Real Bride Blogger: What If It Rains?

Guest Post by Real Bride Blogger Sandee McGlaun

One of the questions that pops into my bride’s head in the middle of the night and pins me to the bed with worry: what if it rains?

venuestairsOur venue does have an indoor area, and we have a loose rain plan in place. But so much of the appeal of the Rooftop is in the vistas of the town below and the surrounding mountains, the prospect of watching sunset fall over it all. And I confess, there is more than a little appeal in the drama of descending the curved ”glass” staircase in a beautiful gown, which will be all but impossible in a downpour.

I got a little sneak peek into the “what if it rains?’ scenario with my bridal portraits. I elected to have portraits taken ahead of the wedding in part to ensure that if it did rain on our wedding day, I’d still have some good photos of me in my gown in those dramatic rooftop spaces. What I didn’t count on: that I would wake up the morning of the bridal portrait shoot to the gentle patter of rain on the roof. And that it would keep raining. And then rain some more.

Of course, bridal portraits, unlike a wedding, can be rescheduled, right? Well, yes. But that’s not as simple as it sounds. My dress fitting had been arranged specifically to accommodate portrait day, and I’d also been scrambling to make sure I had all accessories (shoes, jewelry) selected and in place. None of those elements had to be reworked, but everything else did. Arranging the first bridal portrait session required pulling together a significant number of puzzle pieces: coordinating the availability of the venue (we had to find a night there wasn’t another event on the roof) and my photographer, along with same-day appointments for makeup and for hair, plus arranging for a small bouquet to be delivered by the florist. I’d had my nails done a couple of days before, and most importantly, I’d also asked two of my girlfriends, D.B, and Shannon, to come and help. They both have roles in the wedding, and they both happily agreed. We were all really looking forward to sharing what I hoped would be a special evening.

By 1 pm on the day of the session—we were aiming for a sunset shoot—I got a text from my photographer, noting the rain, and asking what I wanted to do. If we didn’t reschedule, we’d have to change locations. My hair and makeup appointments started at 3:30, so I had to call it by 2 pm. The problem was, I couldn’t call it until I knew whether there was another date when I could get all the pieces put back together again. I’d started weeks ahead, arranging the first shoot. This time, I had an hour.

Thus began a flurry of emails, calls, and texts. If we moved it to X day, could the hairstylist fit me in? What night is the venue free? What was the forecast for those nights? It was too late to cancel the bouquet, but if I kept it in the fridge and didn’t put the shoot off too many days, it might last. Okay, let me check back with the photographer again. Should we just give up and change the venue?

By the time I talked to my makeup artist, the stress overwhelmed me. I had a minor meltdown and burst into tears.

Despite the rain and all the anxiety it caused, I did manage to get everything moved to the following Friday. The weather was perfect, and the shoot went beautifully. My one regret: girlfriends D.B. and Shannon had prior commitments, so they couldn’t be part of the evening. My friend and wonderful trainer Sondy came to help, and we had lots of fun. Still, I missed having the other gals there, too, and I later wondered at the wisdom of privileging the pursuit of an ideal (the perfect portrait) over sharing meaningful moments (making memories) with people you love.

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The experience gave me some valuable perspective on the question, “What if it rains?” For the bridal portraits, the rain meant my girlfriends couldn’t be present and couldn’t share my joy, and that was deeply disappointing. But if it rains on our wedding day, there won’t be any rescheduling. We’re still going to get married. Our family and friends will still be there, and we’ll still celebrate the occasion surrounded by people we love. If it rains, it rains. It’s still going to be a beautiful day.

And brooding clouds or stunning sunset, the happy smiles that light up every picture will make it seem like the sun was there all along, beaming high and bright.

About Sandee:

Sandee McGlaun chronicles the adventures of marrying at mid-life on her blog, 40-Something First Time Bride. She directs the Writing Center and teaches at Roanoke College in Salem. When not writing, teaching, or planning her wedding, she enjoys puttering in the craft room, hiking through the woods, and checking out the local music scene with fiancé Steve. She likes to dispel stereotypes and thus looks forward to becoming a married crazy cat lady.

On Pins & Needles (& Ribbon & Glue): Advice for DIY Brides

Guest Post by Real Bride Blogger Sandee McGlaun

I have a confession. I’m over a year into planning our wedding, and I have yet to make my first pin on Pinterest. In fact, I’ve only visited the Grand Portal of Wedding Inspiration once.

