Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year I Get Married

I can hardly believe it.

I am less than 7 hours away from the year I get married.

My friend Laura has been helping me count down the days until 2009. She says that the turn of the calendar into the year when your wedding is is a big deal. And I'm starting to believe her.

For a longer-than-usual 366 days (and one second!) it's been 2008. I graduated from College. I was in two weddings. I attended 4 weddings. I got engaged (!). One of my best friends got engaged (yay for Love & B!). I took engagement photos for two couples and agreed to be the for-real photographer for a third bride. I got my first "big girl" job, complete with insurance and higher taxes. I took on freelance work and spent more time on a plane in 3 months than I had in my entire life up until then. I decided I wanted to really get serious about design, and that I'd start with my own wedding and few sorry souls willing to be my guinea pigs. In short, 2008 has been wonderful, fun & romantic.

But 2009, I'm ready for you! I'll marry the love of my life in 2009. My high school sweetheart will become my husband, and I can't wait. I'll have my first official apartment, with no safety net in Mom & Dad. I get to fluff a nest that is truly mine. Ours. And it really will be ours, both of us. Together.

So I as I go to Carter's tonight for snacks and Wii and time with friends, we'll watch the ball drop and kiss in our new year. Our year. The year of us.

I can't wait!

What are you doing New Year's Eve?


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sale Extravaganza!

What comes after a Christmas extravaganza?

A sale extravaganza!!

During Target's Christmas sale I found the perfect addition to my bouquet: A rhinestone "C" pin. (The picture isn't the exact same, but you get the idea.) The C pin will add that extra sparkle to my bouquet and it was only $3!

Momma Love and I hit the sales and got lots of fun wedding finds! First, we found the cookie jars for our cookie bar (I'll post about the whole concept soon) on sale for $10 each at Big Lots. The jars were the perfect size and will look fabulous with our scrapbook paper and ribbon! I promise to share pictures when I try my first DIY wedding craft.

I found beautiful ivory and pearl picture frame sets for $10 each at Belk (sorry there's no online picture)! Each set includes an 8x10 frame and 4x6 frame/album, which makes the perfect gift for Momma Love and FMIL at the bridesmaids' luncheon. I hope to put bridal portraits in them to share with our mothers. . . and I couldn't help but snag one for myself too.

Finally, a deal that all brides can appreciate: Bath & Body Works semi-annual sale! I've had the picture saved for years from a Knottie bio that gave shower gel as favors to her shower guests: "From my shower to yours!" During Bath & Body Works' sale I stocked up on shower gel and lotion for about $3 a bottle! I hope to use these as favors or incorporate them as gifts to my shower hostesses. I think that lotion and shower gel are things that women of any age can appreciate! (Also a good idea to build on for your BM gifts!)

Sale Alert: Victoria's Secret is currently having their semi-annual sale! Don't just plan for your wedding. . . plan for your honeymoon too ;-)

Happy Shopping! What great deals have you snagged?


Christmas Extravaganza

I love Christmas, but I admit this year I was more excited about what was to come after. . . . buying our very own Christmas decorations!

Like Amore, B and I headed out the day after Christmas to outfit our future home for future Christmases. . . . half off! We already know where we'll be living post-wedding (more on that later) so we purchased all our outside lights and tree lights (we plan to be "real" tree people). We also got our Christmas cards for next year (photo cards waiting for wedding pictures to be added to), Advent calendar, and almost everything we need to make our home ready for the season.

We also started our first Christmas tradition: we bought a Hallmark keepsake ornament each and a "joint" one. We won't start out with a lot of personal ornaments, but in a few years we'll have a "tree full" of ornaments that mean something to us.

B actually said that for the first time over the holidays it felt like we were really getting married. Sure we've talked about it for a long time and are now engaged, but for both of us it hasn't really felt completely real yet. He said spending the holiday with my family, where my cousins called him an "insider" and buying our own decorations for what will soon be our own home made it seem truly real for the first time.

I've shared this "not real" feeling. We haven't had an engagement party and probably won't and we both wondered if that would make it feel more "real." We plan to open our first joint checking account next month and we'll soon begin our registry so maybe those things will make it sink in a little. There are 193 days til our wedding (thank you wedding website countdown), but some days it feels so far away. . . .

When did getting married first feel "real" to you? Has it sunk in yet?


Monday, December 29, 2008

Our First Joint Purchase!

Love & B got a TV together as their first joint purchase. Carter & I got a Christmas tree!
I won a contest at work (best Christmas decorations in my cube!) and the prize was a $50 Visa gift card. When I won, I decided that I wanted to put the gift card toward the purchase of our first Christmas tree.

