Tuesday, November 30, 2010

the dress, post-wedding

Tonight I had a dress rehearsal for the first Christmas concerts of the season at the ASO. During the break between pieces, I went to congratulate one of my fellow chorusmates who recently got engaged and ended up in a little gossip circle of sopranos talking weddings. (Somehow it still hasn't gotten old... go figure.) Celia, newly affianced, had just found her wedding dress the day before Thanksgiving; it was her first day of shopping, the last shop she visited. She passed her camera around and we all oohed and ahhed at the beautiful gown she'd chosen.

One of the girls (Erin, my chorus bride-buddy who got married the weekend before we did) told Celia how much she had loved her own wedding dress (at right). So much so, in fact, that she puts it on probably twice a week, just to sit around in it and feel pretty. Come home from work, take a bath, put on wedding dress. (Yes, she admitted, her husband thinks it's weird.) "It's so comfortable!" she exclaimed. Plus, why would you spend all that money just to wear a gorgeous dress once and stash it away? (Plus plus, Erin says, her husband wore khaki slacks with a navy blazer for their wedding and gets to wear his wedding-day attire "all the time." Why shouldn't she get to do the same?)

She asked me what I had done with my dress since my wedding day -- actually, I think she asked me how many times I had put on my dress since the wedding (that would be zero) -- and I told her that it's still at the cleaners. Cautious person that I often am when it comes to expensive things, I went the opposite direction from Erin and had my dress preserved. Why would you spend all that money and not take care of your investment? I suppose that's what I thought. I didn't really know what else to do with it. Besides, the cleaning was going to be so expensive that I figured I might as well cough up the extra for the preservation treatment and fancy box. (What's another couple hundred bucks at this point, really? AGH.)

(Note: I dropped off my dress in July, and they told me it would be ready in about two months. Last week I realized it had been much longer than that and called to make sure they still, uh, had it. Turns out the fancy boxes are on backorder. I'm just glad they didn't lose it!)

Now, my dress was not uncomfortable, but it's not exactly something I'd loll about the house in. It's a ballgown with a whole lotta skirt, and it's also hemmed to wear with 3.5-inch heels. Add to that the fact that I've got a cat with claws and now a crazy puppy, and we're quickly heading toward shredded-dress territory. Erin's dress, on the other hand, is a slimmer A-line cut -- much easier to slip on and off and fairly normal to move around in, I gather. Still, it has lace and some beading on it, which I'd worry about messing up. She also has cats, but I guess they must be very well behaved...

At any rate, all this got me thinking. Former brides, what did you do with your dress post-wedding? Is it in the back of your closet, cleaned and packed away? Hanging on the back of your door, waiting to be cleaned? Have you put it on since your wedding? (Have you even considered putting it on since your wedding?) Will you hang onto it or try to recoup some money by selling it? Offer use of it to friends who want to save money on their own weddings?

There are, of course, countless possibilities, as there are countless types of people out there. So I wanted to do an informal survey: what did (or will) you do with your wedding dress once it's had its big debut?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Six months ago...

Jon and I got hitched! Hard to believe, isn't it? Sometimes I look at the (amazing, incredible) photos and can hardly believe it happened at all. Not that I don't remember the day, just, like... that was me? Us? Bizarre. And yet here we are, six months down the road*, newly wed, newly puppied, but otherwise carrying on much as we did for the 10 months we lived together before the wedding.

In honor of making it this far without losing our rings or wanting to kill each other, we're going on what I'm calling Honeymoon 2.0 this weekend. The first time around, we took Canada by storm, spending most of our week non-stop exploring Quebec City and Montreal on foot. In retrospect, I realized I might have liked some time to sit around and luxuriate in our lack of agenda after the wedding. So, for Friday and Saturday, we're heading about an hour and a half north to Barnsley Gardens, a resort in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, to chill, hike, eat, read, lounge, wander, whatever. (And I just might have to spring for a horseback ride, if I get to feeling spendy.) Ahhh!

Generally we wouldn't acknowledge this quasi-milestone in such a fashion, but back in the spring I won a sweepstakes from Atlanta magazine that included in its grand prize a two-night stay at this resort. The weekend after Thanksgiving was the only available one at the resort that worked for us, so it's just serendipity that this getaway has fallen about a half-year since the wedding (and right before the onset of the holiday crush).

Who knows, though; I might have to tell the folks at the resort restaurant that we're celebrating an actual anniversary and see if they'll send out a free dessert...

*more on this soon

Thursday, November 18, 2010

holiday cards: done and done

As much as I would have liked to design and letterpress our first family holiday card, well... it just wasn't going to happen. November starts and my life gets crazy for the next two months with holiday concerts and church choir rehearsals and running around in general. Maybe the time change has something to do with it...

