Saturday, January 31, 2009

Amy Atlas...the perfect buffet

It's like Amy Atlas knew that I was struggling with how to make my candy buffet perfect, pulled together, and chic, and whipped up this stellar dessert buffet.

I was so concerned that we'd end up buying a hodge podge of apothecary jars and trifle dishes, just hoping that everything would end up looking cohesive. By using the black elements throughout the entire buffet, it lends itself to a cohesive, pulled together look. This will also mesh well with the black square chargers we bought for the centerpieces. I'm really excited! I've been stressing out about this candy buffet for far too long, and I finally feel like I have a plan in place.

I've already bought a black cake pedestal that should arrive this week, the first piece of my perfect buffet (and found even before I stumbled upon Amy Atlas' site!). I'm also investigating different homemade candies and other sweets that S and I can make together to not only cut down on costs, but keep the candy buffet personal...starting with the black and white cookies we'll make.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Anemone Anticipation

It's slightly ironic that anemone flowers can signify anticipation, a sweet sentiment when you think about holding a bouquet of them right before walking down the aisle. They can also mean "foresaken" and "a dying hope," but I choose to ignore those meanings.

I had never heard of an anemone flower until recently. My florist and I were throwing flower white flower ideas back and forth via email earlier this month, and she threw out this as an option, but with the understanding that they may not be in season for my wedding (September is a little early for them to be in season).

Swoon! I of course love them more than any other flower I've ever seen, and I love the contrast between the snowy white petals and the black speckled centers. Could any other flower be so perfectly made for a black and white wedding? I think not. Needless to say, I'm left in anticipation, wondering if I'll get the perfect flower for the perfect day.

Anemone flowers are just as beautiful in some of their other colors, including this great shade of blush. Learn more about anemones, and scroll down to continue swooning right along with me.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Black & White Cookies

I've been trying to think of different things I can add to my candy buffet for the wedding that will have a "wow factor" without being crazy expensive. Steve and I used to share big black and white cookies from a local grocery yuppy grocery store in our old neighborhood. It was always a great treat and easy way to surprise the other one. We'd share the cookie, each biting directly down the middle to get the best of both worlds.

Back in November I played around with making mini black and whites (you can check out the recipe on my baking blog) - since it was my first time doing it, they leave a lot to be desired as far as roundness, but overall the process is very easy.

Source: Amazon

How cute would it be to have a pyramid of mini black and white's on a black cake stand like this on the candy buffet? It would be a sweet treat that I made myself, is meaningful to S and I, and fits perfectly with our theme! And, this platter is insanely cheap at $19.66 on Amazon!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

19th Century Club - Reception Site

Fortunately for readers of this blog, you were spared my search for a reception venue. S and I were engaged at the beginning of March '08 and over the following two months I searched high and low. If you even somewhat resembled a reception site, I was emailing you/calling you/searching your web site. It was frustrating, especially as I had no clue how anything else in my budget was going to pan out, so making such an important decision so early on was frightening.

One place, however, that I did not contact early on was the 19th Century Club in Oak Park. I knew exactly where it was - as I'd once upon a time lived right around the corner from it! - but I didn't think it would be "up to my standards," whatever those might have been. In my defense, when you're comparing it to locations that have flashy web sites and fancy menus, it becomes easy to overlook what is obviously a perfect fit.

Source: Oak Park Convention & Visitor's Bureau

I ended up visiting the Club last May '08 and was so warmly welcomed. It was the only reception site that I actually visited in person and I knew once I was actually in the ballroom that this was going to be the place.

The pale grey walls of the ballroom are paired with beautiful hardwood floors and a snowy white ceiling - a perfect backdrop for any reception. You don't have to worry about your decor and colors fighting with colorful drapery and rugs. On top of everything, there is a separate space on the first floor for a cocktail reception, and by renting out the ballroom for the evening you have access to the entire club. The ballroom comfortably seats around 130 people (perfect for my group!) and has a perfect location in Oak Park, which a little park across the street for photos.

Seems too good to be true? It almost is. The price is really affordable, from rental fees to catering and you don't feel pressured to sign on the dotted line about making a decision to book it (but they will pencil you into the calendar for your date without a deposit, and let you know if someone else inquires about the date, giving you the option to book immediately). Best of all, the 19th Century Club is a women's club who, amongst many of their good deeds, have many philanthropic causes including a scholarship program.

Once we booked the site, everything else has fallen into place so easily, from church to florist and everything in between. But the best part is that even though my parents live in Central Illinois, because both my sister and I lived in Oak Park for a little while just out of college, my parents know the area and can still feel like they're hosting the event, even if it's not on their home turf!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cake Roundup

My custom cake topper from Etsy's Goose Grease arrived it! So now I'm getting ready to do the cake. After a lot of deliberation (because there is not limit to the options Chicago has to offer), I'm going to set up a tasting in March (6 months out from my wedding) with Cathay of the Sugar Syndicate on the northside of the city. Her attention to detail is amazing and she offers a chocolate cake with white chocolate peppermint ganache, sign me up!

