Thursday, December 30, 2010

My love-hate relationship

... with my hair.

I really like being a strawberry blonde; I think it helps to separate me from the masses of blondes and brunettes running amok in the world today (kidding... sort of).  My devotion to my hair color is not representative of my feelings toward my hair on a whole.  Specifically, I have one main beef with my locks.

Simply stated, my hair hates volume.  For realz.  I'm one of those girls who can spent 60 minutes in the bathroom, perfecting my 'do and then step outside into moderate humidity, or God forbid, a drizzle, and I'm looking at a hairstyle flatter than the Midwest.  As a result, I pretty much have two options... curled ends courtesy of a curling iron, or stick-straight hair thanks to my straightener. 
 Straight.  Duh.
(Personal photo from 2007)

Curly.  Duh.
(Personal photo from 2009)

While both have their merits, I feel like I'm constantly falling to one of those two predictable defaults.  Plus, I coat both 'dos in a ridiculous amount of hairspray to lock the style in place, resulting in a totally stuff, unnatural, unmoving look, which is less than ideal.  I want a styling process that gives me some volume, movement, and body, but without being 100% curled or 100% straight, which I had written off as impossible with my hair.  Until now.

Enter: my new best friend - ConAir thermal ionic velcro rollers (and yes, my old pals hairspray and more hairspray).  I can't say enough good things about these little doo-dads.  They manage to give me some volume and curl without looking like a pageant contestant.  Plus I feel like the finished look is polished but doesn't look overly laborious, which is always a good thing.  20 minutes in these babies and a couple coats of hairspray make me one little happy camper.

(Personal photo with my new 'do from 2010)

Don't get me wrong -- I'm definitely getting my hair done by a professional for the wedding.  Nevertheless, I still have a good number of wedding-related events that I'd like to be able to doll myself up for, like the shower and bachelorette party.  This stylistic revolution gives me hope that I can look presentable as a bride-to-be at these upcoming events!

Have you ever had a hair-styling epiphany?  Share your secrets!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dress shopping déjà vu

As I previously mentioned, my own dress shopping process wasn't exactly calm, cool, and collected.  Instead, it was more like frustrating, anxiety-provoking, and confusing.  Regardless of all of those bumps and bruises, I ended up with a dress I couldn't be happier with, so it just goes to show that an annoying process can still definitely result in a happy ending.  And all I have to say in response to that is thank gawd because it appears as though we're going through the dress ringer yet again, with BM dresses!

I ventured out into the big, bad world of Pittsburgh bridal salons with MOH H to find a BM dress, or a few BM dresses, depending on how things played out.  She was only visiting for about 36 hours, so I naturally placed a ridiculous amount of pressure on this outing, determined to finalize my choice(s) and be done with it.  And, like all good-intentioned plans, it went into the crapper pretty quickly.

First stop - we went to The Exquisite Bride, where I got my dress.  They carry a few lines of dresses that have caught my eye, plus we get a 15% discount for having a large bridal party and as a reward for purchasing my dress from that salon.  Not bad!  After MOH-H graciously tried on about 15-20 dresses, we walked away with a few contenders.  Take a peek (warning: picture barrage ahead):

 Bill Levkoff 578 - simple, but it didn't really trip my trigger.  Plus, there's a sizable bow in the back.  ::Cringe::

 Jasmine P39003K - once again, not too bad, but didn't knock my socks off.  Probably too plain for my taste.

 Bill Levkoff 532 - this was my personal fav coming into the trip, but it didn't garner a positive review from MOH H or my madre.

 Bill Levkoff 372 - MOH-H's least favorite, my Mom's favorite. 
 DaVinci 60003 - I liked this one because it was different than others, with kind of a more youthful look.  But after looking at the photo, I'm struck by how poorly it photographs.

 Bill Levkoff 528 - my personal fav of the trip, but I can't shake the thought that in 2 years, a one-shoulder BM dress will just SCREAM 2010-2011.  The horror!

We then headed to the local Alfred Angelo.  I had high hopes for this option, since it would likely be an easy option for my 'maids all over the country to visit a store, try on the dress, and get measured.  I also knew they had a set number of colors and lengths, so it would be "easy" to find that mix-and-match look I was considering with different necklines and silhouettes.  Welllll, that didn't go according to plan.  Of all the AA dresses MOH H tried on, only one was really photo-worthy.

Alfred Angelo style 7122 - cute, but probably not as a well-received as the other options from the first salon.

