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.
The husband-to-be and I are on a smoothie binge. Banana strawberry. Mixed berry. Cherry. And this morning: pineapple strawberry.

Made with fat-free Greek yogurt, frozen fruit and whey protein, all of them make a surprisingly filling, carb-free breakfast. I have Steven, armed with the Ninja blender I gave him for our "askiversary," to thank for it.
Askiversary, you might ask? April 16 marked a year since my best friend asked me to marry him, and we celebrated. Given how much Steven enjoys the smoothies from Liquid Planet, but also given how frugal he likes to be, I had a suspicion that he'd enjoy his very own blender with which he can make smoothies at a fraction of the retail price.

If the frequency with which he's used said blender to make smoothies and hummus is any indication, I do believe I've scored. :]

The before:
And the [yummy] after:
It was sweet to take some time -- in the midst of everything we have going on, not the least of which is wedding planning -- to enjoy each other and to celebrate the question that started it all.

Both of us ended up using anniversary cards as "askiversary" cards for the day -- something I suspect will become a tradition unless greeting card companies wise up to the need for "askiversary" cards, ha. Great minds, as they say, think alike!
I've been quite busy on the wedding planning front. After writing probably a half dozen hairdressers and bugging out when most of them said they were booked for our date, I've hired an incredible hairdresser and soon will share pictures from my first hair and makeup trial. We also have chosen our florist (more on her later) and ordered and received our invitations and RSVP cards (wait until you see them; we did mad lib!), and I am working out the menu with our caterer and have found a jeweler who's creating commissioned pieces for my big-day look (lucky me).

All the while, of course, The Bartering Bride continues to work for her amazing vendors. I'll leave you with this, the e-magazine I wrote and my giving sister designed for Steven's and my photographer. I made sure that it's chock-full of advice for brides, so please read up!
Suffice it to say, Cavanaugh's one to call -- now -- if you need a photographer.
"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." 
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.
It's Thanksgiving, and I am FULL. Full of juicy turkey and a smorgasbord of other foods that have made the once-a-year gorge-yourself event a resounding success. As usual, we ate well at my Mom's, and in a first, I carved (OK, butchered) the bird:
And here are the two dishes I whipped up using recipes I discovered on my phone while roaming the aisles of a local Heinen's. After perusing more deviled egg recipes than I knew existed, I settled on this one: typical egg yolk, yellow mustard and mayonnaise filling, topped with crumbled bacon, sliced cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. They called it deviled egg a la BLT:
This here is Brussels sprouts, pan fried and then cooked with shallots in chicken broth, before being garnished with bacon:
And the full orchestra:
So yes, I am stuffed to the brim. But I didn't write this blog to share that I'm full of food.

I am full of gratitude. Six months ago, after the love of my life proposed to me, I came to the regretful realization that we likely would have to get married at a courthouse or conduct some other form of party-less wedding that is dramatically less than I would have liked for him and our friends and family (and me, I admit). I'm a firm believer that it's not just your spouse who should know, through the wedding, how much you love him/her. It's your guests, too. (I am so thankful that we have incredible people with whom we will share our big day.)

Today, I am a most fortunate woman. We will have a wedding that will be great fun, great tasting and greatly us because vendors see value in a) what I can do for them and b) bartering in general. They believe in my abilities, I believe in theirs and together, we win.

But, I couldn't do any of this without Steven. He told me early on that if I am writing to earn for us the wedding we can't wait to have, I won't do dishes anymore. I won't be responsible for wiping counters anymore. And, true to his word, I rarely do housework. In doing everything he's doing at home, my husband-to-be has affirmed for me that ours is a true partnership.

Which brings me to my last point: I am full of gratitude that I found this man and that he came to love me. He adores me despite knowing EVERYTHING about me: every sugar and spice thing, every brow-raising, is this girl cuckoo? thing. I know he's The One because I want to be a better person, a better woman, a better everything for him, not because he gripes at me or pressures me, but because I see every day how he vies to do the same by me.

This time next year, when perhaps the Brussels sprouts and the spruced up deviled eggs return, I will be his wife. There aren't words for how thankful I am for that.
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.
My love asked me to marry him on April 16, 2012, with craft beer (mmmm!), orange roughy (fish) and the ring tied around our Cora cat's neck (safely). He is incredible. Patient. Loving. Selfless. Sports-obsessed. Very self-deprecating at times.

I figure, how could I write a blog about writing to make our wedding happen without introducing the person who makes it all worth it?