Anyway, when I saw all the awesome design options on minted, I decided to take the old reliable throw-money-at-it approach with my holiday card quandary. I found some coupon codes online to lessen the damage to my credit card and ordered away. Here's what we ended up with:

Now, normally I would go the "happy holidays" route as opposed to "merry christmas" to ensure that the sentiment catches all of my friends, but none of those designs appealed as much as this one did, or worked as well with our card-friendly photos. Merry Christmas it is!

It's a flat card, but at minted you can get exciting things printed on the back, so I did. There's another photo in the corner, and we wrote a quick rundown of our year to go with it. It's short and sweet -- a nice happy medium between a photo card and a Christmas letter, I think, and one that befits our station in life.

This coming Sunday I'm taking a letterpress holiday card workshop that will yield another 25 cards, so I've got some something to send in case I run out of the ones from minted. I'm feeling pretty good that I'll have them all in hand before November's out, though. Hopefully that means I'll get them in the mail before the new year!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Makeup by Tara Young: she'll make you really, really, ridiculously good-looking

Finding someone to do my makeup for the wedding was one of the easiest parts of my planning process, and one of the best investments I made as well. One of my best friends' older sisters got married about a year before I did, and I remembered thinking that my friend (the maid of honor) and the rest of the wedding party looked AMAZING (without seeming overly made-up). Her secret? Airbrushing! I asked my friend for a link to some wedding photos to confirm that I remembered correctly, then emailed her sister to ask who did their magical makeup. Turns out it was Tara Young, who by day runs the makeup department at CNN in downtown Atlanta. Nothing like a seasoned pro!

(Note to all brides: Don't be sheepish! Ask your acquaintances, friends, and friends' sisters and mothers if you have seen something you like! Referrals are a great way to find sweet wedding vendors.)

The day of the wedding, Tara and her younger sister (who comes along when there are more than five or six people to be made up) turned up at my folks' house around noon to set up and get started. They placed two chairs facing out in front of the large dining-room window that overlooks the front lawn and arrayed their supplies on a table between them. I have never seen so much makeup in one place! They came armed with a wide range of foundation colors, a bajillion brushes and dozens of palettes of blushes and eyeshadows. (The first picture below is Tara's foot (I think), standing on the cord of the airbrush machine... such a cool shot.)

Now, I didn't demand that my bridesmaids have their hair and makeup done -- lord knows they'd already be spending enough with the dress/shoe/travel/lodging combo -- but I did offer to make appointments for any who were interested and let them know the pricing on the makeup. In the end, all but one of us had our hair done (ranging from $33 to $100) and all the girls and my mama got full airbrushed makeup ($75 including a lip gloss to keep), though some opted not to get fake eyelashes.

We had about three hours in which to get everyone's makeup done, and Tara and her sister did a great job of moving folks through the chairs. While they were making us all pretty, they were chatting and laughing with all of us. They clearly have a lot of fun working together!

Bridesmaid after bridesmaid came back into the den looking perfectly radiant as I awaited my turn. (Even my practically translucent redheaded bridesmaid, who had been worried that any foundation would be too dark on her skin, was thrilled.) I think everyone was pleasantly surprised by how light the airbrush makeup felt and how well it stayed put. My mom, my sister and I were the last to go since we were waiting for the photographers to arrive and also wanted to have the freshest faces for the afternoon and evening.



me & my sweet kitty, Little Man

Bridesmaids all suited up and getting ready to head to the church

As you can see from the photos, we all look really. damn. good. I mean, let's give credit where credit's due! I won't rehash any of the portraits or anything, but here are a couple of pre-wedding shots from the church that show off Tara and her sister's brilliant handiwork:

Last but not least, evidence that airbrush makeup and well-applied fake eyelashes will hold up through an emotional day and a night of hard partying:

Still lookin' good! (Note: my brother had no makeup on. He's just naturally that pretty.) I can't recommend Tara and/or her sister's work enough. They were absolutely a joy to work with, and the price was more than reasonable for the service. If I ever need to look flawless for any occasion again, I know exactly who I'm calling.

* all photos by Our Labor of Love

Monday, November 15, 2010

Unique Floral Expressions: killer flowers that won't kill your budget

It's been so long since I started the whole recap process on the blog that I almost forgot I hadn't reviewed a few of my most excellent vendors, as promised. So! Today I wanted to write a bit about the awesome florist we worked with, Julie Coffin, and show some more gorgeous pictures of the bouquets, etc.

Julie's company is Unique Floral Expressions, and it's based out of her home in Marietta, which helps her keep costs down. A friend's mother had told my mom during some wedding chatter that one simply could not obtain proper wedding flowers in Atlanta for less than $5,000, so when our initial estimate came in at less than half that amount, Mama and I both were pretty thrilled.

