Happy New Year: NYE Wedding

Let's face it, New Year's Eve is like armature night. Every rookie from around the world feels obligated to spend a night on the town, turning all of your favorite hot-spots into a disgustingly packed, sweat fest. No thank you.

Instead, just once in my life, I would LOVE to have a wonderful New Year's Eve wedding to attend. We've all heard about them, but has anyone ever been to one? I imagine they're wonderful: glitzy and glamy, shiny and sparkly... Oh, if only...

Bag Borrow or Steal

To all my budget-conscious ladies:

If you find yourself unwilling to buy expensive jewelery or an evening bag for your wedding because you can't bring yourself to spend hundreds of dollars on something you'll never wear again (I mean, really, the dress is bad enough), or if you find that your Saks taste doesn't match your Target budget, you should seriously consider "renting" your accessories. Bag Borrow or Steal has an extensive Wedding Shop that features everything from très expensive Rosiblu earrings to the totally affordable Kenneth Jay look-alikes. Quick, go check out the selection at Bag Borrow or Steal. Happy browsing!

For those of you who can't get married without a tiara (you know who you are), BBS even has a couple of those to choose from as well. (See above photo...)

photo credits: Bag Borrow or Steal

Everyday China

Nathan and I ended up with 7 sets of Fine China (it's called fine china, but it was only $89 a set, and it is dishwasher, microwave and oven-safe...) and only 4 sets of Everyday China. But, instead of going out and buying 5 more sets of Fine China and 8 more sets of Everyday China, we decided to cut back and only go with 8 sets of each...

What will we do when we entertain, you ask?

We'll mix the sets, of course! (See last photo for the best example of "mixed texture" dinnerware...) In fact, the lace pattern of our Fine China and the pearl pattern of our Everyday China go so well together, that I may even want to mix them all the time!

Yay for finding solutions...

While I love both sets of china, I must admit, I'm partial to our Ralph Lauren, Spring Lace Fine China. As one shopper explained: "Ralph Lauren continues to set the stage for casual elegance for the home with a china collection that shall stand the test of a timeless design. The Spring Lace Dinnerware collection is a classic twist on white with a subtle lace pattern..."

Once again...happy as a clam!

photo credits: 1) Macy's, 2) Crate & Barrel, 3) Crate & Barrel

Merry Christmas

Warmest wishes this Christmas and always. See you when we get back from PA...

Vendor Review IV: Photobooth

Chicagoland PhotoBooth: A+

I must say, Nathan and I really lucked out with our vendors. This was in part due to plain old luck and in part due to my insane research tactics - seeking out referrals, reading every single article I could find on each vendor, and weeding through the propaganda or "sponsored articles", as those rarely reflect the whole truth. (…well, I did this with all except for one vendor, which turned out to be a huge mistake, but more on that in an upcoming post.)

Because we had such good fortune with our vendors, I actually feel somewhat obligated to pass along their information - otherwise I could see some creepy karma coming my way. So, in the spirit of "passing it forward", I'd like to tell you about another amazing AND budget-friendly vendor - Chicagoland PhotoBooth.

Really and truly, our photobooth was the highlight of the evening for many of our guests. From funny-faced cousins piling in by the dozens to priceless pics with my new hubby, our photobooth was a complete success. And, what’s more, the photos made a memorable guestbook…

While Chicagoland PhotoBooth does not have the “vintage look” I originally hoped for, it did have the price tag that was very happy with. (And, let’s face it, a photobooth is vintage and nostalgic, whether you have an original, 1960’s booth or a present-day, comfortable recreation of it…) CPB charged us $800 for 4 hours of unlimited photos (originally $900, but they were running a $100 off special). However, to stretch those 4 hours, they “closed” the booth during dinner and thus did not charge us for that time. Yay! Plus, because CPB is a smaller company, you have more of an opportunity to make a package fit your needs (i.e., closing during the dinner hours, etc.) And, to top it off, Jeff and Erin, the couple that owns the company, are the cutest, friendliest people I’ve ever met. It's a win-win all around.

