We ended November with an Operation Christmas Child packing party with friends, followed by Thanksgiving with both of our parents and my brothers, which was really neat. My two sets of grandparents live near each other and have always been friends, so I sort of adore this parents-living-nearby arrangement.
December is starting off pretty wonderfully, as I’m in Boston today! Crossing my fingers for snow, but it’s looking unlikely.
Our main to do’s this month are:
– Book our HONEYMOON. Well FINALLY. I care about this more than the wedding, maybe. 🙂 Except we still have no idea where to go.
Security is, of course, a large concern right now, so we may end up waiting on this. We’ll see what’s happening in the world these next few months…
– Register for stuff? For real this time. Maybe? This is still surprisingly hard…
– Come up with something cute to send the wedding party for the holidays.
– Get a 2016 planner! Debating between these three: One, two, three. Update: Option 3 is sold out 🙁
– See The Nutcracker.
– Finish up Christmas shopping for my Secret Santa and everyone else. Thanks to Cyber Monday, most of this is done.
-Get a Christmas tree for our little apartment. Partake in the Southern Weddings Ornament Swap. Fill our first tree!
Since I started blogging as a Southern Bride Blogger, I’ve discovered just how much is going on out there in the blogging world. There are an estimated 31 million+ bloggers in the US alone, and wedding blogs are certainly not in short supply.
Here are some of my favorite reads, listed in order left-> right, top-> bottom.
Simply Sweet Melissa: Melissa is a newlywed now, but there’s no reason you can’t go back and read her many wedding planning and wedding recap posts! I like that she wrote recaps because it’s interesting to see what mattered to her after the big day. I also just read her blog post-wedding for all the lifestyle posts.
A Tad Bit of Southern Charm: Brittany is basically an expert in all things weddings, and it shows on her blog. She puts a lot of thought into her decisions, from invitations to upcoming trends she plans to incorporate to her venue. I’m on her site at least 3 times a week.
A Bluegrass Bride: Anna is also recently married, and an excellent source for keeping up on timelines. Check out the “wedding checklist” section of her site. It’s helped me think of things I missed completely.
Tay & Co.: A fellow Southern Bride Blogger, Taylor blogs about fashion in addition to wedding planning. Please just look at her cute side braid and orange scarf in the photo above. I wish she could be my stylist IRL.
Celebrate Dallas: Celebrate Dallas is actually a wedding planner with a blog attached. I’ve linked to the blog, but please explore the whole site! Megan’s style is all things colorful and bright, and I’m obsessed.
Southern Weddings: Well, of course. Not sure if you could call this a blog so much as a magazine empire, but they do post daily weddings/tips/features so check it regularly.
Style Me Pretty: In the same vein, SMP is a mega-blog. I had to stop following them on Instagram because they post a million things a day, but if that’s your thing then find them there. I also like reading Style Me Pretty Living and pretending like I have a house where I host dinner parties. 🙂
Little White Dress: OBSESSED. I’ve linked to the main site but click “blog” on the top if you want to go straight there. Lauren’s a stylist with past experience at Lily Pulitzer and she recently blogged about Lauren Conrad’s Runway line, so you know she’s good. I’ll be working with her soon so check back. 😉
Green Wedding Shoes: OK, another mega-blog but a good one. I think of it as the alternative to the mainstream (The Knot). The looks featured as usually more laid-back and outdoorsy.
We actually chose our venue in early January. As you should, because it’s the very first thing to check off your to do list!
January is a weird and stressful time to look at venues, because you’re subtly competing against the mob of other couples who got engaged over the holidays for the last remaining dates of the upcoming year. (And in my case, there was a once-in-five-years ice storm.) I think the real trick is to look in November, before Thanksgiving. So right now.
Here are the qualities I looked at, and the venues that got voted out at each stage.
