Friday, July 29, 2011

Sacramental songs: part two

Now that you have the details of the first half of our ceremony's music, here's the other half!

Offertory Hymn: Blest Are They by Haas
Video via YouTube
For the actual hymns, I really wanted ones that were kind of common in typical liturgies so that the Catholics in the group would hopefully feel comfortable enough joining in the singing.  I really like this hymn; plus, it's based on the Beatitudes which is such a meaningful message for life in general.

Our Father: Lord's Prayer by Warner
Video via YouTube
This is the musical part of the ceremony that makes me most excited and most nervous.  My undergraduate college had a slightly different version of the Our Father.  Hearing this version automatically takes me back to that overwhelming sense of community and togetherness that permeated the campus environment.  I would be over the moon to hear it at the wedding.  My nerves stem from the fact that it's not a very widely known version; I'm a little scared it will fall flat at the ceremony, resulting in a paltry showing at best.  My game plan is to have it introduced and rehearsed a few times at the rehearsal so that, between my college friends and everyone who attended the rehearsal, there's a decent-sized group to lead the charge.

Sign of Peace: Let There Be Peace on Earth by Jackson and Miller
Video via YouTube
I'm firmly of the opinion that you can't hear this song without getting warm and fuzzy all over.  We're having this selection performed as a solo piece while we exchange the sign of peace with some of our guests.  I figure that regardless of a guest's religious affiliation or comfort with doing the sign of peace, this song is familiar enough to everyone to be appropriate. 

Communion Hymn: You Are Mine by Haas
 Video via YouTube
Along the same lines as the offertory hymn, I really wanted something that was very familiar to our Catholic guests to hopefully encourage extra-loud singing.  I think this hymn also does a great job of evoking themes of support, love, loyalty, and protection, which are right in line with a marriage ceremony regardless of your religious convictions.
Presentation to the Blessed Mother: Ave Maria by Schubert
Video via YouTube
Even in Latin, it's powerful and beautiful.  Not a bad way to prepare our guests for the grand finale, to be sure.

Recessional: Ode to Joy by Beethoven
Video via YouTube
I'm going to be honest with you - by the time I tracked down all the other parts of our ceremony music, I was spent.  So when our organist said he had a cool version of Ode to Joy to use as a recessional, I was sold.  He's definitely got some solid music chops, so a piece that he specifically suggested is pretty highly regarded in my book.  Given that I don't know the exact arrangement, I'm just going to assume it's the one in the video above. :)

Postlude: Organist's choice.  I figured that he would have a better handle on what to play than I would.  Plus, I'll be a newlywed and out of the church by the time these songs make an appearance; I figure if it's fun for him to play, then it'll automatically be fun for the guests, too.  Decision made.

(Phew!)  There you have it.  All of our ceremony's music, start to finish.  Figuring out what we wanted took a good bit longer than I expected, but in the end, I think we have a solid line-up that's a good blend of familiar favorites and exciting new introductions.  Seeing it all together makes it seem very real, to say the least!

What's the best song you've ever heard at a wedding ceremony?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sacramental songs: part one

When I posted about our prelude choices earlier this week, a handful of people requested a post regarding the actual ceremony music.  Given how long it took me to nail this down, I figured it was only reasonable to throw my picks into the mix, hopefully helping another bride-to-be to square away her song selections.

After talking this over with our vocalist, organist, and priest, we decided that we wanted three pieces for the processional - one for the mothers and grandmothers, one for the bridal party, and one for the bride's entrance.  We also decided to go with a more traditional, classical music route as compared to our contemporary prelude selections.  After varying amounts of deliberation, we've finally settled on our three winners.

Seating of the Mothers and Grandmothers: Hornpipe (from Water Music) by Handel
Video via YouTube
I really like this piece, but I was a little wary that it was too peppy for part of the processional.  About 90% of the sites I poked around listed it as a recessional suggestion, but I managed to find a few that highlighted it as a processional piece.  I ran it past Mom Snow Cone, and she was on board, saying she wanted something peppy like this instead of anything too morose.  Done and done.

Bridal Party Entrance: Canon in D by Pachelbel
Video via YouTube

I know that this wedding standard isn't everyone's most favorite processional piece, but the fact of the matter is, it's mine.  For years now, I've envisioned using this classic piece in my wedding, and the goosebumps this piece gives me haven't worn off now that the actual ceremony is just around the corner.

Bride's Entrance: Trumpet Voluntary by Clarke
Video via YouTube
While my history with this piece isn't as extensive as my love affair with Canon in D, it's still been filed away in my bridal brain for a hefty amount of time.  My heart beats a little faster than normal every time I hear those fabulous trills of the keys, just imagining hearing that powerful anthem as the doors open and I see hundreds of adoring faces but only really see one very important face.  Wowza.

Now that we've all made it down the aisle in this music walk-through, onto the ceremony itself!

Responsorial Psalm: Blest Are Those Who Love You by Haugen (Psalm 128)
Video via YouTube
This selection was a direct recommendation from our vocalist.  I wasn't familiar with this psalm rendition before she mentioned it, but I feel like it fits in with a wedding perfectly!

Unity Candle: One Hand, One Heart by Bernstein (From West Side Story)
Video via YouTube
Although Broadway musicals don't always spring to mind when you're considering Catholic music, this is a nice blend of popular and religious with lyrics that are pretty darned perfect to boot.

