Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Table for two, please.

Back in my pre-engaged days, I came across a wedding concept that was new to me - the sweetheart table.  Admittedly, at first, I thought this was quite an idiotic idea.  Why would you gather all your friends and family up in one place and then proceed to seclude just yourself and the groom in a special, almost off-limits dining zone?  It just didn't click.  However, now that we're getting closer to W-Day, I've definitely changed my tune.  And here's why.

We have a pretty extensive bridal party - 7 on each side.  With that size, I wasn't enamored with most conventional head table set-ups.  If we do one long table, it will be one long table.  I want our bridal party members to have a fun reception, and plopped down at the no-man's-land end of the long head table isn't my idea of fun.  You don't get to see or talk to that many other people without leaving your seat, plus you're facing the entire crowd of guests, meaning they can watch you eat.  And that's just creepy to me.

Another popular option is a U-shaped head table.  This helps to make the whole bridal party crowd feel a bit more connected, since at least you can put your eyes on everyone else without craning around, but it's not a realistic option for us.  It still makes having lively conversation a bit difficult, plus, a large, U-shaped table isn't a very effective use of space in our reception venue.  

In addition to the logistical and space issues a head table would present, it doesn't really allow for any private time between the bride and the groom.  I've repeatedly read and heard that the day goes by in an instant and many people regret not taking some moments here and there to just be with their new spouse.  I was really enchanted with the idea of having a few (relatively) private moments with Mr. Snow Cone as we enjoy our reception dinner.  Between my desire for some quality time with the new hubby and my lack of dedication to a traditional head table, it was decided - we're having a sweetheart table.

I'm really excited about this decision.  We get to have the best of both worlds, as we'll be one-on-one at our own table through the meal, but our bridal party members will be seated at tables immediately flanking our sweetheart table.  This entire set-up just seems more relaxed and at ease, which sounds pretty perfect for a way to unwind after a busy beginning to our wedding day.

To whet your sweetheart table appetite, here are a few photos to show off exactly how cute a table for two can be:

Image via WeddingBee Boards
Image via Wedding Paper Divas 
Image via Etsy / Photo by Orange Girl Photographs / Banner by Etsy seller FunkyShique
Image via Wedding Window
/ Photo & Design by Designs by Hemingway 
See?  Totally adorable!

What are your thoughts on a sweetheart table?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nuptial Nightmares

It's not uncommon for a source of stress in your life to sneak its way into your dreams.  As a result, there are multiple stories about brides having wedding-related nightmares.  Don't believe me?  Click here, here, or here for some examples.  I had a particularly vivid one a while back about pinning on my veil about shuffling into the church in front of all my seated guests (as opposed to having a big, dramatic entrance), pinning on my veil about .0001 seconds before I was supposed to walk down the aisle, and then looking incredulously at my father while he did a combo sprint & skip toward the altar.  From what I've read and experienced, usually these dreams, like most others, are about 99% ridiculous and 1% realistic.  You know that it's silly and certainly not a reflection of your upcoming reality, but that 1% of realism won't leave you alone.  You get more stressed and anxious about silly details that were previously off your radar (like making time in the day BEFORE the processional to get your veil situated), and end up having more dreams spurred on by these crazy, borderline irrational fears.  It's an ugly, ugly cycle.

But, there's good news!  It turns out that wedding dreams are not exclusively the property of the worrying bride... wedding stress creeps into the subconscious of other wedding folk!  Last week, GG mentioned that he'd had a wedding nightmare.  In his bizarro-wedding-world, it was the night before the wedding and the suits were nowhere to be found.  He and all his dudes had nothing to wear, and as he put it, "it was LATE the night before the wedding... it was bad."  More recently, BM K tossed her hat into the dream ring when she told me that, in her dream, she lolly-gagged her way over to my house on the morning of the wedding but had actually forgotten it was the wedding day.  She thought she was coming over for some quality gal pal time, when I abruptly informed her I had other plans for the day; namely, getting married.  Cue bridesmaid dream panic attack.