So, even though I was hell-bent on knocking this decision out in one day, the wedding gods have conspired against me to get me to take a step back and re-evaluate.  The good news?  Um, not too much.  I'm less convinced that I want short dresses, and I'm wavering on my commitment to satin as a material.  I'm trying to look at the positives... if I'm willing to re-consider the length and/or fabric choice, I'll open myself up to a host of new possibilities which could be a great help!  I struggled to find my own dress, so it's only fitting that I should struggle a bit to find the other dresses in the wedding, too. 

Did you walk away from your first BM dress search empty-handed?

(all photos personal.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hemlines, necklines, and fabrics, oh my!

Before I even ventured out into the big, bad world of BM dresses today, I was most definitely scared.  I had looked through a good number of dress options, and nothing had jumped out at me as the perfect choice.  I was definitely leaning toward the highly descriptive phrase of "purple and short," but beyond that, I was lost.

I grappled with a couple different options, like:

1) Everyone in the exact same dress.

Image via Martha Stewart Weddings / Photo by Melissa Musgrove

This selection seems to be a bit antiquated in today's wedding world, but it still has its merit.  Obviously, with this choice, we'd get the most consistent look across the board, and it would cut down on the thinking/analyzing/deciding that each 'maid needs to do.  The only hard part would be finding one single dress that looks nice on all 7 ladies. 

2) Same fabric, color, and hemline - each 'maid picks her silhouette and neckline.
Image via WeddingBee Boards / Dresses by Alfred Sung

This way, I'd have a good amount of control in order to achieve the overall look I'm going for, but each 'maid would have the freedom to find whatever fit is most flattering on her.  Love strapless dresses?  Fine.  Refuse to wear anything besides an A-line skirt?  Superb.  Do whatever you want, as long as it's short, purple, and made of the right fabric. 

Those are the only two real options I'm toying with as of right now, since I'm frankly not brave enough to say "Any purple dress.  Go!" and let everyone have total freedom with the dress selection.  But, even though I have the basic set-up limited to these two choices, there are about 40 other decisions that could be made regarding the BM dresses, all of which are causing me to break out in stress hives.

1) Strapless dresses - definitely the norm in the BM dress world, but not everyone's favorite.  And, dresses with a more developed neckline often look more "complete" or "tailored" to me, at least.  Yay or nay to strapless dresses?

2) One-shoulder dresses - a good mix between strapless and strapped, I suppose, but definitely a trendy look.  In 12 months, am I going to look back and hang my head in shame at the already out-of-style BM dresses that appeared in our wedding?

3) Fabric choice - it seems like most BM dresses fall into Camp Chiffon or Camp Satin, with a few stragglers in between.  Given that we're getting married in August, a light, breezy chiffon dress is a decent choice, but would that airy fabric look silly next to my dress?

So, to recap: I have it narrowed down to two scenarios, but a lot of the details are still fuzzy.  Combine that with the stated preferences of various 'maids and mothers, and there are about infinity permutations of BM dress choices.
Image via Daily Tees

Did your head spin when considering BM dresses?  How did you ultimately decide?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A little bride-to-bride advice

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, one of GG's cousins just got married.  I casually told her after the wedding that if she thinks of anything in retrospect that makes her think "Man, I wish I would have known..." or "Somebody should have told me..." that she should pass those tidbits along to me.  She's dropped a few little pieces of advice my way, like don't wear 4-inch heels on your wedding day and don't have your dress altered so tightly to your body that you don't have the room necessary to do unimportant acts like eating, drinking, and breathing.  Whenever she passed along these tidbits, I dutifully nodded and logged the advice into the recesses of my memory for later use.  However, yesterday, she gave me such a kick-ass piece of advice that I decided to act upon it immediately and share it with other brides via this blog.

One word:

This website is popular for many brides; however, I was kind of turned off and intimidated by it because I'm not exactly up to Martha Stewart standards.  I struggle to sew on a button, let alone create a beautiful masterpiece of a themed party with original recipes and hand-crafted centerpieces.  I always kind of assumed that my creativity wasn't up to snuff, making a Martha Stewart wedding out of reach for me.  I was kind of hesitant when GG's cousin started signing the praises of the Martha Stewart wedding website, but I decided to take a look.

WELL.  LET ME TELL YOU.  After about 3 minutes of poking around the site, I'm sold.  The wedding planning tools are super thorough and totally helpful.  You can import and organize your guest list, including details such as address, number attending ceremony, number attending reception, whether you sent a STD and when you sent it, what gift you received, and when you send the thank-you note, among others.  It pretty much seems like it has every aspect of guest list management covered.  The website has a bunch of other planning tools and ideas, but the guest list aspect alone is enough to inspire me to set up an account immediately. 

