepped in. (Reason #34,891 I'm so in love with him.)
He refined our invite list to make dinner more affordable. He spent hours researching centerpieces. And then, he proudly told me while I brushed my teeth that morning, he struck his own bargain on eBay. He managed to buy eight of these for $50 instead of six for $60 like the seller pictured below:
I think these could look beautiful with some sort of lace detail on our tables, maybe like this:
Tuesday night, at about the time I was lying in bed, restlessly worrying about my ability to find someone who had a need for a seasoned writer, an email arrived in my inbox from a photography company interested in a blogger. A surge best described as a flutter started beating its wings. My confidence was creeping back.
Another silver lining: The photographer rejected our agreement BEFORE the Today's Bride bridal show on Wednesday. So, I revised the flier I'd written (designed by my sister) to reflect that I still needed someone to capture our moments and set out to spread the word with Steven and my "entourage":
I wanted people to know that I have something to offer THEM, too.
The show was informative, yet intimate. I chatted with my DJ, for whom I'm ghost-writing, and PartyPix, the photo booth company with which Something New Entertainment collaborates often. Here's a photo we took wearing their ridiculously bright props:
Actually, we played in two photo booths. My advice: Proofread future husbands who can't read...
So it's the day after the show, and I've received a phone call from a different photographer potentially interested in my blogging for his company and creating a Story of Your Life about the 10-year-old enterprise. I also received an email from someone who shared her packages but said she didn't need writing or editing. I appreciated her honesty and her other cost-cutting suggestions: no engagement session, fewer coverage hours, the exclusion of a second photographer.
I also received an email from a photo booth company whose owner asked me to visit his web site and explain how I would improve it. I will. (I've been in talks, though, with another photo booth company for months, and I want to be fair. I guess it comes down to details and contracts, who feels I can benefit them most and who I feel will benefit us most.)
My confidence is at full-flutter again. If I may, I'm going to steal, while citing, a line written in a recent blog by Jasmine Star that really resonated with me throughout all of this:
"None of us are above doing what we need to do to get things done in the name of our dreams."
I'm certainly not. Indeed, it's the premise that drives all of this.