The husband-to-be and I are compiling two lists currently: our must-shoot list for our photographer, and our must-shoot list for our videographer. 

I know this: I want Cavanaugh Photography and our videographer, Ryan Loew, to capture all of our day's little details: the jars my mom and I spent many a night gluing and crafting, the signs my friend, Lauren, has designed that we will frame. I won't reveal all of the signs we've made (because I want some to be a surprise for our lovely guests), but here's one:
An editor of mine who teases me for being a tad wedding-consumed was incredulous when I mentioned we have this.

"Michelle, this is what I mean," she sighed. "You made a cupcake key?"

So I explained myself: I've been to events where several varieties of cupcakes were served, but no one knew what the pretty little things were. So, I asked Lauren to look at my blog post about our cupcakes and draw cartoon versions of them for pairing with descriptions provided by our culinary school-trained baker, Jenn with SweetPea Sinsations. (Speaking of Jenn, I pick up her finished Story of Your Life, which I bartered for cupcakes, on Monday!)

In case you decide to make and frame signs for your big day, too, we've found an easy way to make sure all of our different size frames match in color. I picked up some fairly cheap, raw wood frames from Jo-Ann Fabrics and dark brown spray paint. Then, Steven got to work today.
They now are drying on the patio.

On to our videographer, whom I have yet to introduce. Ryan Loew actually attended Kent State University's journalism school with me back in the day. Like me, Ryan is a working journalist who puts his skills to use outside his full-time position for brides and grooms. He is the EXACT type of videographer I wanted for our big day because he does much more than pointing, shooting and piecing film together in the order it happened.

He interviews people and inserts their reflections. His cinematography and composition are gorgeous. He intertwines B-roll and images with the video and audio he captures on the big day. 

Want to see what I mean? Click here, and scroll down to the second video. Fast forward to 10:25, and watch how Ryan blends the conclusion of this couple's emotional ceremony with their first married moments. And that shot beneath the leaves? Swoon! It's art AND journalism. His focus on the details (both in subject matter and in execution) produces the only form of videography I'd pay for. Lucky me, I knew him and thus knew it could be done! 

Same video, scroll to 19:37, and watch how Ryan does what any journalist is taught to do: show, not tell. The end of this couple's video is so fitting. He allows their personalities to shine without narration, without audible leading. I can't say enough about how excited I am to see what he captures on our day.

There again, I don't have to say much. Click on the first video on the same page, and scroll to one of my favorite parts: 2:40. The story of what this couple faced down is touching and heartwarming, and the way Ryan led them to tell it just works. 

Oh, and want to see the best recovery ever by a minister who accidentally speaks the wrong name for the groom? Watch from 7:05 to 8:20. 

Here's Ryan. 
He's a Pittsburgh-based visual journalist who shoots one or two weddings a year. I'm brimming with excitement that we fit into his 2013 schedule. (Remember, he has a full-time journalism job, so like my sister and me, this is work he does all year, only a lot more outside weddings than inside them.)

(For those of you who don't know, my sister is a working magazine designer, and I'm a working newspaper journalist, and together we offer her design and my writing to clients through Story of Your Life, which we co-founded in 2011.)

When Ryan started shooting weddings, for which he offers both full-day and half-day coverage, he told me he wanted to bring something different.

"I approach it as, let me tell your story as opposed to shooting your wedding," Ryan said. "I approach a couple's wedding as though it's an assignment or a story I'm working on. When they watch that video, I don't want them just to see that day. I want them to see themselves."

These are the types of stories Ryan says he enjoys doing most as a journalist: those about people.

Couple Ryan's intentions with his tools (DSLRs, large sensor cameras and cinematic tools such as dollies and steadicams), and the end product is a modern, high-definition video including the feature (which hones in on the key moments) and other separate video he knows brides and grooms want to see again in their entirety, such as toasts and the ceremony. 

While he wouldn't say it's a regret, Ryan wishes his wife and he had video from their Aug. 23, 2008 nuptials. 

"It just wasn't in our budget," he said. "I would really love to, five years later, watch some video of that. I have memories (and) you can look at photos, but it's just not the same as seeing things, hearing people laugh."