The reality is that weddings come with a good bit of stress.  There are people to please, decisions to be made, finances to be managed, not to mention the emotional significance of what's really going on.  As GG said earlier today, "This whole thing is kind of sneaking up on us.  It's getting... real."  Well said, GG, well said.  I know my patience is growing thinner and my nerves are a bit more frayed, but I'm really trying to keep my cool, stay on top of the planning, and avoid any more stressful dreams regarding wedding planning.  At the end of the day, I'd like to enter my marriage with a morsel of sanity, if at all possible.

Have you had any wedding nightmares?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Where marriage advice and sports collide

After evaluating our guest book options, we were at an impasse.  We liked the idea of having something that we could display in our home after the wedding, but we also liked the idea of having a guest book that would allow our friends and family to leave us more personalized messages than just a signature.  Instead of picking one over the other, we just decided to do both options!

For our decor item, as per Mr. Snow Cone's suggestion, we're incorporating our college sports teams.  We're planning to have a Notre Dame football and a Pitt basketball available for our guests to sign.

Image via Amazon

Although this idea never crossed my mind in my preliminary brainstorming, I think it's a pretty darned good option for us.  We both bleed blue and gold, as they say... just for different teams.  By using the football and basketball, we get to show off our school pride, personalize a small touch of the entire wedding day, and walk away with a cool piece of sports+wedding memorabilia to be displayed for years to come.  Admittedly, Pitt and Notre Dame are pretty big rivals; however, as Mr. Snow Cone put it, because we're highlighting different sports, it works out OK... there's no direct competition going on here.

The second phase of our wedding guest book will consist of index cards available for our guests to write personal messages to us.  Ideally, these messages will consist of a combination of marriage advice, predictions, and well-wishes.  We're planning to have a small stack of cards and some pens at each reception table so our guests can fill them out during the dinner portion, while time and sobriety are hopefully abounding. I'm looking forward to having some personal notes from our loved ones that we can store and hold onto for our years of marital bliss.

Above 2 images via WeddingBee

What are you using for your guest book?  Are you taking a traditional approach, or something more modern?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Getting our toss on

It seems like there's so much emphasis in today's wedding world to personalize your wedding, making it totally custom, unique, individual, and so on.  Brides today are encouraged to take tradition and turn it on its head, whether it be dogs serving as ring bearers, friends serving as officiants, a breakfast-themed reception menu, or an underwater wedding ceremony.

Image via The Bahamas Weekly / Photo by Tim Aylen

That's all fine and dandy, and I've fallen into the "ohmigoodness must personalize" wedding mentality on more than one occasion.  However, I do think there's something to be said for traditions being maintained in their expected manner.  They're traditions for some reason or another, meaning a decent enough group of people over a handful of generations deemed them to be worthwhile practices for a wedding.  This isn't some fly-by-night, crazy, off-the-wall idea that you're incorporating into your big day... it's a practice that links you with many weddings of the past as well as many weddings of the future.  

All this soapbox-preaching has a point, I promise.  Mr. Snow Cone and I are doing our best to infuse personalized details into the entire wedding day, but we're still, at the heart of things, some pretty traditional folk.  We like familiarity, which is probably why we watch the same episodes of Friends and The West Wing over and over and over again.  We want our wedding to be personal but still comfortable and familiar for both us and our guests, which is why we've decided to pursue the traditional route and toss the bouquet and garter.

We're the first of our friends to get married, so I'm optimistic that our younger, unmarried guests haven't been to so many weddings to grow weary of this tradition.  The way I see it is that you only have one day in your life when you can actually toss your bouquet and your garter.  It seems kind of silly to me to throw that one opportunity away just because some people see this tradition as annoying, outdated, or just plain icky.  Mr. Snow Cone and I want our wedding to be fun, personal, and traditional.  We want the memory of all of our high school and college friends gathering up for the respective tosses.  We (or at least I) want the fun photos that go with the tosses. 
Image via Luster Studios

Really, truly, the decision to have the traditional tosses was an easy one for us.  But don't worry, we've already agreed to work out a signal for the DJ in case the thought of the garter-catcher placing his new trophy on the bouquet-catcher is just too awkward (think: relatives and/or cringe-worthy age gap).  We want tradition, not sheer mortification for everyone in the room.