I would have love, love, loved to get married at my home church. I know they are becoming less popular amongst millennial Christians, but personally, I’m a fan of church weddings! It makes all the readings and vows feel more serious and reverent, and my home church holds a special place in my heart.
However, it seats 110 and our family alone fills 75 spots. Add in the wedding party and their families, and you’re already at capacity. We weren’t willing to invite everyone else to the reception only, so sadly it was out. The silver lining: My pastor is still going to officiate our wedding off church grounds.
If you want a super expensive wedding, there is no need to leave the State of Texas. Austin alone has plenty of high-price options including the ridiculously pretty Via Antonia.
I didn’t end up going to this one in person, though it was on my list. I blamed it on the ice storm (well, it is on a windy road) but mostly I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want to fall in love with it. So it was out. Silver lining: All that saved money can go toward a honeymoon or house – something that lasts longer than one day!
We visited one venue that just straight up had no parking. Zero. It was a very pretty, quaint house on San Antonio St, and I don’t want to bash it because it really is so darling.
But, parking. While it had the option to rent a nearby lot, it still wouldn’t have been enough spots, leaving the later guests the option to pay for parking elsewhere or attempt to street park on the steep hills of downtown Austin. It was out. Silver lining: Probably saved a lot of people a lot of parallel parking stress.
I’m kind of in love with the Lady Bird Wildflower Center. Really kind of obsessed. Y’all, if you even like pretty things a little bit you need to go follow their Pinterest board right now. They’re not paying me to tell you that; I just think you need to do it.
This gorgeous garden almost won out, until my mom pointed out a very valid point. It had everything I wanted: a pretty indoor ceremony space with giant windows, an outdoor reception space with string lights, INFINITE FLOWERS. But it was huge. You have access to the whole garden when you book a wedding, which is cool but also could be disastrous to ever get everyone in the same place. We could do our exit and people could be lost a mile away in the garden paths. Silver lining: No one will get lost at our wedding.
5. What felt right
I wrote about our almost wedding day in September. But in the end, that venue didn’t feel right to us. In addition, it had a very short window of getting ready times, and September in Texas has the potential to be 100 degrees, easily. So here are a couple photos of the place we ended up with:
Not only did it feel right, it had all of the things we needed: capacity for 150+, a reasonable price, plenty of on-site parking, and enough room to have lawn games and separate spaces without sending people miles away. Somehow I had never seen this place in my life, but it’s less than 5 minutes from my parents’ house.
The only sacrifice was the date (yay, 500 days of obnoxiously long engagement) and, of course, an outdoor ceremony and indoor reception.
What was important in your search? (Or, what’s in mind for your future search?)
Today’s post is by Shelley of Shelley Elena Photography, our wedding photographer! She kindly agreed to write a little bit about her job. Scroll down to see her gorgeous photos and read her story.
I am so honored that Jen invited me to share on her blog! Annnnddd a little intimidated. Since graduating college, I’ve pretty much only written my own blog posts and emails (many, many emails). I’ve read quite a few blogs from other photographers and as I tried to think of a topic, I struggled to find something that hadn’t been covered already by one of the millions of other wedding photographers. How to choose a photographer? That horse is long dead and beaten. Having an unplugged wedding? Trended last week. The importance of choosing a good photographer? Written many times by people much more eloquent than myself. So, y’all just get what’s been on my heart lately! First, a little about why I can’t wait to shoot Jen & John’s wedding, then the random musings of a wedding photographer in middle the busy season!
One of the reasons I was thrilled that Jen hired me is because she treasures good photography and makes me feel so honored because of that. Every time a couple hires me to shoot their wedding, it truly is an honor, but it makes a huge difference when I know that they value what I do. Because Jen is excited for me to be there, I want to show up to their wedding and work my tail off to create photos that bring tears to her eyes next year and her grandchildren’s eyes in 40 years. There are so many amazing photographers in Austin and I get to be there to capture their day filled with every type of emotion, surrounded by the people who made them who they are, as they declare their decision to choose to love one another for the rest of their lives. Pretty cool, especially considering that there are literally 757 other wedding photographers listed for the Austin area on The Knot.
