The Classic Movie Romance

Years ago, engagement pictures were a half hour session full of prom-style poses in a local mall. With the expansion of social media and advanced technology evolution that includes digital picture frames, the photos we take and share are more elaborate than ever. More thought, effort, time, and money goes into pictures of ourselves and our family. From the hair and makeup, to the ideas that no one has done before, we want to be remembered. Valentine’s day studio sessions, quiceńera photos that rival a full production, and elaborate gender reveal parties. Call it vanity, or a desperate desire for physical memories of life events; photos are no longer candid polaroids. 

For a while, I didn’t think marriage was for me.  So when I finally met my real life prince charming, my entire stance on the celebrations of anniversaries and relationship milestones changed. I knew when it came time to have my engagement photos taken that I wanted something beyond the average studio session. I wanted something that truly represented us and our interests. With schedules that could not be more opposite, Warren and I rarely get time together. I wake up at the same time he’s getting home from work. When I’m getting home from meetings all day, he’s already left for the night. And the every-other-weekends we get together only happen if I’m event-free. Needless to say, “our” time is precious. When the universe finally aligns, we’re both beyond exhausted from long events or a stressful week, that all we really want to do is curl up on the couch, put in a frozen pizza, and watch a movie. That being said, yoga pants/gym shorts, and contacts out, are the normal “date night” attire.

I had seen viral photos circulating of couples who did their engagement photos while working out, or at their favorite pizza parlor. (Both things Warren and I absolutely love to do together), but I wanted something more. When our photographer, Martha, from Unique Design Studios asked us to come up with some ideas, I was forced to hone in on what really made us, us. “What do you like to do as a couple? What makes your relationship dynamic?”

Well… our date nights are mainly movie-driven. We were on to something.

Warren and I are old souls. We have that classic movie romance. What do I mean by that? It’s the chivalrous, timeless, no-eyes-for-anyone-else love seen in Casablanca-esque movies. And what makes it even better is that we actually love those classic films! I’d say one of the most unique elements of our relationship is the mutual admiration we have for old black & whites. Some of our favorites to watch together are Sunset Boulevard, Singin’ In The Rain, and It Happened One Night.

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Sunset Boulevard 1950

Anyone who knows these movies is aware of some of the most iconic scenes and movie plots in cinema history.

Sunset Boulevard is the story of a washed out movie star longing for the cameras and red curtain once again, replaying old films to anyone who will watch. 


A runaway heiress and news reporter cross paths and the unlikely pair fall in love while breaking the law in It Happened One Night.


Now where could I find a setting that was stuck in time, where we could be transported back to the 1930s? A good friend suggested I check out the main street in Homestead, Florida. Upon some further photo research, I found that its downtown really looked like a scene from one of these films.

mr2_4906A portion of the street spanning no larger than a quarter block, housed an old theater. Originally opened on November 26, 1921, the Seminole Theater had been recently revamped without any formal grand opening. I contacted the appropriate managers and scheduled a time to see the building in person. As soon as I was taken into the main theater, my heart fluttered. It was perfect. The empty stage was adorned on each side with a seemingly never-ending red velvet curtain.

Since the theater hadn’t been used since its renovations, you could still smell the fresh velvet of the theater seating. 

Across from the original town hall just next door was a lonesome clock pole, which immediately made me think of a well known part in Singin’ In The Rain when the main character does a dance number while hanging from a street light.

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I was sold on the location right then and there.

Not only did we find the quintessential 1930s town, but the movie theater itself held so much meaning to us with our shared love of watching films.

Without going too kitchy or overdone with the “classic” theme, I knew I wanted to modernize the timelessness of our love with a modern twist. But what should I wear for my engagement pictures? What colors look best? What style dress looked best for my body? I didn’t want the typical decade-appropriate bright red lips and long pearl necklace. With the help of my favorite website, Lulus.com, I risked an online purchase and ordered a gorgeous floor length, ¾ sleeve navy lace dress that I never tried on and accented with silver dangling earrings. GP Exclusives gave my normally limp, bone-straight hair some volume and to-live-for curls. Dressing up for our photos felt really nice, and also really different, since our norm is comfy clothes!

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curls on curls on curls on curls

mr2_4432I told Martha we wanted to recreate versions of the iconic love scenes from our favorite films and, well, our photos speak for themselves…

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“Singin’ in the r… sunlight!”

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Clark Gable & Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night
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“I proved once and for all that the limb is mightier than the thumb.”
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“Why didn’t you take all your clothes off? You could have stopped forty cars.”                 “Well, ooh, I’ll remember that when we need forty cars.”

The black and white effect Martha edited with really added to our timeless look. Is it just me or does everyone look better in black and white? Haha.

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So, when it comes time to take your engagement pictures, it might feel like a whirlwind. A list of questions like, “What do I wear? What are ways to make my picture unique? How should I do my hair?” and Pinterest searches of “best engagement shoot outfits” or “what to avoid wearing for engagement pictures”… my best advice to you would be to simply stay true to your relationship.

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The End (and a nice end at that)

Happy Planning!

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all photos courtesy of Unique Design Studios  

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Travel Themed Bridal Shower

The reality of a destination wedding is that some of your guests may not be able to attend. With an overseas wedding in Barcelona, we thought, what better way to celebrate than with a travel themed bridal shower!


Our beautiful bride, Lisa, gave me free reign to design her travel themed shower. The only parameters were to avoid exaggerating the theme and crossing the line to children’s party. We still wanted to exude elegance and femininity without using the classic red and blue airline stripes and boarding passes.