That sums up the first half of our ceremony music pretty well!  I'll have the second half's selections ready for you in no time!

Any music twins out there?  What song is most near and dear to your heart from your own wedding ceremony?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Changes and Oreos

Somewhat intentionally, and somewhat unexpectedly, I am right smack dab in the middle of a maelstrom of change right now.  In the upcoming days and weeks, I will have:

  • A new address
  • A new job
  • A new name
Sure, three things may not seem like that much, but I feel pretty safe in saying that all three are kind of doozy-sized changes! 

We're moving into our first shared apartment this weekend, which is simultaneously exciting, nerve-wracking, and a little stressful.  I'll be glad once this weekend has come and gone, resulting in a shiny new apartment with shiny new things, and, more notably, without the perma-smell of cardboard that has developed in our current apartments.

The job is definitely a bit of a surprise; I don't finish my degree until December but started casually applying for positions a few weeks back to avoid the pitfalls of this less-than-stellar job market after graduation.  Thankfully, I got hurriedly ushered through a pretty intensive interview process, culminating in a job offer this week.  I'm obviously very excited, and I'm still trying to fully grasp how much this changes things. 

Last, but certainly not least, my new name.  I never debated whether or not to take Mr. Snow Cone's last name.  I definitely have a feminist streak in me, but I believe that feminism most appropriately manifests itself in a woman's ability to make her own decisions and not face any backlash because of her choice.  So, I still think I'm being a darned good feminist by choosing to take Mr. Snow Cone's last name.  I am choosing to adopt a new surname to reflect my new identity as a wife and future mother.  I am choosing to have my future family all share the same family name, because that bond is important to me. 

I'm also choosing to not give up my current last name, or my middle name, or hyphenate.  Confused?  Allow me to explain.  My new name will be: First Middle Last HisLast.  Or, in slightly more understandable terms, something like this: Elizabeth Jane Smith Johnson.  Using this example, I would have two middle names, Jane and Smith.  I am too attached to my current name as it stands to relinquish any part of it; at the same time, I'm too attached to the idea of having Mr. Snow Cone's last name to surrender that privilege.  Fortunately, Mr. Snow Cone has two middle names, too, so he didn't bat an eye at the idea of making my name something of a Double Stuf Oreo.

Sure, it'll be a bit of a hassle to write it out, and sure, it'll complicate monogramming anything, but all of those concerns are frivolous when they're compared to the bigger picture.  And given how many disagreements over future baby names we've had, maybe we'll take the double middle name approach with the kids, too, to appease both of us!  A family of Double Stufs!

Anyone else out there have a world of change immediately prior to the wedding?  Or, any other Double Stufs names??

The opposite of a cake crisis

Confession: the number of days between now and our wedding ends in "-teen," and I haven't sorted out our wedding cake yet.

OK, that's maybe a bit of an overstatement, but just a bit.  Approximately 45 seconds after getting engaged, I knew who would be making my wedding cake - she's a friendor who has made all of my family's cakes for birthdays, graduations, and weddings for as long as I can recall.  She's handled every design and request we've lobbed at her without ever breaking a sweat.  Seriously - she bakes beautiful cakes that taste even better than they look, all while holding down the fort in her household with ten boys.  I can barely shower on a daily basis, and I only have myself to look after.  The fact that this woman is standing, let alone constructing sugary masterpieces, with how full her hands must be, is nothing short of amazing.

Because my family's dined on her cakes many, many times, a cake tasting wasn't really necessary.  We know what flavors are in her repertoire that make our salivary glands kick into overdrive.  After nailing down our flavors, it didn't take long to figure out our design, too.  Or, I guess I should say, designs... plural.  (Shh, don't tell Mr. Snow Cone, but I'm surprising him with a groom's cake at the wedding!)

Traditional cake:
I found this image very early in my inspiration research, and my affection hasn't waned one bit.  Fortunately, Mr. Snow Cone likes it, too, so we had a one-and-done wedding cake design discussion.

We're switching the ribbon to purple, but keeping the green hydrangea.  I'm not entirely sure whether we're doing the letters in the middle, but that's such a small detail, I'm opting to overlook it and postpone a final decision for the time being.  Hey, I did say that I have teens of days to sort this out.  I have it made in the shade.

Groom's cake
I initially wanted to do a groom's cake, but couldn't really come up with any design that seemed like a good enough fit to warrant a separate cake.  And then, out of nowhere, inspiration struck.  I realized Mr. Snow Cone has two overarching sources of identity in his life at this point, so I tried to combine them into one delectable treat.

Personal image
Now, imagine I'm a little bit better at designing things in Publisher, and the Pitt logo is directly on top of the color blocks, instead of separated in its own little white block.  Anyhow, I am pretty proud of myself for coming up with a very simple design that so fully captures Mr. Snow Cone.  He lives and breathes his Italian heritage, hence the Italy flag in the background, and Pitt is a huge part of his educational and sports worlds.  I figure that a pretty straightforward design that can easily be executed on a standard sheet cake is a perfect solution for a groom's cake.

We're going with two flavors, and that's been pretty much a non-negotiable since cake talks began.  I refuse to not have chocolate cake at my own wedding, and Mr. Snow Cone refuses to not have a yummy, classic white cake to serve to people expecting traditional wedding cake.  As a result, we're planning to do white cake with a raspberry filling and chocolate cake with peanut butter filling.  We're going to have some sheet cakes in the kitchen to expedite plating and service, but I'm hoping even with those cakes in the back, we can still get a nice, dramatic tiered look without having to resort to dummy layers.

