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.
 
A few weeks back, after I contacted more than a half dozen hairdressers and makeup artists only to hear that they were booked for our big day, I had a bit of a panic attack. (OK, hyperbole.) But I did worry that I'd waited so long that I'd have to sacrifice quality to book someone at all. 

Luckily, that wasn't necessary. Having met Fringe and Foundation Studio at the Boutique Bridal Bazaar, where they'd applied my first-ever airbrush makeup, I made them one of the first salons I contacted. Upon discovering that they were available (!) and willing to travel to our hotel the morning of, I booked a hair and makeup trial.

First, a bit of advice that I gathered before my visit:

1) Have an idea of what you want. I brought 11 printouts of hairstyles I liked so that Allison Bates, who 
opened Fringe and Foundation roughly three years ago, could glean what I liked. I also brought a printout of my dress so she could advise me knowing full well what I'll be wearing.

2) Just as importantly, be open to ideas you didn't think up, Allison advises. Too often, brides have a preconceived notion about what they must look like, and for one reason or another, it's not what they end up liking the best, she added.


An example: I had been strict about it. I had to wear my hair in its natural curls because that's how I always wear my hair. That's ME. But... as the trial continued and Allison (after asking, I might add) started curling some of my hair with the iron, I realized I liked the softer look of the curling iron curl better.

Here are the first two styles she tried, with my natural curl:
Then, Allison asked if she could curl ... my curly hair. 
And I liked it ... more. I questioned, at first, whether I was straying too far from ME, something Allison said she's found in her 30-plus years of experience that both brides and grooms tend to end up disliking. Many brides come in wanting a look straight out of a magazine, only to realize that they don't like the look on themselves. Sometimes, it's too glamorous. Sometimes, the bride-to-be's hair is thin and the model's is thick and coarse, or vice versa. Sometimes, the lipstick is too red. (And -- this definitely got my attention -- Allison said it's grooms who most often don't like the over-the-top looks.)

"You can have glamour and you can have a beautiful wedding style without looking like you're not you," Allison said. "He's marrying you because he already loves you, because he thinks you're beautiful."

Though, yes, the curls I've found that I like best aren't my own, I reminded myself that it's not every day that I wear airbrush makeup and a white dress either. It's a day for going a little elevated, right?

3) Speaking of that white dress, one important piece of advice I followed is: Wear a shirt whose neckline and color is close to that of your gown. It enables you to see how the hairstyles you try will plug in with the rest of the look you're planning.

4) Also, bring any veil, tiara or headband you plan to wear to the hair and makeup trial. Same reasons as No. 3: You'll want to see how everything ties together as best you can before the big day.

5) Here's a list of 20 questions to ask a makeup artist that I found on a website. I asked the hairdressers I vetted many of the same questions because they apply to hair, too.

Styling hair was supposed to be what put Allison through medical school. She wanted to be a doctor, started hairdressing as what was supposed to be a temporary paycheck, decided to get her license and the rest is history. "I kept thinking, 'Oh, I'll do it (medical school) next year,'" she said. But what she found was the career she hadn't planned on ended up being the one she really enjoyed and did well.

Allison is definitely a force of calm, an intangible quality I liked about her. She has a know-how air about her, and she whipped up looks on me that made it clear that she a) was skilled and quick and b) was listening. Many of the looks we tried incorporated details from my 11 printouts.


Here's my favorite of the day, from three different angles, which leads me to tip No. 6.

6) Have someone take pictures of each hairstyle you try from the front, both sides and behind. You will be photographed more on your wedding day than any other day, so it's important to know (and like) your angles. Special thanks to my fellow curly-haired friend, Emily, for being my photographer on this day.
The seventh tip I have to offer may not be for everyone. In fact, I almost didn't follow it. 

7) Allison actually recommended showing the hairstyles to Steven, something I wasn't sure I wanted to do. He hasn't seen my dress, and we both like the element of surprise that still exists because he hasn't.

But, I asked him and he said he wanted to see them. And, while he liked the updo, he expressed a hint of disappointment that I wasn't planning to wear some of my hair down like we'd discussed; he likes its length and an updo certainly won't put that on display. It was just a hint, but it was enough: In the coming weeks, Allison and I have plans to try a few half up, half down looks, including one like the inspiration I'd seen at a bridal show this past winter.

Finally, I'll say this:

8) Give some consideration to airbrush makeup. Kim, who did my makeup during this trial, says it stays on incredibly well, which is pretty important on a day when you'll be touching faces with family and friends more than you usually do. And, I can only speak for myself, but the airbrush makeup makes me feel like I look flawless. Here's a picture of me with my makeup complete (and updo undone).
You know Michelle feels pretty when she's taking *selfies* in her rearview. If they can make me feel this way on an ordinary Saturday, I knew I could entrust Fringe and Foundation Studio to make me feel radiant on our wedding day, too.
 