Naturally, we called this “Traveling from Miss to Mrs.”IMG_9675.jpgThe shower fell in April, as we were just beginning Springtime in Florida. Embracing spring pastels, we chose blushes, golds, ivories, and lavenders for our color palette. Lisa’s favorite color was purple, so we made sure to incorporate lots of the color! The venue of choice was a upper scale Italian restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, with modern grays and whites, so it was important to balance the masculine lines with the softer tones and decor. We adorned a long royal table with a beautiful violet linen and used the existing chairs, which were a sleek white and unique tapering rectangular shape. It added a really unique element to all the “girly” we would be using.260A5600.jpgThe center of the table featured white suitcases with custom vinyl phrases like “See you in Spain!” “Barcelona or Bust!” 260A5525.jpgRodriStudios provided the most gorgeous florals featuring large roses, ranunculus, astilbe,  and dusty miller. 260A5592.jpgHe even saved a stem specifically for Lisa to wear behind her ear! Seriously, how cute does she look?260A5709.jpgWe opened one suitcase and had flowers overflowing inside, while the other 2 suitcases served as bases for varying heights and depths.260A5500260A5593Airplane shaped map cutouts were sprinkled across the table, while ribbon-wrapped cylinder vases and floating candles provided a little bit of romance. Each lady sat with a custom place setting in front of them. Gold luggage tags with each guest’s name hand lettered dually served as both practical favor and place card.260A5523260A5524260A5521Pastel blush napkins wrapped the edges of our gold charger plates. Welcoming the soft colors and muted theme, pastel maps were used throughout the decor, while subtle hints of “travel” wording were present. The delicious dulce de leche naked cake by Two Fat Cookies was decorated with cascading florals by RodriStudio and a custom “Fly Away With Me” cake topper from Etsy. 260A5514.jpgPink leather passport cover favors from J.Crew were the quintessential girly touch to traveling!260A5613.jpg260A5554260A5598We provided custom champagne-flavored, airplane-shaped lollipops which were the perfect purple touch to the sign in table.260A5545.jpgInstead of a traditional guest book, we created a canvas print in which each girl would leave their lipstick marks and signature. The ladies had a blast making their mark and were surprised at how many of them had the same shade of makeup (totally unplanned!)IMG_9716.jpg260A5800.jpg260A5769.jpgWe really wanted to add a few fun bridal shower games for the ladies to play. The first game was Where in the World? We built a custom frame to hold pictures of Lisa and Jason in iconic locations from all over the world! The ladies had to analyze the scenery and match up the numbered photos with a location on their game sheets.260A5579.jpg260A5845.jpg260A5841After another delicious brunch item from Angelo Elia, 260A5808.jpgwe moved onto the next game of Who Knows Lisa Best?, a collection of questions that tested the ladies’ knowledge of the bride to be. Questions ranged from “What is Lisa’s favorite part of the body to workout?” to “What is Lisa’s favorite ice cream flavor?”260A5565.jpgAt the beginning of the brunch, we passed out cards to all the ladies asking them to recall their favorite memory with Lisa. They were not allowed to write there name, because Lisa would later play Who Am I? guessing which memory was with which friend. We definitely had to cover Mom’s ears for a couple memories haha!260A5557.jpgOur last game, and the one I was looking forward to most, was Who Has The Groom? I had the scratch-off cards custom made and passed the cards at random to the ladies at the table. 260A5560.jpgRemoving the penny from the back of their card, each lady was instructed to scratch at their card until a face was revealed on the tuxedo body. 260A5870.jpgCheck out this video to see a sample reveal! Only one card actually had Jason’s face, while the others were strewn with everything from Darth Vader to Steve Harvey!IMG_9726.jpgIMG_9730.jpgIMG_9734.jpg260A5880260A5886The winner of each game received an airplane bottle opener, keeping with our travel theme. We had so much fun embodying the travel theme and spring colors for this bridal shower. There were so many ways to incorporate airplanes and maps without overdoing it. At Oh My Occasions, we love any excuse for a party and even more so, one with a theme!


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How Do I Pick My Bridesmaids?

BRIDESMAIDS

You’re excited and you feel relaxed and you’re ready to parrrrrrtayyyyyy… with the best of them!” but who exactly makes up “the best of them”? You’re probably asking yourself, “how do I pick my bridesmaids?”

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Like most big decisions in life, there’s no real handbook or method of narrowing down your wedding party. At Oh My! Occasions, we’re going to do our best to help you select your bridesmaids to a crew that rivals Maya Rudolph’s in the popular comedy from 2011. When making important decisions, I often find it’s easiest to eliminate the things I do not want first. Here’s a list of DON’Ts while choosing your bridal party:

DON’Ts

DON’T… hold a Hunger Games rally in which your ladies compete for the coveted title. You do know how those books ended, right? Spoiler alert: it’s not an eating contest.

DON’T… put an ad on Craigslist. Crime shows are literally based on this type of thing. Big Don’t.

DON’T… hold auditions; this is not The Voice.

DON’T… take bribes. This is a felony or misdemeanor, dependent on state. Although the financial gain could help out in paying for the wedd- No. Noo. Bribery is wrong.

DON’T… ask on impulse. The lady at Subway might have given you extra cheese at no charge, but she’s not your best friend. I promise.

DON’T… use the “eenie meenie miney moe” technique. We all know that was rigged based on which person you started on, but hey, I might still be a little bitter from a kickball tournament in 1997.

DON’T… attempt to win a world record for largest wedding party. Just, don’t.


In all seriousness, your bridal party should be a true reflection of you. You may end up with a group of people from all different times in your life. Your favorite recipes are ones that taste the best to you, right? So your recipe may be heavier on one ingredient than the next bride’s. And that’s okay! We don’t want any nuts in our recipe anyway! Add a pinch of your childhood friend mixed with your 2 college roommates and a side of coworker with a dash of sister.

DSC_1334cSo how do you choose your bridesmaids? The biggest piece of advice would be to select ladies that you know will be your forever friends. Do you see this person being involved in your life 5 years from now, 10 years, 20 years? Or will your future children look at your wedding album and wonder why there’s a face cut out of all the wedding party photos. We’ve created a checklist to help you. Your friend is bridesmaid quality is you can answer yes to these statements:

  • She supports my marriage
  • She has met the person I’m about to marry
  • She is mindful of my opinions, and not hurtful with her honesty
  • She handles stressful situations well
  • She is in a financial and/or emotional place in life to dedicate time to being a bridesmaid
  • She is willing to offer advice or assistance if I need it

DSC_1329cIT IS YOUR DAY

but it’s also important to assess your bridesmaids’ individual circumstances. One of your ladies might be paying off school loans or going through a breakup. Also take into consideration any young siblings or family members that you’re thinking about asking to be a bridesmaid. Does their age affect your ability to do certain things or go to certain places? A bachelorette trip to Vegas may be better suited for ladies 21+, but a tea party bridal luncheon could include all ages.