Are you doing the tosses at your reception?  Why or why not?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Neil Diamond shakes it like a Polaroid picture

Right now, we're kind of in that awkward in-between wedding planning phase.  The bulk of what's left to be done is detail-oriented, so it's easy to push it off and deal with it at a later point in time.  We're also a few weeks out from another wedding planning extravaganza weekend in Johnstown, so there's little impetus to figure out exactly what needs to be on the agenda for this series of vendor meetings.  As a consequence, little planning has been done, but a great deal of thinking has been done. Specifically, I've been mentally tabulating some "must play" songs for our reception. 

For a good number of years now, I've had three songs that always put a smile on my face and make me want to dance.  It seems like nothing more than common sense that these three should work their way into our wedding reception song list.

Song 1: "Hey Ya" by Outkast - I have a firm belief that it's impossible to NOT sing along and "shake it like a Polaroid picture" when this song comes on.

Song 2: "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen - I heard this song for the first time at the end of my brother's wedding reception and it quickly became a personal favorite.  Every single time I hear it, I immediately remember the pure fun in the room at the reception, and I definitely want a similar memory at my own wedding.

Song 3: "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" by Whitney Houston - Who doesn't want to dance with somebody when this 80s jam comes on?  The dramatic key change in the middle of the song gets me every time.  Love me some Whitney.

Now, I know what you're probably thinking.  These are 3 of my favorite times, but what about GG?  Shouldn't he get a say in the reception music, too? 

So far, the only song that is a complete and total, undeniable, MUST have is Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline."

Aside from being an awesome song that everyone enjoys, it's also kind of a big deal here in Pittsburgh.  During every home football game, at the start of the 4th quarter, the stadium plays "Sweet Caroline" and thousands upon thousands of Pitt fans link arms, sing along, and just get pretty amped in general.  When the song gets played at Heinz Field, the traditional "bum bum bummm" gets heartily replaced by a "Let's Go Pitt!"  GG loves Pitt sports, and there will be a sizeable Pitt contingent at the wedding, so I'm more than certain that some raucous "Let's Go Pitt!" cheers will be booming through our reception space that evening.

I figure that these four songs, among others, should get the dance floor pretty packed, which is exactly what I want to see on that night.

What are some songs on your "must play" list for your reception?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lazy or considerate? You decide.

After an exhaustive and exhausting search for BM dresses, I came to the following conclusion: with seven bridesmaids, it's next to impossible to find one singular selection of anything that appeases and pleases all seven of them.  Each girl has her own personality, style, preferences,  and comfort levels, making the task of putting together an outfit for all seven of them to wear quite the tall order.  I felt such immense relief once we finally picked a BM dress that I couldn't really muster up the strength to go through the BM ringer once again, seeking the perfect accessories.  I gagged at the thought of sending and receiving dozens of emails, all containing various votes and preferences for the umpteen permutations of options, never knowing if some people were being problematically honest while others were politely but unhelpfully biting their tongues.  Nope.  I'm not going to do it and you can't make me.

Image via Science Notes / Image from I Can Has Cheezburger

I decided to do what any mature, rational bride would do: force others into making the decision for me delegate.  I didn't see much point in scouring the internet to find some affordable/realistic/stylish/well-liked accessories for all seven girls.  So, I washed my hands of this responsibility.  I told all of my BMs that they were officially empowered to find their own accessories.  I gave them a few guidelines, though, being the control freak that I occasionally am.  As for the shoes, the 'maids are supposed to pick black, preferably open-toe, and nothing that makes a nasty flip-flop flip-flop noise as they walk.  With the jewelry, I am requesting pearls.  However, the pearls can be white, gray, green, or purple (our wedding color palette), and they can be as simplistic, quirky, classic, funky, delicate, or chunky as the 'maids want.  The jewelry can also contain other stones or gemstones, as long as pearls are definitely in the mix. 

Overall, I'm pretty content with the decision to hand off these choices to my seven lady friends.  They have a pretty wide range in heights, so I didn't want to force anyone into a shoe that was too short or too tall for her comfort zone. My ultimate goal is that this gives the BMs an opportunity to re-use some nice pieces they already own, or to purchase some staples they may want to add to their wardrobe, like a great pair of black pumps.  They each have great style, but in very different ways, so I'm confident that they'll use this task as a way of adding a touch of individuality to the clone world of bridesmaid-dom. 
Worst cloning EVER. Image via Wedding Pipe

If I were a BM in my own wedding, here are some choices I'd be seriously considering.