Frankly, were it not for all of the people who've shared with me that they were sorry that they hadn't hired a videographer, I probably simply would've written it off as something we couldn't afford. But I guess I'm of the mindset that not having it and later wishing we did is a greater cost than finding a way to afford it now. They say the day flies by. I'm glad we'll have video for remembering and relishing all of our special moments for years to come.

I already cannot wait to see ours for the first time. Watching these other couples' videos, I'm struck by how close we are to our own vows, to our own party, to the unfolding of all of these details I've researched and worked to make happen for the man I love so much and our family and friends. 
Today, the very first thing bearing my soon-to-be name came in the mail. Of course, I mauled the box before remembering that maybe I'd like a picture of it for this here blog, but such is life. 
Can you guess what it is? 
Hint: It's not something I ever would have thought to order until I read an article called "20 Details Every Bride Forgets" on The Knot. As a matter of fact, I clicked on that article with a touch of arrogance, confident that I'd have most of these details in the bag, or that they'd be unnecessary and/or ridiculously expensive. Then, the very first detail The Knot featured stared me right in the face, and I wanted it.

Enter Whiskey & Wedding Bells, a company I discovered on Etsy. The company, I would learn later, was founded by best friends, 
Brianna and Becca, as a way for them to save for trips to see their favorite musicians, such as their most recent travel to Athens, Ga., to see Patty Griffin.

As a woman who also co-owns her own company, I am in AWE of these two. Listen to this: Within a month of their getting serious about the business in March 2012, Brianna had to quit her job and go full time with Whiskey & Wedding Bells, and two months later, Becca quit her job to do the same.

Here they are, followed by the creative product that now is their full-time job:
They now sell roughly 1,000 hangers a month and have fulfilled more than 7,000 orders since July 2011. 

Whiskey and Wedding Bells' hangers are made of solid wood to ensure they can hold heavy wedding dresses (a must for mine, I must say). Each of the letters they sculpt is sculpted with 12-gauge aluminum wire to ensure the keepsake holds its shape over time, and there's a notch on each side of the hanger for dress straps.

They offer four hanger colors and 16 ribbon colors, available in satin and organza.

And, the care and attention to detail that the company puts into its product is evident, too, in its packaging. Even Tyrannosaurus rex Michelle, who was foaming at the mouth to see hers, had to navigate first past a box marked fragile and sealed to the nines, layers of bubble wrap and a cardboard wrapping to see what they'd crafted for her.

But, it was worth my wait, for sure. I love it for two reasons: One, it'll be the perfect touch for suspending my dress before I actually wear it to marry the man whose last name I soon will take.

But more importantly, and the bigger reason I grew a little misty (other than my being an incredibly sappy person) is this:

"That's the first thing with my new name on it that I ever owned," I told Mr. Lazette just now, this late Tuesday night.

"You mean, my name that I graciously loan to you," he teased back. Then, he raised his eyebrows and wiggled his tongue at me.

Have I mentioned how excited I am that this is my future?
Want one, too? Email Whiskey & Wedding Bells or shop their Etsy site.
It's official! The Bartering Bride (yes, I'm speaking about myself in third person) officially signed her fourth bartering contract this weekend. This one is in addition to the contract I've signed with our DJ, our photographer and our officiant, and it buys us the talent and time of a culinary school-trained baker. She will be crafting six varieties of gourmet cupcakes for our big day, and I'll be introducing her (and the delectable flavors) to all of you very soon.

People tend to ask me two questions when I reveal that I'm doing this: 1) How do I work full time while planning a wedding, blogging about planning a wedding and bartering for the wedding while co-owning a business with my sister, and 2) How do I find vendors who will barter?

The answer to the first is useful advice for any bride, I have to imagine: I take each day as it comes. Really. I have colossal to-do lists, and I take them on as I can. In recent weeks, I've spent more time on the phone with more caterers than I care to admit, met with a chair cover company that says it's willing to order burlap chair sashes to complement the table runners that my mountain of burlap someday will become, met with a florist to conceptualize our plans and talked bartering over coffee with a videographer.

Keeping an organized day planner doesn't hurt. This doesn't either: Recently, as the stress of not having a caterer closed in (we only have about a half year to go, after all), I've reminded myself to ENJOY this -- yes, the planning -- too. It's a privilege to get to plan a wedding. It means I've found someone I'm in love with who loves me back.

