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.

My lovely friend, Lauren, then extended the motif my sister started, designing with the same fonts and colors the signs for our venue and our programs, which featured the caricatures for which I bartered with Laura Hayes.
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.
 
This year's top wedding colors, says Jessica Gabrenas, are bright. Pool blue. Neon green. Fuschia. Orange.

And Jessica would know. Her company, Elegant Assets Events out of Elyria, offers a service I've not heard other linen companies advertise: They color-match, to ensure that a couple's linens match exactly the colors they're incorporating into their big day.

"We offer it because no one else does," she said. "Everybody seemed to have a book or a stack of swatches, and that was all they had."

Elegant Assets has gone as far as importing material from vendors overseas, or making linens themselves, to ensure a match.

Jessica's website explains: "In the process of planning my own wedding, I saw a need for honest, down-to-earth service that provided professional options with affordable pricing. I since have obtained my MBA and am working to expand Elegant Assets as a one-stop shop for event services in our area." 

Before I go any further, I want to share: Elegant Assets is offering 10% off their services to anyone who mentions The Bartering Bride blog. So, scroll down to see their work, like what you see (because I'm confident you will) and email Jessica soon!

Given that our wedding colors are namely ivories and browns (the whole rustic motif), Elegant Assets is delivering to our venue simple, floor-length, ivory tablecloths. (We have a pale yellow and Dallas Cowboys-esque blue involved in the women and men's attire and flowers outside, but inside the log cabin venue, we're keeping it natural.)

It was my bridesmaid, Katie, who convinced me to rent linens rather than buy. "Wouldn't it be 'smarter' to buy my own linens and then resell them?" I'd asked her. 

I told her simultaneously that Elegant Assets builds into its pricing delivery, on-site steaming and teardown, which would mean I wouldn't have to worry about a thing, theoretically.

Katie was adamant. Time is money, she told me, and you'll have enough to worry about without buying your own linens, transporting them there and steaming them, or leaving them wrinkled.

She's right; sometimes in the planning of the first, and often only, large orchestrated event of a woman's life, she needs to be reminded that if you can pay someone else to not only do something for you, but to eliminate a worry you might have had otherwise, that's more than worth it. So, Elegant Assets is hired.

Jessica founded the company in 2010 after she found herself feeling disappointed in the "overpriced" offerings on the market when her husband and she wed. 

"Every little thing was extra," she told me. "Mileage costs, setup, removal."

So, she did what I was planning to do and bought her own linens. But, she says, she learned the hard way that linens, while seeming simple, can take an inordinate amount of time to arrange.

"The day of my wedding, I wanted to pull my hair out," Jessica said. "I was like, 'Oh my goodness, what did I do?' I had my mother, my sister, all of us crawling on the floors. Our bows were crooked. It took us about 6.5 hours to set up the chair covers. I was running in circles, trying to micromanage.

"I never want my brides to freak out," she told me. "You'll see in September."

There's nothing that sets this bride more at ease than a vendor with confidence. And, Jessica has going for her company not just the color-match (something she chose to do because so many brides voice disappointment with the inability of others to match the colors they've chosen), but she also has a price-match.

It's simple, but it goes a long way with penny-pinching brides like me: If, even after you've contracted with Elegant Assets, you find someone offering a better price than Elegant Assets did initially, they'll match that better price. It's a business model rooted in Jessica's own experience as a bride: "I really was wary to sign any contracts," she remembered. "I always felt I was going to go somewhere else and find something better."

Without further ado, here is some of the past work of Elegant Assets, which, by the way, offers lighting, draperies and backdrops, too. I'd not seen a chair sash quite like this before:
And is drapery not super romantic? 
While Steven and I would love a burlap backdrop (OK, I'm sure Steven hasn't thought once about it, so maybe it's just my wish, lol), it's one of those would-if-we-could items. Like the following image, though, we have chosen to have a sweetheart table, where we alone will sit -- one, so that we can spend time together, since so many people have told me the day passes by in the blink of an eye, and two, so our bridal party can sit with their dates and/or their friends, rather than at a head table where, frankly, I'm not sure many people can converse anyway. (My own perspective. To each their own!)
Elegant Assets is providing full service linens for our wedding, but they offer a do-it-yourself option, too, wherein they'd deliver all of the items to you, including a steamer for your own use, and leave you responsible for returning the items the following Monday.