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.
 
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?
 
It wasn't that there was something wrong with the dresses my bridesmaids tried on the first time around. But, in hindsight, we weren't convinced we'd found the dress that best fit the wedding Steven and I are planning. Floor-length plum dresses seemed a bit formal for our outdoor ceremony and rustic party.

So this time, my bridesmaids and I went shopping at Bella Bridesmaid in Rocky River. First surprise: We were the only people in the shop -- on purpose.


Ours was an exclusive appointment with two women who not only know the brands they carry, but WEAR them, too. Here, shop manager Lori proves that some bridesmaid dresses actually ARE worn more than once:
Theirs is a stylish shop adorned with chandeliers that carries some pretty stunning dresses. Sandy, who owns the Rocky River location, and Lori provided a one-on-one consultation, pulling only dresses that stayed as close to the girls' budget as possible and keeping to our vision. No need for bedazzled dresses for a rustic wedding, y'know?

The story behind Sandy's becoming a Bella Bridesmaid franchisee actually begins with her becoming a customer. A bride living in Charlotte at the time, she had eight bridesmaids. Only one of them couldn't go to Bella Bridesmaid because there wasn't one nearby. Can you guess where that bridesmaid lived?

Hint: That bridesmaid's inability to find a Bella Bridesmaid drove Sandy's decision to locate hers in Rocky River. To date, Northeast Ohio only has one shop, and it can thank Sandy for it. Less than two months before she married, she quit her investment banking job, and nearly two months after she married, she opened the shop we found ourselves in one recent Saturday afternoon.

One of the perks that I probably would have shrugged off had I never shopped at Bella is the value of not feeling like you're a bunch of sardines stuffed into a bridal store. Here, the couches and tables were ours to monopolize. And, unlike the other shop we visited, I was welcome to bring inside the snacks and water I brought for my girls -- within reason, of course. I'm sure they would not have welcomed sloppy joes.
Initially, I found Bella Bridesmaid because they carry a Dessy gown that we all liked. I'd revealed to my friends that I wanted to try to find something shorter, something with some lace and something yellow. It was quite the departure from plum gowns, but I'm glad I said something: It was clear almost immediately that my bridesmaids were quite open to the new vision.

During our appointment, we tried on some LulaKate dresses, versions of which allow women to choose a top, a bodice waistband and a bottom and essentially build their own dresses. Here, Maggie and Stephanie wear two such dresses. So, if we had decided to, the girls could have bought dresses with the yellow top and a matching yellow version of the other dress bottom, or vice versa.
Here, they pretend to blend the dresses themselves, lol.
In all, Bella Bridesmaid currently carries 13 different designers. Stephanie (my little sister and maid of honor) also tried on what's called a convertible dress, which has straps that make it so a single dress can have multiple looks. Pretty neat, especially for brides who want their bridesmaids to dress similarly, but not the same.
And next, the same dress, only one-shoulder now:
There were a number of other dresses they tried on, including one with pockets. But, we were lucky: The dress we all ooo'd and ahh'd over online ended up being the winner. Here is Stephanie in it. Disregard the clips; the dress was too long on her -- something that's often the truth for us since we each measure barely more than 5 feet tall. (Oh, and since it just came to mind, I've been told in my consultations with florists that shorties shouldn't carry a cascading bouquet because it makes you look shorter. Just a tip!)
Now, it won't be black as pictured; it will be a sunflower yellow dress topped with an ivory lace overlay. To match, my groom will wear a sunflower yellow tie.

Given that yellow is a fall color and Steven and I are getting married on the cusp of fall, and given that I have plans to wrap the glass jars currently crowding our dining room with lace, this dress just seemed made for the day we've been planning. Just as important, I'm confident it will be a dress that will be flattering on women of different shapes. And finally, the wedding ceremony is outside. Floor-length just didn't seem right.


Perhaps most importantly, the dress is, in Amy's words, "romantic rustic" while the yellow halter dress pictured above was more "party fun." As Sandy noted, bridesmaid dresses really help to set and enhance the tone of a wedding, and romantic, to me, is just right.

Up next, we need to decide what color and style shoes the girls will wear. When Bella Bridesmaid's Lori and Sandy heard that, they proved they're not just here to advise on gowns. First, they recommended we visit Glass Slipper. And then, they introduced these puppies: 
When I asked Sandy the question I ask every vendor of mine -- what's the biggest mistake brides make in planning this part of their wedding? -- she replied, "Not being open. There's so much out there."