So, there you go.  I'm paying forward a helpful piece of wedding planning advice, given to me by a former bride-to-be.  During your planning, did you receive any especially helpful pieces of advice to assist you in your planning?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An education in DJs

After having a total spaz attack regarding the cost of the sole DJ I contacted, I made it my mission to find the best DJ bargain I could.  I scoured the internet, trying my absolute best to find someone who seemed reliable, professional, and reasonably priced.  I even made a spreadsheet in order to keep track of all the details - prices, availability, location, hours included in package, extras, etc.  Here are the three most important things I learned when hunting for a DJ online:

1) Virtually no DJs (at least the ones I looked at) post any sort of pricing information online.  They all want to lure you into the trap of talking face-to-face or over the phone before pricing even comes up.  Superbly aggravating.  I sat through a 90-minute phone presentation with a very nice DJ only to discover that her prices were almost 3 times as expensive as the previous quote I had received... and that quote had made my eyes pop out of my skull, let alone 3 times that!

2) Looking up DJs online is kind of a crapshoot.  At least with photographers, you can see their work, allowing you to decide if they are a fit or not.  With DJs, you have no real way of seeing their wedding services in action, so it can be kind of nerve-wracking.  Fortunately, I also learned that there's a pretty active DJ network, so you can get some pretty honest recommendations from people who know what it takes to be considered a good DJ.


3) Last, but not least, DJs cost a great deal more than what I expected.  I found a few super bargains, but those kind of made me wary -- why would these individuals charge so much less than their competition?  Are they cheap because they are desperate for business?  Are they desperate because they are below-average DJs?  Excluding those cheap-os, the vast majority of the quotes I received fell within a narrow range of the original quote I received.  So, after much research, it became clear that the real problem with the DJ budget wasn't the price... it was my perception of what the price realistically should be.  Once I wrapped my head around that, the entire booking process became much more palatable.

In the end, we decided to book Top Dog DJs, a Johnstown-based DJ who provided us with that fateful first quote.  I didn't have the same "OMG YES WE NEED YOU" reaction to the DJ as I did to the photographer, but that's OK.  As long as he plays some sweet jams that get people on their feet, I give him two thumbs up.

(Sidenote: this cake was featured in an episode of Glee... it was presented to the shop teacher who had successfully returned to work after an wood-working accident.  That's right... he cut off both his thumbs.)

Did any of your vendor searches end right where they began? 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We'd like to shake our groove thangs, please.

When I started mapping out what I wanted to achieve with wedding planning and when, I quickly realized that certain elements had to be top priorities: the date, the church, the reception venue, the photographer, and the music.  I wanted to move quickly on these aspects of the wedding, since I figured that most of the vendor options for these positions would only take on one wedding per date.  A florist can probably make bouquets for multiple weddings on the same Saturday, and a transportation company can book as many weddings as they have limos.  However, when you need an actual person to perform a job for you at a specific spot for a specific period of time... the "whole multiple weddings in one day" goes out the window. As I've detailed for you up to this point, we knocked out all of those big-ticket decisions, minus music, without too much of a sweat.  Let's just say that we made up for all that missing perspiration when we tackled the music issue.

First, like so many other couples in today's world, we tossed around the idea of an iPod reception.  While we liked the cost-savings and the modern twist on a DJ or a band, we weren't interested in having to troubleshoot electronics at our own wedding.  And we all know that when you really really need something to work and be stress-free, it goes completely haywire at the most inopportune moment.  To put it mildly, troubleshooting any moderately stressful situation isn't really either of our strong suits.  After about 2 seconds of thought, we said "Adios" to the iPod option.


I'd like to say that we considered a band... but that would make me a liar.  I knew that finding a band in Johnstown (or the surrounding area) that could match what we wanted in terms of skill, availability, and repertoire, would be beyond daunting.  Not to mention the fact that finding the time to get from Pittsburgh to Johnstown in order to meet the bands and see a sample performance would be a hassle and a half.  In theory, we could have explored the wedding band scene in Pittsburgh and likely had more success.  But, that solution still requires a lot of work, and probably more money, than GG or I were interested in expending.  A band wasn't ever really an option, so once the iPod got the axe, we went off in search of our DJ.

All we really wanted out of our reception entertainment was someone to help direct the flow of events at the reception, play good music that would get the dance floor packed, and pretty much fade into the background beyond those expectations.  I wasn't interested in hiring someone who's looking to bust into show-biz and using the wedding industry as a launch pad for his comedy career.  Or his karaoke career.  Those were my basic requirements, so I expected to knock this decision out in a few short phone calls.  I contacted the only DJ I had ever seen at a Johnstown wedding, waited patiently for the quote, and then pooped my pants after seeing the cost of his services.  Suffice it to say, it was more than I had anticipated spending on the DJ, period.  Unhappily, I went back to the internet to hopefully track down someone who could perform professionally without charging what I considered to be too much.