We've always been "real tree" people at my house, at least until a few years ago. I love the smell of a real tree, and the process of choosing the perfect one. However, a few years ago we decided to try an artificial tree, as my grandparents were downsizing. Today, we put up the artificial tree and get a small real tree for another room in the house.

Carter's family has been an "artificial tree" family for the past several years. Carter's mom and brother both have allergies to real trees, so an artificial one is a necessity. When it came time to decide what we would do for our joint household, there was pretty much no need for discussion. We would get an artificial tree.

We spent all day on Dec. 26th running around West Knoxville looking for our perfect tree. Carter actually loves to put the lights on the tree, so we wanted to find an unlit tree. That's much harder than it sounds! We're also both big fans of big trees, and especially of fat trees. So, we wanted 7.5 feet and fat.

We actually found our tree at the first place we went--Carolina Pottery. However, the price was a little more than we wanted to spend. Five stores and several hours later, we were empty-handed. Knowing that artificial trees disappear rather quickly once they're on sale after Christmas, we (ok, I) really wanted to get one that day. So, we went back to Carolina Pottery and bought the very last 7.5-foot, unlit, fat, artificial tree.

We got white lights to go on it (on sale for $1.24 at Home Depot!) and lots and lots of ornaments on sale, too! It's been so much fun to plan our first Christmas together, even if it is 260 days in advance!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Our First "Joint" Purchase

Rather than exchanging Christmas gifts this year B and I decided to make our first joint purchase: a TV!

There was nothing we really needed, and this year it seemed frivolous to buy one another gifts we didn't need since we had so much we would need before moving into our first home. (Now, you could argue that that a new TV is not a need, but not if you're asking B :-)

On Black Friday I was hardcore--like the first person at the checkout at Radio Shack to purchase our AOC 32 inch flat screen (they're currently out of stock). I immediately called B and informed him the TV was ours!

Now it's sitting in my dining room and B begs me almost nightly to hook it up, but since it's our Christmas present I'm making him wait. I don't think it will be weird to not exchange gifts on Christmas (I did buy him something very small ). Last Christmas we lived in different states and missed out on all Christmas preparations together. This year we've really enjoyed getting to wrap our families' presents together and get into the "Christmas spirit" as B likes to call it.

Did you and your fiance decide to forgo gifts this year? If not, what are you giving one another?

(Just nine days til Christmas!)


Monday, December 15, 2008

Ring O' Drama: Part Two

Recap: Engaged on Sunday. Center stone fell out on Monday. Shipped ring back to get fixed and returned on Wednesday. Jared's repaired my original ring.

At this point I haven't been able to show my ring to anyone. No one besides my parents and BM Brittney who came as soon as she got the call.

B and I had already planned a weekend visit our alma mater, Emory & Henry College (where we will be married). I was anxious to show my ring to my sorority sisters and share in our engagement excitement. Although I was definitely paranoid, my ring was safely on my finger. Until. . . .

Sunday we went to the church we attended together and showed my ring to our "old lady friends". On our way home later that afternoon, B jokingly asked me to check on my ring. When I looked down I did another double take before realizing a stone in the channel setting had fallen out. Not just any stone, but the one directly under the center stone that cannot be touched.

Needless to say I was disappointed. We immediately called the Jared's store manager, who apologized and set up our shipping arrangement again. I sent my ring back on Monday and received it again on Wednesday. I felt like I was renting my own ring!

This time Jared's replaced my original ring. I can't tell a difference except *knock on wood* no diamonds have fallen out of this one. Jared's said my first ring was probably just had defaults and replaced it at no charge. Still the first thing I do every morning is make sure my ring is in tact!

I could have gotten an entirely different ring. Jared's policy is that any ring can be exchanged within 30 days, but I didn't want just any ring--I wanted the ring B had put so much thought into picking out for me. I stuck with a new version of my ring.

For our trouble we did receive a gift card to be used toward our wedding bands and a nice note from the customer service representative.

Do I think Jared's could have checked the first ring better to ensure this didn't happen again? Yes. I was disappointed to send my ring back a second time and it was frustrating to say the least. Was Jared's helpful and timely in the process? Yes. I've never dealt with anything like this before, but if I had to go through this I know that Jared's was helpful and returned my ring in a timely manner.

Have you dealt with a jeweler's customer service? What was your experience?


The Marriage Book

Soon after B and I began dating we knew we had something special. During our nightly conversations that lasted for hours we got to know a lot about one another, and frequently played "The Question Game," which really isn't a game at all--just a chance to ask all those questions you want of the other.