Final thoughts on photobooths:

I know what some of you are thinking…photobooths are on their way to being “overdone”. But, really, it’s only serial wedding bloggers & planning-crazed brides that see photobooth after photobooth. In fact, not one of our guests had ever even conceived of the idea, much less considered it played-out. With that said, I highly recommend making room in your budget for a photobooth. I know, I’m the queen of a budget-friendly wedding, but I really believe that if you’re going to splurge on anything, it should be something that people are going to remember – like a photobooth, or a venue, or great catering – not on something that’s easily overlooked – like really expensive centerpieces or Veuve champagne…

Yay for photobooths! Yay for Chicagoland PhotoBooth!!!

image credit: Jeff from CPB created this poster for us after I emailed him this inspiration photo via the almighty, Mrs. Cupcake.

related posts: Vendor Review III: Wedding & Reception Flowers, our budget-friendly wedding II: ceremony, Vendor Review II: Hair and Make up, our budget-friendly wedding I: Attire, The photos are in!!!, Vendor Review I: Reception Music

Vendor Review III: Wedding & Reception Flowers (& candles)

Flowers with Feeling: A+

I really couldn‘t have had a more perfect experience with my florist, Flowers with Feeling. After months of being told that my budget wouldn’t allow for much creativity, Tina told me to give FWF a call…just to see what they could do. Boy, am I glad I did! My contact, Tammy, was actually willing to work with my mini budget (as you may recall, our flower budget took a huge hit when we decided to go with our fabulous caterer – review to come!).

I gave her some direction (by some, I mean I gave her a 20 page document that included all of my floral inspirations), but after hearing several people rave about her work, I was super confident with letting her do whatever she wanted to do.

My bouquet was inspired by the color of the bridesmaid dresses and had the most amazing mix of textures – it included dahlias, fringe & double tulips, ranunculus, coxcomb, and amaranthus, while my bridesmaids carried cream colored clutch bouquets with dahlias, English garden roses, and double tulips. Lastly, thanks to oliviamoon from Etsy, my bouquet included a pendant with a photo of my mother, so I could have her with me throughout the ceremony… The bouquets could not have been more fabulous!

As for the reception flowers, we kept it simple (and small). We had long banquet tables each of which included 15 or so candles in varying sizes, and featured two mint julep cup vases filled with dahlias, roses, and snow berries – seriously, those are all the flowers we had, and honestly, that’s all that we needed! The flickering candles made the space intimate and romantic, and provided tons of visual interest and texture. Plus, Tammy let me purchase all of the mint julep cups, candles and cylinder vases on my own which totally helped to keep costs down - because I can hunt down a deal like it's nobody's business!!! It was perfect, and it was all because of Tammy and Flowers with Feeling!!!!

photo credit: Essence Photo and Video

related posts: ourbudget-friendly wedding II: ceremony, Vendor Review II: Hair and Make up, our budget-friendly wedding I: Attire, The photos are in!!!, Vendor Review I: Reception Music

our budget-friendly wedding II: ceremony

Personalizing our ceremony was our favorite part of the entire wedding planning process. (Yes, the reception was wonderful, and the photobooth was clearly a highlight for many; but, to us, a meaningful ceremony was paramount.) We hoped to create a tender and ethereal mood that focused on our love for each other as well as our love for our family and friends.

We chose lighter, more romantic processionals, Ave Maria, Joy of Mans' Desiring, and Canon in D, as opposed to some of the more robust (or even severe) processional options (which, of course, shall remain nameless, just in case someone reading this is a fan of powerful or up-tempo processionals...) We also selected passages that underlined the meaning of love and marriage.

New Testament:

1 Corinthians 13

...if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Even though I've heard this passage perhaps a dozen times before, I still get choked up...even as I read it now.

