A lovely [ivory] dress

I made the extremely unpopular decision not to reveal my wedding dress until the big day.  This wasn’t something I initially planned to do:  I went shopping by myself just to try on a few styles and figure out what I like and don’t like without competing opinions from friends and family.  I ended up finding a truly amazing dress online in a style that I knew looked good on me and was created by a well-known and respected designer, so I bought it!  I decided to keep it a secret because I want it to be special and dramatic when I get dressed on January 12th.

I will, however, reveal some of the dresses that I didn’t buy!  Here are some of the dresses that I love (even though they didn’t make the cut):

Unknown designer and style

Unknown designer and style

“Tilly” by Stephanie Allin

Custom design

“Bernadette” by Maggie Sottero

“Natalia” by WToo

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A favor debate

I’ve always been slightly confused about the concept of wedding favors—why do brides and grooms feel like they need to spend extra time and money to place a virtually useless token at guests’ plates after they’ve spent sixty, seventy, one hundred dollars feeding them food and booze for five hours?  As a wedding guest, I get that you’re happy I RSVPed yes—I don’t need a tiny candle with your wedding date and monogram on it.  No, really—I have enough measuring spoons that say “a pinch of love” and “a dash of kindness” them!

Initially, we were going to forgo wedding favors, but lately I’ve been loving the trend of candy buffets and edible favors.  Guests can eat them at the wedding or take them home if they want to, and if they don’t, someone will always be glad to have another sweet treat, whereas they might not be so willing to take home 5 decks of cards decorated in our wedding colors.

In my family, it’s traditional for the men on my dad’s side to give each other incredibly large amounts of handmade caramels for Christmas.  I don’t know why, I can’t explain it—my family loves caramels.  So when we were thinking about edible favors for the wedding, I couldn’t help but think that caramels would be the perfect complement to our decadent fare.

I realize that the most economical choice is to order caramels in bulk online, but with so many caramel connoisseurs attending our wedding, I just couldn’t risk getting a bad batch.  After a little research, I came across Amy’s Candy Bar in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago, a boutique confection shop with tons of adorable handmade goodies.  This particular shop is known for the handmade caramels in four different flavors: signature sea salt, dark chocolate, raspberry, and passion fruit-mango.  I corresponded with Amy about ordering in bulk, and she immediately responded that our order would be no problem (I do love a quick response from vendors).

Hello, lovers.

Sol and I recently visited Amy’s Candy Bar to make sure that we made the right choice, and let me tell you—we did.  All of the sweets, even the passion fruit-mango caramel, of which I was initially suspicious, were incredibly delicious!  We even met Amy, who is just as wonderful in person as she was over email.  We plan on offering all four caramels to each guest in a small silver gift box, topped with a handmade accordion flower made out of vintage book pages and a custom label.

Even though we didn’t originally plan to have wedding favors, I’m glad we can support a local business and shower our guests with sweets at the same time!

To DIY or not to DIY?

“Don’t buy that—we can make that.”  Apparently, I say this a lot at Hobby Lobby, Target, Container Store, and other fine retail establishments—much to the chagrin of Casey and Katie J., who essentially break their necks in attempting the world’s most exaggerated eye roll.  What can I say?  I like to DIY, and I get so much more satisfaction out of cute things when I make them myself.  Plus, I truly do love to knit, crochet, sew, embroider, etch glass, paper-craft, upcycle, and do other crafty and creative things.  I get my love of crafting from my mother, AKA the Martha Stewart of Central Wisconsin.

DIY brides have a serious advantage in wedding planning, because they aren’t subject to the exorbitant prices charged by printers, florists, and other wedding vendors/petty thieves who jack up their prices when the word “wedding” is mentioned.  When I discussed our wedding budget with Melissa, my jaw dropped at least five times when I heard how much some of these elements were going to cost us.  I rarely spend more than $30 on an item of clothing, so when I looked at the prices of wedding dresses, I very nearly threw up.

On the other hand, I work, take graduate classes, and I’m teaching a class in the fall, so an entirely DIY wedding was out of the question from the start.  Planning a wedding is a full-time job, and I certainly don’t want anything to slip through the cracks because I took on more projects than I could handle.

Even so, I’m finding that the elements of my wedding that I’m most excited about are the ones that are DIY.  Things like the postage stamps and address labels that my oh-so-talented brother created, many of my bridesmaids’ gifts, the place cards, favor boxes, hotel welcome bags, and others are the small, extra special touches that will pull our entire wedding together and leave a lasting impression.

So I’m going to DIY a lot of things, but I’m also really trying to stay sane and be realistic. I do want to actually enjoy planning our wedding, and I want to make sure that Sol and I have a fun and memorable engagement that’s not completely consumed with ribbons and hot glue.