I've had my eye on this black and white damask cake for months and months. I thought that was completely what I wanted.


But I don't want to dictate my cake down to the exact specifications - I'd rather have the Cathay help design my cake and put her artistic spin on it. After all, she is the professional. So I've put together some favorites, below, found via

I love how graphic this design is. Wouldn't it be really fun in black and white?

Kind of like a deconstructed damask pattern, and again, would be done in black and white.

Very bold pattern! I can't decide if I love it or if it's hurting my eyes...

These are actually lady bugs trailing up the cake, but from a distance they could easily be petals flowing down the side.

So many decisions! How do you even begin to narrow it down? I'm so excited to choose the cake, yay!!


Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm not color crazy, right?

So, I've been continuing to stress out about the bridesmaid attire, specifically their shoes. After we chose the black and white dresses from White House Black Market, and since I'd been planning on bold touches of green, I immediately chose green pumps for the girls. And since I want a little bit of a vintage feel, I thought the combination of peep toe and patent leather would be perfect.

Source: Newport News

I hadn't heard much on it until they actually bought the shoes this month (I think many thought it was a whim). I haven't heard rave reviews on the choice. Instead, I've heard "interesting," "a lot going on" and "are you sure??" Alright I can take a hint. And if I changed my mind, the shoes were only $30.

However, I've found that I'm not alone!

Source: Laura Kay Photo
Fabulous display of jewel-toned pumps.

Source: KB Image Photography
Darken the shoe and put the ladies in black and white dresses, and you have my wedding (love this shot!).

After finding out that I'm not alone out there with bold footwear choices, my breathing has started to calm down a bit. I know that I need to stick to my gut instincts, but of course I don't want to be that tacky bride out there sticking her bridesmaids in the equivalent of a dress with a big bow on the butt and puffy sleeves.

To continue setting my mind at ease, I've decided to do a little photo shoot with my hubby-to-be. I have a pair of the shoes the girls will be wearing, and a black and white dress (different from theirs, but same effect), I'm going to have S take some pictures of me and then PhotoShop them together so there's five in a row. A tad obsessive? You bet! Nothing short of thorough for this bride. I'll share the results after the shoot for all of you pondering primary colors.


Day of Coordinator - Honey Bee Weddings

I had really flip-flopped on working with a wedding coordinator. I didn't know if I could really justify the expense. I mean, my wedding will only be, at max, 120 people and we have no major logistics to overcome. All events are happening very close to one another and there is no major set up/break down issues that we'll have to overcome.

But then I started thinking about my reception site and church, and how neither really offer wedding assistance. Beyond my minister, there will be no one running the rehearsal, and for the reception site is FABULOUS and my contact there is great, but I started to stress out about who was going to light all of the tealights I'll have on the tables?!

Even better - day-of coordinators do so much more than light tealights! They tip people on your behalf. They talk to your vendors on the day of and call them if they're running behind the schedule. If the reception timeline runs off course, they work with the dj to fix it. They even go and get you lunch while you're getting ready! And so much more, things I wouldn't have even thought of but will be grateful to not even add to my to-do list.

After contacting almost every coordinator in the Chicago-area, S and I met last week with Marilyn of Honey Bee Weddings. I was impressed with the overall strong reviews of Honey Bee that were out there, combined with the amount of services that they offer for day-of, while still staying within my budget. Marilyn was cool, calm and collected and I could tell that she'll be both great to work with and still able to stick up for me and my wedding on the day-of, should the vendors get out of line!

I have a greater peace of mind that the day will run smoothly, and making an investment in my sanity is worth every penny.


Friday, January 23, 2009

The Mini Koo's Are Done!

Source: Etsy

Such a nice surprise this morning to hear from Etsy's Goose Grease that our cake topper is completed ahead of schedule - yay!! I love having a miniature version of us, what fun. Aren't we cute?

These will actually be glued to a round wooden stand to go on the cake, but I've asked her to send the pieces separately and we'll just glue them on ourselves. Why, might you ask? Because we're totally doing a photo shoot with them! They'll be strategically placed with numbers in the photos, which will then be turned into our table numbers at the reception. I didn't really feel like it was fair to just plop them onto a cake and be done with it, they must have a little bit of fun beforehand!

So....this means that I can go cake tasting!! Which we all know I've been dying to do. For months. Yippee!! And it's Friday. And we're meeting with Marilyn of Honeybee Weddings tonight to discuss working with her as our weekend coordinator. Life is good.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kusudama: Ceremony Decorations

Source: Paper Unlimited

I've always liked doing origami, ever since I was a small kid. I can't say I'm great, but I can certainly fold a think or two. I'm going to be integrating origami into my escort cards (I'm hoping to finally be able to blog that soon, it's been a bit of an ightmare!), but I think there are a lot of other places I can integrate some of my origami skills.