It’s not because I’m not a DIY Bride—quite the opposite. I’ve been an artsy-crafty creative type since before the founders of pinning were out of their diapers. I grew up watching my mother draw, paint, sew, knit, and take photographs, and spent many happy childhood hours making things of my own. I remember trailing down the aisles of Hancock Fabrics, admiring the colors and textures, later snipping doll clothes from scraps as my mom stitched a new dress for me. Other hot Georgia afternoons, we lingered in the cool of the ceramics shop, dwarfed by tall shelves of dusty green-ware, trying to decide what to paint next.

Sandee breaks out the spray paint for the wire cupcake stand project.

Sandee breaks out the spray paint for the wire cupcake stand project.

As I got older, I dabbled in paper-making, polymer clay, simple jewelry. I enjoyed scrapbooking for a while and made lots of cards. I discovered the pottery wheel was not my friend. My favorite projects these days combine fabric, beads, and embroidery.

I knew from the moment Steve and I got engaged I would be hands-on with the design and décor of our wedding. Within days of saying “yes,” I’d chosen wedding colors and had a working list. I’d been hanging out in fabric stores and craft rooms for so long, my mental bulletin board of ideas—even without browsing Pinterest—was chock-full.

My mother and I have joined forces on tabletoppers, bench pillows, and paper flowers, and I’ve created a variety of cupcake stands from found objects as well as decorative columns to mark the aisle and ceremony spaces. My mom made our ring pillow, and I’m working on a clutch bag and a garter, painting some photo booth props, designing a caketopper, and mending my mother’s train so I can wear it.

I’m a lifetime DIYer working with a 16-month-long engagement, and time still feels short for our ambitious list. Based on my experience, I have a few pointers for other brides considering DIY projects.

First, inspiration can come from anywhere—and sometimes, less is more. Pinterest is almost overwhelming in its vastness. Instead, first flip through a few DIY wedding books at the library or bookstore—they’re more focused, and they’ll help you find your vision as well as minimize the intimidation factor. Limiting your sources also keeps you from being sucked in by trends that don’t suit you. Did all the brides of the last couple of years really dream their whole lives of wrapping their wedding days in burlap? I like how its rough earthiness balances tulle’s airy froth (like a leather jacket over a floral dress). But too much trendy means your wedding looks like everyone else’s.

My inspiration has come from surprising places. A duvet cover in Bed, Bath, and Beyond (perfect fabric design). A wire shoe rack at the consignment store (funky flower-like cupcake stand). I bought a few magazines and Elizabeth Demos’ book Vintage Wedding Style, which helped me refine ideas and source unique items like the antique maps we’ve incorporated into our invitations. Mostly I’ve tried to keep my eyes open for things that moved me, and let the venue itself inspire. Problem: four wide (boring) wooden benches. Solution: design and scatter colorful handmade pillows.

Some of the pillows we’ve made for venue benches.

Some of the pillows we’ve made for venue benches.

Second, consider three key elements when deciding how much DIY you want to incorporate into your wedding: your motivation, your own history as an artsy-craftsy person, and your timeline.

  1. What’s your motivation for wanting to DIY? To save money? You really love the handmade/rustic/upcycled look? You want to put a genuinely personal touch on your day?

Realistically, if your prime motivation for DIY—especially if you’re not a crafty type—is saving money, you might reconsider. You know how a “simple” one-hour home repair has a way of turning into two days + three trips to the hardware store? That’s not uncommon with DIY crafts, either. Figuring out how to do it right often means doing it not-so-right at least once (check out pinterestfail.com). Savvy crafters can accurately estimate the costs of buying 25 clear vases, glass spray-paint, and 10 yards of ribbon for wrapping and bows—and they probably already own tools like good fabric scissors and a hot glue gun. For a novice without a ready supply of quality tools—and the right tools are the key to polished projects—it might actually be cheaper to buy or rent finished vases.

It’s safe to assume most DIY projects will cost a little more than you think—especially trendy ones. People began decorating with Mason jars in part because they were inexpensive; now that they’re in demand, sellers charge a premium. Budget for mistakes: always buy enough materials (especially for complex projects) to do one or two practice runs, and save receipts so you can return any unopened supplies you don’t use.

If it’s a handmade look that matters most, consider whether it would be more cost effective (and time-saving) to purchase handmade items from a craft market or Etsy. If your primary goal is to put your personal stamp on the day, read on!

  1. What’s your history and skill level as a DIY crafter?

If you’re genuinely excited at the prospect of making your own decorations or favors, you should go for it. Obviously, the less experience you have (in general or in a specific craft), the steeper the learning curve. There is something for every skill level. You want projects to be fun, not frustrating, so the trick is to find your DIY match.