Our certainty regarding the design and flavors means that, according to our cake lady, that we don't really need to meet until the week of the wedding (which works out great because our schedules have most definitely not been in sync up to this point!).  She insists she doesn't need anything concrete until that time because she won't start baking terribly far in advance of the event.  So that, in a nutshell, is how we passed the 20-day mark and have still never sat down to talk cake. Probably not ideal, and definitely not on any generic wedding planning timeline, but I guess those timelines aren't taking into account talented friendors whose work you've devoured many times in the past.

Do you have any super-late vendor conversations?  Or is it just me?

(If you're still in the cake state of mind, definitely go read this post about cake.  I promise you can't make it through without laughing out loud.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A piano-centered prelude

I've been working on our ceremony for the better part of two months now.  I finally, finally feel like the finish line is in sight, but, of course, there are just enough pieces still to nail down that I can't in full confidence cross "plan ceremony" off the to-do list.  Nevertheless, I have enough of the details figured out to share some with you!

As a quick reminder, we're getting married in a full Catholic nuptial mass, which definitely has its hoops to jump through.  The structure is pretty much set in stone; couples looking to infuse personal details largely do so through readings, music, and unique forms of participation, such as serving the Eucharist.  Even with that being said, the music choices are relatively limited for the ceremony itself, as they are intended to be spiritual and/or liturgical in nature, befitting a Catholic mass.  On the other hand, there's a bit more flexibility for the music leading up the ceremony.  Because the mass hasn't officially begun during the prelude, the music chosen for that component can be a little bit more contemporary and secular, but many brides go with instrumental versions of modern songs to avoid any problematic lyrics, just to be safe.

Given how traditional our ceremony is shaping up to be, I was eager to infuse some music that was more "us" into the prelude.  Our organist is a family friend who is beyond talented, so I decided that I wanted to showcase his talents during the prelude, giving him songs I love to play on the church's piano before transitioning over to the organ for the ceremony itself.  Enough chit-chat; here are the songs that will grace our guests' ears while they wait for the ceremony to begin!

Song 1: "Forrest Gump Suite" by Alan Silvestri
Video via YouTube
Mr. Snow Cone and I love Forrest Gump (and if you don't, we're no longer friends).  The movie seriously has something for everyone - history, love, war, drama, addiction, friendship, and a killer soundtrack.  I casually mentioned that I was interested in using this piece for the prelude, and Mr. Snow Cone was immediately on Team Forrest.

Song 2: "The Luckiest" by Ben Folds
Video via YouTube
I love, love, love this song, and I think it is hauntingly beautiful with or without the vocals.  Plus, it was my brother and sister-in-law's first dance song, so the thought of tossing this song in as a little nod to them was just icing on the cake for me.

Song 3: "Make You Feel My Love" by Bob Dylan/Adele
Video via YouTube

Once again, such a beautiful song with the words, and an equally powerful melody on just the piano.  Upbeat but still soulful, which is such a special sound for a wedding.

Song 4: "For Good" from Wicked (by Stephen Schwartz)
Video via YouTube
Wicked is one of my most favorite musicals, and "For Good" is one of my most favorite songs from the show's score.  Mr. Snow Cone and I saw Wicked in Pittsburgh about five years ago, which makes this song selection extra personal.  I get chills just listening to this song, so I'm confident it fits into our prelude line-up seamlessly.

On a whole, I'm quite pleased with our song selections.  I think all of them are utterly gorgeous songs with the words, and I think they all stand up well even when the lyrics are stripped away (minus Forrest Gump, which obviously never had lyrics).  I'm hoping that, for the guests who are familiar with these songs, they'll enjoy hearing the songs leading up to our ceremony, and for the guests who aren't as familiar with the choices, they'll still be able to appreciate the music's beauty, even as they hear it for the first time.

Any special songs work their way into your ceremony prelude?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Faux glow

Let me break it down for you.  My heritage consists of the following: Irish, German, Swedish, Dutch, and English.  Which means that I have five kinds of pale skin tones all blending together to form a super-pale experience that is often unparalleled.  Tanning isn't really in my skill set; if I'm lucky, a week at the beach involves two things: the avoidance of a painful burn, and enough minor and brief sun exposure to result in a subtle pink that could maybe pass for brown(ish).  Despite my genetic predisposition to paleness, I still enjoy a hint of color on my skin.  Because of my genetic predisposition to paleness, I've never set foot in a tanning bed and never plan to.  As a result, my options for getting a sun-kissed look are pretty limited.

During high school, I tried Mystic Tan for proms and formals, and I was always pleased with the result.  Minus the day of gunkiness immediately after getting sprayed, it got passing marks in my book.  Relatively inexpensive, relatively long-lasting, and relatively stress- and complaint-free.  As long as you follow the instructions, that is..

Image via Metro UK / Credit: NBC

 Here's a picture of the end result at my brother's wedding:
Personal photo from 2007

And here's a photo of me in January, without any tan, for comparison:

Even though I had nothing but pleasant experiences with Mystic Tan, I've decided that I won't be going that route for the wedding.  I don't like the idea of having an entire day so close to the wedding taken up by me being grungy, waiting for the color to deepen.  I don't like the idea of raising my arms to hug someone or dance and having a starkly white armpit, since that area doesn't get touched by the tanning goodness.  I'm not in love with the scent that kind of lingers on you for days.  Finally, and most importantly, I couldn't find enough solid evidence that the color wouldn't rub off on my wedding dress.  I've never had color rubbing issues in the past, but at the same time, I'm not willing to take my chances on that for W-day.