This kusudama ball I think is absolutely gorgeous. How cute would it be to find a cool patterned origami paper (or even just plain white for simplicity) and make up a bunch of these, secure a ribbon in the center of each ball, and then attach them to the end of the pews for the ceremony? Since I don't have any money in my budget to decorate my church, I think this would be such a fun way to add an interesting element to things.

And, the best thing? It doesn't take much origami knowledge at all to make these flowers, it really only takes time. Which means, I can recruit helpers when the time comes! Check out these easy instructions to make your own. This is totally what I'm going to be doing this weekend as I'm holed up, trying to survive whatever awful weather is thrown at us next!


Wordle This

I think Wordle is such a great way to turn a poem or other details about your wedding into something special that you can work into a lot of different elements of your wedding, from invitations to ceremony programs to just a framed print on the gift table. I've seen a lot of brides integrating this into their day.

The poem "XVII (I Do Not Love You)" by Pablo Neruda is one of my favorites. I think it's so romantic and yet describes my relationship with Steve - he is my best friend and my other half. So I put the poem into Wordle, along with our names and wedding date. But what to do with it? I'm thinking of tying it into the ceremony programs, although our ideas for the programs change from day to day. Hmm. I just know that I love this poem too much to not use it somewhere!

XVII (I Do Not Love You...)
by Pablo Neruda

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fit or Flabby?

Will you be fit or flabby on your wedding day? I'm going for fit. I go to the gym 4 or 5 times a week, but I'm a cardio-a-holic and don't make a lot of time for toning. Since we're stuck in the midst of an snowy/frigid/icing/you name it winter here in Chicago that won't let us have longer than a 1-day reprieve, I can't always make it to the gym and my good friend, Mr. Elliptical.

For Christmas, S bought me Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred. Will you lose 20 pounds in 30 days? Probably not (if you do, I want to know!!). But this is by far one of the best workouts you can do in the comfort of your living room. Each of the three workouts (marketed as 20 minutes each, but closer to 27 when all is said and done) are divided into three segments. Each segment focuses on strength, cardio and abs.

Cardio in my living room, you say? Even though it's a lot of jump jacks, butt kicks and oblique twists and plank jacks, your heart will be racing. I live in a tiny city condo, and still manage to move around the space that I have and keep up.

Jillian is tough - if you've seen the Biggest Loser, you know this. At one point in the workout, she tells you that she wants you to feel like you're going to die. Umm, thanks Jillian. But for whatever reason, her toughness in the workout makes me not want to let her down. Yes, a person on my tv screen has made me committed to my workout, even when it hurts!

One of the best elements of this workout is all of the focus on toning arms and shoulders - perfect for those of us getting ready to don our strapless dresses. All you need is a set of hand weights (I use 3 lbs) and you're ready to get shredded!


Can I Really Let Loose?

To continue with my inability to remain patient and plan for things as my wedding date gets closer, I've been looking at bridal hairstyles. In my defense, there are crystal hair pins that I've been debating buying on Etsy (as I buy as many things in advance as I can), so of course if I'm thinking about hair bling, I must think about hairstyle.

Source: Etsy

I thought I wanted to do something somewhat loose and romantic for my hair. Definitely an "up do" but one that is a little bit lower on my head. I'm very against hooking my veil under my hair, having it fall in a straight line down my neck, so with a low up do it will be easy to hook the veil above my hair, without it being obstrusive.

But as I look at hairstyles, I'm completely drawn to the sleek, and more structured styles, especially the big buns. The more a see loose curls, the less I see myself. I want everything in place! Here are a few of my favorites (courtesy of




I think the first and the last are my favorite, but exact opposites. The first does give a little less structure but is still unique...the last is a fabulous big bun. So not me, but I'm so in love with it! Oh the decisions.

I'm also looking into hair and makeup services for the day-of for me and my maids. I'd love to work with one service for both if possible, but budget is definitely an issue. Keeping myself at $160 max for both would be fabulous!

Does anyone in the Chicago area know anything about Appease? Their prices are pretty reasonable, and also includes a makeup touch up kit for the bride as well as free make up and hair trial for the bride (assuming at least 4 bridesmaids are receiving services). There are only a few reviews out there for them, so if anyone is familiar I'd love some feedback!

I also read a fabulous hint that I had not thought of...if you schedule your hair/makeup trial on the same day as a dress fitting (I don't know that it has to be your last fitting, but that's just me) you can see the full package. Beautiful!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Get my hubby to be

Photo from Steve Koo Photography

I love my fiance...hence the reason, you know, I accepted the ring and everything. So I can admit to being slightly biased. But I know good stuff when I see it, and if it would be possible for him to photograph our wedding and have him be in it, I'd hire him in a heartbeat! (Not that I don't love my photographer...shout out to Laurie Peacock!).