One of the aisle markers made from a plant stand.

One of the aisle markers made from a plant stand.

If you’re a newbie, consider simply refurbishing or dressing up a found object. I turned metal plant stands into aisle-marker columns with white spray paint and colorful ribbons (paint and ribbon are some of your best DIY friends). I’m making a purchased garter my own by adding lace from my mother’s wedding dress. You don’t have to start from scratch or make something completely original—adapt an object or an idea you saw somewhere and liked.

Don’t be afraid to enlist help from family or friends. Add snacks and beverages, and a group crafting session turns into a wedding-prep party.

  1. How much time do you have—and how much will you really need?

As with cost, so with time: most projects take more time than you expect. Be wary of advertised estimates, usually made by experienced crafters. Complete novice? Triple the given estimate. Crafty but never done craft X? Double it. Be sure to factor in supply shopping trips, or shipping time from online sources. If you finish early, bonus! Better to be done ahead of schedule than stressing out at the last minute.

Consider project complexity, the length of your engagement, and your other commitments when deciding how many projects are feasible. If you take on more than one or two, prioritize. If time runs short, you’ll have completed whatever matters most.

Finally, think about whether and where you can safely store whatever you make until your wedding day. Large or particularly fragile projects require extra planning and care.

2 cake stands made from found vintage objects

2 cake stands made from found vintage objects

Some wedding preparations, like catering, I think are best left to the experts—Ruth Reichl tells a funny and terrifying tale about her mother, who insisted on cooking despite not having adequate storage or refrigeration, and poisoned all the wedding guests. That’s not the DIY outcome anyone wants! But a big part of the fun for many brides is being hands-on with at least some of the preparations. If that’s you, find a DIY wedding project you love, and dig in.

In Praise of Girlfriends

A Shower & Spice & Everything Nice: In Praise of Girlfriends

By Real Bride Blogger Sandee McGlaun

A couple of weeks ago, I did something I’d come to think I’d never have the chance to do: I was the guest of honor at a bridal shower.

Maid-of-honor Melissa and bridesmaids D.B. and (from afar) Sherry threw me a beautiful shower, which my mom and a number of my local girlfriends attended. Melissa held it in her backyard on a sunny Saturday morning, and it was exquisite. She’d set up two tents for us and decorated with hot pink pinwheels, bright orange and blue lanterns, blooming flowers, and colorful candies. She greeted us with freshly mixed mimosas, and there was plenty of refreshing lemon water to keep us cool.  We dined on two kinds of quiche, homemade muffins, fresh fruit, and yogurt parfaits. For dessert, we had cupcakes, which Melissa had arranged and frosted in the shape of a wedding dress! shower24

D.B. prepared creative and beautiful party favors of handmade Blue Bear soaps, serums, and lip balms, placed in bags with the tag “From Sandee’s Shower to yours!”  We played several well-chosen games. I’m a crafty girl, and Melissa had set out paints and a canvas so that everyone who attended could paint a heart. And I’m a word nerd, so I loved both the bridal word search and a game where we passed around a pretty box containing descriptive couplets: whose hair was shortest, or who’d been married the longest. The box was passed to the person who fit each couplet best, and once all the clues had been drawn, the last person holding the box won the prize.

And there were presents, too. We’d chosen a theme of “Spice it up!” so the gifts ranged from exotic cooking spices, salts, and linens for the kitchen, to lingerie, massage goodies, and other items to “spice up” the boudoir.

I was utterly overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness, creativity, and generosity of my friends. But given what amazing women they are, I wasn’t surprised.

Couples’ showers are becoming more common, and I do have dear male friends, too, so perhaps it’s a little old-fashioned to have a girlfriends-only shower. But as an older bride who’s spent more of her adult years than not uncoupled and living far from blood family, I have an especially deep appreciation for my girlfriends. Over the past 20 years, more often than not it’s my girlfriends who’ve been by my side, day after day. They’re the ones who’ve given me lifts to the airport, who’ve gone out dancing with me on my birthday. Who helped me move, one more time. Who brought me soup when I got pneumonia, took my panicked 3 AM call when my house was broken into, listened to work woes and endless crazy dating stories in the days before Steve. They’re the ones who let me belt Indigo Girls’ songs in their car without setting me on the curb, who’ve laughed with me, hiked up mountains with me, talked books and drunk wine and shared s’mores and dreams around the firepit. They’ve rescued and reassured and re-energized me.