Disclaimer:  This post is complete speculation.  There is a very real possibility that, at the three-month mark, I will end up covered in ribbons and hot glue with tears streaming down my face and Sol cowering in a corner.

A Grand Affair

Now that my mother has assured me that the Save the Dates are in the mail (she hand-addressed every single envelope, and my dad stuffed and put stamps on all of them—aren’t my parents just the best?), I can safely reveal our choices for the first installment of our invitation suite.

I’m a little bit of a paper snob.  I spend a good deal of time and money creating handmade cards and stationery out of beautiful products from Paper Source, so when I got engaged, I knew I wanted Paper Source for our invitation suite.  I shopped around a little, just to be sure, but it was really no contest.  Paper Source offers beautiful, modern designs on quality paper—what else could I ask for?

Sol could not care less about the type of paper, printing, or fonts for our Save the Dates and invitations, but he pretends like he does and has been a good sport on our Paper Source trips, and I love him for that.  We scoured every invitation book at the store in search of the perfect typography and style—a modern mix that said both “we’re having a formal affair” and “we’re not pretentious jerks.”

We found this delicate balance in the Grand Affair suite, which combines an elegantly ornate font with a clean, all-caps serif font.  I worked with one of the managers to come up with appropriate text, which is printed in black ink on a heavy, ivory cardstock with a light silver shimmer envelope.  Here’s the proof from Paper Source:

Our Save the Date proof from the talented designers at Paper Source

My brother the graphic designer created this return address label to be affixed to the back of every envelope:

Sorry, can’t reveal EVERYTHING!

and this postage stamp for the front:

Custom postage stamp

It was a group effort to put these Save the Dates together, and I’m so grateful for everyone’s help!  I couldn’t be more pleased with how they turned out!

Thank you for being a friend

I’ve taken very few authorial liberties when writing this blog and I want to assure you that the following statement is not a hyperbole: I literally have the best bridesmaids in the entire world.  They are some of the most amazing women I’ve ever met, and I can never thank them enough for sticking by my side and agreeing to stand up with me as I take this next gigantic step in my life.  Even though I know I can never repay them, I still want to show my appreciation with some amazing bridesmaid gifts.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Hair or make-up for the wedding: I got an amazing deal from Appease, Inc. on hair and make-up for my entire bridal party, and I know most, if not all, of my bridesmaids will choose to have both their hair and make-up done for the wedding.  Because I am cognizant of how much money it can cost to stand up in a friend’s wedding, I want to ease some of the beauty burden by offering to pay for either the hair or make-up for each maid.

Hand-knit shawl:  I’m not an idiot—I know it’s going to be pretty awful to stand outside in a strapless bridesmaid dress in the middle of January to take 8,043 pictures.  In order to make amends, I’m knitting each bridesmaid an ivory/sparkly shawl to wear with their champagne-colored dresses.  I’m so happy that I can present each maid with something made with time and love—those really are the best gifts!

From the purl bee

Monogrammed white dress shirt:  This probably sounds weird, but how cute is this picture?!

 

What an adorable, practical gift for girls who frequently have to go through hair and make-up rituals for weddings and other events!

Embellished flip flops:  A weird choice for January, I’m sure, but if I know anything about these ladies, they: a.) like to party and b.) do not do it well in heels after about an hour.  I’m buying cheap silver flip flops at Old Navy and embellishing them with all sorts of sparkly beads, pearls, etc.  The maids can party all night without sacrificing style!

Personalized hangers:  I’m inviting my bridal party to spend the night with me in the hotel suite the night before the wedding, so presumably, they’ll be bringing their bridesmaid dresses with them.  I’ve gotten six wooden hangers, some sparkly gold ribbon to tie a bow at the base of the metal, and some gold paint to put their names up the side.  This is just one of those fun, small little touches that really bring the wedding together.

Monogrammed tote:  Obviously, I need something fabulous to put all of this great stuff in!  This idea is so cute and easy to do, and my mom is sure that she can find good-quality tote bags for a very affordable price.  I have not yet decided on the color of paint, but I’m sure inspiration will come.

Monogrammed tote bag

I hope my maids love these things as much as I do!

Let us eat cake

After working up an appetite for wonderfully decadent wedding cakes by spending ninety-six hours on Pinterest, Sol and I were finally ready for our tasting.  I did quite a bit of research on Yelp, and I was fairly confident in my decision to contact Creative Cakes in Tinley Park.  By “fairly confident,” I of course mean that this was the only bakery that I even considered contacting and I had zero plans to talk to anyone else.  Have I mentioned that I can’t deal with a lot of options?  Well, I can’t.

 

We originally planned to only invite Casey, my Maid of Honor, but we were fortunate that my brother (A.K.A. the Best Man), and my other lovely bridesmaid Katie J. were available to join us, as well.  Casey and Katie (two of the infamous S- sisters) have amazing eyes for design and all things wedding, and my brother, J.D., is exceptionally good at eating cake.