So, Chicago brides to fiance is currently looking to get into shooting weddings. He's been a photographer for a few years (in addition to his full time job) and last summer he was able to shoot a lot of the detail shots for my friend's wedding that her photographer wasn't going to capture. And of course he fell in love with shooting weddings! His attention to detail is amazing and he has the ability to capture the best moments...he also does engagement shoots as well.

We learned when hiring our photographer that if you book someone a year or more in advance when they're up-and-coming, not only do you get a better rate and more included in your package (!!) but by the time they shoot your special day, they'll be nothing less than spectacular.

Check Steve out:

Ok I promise I'm done oohing and ahhing over my man! But a girl can't help being proud :)


It's only candy...but why is it stressful?!

We've been planning since about the beginning to do a candy buffet as our favor. I've been approaching it with mixed feelings these days. For starters, candy is expensive. I'm really, truly trying to push that thought from my mind until I have to worry about it this summer. But beyond the cost, I've found that it's hard to do a candy buffet and make it look great! If you don't give a lot of thought to texture, colors, containers and varied height, your buffet will undoubtedly fall flat.

Fortunately Flickr has a Candy Buffet Photo Pool, so you can search through example after example with ease. To make the execution of this favor even more accessible, I've decided to break it off piece by piece. Let's start with signage, take away containers and texture.

Candy Buffet Take Away Containers
I've seen different boxes and bags for guests to fill up with candy. Chinese-style takeout boxes are popular, but I have no desire to have a stack of these just asking to be knocked over! The most functional (and affordable) option I've seen are bags that coffee is normally stored in, complete with the twist tie top.


I've found bags similar to these on a site called N State Packaging that come in black or white and are $19.35 for a package of 100 - brilliant! Slap a custom sticker on there and you're done.

I think you really need something that leaps out at your guests. Since my black, white and green color scheme is all about high contrast, I love the white on black signs that this bride created. Doing reverse text like this (as long as you do it well - using legible font and large font size) draws the eye right to it! The labels placed on the jars are genious as well, I want to dig in!


Changing Up the Texture
It seems like so many of the candy buffet pictures are just rows of clear glass containers filled with different colors of M&M's and jelly beans. I like the idea of using different containers and different types of candy to give the table different texture and height.

Photo from Rebecca Thuss

The above picture would be so easy to do and I think would be incredibly easy to reproduce in a variety of ways.

Source: Jamali Garden

I love the Jamali Garden web site because they have such great, modern products at really affordable prices! This 16 x 3 x 5 Kiri Wood Vase is only $12! How easy would it be to put a block of foam in it, cover that black rocks or something, and then stick in a bunch of different suckers at varied heights? So fun!

So now I've got an easy way to start the favor project...buying the bags then designing the labels and the signs. Easy, easy! I'd welcome anyone's suggestions out there for not only great places to buy bulk candy from (anything local in Chicago?) as well as how you decided on the right quantities...this would greatly easy my candy buffet anxiety!


Monday, January 19, 2009

Let ME Eat Cake...Finally!!


I started contacting Chicago-area bakeries for my wedding cake last September. A whole year ahead of my wedding. I know that this is a definitely faux pas, and that picking your cake need not happen earlier than 6 months before your wedding. But the anticipation of the array of cake flavors and frosting in front of me was too much for me to handle. I also like how on wedding shows, the bakers just sit and sketch the cake so easily, like creating the likeness of a bride's dream cake was just another day at the office. What will they create for me?!

Beyond stuffing my face, there were other reasons I wanted to get in touch with these bakers. For starters, since I'm an avid home baker I've been asked nonstop since my engagement if I was going to make my own cake. Umm, no. I'll take a pass on that one. But I know that I'm expected to have an amazing cake. Which brings me to reason number two for nailing down the cake...budget!

Cakes are so labor intensive anymore. I've worked with fondant and have made very simple cakes. Pastry chefs earn every penny for the amount of work they put into a single cake. But just because it's worth the dollars, it doesn't mean that I can afford it. I have to be strict to my bottom line. My goal is to keep my cake no higher than $700 to feed around 120 people and to be covered in fondant, the black and white damask cake as an inspiration.

I've rounded up my top finds for great pastry chefs that fall within my budget. While there are so many more amazing bakeries in the Chicago-area (Cake Girls, Bleeding Heart Bakery, etc), I know that unfortunately they won't be creating my cake. Here are a few of the frontrunners:

Le Royale Icing
I like the thought of working with Le Royle Icing because they're located in Oak Park, where my wedding and reception will be. While their web site may not be as shiny and new as some of the trendsetters in the city, Margaret Lastick has been making cakes for over 20 years and has had an illustrious career. She quoted me a great price over email but we didn't get into specifics of what it would look like, so I'm really just going on hope that I could afford her.