My girlfriends are my family. And for me, my bridal shower was as much a celebration of them as it was of me becoming a bride.

I’ve known a few of the wonderful women in my life for decades (mom, of course, whom I also consider a friend; and Sherry and I first palled around in the third grade…), others just a few years. And what a rich diversity of life and relationship experiences: some of my gal pals are single; some married; some in committed relationships. Some of the singles are divorced, others have never married. For those with children, their kids range anywhere from 2 to 25 years old. There are single parents; non-parents, and parents to fur kids only. It’s hard to imagine a question or conundrum I could encounter outside the realm of these women’s collective wisdom. It’s important to me to sustain my friendships even though I’m now coupled up. We all need good girlfriend time.

shower20I only cried once during the shower.  (Though to be honest, I saved myself from a second bout only by hugging my thanks instead of squeaking out the words choking me up). After the passing-the-box game, Melissa distributed pens and paper for one more activity, a storytelling game–perfect for a writer-bride!  She read off a list of words, and the guests were instructed to compose, within seven minutes, a love story that incorporated all the words. My job was to read the finished stories out loud and pick my favorite.

Theirs was no small task: the list of words included “earthquake,” “doghouse,” “fire,” and “chemistry,” among others. Let me tell you, I have some talented and funny girlfriends. One story featured two lovebirds falling for each other while building a doghouse. In another, the man had already built the house and invited his love interest to come see his peke-a-poo’s new abode. One couple met over a Bunsen burner in chemistry class. Still another tale placed me in California, where an earthquake led to romance. Several stories made it clear Steve would/should never be in the doghouse. D.B’s story, which ended with Steve saying, “Call the fire department – my baby is hot!” made me laugh out loud.

But the one that made me cry was a true story. Our friend Brigitte, whom I met through Steve, wrote about a “lonely professor” of “forestry, not chemistry” who had talked about his “search for someone special” while sitting by a campfire. I got about two sentences in and realized the story was about Steve, before I knew him, and I had to hand the paper to my mother to finish reading it aloud. Knowing that Steve has also cherished, and been supported by, a family of dear friends during his single-father years touches me deeply. Brigitte later polished up the story and emailed it to both of us, which made me tear up all over again.

As “his” friends and “my” friends become our friends, I look forward to celebrating our wedding with their love and laughter surrounding us. And my girlfriends don’t know it yet, but there’s going to be a special song played during the reception in honor of all their beautiful selves. Get your dancing shoes ready, ladies, because we’re going to kick up our heels, together.

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Mothers, Daughters, and Wedding Dresses: A Middle-Aged Bride Shops for “the One”

Editor’s Note: Meet our new real bride blogger Sandee, who will be sharing her journey via our blog. She also blogs on her personal website, 40-Something First Time Bride, and we highly encourage you to check out more information on Sandee’s engagement process!

By Real Bride Blogger Sandee McGlaun

SandeeI’m a forty-something first-time bride, and this is my story.

I don’t mean that to sound overly dramatic, because if there’s anything I’ve discovered in taking on the identity of “bride-to-be” in middle-age, it’s that I am actively anti-drama. Life is complicated enough, and after all these many years of waiting and wondering, now that I’m finally in love, engaged, and planning to marry in September, I want all things wedding to be simple, fun, and (relatively) stress-free.

As a forty-something bride, I know what I like, and I’m clear on what traditions and trends appeal (Dad walking me down the aisle, yes) and which aren’t for me (unity sand, no thanks). With so many years to dream, though, my desire for simplicity has occasionally run smack up against those more elaborate visions I concocted over the years of what this process would look like.

For example, more than once I’ve imagined the scene of going wedding dress shopping with my mom. I’ve always been close to my mother Margaret, a retired biology teacher with an artist’s eye and a grandma’s heart. She’s still my favorite shopping companion, and I’d long envisioned an elegant and exciting day filled with white tulle and happy tears. We’d dress up, shop multiple bridal boutiques, then share a lovely lunch and a cup of tea (or glass of wine) in a cozy café, laugh, cry, and generally bond ourselves silly.

That was the fantasy.  The reality looked a bit different.

***

First of all, between the time my fiancé Steve and I started talking rings and he put one on my finger, I found a Nicole Miller dress I loved and bought it on eBay at half the retail price. It was the practical, smart, and simple thing to do. But I couldn’t quite let go of the dream of dress shopping with my mom. So when she came to visit some months later, we decided to head to the bridal store. Our excursion wasn’t an empty exercise: I had some concerns about the fit of the Miller dress and wanted a back-up, and even if I kept it as I hoped, I still needed accessories.

dressshopping-13We planned to hit at least two shops. At the first store, Mom and I were stopped ten feet inside the front door by an elegant 60-something woman seated at a table. Dressed in a chic black suit, she asked if we wanted to just look around or try on.