 

Before we even met with the designer (baker? chef? I don’t know.), we were given an iPad with a ton of pictures of past cakes and told to add the ones we liked to an online photo library.  Katie, Casey, and I eagerly went through all the pictures while Sol and J.D. laughed their faces off about something completely unrelated.  Who even knows.  When we regrouped, we were each served a plate with 2-inch cubes of different cakes and several dollops of different-flavored mousses.  We debated the merits of each, asked for samples of other mousses, and came to a consensus.

 

We settled on a chiffon cake (basically a white/yellow cake mixture with a hint of citrus) with raspberry and lemon mousses.  Now, I realize that this is a non-traditional wedding cake combination, and it may even be a little inappropriate for a winter event (I detected some hesitation from my mother when I told her what we chose, although she’s too much of a sweetheart to ever deride our selection).  However, Sol and I are not really chocolate people, and we don’t really give a damn about appropriateness—we are much more interested in deliciousness.  Plus, we are going to have a total of seven desserts in addition to the wedding cake, so if people don’t like it, they have a lot of other options.

 

Also somewhat unconventionally, we decided not to get a cake big enough to serve every single guest.  Wedding cakes are expensive, and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice design for quantity.  Seriously, we have a lot of desserts, and we know that not everyone is going to eat the cake.  If we decide down the road that we want to add a plain sheet cake with our selected flavor combination, we can do that, but I doubt we will.

 

The designer talked to us about the inspiration pictures we brought in, chatted with us for a bit, and went in the back to create a sketch.  She came back with exactly what we wanted:  a four-tier ivory cake with gold and silver henna print all over it and small metallic and champagne-colored pearls.  It’s got the mixed metals, the subtle 3D effects, the hints of Indian design—the cake is literally everything we hoped for!  The designer is also excited about what we came up with:  right away, she asked for permission to publish photographs of our creation on their website.

 

I just can’t even express how excited I am about the food and desserts we chose for our wedding.  We definitely stumbled upon some amazing vendors, and even though we haven’t actually had our wedding yet, I will recommend Entertaining Company and Creative Cakes to everyone I know.  I can’t wait to get feedback from guests about how much they loved everything!

Life is sweet

Even though Sol and I don’t normally clamor for chocolate or sweets, we were still pretty excited about getting an awesome-tasting, gorgeous-looking cake.  While a lot of catering companies offer or insist that couples use the company baker, Entertaining Company has been extremely flexible, and they agreed to cut and serve a cake that we bring in for free.  (Did you know that many catering companies charge for cake cutting?  Ridiculous!)  This opened up a world of possibilities for us, so I immediately turned to Pinterest for inspiration.

Gold sequin cake

I love the gold sequins on this cake—they strike the right balance between glamorous and gaudiness!  I would ditch the flowers for spun sugar snowflakes since we’re getting married in the winter, though.

Ombre cake

Ombre is the “it” trend of the moment, and I just love it in buttercream!  I could definitely get on board with an ombre buttercream fade from rich gold to a light, champagne-ivory.

Henna print cake

The henna print on this cake is unbelievably cool, and so appropriate for our event.  The draped cloth-like fondant is a little much for me (Plus we hate fondant.  Yuck.).

Metallic pearls cake

These edible pearls are too cute, and they remind me of champagne bubbles!  I also appreciate the subtle mixing of metallics.

What did we end up with?  Check out the next post to read all about it.

Eat your heart out Part 2

Picking up from where I left off:  we had our first food tasting with Jewell Events, and we were very pleased (minus the whole busted car window/petty theft thing)!  The presentation was lovely, the table setting was beautiful, and the quality of the food was excellent.  The only thing that was missing for me was the Indian food.  I really wanted to respect the fact that a large percentage of our guests prefer Indian food to other types of cuisine, and Jewell just did not seem to deliver in that department.  I was extra excited to see what Entertaining Company had to offer because they specialize in Indian catering and fusion foods.

 

At this point, we were pros at the tasting games.  My dad developed a sophisticated rating system for each item, and I utilized a “Fantasy Food” draft scheme to make sure everyone got to pick their favorite items.  Without giving away everything that we chose, here are a few of our top picks:

 

  • Chimichurri-marinated paneer bruschetta with micro garden salad of arugula, scallions, and yogurt cucumber raita
  • Beef short rib potsticker with horseradish cheddar ponzu sauce
  • Marscapone and mushroom stuffed chicken breasts with a leek chardonnay sauce, creamy sage-infused polenta, haricot vertes, and a dehydrated tomato chip garnish
  • Masala lollipop truffles (cinnamon, curry, and hazelnut)
  • Miniature gyros served on garlic naan with tzatziki, onion, and tomato

 

The Indian food was excellent and exactly what I was envisioning for our menu.  All the appetizers were served on different vintage-y gold and glass chargers, and my mom noted that she liked the one-bite pieces that were easy to handle and eat.  We weren’t shy about voicing our opinions on the food:  cut the spice on this, add a little something to that, prepare this in a slightly different way, etc.