Stay tuned to learn more about my education in wedding DJs! 

How did you decide on iPod, band, or DJ?

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's all about compromise

I love weddings, which  is nothing new.  I've been hooked upon every form of wedding-related media since as long as I can remember.  I used to long for sick days and vacations from school so I could watch A Wedding Story on TLC.  I would scan every page of every bridal magazine I could get my hands on, even though most of the pages are the exact same, month to month.  Pretty much anything that had "bride" or "wedding" in the title was on my radar instantaneously.

As a consequence, some of my ideas about weddings in general were firmly developed before I even had a boyfriend, let alone a fiance.  I guess all my years of wedding obsessions have helped me to become a bit stubborn decisive about what I think a wedding should include.  But then, something weird happened... it turns out I'm only 50% of the key players involved in the wedding.  Bizarre.

 Image via Love Happy Bunny / Artwork by Jim Benton

Even though Mr. Snow Cone has fewer wedding-research hours under his belt, he, too, has opinions on weddings.  I just kind of assumed that he'd be along for the ride, interested in being told what to wear, where to stand, and what to say.  The end.  I guess they were right when they said that if you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.

See, here's what happened.  One of my firmly held opinions about weddings is that the bride and the groom exchange presents on the morning of the wedding day.  Usually the bridal attendants deliver the gift, resulting in an emotional moment where the bridesmaids end up fanning the bride's face in order to prevent her make-up from running.  I always kind of figured that these gifts would be pretty substantial, since you only get the opportunity to exchange wedding presents once... a nice piece of jewelry, a coveted new electronic, and so on.  

Mr. Snow Cone, on the other hand, is far more practical.  The real deal is that we're both still fresh out of college.  I'm doing my best to accrue as much student loan debt as possible, while we're starting the long road of saving up for a house, or a car, or, dare I even say it, kids.  In the nearer future, we also have to fork over some serious moolah for our wedding rings and the honeymoon.  Practically speaking, blowing a couple hundred dollars on each other just for cuteness's sake is kind of asking a lot... and Mr. Snow Cone felt quite strongly about that.  I'll admit, I was majorly hesitant to accept this train of thought.  I kind of felt like this:

I wanted to have cute pictures of me being surprised and emotional when I got my wedding day gift.  I wanted to stress about getting Mr. Snow Cone the absolute perfect thing to commemorate our wedding day.  I wanted to have something relatively permanent that would always remind me of that specific day.  But Mr. Snow Cone held firm about the reality of the situation, and he also shrewdly pointed out that our wedding bands would be permanent reminders of the wedding day.  Stupid fiancé and his stupid maturity with his stupid good points.  
As much as I wanted the Kodak moment of getting a gift, I also wanted to have a smidge of money to start our married lives.  I came around, and just like that, Mr. Snow Cone and I had decided that we weren't exchanging wedding day gifts.  I'll admit that for the months immediately following this decision, I was still a wee bit bummed.  However, now that we're getting closer to W-day and my bank account is feeling the burn of some other wedding-related expenses, I begrudgingly note exactly how right Mr. Snow Cone was, from a financial standpoint.  
How did your groom's vote change one of your wedding assumptions?  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A huge sigh of relief

When we booked our wedding photographer (the amazing Christina Garber), I was completely excited to have that part of the planning behind us.  With one minor hiccup -- we had never laid eyes on the woman!  I booked her after looking at her website and some pretty lengthy email correspondences, but never once had we met face-to-face or even chatted over the phone.  Don't get me wrong - I wanted to do the traditional meet-up and look over portfolios, but it just wasn't feasible.  We were in Pittsburgh, she was 2-ish hours away in Altoona, Pennsylvania.  I wasn't willing to wait until after a meeting, and run the risk of her getting snatched up by someone else, so I decided to forget the meeting and put down a deposit ASAP.