“Um, look around to see if there’s anything we want to try on?” I said, thinking logic dictated that approach.

She noted we were free to look around all we wanted, but trying on required filling out a form. Wedding gowns were to the right, bridesmaids’ dresses to the left, veils in the back.

We perused the racks and found a few contenders for a back-up dress. I wasn’t crazy about the bridesmaid styles on the racks, and nothing appealed to Mom for mother-of-the-bride. As I held up a birdcage veil to my head—frowning at its excess frou-frou—two saleswomen drifted to the back of the store to watch us. Were they trying to figure out if we were serious shoppers, or worried we might steal something?

I suspected my age and lack of apparent bride-ness was confounding them, and I was right. When Mom and I returned to the check-in table, a twenty-something blonde sat there. “Can I help you ladies?” she asked.

“Yes, we’d like to try on some things,” I replied.

She looked at me skeptically. “What kinds of ‘things’?”

Suspicion and disdain had not been part of my fantasy shopping excursions. “Dresses,” I said. “Bridal gowns.” I reached for the form, resisting the urge to wave my ring under her nose.

“Oh, well, it may be two o’clock now before we have a stylist available,” she said. “We have another new bride who just came in.”

“Oh,” I said, glancing at Mom, who raised her eyebrows. This young woman didn’t seem too interested in selling us a dress. We decided to grab lunch and come back. As we exited, we overheard the older woman chide the blonde.dressshopping3

There were no cozy cafes nearby, so we ended up at a chain restaurant across the street. It was startlingly awful. The foyer stank of wet table-rag. Mom’s strawberry avocado salad had no avocado. My shrimp scampi not only lacked the fresh basil that made it so appealing on the menu, but it also came with…marinara sauce? Which, of course, I ended up wearing, then promptly turned into a big grease blotch when I tried to blot it out of my top. Mom and I were still laughing about what had to have been –the worst- dining out experience we’d ever shared when we returned to the bridal shop.

This time I got the full treatment: a bride bag filled with ads, coupons, and a Skinny Cow (ouch?) snack sample, and my name written on a big heart and stuck to a dressing room door. My stylist, “Mary,” began gathering the dresses I liked on a rack, while Mom settled into one of the chairs lined up, fashion-runway style, next to the mirrors, and readied her camera.

Almost all wedding dresses look lovely on the hanger, making it seem impossible to choose. But I figured out two things fast: how a dress feels when you try it on is just as important as how it looks, and taking pictures to see how it reads in photographs can help narrow your choices.

The first dress was a bomb. Partly because it was way too big and no amount of clipping could fix that, but also because its boat-neck and cap sleeves looked matronly. Next. The second gown featured the same ivory-over-champagne illusion lace as the first, but with a v-neck and fitted empire waistline, it was more me. Mom and I both liked a trumpet-silhouette gown with floral detailing and daisy-like flowers trailing down the skirt, but I was wary of its train. Something many brides may not know: dresses with trains don’t come ready-made to bustle, so you either have to trip over the extra fabric all night, or factor the alteration into your dress budget.

The most stunning dress I tried on was a Gatsby-inspired mermaid gown with lots of beading—but it weighed something like 15 pounds. That didn’t sound fun to haul around for a four-hour reception. I also liked a simple ruched mermaid gown neither Mom nor Mary seemed wild about, but in photos, it was one of the most flattering.

dressshopping-11It was a strange day in many ways. Though I’d looked forward to shopping with Mom, I spent as much or more time in the dressing room with the stylist, joking about the upper body strength it required to wrestle women in and out of 15 pound dresses all day. I felt like a princess in the Gatsby dress, but a pudge in the shapewear, which I swear added a good ¼ to ½ inch of bulk (though it did give me bigger boobs.) Lunch was a travesty, and after just one bridal shop, Mom and I were both so exhausted, we elected to call it a day.

As far as veils went, at least, the day was a success. I’d briefly considered a cathedral veil for the flow factor, but when I put one on, it made me feel too…catholic. A birdcage veil was better suited to my age, my style, and—as my mother reminded me—my love of vintage hats.

***

Before we’d embarked on our shopping excursion, I’d modeled the eBay-purchased Nicole Miller dress hanging in my closet at home. When I was ready, I called to Mom, and she came up the stairs and stopped to gaze at me from the room’s doorway.