JackieKyle_W141.jpgNEAR OR FAR

One, some, or all of your bridesmaids might not live near you which means going through the motions of bridal milestones could get a little lonely. I personally had 9 bridesmaids all living in different states, none of which were near me! Be honest with your bridesmaids about your expectations. Nowadays, it’s easy to include your gals with Facetime or ask for their assistance virtually, if they can not devote their time in person. Sharing photos and Pinterest boards is easier than ever! If your in-town bridesmaids can’t attend larger “events”, they can still help with other tasks like stuffing wedding invitations, giving their opinion on what color nail polish or hair styles they think look best, or helping you choose the best songs for your big day. I knew that there’d be a lot of travel involved during my planning process and ultimately to my wedding destination, so I talked to my girls and let them know that I did not expect them to be at all the pre-wedding festivities like the bridal shower, bachelorette party, or dress fittings. No hard feelings. Your bridesmaids don’t have to be present at all the other outings, but the only thing they are really required to attend is the actual wedding day.

IMG_9026WHAT’S GOING ON

As a bride, you can also take steps to make things financially easier for your ladies to uphold the bridesmaid title. Maybe make hair and makeup optional, or offer to pay for their services. I personally bought all my bridesmaids their dresses, because I knew there were other expenses they’d be covering later on. If your friend is going through an emotionally difficult time, it’s okay for them to decline your invitation to be a bridesmaid. She is allowed to say “no” or “I can’t”. Don’t take this personally. You can always suggest another wedding role with less responsibility. Weddings can have ushers, readers, gift collectors, or honorary attendees. There are ways to acknowledge a friend’s importance without the pressure or title of bridesmaid. Otherwise, let your friend know that you are there for her, that you respect her decision, and that you hope she will still come to celebrate as a guest!

DSC_2431cCOED

While it’s common to think of a bridal party consisting of women, it’s totally fine to ask your guy friends to partake in the festivities too! We’ve seen the role reversal many times: Groomsmaids, Man of Honor, you name it!

HOW MANY

Remember how this is your recipe? Well, Betty Crocker, you can adjust it however you please. You’re allowed to have more than one maid of honor… or none at all. And don’t worry if your bridesmaids and groomsmen create an uneven number. The way of tallest-to-shortest lined up wedding party photos are long gone. Photographers are able to create some really neat compositions to work with the asymmetry you may have. Plus, I don’t think the best man will mind if he’s escorting two pretty ladies on each arm. It is a good idea to keep your overall guest count in mind when making your wedding party selection. 12 bridesmaids and 10 groomsmen with 50 attendees may look a little off-kilter.NicoleMiguel-122

QUID PRO QUO

When all is said and done, and you’re on the other side of the wedding party, don’t expect an automatic invite. There are no rules about Bridesmaid reciprocity, so just because you ask her, doesn’t mean she has to ask you.

FIBBING IN YOUR FAVOR

Lastly, it’s important to pick a group who is honest with you, while still considering your feelings. I had found “the” wedding dress and shared with my friends when I actually had someone tell me it was ugly! Make sure you have a crew who will give their opinions in a heartfelt manner, while still being able to read your reactions. If you love those 3 layers of feathers on your dress, or you’re keen on having a Polka band, you want to be sure that your girls will be supportive of those decisions, regardless if they would be their own.

IMG_9048WHO MAKES THE CUT

Choosing your bridesmaids comes down to finding the perfect recipe of friends that will leave you saying, “This is such a stone-cold pack of weirdos, and I am so proud!” Now go choose your weirdos!

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How Will I Know If I’ve Found “The” Wedding Dress?

What type of wedding dress is best for my body? How will I know if I’ve found the right wedding dress? Will I know when I’ve found my wedding gown?

So what if you’ve gone wedding dress shopping, and didn’t find “the one”? And then subsequently went to another shop, and still didn’t find the dress that brings you to tears?

I’m here to tell you two magic words. It’s oooooookay!

Shows like Say Yes To The Dress alter the way we look at the dress shopping experience. The privilege of having both your parents, your future in-laws AND your childhood, high school, and college best friends attending the appointment is more than likely not a possibility. You aren’t always going to have a dress concierge that’s as sweet and attentive as TLC’s Monte. And more often than not, you won’t be poured a glass of champagne to ease those nerves.

Here’s a couple tips to remember when you go to your appointment:

  1. Try on all the different dress styles. Yes, even the ones you aren’t immediately drawn to. I had no idea what style dress I wanted or what would even look good on me! I tried some crazy absurd styles since I’m not too traditional anyway.

Yes, that’s a black dress. And yes, thanks a red jersey knit gown. And yes, I seriously loved them!

I tried the halter top. I didn’t hate it.

I tried two giant bow backs and channeled my (non-existent) inner Carrie Bradshaw.

I tried on a dress with ruching in alllllll the wrong places.

I even tried on a super full ruffle bottom gown and I thought it was sooooo much fun to twirl in!

I tried on a 2-in-1 style that was immediately christened the “vegas” dress.

I tried on some unique geometric cutouts on an otherwise very simple dress.

I tried on a gown that I really liked, with material called “horsehair”. I’m not making that up. Horsehair. And funnily enough, it doesn’t look like horse’s hair whatsoever. It’s really neat structured “waves”. And I loved the asymmetry of its design.

2. Don’t bring too many people to your appointment because too many people = too many opinions = too much confusion… I’d recommend 3 people as a good number of appointment attendees. Save yourself the sad tears (I had plenty) due to an unfiltered, and senseless opinion from someone.