Fortunately, Christina offers a engagement shoot as part of her wedding day package.  I was smitten with this from the get-go for a few reasons: it would give us a chance to actually meet each other before W-day, we could see how she interacts with us while shooting, we could see how we interact with her while shooting, and we would (hopefully) get some pretty sweet professional pictures out of the whole process.  Not a bad deal.  Mr. Snow Cone and I decided we wanted to take our engagement pictures in the fall, for one main reason.  Pretty much all of Western PA looks like this during the autumn:


It's super amazing, and definitely one of my favorite parts of living in Pennsylvania.  Christina was totally on-board with an outdoor autumn photo shoot, so the plans were set.  We all met in a teeny tiny town called Loretto, shooting at Charles Schwab's former summer home near St. Francis University.  Mr. Snow Cone and I were both a bit nervous about how it would all go, since we had no idea what to really expect from Christina.  WELL.  She kind of rocked our world.  She was totally relaxed behind the camera, offering us some suggestions for poses and backdrops without being pushy.  She kept us laughing the whole way through the shoot, and both Mr. Snow Cone and I ended up feeling really relaxed and comfortable during the entire thing, which undoubtedly helped with the quality of pictures we received.  Without further ado, here are some of the best of the best:

All photos above by Christina Garber

Despite our initial anxiety, we were both quite pleased with our selection.  As we were driving back to Pittsburgh after the shoot, Mr. Snow Cone said everything I have ever wanted to hear in respect to wedding planning: "Well, Miss Snow Cone, your due diligence definitely paid off.  She's awesome."  The best part?  Christina got all the photos to us in less than a week, which was a much faster turnaround than I had ever expected.  I am so excited to see what she images she manages to capture on our wedding day...!!!

Did you book any vendors based on internet research alone?  Were you pleased by the results?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lana Turner had it right

... when she said, "I would rather lose a good earring than be caught without make-up."  

I'm in make-up limbo.  I have a good amount of experience with make-up application, stemming from my reliance on it through high school and college.  As a result, I think my make-up skills are good, but I wouldn't go so far as to say they're great or wedding-worthy.  At the same time, Johnstown isn't exactly swimming with professional make-up artists.  I want to look as amazing as possible (duh), but this is a problem with no clear solution.  After some thought, I've come up with three possible options to address this make-up limbo dilemma.

Option A -- Get a professional to do the job -- a relatively easy solution, minus the fact that I would likely have to pay for a trial, pay for the actual wedding day job, and hoof it 25 minutes out to the department store to get it done on the morning of the wedding day (we don't have a Sephora or anything like that in Johnstown).  I've only had my make-up done in-store once, for my senior prom:

Personal Photo of the Snow Cones, 2006

I liked it well enough for the day, but overall, I wasn't totally impressed that the end result was infinitely better than what I could have done on my own.  I'm kind of hesitant to go down that road for the wedding for that reason.

Option B -- Go to a make-up store here in Pittsburgh and ask for step-by-step education on formal make-up.  Ideally, I'd let the make-up artist do her thing and watch closely in the hopes that I could re-create it myself.  This would hopefully save on some money, even though I'd end up buying a good number of the products used by the artist to ensure as close of a match as possible.  Makes me a little nervous, though, that the final product would be entirely in my hands.

Option C -- Suck it up and do it myself.  I'd probably go through a good number of trials on my own, experimenting with colors, contours, and all that stuff.  I figure that in today's day and age, I can surely find some sweet YouTube tutorials to help me bump my skills from average to passable for wedding day makeup.  I did my own makeup for our engagement pictures:

... and I was pleased enough with the outcome.  With that being said, those were engagement pictures, which are supposed to look natural, casual, like an every-day version of yourself (at least that's my opinion).  Weddings on the other hand, are when you're supposed to look like the most beautiful, glammed up version of yourself that you can, without looking like a drag queen, that is.  I also did my own make-up for my senior commencement ball, which I consider to be the apex of my glam make-up skills:

Personal Photo with the lovely BM E and BM B.

Now all I need to do is pick a plan of attack and make it all happen, I suppose.  No biggie.

Did you have a make-up conundrum?  How did you end up sorting it all out? 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

If the shoe fits...

 Like I mentioned before, one of the reasons I'm holding off from trying on my dress is that I don't have any of the accessories that transform you from a girl in a white dress into a bride.  This realization kind of hit me like a ton of bricks - I figured once I got the dress squared away, 99% of the work in creating a bridal look was done.  I guess I was sort of resting on my laurels for the past few months, patting myself on the back for finding a dress so early in the planning process.  However, now I really need to kick it into gear and start planning what I want to look like on my wedding day.  Sure, I have the dress, but what about a veil?  Some jewelry?  Makeup?  Hair?  Nails?  Shoes?  Obviously I am not 99% of the way done with creating my look, as I had previously assumed.  Buzz kill.

