Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Treating the Bridesmaids

This weekend Tom and I drove up to Chicago for our engagement party! My mom, aunt and grandma started planning it in January, and it came together wonderfully. It was a tropical luau theme, and I can't wait to share the pictures!

But first, I wanted to talk about the bridesmaids. After being engaged for nearly a year, I still hadn't asked anyone to be in the bridal party. I wanted to wait until about a year out, and decided the engagement party would be the perfect time.

I planned to give each bridesmaid a personalized travel mug, a framed picture of us, and a card. I made the travel mugs using personalize-able mugs from Starbucks.





I was thinking of ways to make cute card crafts, but then I got an email from Treat.com, and I got something even better!

If you haven't heard of Treat, it is a card company that allows you to personalize greeting cards. They have cards for any occasion you can think of, including birthdays, weddings, sympathy, Patriot Day, Sweetest Day...look through the occasions tab and you can find anything.

A Treat representative emailed me a few months back and asked if I would be interested in trying out some of their cards. I was certainly interested because I thought their cards were adorable and unique, and I was REALLY excited when I found out they had "Be My Bridesmaid?" cards! I decided to select cards for my bridesmaids.

I went with the "Beautiful Bridesmaid" option and was very pleased with the quality of the cards when they arrived. The delivery was quick, the prices were comparable or cheaper to drugstore cards, and the material was a quality card stock that came with matching envelopes. Oh, and designing the cards was a breeze. Once you select a card you are directed to a card-editing page, and you can change fonts, layouts, and colors. I was surprised at all the options that were available.





Many of the bridesmaids commented on how cute and unique the cards were, and how they hadn't seen anything like them, so they were certainly a hit! 

While I was looking around for bridesmaid cards, I also found some beautiful "Thank You for Being My Bridesmaid" cards that I will definitely be ordering. (See the bridal selection here.)

Something else I was excited to find? There is a section for personalized gifts. I am a very anxious gift-giver, so I have been really into personalized stuff lately because that is something people don't get for themselves, and it feels more heartfelt. How cute are these easel art displays? I have been eyeing those for Christmas gifts this year. 

Also, please PLEASE look at the selection of Halloween cards. My year revolves around Halloween, and these are some of the best I've seen. I was going to send a Facebook invite for our Halloween party, but I would be missing a perfect opportunity to use some of these! See them here!

Thank you, Treat! 

Have you used Treat before? What did you get for your bridesmaids?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tips for a Two-Year Engagement (Plus a timeline)

If you are having a long engagement and have been struggling to figure out the proper timeline, you are not alone! 



We got engaged last October and knew we wanted to get married in October 2015. I realized pretty quickly that two years was this awkward, drags-but-flies-by length for an engagement, and the fact that we are nearing the mid point is crazy to me! Fall 2014 seemed ages away to me last year, and here we are, almost upon it.

So far our engagement has been very pleasant and stress-free, and here are some things I have learned along the way:

1.) Do not be shy about starting early!

Tom and I started planning our wedding immediately. We already knew which venue we wanted, so we booked that exactly two years to the day of our wedding. Surprisingly, throughout this process not one vendor has looked at us like we're insane for starting so early. I know there are some areas where you can't even book until a year out, but we didn't run into that.

It's good to relax and settle into being engaged for a bit, but if you have a longer time to plan, I figure it makes sense to use it! I hear a lot of people say they think they should wait until time gets closer, but we have found that earlier planning has been a huge plus.

Our goal was to spend the first year of our engagement getting some of the bigger things out of the way, and focusing on more details the second year. See our timeline below for what we've done so far, and what we plan to do over the next several months.

The beauty of all this time is we haven't had to compromise on a single vendor we wanted.

2.) Set up a different email account (or a wedding folder in your email)

I actually did not set up a different email account, but I do think it's a brilliant idea if you will be contacting a ton of vendors. We pretty much knew every vendor we wanted from the get-go, so I opted for a separate folder in my email. Anytime a vendor contacted me or I found helpful links or items online, I would save it in that folder. I actually set it up in May 2013, so it's pretty well-established by now!