As for how I find vendors with whom to barter, it's very similar to how any bride finds her vendors (I presume). Email. Phone calls. Bridal shows. But, unlike most brides, I throw in an additional question: Do you have a need for a writer or editor? Lucky for me, some vendors even want a Story of Your Life.

It's extremely important to make sure that a vendor who says s/he wants to barter REALLY wants the barter. If you've been following this blog since the beginning, you might remember that I talked with a photographer for more than a month and drafted a contract, only to find out that she really wasn't interested. So now, when I meet with a vendor, I'm very up-front. I make sure the project I would tackle for them is truly something they want. You can tell.

Speaking of bartering projects, my sister (and maid of honor) and I recently completed one of the three digital magazines we're creating for Cavanaugh Photography. This one is targeted to prospective high school senior portrait clients. Here's the cover:
And these are the inside spreads, written by me based on my interviews with Ken and Natalie Cavanaugh, plus some of their former clients: 
And last but not least, the page that describes the people and family behind Cavanaugh Photography:
Our work is nowhere near done! We now are designing the wedding photography magazine for them, and by we, I mean my incredible sister, Stephanie, who's agreed to help me barter so I can secure one of the best photographers in Northeast Ohio. I'm a lucky woman in more ways than one.

If I haven't answered your question about bartering, feel free to email me -- -- or comment below. Bartering is hard work (way harder than writing a check), so if you do barter, make 110% sure that what you receive in the end will be a quality, worthwhile addition to your big day.
They are adorable in most ways, but our cats' fascination with (and destruction of) our Christmas tree had to end. Whether it was Charlie (below) or Cora (the prime suspect) is immaterial, really. Our broken bulbs were adding up.
I am happy to announce that it's been two days since The Husband-To-Be hung our orange ornaments, and said destruction appears to have ended. 

Cats: 1 (unless you're counting smashed ornaments). Humans: 1.

Now, these orange ornaments aren't just orange in color. They're actually oranges. Partially peeled, strung with a metal hook, oranges.
He hung the Clementines on the branches of our artificial tree, but as you can see, he hid them well.
Steven's colleague told him that cats don't like the smell of citrus, and I knew this to be true because we put lemon juice on our fingertips to teach my childhood cat, Tigger, not to bite our fingers. The Humane Society of the United States confirms cats usually avoid citrus and presents other training methods, too.

Thankfully, the ornaments that fell prey prior to the orange assault were not the two we purchased over the past couple years as we build our Christmas tradition: one new ornament, every year. Here's the newest (purchased from a mall kiosk):
And this one is last year's, engraved by Things Remembered. It simply features our names and the year.
'Tis the season to be jolly, but 'tis the season, too, for bridal shows. I'm attending the Today's Bride show at the I-X Center (huge event with a seemingly impossible number of vendors to meet and ideas to steal), and I'll be at the Boutique Bridal Bazaar as both a blushing bride and a vendor. Story of Your Life (the company I co-founded with my sister) will be exhibiting at the show, which is an atypical event for those couples seeking to avoid the crowds and to find vendors who do unique and stylish things. Come by and say hi! (Mention The Bartering Bride blog, and I'll give you a 25% off gift certificate for a Story of Your Life. Our certificates never expire.)

Here's my advice to you if you'll be attending one or both of these shows (or any of these):

*Bring labels printed with your name, your wedding date (if you have one), your phone number and email address. Vendors often offer giveaways, and it's a bear to have to write your information each and every time you want to enter one. Make labels, and it's as simple as peel, stick and enter the raffle. Other tips are here.
*Bring your Mom, friends, bridesmaids and your soon-to-be husband. I don't know; it seems to me that this experience of planning our wedding is flying by, and I want to share as much of it as I can with him. Whether Steven actually will brave the January shows is TBD.

Me (literally just now): Are you going to brave the bridal shows with me this January?
"If it's all day Sunday during the game before the Super Bowl, please no," replied the Supreme King of Fantasy Football (yes, he won his league and has been clucking nonstop about it). "That'd be torture."

He attended one show with me already, so I can't begrudge him too much. But maybe our satellite dish will go "defunct" on bridal show Sunday. ::evil cackles::

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone. Crazy to think it soon will be 2013, the year I get to wear that dress that hangs in my mom's closet and marry the man I adore. I hope it's a year of joy for all of you, too.
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!
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.