Since tanning beds are out, and spray tans are out, what does that leave me?  

Image via

I've used Jergens in the past, and I've always, always, always loved it.  In my opinion, it gives you all of the benefits of a spray tan, minus the swift application and almost instant color change, but without the majority of the drawbacks.  It's inexpensive (under $10 a bottle), it's easy to apply, you're in full control of how much to apply and how frequently, and I think there's a much fainter odor associated with this lotion.  I really like that you can apply it for a few days, see how it looks, and then tweak your application technique in any way you see fit.  I applied it twice last week, and I can already see a difference!  My plan is to apply it a few times a week up until the wedding to get a subtle and natural-looking tint.

What are your favorite self-tanning products?  Any faux glow tips from your own wedding experience?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I vow to stress over the vows.

Over our months of planning, we've been periodically popping into to meet with the priest who will be officiating our ceremony.  He's relatively new to my hometown parish, so there's a lot of foreign territory to cover.  Everyone approaches weddings a little differently, and everyone has their own personality quirks, so I was eager to see how he would handle us and our wedding.

Pretty quickly into the exploratory process, he dropped a total bomb on us (or, at least, on me).  He turned to us and simply stated, "I'm going to have you two memorize your vows, since you're marrying each other.  I'm not marrying you.  The only people saying the words should be you two."

And here was my reaction.

Um, yeah.  Suffice it to say I have been silently freaking out over this for the past few months.  A good number of people in my life have articulated that saying the vows is the most poignant, dramatic, and challenging part of the ceremony.  The entire purpose of the officiant feeding you your lines one chunk at a time is because it's almost unreasonable to ask someone to be able to handle more than a handful of words at once!  There's so much focus and energy and love that there's no stamina left over for actual memory.

I'm kind of terrified that I'll forget the words.  Or I'll get halfway through, trip over a phrase, and then get so flustered that I'll need to start all over again.  Or that I'll blaze through them at warp speed, which I tend to do in normal conversation, let alone during public displays of conversation.  I mean, think back on how much gossip and drama got stirred up when President Obama's Oath of Office got all twisted about!  Important words matter!  They aren't meant to be screwed up!

I guess my sole option is to read them over and over again until they're really deeply ingrained.  Mind you, they aren't terribly long, and they are quite traditional.  The bar is set pretty low, which makes it all the more embarrassing should you take a tumble on it.

Any other brides out there memorize their vows and have success with it?  Please tell me this is possible!

(Wedding) Party in the USA

Sometimes it feels almost impossible to make your wedding stand out from the pack.  Magazines, websites, books, and blogs offer a lot of the same ideas over and over again, making the weddings look almost cookie-cutter.  With thousands of brides looking at the same sources for inspiration, it's inevitable that some new idea will become common practice in no time.  This clone-like aspect of weddings, combined with my relative lack of creativity and crafting skills, kind of sends shivers down my spine when I let my mind wander in an attempt to come up with a flair of personality and individuality for our upcoming wedding festivities.  With that being said, just try to imagine the sheer ecstasy I experienced when I finally conjured up an idea that I didn't beg, borrow, or steal from anyone or anywhere else.  It's allllll mine!


(OK, realistically, I'm sure I'm not the first bride to do this project.  However, I've not seen it in any of my wedding materials, so I'm going to keep up my delusion that I actually am the first person to experience such a stroke of genius to result in this creation.  Humor me, mmk?)

A little bit of backstory. Mr. Snow Cone and I are having a relatively large bridal party, with 7 attendants on each side.  Additionally, we each have very large extended families.  The rehearsal and rehearsal dinner is likely to be the first occasion for so many of our beloved friends and families to finally cross paths.  In order to spark conversation and prove that this gargantuan group of people has a great deal in common, I've set out to create a wedding map.

My plan?  I bought a cheap wall map of the United States to display at the rehearsal dinner.  I accrued a list of important cities from each of our wedding party/family VIPs.  These lists include information such as a person's:
  • hometown
  • college location
  • honeymoon location
  • wedding location
  • current location
The list amounted to almost 80 cities, and that's with a substantial amount of overlap among our people!  As a result, there were just too many cities to display the city AND its significance(s), so I opted to number them and provide a key to let people know the importance of each city to our wedding crowd.  Here's the map:

And here's a closer view of the basic numbering system I used:

For the key, I'm using a simple format to let people know the basic information.  It'll look something like this:

20.  Charleston, SC
Honeymoon: Mr. & Mrs. Snow Cone

I'm planning to display it in a communal area during our rehearsal dinner so that our guests will wander by the map and utter something to the effect of "I had no idea Person X went to college in any town, USA!  That's where I grew up!" and so on.  We have so many people traveling from so far away for such a short stay, I'm hoping this little project will help people to really click with each other and encourage some serious mixing and mingling.

What wedding projects are you especially proud of?

(all photos personal unless otherwise noted.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Flashing forward

On a recent trip to Johnstown, I walked into my bedroom, and the whole wedding day suddenly became very real.  My eyes landed on one specific item, and all of a sudden, I had visions of getting ready, butterflies in my stomach, photographer snapping wildly in the background, a goofy grin on my face.  What singular item could evoke such vivid imagery?  Here's a hint: it wasn't my shoes, or my dress, or my wedding band.  Instead, it was a twisted piece of metal.