The Sugar Syndicate
Cathay Rayhill's attention to detail is amazing. Her portfolio speaks for itself, and she's conveniently located on the north side of Chicago not far from where I live, so I could just walk to the tasting, how fabulous. From the pricings I saw in September (which may have gone up) I could probably pull this off for just $100 over budget. Not too shabby.

Sugar Bliss
A cupcake boutique located downtown, these are just too adorable, and at $40/dozen that would put me far under budget. I could go either way on cupcakes, they're really cute but I'd definitely want to do a small cake for cutting. The great thing about cupcakes is that you can easily do a few different flavors...and, well, they're fun!

Amy Beck Cake Design
Amazing! But sadly just a little out of my reach...unless I want a teeny, tiny little cake. That would of course be beautiful, but tiny! Since my budget seems to be expanding minute by minute, padding the cake budget probably won't happen. A girl can dream, though.

Anyone else out there have any suggestions for more modern wedding cakes at a vintage budget? Right now I'm going to probably start with Le Royale Icing as the price seemed to be the best and she's a local Oak Park vendor. I don't think my cake should have to take a trek out of the city if it can instead only travel a few blocks!

Now how am I going to continue holding myself back from that aforementioned cake tasting, you ask?! I've finally settled on a cake topper, thanks to Etsy's Goose Grease. By this time next month I should have my fabulous custom cake topper in my hands and that will lead me to my tasting immediately, mark my words. Oooh, I'm so excited! I have such great plans for those mini-me's!


Blog Facelift

S, being the fabulous fiance that he is, offered to create a blog header for me, a little more interesting than the pre-formatted header that I had. He also took care of creating "the look" for my baking blog, Lazy Susin. And, really, he's the one who got me to start blogging in the first place. Even though I restrict his reading of this blog (as I write about the different pieces of my wedding day ensemble), he's still ever supportive.

I love blogging about baking, but I've been absolutely addicted in the past week to this blog. It's nice to see that each and every element of the wedding will have a little home on this site over the next 8 months.

I'm now going to return to WE's marathon of My Fair Wedding and my origami escort cards project (which will be an awesome do-it-yourself project when I finally figure out what the he** I'm doing, I'm blowing through a lot of origami paper!), and probably hours of addictive Wii Tetris competitions with S. Lovin' having the day off!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bridesmaids: Black, White and yes, Green!

I know that you can't make everyone in your bridal party happy. As accommodating as you try to be, at the end of the day the decisions you make are going to culminate in what you think looks the best/fits your vision/makes you the prettiest lady in the room (yeah, I said it).

However, I still have kept a lot of important things in mind when choosing the "look" for my five bridesmaids. Most importantly has been affordability. Since three of my bridesmaids live out of state, I didn't want to pile on a lot of costs beyond hotel, airfare, and hair. Secondly, I focused on dresses that could potentially be worn again, dresses that I would want to wear again.

With a black and white color scheme it was a no-brainer that I was going to pick out black and white dresses for the girls. Fresh, fun and high contrast. Fortunately, there's a store that caters exactly to my color scheme - White House Black Market. Their dresses are fun, flirty and always incorporating a great twist on black and white, since that's all they do. On top of that, they're always have sales! And sending me coupons! Love it.

Source: White House Black Market

When I saw this silk houndstooth dress on White House Black Market last fall, I knew that I loved it. When I saw it on sale a couple of weeks later, I knew that my bridesmaids had to buy it. For around $100 this dress has a great black and white print but in a sillohuette that is flattering to almost anyone (no tugging on strapless dresses for my bridesmaids!) and it even has pockets!

I immediately emailed everyone and asked that they order the dress that day. We were not going to lose out on this deal. Even though it was about a year out from the wedding, and this was the first dress I had really considered, I made the decision - seeing my bridesmaids lined up in this dress is exactly how I'd envisioned they'd look.

But what about their feet, you ask? A classic black pump would be cute. But since I was wanting "pops" of green throughout the wedding, what better way to add an element of fun than with vintage-inspired green peep toe pumps?! I found a picture of these online and knew that this was the look I wanted.

Source: Newport News
Peeptoe Mary Jane Pump in green: $25

Through so much searching, however, I couldn't find these shoes (or anything like them) anywhere! However, as I was reading through A Windy City Wedding last week and found her post for these shoes (she was looking at a different shade of green for her girls). It was THE shoes!! The shoes I had been searching high and low for. And for only $25! Score.

Knowing it couldn't get any better than this, from price to style to color, I had my bridesmaids order these last week. I know some of them aren't exactly dying to own green shoes (like I am - I bought a pair for myself!), I figured that $30 after shipping is a pretty fair compromise.

So we're all set, right? Cute black and white cocktail dresses, fun green pumps, and some great jewelry (to be blogged later) to compliment everything. I really thought I'd hit a home run here. Everyone would be happy and maybe even come out of the wedding with bridesmaids who might wear a thing or two again.