A few years earlier I had seen an Oprah show devoted to marriage and preparing for it. A frequent guest on Oprah is Dr. Robin Smith, who wrote Lies at the Altar: The Truth About Great Marriages. I wrote the title in my journal and knew that I would eventually use the book.

After B and I began dating, I quickly ordered the book and thought Lies at the Altar was a scary title for a guy I'd just started dating so we quickly re-named it "The Marriage Book." The book is about preparing you not only for marriage, but also for a serious relationship. It was great for us to read together at the beginning of our relationship and helped us see where we had common ground and where our differences lay.

I admit we skimmed lots in the first part of the book and didn't find that part as helpful for us, but the questions at the end make this book a must have for couples. The end of the book includes over 200 questions about well, everything! From pets to finances to sex to family this book covers nearly all the bases. The questions are divided into sections and the last question of each section asks if you have a you've ever had a relationship end because of __ issue.

I think all serious and/or engaged couples should have real talks about what they want out of their relationship, future, and marriage. This book does a great job of consolidating all those "must ask" questions and gives couples a great starting place.

Are there any books that have been especially helpful to you as you prepare for your marriage?


Friday, December 12, 2008

Glass Half Full

I've always been an optimist. A "glass half full" kind of gal. Sure I have bad days and I complain, but I generally look on the bright side of things.

I'm a Charlotte. The past few days I've felt especially blessed and I can't help but compare my level of happiness to Charlotte's in Sex and the City: The Movie. Now I'm a fan of SATC and in the movie when Charlotte's in Mexico (on what should have been Carrie and Big's honeymoon) she realizes how truly blessed she is.

That's me lately. I don't know if I've ever been happier. There really is something about being engaged and getting plan not only your wedding, but your future with the man you love that makes my cup seem not only half full, but overflowing.

As a girl who spent nearly her whole life as "the single one," I feel like I have an added appreciation for what I now have. B makes me realize that the whole journey was worth it. Charlotte didn't have it easy either, but she kept the faith. I never stopped believing in love even when there were days when it seemed like these days would never come. Now that the days where I'm preparing to spend the rest of my life with my fiance are here I just want to jump for joy!

I still have moments when I can't believe this is happening and get caught staring at my ring. I want to enjoy these days to the fullest!

(I promise I'll blog about the days when my glass is half empty too because, believe me, I have those too!)

What Sex and the City character are you? How do you see that character in your wedding planning?


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Age ain't nothin' but a number

Kids Kissing

I'm 23 (as of Saturday!). Carter's 21. He'll be 22 by the wedding. We're "young." Based on my perusal of the wedding blogosphere, we're really young. Most brides, at least those outside of the South, are no younger than 25.

I'm also not the first of my "group" to get married. Out of my "girls" that I graduated from high school with, I'll be 3rd (and only because the 4th is having her ceremony at 4:30 and mine is at 3!). Most of my friends from college who graduated a year ahead of me are already married (one before she graduated, one right after, and two in August of this year). Out of my group of friends I graduated from college with, I will again be 3rd. And, as you know, Love (who will be the 4th in our college graduating class) is considered an Old Maid in her town!*

I don't think Carter & I are too young to be getting married (otherwise we wouldn't be). On the contrary, we've been dating for almost 5 years, much of which was spent long-distance. This gave us the opportunity to really get to know one another. We relied on conversation for 9 months out of the year for 4 years. There is nothing I want more than to be married to this man.

So you can understand my irritation and frustration when I get comments such as "But you're so young!" There have only been a few instances, but the kicker came from an acquaintance. She's a mother, and she's a grandmother. And her daughter, the mother of her grandchild, is unmarried and younger than I am (by at least 2 years!). The baby is probably 18 months to 2 years old by now. But clearly, I am not mature enough to make a decision as to whom I want to spend the rest of my life with. A child? Sure, go ahead, you're old enough for that. But marriage? You're too young...

Did you receive any less-than-enthusiastic responspes when you announced your engagement? What's the "right" age to get engaged? Married?

*There are many other people from my graduating classes, both high school and college who are already married or who will be by May 23rd. However, the ones I'm counting are just the ones I was/am good friends with.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ring O' Drama

Engaged. Ecstatic.

I hardly slept a wink the night of the proposal and did nothing but stare at the new bling on my hand. I made muffins with one hand because somehow I felt as if my left hand should do nothing but look beautiful and shiny.

Right after B proposed in my tears of joy, excitement, and shock I said, "Oh my gosh, it's going to fall out!" For some reason I thought my prong setting was delicate and I needed to be extra careful because my diamond was suspended in the air.