  1. Don’t be deterred by dress sizing. Some gowns will have European designer sizing, while others are nowhere near the typical size you have in your closet. Wedding gowns are their own category with layers of tulle and lining, and lace and other material that fits much differently than you think.

  2. Be open to a dress that isn’t a true white. More often than not, brides will choose an ivory or champagne undertone, since a pure white isn’t the most flattering color.

  3. Set a REALISTIC budget. By that, I mean, if you are leaning toward Galia Lahav or Inbal Dror, be sure that your max budget can accommodate that.

  4. Don’t be afraid to break tradition! Try on some nontraditional colors! Or maybe you’re not intimidated at the thought of purchasing a used wedding gown. Sites like stillwhite.com and preownedweddingdresses.com feature good-as-new condition gowns for half the price of what the owner paid! There’s some bargaining room here, too. Buying from a designer trunk show or sample sale (purchasing a dress as is- maybe it’s been on the rack for while) can also save you money! You can even find some unique wedding dress finds at non-bridal shops. (I found my elopement dress at Macy’s on sale!)

  5. Determine your venue’s dress code. Will you need to purchase a lace shawl or piece to be church appropriate? Will a long train and cathedral length veil make sense for an outdoor ceremony with lots of natural foliage and terrain?
  6. 2015-11-07-11-23-50Ask the professionals for advice! Ask the salon consultants for their suggestions based on your likes and dislikes. They know their collection and inventory the best, and can pull some options for you!

  7. Try on a veil! It will really pull together the entire look. I promise when you see yourself in the mirror with a veil in your hair…. you’ll get this tiny sigh of satisfaction like, “wow. I actually look like a bride!”2015-11-08 12.39.06.jpg


  8. Give yourself ample time to shop and for fittings! If you’re not purchasing a dress that’s ready to leave with you that day, keep in mind that some designs are sent out of the country and hand made to order! This could take 6-9 months. Make sure you’re scheduling enough time for subsequent fittings and alterations.


  9. Close your eyes and appreciate how the dress feels. Is the tulle itchy? Is the layering too heavy to dance in? Maybe the mesh sleeves don’t provide enough movement for your best “raise the roof” dance moves.

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 10.05.36 PM.pngI literally could not move in this dress without fear that I would rip the seams.

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Despite my face, I came close to loving this dress. That mesh near the armpits was a deal breaker since I couldn’t lift my arms over my head!

“Will I know when I’ve found my wedding dress?” Maybe. aaaaand maybe not.

I didn’t have the tears-down-my-cheeks-jumping-up-and-down-while-clapping-my-hands reaction.

Did I secretly hate the other bride’s entourage of girls who were squealing with satisfaction sharing overwhelming “oohs” and “ahhs”, holding up signs like “love it!” or “this is the one”? Yes. Ohhhhh, undoubtedly yes.

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NOT my entourage.

Was I jealous that that bride got to have her entire bridal party share the special experience? Um, duh. With 9 bridesmaids who all live in different states, I went shopping 3 different times by myself, and 4 times when my mom was visiting. #WeddingDressSelfiesAreIncrediblyHardToDo

Was I totally baffled at how the last frumpy dress I tried on looked like a million bucks on the bride next to me? Uh huh.

Did I use the phrase, “I don’t hate it” more times than I can count? You betcha. I think the following facial expressions have proven that my Poker face is terrible.

Was I totally off-put by those darn alligator clips on the back of the dress and completely clueless as to how I was supposed to feel pretty with them on? Yuuuuuup.

(But hey, at least Happy Bride gave me pink clips!)screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-10-19-52-pmI can’t even count how many dresses I tried on. But I knew that if I wasn’t feeling it, I just wasn’t feeling it! And to quote the magic words of wedding dress shopping? IT’S OKAY!

No, I didn’t have the unequivocal feeling that I had found THE dress I would wear for my wedding. But what I did have was a “hmm” moment. And that “hmm” moment for me was when I couldn’t stop thinking about one particular dress. No, I wasn’t dreaming about it every night, but I found myself saying, “well I did feel beautiful. It did have the elements I wanted.” Consciously, I was holding onto hope that I’d find a perfect dress. Why is it okay to not have “that” feeling? Why is it okay to be indecisive and to leave your appointments without a dress in your hands? Because it’s normal. It’s a huge decision, and likely a huge financial decision too! I’m one of those people that can never decide which restaurant to eat at, so naturally, a wedding dress choice wasn’t going to be much easier. If you typically like to wait for “signs” in order to move forward with a huge financial decision, that’s okay! If you want to look at another store before walking away with what you think might be the gown… that’s okay too!

Know what’s also okay? HAVING THAT REACTION!

If you can’t decide on a dress, or haven’t found the perfect one for you, try making a list of elements and styles you gravitate toward.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but I knew some elements that I loved in photos, and had pinned a million times on Pinterest. Mention your favorite materials or dress elements to your consultant. Years of competitive soccer blessed (?) me with thunder thighs and a strong booty… so I wanted to show it off. I’ve gravitated toward those “scrunch butt” bikinis with ruching down the middle, and my Ideal Gown Mental Checklist had that as #1. #2 on my checklist was a unique back. Maybe it’s a cool cutout or design, or a beautiful arrangement of bling straps gracing the shoulder blades.Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 10.29.55 PM.png#3 Lace. Lace makes me think “princess” more than a typical ballgown would. But that’s just me! To some women, “princess” means hoop skirt and fullness. Other women want to avoid looking like a “princess” completely! I went to 7 different bridal salons. And not once did I have the moment where I said “THIS IS THE ONE!” I didn’t cry. I didn’t have my bridesmaids there to celebrate with me. I didn’t leave the bridal salons knowing that I had found my wedding gown.

And you know what? IT WAS OKAY! 

 

The dress I kept thinking about was one I had tried on 3 different times on 3 separate days. A dress that had a ruched bottom (my #1), and a really unique back detailing (#2). It also had the most gorgeous lace with a slight shimmer (#3).