Fun fact- Jeff Bridges is also a photographer. See why this job is so hard? How can I compete against Jeff Bridges? I don’t think he does weddings in Austin, though, so I only have to compete against non-award-winning-actor photographers. He wrote this about the late Mary Ellen Mark, an American photojournalist:
“She had a big heart, and opened it to her subjects. Her desire to understand them was palpable. Her empathy can be seen in her images, the folks there encouraged to be true to themselves. Her friendliness was felt by other photographers who she also encouraged. I was lucky to be one of them. It’s impossible to separate a photographer’s spirit, skill, and point of view from their images. Mary Ellen shows us hers in her brilliant, unique, photographs.”
That stuck with me for days, thinking about the fact that my perspective and heart will be indelibly imprinted on every photo I take. One of the foundations of my business is always putting clients first, but it’s easy to slip into the mindset that I’m creating images for myself, for my portfolio. In the fast paced world of social media and instant gratification, photographers need new content constantly and clients are easy fodder for new Instagram posts showing how you are so busy, talented, #blessed, etc. Every fiber of my being rebels against the idea of being someone who views clients as props for my business. I VALUE people, dangit! Nevertheless, the struggle is real and I need reminders from Jeff Bridges that to be a great photographer, I must have an open heart and and empathy. Only then can I create photos that truly bring joy to brides and grooms and the people who love them.
Brides and grooms: You are not an accessory to your wedding photos. You are what makes photos magical. The fact that you’re choosing commit your life to each other is amazing! Don’t forget that! Have enough fun at your wedding to forget to look perfect, and hug people without worrying too much about your hair. Don’t let anyone tell you what your wedding has to be like (as I’m telling you what to do…), but make it exactly the kind of celebration you want! Value your wedding photographer not because they’ll make pretty photos to get lots of likes, but because they will make art with your love.
If you’ve searched the Pinterest vaults for wedding ideas, I bet you’re already familiar with every type of out-there guestbook there is.
There are (1) puzzle pieces and (2) Jenga blocks, (3) shadow cases (Is that what they’re called?) and (4) thumbprint trees, (5) custom prints and (6) matted photos.
In the wedding realm, there is no shortage of creativity when it comes to guestbooks. That’s pretty neat, and it made for a fun decision to look through all the cute, unique choices.
The photos (5+6) were a runner-ups, but I’m a little too Type A for those. If I set out black pens for signatures and someone whipped out a blue pen for their name, I would never be able to display it in my house (sorry).
So given all these crafty options, what did we choose? A normal, book guestbook. 🙂 Ha.
People always think the oldest child is the responsible, even-tempered, smart one. Even the Huffington Post says so.
As the oldest of three, I have to tell you this is not the case in my family. Though I may get the most attention for my occasional accomplishments – simply because I did them first – I am, in truth, the family failure. So when I need advice on how to *actually* be a responsible, even-tempered, smart human being, I go to my brother, the second-born.
(FYI I have a WHOLE THEORY on second-borns, and if you know me IRL I have probably already told you even if you didn’t want to hear it. It’s not really relevant to this post. But ask me later if you want to hear it. ‘CAUSE IT’S GOOD.)
I asked my brother for advice on something I was ready to give up on.
“Jen, you’re a quitter,” he told me. “You always get excited about something for like four months, then you move on to something else.”
He’s not wrong.
My resumé reads like the story of a fugitive who can’t stay in one place for long without being caught. In college, I flirted with six different career paths (throughout two colleges and three majors). I’ve never finished out an apartment lease. I have a hard enough time trying to not quit blogging, for goodness’ sake, and it’s only a 500-day-long project (probably). Once something gets a little rocky, or a little boring, I’m out.
