While I’m writing this, we are actually only TWO MONTHS away! The final six months have literal flown by… I can only imagine what it would have been like if I only had that amount of time to plan it. I would have been a C-R-A-Z-Y person. A wedding with 17 months to plan has me enough frazzled! Today’s post is about what I did around 4 months out (December) from our wedding date: Our Catholic pre-marriage course, building our registries, buying invitations and finally making a decision on bridesmaid dresses and the HONEYMOON!!!!
Gifts for Ring Bearers & Flower Girls
Like I did for the bridesmaids, I wanted to send something sweet to our two ring bearers and flower girls to formally ask them (even though their parents had already agreed on their behalf!). Cookies were the answer! For two, I sent or gave them Virginia-shaped sugar cookies that I bought locally. For the other two, I turned to Cheryl’s Cookies. Their cookie cards are only $5 and come in the cutest packaging! Because it was winter when I ordered them, they didn’t have flower-shaped cookies in appropriate boxes for the flower girl, HOWEVER… they had polar bear cookies that were just asking for a punny note to go with it for the ring bear-er! 😉
Because we are getting married in the Catholic church (I’m Catholic, Garland’s not), we were required to do a pre-marriage class through the diocese. Other dioceses may do it differently, but we had two main choices: Unveiled, one 12-hour course, or Engaged Encounter, a two-night course at a retreat center (third option would be doing it on-on-one with a priest, which ours did not offer). Garland and I were encouraged to do Unveiled by the priest who is marrying us, and we decided to knock it out about four months before the wedding in December, instead of waiting to the last minute.
Did you see that I said TWELVE HOURS? Yes, it was long. Yes, we were exhausted and had no words left by the end. (We may even have been a little hungover because my work holiday party was the night before!) But it was so, so great! I’m going to explain it a little because I literally had no idea what it would be like: The couples (maybe 12-15 of us?) sat at tables with other couples; it just so happened we had two April couples at our table too. The course’s sections were presented in short video clips, followed up by the presenters’ example of how the topic had played a role in their marriage, how it’d impacted them, etc. Example of topics: personal values, goals, intimacy, prayer/religion, money, starting a family, pornography –> some things were topics we’d already discussed throughout our relationship, others we generally had an idea about; then there were a few tools or ways to think about things we’d never heard or thought about before, which was cool! The presenting couple was in their 60s, and I really appreciated having a living example talk about the information. Each section had questions attached to it, so we’d take time separately to respond to them by ourselves (sometimes in separate rooms) and then would come together to discuss as a couple. What I was the most worried about was trying to have potentially complicated discussions with Garland in “public”, but they had this worked out. The event was in a church activity center, so nearly every couple had a classroom to themselves for privacy.
Probably my favorite activity was drafting our family mission statement/pledge to one another. There were some prompts to make it easier, but that’s the kind of stuff we never would have ordinarily expressed to each other out loud or even thought to have done! I know I’ll love looking back at our notebooks for years to come.
It’s difficult to transition from mentally/spiritually preparing for our marriage to presents… But that’s what we’re going to do! Garland and I (ok, just me, Garland could care less!) decided to register at three places, plus Honeyfund for honeymoon excursions: Crate & Barrel, Amazon, and Macy’s.
- Crate & Barrel – For kitchen electronics, hostess and serving platters, baskets, etc. We mainly did this because of the registry experience you get at the store. Once a month they let engaged couples come in before the store opens to the public, so you can register and explore calmly. This was actually how we started the registry process… it was so hard talking ourselves into registering for things we didn’t “need”, but wanted or liked. Also, we don’t currently live in a house so most of the time we were all “But where will we put it???”
- Amazon – For convenience and various odds-and-ends, like tools, camera lenses, speakers, anything! Amazon has EVERYTHING and lot of people have Amazon Prime, so the free shipping is great! (Also Garland really wanted to register for a Yeti cooler.)
- Macy’s – For the traditional china, crystal, flatware (stainless steel, not silver!), knives and bedding/towels
- Honeyfund – We created “gifts” for a few day excursions, activities and meals. We’re taking a longer honeymoon and since we don’t currently have a house to decorate or store new things in, we thought this would be a good alternative to registering for too many thing we don’t need …honeymoon announcement below!