Old Testament:

Ecclesiastes 4

Better than one, all by himself or herself... If one should fall, the other helps him or her up; but woe to the one all alone with no one to help when falling. Again, they keep warm who sleep two together; but how can someone keep warm alone? Where alone one would be overcome, two will put up resistance; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

The final personalized element to our ceremony was the Group Candle Ceremony and Group Blessing. After Nathan and I lit our Unity Candle, we shared our united flame with everyone in attendance. Our priest eloquently described our appreciation for our family and friends, for their unconditional love, support, and understanding, and asked them to bless our marriage by taking a vow to us:

Do you offer this Nathan and Colleen your blessing as husband and wife? "We Do"

And do you offer their marriage your support, as loving family and
friends, today and always? "We Do"

photo credit: Essence Photo and Video

related posts: Vendor Review II: Hair and Make up, our budget-friendly wedding I: Attire, The photos are in!!!, Vendor Review I: Reception Music

Vendor Review II: Hair & Make Up

Jill Gosser & Lisa Caputo: A+

Hair and make up are really and truly the unsung heroes of almost any wedding. I mean, really, when have you ever seen someone come out of a couple hours of professional hair and make up not looking great?! Never. Take the Olsen twins, for example; those are some simian looking girls, but you'd never know it from the way they look on the red carpet. But, I digress. The real purpose of this post is to give all Chicago brides-to-be the vendor tip of a lifetime...an affordable make up artist.

Jill Gosser is a senior make up artist who I found through BOC. Even though I paid BOC's prices for her services (because I had already signed a contract), I felt it absolutely imperative to pass along Jill's contact info, as her personal pricing is far less than BOC's. While her pricing varies depending on the size of the bridal party (i.e., the more people, the less it is per person), it is still afforable no matter how you slice it! For instance, if you and 3 bridesmaids would like full make up, and you're in the city, it's only $70 per person!!!! (note: to go to the burbs, there's an additional $30 one-time charge...) Compare that to BOC's $275 for the bride and $100 for each bridesmaid... INSANE! And, on top of that, she's so good! She made me look like me, but the best version of me there is! I can't recommend Jill enough. Seriously, use her!

Now for the pièce de résistance, my hair!!! I had always known that my stylist, Lisa, from Salon Envy would do my wedding day hair. She is the best hair stylist I've ever gone to, so much so, that I simply had to follow her when she made the move to Salon Envy... She interpreted my ideal look perfectly: loose waves, half-up with lots of height, and pretty to look at from the back... Voila, perfection! Lisa, I LOVE YOU!

photo credit: Essence Photo and Video
related posts: our budget-friendly wedding I: Attire, The photos are in!!!, Vendor Review I: Reception Music

our budget-friendly wedding I: attire

I'd like to begin our $15,000 wedding wrap-up at the beginning - the dress. My dress was the very first (major) decision I made. Essentially, it helped to dictate the tone of the wedding (that is to say, once I picked a more formal dress, I realized that my initial thought of having a laid-back destination wedding in Bluffton, S.C. might not be the right direction.)

As I've explained in past posts, my "vintage" Vera Wang was a fabulously inexpensive find (when you're in doubt, go the preowned or sample dress route). I couldn't have been more obsessed with it! The fabric and the detailing on the bust were to die for! I really lucked out, if I do say so myself. I also wore a gorgeous, standard cut, 72'' cathedral length veil, that was later replaced by a gorgeous silk gardenia, Nadri drop-crystal earings (not pictured), a Nadri crystal bangle (this one was on back order and came 1 week after the wedding...), and I donned some super sexy metallic 4'' heels from Zappos. All in all, I was very, very happy with the way my attire turned out! In fact, the only thing that wasn't perfect was the lack of my Nadri bracelet cuff bracelet...

Up next, hair and make up reviews...

photo credit: Essence Photo and Video
related posts: The photos are in!!!, Vendor Review I: Reception Music

The photos are in!!!

Our photos have finally come in and I've been drooling over them for days now! I can't wait to post all of the details!!! Stay tuned! For now, here's one of my favorite shots...a celebration of love and books! LOVE IT!

photo credit: Essence Photo and Video

Cheap but Chic

Hey ya'll! I've taken a bit of a vacation from anything wedding related - other than stalking my photographer's website, of course - and before I dive back in, I thought I'd share a non-wedding related post.