Seeing that hanger made it so tangible.  To be honest, it's not as though I just saw this hanger sitting on a dresser and had a flash-forward.  My blessed mom had tidied up my room to prepare it for W-day madness and had placed this special hanger on a heavy-duty over-door dress hanger.  What I saw is more than likely going to be the exact dress-hanging mechanism we'll employ on the real wedding day.  All that was missing from the set-up was my pretty little dress!  The wedding is definitely peeking out from behind the corner, waiting to unload a flurry of activity, excitement, and emotions.
What sights have made you understand that the wedding is far closer than you previously realized?

(all photos personal.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Crunching the Snow Cone RSVP numbers

By now, our wedding RSVP deadline has come and gone.  And then some.  We only have two more pairs of guests to track down, so I feel like that's a complete enough picture to breakdown our RSVP results.  Here we go!

Number invited: 276
Number attending: 193

Decline percentage: 30%

Now that we have the numbers, let's crunch them.  Truthfully speaking, never in a million years did Mr. Snow Cone and I anticipate ending up with a wedding reception with fewer than 200 people.  We spent more than a little bit of a time stressing over the guest list, making cuts to give us a morsel of breathing room.  We had visions of people uncomfortably squeezed together at tables that were also uncomfortably squeezed together.  Lots of tables with lots of people in a moderately-sized room on an August evening - it's practically a request for someone to pass out!  We were definitely worried about attendance, to say the least.

Once the RSVPs started rolling in, we would kind of secretly high-five when we got a "no," since that meant that we'd have a little bit more room to work with.  Once we had enough declines to update our maximum number of guests attending to 240, our target number, we were quite pleased.  But something weird happened once we hit our target number.  The "no" replies kept rolling in.  Each day our maximum number dropped lower and lower, until we both had the realization that 200 would be a stretch.  We were baffled as to how we could be so far off in our estimates - we were shooting for 240; how could 200 become the new reality?!

After giving myself a pep talk to not take these responses personally, I took a look at the guest list.  Here's a more nuanced look at our responses.

Number not attending: 79 (I subtracted the 4 guests still in question)
     - Percentage of empty seats that are from "no" replies: 64%
     - Percentage of empty seats that are from unused +1s: 36%

     - Percentage of empty seats from out of town guests: 63%
     - Percentage of empty seats from in-town guests: 37%

In other words, only 2/3 of the empty seats are from people who flat-out aren't coming and/or are from out of town, and the other 1/3 are from people who aren't bringing date and/or are local.  Mr. Snow Cone and I decided, when constructing our guest list, to give all of our friends the option of bringing a date; given that a substantial number of our friends now live out of town, it's not a big surprise that a lot of people chose to pay for one flight instead of bringing along a date who would bear a substantial expense.  Moreover, many of our out-of-town friends aren't in serious relationships; therefore, it's not shocking that our friends didn't opt to ask an acquaintance to travel cross-country to attend a wedding of two strangers, paying a hefty amount in the process.  When analyzing the results along these two variables, it makes a lot more sense how we ended up with our magic sub-200 number. 

All in all, we're still kind of coming to terms with the fact that our wedding will be a bit smaller than we ever anticipated.  But, with that being said, we're also relieved that there will be more personal space, fewer linen rentals, fewer centerpieces, and more time to be spent with each person.

What was your biggest RSVP surprise?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sharing is caring

At some point during my blog-surfing, I was introduced to the idea of a photo-sharing card to ask your guests to post their photos online at one central website so anyone and everyone can take a peek.  I immediately bookmarked the idea, thinking it was an ingenious way to get our grubby little newlywed paws on our guests' photos to hold us over until the professional pictures become available and to give us an additional photographic perspective on the day's events.

I tasked BM K with the duty of finding a site that would work for us.  I wanted a place that would allow easy uploads without downloading or installing any software, tons of storage space, and the ability to upload/print full-resolution photos.  In no time, she delivered her official recommendation: Shutterfly.  I took her at her word and decided Shutterfly would be the site for us.

After our positive experiences with VistaPrint with our save the dates, I decided that we'd disseminate our photo-sharing site information on a business card from VP.  I'm not even going to try to fudge it and take any credit for the wording - I blatantly stole from Mrs. Cream Puff.  In just a few minutes, I'd created our wedding-specific Gmail account for everyone to use, our photo-sharing site and designed our business cards to be sent off to the printer.  They just came in the mail, so take a peek!

The game plan is to pop one of these cards at each place setting and include them in thank-you notes, in case people need a little extra encouragement or misplace their cards in the aftermath of the wedding.  I'm not sure what sort of reaction we'll get; I've heard quite a few tales of couples receiving a paltry amount of photos.  However, I keep reminding myself that we have a small group of guests who moonlight as paparazzi; they take more photos than any fifty people combined.  I figure that if some of those guests utilize the website and no one else does, it'll still be a worthwhile investment.

Do you have any experiences with wedding photo-sharing, either as a guest or a bride?  How did it go?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The story of the four flutes

We're using four flutes at our wedding.

Image via Red Cedar

... of a non-musical variety, that is.

Most couples have a special set of champagne flutes they use at their wedding.  We've decided that one special set just isn't enough; instead, we're using two sets, because we're just that special.  