If I need something quickly (like a budget item) and I'm away from home, everything is saved in that folder. It definitely has made my life easier.

3.) Sign up at Evernote, or create a portable wedding notebook

Similar to creating a separate email folder, Evernote is amazing for organization. If you haven't used it before, it works like a giant notebook. You create a bunch of notebooks (I have ones for the wedding, our house hunting, my job, weekly grocery lists, etc.) and put smaller notes within them. I didn't know if it would be helpful at all at first, but now I use it every day. Actually, I am writing this post in Evernote right now!

I love that I can pull up the wedding "notebook" and have everything I need. I drop links in there to bridesmaid dresses I like or helpful articles, and I can check off to-do items all in one program. Even if you're not planning a wedding, it's a fantastic program.

If you like physical notebooks, those work, too. I used one daily with tabs before I discovered Evernote.

4.) Work when you feel inspired

May was, randomly, a highly productive month for wedding planning. Everything else was pretty calm, so we got a ton of stuff out of the way while we felt like it. That worked well, because once I got busy preparing for my friend Sandy's wedding events, I didn't feel like doing any extra wedding-related chores. Having a lot of time allows you the freedom to tackle your to-do list when you're in the mood. Just make sure you take advantage of that motivation!

5.) Pay close attention at other weddings

Chances are you will attend at least one wedding in the span of two years. This is great, because you can see a wedding in action and find out what really did make a difference to the day, what didn't matter much, and what you would like to do without.

6.) Work the sales

Another major benefit of having two years to plan - annual sales! For example, we are getting married in late October. That means that at the end of the fall/Halloween season, we can shop the sales to get floral and decor sections to stock up (cheaply) on things we know we will want. I also got great deals on cafe lights in the off season, and we will be using holiday sales to buy parent and bridal party gifts.

7.) Have fun!

Sometimes this engagement feels like it is dragging on endlessly. But it really is a very special, unique time in our lives, and I am grateful that we get to bask in the fun for two years. Though I have to say, I am looking VERY forward to that one year out mark!


Here is the breakdown of what we've done so far, and what we plan to do:

2013

October:
-Got engaged
-Picked a date
-Booked venue (which is also our ceremony site and caterer)
-Starting looking at potential color schemes/inspiration

November:
-Nothing really. Ate some turkey.

December:
-Again, I'm pretty sure we twiddled our thumbs and got presents this whole month.


2014

January:
-Booked our photographer

February:

March:
-We spent time getting more ideas and hammering down our color scheme

April:
-Did April even happen this year? Seriously, I feel like I remember nothing from that month.

May:
-Booked DJ
-Booked videographer
-Started buying decorative items on sale (Gotta love those Hobby Lobby lantern and glassware sales!)
-Bought my wedding shoes and socks (Yes, socks.)

June:
-Booked officiant
-Visited hotels to get ideas for room blocks
-Made gifts to ask my bridesmaids

July:
-Got festive on Fourth of July. Didn't think much about weddings.

August:
-Finished up "Will you be my bridesmaid?" gifts
-Asking bridesmaids throughout the month
-Attending our engagement party luau at the end of the month!
-Started our registry (We are moving in the spring and some relatives want to get us house gifts for Christmas, so we got a jump start on this.)

September:
-Meeting with, hopefully booking, a florist
-Figuring out room blocks (I am actually dreading this. Does anyone have any room block advice for me?!)
-Start researching hair and makeup artists in the area (possibly booking both)

October:
-Create mock centerpieces to see what we like (we will be using pumpkins in our decor)
-Finalize guest lists
-Create a more detailed diet/exercise plan (Weddings seem to be excellent motivation in this department.)