Necklace from J. C. Penney ($17.99)

Necklace from Kohl's ($52)
 Necklace from Amazon ($39.99)
 Nina Criana - Available at Zappos ($79.95)
Stuart Weitzman Gigiritz - Available at Zappos ($298)
RSVP Angela - Available at Zappos ($49.94)

... but that's just me and my personal style.
How are you approaching the BM accessory situation?  Shooting for uniformity or individuality?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Picture perfect in our own backyard

Like many couples getting married in a Catholic wedding, we have a "Catholic gap" on our hands.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term, let me break it down for you.  Our wedding is slated to begin in the early afternoon (1:00), but our cocktail hour doesn't start until 5:00.  Even with a lengthy ceremony, receiving line, and photos at the church, we still have a decent amount of time on our hands before we can kick off the reception festivities.  Some other couples facing a Catholic gap may utilize that down-time to travel from ceremony to reception site, especially if the two locations are a hefty distance from each other.  That's not really the case for us.

 Map made on Google Maps

Our ceremony site is all of a 4-minute drive from our reception site.  Not really helping us to fill that Catholic gap, now, is it?

Fortunately, having all of this time to fill provides us with ample opportunities to get some nice formal pictures taken between ceremony and reception.  And, best of all, two of Johnstown's most popular wedding photo spots happen to fall pretty much directly in that 4-minute route from the church to the country club!  What could be easier?

Spot #1: The Inclined Plane
Many people probably don't know this, but Johnstown is home to the world's steepest vehicular inclined plane... it's kind of the city's claim to fame. 

Johnstown may not be the biggest city in the world, but it is pretty picturesque from an aerial view, making the observation deck at the inclined plane a premium wedding photo spot.

Above 2 images shared by friend Maura / Photos by RB Photography

Given our mutual Johnstown roots, taking some wedding pictures at the inclined plane after the ceremony is a no-brainer, especially because it's about 2 blocks from our church!

Spot #2: Luzerne Street
A substantial part of our drive from ceremony to reception goes along a quaint little street in Johnstown called Luzerne Street.  Here's a description of this gorgeous street:
Many of the outstanding homes in Westmont are located along Luzerne Street, in the area which the Cambria Iron Company originally named  "The Elm Grove ."  Today, there are 195 Elms planted along Luzerne Street, making them the longest continuous stand of American Elms in the country.  It is the last cathedral-arched boulevard left in the United States. - Text from Johnstown Pennsylvania Information Source Online

To add some visual impact, here are some wedding photos taken on this perfect little street:

This photo spot is too perfect to pass up, especially since we'll be scooting down this tree-lined street already!

What local photo spots are you taking advantage of?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Living up to the phrase "pearly whites"

We're less than 3 months away from the wedding, which means it's the perfect time for me to begin having irrational concerns about the wedding, and more importantly, my wedding day appearance.  This week's freak-out is all about the teeth.  Specifically, I have two main concerns: color and straightness.

Who doesn't want white teeth any day of the week, let alone on a day when a few hundred people will be staring at you and snapping a few hundred photos?  I'm really nervous that I'll be less than thrilled with the whiteness of my teeth come wedding day.  I have visions of getting the photos back and having a reaction similar to this series of events:
Video via YouTube

I don't want the term "mother of pearl" to even pass through my mental registry on, or after, the wedding day.  I want to be able to flash my grin with complete and total confidence, knowing it's undeniably white.

This isn't my first time around the teeth-whitening block.  I have a multipronged approach, figuring at least one of these tricks has to work.

My strategy is to employ as many whitening products as I can over a long period of time, hoping to produce a gradual effect without shocking my mouth into hyper-sensitivity.
Mouthwash via Our Thrifty Ideas, Toothpaste via Veneers Tooth, Whitening Strips via Best Buy to Low
Collage made by me. 