Wrong. There's been a little pushback. I think my mom was totally blown off guard with the green shoes. She wanted to make sure I was sure about the green shoes. Me sure? I wish I could wear the green shoes at my wedding. And the dress. This is definitely one wedding I'd want to be in if I wasn't, well, the bride. I think there's also a little unhappiness with one or two in the bridal party.

I'm trying not to focus on the negative, because again, as much as I try, I will never fully win. Some will love everything, and others will hide the dress or shoes away in a closet, never to be seen again. And that's ok. Because my wedding pictures are going to ROCK!


Friday, January 16, 2009

Gifts for the Groomsmen & Ushers

What to get for the men in the wedding? The bridesmaids are so easy because it's their jewelry, plus a couple of other assessories/sentimental items. But you can be sentimental with the guys. And with 5 groomsmen and 3 ushers, we definitely need to come up with some manly gifts.

I'm generally opposed to a lot of the more common gifts that are given - most guys just don't wear cufflinks (and get them at every other wedding they're in), if they're not in college there's a good chance they don't regularly fill up a flask, and what guy wants to be carrying around anything bearing my wedding date?

I was really surprised to find that Tiffany's has crystal barware that we can actually afford! Wouldn't paring one of these glasses (depending on the guy's drink of choice) plus a small bottle of their favorite liquor or beer be fun? Although something from Tiffany's would probably be much more appreciated by the ladies than the guys, I assume that in general, unveiling Tiffany's boxes should class up any rehearsal dinner, regardless of the recipients.

Source: Tiffany & Co.
Atlas Beer Mug: $45

Source: Tiffany & Co.
Plaid Double Old-Fashioned Glass: $40

Source: Tiffany & Co.
Plaid Highball Glass: $40

Or, what about this great money clip with their initial? This money clip can be customized with different fonts and is something that any guy could use.

Source: Etsy
Cuftlynx's Custom Initial Mother of Pearl Money Clip: $35

I know I can't always win and assume that the things S and I are choosing for the bridal party are things that they'll love/want to wear again, but that won't stop me from trying my hardest to find the perfect things, right down to every last detail. And if they don't like something, hopefully they'll just keep that to themselves and let me believe I'm an amazing gift giver!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Budgeting for flowers

Source: Martha Stewart Weddings

I dreaded even talking to a florist, because I assumed that anything and everything that I might want to do would be well outside of my budget. I'm not a huge floral person, but the weddings that have a floral element throughout are much more lush than those that barely have a petal in site.

Since I'm getting married in Oak Park, IL (a small suburb/village boarding Chicago) I've wanted to use as many local vendors as possible. I absolutely love the florist I've found. Working with Carolynn of fleurLily Chic has been a great experience so far. She completely understands where my budget is and what my limitations are, but that I still want some "wowable" flowers that will be remembered.

The most important thing I've learned is that it's important when it comes to flowers to put your money where it counts. Having amazing floral centerpieces is great, but years down the road are you going to be starting at pictures of your centerpieces, or pictures of you holding your bouquet? As long as you integrate personal details into the reception, the lack of flowers won't create a big gaping hole.

I think my biggest reservation about flowers stemmed (no pun intended!) from not even knowing what to budget for flowers. I couldn't really find a good guide online, and since pricing ultimately depends on the stems you choose, how's a girl supposed to plan for this?

Fortunately I had a really good conversation with my florist, and I thought it would be helpful to share what I learned. Please keep in mind that these prices reflect the Chicago-area, so they're probably higher than what you'd find in a less metropolitan location.

Bridal Bouquet
Depending on the flowers, a full, lush bouquet can range from $160 - $200. If you love a certain orchid, for example, that is pricey but you must have it, compromise and have only a couple of stems within your bouquet.

Bridesmaids Bouquets
I have five bridesmaids, so to keep costs down I wasn't even going to have real floral bouquets for them - I was looking at any way I could possibly make something for them to carry. When my florist quoted $65 - $100 per bridesmaids bouquets, I nearly fell off my chair. I told her I was looking at spending $25 or $30 each. This is a great compromise - the girls will be carrying something that's more than a single stem, but not a full, overabundant bouquet. Then we can take these later and put them in vases by the guest book and escort cards.

Don't forget about having these for the groomsmen, the dads, grandfathers, and ushers. When I did my initial count of what I'd need I actually left out the groom! Figure that the groom's will be the most expensive (because he'll have the primary flower from your bouquet) and the bouttenieres overall could range anywhere from $9 - $14. To be on the lower end of that number I've found different berries (like green hypericum berries) that look very chic and also won't end up wilted by the end of the day.

The mothers and grandmothers should not be forgotten! And, of course, there are options. Wrist corsage? Pin-on? Small bouquet? My mom stated she had no opinion, but then immediately checked the wrist corsage and bouquet off the list. Pin-on corsage it is! These can range anywhere from $15-$30, with the bouquet being at the high end.