“Ohhhh,” she said, framing her face with her hands, “It’s beautiful, you look beautiful. I think I’m going to cry!”

She choked up, and I choked up, and then we hugged each other tight.

And though our shopping trip, even with all its wacky surprises, was memorable and fun, this I now understand: if we’d stopped right then and there and held that moment as close as we hugged each other, it would have been more than enough.

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About Sandee:

Sandee McGlaun chronicles the adventures of marrying at mid-life on her blog http://www.40somethingfirsttimebride.com. She directs the Writing Center and teaches at Roanoke College in Salem. When not writing, teaching, or planning her wedding, she enjoys puttering in the craft room, hiking through the woods, and checking out the local music scene with fiancé Steve. She likes to dispel stereotypes and thus looks forward to becoming a married crazy cat lady.

Real Bride Blogger: You Are My Happy Place

By Michelle Glynn

(Editor’s Note: THANK YOU to Michelle for including us in her wedding adventures! We are so lucky to have gotten to know Michelle through her writing and have loved her insights and learning experiences. We wish her and her new husband a lifetime of happiness! Interested in being our next real bride blogger? Email Liz at llong@leisuremedia360.com for more info!)

On May 17, Alex and I were married at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lynchburg.  All the planning and stress were worth it!  From the rehearsal to the honeymoon, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful experience.

We arrived at St. Paul’s at 5 p.m. for the rehearsal the Friday before the wedding.  Afterwards, we had the rehearsal dinner at Boonsboro Country Club.  The food was amazing, and the groom’s cake, which looked like a record player, was adorable!  We felt lucky to have so many amazing people in our lives, and to have them all in the same room at the same time.  We passed the microphone around, and everyone who spoke gave such wonderful and loving speeches.  Alex’s Uncle David even broke into song!  When we left the rehearsal dinner, Alex went to stay with some of his friends for the night, and my mom and sister came back to our house with me.

I actually slept well on Friday night, and didn’t feel nervous when I woke up on Saturday. I told my mom and my sister, Liz, that I wanted to have a relaxed morning on Saturday, and warned them not to do anything to make me feel stressed!  Liz had made me a shirt that said, “Future Mrs. Jackson,” so of course I wore it until it was time to put on my wedding dress.  My mom and I went to Starbucks to get some coffee and breakfast, and then we came back to the house, picked up Liz, and loaded everything we needed for the wedding into my mom’s car.

We drove to Body Works Day Spa and Salon in Lynchburg, so that my mom and I could have our hair and makeup done.  When I walked in, the receptionist told me that one of our wedding guests had already paid for my services, which was the nicest surprise I could have asked for!  We had such a wonderful experience with Emily at Body Works.  My mom was so excited about how her hair and makeup turned out, and she looked amazing!

When we left the salon, we went straight to the church to get changed.  My matrons of honor were already there, and our photographer came in to capture pictures of me getting ready.  I made sure I had all the essentials:  something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a penny in my shoe.  My “something old” was the center stone in my engagement ring, since that was the stone from Alex’s mom’s engagement ring.  My “something new” was my dress, and my “something borrowed” was my veil, which belongs to Allison, one of my matrons of honor.  My “something blue” was my cat Kiki’s favorite toy, which was a blue fish.  Kiki passed away about a year and a half ago from lung cancer, and she was so special to me and Alex.  I wanted her to be part of our big day, so my mom sewed her toy fish into my gown.

Alex and I exchanged cards before the wedding via our groomswoman, and as I read his card, I grew even more excited.  As I walked down the aisle with my dad, it almost felt like I was in a movie.  The ceremony went by quickly and without any hiccups.  I felt so elated, and everyone around us seemed to feel that way as well.  Alex and I were so happy that our wedding day had come.  Our wedding rings are engraved with “YAMHP,” which stands for, “You Are My Happy Place.”  When we first started dating, we would text each other a lot, and use abbreviations, and that was one of our favorites because it really expresses how we feel about each other.

After we took pictures, Alex and I got into a 1958 Ford Fairlane convertible to drive to the reception.  The car belongs to one of our friends, and he and his girlfriend had offered to drive us.  They even decorated the front of the car with flowers, and had a wonderful beverage ready for Alex and I to share!  We had the best time driving around downtown Lynchburg, with people around us honking their horns and waving.