At work the next morning I rushed to share my news, and ring, with the girls in my office. As I was re-telling the proposal story, I mentioned that I had even said I was afraid the diamond would fall out. I was talking with my hands like I always do when tragedy struck. . . THE DIAMOND FELL OUT!!!

It was one of those surreal moments when you do a double take and can't believe what just happened. The center stone fell out of my ring and onto the shoe of my co-worker. I was in shock. My diamond was on the floor! My boss, love her heart, very calmly picked up my diamond and put it in a tissue. I stayed surprisingly calm because I think I was still too happy to be engaged. At first I said it didn't matter that because even if my diamond was on the floor I was still engaged. . . then I went into action mode.

I had had my ring for 10 hours! Luckily, the night before B had told me he purchased the full Jared's insurance policy that replaced any damaged or lost diamonds so that was an instant relief. I was also very lucky to have the diamond in my possession because I can't imagine just looking down and realizing I had lost it.

It was 8:00 a.m. and the store wasn't open yet. I waited until customer service opened and immediately called to talk about my options (still tear free). Dee, the Jared's customer service representative, wasn't exactly my best friend at first. She asked me if I'd been too rough on the ring. Hello!? I had done nothing, but stare at it! She asked me if maybe I'd hit my hand on the side of the wall. Seriously?! After I explained to her that no, I had not "abused" my ring and told her which ring it was she became more helpful. . . friendly, in fact.

She said they never have problems with the my ring and she went above and beyond to make sure I was taken care of. She had a ring sent from Texas in case Knoxville didn't have any more. I contacted the Knoxville store (that's about four hours from my house so I couldn't just stop by) who sent a UPS delivery man to my office to personally pick up my ring (only after I let him know how important my package was).

I then had to call my fiance and let him know that the ring he had spent so much time, energy, and money on was broken. Luckily, by the time I talked to him I had the situation under control and he took the news better than expected although he was still disappointed and embarrassed.

I sent my ring off on Monday morning and received it back on Wednesday.

I was only without my ring for a day and a half, but still it was the first day and a half I was engaged. I wanted nothing more than to show my ring off to all my friends and family. I'm not gonna lie I was disappointed to have to send my ring back so soon after receiving it, but I rationalized because lots of women have to send theirs to get re sized so this is normal.

In place of my ring I wore my great grandmother's favorite diamond ring, which made the time without my ring a little more bearable.

Do you have a tragic ring story? Did you have to "give your ring up" shortly after receiving it?

Up next: Ring O' Drama part II


Rock of Love

I've been engaged for a month and it's about time you met "the ring!"

I met her for the first time when B proposed. As you recall, Be had his own rules of engagement. He wanted the ring to be a total surprise and he wanted to choose it all by himself.

One weekend he went to Knoxville to visit his family for no reason. Actually he just went for the night and asked me to not to come with him. I thought it was strange, but made plans for a girls night and moved on.

What I now know is that he had been searching online for months and had finally found the ring he fell in love with at Jared's. He called the store and asked them to save the ring until he was able to visit. When he visited the store he barely looked at other rings because he knew this was "the one" he wanted.

The ring is a princess cut in a prong setting with 10 princess cut side stones in a channel setting.
He choose well!

As much as I wanted to go ring shopping with him before we got engaged I think the ring means more to me because he picked it out himself. It truly was a surprise and gift.

Was your ring a surprise? How was your ring chosen?

Coming soon: ring o' drama


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Long Time Coming-2

So other than having had my wedding planned (in some form or fashion) for 7 years or so, I've also been doing something else wedding related since before my engagement...

I affectionately refer to it as "blog stalking". And my friends are tired of hearing this phrase out of my mouth, "Well, when I was blog-stalking the other day I found..."

It's no surpise to you if you've happened upon LA Brides by some blog-searching miracle, what a wealth of knowledge and insipiration is available in blog-form. And to be honest, I can't really tell you what started my addiction. I found one blog that listed other, favorite wedding blogs, and suddenly I had a Google Reader full of wedding wonderfulness. I'd never even used Google Reader before!

So, here's a list of my favorites, and I'm saving the best for last!

Always a Blogsmaid, by Always a Bridesmaid. First, how can you not love such an adorable name?!?! I love this blog because they answer questions from real brides (I know! The've answered three of mine!) and because it's chock-full of tips and tricks. This, This and This are the two questions they answered for me!