I asked Jessica: What's the biggest mistake couples tend to make involving linens? She replied that not paying attention to the way that linens can finish your look can result in an unfinished, disjointed feel to a room. From her perspective (of course!), linens mean a lot to the overall look of your venue. I've heard former brides say the same in answers to my 30 Days of Wedding Questions.

"Everything fits together like a puzzle," she said. "If you leave out one piece, then it's not money spent very well."

The final vendor we contracted with was our limo company. After much indecisiveness, I decided the cost would be worth avoiding multiple cars getting lost in multiple ways, thus, delaying our grand entrance and the start of our party. We do not want to keep our guests waiting.


Additionally, I won't lie: Having a limo bus sounds fun. I like the idea of sharing the time inside one with our mothers and our closest friends. 

So, after gathering multiple quotes from area limo companies, we've selected Lifestyle Limousine Service, which came recommended by my bridesmaid, Amy. Carl the Limoman's rates were the most reasonable rates out there, and he suggested a limo bus because it's easier to get out of (especially when wearing a wedding dress) than a lower-to-the-ground limo.

As I hunted for our limo, I learned a few questions to ask: One, does the company have a business license? Two, does it have a livery sticker on the limo (or proof of insurance)? What is its vehicle substitution policy, and what's its minimum booking? (Most say four hours.) Oh, and how many people can fit into the vehicle?

Now that I've introduced these vendors, I only have three more and you've met the entire vendor cast for our impending nuptials. I cannot believe how time has flown. Truly. My focus now is on creating our burlap runners, framing signs for the venue, contacting guests who haven't RSVP'd (hint!) :], making sure vendors are paid when vendors need to be paid and assembling our programs.

Brides who've been here: What were the loose ends you spent your final weeks tying up? What did you forget altogether?!
 
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. 
 
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: mrandmrslazette@yahoo.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.
 
I had begun to think that expecting to walk into a place and know instantly it was THE PLACE was idealistic and unrealistic. Then, today, I stepped inside here and knew.
Choosing a venue has been a task. Without naming names (because it's no one's fault that we cannot afford most venues), here's a summary of our search:

A few weeks ago, we met with a caterer and salivated over the pasta station, the fajita station and the crepe station their event planner described. Then, we learned that the cost of the food ALONE would fall a few hundred dollars short of our entire budget.

On to the next.

This past Saturday, we went to see a fairly well-known and frequently suggested venue about 45 minutes away from Cleveland. It had a lot of character and a pavilion by the lake for ceremonies, and its pricing was more reasonable. In fact, everything included (food, alcohol and service) totaled what the first place's food totaled, which meant it was more affordable but still cost-prohibitive.

Also, though the event planner there showed interest in my writing content for their incomplete web site (one of its pages says, content coming soon, and another is blank), she said they wouldn't know until January if they would be willing to barter and offer us some kind of discount. In the world of wedding planning, that's an eternity, especially when Steven and I want to marry on Labor Day weekend (so we can take advantage of Sunday rates without inconveniencing our guests).

So, we visited a restaurant today (it was OK, but had sailboats sailing all over the walls), followed by this cabin-y community center, which is super rustic (made of logs in the late 1800s) and fits perfectly with the rustic theme we want. Its enclosed patio and pavilion overlook Lake Erie, plus it has a stage that will be SPECTACULAR for the karaoke we will have, courtesy of Something New Entertainment, the company with which I've traded blog-writing for DJ, karaoke and uplighting services.

So our deposit is made, and the date is saved. In a little more than a year, I will be a married woman. It. Cannot. Come. Fast. Enough.