Way back when in the year 2010, Mr. Snow Cone proposed to me.  When he had asked my parents for their blessing a week prior, they'd handed over a bottle of champagne and a set of flutes for us to use in our post-engagement celebration.  These weren't just any flutes, though.  They were a pair of glasses that my parents had noticed me eyeing up on a previous vacation to Disney World.  Knowing I'd probably get engaged eventually, they secretly purchased the glasses, setting them aside for that special day.  So, when Mr. Snow Cone gave them the heads-up that the big question would be coming shortly, the celebratory flutes came out of storage, and Prince Charming and Cinderella welcomed us into engaged life.

I was so touched by my parents' attention to detail and forethought; I loved having a gift that they specifically selected for this occasion so far in advance!  I was all set to use these as our wedding flutes until we found ourselves in the possession of another set of lovely and sentimental glasses, this time from Mr. Snow Cone's family.

Although we weren't sure how to handle the four flute situation at first, as we really loved both sets and the sentiments behind them, the answer quickly became apparent.  Use 'em all!  So, we'll have one set serve as the traditional champagne toasting flutes, and we'll have the other set serve as our water glasses for our wedding meal.  Probably not the most traditional approach, but I just couldn't stomach the idea of using one set and abandoning the other.  I feel like it's a nice juxtaposition of the beginning of our engagement alongside the beginning of our marriage, with two of my favorite things (monograms and Disney) thrown into the mix!

How are you handling your wedding flute situation?  Any special glasses making an appearance on your wedding table?

(all photos personal unless otherwise noted.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

I heart(er) my garter

As I mentioned before, Mr. Snow Cone and I have decided we're doing the traditional bouquet and garter tosses.  I have my bouquet all straightened around, which is 50% of the toss battle.  I can't really do a garter toss without a garter, now can I?

Fortunately, the garter-less garter toss will not be occurring at the Snow Cone wedding.  That's right, I've secured my garter, armed and ready for tossing.  When brainstorming garter options, I knew I wanted something specific, so it was just a matter of tracking down someone to execute my vision.  After doing a couple dozen Google searches, I came across Let's Dance Garters, a small company that offers a huge array of garters with a boatload of customization options.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A cry for musical help

I feel like I have most parts of this wedding under control, with one glaring exception - the music.  We booked our DJ eons ago and then I promptly put "deal with wedding music" in the furthest recesses of my brain.  Now that I can count the number of weeks until the big day on one hand, I figure I should probably resurrect my focus on the wedding music. 

Don't get me wrong - I am a relatively big music fan, and I really enjoy a well-constructed playlist.  However, my music fandom is pretty passive.  If whatever's playing on the radio is decent, I'll keep it on.  If it's stinky, I'll change stations.  Rarely am I so impressed by an artist, album, or song to go out of my way to make an iTunes purchase.  My personal music library is mostly comprised of musical and movie soundtracks and Top 40, so I don't necessarily think that's the ideal soundtrack to a wedding reception.  As a result, my library of "songs to be played at the wedding" is pretty tiny, mostly because I've never taken the time to compile a list of any form.  Unfortunately, my inactivity over the past months has segued into sheer anxiety; I feel like a reception's music can make or break the evening, and I definitely feel like the pressure's on to pick some sweet booty-shaking tunes.  I want the dance floor to be active, but I don't feel like I'm necessarily up to the task to get people out there in the first place. 

So, to sum up, this is what I don't want:

Image via Where's Matthew?

And this is what I do want:

Image via and Photo by Luster Studios

I figured that I would confront my own musical shortcomings by turning this task over to the online community, which leads me to my most pressing of questions: What song would get you on the dance floor at a wedding reception?  Fast or slow, new or old... I just want to hear any and all suggestions you've got up your sleeves!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The power of the tiara

After the shower, we did a quick wardrobe change and we were on our way to Pittsburgh for my bachelorette party.  I'm not going to fib - I had some mixed emotions going into this evening.  I don't go out very often, and when I do, I'd much prefer a cocktail and good conversation than a crazy techno beat and a mosh pit of sweaty limbs.  I was kind of anxious to see how all of my different worlds colliding would work out -- my bachelorette party guest list had a good mix of family, high school friends, and college friends, some of whom I hadn't seen in a hefty handful of months.  How would everyone get along?  Would I be pushed way out of my comfort zone in the name of bachelorette-ing?  Would my embarrassingly low alcohol tolerance level get the best of me?  See?!  All of these concerns made me eager to see the night come and go, hoping for the best, I suppose.

I am proud to report that the night was completely amazing.  We started with a little celebratory bubbly in the hotel room and my guests bestowed the requisite bachelorette party apparel upon me - sash, genitalia necklace, and tiara with veil.

I'm usually not one to have my outfit and accessories thrust me into the center of attention in each and every room I enter, but I figured you only get to bachelorette once, so genitalia jewelry it is!

We all hopped into some cabs and headed over to grab some dinner at Brik Room in the South Side before hitting the town.  Our first stop was Charlie Murdoch's, a piano bar which was exciting because I've always wanted to go to one!  Shockingly, only a few minutes after our entrance, one of the pianists announced that for a few extra bucks, you could have your friend called up on stage where the musicians would "embarrass the sh*t out of them."  I don't even think the pianist had finished his expletive by the time my friends pooled their funds together to get my up on stage.  A few minutes later, I was plopped onto a piano on the stage and serenaded with R-rated marriage advice. 