Snippet & Ink. Inspiration board Mecca. Kathryn is nothing short of brilliant in her creative inspiration boards that she posts She also offers all sorts of advice, DIY, and real wedding inspiration. It doesn't get much better than this!

Southern Weddings Magazine Daily Blog. More real weddings in one place than anywhere...except maybe the Knot! But that totally doesn't count because every one of the weddings featured at SW is GORGEOUS! Some are quirky, some are fun, but all are beautiful and full of ideas for any bride, but especially those of us with Pride in the Southland (extra points if you can name the somewhat football-related reference here!)

Style Me Pretty. Photos, tips and insipiration abound in this wedding blog. Check out Abby's two most recent posts on Photo Tips. Eat it up! Plus, the Little Black Book features all sorts of phenomenal wedding vendors to check out--either for inspiration or to hire...assuming you live in the right area!

The Pink Book--Knoxville. Being a Knoxville girl, I am so appreciative of a local wedding blog! If you can track down a bridal blogger in your hometown, it will be such a huge help in planning your day! The Pink Book also has a general blog, and blogs in these cites: DC, Nashville, Memphis & Indianapolis.

And, saving the best for last...Weddingbee. There is no other blogging community made up of such talented, beautiful and inspiring brides. There are no words to tell you how much fun Weddingbee is! You feel like you really get to know the brides and their weddings, and it's so neat to steal, I mean, glean, ideas from these fabulous Bees! While all of the Bees are pretty much amazing, I do have a few favorites...Mrs. Pomegranate, Miss Champagne, Miss Fondue, and Miss Meatball are tops on my list. (and I'm so excited, Miss Meatball is following me on Twitter now, too! How amazing!!!!)

What fabulous wedding blogs have I left off of my list? What else do I need to add to my Google Reader?


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Long Time Coming

You should probably know this about me: I'm not new to this wedding-planning thing. Well, I am in that my May nuptials will be the first ACTUAL wedding I've ever planned. But I got my start back when I was a sophomore in high school.

One of my good friends and now bridesmaid Melissa (meet her here) and I had a "note-book" that we passed back and forth between classes. Rather than passing loose-leaf notes, we got a journal and just passed it between the two of us. After a while the notes were getting old, so, naturally, we decided to add pictures from magazines. This is when my first wedding was born. Please keep in mind that at this point in my life, I'd never been kissed, and I'd never had a boyfriend. Ever.

I was going to get married the second weekend in September, with a fall theme. My bridesmaids would be wearing long, formal dresses in David's Bridal's Apple Red. I'd carry red calla lilies and my girls would carry white ones. It would a formal, evening affair.

I think Melissa still has the notebook itself, and, well, I just don't have the original images I'd pulled out. But here's a glimpse of what my wedding would have looked like, had I gotten married as a 15-year-old!

I was all about the lace jacket. I mean, this thing was my dream! {source}

This was my idea of the perfect bridesmaid's gown! Long, flowy, and, well, not big enough at the top to support my actual bridesmaids! {source}

And, of course, the calla lilies. I swore I'd have callas everywhere at my wedding. Not so much in real life... {source}

Needless to say, my real wedding will be quite different from what I had imagined 7 years ago. I won't be getting married in September, but May. I won't have a Fall theme, but a Spring one. It won't be a formal affair, but a casual, fun, laid back party. You won't see a calla lily anywhere. And I couldn't be more excited!

Did you plan your wedding long before you were engaged? How is it different from your "real" wedding?

Monday, December 1, 2008

When I Fall In Love

"When I fall in love, it will be forever. . . "

I'm engaged. I'm planning. I'm not looking for a wedding dress.

I could be crazy, but I'm waiting to fall in love. Ok, I admit that I tear out a few ads from my bridal magazines, but I don't spend my days scouring websites looking for "The One" dress. Instead, I'm waiting to go dress shopping to fall in love.

You see, I'm a wedding dress virgin. I've never tried on a wedding dress before. I've been to plenty of bridal shops and looked at lots, but never tried one on for myself. When my girlfriends got married I never snuck and tried one on because I've been patiently waiting for my time.

My body is unique. I'd like to think it has "personality." I'm no skinny minnie and my "girls" are pushing DD so it's always been difficult for me to find dresses to fit. When I look at strapless dresses if I hear my mother (or grandmother) say, "You're just going to pull at it all night!" one more time I will scream. My wedding dress will be perfect. It will fit me in all the right ways and if it doesn't we'll alter it.

I've been in love before. . . . with my junior year prom dress. It was perfect for me. The first I tried on and I wanted nothing to do with any other dresses. I was faithful.

I'm ready to fall in love forever. . . .