You don't have to take her word for it: Make an appointment and see what the little shop with the black awning has for yourself.
 
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?
 
This morning, as I filled Charlie and Cora's water bowl, it occurred to me that we could use more cat bowls. So, I initiated a running list of things we could ask for in a wedding registry and left the list for Steven to find on the kitchen counter.

Find it, he did.
:]

What did you married folk register for, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, what did you find in the end was a worthless or really useful item to receive?
 
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 -- mrandmrslazette@yahoo.com -- 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.
 
This time, it was my turn to pop the question.

I wanted to ask her in just the right way -- something not dripping with sappiness, but also something that reflected that she --  and the question -- are very important.


I walked the aisles of Target, Googling unique ways to ask someone to be your maid of honor. While I didn't dislike any of the ideas -- a scrapbook with the question on the final page, for example -- I also didn't want to over think or over spend to ask a question. (I am the bartering bride, after all.)

As is often the case, I found my best inspiration on deadline. (Remember, reporter.) Headed to David's Bridal for a bridesmaid dress shopping appointment this past weekend, I stopped at a grocery store to grab bottled water and snacks for the girls. (Best to keep your lovely friends well fed and watered if they're trying on sometimes not-so-lovely dresses for your big day, right?) 

Then, I journeyed to the cleaning aisle and found the perfect *hint*:
Good thing it's Valentine's Day season, as I didn't want to use a congratulatory balloon (seemed a bit pretentious) or a thank you balloon (seemed a bit generic). 

The woman who tied the balloon to the broom and dust pan didn't get it until I explained it.
I hid the balloon in my trunk and drove to the bridal shop. Now, it was the girls' time to try on umpteen dresses and find the one they wanted to wear. Remember: I'd already tried on dresses of the white variety not one, but two times.

The morning before we all went dress shopping, I'd asked the girls via text message what they'd like to spend. I figured that avoided anyone feeling pressured to spend more because others might want to, and it allowed me to provide our spending limit to the dress consultant without revealing who might want to spend less and who might not have a limit at all.

Interestingly, two of my bridesmaids will be a bridesmaid for the fifth time at our wedding, and even more curious, they both said this was the first time a bride left choosing the dress to the bridesmaids. Most brides they know, Amy and Katie told me, have selected the dress or a few choices their bridesmaids may choose.


That's just not my style, particularly after I swooned over a few bridal gowns, only to feel HIDEOUS in them. While, yes, I want the girls to wear a dress that suits our rustic theme, I also want them to look and feel beautiful. Selecting a dress I like and forcing them into it is no guarantee of either. 

So, we embarked on what I now call Dress Democracy, Take One. These were the favorites. Bear in mind, the girls will be in plum.
One time, right after the dressing room doors closed, I took off. I ran past brides in eye-catching white gowns out to my car, grabbed the balloon and the little card I'd written and ran back inside. I hid it all behind a rack of veils.

I was shaking a little. I was excited to reveal to Stephanie that while she may have not known it-known it, I knew she should stand beside me when I marry my best friend. We grew up together, driving Barbie cars through the snow on days off from school. And just three years ago, in one of the most touching things anyone has ever done for me, she secretly arranged for three girls who later would become my bridesmaids to hide and surprise me with a night out when I moved back to Ohio after nearly five years of working and living in other states.

I waited until the others emerged from their dressing rooms because I wanted them to witness this, too. Then, I reached back and presented the balloon.
Like the woman at the grocery store who'd tied the dust pan and broom set to the romantic balloon (lol), Steph didn't get it at first. It was when she started to cry that I knew that she did.
I popped the question, and she said yes! I now commiserate a little with all of you grooms out there who more often than not have to find the *perfect* way to ask.

Importantly, the other ladies have said yes, too, and I couldn't be more grateful to have had them by my side all these years and soon, on a day I've never anticipated so much. Amy is the most loyal and giving friend a girl could ask for, Michelle and I have much more in common than our first names (for one, our lovable yet spicy natures), Maggie is my college roommate (for three years!) and the friend who drove cross-country with me, and Katie and I often talk for hours (preferably over Melt grilled cheese, please).

I've reflected on all of their friendships since becoming engaged, and I love them even more for trying on, with a smile, some of the less desirable dresses inflicted upon them.


"It looks like a Hefty garbage bag," Steph said of one short variety. 
"I feel like I'm a mushroom," Amy agreed.
"I'm just glad I'm not trying that one on," Maggie chimed in.

In the interest of keeping my bridesmaids my bridesmaids, and given that I am the queen of untagging pictures I don't like on a certain social media site, we'll keep that dress and others the secret of this bride and her very best friends. :]
 
"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."