2015-11-11-12-01-282015-11-11-12-02-57It wasn’t something I used to close my eyes and picture as my dream wedding gown, but truthfully I didn’t have a particular vision anyway. I was so badly craving that moment I thought I needed to have. When really, I just needed to hear that even though I didn’t have those tears, IT’S OKAY! I decided that this dress was my dress. And my dress became the perfect dress.

I ordered it from a store in North Carolina that was priced the lowest. I pretended like my wedding date was in September so the order (hand made in Israel) would be rush made and shipped. (Does this white lie make me a bad person, or strategically paranoid? I plead for the latter.)

After missing the original delivery at my doorstep, I drove around for an hour trying to locate the UPS building that my wedding dress was being held at. Excuse me for not thinking the Quick-E Mart with bars on the windows and taped up bullet holes was where my beautiful (expensive) dress would be held at.

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the ACTUAL store!

After notifying the authorities of my location (okay not really, I just texted my police officer fiancé), I parked my car (and “beep”-locked it about a thousand time for all the potential criminals to hear). The store clerk reached behind a glass case with visible drug paraphernalia (“for tobacco use only”) and handed me a Zappos shoe box with the name Dylan on it. I cry-chuckled, and had a look behind the counter myself to see that each of the boxes left could not possibly fit a giant wedding gown. Fighting back tears, I realized my gown was MIA. I proceed to have some… “heartfelt” words with UPS customer service, only to be informed that they’d been calling a 705 number to get a hold of me and let me know the package was redirected. Didn’t bother to update the online tracking or email and text notifications… just wanted to call someone random person in Ontario. Makes sense, right? So I start my journey 30 minutes in the opposite direction and finalllllllly meet my dress. After a full day of WEDventures, I FOUND THE GOWN.

 

I had 4 dress fittings with an amazing seamstress in Pompano Beach. Shameless shout out to Alterations by Reina. img_3609This sweet, sweet lady spent so much time making me feel and look beautiful. That’s her photo bombing my alteration selfies. I trusted her so much that even those pair of scissors didn’t scare me. (Okay, yes they did, but I was confident that she knew what she was doing)IMG_3636.jpgSo I’m not sure if “seamstress” is a synonym for “miracle worker” but Reina sure was. If you find yourself a professional and reputable alterations shop, the possibilities in creating your dream dress are endless. That’s exactly how my Macy’s one shoulder elopement dress turned into a beautiful lace sleeved custom gown.

Now that long train has to go somewhere. IMG_3082.jpgThat “somewhere” is into a bustle. A standard bustle has 1-5 buttons in which loops of thread (or snaps) are pinned under your bottom to “shorten” the length of your dress for ease in dancing after the ceremony. My bustle? img_3649Oh, my bustle had 21 buttons. That’s not a typo. I had TWENTY-ONE buttons for my bustle. 12 on the under layer, and 9 on the outside lace.

So don’t get discouraged if you do not have “the moment” you think you’re supposed to have. Not everyone cries. Not everyone “knows”. I didn’t. But my dress was perfect for me. And in Blackjack standards, I won with 21 (buttons that is).

Now go have that “hmm” moment you deserve. Happy Planning!

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Check out the Thin Blue Line Wedding blog post for more photos of my dress on wedding day!

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Thin Blue Line Wedding

What happens when the wedding planner weds?

 

As many of you know, I was officially married at the end of October to the love of my life. Our unique elopement style ceremony meant that a month later we would have “The Party”, complete with wedding guests, a bridal party, and a proper reception.

A month of being legally married, allowed me the time to officially change my name, and get my new legal documents. I woke up around 5am on November 26, too excited to sleep anymore. After all, it was Christmas morning  (okay, it was really wedding day, but it felt like Christmas!) The entire morning, my bridesmaids and I watched the Bridesmaids movie on repeat. I’m not kidding. As soon as the Wilson Phillips song faded out, we just pressed “restart”. We had a blast reciting the movie quotes and even our makeup artists were laughing with us.  I was working with vendors I knew and loved, so it was more like seeing old friends, than feeling anxious about how they’d do.

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My 9 bridesmaids had 5 different hair options to choose from: all updos to show off the keyhole back in their mermaid dresses. Visions by Daili was able to give each girl their own version of a top bun with braids.

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I gave the girls custom shirts and socks with personalized tumblers.

mr2_5706mr2_5666IMG_3499.jpgmr2_5687Once my hair and makeup were finished, I slipped on my “Bride” tank, and fuzzy slippers to see Warren. In our North Carolina wedding we opted not to do a first look. This time, we were having 2 special moments before the ceremony. When I first started in this industry, I was requested on the 9th floor of a hotel to help the groomsman tie bow ties… so I quickly Googled a “how to” video and became a pro before the elevator doors opened up. Since then, I would practice on paper towel rolls and an unwilling (then) boyfriend, to perfect my method. Since he used to be my practice model, we decided that on our wedding day, this was an intimate moment we could share.

Weeks before the wedding, I went on Amazon to find a simple blind fold, and wouldn’t you know it… a bunch of S&M accessories popped up. Silk blind fold? Throw it in the cart! So like something straight out of 50 Shades of Grey, I walked into a quiet room with my husband sitting blindfolded in a chair.

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mr3_8960I burst out laughing! These photos, without explanation, are probably currently on some 50 shades fan site with incorrect context.

It was a sweet moment between us, as I knotted his bow tie in one shot.