I was watching Channel 7 News last night (weird, I know) hoping to catch a glimpse of Obama's new economic strategy, when I found myself watching this super awesome segment on cheap stuff around Chicago! Wooohoo! They featured this adorable website, PoorLittleRichGirls, which compiles all of the deals around the city (be it food, clothes or beauty). Listen to how they define their reader:

"A PoorLittleRichGirl is a young woman living in the city earning enough money to support herself, but not quite enough to go spending it on every Jimmy, Marc and Saint Laurent she sees. She is conscious of the image she portrays and loves life’s little luxuries, but is not willing to spend a small fortune on designer goods and premium martinis. She is smart and would rather put this money into her 401K."
Ahh {sign of relief}, finally, a website after my own heart! The segment also featured some high-end designer consignment shops, such as Buy Popular Demand and Cynthia's Consignments. Just thought I'd pass this info along.

Have a great week, everyone!

Honeymoon Heaven

Our honeymoon was absolutely fabulous! It was the definition of relaxation; exactly what we needed after months of hard work. For the most part, we didn't leave the resort except for one excursion to the famed, Xel-ha, a natural eco-park (more on that below). We had decided early on that we wouldn't make our honeymoon an exploration vacation, our typical m.o., but rather we'd do our best to relax and unwind. So, we spent our days lounging on the beach, sipping mango daiquiris (me) and cerveza blancas (Nathan), and the evenings eating delicious, delicious, food at one of the seven restaurants on the resort.

We spent quite a bit of time exploring the "campus" that was the resort. It was HUGE! Above is the Lobby - gorgeous...

Nathan and I enjoying our first evening at the resort.

Above is the outside of our suite. We've decided that we're investing in these Yucatan "Adirondack chairs" - they are the most comfortable chairs we've ever sat in! Nathan has also decided that a hammock is a MUST HAVE for our new home (who knows how long he'll have to wait to get one!) Below is a photo of the "Casitas", free standing guest suites. If we ever go back to our resort, we are DEFINITELY staying in one of these. One word, luxury!

Above is a shot of the main pool at the resort. While there were over 10 pools, this is the one that got the most traffic - undoubtedly due to the HUGE attached bar. And, below is a shot of one of the resort's pets! There were dozens of these guys!

Here is the gorgeous resort chapel. There were 3 weddings that took place during our stay, but strangely, none took place in the chapel.

Here is the outdoor massage facility! Two words - a-mazing! :) Below are a few shots from our one "cloudy day". We were blessed with really beautiful weather, so we couldn't complain about the one day of massive waves and clouds - the remnants of Hurricane Paloma off of Cuba. Instead of lounging on the beach that day, we explored the resort's miles of coastline. Even while covered under a blanket of clouds, it was still gorgeous!

Our feet in the sand:

Because we were on our honeymoon, the resort gave us a romantic candlelit dinner on the beach. It was absolutely wonderful, except for this saxophonist playing Kenny G (literally, Kenny G), but that was easily tuned out by the sound of the waves and good conversation with Nathan.

Look at how happy we are!

A local artist visited the resort to sell his gorgeous "finger" paintings. Yes, he used his fingers to create these masterpieces. We totally got caught up in the moment and bought two of the
"Mexican village" paintings.

Finally, at the end of our trip, we got off of our butts to go to Xel-ha, a eco-park created from a fresh water river and lagoon and the Mexican Caribbean. I know, it's a bit controversial, creating a type of a theme park from nature and exploiting the history and resources of Mexico, but if they hadn't opened it to the public, Nathan and I would have never had an opportunity to see such a magnificent place! We swam with dolphins - number 34 on my list of 100 things to do in life. We floated down the river flanked with cliffs and mangroves. We snorkeled with schools of colorful fish (by we, I mean Nathan, because I'm too squeamish to let fish touch me) . We explored the ancient, underwater Mayan caves. And, while we didn't have time to lie in the hammocks, we admired the idea of a "forest of hammocks" from the sideline. The entire experience was AMAZING! We highly recommend it to anyone going to Riviera Maya... Note: you're not allowed to use regular sun block. You have to purchase biodegradable sun block, so to preserve the ecosystem.

Our honeymoon was absolute perfection. As you can imagine, it was difficult to leave paradise and return to regular life. However, we're comforted by the daydream of vacations to come and, or course, the daydream of our future together!