But do you know what’s really scary about that? Marriage is not a semester-long in college, or a year-long lease, or a 500-day website. Unless you are Kim Kardashian, you can’t really up and quit marriage after 72 days.
So what does that mean for a quitter like myself? I’m not really sure. But I think it’s about time to start training in “how not to be a quitter”.
Step 1: Don’t quit any jobs or this blog or anything else right now. Step 2: Don’t quit marriage. Ever.
When people ask me if I’m planning on losing weight for my wedding (and yes this is a real thing that people ask – to my face – it’s unnerving please stop) my response is “ehh no not really.” Sometimes I add “maybe 5 pounds” so I sound like a real bride.
My dress fit perfectly and my weight hadn’t really changed in five years so, yeah. That was my answer. I wasn’t even going to do a fitness post because that would have been it.
But things have been stressful lately, and it seems my response to stress is to sleep. Sleep in. Nap during lunch break. Nap after work. Go to sleep early. Generally feel tired all.the.time.
On top of this, my metabolism suddenly decided I am old now and responded accordingly. So in these last three months alone, I have gained 15 pounds.
I felt like throwing myself off a bridge.
OK, that wasn’t a very body-positive thing to say. I did not throw myself off a bridge, obviously, but I did sob. A lot.
So. My answer has changed, and I suppose it is time for a plan of action. I can handle eating better and I used to run much more so I get calorie intake-outtake basics, I promise.
Now someone just send me exercises for the perpetually tired.
Sometimes in life, you are blessed with friends who look like models. Such is the case with my good friend and bridesmaid, Melanie.
Mel is also the kind of girl who everyone just adores. Every time I see her, she’s just come back from another wedding or shower or something-or-other. “How do you have so many friends?” I’ve asked her before, hoping for a secret formula to copy. I don’t think she gave me a straight answer, but the point is, if anyone knows what to wear to a bridal/baby shower, it’s Melanie.
She told me about Bee’s Knee’s Loft, a cute online boutique headquartered in nearby Dallas. (It’s currently down while they transition to fall attire, but you can find them on Instagram in the meantime.) Every single item they had, from dresses to skirts to tops, was trendy, cute, and perfect for a blog post about a bridal shower.
We chose the Antilley Lane dress for the photoshoot because it 1) was both of our favorites and 2) fit the general guidelines for what to wear to a shower: feminine look, fairly conservative, and not white.
The dress was a little more purple than it looked online, but that was fine with us (Go Frogs!). The detail on the bodice was delicate and the pleated skirt made the shape absolutely perfect. Melanie accessorized with equally delicate jewelry to complete the look.
If you don’t live in Texas, where it’s currently 91 degrees, you can still wear a cute dress with a cardigan and even tights.
Super cute, right?! If you need more options, here are a few other winners (#1 is on sale).
Dress c/o Bee’s Knee’s Loft | Photos by the talented Taylor Prater
If you read my post on Etsy, then you know that I wasn’t really going to make much for my wedding besides my save the dates. But, I am a crafter at heart and I couldn’t really go the whole planning period without crafting just one time.
Luckily, my best friends are expert crafters. My bridesmaids Katie and Laura – with whom I’ve made homecoming mums, gifts, banners, math honor society decorations (mhm), you name it – drove up from Austin for the weekend. 🙂 And my nearby bridesmaid Melanie – with whom I’ve made paintings, mail swap projects and, most recently, rock cacti – joined, too. It was the perfect team.
My fiancé only gave me one rule when I moved in, and that was no glitter. Obviously, I broke that rule (don’t worry, it wasn’t the first time).
Using these two photos as inspiration…
We made these centerpieces:
Not bad, huh? 🙂
It’s a pretty self-explanatory craft, but scroll down for steps.
So there you have it! We celebrated with gourmet tacos and it was a successful day. All I have left to do is hairspray the glitter part of the jars to keep the glitter from falling (while covering the clear glass with something protective!), and it’s done. 🙂