 

mr2_5639On our first date, Warren took me to a gun range. I had saved one of the shell casings of a bullet from that day. I had the casing made into cuff links thanks to Matthews Custom Jewelers and gifted them to Warren. mr3_9111

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My girls went to change into their dresses. Truthfully, throughout the entire wedding planning process, I was anxiously awaiting the day when I’d see my best friends all dolled up in these gowns that I fell in love with at first sight. I LOVE the color of cobalt blue against black. Since my husband is a police officer, we thought the blue would work dually as a “thin blue line” theme. I was shopping in Macy’s one day in December and my eyes immediately were drawn to these shiny royal blue dresses. I impulsively decided in that instant that I wasn’t going to wait for them to go out of stock. I bought all 9 dresses for my girls, and didn’t regret it one bit when they did indeed go completely out of stock the next month! I loved how they weren’t your typical “bridesmaid” dress, and I knew it would compliment everyone’s figures beautifully. (I know everyone says that they think their bridesmaid dresses will be worn again, but I’ll bet money that at least one of my girls repurposes it!)mr2_5560

My mom was there when I picked out my wedding gown (a story in itself), and patiently attended so many dress fittings with me. Naturally, she was the one to help zip me up into my gown.

MR2_5880.jpgMR2_5877.jpgmr2_5868It fit like a glove, and I felt so unbelievably beautiful. There were rare times that I allowed myself to actually feel like a bride throughout the engagement, and it was such a surreal experience going through the motions and picture poses that I’ve seen all my brides do before my eyes. I knew exactly how slow to “put on” my garter for photos. I knew just what angle to show myself placing my earrings and I knew how to coach my mom into “pretending” to zip up my dress about 4 different times so video could get their shot.

mr2_5887 mr2_6011I wore the same veil that was edged with the lace from my mom’s wedding gown. I had Nina wedding shoes. They were soooooooo comfy! The low heel and ribbon ankle tie provided the maximum comfortable support I needed to be able to take unlimited photos and dance my first dance sans blisters.

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I opted to have a first look with my dad, and I’m so glad we had that private moment together. I gifted him a picture frame engraved with the words “of all the walks we’ve ever taken, this one means the most” with a temporary picture of baby me in his giant gym shoes to be replaced with a photo of him walking me down the aisle.

mr2_5944mr2_5947MR2_5985.jpgI gave my mom a couple of “mom” Alex and Ani bracelets, and a frame engraved with “forever your little girl”. Of course, tears were shed. Now, it was time for my first look with Warren. Countless times throughout the planning process, I asked him what he thought my dress looked like, or what he hoped it didn’t look like. The standard, “you’ll look great in anything” response was heavily received. We had a long hallway to ourselves, he had his back to me. I had butterflies the entire walk up to him before tapping his shoulder. I felt like a little school girl! I was so excited to see him, and more excited for him to see me!

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I couldn’t have faked that smile if you paid me.mr3_9441mr3_9444I twirled around to show him the entire dress, and his expression and reaction were so perfect. After witnessing countless first looks between my clients, it was a different level of special doing it myself. We took some photos together before our wedding party joined us.mr3_9452mr3_9453Now, our ceremony was going to be extra unique. We’ve all sat through the hour long ceremonies where people are hungry and antsy and uncomfortable. We wanted our guests to have fun! With the sun set, and the cool waves of the ocean splashing below the pool deck, all of the sudden, the speakers blare “BAD BOYS BAD BOYS! WATCHA GONNA DO? WATCHA GONNA DO WHEN THEY COME FOR YOU?” Yup. The COPS theme song that we all know and love. That’s what the groomsman walked down the aisle to! I heard laughs and clapping from our guests, and the laidback, fun vibe had already begun. Warren decided to walk coolly down the aisle to that whiny “oooo waooo wowwwwww” theme song from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, his favorite movie. Cue even more laughs.

MR3_9555.jpgmr2_6734I passed off my bouquet to my maid of honor, which smelled so heavily of glue, that I was happy to get rid of it. (note: composite bouquets are a man-made arrangement by gluing individual petals around a single rose to give the illusion of an exaggeratedly full bouquet. Looked pretty, smelled terrible.) Again, Warren’s grandfather was our officiant. I had spent weeks perfecting the most symbolic, touching ceremony script for him to read.

mr2_6739MR3_9667.jpgWith the uplights illuminating the darkness around us that evening, I knew something was wrong after his first sentence: “I can’t see my bible, so, I’m just gonna paraphrase this!” With the thud of the book shutting, “Dedaddy” gave the best possible rendition of my structured script. Haha! Through smiling teeth, Warren looked me in the eyes and said, “just go with it.” We wrote our own vows this time. Mine were laminated, his scribbled on Ritz Carlton notepad paper.

mr3_9702mr2_6742mr2_6773SD-6344.JPGWe actually said a lot of the same things in our vows, including the beliefs that we are solely funnier than the other. Deddady called for our kiss, and sentenced us “to a lifetime of happiness”. With that, Warren pulled out his handcuffs, and slapped those suckers on my wrist.

mr2_6794mr2_6797mr2_6812We walked our recessional to Haddaway’s “What Is Love?” and bobbed our heads with the music while laughing the whole walk down. True “Night at the Roxbury itz Carlton” style!

Amongst other standard cocktail hour hors d’eouvres, our guests had tomato shooters and grilled cheese bites. Nothing like good Midwest comfort food! On the late November breezy night, it was perfect. SD-6424.JPGWarren and I were swooped away to privacy where I declined the champagne, and ordered myself a tequila sunrise. We practiced our first dance and discussed the hilarity of the ceremony. We entered the ballroom with friends and family surrounding the dance floor. We flawlessly executed our first dance to “A Thousand Years” and the party began!

 

mr2_7074sd-6690mr2_7134mr2_7078We had the Ritz chef create a copycat recipe of the salad we ate the night we got engaged in Savannah, GA. Candied bacon, fried green tomato, and black pepper thyme buttermilk dressing. Yum. We had tattoo stations (the sponge and water kind) with sayings like, “I came for the open bar!” and “#LoveYouToBitzAtTheRitz”.

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We thought out of the (cake) box, and omitted a traditional wedding cake. We served assorted cake pops (my favorite!!!!) , donuts (insert the police joke here), and munchkins with dipping sauces!

 

My bouquet toss catcher is currently engaged, and although still single, the garter catcher made a truly valiant effort in his catch.