With that being said, I've spent some time over the past few days thinking about and looking into shoe options.  Before sharing my ideas and inspiration with you, I think it's important that you get some necessary back-story:  I'm about 5'6" and Mr. Snow Cone is about 5'9".  I'm not a huge fan of being taller than him (I guess I'm a traditionalist at heart), so I very rarely wear heels... usually just on specific occasions or if I'm trying to look extra-polished or dressy.  Both Mr. Snow Cone and I like the look of heels, but only from the knee down, so to speak.  Check out a quick glimpse at our engagement pictures where we managed to sneak in heels without throwing off the whole height thing:

(I wore flats for the rest of the pics)

Because I'm not a high-heel type of gal, when I do wear them, it's usually not a pretty sight.  My feet are usually crying out in agony, with my little piggies all squished to high heaven and the arches of my feet feel like I'm walking on nails.  I'm getting better, bit by bit, but they still are like attractive little death traps for your feet.  So, to recap, I don't like my height in heels, I don't like the way my feel feel in heels, and I don't have a lot of experience with heels.  Obviously they would be the best bet for my mega-marathon of a wedding day, right?  Despite my reservations, there's something undeniably bridal about high heels, not to mention how adorable some of the options out there are.  I decided to buck up, fight my high-heel anxiety, and look into some shoes with modest heel height to counteract the height and discomfort issues.  Here's my front-runner:

Shoes available at / Shoes by Nina (Culver)

I like the low but still identifiable heel, the satiny wrap effect (which should complement my dress nicely), the fact that these shoes come in many colors so I could go traditional or modern in my hue selection, the peep-toe to take advantage of the August warmth, and the extremely manageable price of about $60, give or take.  I had unofficially decided that these would definitely work "well enough" to be my wedding shoes, and I wasn't terribly interested in looking elsewhere, unless these heels turned out to be so uncomfortable they give my feet PTSD or something.  I was all set to try these on in-store and be done with it, until I actually decided to bring up the topic to Mr. Snow Cone.

Simply put, He isn't interested in having a bride who's taller than him (or even close to being mistaken as taller) on his wedding day.  He doesn't want to have to worry about craning upward in every picture to snag every extra fraction of an inch he can get.  He doesn't want my feet to hurt at all over the course of the day, given that we'll be on our feet for probably upwards of 12 hours when all is said and done.  And, he said kindly but bluntly, he likely won't see my feet for more than about 30 seconds here and there, so he's not terribly invested in what my shoe actually looks like.  His vote?  Flats.  

Without a doubt, I agree with him on pretty much all fronts.  I want to be comfortable and I don't want to have to find a way to gracefully try to slouch in pictures to make the height differential be noticeable (OK, all this height talk I know sounds weird, but both Mr. Snow Cone and I agree on what we want our pictures to look like, so we're just going to roll with it.  Judge away, if you please.)  But I'm not really sure if flats seem "bridal" enough to me.  

Did you decide on flats for your wedding?  Have any suggestions as to where to look for ideas?

Monday, December 13, 2010

In search of my dress-tiny: an unexpected coda!

After finally finding the right dress, I figured wedding dress thoughts were behind me, at least until May, when my dress was expected to be delivered to the salon.  Apparently "Memorial Day" is actually secret bridal salon code for "First week of December."  Who knew?  Either way, I don't mind... my dress is in!!  It's pretty much taking all of my strength to not hop into the car and drive right over to the store to visit it.  I keep reminding myself of the following reasons why I should not go over and have a date with my dress:

1) Mr. Snow Cone and I only have one car, which he uses to get to work.  I don't really think trekking 25 minutes outside of the city via the bus system is even possible... and if it is, I'm sure it's not something I'm interested in doing.

2) I have a gut feeling that once I make that first visit, I'm going to be hard-pressed to not go back AFAP... you know, as frequently as possible.

3) I don't have a single accessory picked out, and I'm kinda interested in doing one, huge bridal reveal at some point in time.  Me, in a room, by myself, in the dress, with no shoes, jewelry, or veil isn't quite the reveal I have in mind.

So, I'm going to play hard to get for a little bit.  I figure it's only fair since that little bugger played pretty friggin' hard to get with me, too.  Take that, wedding dress (just kidding I still love you)!

In other dress-related news, you can imagine my squeal of delight upon discovering that my wedding dress was making an appearance on my favorite show, Glee!!  Here's a glimpse:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The best thing you can do while engaged...

... is go to another person's wedding.  I'm not saying to bust into a random church on any given Saturday, hoping to crash an unsuspecting couple's ceremony and then follow them to their reception.  Although that could be kind of fun.
Image via My Movie Banners
No, I'm saying that if you have a friend or family member getting married during your engagement, you've pretty much hit the wedding planning jackpot.