Floating Flowers/Single Stems
To keep costs down, I'm going with a single bloom per table. This can vary greatly depending on the bloom, but I'm looking at everything from cimbidium orchids to gardenias to water lilies, and it's looking like $9 - $15 per bloom. Simple and chic...yet affordable.

Toss Bouquet
This is something that we almost forgot to discuss (I was secretly hoping that it would just magically be included, ha!). For something nice and simple we're talking around $35.

Extra Costs
Don't forget to ask what else you'll be paying for. Think about sales tax, delivery fees, set up costs, special materials (like certain ribbons) that you'd like. Factoring all of these in will be important to your bottom line.

Again, everything here is subjective. But it would have been so much easier for me to sleep at night if I'd been able to put a few dollar amounts here and there on my budget. I had initially been budgeting $150 for my bouquet, which was a number a had completely chosen out of thin air. Hearing that this was actually close to reasonable to what I'll be spending, I was greatly relieved.

It's sometimes hard having these conversations because you don't want to feel "not good enough" for having to stick with you budget. Who wouldn't want to go all out?! But being very upfront about what you were expecting to pay for certain things can help you prioritize with you florist what you will and will not be able to do, and other alternatives you can consider to get "the look" for your day.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ok, I'm selfish

I just blogged about that fabulous Harry Levine black rhinestone clutch on Etsy this morning...and I snatched it up for myself! But at $16 it was too good of a deal for this budgeting bride, and look at the detail:

Source: Etsy

Fortunately, 20th Century Finds has a lot of different clutches and other vintage accessories, all at different price points. I love this white and cream clutch for $60, such sweet details:

Source: Etsy

One more thing knocked off of my list, a million and one to go.


Spotted on Etsy

I've started pondering what purse I might get for "the day." Part of me feels like it will be a little pointless. I mean, how much will I really be carrying it? And what could I possibly need that I couldn't just have my MOH (and big sis!) carry for me?

A lot of the clutches I look at look, well, bride-y. It's the same quandry I found myself in when I was looking at shoes - I feel like if I'm going to make the investment I should at least be able to use/wear/enjoy the items again if at all possible (I'm sure as the day approaches I'll be fighting tooth and nail for a reason to wear my dress again).

I love this Harry Levine clutch (circa 1950s/60s) from 20th Century Finds on Etsy:

Source: Etsy

For a mere $16.00 (yes, you heard me!) this clutch lends a little bit of sparkle and a whole lot of sophistication. A perfect addition to any black and white wedding. My fingers are itching to hit "purchase" but for now I'll keep it as a favorite and continue to drool...


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bought it on Etsy

I couldn't get through the day without starting up regular post topics - Bought it on Etsy and Spotted on Etsy posts. Over the past few months, I have fallen head over heals with It is the planning resource that I think every bride should utilize - with a network of such creative individuals and a wide variety of prices, Etsy falls within everyone's grasp.

My very first purchase on Etsy was last September. I found a pair of earrings that I just had to have, and it didn't matter that my wedding was a year away, or that I didn't even have my dress. I needed these earrings, and the details of my wedding would just have to work around them!

Emily at Precious Meshes does an amazing job on all of her work. You can see the craftsmanship that goes into each piece, and almost every piece she creates is perfectly suited for wedding jewelry, but at the same time doesn't scream wedding.

I wanted something unique and special, while keeping away from pearls (they're lovely, just not for my wedding day). These netted crystal earrings could not be more perfect - they have an amazing presence and yet they're still delicate. They sparkle. And they're made from "vintage faceted glass chandelier crystal." They could be your something old!

Source: Etsy
I was able to take them along when I bought my dress...and yes, the dress did work around my perfect pair of they were meant to find each other!

I can't wait to work with Emily in the coming months as she works to create a necklace to pair perfectly with these earrings.

While I may be slightly out of control with my Etsy shopping sprees, one thing is for wedding will definitely be handmade. And in the meantime, I'll just continue to enjoy the Etsy purchases the mailman leaves for me each and every day.


Tables for 8...But What to Decorate?

I've agonized for months over what was going to serve as centerpieces at my reception. Not having the budget for overflowing floral centerpieces (or for anything that would qualify as a "floral centerppiece") and on the flipside not wanting to simply plop a candle into a hurricane and call it a day, I've struggled. And planned. And changed my mind.

Of course, I could have used the hurricanes that my reception site actually has on hand. I'm sure they're fine. And I love a good hurricane, they can be simple but you can still dress them up. But that's just far too easy. And who wants things to be too easy leading up to their wedding day? Not this girl.

The primary elements I've wanted on my table from the beginning have been (in no particular order): candlelight, a single flower (floating or otherwise), a green element, a black container/plate/charger of some sort, and possibly a touch of damask.