After the piano bar, we scooted down the strip to another bar, Carson City Saloon, where we ran into some high school classmates (who I didn't even know went to our pretty small school).  Thankfully, some of my party-goers recognized them, and the random classmates were... friendly enough to be persuaded to buy some cocktails for their dear friend from high school who was celebrating her bachelorette (who they had never met before).  Shortly thereafter, we headed over to Elixir Ultra Lounge, which was probably the highlight of the evening.  The music was the perfect blend of today's popular music and goodies from a couple years back.  Plus, none of the songs were played in their entirety, which prevented you from getting tired of a song during a boring instrumental break or slogging your way through the third verse, pretending you still know all the words.  The dance floor was crowded enough to not feel self-conscious, but spacious enough that there was room to move, breathe, and not find yourself coated in others' perspiration.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening.  Everyone got along swimmingly, the drinks were plentiful, and I didn't stop smiling until I passed out back at the hotel.  It's one of those things where I look back on my preconceived worries, and I can't get over how stupid I was to assume the worst of the entire thing.  There's something about being a bachelorette... maybe it's the power of the tiara or something, but when you're surrounded by your best ladies from all of your different chapters of life and random strangers are congratulating you and plying you with drinks, there's not a care in the world.  High heels hurt a little less, songs sound a little better, and unexpected occurrences are launch pads for more fun instead of cruddy tailspin-inducing snafus.  All of this was well worth the penis necklace, and then some.

Any wedding events not mirror your expectations?  What's your favorite bachelorette party memory?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Using my shower to rub the distracting dirt out of my eyes

At the end of my bridal shower posts, I alluded to how the bridal shower really changed my thinking on my upcoming nuptials.  I, like many other brides-to-be, am guilty of losing the forest for the trees in the world of wedding planning.  I spaz out over transportation miscommunications instead of recognizing that if I didn't have loved ones traveling from near and far to join me in my celebration, there simply wouldn't be any car logistics to be figured out.  I have fits of hand-wringing over the difficulties of having a sizable bunch of bridesmaids who live all over the country instead of taking the time to be grateful that I have such a large group of young women who I can lean on in times of happiness and difficulty.  I groan and moan over guest lists and room capacity instead of taking the time to appreciate the dozens of people who are just as excited as we are to mark this new chapter in our adult lives.  I grunt in frustration when people pepper me with questions about details and plans, labeling them as nosy or overbearing, rather than titling them as helpful and cooperative, eager to participate in this memorable journey.

It's just too easy to let all of the little stuff in wedding planning get you down.  The costs associated with DIY projects, the headaches regarding who needs to be where when and how they are getting there, the tug-of-war over guest lists and responsibilities.  All of it adds up to one gigantic blindspot that lays directly in front of our very own eyes.  My bridal shower helped to, at least partially, alleviate that visionary problem.  I finally had the opportunity to stop worrying about color palettes, logistics, and decisions, and recognize that weddings are about so much more than all of that.  It's about friends, family, love, togetherness, and joy.  It's about walking into a room and realizing that every single person in that venue is there to celebrate you.  It's about wanting to be everywhere at once and at one place all the time.  It's about looking around a room and seeing every face smiling back at you.  They may or may not have been privy to the stresses that led up to this event.  But it doesn't matter.  The event is here.  They are here.  You are here.  That's what matters.

Sure, I didn't get to spend as much time with a lot of my lovely guests as I would have liked.  The event passed by in the blink of an eye, and before I knew it, the clean-up crew was doing their thing while guests filed past me, saying their good-byes.  I was pretty rocked by the sheer rapidity of the entire ordeal, and I'm sure the wedding will be like this but times a hundred million kajillion.  But, more importantly, I was pretty rocked by the sheer warmth and happiness that went into each and every second of the event.  My bridesmaids completely outdid themselves, executing a formal but familiar shower that exceeded every one of my hopes for the day.  My mom was a huge help in keeping the peace for me, whether it be giving etiquette advice or helping me pick a dress.  My mother-in-law-to-be just oozed affection and excitement before, during, and after the shower.  All of the most important ladies in my life took time out of their holiday weekends to shower me with advice, congratulations, well wishes, and a never-ending supply of whatever it was that I needed, at that very moment.

I still have to write all of my thank-you notes for the gifts and their attendance, but there are simply not enough words to accurately communicate my thanks for the real gift I was given - the realization that weddings aren't really about details and fonts and alteration appointments and unreturned calls.  They're about beautiful contradictions - simultaneously living in the moment and preparing for the future, honoring your roots while embracing the new branches you've accrued in your life, loving all the people around you and letting them love you.

with Mom Snow Cone

The Future Mr. & Mrs. Snow Cone with our moms

Myself and the Snow Cone bridesmaids, sans one

When have you experienced a moment of wedding clarity?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A sugary shower: getting down to business

To kick the shower off, we had some delicious (non-chocolate) food and then launched into the lone shower game we played .  (I'm not really into shower games, so I was happy to hear that we were only doing one.)  One of my BMs had sent a list of questions to Mr. Snow Cone, and I was instructed to guess his answers.  For every incorrect guess, I had to pop a piece of gum in my mouth.  Unfortunately, I didn't do nearly as well with this game as I expected, so I had a big ol' blob of bubble gum when all was said and done.

 (It looks kind of small in the photo, but the gum blob was HUGE.  And gross.  And neon blue.)