Recently, Mr. Snow Cone and I had the good fortune to attend his cousin's wedding here in Pittsburgh.  Aside from being a rockin' good time, it was a fantastic exercise in wedding planning and observation.  You can watch all the wedding shows you want, but there's definitely something to be said for going to a wedding in person -- you get the chance to see all the details come together in a total package, no reality TV editing or splicing, and if you know either of the bride or the groom (which, come on, you should, since you're at their wedding and everything), over the past few months, you likely got an insider's glimpse into what it took to pull off all those details in the main event.

I was pretty much set on scoping out every possible detail during the ceremony and reception, eagerly donning my "bride-to-be" glasses.  I guess you could say I was attending this wedding partially as a guest and partially as a researcher.  The entire day, I was kind of keeping a running tally of three mental lists: yes, no, and maybe.  The best part of the whole day?  Mr. Snow Cone had no problem talking weddings.  Instead of me bombarding him with all of these different websites and ideas that he's never seen in person before, we could legitimately discuss how we both felt about one specific detail, like a table runner, that was sitting a mere 6 inches in front of us.  I think it also helped both of us (especially him) to see not just a table runner, but how the table runner looked with the centerpieces and the place settings on each individual table and how they added to the look of the room on a whole.  We both were seeing things with a fresh set of eyes, for sure.

Mr. Snow Cone and I at the hotel between ceremony & reception

Mr. Snow Cone and I are wedding newbies, too, having hardly attended any beyond the age of diapers.  So, this wedding was an awesome opportunity for us to witness how a wedding reception can flow from focus area to focus area, like dinner to toasts to father-daughter dance.  It was also fun to see how his side of the family does the whole wedding thing... their traditions, their favorite parts, their feedback, and, maybe most importantly of all, their excitement to hit the dance floor!  This wedding gave me a chance to see weddings from the future in-law family's perspective, and I think that's going to be very influential in the rest of my planning... I now know what trips that family's wedding trigger, so I'll be making every effort to include those own elements in our wedding, too.

Mr. Snow Cone's entire extended family at the wedding.  Can you find me?

All in all, this whole event definitely opened up some good channels of communication about the wedding on a whole, and we were able to do some really focused research to determine what we want for our own celebration.  So get out there and pressure your own friends and family to get engaged ASAP so they can serve as a good (or bad!) role model wedding for you!

Image via The Adventure of a Lifetime: Probably a bad wedding to use as a role model.

Did you ever attend a wedding as part-researcher, part-guest?  Pick up any good ideas or tips?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Punch in the stomach time!

I have a handy-dandy iPhone app that counts down to big events.  Once those events pass, the app keeps on counting, so you know how many days have passed since the event.  So far, I've only used this app to keep me extra-excited about stuff on the horizon... x number of days until my birthday, y number of days until Christmas, etc.  And, of course, as soon as we set a wedding date, I punched it in so I know precisely how many days I have until W-day.  To help pass the time one day at the bus stop, I punched in our engagement day, too, since I was curious as to exactly how long ago it happened.

What's my point with all of this iPhone countdown rambling?  Easy.  Today, the number of days that have passed since GG proposed is the same as the number of days remaining until we get married.  AKA WE'RE HALFWAY THROUGH THE ENGAGEMENT.  Like the title says, this revelation kind of punched me in the stomach.  I feel somewhat like my old friend Calvin:

I mean, I'm going through a complete traffic jam of emotions right here.  I'm utterly panicked at the work remaining to be done, and I'm disappointed in the measly number of things I've managed to accomplish during the first 50% of the engagement.  Sure, I'm relatively on track with all of the various wedding to-do lists I've seen, but I still feel like I can count on one hand the number of things I've been able to check off the mega wedding to-do list.  Aside from having something to wear, some place to get married, some place to celebrate being married, some time to get married, and someone to get married to, I got a whole lotta nothing. 

On the other hand, this realization that we're halfway to the wedding is kind of bittersweet.  Never again in my life will I be someone's fiance.  Never again in my life will I wear an engagement ring and only an engagement ring.  This chapter of life's journey is really limited, to say the least.  And now that it's 50% done, I feel kind of glum, like I haven't been enjoying it to its fullest.  Maybe I've been stressing too much over details and not taking the time to appreciate exactly how special this time is.  That's it.  My "new half of the engagement" resolution is to step back every once in a while and enjoy the present, because I'm halfway to wife-dom, never to return to fiance-land again!

On the other, other hand (you know, that 3rd hand every one has), I'm really, really excited.  I'm excited to have the stress of planning be done.  I'm excited to have a huge, rockin' party with everyone I love and cherish.  I'm excited to marry GG after almost 9 years together.  So. Much. Excitement.

So, like I said... traffic jam of emotions.  But, regardless of what I'm thinking or not thinking, feeling or not feeling... time marches on, and the wedding gets closer day by day.  I feel like the engagement was a blink and a half ago, and here we are, at the halfway point of the engagement.  God only knows how much of a blur these next 8 months will be!