I'm hoping that if I consistently employ a combo-attack of whitening toothpaste and whitening mouthwash over the next few months, I'll see a noticeable difference.  Then, in the few weeks closest to the actual wedding, I'll pounce with the whitening strips, finishing the job up right.

My teeth are pretty straight, courtesy of 2.5 years of awesomely cool braces.

personal photo
However, my teeth aren't 100% straight, courtesy of my lack of retainer-wearing for the past 5 years or so.  I know it's an imperfection that only I would notice about myself, but it's become a nagging voice in the back of my head.  I've almost convinced myself that my glaring dental alignment issues will be visible to everyone in each and every one of our wedding photos.  Hence, the freak-out.

I was a diligent retainer-wearer for the 5 years after my braces were removed.  The last thing I wanted was another round of metal mouth.  However, when I went to college and being cool trumped having perfectly straight teeth, the retainers got the boot.  But, not before I convinced my parents to buy me a new set of retainers to replace the biohazards I'd been wearing for the previous 5 years.  So, in order to try and alleviate my straight teeth concerns, I've dug out my "new" set from 5 years ago and have been wearing them for a couple hours every couple of days.  I know that this miniscule amount of time won't do poo-diddly, but I can only handle wearing them for a bit at a time, since they're pretty much pushing my teeth in directions my teeth aren't interested in going.  I figure if I keep this little game up, either the discomfort will go away, or I'll just get better at ignoring it, and I can eventually get to the point where I sleep in retainers through the night... like the mature, grown woman I am.

Just in case neither of these plans of attack work to allay my dental concerns, I do have a little trick up my sleeve.  I just take a peek at our engagement pictures; no off-kilter teeth or stains to be seen.  Either my smile is better than I give it credit for, or our photographer is even more awesome than I give her credit for!

What are your bridal beauty concerns?  Have any great strategies for white teeth that you care to share??

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A little reminder

Sometimes, you come up with a most perfect idea to add a personal touch to your wedding.  And then, sometimes, that jerk named reality rears its ugly head and tells you to take your most perfect idea and cram it.  And then, sometimes, you give reality the finger and figure out a plan b, completely amazed by your ingenuity and perseverance.  In your face, reality.

Not making sense?  Want more specifics?  Read on, my friend.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Can we have your autograph?

Recently, Mr. Snow Cone turned to me and made this official proclamation: "We should figure out what we're going to have people sign at the wedding."  I met this comment with a combination of surprise and bemusement; he rarely contemplates wedding planning details, let alone taking the initiative to bring them up in conversation.  But, when he does, it's quite endearing, to say the least.

Anyhow, his comment got me thinking about the different guest book options we have.  There's always the traditional route, of having people simply sign their names in a lined book, so the couple has a record of who attended their special day.  However, in today's wedding world, there are so many more options with a bit more personality.  After a bit of thought and a bit of online research, here's a completely un-exhaustive list of ideas, broken into categories based on what you want out of your guest book selection.

For those interested in showing off a passion

You can have all your guests sign a cherished (or personalized) jersey or piece of sporting equipment, showing off your favorite team!
Image via Chica and Jo
Have guests sign a handful of your favorite bottles of wine.  Some couples even assign a specific milestone to each bottle, denoting when they will open it in celebration, such as 1-year anniversary, closing of first home purchase, birth of first child, etc.

For those interested in having something to display year-round
This one's made its rounds on the blog circuit, but that doesn't make it any less charming.  Have your friends and family "leaf" you a note, courtesy of their fingerprints and signatures.

Lots of couples pick a favorite piece of art or a great engagement picture to have matted, and the guests add their John Hancocks to the mat, making a display-worthy guest "book."

For those interested in having a guest book that can be stored out of sight
If you're looking for an opportunity to have your guests write some advice, as opposed to just a signature, the marriage advice cards are a good option for you.  Put the advice cards in a photo album, and it's a snap to slide it onto a bookcase, out of the way.

A bunch of sites produce really high-quality photo books, like Snapfish, AdoramaPix, and Mixbook, for example.  Create a digitalized scrapbook of your favorite engagement pictures and/or your favorite pictures from your courtship, leaving space on the pages for your guests to sign.