When we arrived at the reception, a lot of our guests were outside and in the foyer taking our pictures, and coming up to us to give us hugs.  Alex and I had our first dance to “Crazy Love,” and I remember us talking and laughing, and feeling so wonderful.  The Steve Freeman Band played at the reception, and they were amazing.  Oakwood Country Club did a fantastic job with the food.  Alex and I made it a point to get full plates, but we really didn’t eat as much as we would have liked because we had so many people to talk to!  Oakwood provided the linens, chair covers, and centerpieces, and everything came together beautifully.

When it was time for toasts, my dad spoke about a daughter’s smile, and how he knew Alex was “the one” because of the way I smiled when I first told my parents about him.  He said Alex had the same smile the first time he met him.  When my dad and I had our father-daughter dance to “The Way You Look Tonight,” I asked him if he had any help from my stepmom when he prepared his speech, and he said, no, he just spoke from the heart.  I was so impressed!

Alex and I didn’t make any grand exit from the reception, and we forgot all about using the bubbles we had bought.  We were actually among the last people to leave, which was fine with me, because we got to talk to many guests as they left.  Since we were leaving on Sunday morning for the honeymoon, we went back to our house after the reception. We felt so incredibly happy and special to be loved by so many people.  The next morning, we left for our honeymoon, and spent the most fabulous week in Cancun.  We relaxed, shopped, and went on excursions to the Mayan Ruins and Xel-Ha.  We stayed at the Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort in the hotel district, which was absolutely gorgeous.

We experienced some issues with our flight (and our luggage) on the way to Mexico, and ended up spending our first night in Charlotte, but other than that, we had an absolutely perfect wedding and honeymoon!  It’s almost surreal to look back on our wedding day because it was so fantastic.  Alex and I are extremely lucky to have found each other and to be able to live the rest of our lives as husband and wife.

guest post: Tying Up Loose Ends Before We Tie the Knot!

Guest post by Michelle Glynn

It’s been nine months since Alex and I got engaged, but sometimes it feels like it was yesterday.  Everyone told me time would fly, and it certainly has.  We had a couples shower in early April, and we have had a lot of fun getting the RSVP cards in the mail and some gifts too!  The wedding is coming up very soon, so we are concentrating on the last-minute details, and hoping that everything falls into place!

michelleAlex’s brother and his wife had the couples shower for us at their house in Maryland. They arranged for us to have a private cooking class at the home of the owner of “No Thyme to Cook.”  Alex’s brother and his wife gave us aprons that say “Mr.” and “Mrs.,” and they gave me a white baseball cap with a veil, and they gave Alex a baseball cap that looks like a tuxedo.  Alex and I don’t have a lot of experience in the kitchen, so the class focused on easy meals that don’t require many ingredients.

We made delicious sesame shrimp with roasted broccoli, pork loin with boiled asparagus, and grilled chicken with an amazing sauce and roasted green beans. We learned that there are many uses for extra virgin olive oil, and that it’s not difficult to make a great meal.  Alex and I made the sesame shrimp and asparagus the night we got home from Maryland, and it was fantastic!

In addition to the gifts I got at my bridal shower, we have received some presents in the mail and at our couples shower, and are putting them to good use.  We have gotten the grill we registered for, and have had lots of fun using it.  Alex’s brother and his wife got us the popcorn maker that Alex wanted so desperately, and we have been making delicious popcorn at home!  We are actually having a good time making food, and it tastes great!  For two people who don’t have much experience with cooking, it is a big step!

We have met with the church wedding coordinator and the organist to go over the plans for the ceremony.  Meeting with the organist was one of my favorite parts of the planning process.  Luckily, Alex is very knowledgeable when it comes to classical music, so we were able to choose our songs fairly quickly.  I had originally thought I would walk down the aisle to “Here Comes the Bride,” but I didn’t realize that would be so controversial.

Alex and his mom both said that, of course, it was my choice, but they are not fans of that song.  When I told the organist that I was thinking of using that song, she said that she would need to get special permission to play that piece, but she didn’t think it would be a problem.  Apparently, the Episcopal Church does not normally allow that song.  The organist and I had decided she would ask permission to play it, but then she played Clarke’s “Trumpet Voluntary” for me, and I quickly changed my mind.  I told the organist that I was thinking more about the fanfare in the beginning of “Here Comes the Bride” than the actual song, and she assured me that she would give me a big fanfare regardless of the song that I chose.  I have been listening to Clarke’s “Trumpet Voluntary” on my computer and iPod ever since our meeting!