Did you have any timing revelations that knocked you back on your heels and gave you a chance to reassess planning and your own emotions?  Tell me I'm not alone!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Our phab photographer phind!

(I'd just like to quickly point out that I know that "finding" (used in my last photographer title), "fab," and "find" all start with F.  I just thought I would be clever by making them start with ph... like in "photographer.")

Last I wrote about photographers, we were striking out hard core.  Nothing was tripping my trigger... there was a lot of "um... close, I guess" or "I guess that would probably be OK" but no "OMG BOOK THAT PERSON RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT."  I was sure that by the time we found a winner, that lovely photographer would be totally booked up for our date, leaving us with no other option than to request all of our guests take copious pictures with their cell phone cameras.  I was pretty much a millisecond away from a complete nuclear meltdown at any given moment.  I definitely would have earned the right to don this beaut of a sweatshirt.

Thankfully, I then had a nice little present fall into my lap: free time.  GG was going on vacation with his family and I had some time off work, so I decided to head home and get a reprieve from wedding planning.  Minus the fact that I'm not a reprieve type of person.  My coping skills consist of battering a problem until the issue and/or myself are bloodied and bruised.  I don't exactly subscribe to the belief that taking a step back from a problem can help.  Instead, I take about 20,000 steps RIGHT AT THE FRIGGIN' PROBLEM until I prove the victor... as painful as that process can be.

So, let's recap.  I'm in a photographer dilemma, in that I have no photographer.  I have hours of free time at home.  I have my laptop.  I'm pretty sure you can see where this is going...

That's right.  I cemented my tush to the computer chair and pretty much refused to vacate my seat until I had found a real possibility for our wedding photographer.  I Googled wedding photographers in every city pretty much within a 2 hours radius of Johnstown.  I'd done this before, but I was hoping maybe I'd missed a clutch website.  Greensburg, Latrobe, Ligonier, Pittsburgh, Murrysville... nope.  Still nothing.  And then I realized that I had missed something... an entire geographic region!  You see, I'd been so focused on working west toward Pittsburgh that I totally forgot about some of the mid-sized cities to the northeast!  Despite this discovery, I wasn't terribly optimistic.  I'd been let down by so many searches before, why on earth would I expect this one to be any different?

UM, BECAUSE IT WAS.  IT WAS WAY DIFFERENT.  I Googled "Altoona wedding photographer" and got a handful of promising leads, which was definitely a step in the right direction.  I was poking around a website or two, about to go back to Google and try again, when one website caught my eye.  I was hooked.  I was smitten.  And, most importantly, I was done.  I knew within about .00001 seconds of looking at the lovely Christina Garber's website that she was my wedding photographer.  What do I mean?  Exhibit A:

I kid you not, these three photos sealed the deal for me.  I loved how they were candid, but natural.  They captured the emotions of the "getting ready" process AND they have my beloved blurry background!  I spent the next chunk of minutes looking through all of her pictures and reading her bio.  It turns out she only does wedding photography... no pet portraits, no senior pictures, nada.  I took this to be a good sign.  Clearly she must love photographing weddings if she has specialized in this specific type of photography!!  

The cherries on top kept coming... when describing her pricing and packages, her website reads: 

"I remember being engaged.  I remember the endless choices I had to make.  I remember having to agonize over the details of package after package.
What I eventually chose was the simple option.  Someone gave me one price for their time and the negatives.
So here is my SOLE wedding package.  Why just one?  Because I like simple and I assume there are other people out there that like simple too : )"

UM, HELLO?  A vendor making it easy, looking out for the bride's stress level?  I am in love.  I immediately emailed her, and she replied super-promptly.  Even though I was already 100000% sold on her, her response email was utter perfection.  I had asked her about her availability, and she responded by congratulating me on my engagement and telling me how much she loves marriage and weddings in general, and oh, by the way... she's available that day.  The whole business side of things was of secondary importance.  She totally connected with me on a human-to-human level, instead of the vendor-to-cash cow level I had experienced so frequently prior to this point.  I seriously wanted to dance through the streets, bellowing about my new-found joy, a la Buddy the Elf:

I showed GG and my mom the website ASAP and they were both on-board.  And just like that, we had ourselves a photographer!!

Congratulations on reaching the end of this marathon-post... what can I say?  I get a bit long-winded when I'm excited!  I had a hard time getting images to transfer from Christina's website to the blog, so GO HERE to look at some more!!

Did you have any vendor searches that transformed from frustration to ecstasy really quickly?