November:
-Shop for parent/bridal party gifts at Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales
-Finish up wedding website
-Research/decide on save-the-dates

December:
-Select bridesmaid dresses

2015

January:
-Determine rehearsal dinner venue/ get it booked
-Attend venue food tasting
-Plan out welcome weekend
-Book lighting through venue

February:
-Send save-the-dates
-Contact bakers (I have a feeling this will happen sooner. I really, really love cake.)
-Search for invites/thank-you cards

March:
-Choose groomsmen's attire

That's where we're at so far! I will update this list as we get more things finalized. I didn't want to go too far beyond March 2015 because what we have left to do could change by a lot.

Those of you in or who have had long engagements - do you agree with this list? What would you add?

Monday, August 18, 2014

My other book

In this post I talked about my novel coming out. Since I don't think I've mentioned my children's book, I will talk about it now because stuff's going on with that too!

I wrote this book in January of 2013. It's very short. I think I wrote it ten minutes, but then edited it several times over a six month period. And then...it sat on my computer for about a year.

So what caused me to dig it out of the depths of my documents, find an illustrator and kick off a marketing plan?

There was a huge arts event last weekend that my coworker helped coordinate. My coworkers found out about my novel, and then somehow, I ended up telling one of them that I had a children's book I might try to publish as well. Well, word got around to the one coordinating the arts event, she asked to read it, and then told me I should read it at the "Storybook Nook" portion of this massive arts event.

So, I did! The only issue was that it's still just a document, and I needed a book. So I picked out a bunch of public domain photos and threw together a book (in one hour!) at Walmart with one of their photo books.

Saturday arrived, and I put on my owl dress to read my children's book, "Owl and Moon." I had a crowd of about six children and their parents (plus my own little crew), and I was TERRIFIED. I have no idea why. I just remember turning bright red and sweating a lot.

After the reading, a woman from the local library came up and told me she loved the book, and that the library is having is a big fair for children's book authors in November to sell their books. She said if I found a way to get my book in print, I could join.

So, fast forward a week later. Another coworker used to work with a woman who attended school to be an illustrator, and she put me in contact with her.

Now I have book sketches in my inbox, potential book signing dates, and sleep deprivation because I'm too exciting about everything that's going on.

August, you have been good to me. Some photos of the book reading event!







Happy Monday!



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Morning Drives

I woke up really, really early last Thursday. It was 5:20 a.m., I was up an hour before my alarm went off, and I could not get back to sleep. I was tired, too, but my body just refused. My mind was very busy that day, and has been ever since.
It's that back-to-school sort of giddy excitement, but about other things in my life.

So after another 20 minutes or so, I knew I wasn't going back to sleep. I decided to drive.


I had created a brand new Halloween cd, so I listened to that while I drove. (This is not surprising. I have been listening to the Monster Mash since April.)

This is going to make me sound like a creep, but once I was in the car, I decided to drive to the neighborhood Tom and I want to move to this spring. It's not too far, the roads to get there are rarely busy, and I like to think if I go there enough, the neighborhood with just invite us to live there. So there's my reasoning.

I drove around the sleepy neighborhood, imagining what we needed to get there, and planning out my life for the next seven months or so. I have some very big plans, and only recently have I decided that they might actually be possible.

I drove again on Monday morning. That was helpful because the car was running on empty and I pass a gas station on the way.

I can't drive every morning because it costs gas and we are working hard to pinch every penny right now, but it has changed my view on mornings. I am a morning person, and I usually get up early and start doing mindless things, but those drives are a sort of meditation. And on days when I don't drive, I wanted to continue that feeling. I have been using every single morning lately to focus on my goals, and get into a mindset that will make me the most productive and creative for that day. 

And for the past month, I have been trying to do one thing every day that gets me closer to my goals. The morning is a fantastic time to do that.

It doesn't have to be a drive. It can be a morning workout, a journal entry, or a cup of coffee outside. Yesterday I lit candles in my room and made the bed, and if felt therapeutic.