For a really long time, I was going in the direction of everyone wearing the same dress, which meant it would have to look good on a variety of sizes (including pregnant sizes…). And then there was the whole COLOR decision. I was stuck on gray versus a shade of gray/blue. Gray is very “in” right now for wedding and bridesmaid dresses—great in some regards, but also made me think that purposefully having a Gray-themed wedding (because it’s Garland’s last name!) would be lost. Also, light or dark gray? What suits would you pair with gray… definitely not another shade of gray (cringe!)… Finally, after looking with Cherie (MOH/sister) at one shop, going by myself to another shop, doing hours of online shopping, buying fabric samples, weighing the pros and cons, and discussing it with anyone who would listen (I LITERALLY WASTED MONTHS ON THIS SINGLE DECISIONS!), I decided on a gray/blue shade called “Cloudy” from Dessy and put together a showroom on Weddington Way for people to pick their own style. Only requirements: long and not strapless. The girls only had maybe two weeks before the recommended purchase deadline, so I don’t recommend waiting as long as I did to decide and share (especially because long bridesmaids dresses are e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e). Reasons I’d recommend Weddington Way: 1) everyone is busy and in different cities, this way no one had to travel to a store to get fitted and purchase; 2) bridesmaids could interact by “liking” dresses and then see who ordered what; 3) the company offered great customer service; and 4) everyone’s dress came in within two months (or less!) of ordering. Hallelujah!
I also spent a lot of time looking at online options for invitations. I ordered samples from the main website (like Wedding Paper Divas and Minted), but never really fell in love with a design. Plus, Garland was adamant about it not looking to busy or gaudy. I wanted it to look traditional and professional, as well as to include our custom crest/logo. In early December, I made the decision to work with a local invitation store, Paper On The Avenue. If I was going to spend a lot of money on the invitation suite, I wanted to keep the money local! I spent, I kid you not, close to two hours in there looking at sample invitations, paper options, fonts, printing processes and ink colors. The end result was worth it though; they are beauties! We went with thermography (raised ink, a step down from the ever classy and expensive letterpress option!), a combination of French Blue and Slate Gray inks, a slightly off-white paper and shimmery silver envelopes. (They just went out in the mail on Monday—eek!—so I’ll post a picture of the finished product after I know everyone has gotten them!)
Last but not least… OUR HONEYMOON!
We decided to go to SICILY, ITALY for 11 days after we get married!!!! Garland wanted tropical (sailing, ideally) and I wanted Europe. After doing a little research and finding THE BEST resource—a travel consultant named Eleanor of Uncorked In Italy—we made our decision. She is American, but is fluent in Italian and lives in Italy. I forget exactly how I found her, but it was at the perfect timing. I’d just started to talk to a travel agent who basically rejected our plan and ideas. I was stressed and discouraged. Then *BOOM* Eleanor drafted us an itinerary with recommended hotels and day trips. She found us ferries and motor boat rentals (Garland’s wish come true!). She truly gave us invaluable advice and access to information that you can only get from a “local”. Through both email and phone, she eased my anxiety and totally confirmed our decision to do Sicily was JUST RIGHT FOR US! During our nearly two week trip, we’ll be staying on the Aeolian Island of Salina, at a winery in Marsala, the Aegadian Island of Favignana and then ending in the capital of Palermo. Seriously. It will be a dream!
Before I left for our Christmas trip, I begged Garland to buy the tickets and that’s exactly what he did. We booked the hotels shortly after I got back (more like 3 months prior to travel). Note: We are going just before the high season starts, so things like hotels are a bit cheaper and less booked so close to travel time.
Imagining us waking up to our balcony view of the turquoise Mediterranean Sea, hiking up an active volcanic island, or dining al fresco with glasses full of local wine and plates full of homemade pastas is totally getting me through all the wedding work that remains!
Wedding update #6 is focused a bit in the past just to catch up on things. Most of these items are from October/November timeframe, right around the time of my bachelorette and our engagement parties (6-5 months out). This includes the last round of vendors needed for the wedding weekend—florist, hair/makeup, transportation—as well as other fun planning details.
In August, I decided I NEEDED one of these! Not for the planning process but for the week and day of. For a control freak like myself, there was no way I was going to relax and “be in the moment” when I was wondering and worried about the cake getting delivered, the band setting up, the bus arriving on time, etc. NO WAY. Luckily, I found Maggie of Maggie’s Misc.
Can you believe I almost posted this update without talking FOOD TASTING?!?! THE BEST PART OF WEDDING PLANNING? We did out food tasting in September, just in anticipation if we wanted to do plated and needed to include choices on the wedding invitations.
- Crab cakes
- Pan fried oysters
- Crab hushpuppies
- Sirloin bites
- Blackberry brie flatbread
We already knew that we LOVED their country ham sweet potato biscuits and wanted them as an hors d’oeuvres, so we didn’t try them.
- Simple summer salad
- Shoe peg corn & peanut –> I think we might try to do this as an appetizer in shooter cups!