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We surprised our guests with continuous blasts of confetti and foam glow sticks. My father in law even led the electric slide, directing everyone like an air traffic controller! Our DJ, Sarz Entertainment, had every single person on their feet the entire night. So much so, that I missed our late night bites (sliders and quesadillas! double yum). Don’t worry, I ordered room service the next night and got myself a giant non-wedding-diet quesadilla. So worth it.mr3_0447

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We sang “Happy Birthday” to my Irish Twin brother, and had a wonderful night.

I didn’t have an ounce of caffeine that night, but it’s true what they (and by they, I mean I, as your wedding planner) tell you on your wedding day… you have so much adrenaline and excitement that you could party until the sun comes up. So that’s quite literally what we did. I wore my Berta dress along the sidewalks of A1A, bar hopped, and took photos with sand snowmen (only in Florida!).

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Blue Steel.

We sleepily made our way back to the hotel around 5am and immediately, I wanted to do it all over again. It’s totally acceptable to have a vow renewal, after one year, right?

 

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all professional photos by (c) Unique Design Studios

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Hitched on a Hilltop

READ I DO (x 2) TO SEE HOW WE GOT TO THE HILLTOP

A North Carolina Family Elopement 

all professional photos by Candi Leonard Photography

The last of our 12-hour drive consisted of winding roads with rustic barns and plenty of October wind. The leaves were vibrant yellows, brilliant oranges,  and roasted reds. The hilly mountainsides cast a gorgeous shadow upon the cow ridden valleys. We were definitely not in Kansas  Miami anymore.

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By Friday evening, our families had arrived. The craftsman style lodge we rented accommodated all 11 of us comfortably. After saying our hellos, we called it an early night to prepare for the wedding the next day.

 

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-6-15-30-pmclp_0310I wasn’t nervous in the least. As a wedding planner, I was used to the hustle and bustle of wedding day, with strict timelines, giant wedding parties to keep track of, complicated décor … and I wanted none of the above. Which is precisely why we decided to do things differently. We hired Candi Leonard Photography, a husband and wife team, who really understood our vision. The only other “vendors” we had were Ali and Andrea, hair and makeup stylists, to primp me for the day. We used wooden benches from around the porch for the ceremony, and there were no bouquets or centerpieces or ceremony structures. The natural backdrop was all we needed. 

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backyard wedding elopement

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See what I mean? I woke up Saturday to the smell of my dad cooking bacon. Some of the family had gathered in the oversized kitchen off of the master bedroom I had slept alone in the night before. Warren and I had agreed to not see each other until the ceremony, and in a two story house with 11 people, it proved to be a little difficult. I often found myself shuffling from room to room while shouting, “Don’t come up the stairs, babe!” Of course, our dog had decided to stick by Warren’s side the entire morning, which didn’t surprise me in the least. 

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Our dads and brothers, who had never met previously, played Pool and chatted about sports until it was time for me to walk down the aisle. Now, that was the beauty of our private elopement. We had no timeline. We had no caterer needing to plate food or DJ waiting for his music cue. When asked when the “ceremony” would start, I shrugged and said, “whenever.” If it rained, we could push it back an hour. If the sun was due to set early, we could move it earlier. We had no where else to be but here, in the moment.

Andrea and Ali completed my hair and makeup with loose barrel curls and a golden natural glow.  I listened to Halloween music on Pandora and drank chocolate milk while getting ready. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

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I was completely relaxed. Every so often, my mom would come in to check on me. My older brother, Kyle, provided a lot of laughs that made me relive our childhood. As “Irish twins”(born less than 12 months apart), we always had a special bond.

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here we are writing “REDRUM” with fogged glass breath. #typical

Like Rapunzel, confined to the bedroom, I rushed to write my note to Warren since moments earlier, he had slipped his envelope under my door.clp_9948clp_0142

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Everything about this wedding had a sentimental meaning attached to it. My wedding gown was custom made. The base of the white dress was a Ralph Lauren steal from Macy’s. A one-shoulder, spandex/rayon mix and the most comfortable material I’ve ever laid on my body! My mom had saved her wedding gown from 1987 but the shoulder pads just weren’t “2016”. I decided I’d find a way to somehow incorporate her dress. My mom’s train had enough lace to trim the edges of my cathedral length veil. With plenty of lace to spare, pieces were hand sewn on to the dress leg slit, and neck line. Skin-toned mesh created long sleeves finished with a lace border grazing my top knuckles. My ring shyly peaked through. 

My shoes were a $7 find (no, really!) with a comfortable 3 inch heel. The heel was covered with the lace of Warren’s grandmother’s dress that had lasted as long as her 60 year marriage (and going on more). When “Grandmama” Glenda saw the “something old” piece that I’d be “walking down the aisle” in, her eyes teared. She didn’t immediately recognize the fabric adorning the shoe. As the photographer captured her reaction, it finally hit her. She gave me a giant hug filled with deep appreciation.

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At roughly 3:00 in the afternoon, our family made their way to the backyard. The sky was a radiant blue with the sun shining brightly. The 50 degree weather was chilly to my Florida blood, but it was the Fall weather we wanted. Warren walked with Rogue to “Marry Me” by Train. I knew that song was my cue to walk out the front door and start making my way to the stone stairs on the side of the house. It was the closest thing to my childhood staircase I had always wanted to walk down. 

At the top of the stairs, it hit me. My stomach got all fluttery and I could feel my body shaking. I took deep breaths, as I heard Piano Guys instrumental rendition of “A Thousand Years” begin to play. At the 3rd stone step, it happened. My veil got stuck! The tears in my eyes dried quickly while I silently mouthed, “one minute” and readjusted myself. I’m the world’s clumsiest person, so that was so “me” for it to happen. Meanwhile, I couldn’t have had a better reaction from my groom. 

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screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-6-38-12-pmAnd the minute I saw the love of my life standing right there in front of me, I became a giddy school girl.screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-6-39-03-pm

Our dog, Rogue, was the ring bearer Best Pet. She got a special sparkly collar and pristine white leash for the occasion. As the gag reel for the entire ceremony, she promptly chewed through said leash and thought it was belly rub time when Warren went to detach the rings from her collar. 