We liked Julie from the moment she welcomed us into her home. Our first of two meetings lasted for nearly two hours because she was so easy to talk to and so thorough and helpful. Like a dutiful bride, I had been clipping photos of flowers I liked. Most of the photos involved dahlias, which, as it happens, are definitely not in season in May. Oops! Julie steered me toward the beautiful peony instead. Such a good call, as you can see:

We kept in touch via email during the planning-lull months, and mom and I met with Julie one more time closer to the wedding to talk about numbers and a few changes before we finalized the proposal. My main concern was that, having chosen to go with bright colors and shades of blue and red, the bouquets and altar flowers would be too God-Bless-America. Julie completely understood that I wanted different textures and gradations of color in my bouquet and knew exactly how to make it entirely non-patriotic. My flowers were so much more beautiful than I ever imagined!

Julie did the usual wedding party flowers -- bouquets for the girls, boutonnieres for the guys -- except that our mothers carried nosegays rather than wearing corsages. These were made of the same gorgeous red peonies I had in my bouquet as well as some freesia, I think. (You can see one of the nosegays in the picture below, second bunch of flowers from the left.) They looked great against our moms' dark dresses.

In addition to the wedding party flowers, Julie created a lovely altar arrangement for the ceremony, decorated our cake with red ranunculus and cornflowers (above), arranged 25 centerpieces (none of which I ever saw -- I was seated at a candle-heavy-centerpiece table), and made a lovely tossing bouquet (so that any of the girls who cared to could hang onto hers).

Last but not least, Julie also provided plenty of flower petals for our guests to throw at us at the end of the night as we left the reception. White flower petals were pretty much the only thing we were allowed to toss at our venue. I was originally hoping for confetti, but this was the next best thing. I love this shot:

If anyone out there is looking for a brilliant florist in the Atlanta area who is easy to work with and easy on your budget, give Julie at Unique Floral Expressions a call. She did an amazing job for us. I couldn't have been happier with her work!

*all photos by Our Labor of Love

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

holiday/wedding tchotchkes

Last week, the Christmas tree stand that takes over the middle school playing field behind my house began setting up, and last night I had my first symphony chorus rehearsal of holiday repertoire. Somehow, it's November! This fact, along with the intermittently chilly weather outside, has me thinking once again about all things holiday festive.

In particular, I've been pondering Christmas ornaments. (Not a huge surprise from the girl who had an ornament shower around this time last year.) I first started thinking in terms of Otto and Little Man, and how maybe we should get some of those picture-framey ornaments so they are represented on our tree. That led to thinking about a "puppy's first Christmas" ornament -- do such things exist? Am I crazy enough to try and find out? -- and then, of course, an "our first Christmas" ornament for me and Jon.

(Nevermind that I bought a snowboarding miniature moose keychain on our Canadian honeymoon that I will convert into a Christmas tree ornament. Nevermind the ceramic maple leaf ornament my parents gave us after a summer trip to Vancouver, or the painted porcelain bauble Jon brought home from Amsterdam last week. What I definitely need is another Christmas ornament, right?)

In an extremely brief search of Etsy and Macy's, this came out on top:

I like how it marks the year and conveys wedding without saying "our first Christmas together." (It's really not our first Christmas together, just the first one for which we've been married.) I also like that it's blue. Normally I don't go for this sort of cheesy trinket, but when it comes to Christmas ornaments, I am a total sap.

Is anyone else out there considering a holiday somesuch to commemorate a significant year or event? I'm probably going to end up buying this, even though part of me thinks it's a little bit lame... but hey, some future generation will probably think it's pretty sweet.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

sad days

Hey y'all. I had planned to get back on track with blogging this week, but on Monday my friends' dear, sweet mother passed away unexpectedly. She had been diagnosed with an aggressive and malignant form of cancer this past summer and was in the midst of treatments and handling them pretty well, so the timing of her passing came as a shock to everyone. It's hard to believe someone so bubbly and vivacious (even during her illness) is no longer with us. I've basically been ignoring that fact since I heard the news; I don't think it will hit me until the service tomorrow.

Here is Susan, at right, in June 2009 with her daughters (and my good friends) Tricia and Jenny at Jenny's wedding. Such a gorgeous family:

And here she is dancing with her wonderful fiance Bill at our wedding this past May, before they knew anything was terribly wrong:

It's one of my favorite pictures of our guests, and it's become even more special given the circumstances. Susan was just gleeful about life and love, and it's written all over her face here.

Anyway, if you think of it send up some prayers/good vibes/happy thoughts for the Coyne family and all of Susan's friends in the coming days and weeks. I'll be back to blogging soon.