- Bourbon glazed salmon –> My mom brought up that chicken would appeal to more people, so we will be revisiting the other options.
- Stuffed chicken breast
- Beef tenderloin
- Short ribs (braised in a tomato red wine sauce!)
- Sliced prime rib
(Garland wanted to try all the beef options so he knew he was picking THE BEST.)
- Scalloped potatoes
- Grilled vegetables
Save the Dates
I was really adamant about designing the Save the Dates myself. I also wanted to do postcards, instead of notecards, and for them to be more “casual” than I knew our invitations would be! Truthfully, I also KNEW I wanted to use a tubing pic from our engagement session and didn’t feel like wasting money dressing it up with fancy paper and an envelope!
I printed them through a local printer we actually use at work. It came out to about $40 for 125 postcards. On the reverse side, we have our snazzy “crest” and web address on the left, address area to right.
Through Instagram, I pretty much knew who I wanted a few months ago… like, last February… When a local blogger I follow posted a pic of flowers her husband bought her for Valentines Day from a girl named Amanda Burnette. I mean, check out her Pinterest board for starters. first reached out to her in July (9 months out) and she asked to meet with me to talk about my vision… what??? Yes please, because I seriously knew nothing about flowers! All I knew is I didn’t want those silly tall skinny vase center pieces and was really feeling the old-timey metal footed vases, lots of greenery and mostly white flower colors. And OBVIOUSLY I needed a garland for the head table. Lastly: I really wanted dogwood flowers if it was at all possible because V-I-R-G-I-N-I-A!!! She offered amazing suggestions, listened and asked questions to help figure out what I wanted. Since then she’s offered even more fabulous ideas and has been so helpful with recommendations on how I can stay in budget too. I can’t wait to see her creations on April 23!
A snapshot of my floral/centerpiece vision:
In September, my mom and I stopped in to DSW just to have a look around. I’d already fallen in love with $300 BHLDN shoes that I had nearly justified to myself when I glanced at these Naturalizers. Yes, I know, Naturalizers. Come to find out I’m a married old woman already. They were so close to what I was looking for I just went ahead and got them. Also: $59.95 felt good on the wedding budget. 1) They were gray, 2) I loved the strap, *classic*, 3) Great heel height (low) for my comfort level and current wedding dress length. I don’t know if you can tell but they also have a “sweetheart” top line to them which is SO CUTE!
Makeup/Hair, Transportation, etc.
Nope. I didn’t even consider doing my own hair and makeup… or having a sister or bridesmaid do it. Again, this is something I did not want to worry about. And something I knew I wanted to pamper myself with! I looked at about 4 different options—both mobile teams and in-salon service. I ultimately decided on Slingin’ Pretty do to price, convenience and customer service (like Amanda, they asked to meet with me in person). I booked them 5 months out (November) for both me and my bridesmaids. My trial is actually coming up in a few weeks, so I’ve been trying to narrow down what style i want. Definites: low bun look and “natural” side part. I’d say my veil is a bit “old hollywood” glamour so I’m thinking maybe some pinned curls or dramatic waves… but smooth and uncomplicated would be beautiful too…
Transportation, boring but important. We wanted to provide transportation for the wedding party to and from the ceremony—for convenience, safety, and peace of mind that everyone is together and where they need to be. The hotel with the main room block is only 2 blocks away from the reception venue so we know the rest of the guests will be fine. We booked with James River Transportation is November (5 months out).
Next up: Attending “Unveiled”, our 12 hour all-day Catholic marriage prep course (December – 4 months out); Finalizing what the bridal party will wear; Invitations; ALL THE DETAILS!!!
Before we jump into the obvious recap of our Thailand trip or the latest Gray wedding updates, I wanted to talk about COOKIES. As it happens, cookies = my sanity right now. You know it’s year of the wedding around these parts. A wedding means a beautiful dress, tons of pictures and a romantic honeymoon, so I’ve come to an agreement with myself that an upgraded workout and healthy eating regimen is necessary. It honestly hasn’t been too bad so far! I’ve been trying to eat 2x more vegetables and focus on more protein and less carbs, as well sticking to 25 minutes to one hour workouts 5 days a week. Yeah, not too bad… Except that / maybe because I’ve still been eating COOKIES… practically every night, just one or two (and sometimes three, just when there’s a snowstorm outside and the evening calls for comfort food).
Our cookie of choice has been chocolate chip (these!!! minus the pecans + toasting the oats, and portioned in balls half the size). I shamelessly made the dough as part of meal prep two weeks ago and have stowed it in the freezer for baking on-demand. These GIANT! soft and chewy molasses ginger cookies, HOWEVER, are very, very good as well…