Do you use your mornings to kickstart your day? Or do you prefer to sleep until the last possible moment?

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sandy and Ross's Wedding Weekend!

My friend Sandy got married last weekend and it was honestly so much more beautiful and surreal than I ever could have imagined.

We got to Chicago Thursday for the rehearsal dinner, which was fun. We ate a lot of pizza and hung out in Sandy's room at the hotel playing drinking games with the bridal party and groomsmen (because why not?!) Tom and I left at 10 and immediately passed out at my mom's place on the comfiest air mattress I have ever experienced.

Friday I got up at the crack of dawn and left with my mom to go to Sandy's hotel room (my mom did some of the hair!) We stopped at Starbucks first to get some coffee, and I couldn't leave without one of these:











































I felt elated on Friday. I played the Pandora wedding station while my mom did Sandy's hair and I had way, way too much caffeine. I was seriously giddy and excited and way more awake than I should have been.

After Sandy's hair, my mom and I had some time to ourselves while Sandy had her makeup done at the salon with the other bridesmaids and my mom did my hair. I talked about how crazy it was that I was with Sandy before her first date with Ross five years ago, and how I still couldn't believe that was her wedding day! After I was done, I headed down the road to the salon to get makeup done. My makeup artist, Gwen, was awesome. But there was another lady there, caked in bright blue eye shadow, who some of the other bridesmaids had the ...pleasure?...of working with.

Her name was Jersey, she was probably just shy of 70, and as she mentioned over and over again, SHE LOVES COLOR!!!

Yikes. So those girls had to remove some of the hot pink lipstick, but it all worked out fine.

The hour before the wedding started felt like an eternity. I was terrified so I can only imagine how Sandy felt. I was convinced I would fall or have to pee really bad mid-ceremony or something. But everyone walked down the aisle, no one fell, and it was beautiful!

It was so strange to watch someone I'm so close to get married. I think it makes it stranger that I'm engaged. So I was watching them and trying to wrap my head around the magnitude of their promise to each other, and occasionally I would think, "Hey! I'm going to do this next year in front of a bunch of people too! Is that exciting or terrifying? Both? Let's go with both."

I kept trying to remind myself that it was all real and Sandy and Ross are MARRIED now, but it was still so surreal! I have no idea why, but it felt like a dream.

So after the ceremony came the reception, and I was very wary of the reception, because that meant I'd have to give a speech.

Sandy asked me if I'd like to give a speech a few months back, and I pretty much started on it immediately. (I am usually the ultimate procrastinator, so this was very out of character for me.)

I created six different versions of this minute-and-a-half long speech throughout the summer, printed out two versions of it, folded one up and hid it in my dress, gave the other copy to Tom, and then I was ready.

I also tried to drink a lot of champagne. Not enough to slur my words, but enough to take the edge off. Turns out I don't really like champagne, so I had a lot of water, and that didn't help. I was completely sober when I had to give that speech, AND I had to go after Ross's brother's amazing speech. So. That was a scary moment. But I did it and I lived to tell the tale! And people said they liked it!


Me trying to down champagne prior to the ceremony... Love Sandy's sister's face here haha


Liza and the beautiful bride






 It was an exhausting, beautiful day. But there was a second wedding! The next day was the Indian ceremony.

We had henna done, and mine is still on my hand currently. I love it.

So we started the day with henna and bagels, and then my mom did my hair. I slept with my fake eyelashes on the night before, so at least part of my makeup was done. I wore a red and gold sari.

The ceremony was so cool. It was about four hours, and there was tons of color steps and even GAMES involved. I got to see Sandy and Ross dump giant bowls of rice on each other and fish out a gold ring from a pot filled with water. It was amazing.

I loved that I got to be a part of that. It was brand new to me (and Sandy, actually. She had never been to an Indian wedding herself) and it was neat to see that wedding the day after the Catholic ceremony.






And now they are off to medical school! Whew, those crazy kids. I miss them already.