I was convinced for awhile that I was going to go antiquing and find a variety of ornate black trays of some sort from antique stores. How I was going to come up with 15 of these, I don't really know...I struggled to fine even one.

Fortunately Crate & Barrel exists to save my sanity. Somehow I have managed to find almost every element that I've needed - in budget! - for my centerpieces. At least I'm hoping that's the case, I just ordered the final pieces yesterday.

Source: Crate & Barrel

Crate & Barrel "Dots" candleholder: $.95 each, 1.75 inches high. Perfect little tealight holder and makes the most beautiful design on the table when lit!

Source: Crate & Barrel

Crate & Barrel Tropical Mini Vases: $9.00 for a set of 6 vases (normally $17.70), 5 inches high. Great little vase for a single stem.

Source: Crate & Barrel

Crate & Barrel Black Square Plate: $4.95 each (normally $12.95), 10.75 inch square. Porcelain and with a glossy finish, the reflection from the tea lights should look great on these plates.

For $175 I was able to get enough of each of these items to outfit 15 tables, with candleholders and vases to spare! However, I still have to see how each of these elements work together...that's still to be determined. Hopefully by next week I'll have everything and can piece it all together. I'm not sure if the vases are going to look really cute or super awkward. And I'm not even daring to tell my florist yet that I've changed my mind completely (as we've been going back and forth on possible floating flowers). That's a conversation I'll save for later.

I've been debating using these table squares by Darling Damask on Etsy. Depending on the size, they range from $8-$10 per square, and she gives a discount for bulk orders.

Source: Etsy

I had planned on having white linens, and I don't think the damask squares look that great on white. But on black, they look cute and would at the very least add a little more visual interest to the tables. I priced it out, and if I bought the fabric myself and sewed these, it would be pretty comprable to just having her do it. Decisions, decisions! Thankfully, this one can wait as I have plenty of time before I have to actually finalize my linen choices!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Sassy Feet

On my wedding day, the shoes on my feet may only make select appearances (except for when I'm practically holding them up in the air, begging for my photographer to take some "amazing shoe shots"), but that doesn't mean they shouldn't look fabulous.

Of course, I can't really afford to be sporting some of the favorites...unfortunately "Stuart" or "Vera" will not be printed on the soles of my shoes. But there are many affordable options out there that are great renditions of their designer counterparts, most of which that run anywhere from $50-$100. I searched every site known to man (don't think I'm joking!) to find the perfect pair and came up with a few contenders:

Source: Dyeable Shoe Store
"Melissa" by Lisa Rene around $90 and dyeable to match any color I should choose.

Source: Dyeable Shoe Store
"Bianca," by Touch Ups, $49.95, sleek and sophisticated...and also dyeable.

Source: Dyeable Shoe Store
"Cerise" by Pink, $69.95, perfect heal height, great vintage feel, and dyeable.

What I have learned is that the bridal shoe market is oversaturated with white satin dyeable shoes. And there's nothing wrong with that...I have a girlfriend who bought the best pair of shoes, dyed them a pale blue and had the sweetest vintage chic looking shoes around. I absolutely drooled over them!

However. Let's say I'm going to pay, on average, $80 for these shoes. And I'm probably paying for shipping. And then I'm paying to get them dyed whatever spectacular color I choose from the rainbow of colors they'll show me. And then I'm hoping and praying and double crossing my fingers that the color comes out just as I've always imagined my bridal shoes would be. So let's say I'm at $100+ on my footwear investment, not to mention the kickin' pair of flats I'm going to buy for the reception when I start to lose feeling in my toes. So we're pushing $150 now? And I might wear the flats again, but the pretty pale vintage-styled shoes that I took the time and care to have dyed? They're going to be taking up precious real estate on my shoe rack for months while I stare at them, hoping for a reason to actually wear them outside of the house again.

After pondering this whole shoe budget/wearable debacle, I took the problem to one of my bridesmaids who would never, ever lie to me about footwear. And while she had some favorites out of the bunch I had selected, she gently told me that these just weren't me. Hmph. It's true, I have far to much fun with footwear to just grab a pair of white satin bridal shoes.

I went straight to google and started searching for "crazy bridal shoes." There had to be other brides out there like me. And voila! I came across a link for the Nine West Gohana.


(cue chorus belting out "Hallelujah") My wedding is black and white but my dress is diamond (off) white. Nine West calls these "natural." Perfect. And at $42 and some change on it's like it was destiny. $42 and I can wear them again?? And I can afford to pick up an awesome pair of flats when these my feet are undoubtably dying after dancing the YMCA? Amazingness.

I love the wedding choices that are completely about me. There's no need to make others feel good about my footwear. They don't need to weigh in on the color, the style or any other teeny tiny little detail. And even though these pretty little pumps may not get a lot of face time in the wedding album, I'll at least know that I'm strutting around with a little drama on my feet.


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