Not interested in seeing more of yourself?  Consider a coffee table book highlighting your wedding location, where you met, or your honeymoon destination.  Here's one featuring Washington, DC.

Which option is your favorite?  What guest book options did I miss?

Monday, March 7, 2011

A thousand thanks

Well, actually, just three thanks.

In order to jazz up some oft-neglected reception spaces, I'm trying my hand at a few minor and manageable paper craft projects.  I'm hoping with a little bit of money and a little bit of effort, these small touches will help to add some pop to different areas of our reception venue.

First up?  The gift and card table.  I know people won't be spending oodles and oodles of time there; however, I like the idea of adding something special to it.  I was smitten when I saw Mrs. Cheeseburger's post, showing her sweet and simple "Merci" banner that she used to decorate her gift table.

Image via WeddingBee / Photo by Jessica Ames

This project looked easy enough, so I decided to give it a go.  As always, this is probably an endeavor that is full of easy steps for any relatively experienced crafter.  But for craft-challenged brides like myself, it can have a few bumps and bruises.  So, here's what I like to call, "Thank you banners for dummies."

Before I even began the project, I purchased 2 circle paper punches, one measuring 2 inches in diameter, and one measuring 3 inches in diameter.  I then went into Microsoft Publisher and created 12 text boxes, all measuring 2.4 inches by 2.4 inches.  In each box, I typed one letter that I needed for the banner word.  I opted to use Imprint MT Shadow font, which is a standard Microsoft Office font.  Here's a screenshot of my Publisher layout:
Each letter is size 120 font, which ended up working really well for the 2-inch punch.

After I printed out all of my required letters, I punched each of them out with the 2-inch punch.  At this stage in the production, I had one of those moments where you simultaneously feel really brilliant for figuring something out and really idiotic for toiling for a handful of moments before you got around to figuring it out.  Here's the deal.  On my circle punches, there's a see-through bottom.  This is a great benefit, as you can kind of flip the punch over before pressing into your paper, to make sure that you are punching exactly what you want (so you're not cutting off part of a letter, for example).  I worked and worked and worked for probably a solid half-hour trying to master the dimensions and placement of each punch, ensuring I would get a centered letter on each little circle.  Suffice it to say, this process was not going swimmingly.  I finally experienced a moment of clarity and discovered the translucent orange bottom.

Ronald Reagan helps to show off the see-through bottom.

Once I figured out this whole bottom business, the punching got a lot easier and went a lot faster.  After only a few minutes, I had a mini mountain of letter discs, looking kind of like this:

Just imagine it as a mountain, mmk?
In order to give these letters a little more oomph, I decided to back them with textured cardstock in our wedding colors.  I used the 3-inch circle punch to give each letter a decent border.

Once I had all the circles punched, I grabbed a glue stick and started slapping letters on.  I then strung them together with a thin white ribbon.  I used regular ol' 3M Scotch Tape on the back, securing the tape along the top 1/4 of each colored disc.  The finished product?

Here's a close-up of one of the letters:
Ta-da!  I still have to tweak the spacing and the twisted ribbon, but overall, not too shabby, right?  When picking the languages, Italian and Spanish were shoe-ins, since Mr. Snow Cone is Italian and I studied abroad in Spain.  I tossed French into the mix because everyone knows "Merci" means thank you, and "Merci" provides some nice contrast to the strikingly similar "Gracias" and "Grazie."  I'm also planning to do a classic Amurrican "Thank You," but I got tired of punching circles, so three thanks is all people are getting as of right now.  I figure we'll string these little banners up on the wall near the gift table or off the edge of the table. 

This project cost me about $25; however, $20 of that was the two paper punches, which I can (and will!) use in other projects.  The cardstock and ribbon added up to about $3, courtesy of Michael's killer clearances, and then I imagine the printer ink and paper ended up around $2.  For someone who's incredibly patient and good at tracing circles, this banner could be whipped up for less than an extra value meal at a fast food joint, easy!  Despite my minor idiot moment, when all was said and done, this project resulted in no meltdowns and only a few frustrated expletives.  Between the cost and the ease, I'd definitely call this project a success.

What's been your most stress-free wedding DIY project so far?

(all photos personal unless otherwise noted.)