Happy Monday!



Monday, August 4, 2014

EXCITING NEWS!!

A serious storm is brewing outside right now. One of those amazing summer storms that leaves the road steamy and the air cool in its wake. I've always loved a good storm.

Anyway, this weekend was an incredible whirlwind, and I can't wait to share it with you! It was my friend Sandy's wedding, and she seriously looked like a goddess. I don't have many pictures yet, but what I do have I will share this week.

I did something pretty exciting today. Today, I finally had the guts to share the link to my completed novel, available for purchase!

It's a fiction novel. I've talked about it before here.

The publishing house set to publish it closed its doors before publishing my book back in April, and that shook me. I was ecstatic to be published, then terrified, then brave enough to embrace it, then crushed when it fell apart. I knew I would have to try again, but I nearly felt relief when that opportunity fell through.

Because that meant I didn't have to put myself out there.

Well, I decided to try again. This time without a publishing house, and a simple cover I designed myself. And this time around, I am actually excited to share it!

It is immediately available via Kindle, or if you have an iPad or iPhone, you can download the Kindle app for free and get it that way.





But this week it will be available for the Nook and even in print. I will update that on here later on this week.

Anyway, I do hope you'll read it, and I hope you enjoy it. There are two more following this one in the series.

Here's to trying and trying again, and finally getting this book out there two and a half years after I first sat down to write it!

Have a wonderful Monday, friends!



Monday, July 21, 2014

Bachelorette Weekend

My friend Sandy gets married in less than two weeks!! Ahhh!

I am SO excited. This is my first time really being in a wedding. The last time I was in one I was 14 so I didn't do a whole lot. It is an entirely different experience actually helping to plan things.

The other bridesmaids and I started planning for this weekend (which was actually a week ago...I'm a bit behind) about a month out. A million email threads later, we had a plan.

We decided to stay in Naperville, IL, at the Hotel Arista in this really fancy suite on the top floor. The views were amazing! There were a few other bachelorette parties there that weekend, and there was also a wedding going on at the hotel.

I got to Naperville early to have lunch with a couple friends, drop some things off at the hotel, and meet Sandy and some of the other girls at a nail salon. We didn't clue Sandy in to a single thing we were doing!

I always get yelled at when I get my nails done. The nail ladies scold me for having such frail, peeling nails. Trust me, I don't like it either, but it was a genetic gift from my mom (who frequently keeps them secured under acrylics,) so those beauties are mine to keep.

Anyway, after nails we went to an Irish pub for dinner! This was actually very appropriate, considering Sandy is marrying an Irish guy. And she's Indian. They are going to make really super cute, gorgeous babies someday.

For the rest of the evening, we played games at the hotel and had food and opened gifts and then took a shuttle out to Downtown Naperville to visit some bars and play a scavenger hunt. Sandy and I were paired together, which was hilarious because neither of us is very gutsy when it comes to that kind of thing. We definitely lost. But that's okay, because it was just as much fun watching what the other girls came up with!

I think my favorite was the group of middle-aged people at the hotel who were eager to help, and a couple of the men did the "get a picture of a random guy proposing to you" picture. 

It rained, but that was okay. It actually looked really cool from the hotel room. I think the bride-to-be had a wonderful time, and it was so much fun spoiling her for a night!

Now for the photos:

Tom helped decorate the cupcakes the night before :)


Strawberry cupcakes with lime frosting


View from the hotel!




Nighttime view


Take a picture with another bachelorette party. Check! Too bad their bride was sick and had to go home. 


The group! Those are bouquets of dum dums for people to buy for a buck per lollipop. People thought we were giving them away for free. One girl even asked me if we were selling them for a good cause. They say "Suck for a Buck" on them! What cause would that even be for?! I told her they were for the bride's honeymoon fund and she was clearly not interested.


And of course, the party favors. I'm still upset I forgot to take one before we left.



On that note...Happy Monday!




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