After the game, we tore into the sweets!
I'm sad to say that I started my dessert course with a "Death by Chocolate" trifle that got the best of me; I couldn't scrounge up the strength to keep nibbling on all the other delectable goodies.  It's seriously my second-biggest bummer of the shower that I didn't get to try everything.  It's my first-biggest bummer that I didn't snatch any leftovers to binge on since the shower itself.

Finally, as all of the guests and myself fell into a sugar-induced stupor, we got to the gifts.

I was really nervous about this part of the shower, since it's really easy for the present portion to draaaaag on and leave guests looking at their watches, scouting out the nearest exit.  I booked my way through the gifts as fast as my hands would allow; one BM even deplored that I slow down at one point, since I was getting dangerously close to ahead of schedule for the one remaining shower event...

Mr. Snow Cone's arrival!  Although I wasn't surprised to see him walk through the doors, I was pretty pumped about the gorgeous flowers he brought along with him.  Chocolate out the wazoo and a huge bouquet all in one day?  I should have a wedding shower every weekend!

I know these posts only offered kind of a quickfire rundown of the event and a barrage of photos, but I walked away from the shower with some new realizations about what the wedding day would be like.  Stay tuned for my post-shower bridal brain!

Did you play any fun games at your shower?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A sugary shower: setting the scene

This past weekend was a complete and total blur, but for all the right reasons.  You see, I decided to take advantage of the long holiday weekend by having both my bridal shower and my bachelorette party in one extravaganza of a weekend.  I'll share a bit about both, so here's the info on the shower!

A few weeks back, I was greeted by this lovely piece of mail:

Personal photo

I completely loved the entire look of the shower invitation, but there was one part that particularly warmed my heart...

Personal photo

I have a gigantic sweet tooth, and my bridesmaids know it.  Instead of asking the guests to bring a recipe for a real, grown-up meal, they tailored it to me and asked for nothing but chocolate recipes.  Mmm...

It gets better, though.  The chocolate theme carried throughout so much of the shower, like the favors of hot cocoa and a mini heart-accented whisk:

The beautiful cake:

And the dessert buffet, filled with drool-inducing cake pops, truffles, trifle, cookies, and brownies.

In addition to the cocoa heaven, my bridesmaids did a bang-up job of making the entire place look stunning!

 Photo courtesy of BM J

I've had high hopes for my shower since I selected my bridesmaids, since all of them have a great sense of style and some major organization skills.  Within mere seconds of walking into the room and scoping out the set-up, I knew even my high hopes had fallen short of the reality they'd put together in my honor.  Seeing the colors and flowers together also got me super pumped for seeing them together for the actual wedding, so that was a bonus in my book!

Did you have a themed bridal shower?  If so, what was the theme?  If not, what theme would you love to see at a bridal shower?

(all photos courtesy of BM E unless otherwise stated.)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I was hiding under your porch because I love you.

We're starting to get into crunch time, which means that miniscule details are starting to make their way to the top of the to-do list.  One such example is the card box.  I considered a few different options that are pretty standard at weddings nowadays, like the fabric- or paper-covered box and the birdcage.  I wasn't interested in buying something that screamed "wedding" and would be an antiquated relic mere hours after our vows; I also wasn't interested in crafting something that would require a lot of time, energy, or skill.  In addition to knowing what I didn't want, I knew that I'd like to use the card box as an opportunity to infuse some fun, color, and personality.

After stalling on this decision for quite some time, I finally realized that there was one option I really wanted; I had seen a creative idea from Mrs. Lioness and couldn't get it out of my head -- the mailbox from Disney's Up!  

Image via Pixar Wiki / Credit: Disney

For those of you who aren't familiar with this movie, here's the important info.  Carl and Ellie, as seen above, are husband and wife and completely committed to each other.  They have a long-term dream to visit South America, but their dream keeps getting tabled because of more immediate needs and expenses that life presents.  Carl finally decides that enough is enough, and in a burst of spontaneity, buys two tickets to South America for himself and his beloved.  Before he can reveal his surprise, Ellie falls ill and never recovers, leaving Carl alone with a never-achieved dream and a broken heart.  

(I know it sounds like a downer, but all of this unfolds in the first few minutes, setting up a completely precious and hilarious story where Carl decides that he owes it to Ellie's memory to make the trek to South America, choosing to take a rather nontraditional approach.)

Anyhow, one of the cutesy scenes in the beginning of the movie features Carl and Ellie painting their new home's mailbox.  The plan is to just put their names on it, but Carl accidentally puts his paint-covered hand on the mailbox, resulting in an errant hand print.  While he's concerned he's ruined the project, Ellie doesn't bat an eye before slapping her own hand print on the mailbox, too.  The project itself is quite charming, but the symbolism of togetherness, problem-solving, and undying love is even more appealing to me.  So, in about 20 seconds, I talked Mr. Snow Cone into creating our own version of this mailbox for our wedding card box.  I went ahead and purchased a white mailbox and some basic acrylic paints in our wedding colors.  A few days later, we got to work, and here's the finished product!

Personal Photo

I'm really, really pleased with how it turned out!  As a Disney-phile, I'm geeking out over having a movie reference at our wedding, but I'm also quite smitten with what it represents as we move forward with our lives together.  And, just for kicks and giggles, here's my favorite quote from the movie, which I think it particularly relevant in the scope of marriage and wedding planning: That might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most.
What wedding detail are you the most excited to see put into action on your big day?