 

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Warren’s grandfather officiated the ceremony with Bible passages and some heartfelt marriage advice. 

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In less than 10 minutes, we were husband and wife. 

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After a few family photos, and some bride and groom portraits around the property, we changed into comfy clothes, and grilled some burgers!

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screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-7-02-42-pmWatching our families interact like they had known each other forever was such a neat experience. We made s’mores by the campfire and played Catchphrase, HeadsUp and Cards Against Humanity until past midnight. I have never seen my father-in-law laugh as hard as he did that night. Our brothers became quick friends, and our families shared moments that they otherwise never would have had. We couldn’t have asked for the day to go any better.

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I know everyone says their wedding was perfect. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Not the fact that my veil got caught. Not even that Warren had a giant bruise on the side of his nose from Jiu Jistu!  I am so glad we decided to have a family elopement! I love being a wife , having a “new name” and getting to say “husband”.  But the thing I love most about being married is that every once in a while, during the most routine movement like drinking a water bottle or scratching his head, I see a ring on his finger. And I get butterflies every. single. time. 

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Happy Planning!

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all professional photos courtesy of Candi Leonard Photography

I Do (x 2)

How To Have Your Dream Wedding without Settling

Just minutes after we publicly announced our engagement, we swarmed with questions from friends and family. “Have you set a date? Where will the wedding be?” Seeing as we’d been engaged less than 24 hours, I was immediately reminded of the many questions I had myself. “How many people should we invite? How long should we be engaged for? Where are we going to get married?!”

Being a wedding planner, I had the advantage (and disadvantage) of knowing the answers to most of the “standard” questions. I knew just about how much we’d be spending per person, and the typical price of each wedding vendor. But I was absolutely clueless about where we would have our wedding.

The ideas came into my head just as quickly as I dismissed them. Ever the realist, I found reasons that each location wouldn’t possibly work. We just had a magical engagement here in Savannah, one of our very favorite spots. So maybe we could get married here? But no, that would be too far for both our families. I was born and raised in a suburb outside of Chicago. The majority of my extended family was still there, so we could have the wedding there… but, no, that meant it’d be unlikely that Warren’s family and all our current friends, neighbors, and coworkers could make it. We could have the wedding locally in South Florida or maybe even Tampa, where we met. A local wedding did make sense. I could use vendors I trusted and had worked with numerous times before. A local wedding meant I could visit our venue multiple times for meetings. However, a local wedding would also mean sacrificing what we had both envisioned for our big day.

Warren and I had always agreed that our wedding would have a cool Fall breeze, with the leaves changing colors. There’s something so incredibly nostalgic about the transformation of leaves in Autumn and the smell of a dusk October bonfire. I had always pictured saying, “I do” in my childhood home backyard. I’d make my way down the front staircase that I had taken so many prom and homecoming pictures on.

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Then I’d walk into the backyard where I had played Ghost in the Graveyard every summer night, made snowmen at Christmas, and marked my growth on an oak tree each year. I had it all worked out. Unfortunately, by the time I got engaged, my childhood home was no longer in the family, so I had to find something equally as perfect. No palm tree or sandy beach would be an adequate substitute for the crisp fall air or the Kentucky bluegrass that feels so soft on a bare foot.

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We quickly concluded that what we wanted wasn’t going to be found in Florida. With a guest list approaching over 200, there were a lot of things to consider about planning a wedding in another state. The mere thought of trusting vendors I had never met sent me into a panic. Not being able to visit the venue at last minute didn’t appeal to me either. So here was this dilemma: do we have a wedding locally with the vendors I know and trust in a less than ideal location? OR do we have our dream Fall wedding in a different state without knowing a single vendor and never having visited the site?

I made a list of pros and cons. I slept on it. I searched online forums for advice. I really couldn’t decide which option was best. Exhausted, I threw my hands up and said, “why don’t we just elope?!” Now, realistically, this would never fly with our parents. Plus, we couldn’t imagine a wedding without our families. So with a Grinch-like smirk on my face, a light bulb lit up. A family elopement.

I was so excited to finally be getting married, I wanted to shout it from the mountaintop! So… I found myself a mountaintop.


We’d officially be married at a private estate in Waynesville, North Carolina.

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And since our parents and brothers would be the only ones invited, we didn’t have to worry about guest travels and accommodations. Upon making this decision, we felt immensely at ease. We were going to get our dream wedding! Ideal outdoor location during the fall? Check. Family? Check.

Buuuuuut I didn’t want to forego a wedding party! (insert whiny voice) I still wanted a bouquet toss. I wanted to see old friends and family. I wanted to use the vendors I love. I wanted those traditional things. I was back at my original dilemma, because I couldn’t have both weddings… Or could I? The old saying goes, “it takes two”, and in our case, it takes two… weddings.

A month or so after our family elopement, we would have our “celebration” in Florida with all the vendors I trust, at a venue I could easily visit, and with a traditional bridal party and all the normal wedding events. The idea didn’t go over well with some people we told. Reactions ranged from, “so I’m not invited?” to “wait, you’re getting married twice?” I felt borderline offended when people belittled our decision. “Well an elopement isn’t a real wedding…” To me, the private ceremony in North Carolina was real. It was the one that meant the most to us. This was our ideal setting. Our favorite time of the year. A real dream come true to have my “backyard wedding”. How come no one could see that? At times, having friends and family laugh at the idea of “two weddings” made me doubt how great of an idea it really was. What in the world was I thinking, planning two weddings, my weddings… on top of the numerous client weddings I already had on my plate. Luckily, my fiancé was amazing. Through all the tears and panic attacks and doubts and sticker shock, he constantly reminded me that it wasn’t about everyone else or their opinions. All that mattered was us. US. We weren’t marrying anyone else but each other. 

10 months later, we started our drive to North Carolina.

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TO BE CONTINUED IN HITCHED ON A HILLTOP