 

Molly, the Entertaining Company coordinator, was a complete doll and took down all of our suggestions and opinions so that they could be incorporated into the revised proposal.  We weren’t 100% thrilled with the dessert choices, but that was completely our fault—we unwittingly chose all chocolate desserts to sample, and it was a little overwhelming at the tasting.  Melissa and Molly suggested that we come back for a second dessert tasting, and we were quick to accept the offer to eat more free food.

 

Both tasting experiences were excellent and the pricing was similar for each, but we ultimately went with Entertaining Company.  I can’t wait to hear all of the rave reviews from our guests, and I feel like we accomplished a large part of our wedding vision with this decision!

Eat your heart out Part 1

When we got engaged, both Sol and I looked forward to one thing:  the food tasting.  I mean, we also looked forward to the whole spending the rest of our lives together thing, eternal happiness, blah blah blah, but mostly we were psyched about the food.  We love to eat, and I knew we would come up with some pretty awesome ideas for our wedding feast.

Because Sol and I love to cook and appreciate gourmet meals, I knew we didn’t want the typical bland, boring wedding food.  Some people don’t really care about the food so much; people rarely remember what was served, the meal only constitutes one hour out of the whole day, etc.—I get it.  But I really wanted our meal to reflect our tastes and Sol’s ethnic traditions, so we got serious about catering.

Melissa did an excellent job tracking down two amazing catering companies:  Jewell Events Catering and Entertaining Company.  We set up tastings with both on consecutive days so that my parents could come down from Wisconsin to give us their opinion.  (As my parents are bona fide foodies, they were more than happy to help out.)

Jewell was first on our list, and we were incredibly impressed!  I’ve never in my life had food at a wedding that tasted like what they prepared for us, and we were just in love with Dana, the sweet and talented Jewell coordinator who put the whole thing together.  Here are some of our favorites from the tasting:

  • Bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese
  • Petite brie and apricot tartlets with slivered almonds
  • Keema samosas with raita dipping sauce
  • Sweet potato ravioli with toasted pine nuts
  • Petite strawberry shortcakes
  • Wrigleyville sliders with Mertz cheese and ketchup
  • Mini Chicago-style hotdogs

The food was delicious, but the experience was slightly marred by some idiot breaking into my parents’ car and stealing their navigation system in broad daylight right in front of the building!  One of the Jewell employees actually chased the guy down and was able to retrieve the navigation system, but the car window was completely busted and needed emergency repairs.  Dana and her coworkers could not have been more helpful and apologetic about everything, and my dad kept a cool head about the whole situation.

We left stuffed and happy, and we all agreed that there was virtually no way the food at our next tasting could top what we had just experienced.  To be continued.

Action!

Does it seem to you that every wedding video looks like this one?

Wedding videography was not originally in our budget.  Besides the fact that neither Sol nor I care to stare at ourselves in print or on video, we also had (and still have, to some extent) a prevailing belief that most wedding videos end up looking pretty cheesy.  Quick cuts, overplayed music, and silly PowerPoint-like transitions?  No, thanks.  We’ll save our hundreds/thousands of dollars for booze and cake.

But, as we started getting our guest list together, it became clear that we were going to have to provide the guests who weren’t able to make it to the wedding or didn’t make the list with more than pictures.  Weddings are huge, important events in Sol’s family, and we certainly didn’t want to make anyone on his side feel left out or slighted in any way.  We decided that the best, most economical way to include these guests is to provide them with a wedding video.

I did quite a bit of internet research before contacting the vendor that eventually became our videographer.  Like most wedding services, the price range for wedding videography varies wildly from $500 to well past $5,000.  The quality of videography correlates fairly predictably with the price:  most of the lower priced videos look like home movies or the one I posted above and the pricier videos look like Spielberg films.  Finding a videography company that is reasonably priced and spares the cheese factor was no simple task.

We found what we were looking for in Lexoria Wedding Films.  We met with Jason from Lexoria via FaceTime, and Sol and I both found him to be laidback, flexible, and fun.  He cut us a great deal on all-day videography, and he threw in a bunch of extra copies of our wedding videos with regional coding for India, Canada, and all the other exotic places we’ll be sending DVDs to.  I particularly like the fact that Lexoria includes a ten minute highlight reel with the wedding video so that we don’t have to force our friends and family to sit through the entire ceremony and reception when we’re feeling nostalgic.

Honestly, if we didn’t need to send videos to guests in faraway lands, I probably would have skipped the videographer.  That said, I’m happy with our decision, pleased with the price, and looking forward to seeing/hearing our karaoke jams on film!