There are some small things I need to take care of for the reception, like ordering the squares for the guest book quilt, and getting pictures together of Alex and me when we were young.  I also need to order bubbles for when we leave the reception.  We have spoken with the leader of our band about our song choices, and the reception menu is done.  I get so excited when I think about walking into the reception and seeing all of our family and friends.

And, the next time that I write this blog, I will be Mrs. Jackson!

real bride blogger: Being Blessed

Guest post by Michelle Glynn

When Alex and I decided to get married in a church, I’ll admit that the thought of going through premarital counseling made me feel a little queasy. Our wedding ceremony is going to be at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lynchburg, since that is the church Alex’s family has always attended. Alex’s uncle is an Episcopalian priest, and he will be marrying us, but since he lives in Richmond (and he is family), we chose to have our counseling with the priest at St. Paul’s.

Though we were only required to have three one-hour counseling sessions, I was dreading them, mainly because I didn’t know what to expect.  Even though Alex and I talk all the time about money, and we have discussed whether or not we want to have children, I didn’t know what other “hot topics” might arise. I worried that maybe we would be judged because we are already living together. I was also afraid that the priest might recommend that we not get married. I know that’s a pretty unrealistic fear, but I was thinking about the worst possible outcome. I didn’t know if the priest would be open and easy to talk to, so I wasn’t excited about the prospect of discussing our personal life with someone I didn’t feel comfortable with. As usual, I worried too much!

blessed

We had our first session with the priest in January.  He explained to us that the point of these sessions wasn’t for him to decide if we are compatible or not (Whew!), but for us to discuss our relationship and our future marriage. As we were talking about how Alex and I met online, and how I had recently moved in with him, the priest said that quite a few of the couples that he had married in the past year had met online, and most of them had lived together beforehand, which made me feel better. The three of us discussed the important topics of money and children, and since Alex and I have had many conversations about those subjects, there were no surprises. The priest joked that we were “too easy,” and that he needed to find something for us to think about. Toward the end of our session, he asked us why we wanted to involve the Church in our wedding ceremony. Not specifically St. Paul’s, but the Church in general. He also asked us to think about what would change (besides the obvious) once the ceremony was over. Those questions stumped us, so they became our homework.

Throughout the next few weeks, we discussed our homework, and came to the conclusion that for us, it just feels right to have the Church as part of our wedding. We don’t consider ourselves to be very “religious” people, but a marriage ceremony is special, and is something we want to experience in the Church. We also know that if we decide to have children, we will want them to grow up with the Church in their lives, so we feel we should start our life together in the Church. It is hard to describe in words what will change once we are married, because to us it is about experiencing a feeling, and not something tangible. After much discussion, we decided that the best way to describe it is that we will feel blessed.

Since we are both overachievers, we were very happy when the priest gave us an A+ on our homework at our second session.  At that session, we discussed how we were feeling about the wedding day and the events leading up to it. We had decided to ask two of our friends to be readers at the wedding, so the priest gave us a booklet with Bible verses that we could choose for the ceremony. He asked if there was anything we felt we would need to discuss at our last session, and we really couldn’t think of anything. We decided to have the third and final session after my bachelorette party and bridal shower, in case anything came up after those events that we felt we needed to talk about.

We had our final session, and we focused on the logistics of the ceremony. I got to see where I will be getting ready, and the path I’ll take to get to the back of the church for my entrance. We also did a quick run-through of the ceremony, and it made the wedding seem even more real. Alex and I talked afterwards about how we started feeling emotional, so I’m sure we will both be crying on our wedding day!

I am so glad we decided to get married in the church, because otherwise, I wouldn’t have had this wonderful premarital counseling experience. I’m actually sad that it’s over, which is not what I was expecting. It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised!

real bride blogger: Party On!

Guest Post by Michelle Glynn

With less than three months to go before the big day, our weekends are filling up with fun events! We are lucky to have many wonderful people in our lives who want to celebrate our marriage. We are also especially grateful for the people who are in our wedding party.

When my best friend Allison got married, our other best friend Lindsay and I were her maids of honor. When Lindsay got married, Allison was her matron of honor, and I was her maid of honor. Now that it’s my turn, they will both be my matrons of honor. Of course, I wanted my sister to be in the bridal party as well, and she will be my maid of honor. I know some people might think it’s odd to have two matrons of honor and a maid of honor, but all the girls deserve the special titles! Alex and I decided to have three attendants each, so the wedding party wouldn’t be too big. His brother is his best man, and his choice for his other two attendants may seem a little strange, since one is in his 60s, and the other is a girl.

We seem to be all about breaking tradition, which is okay with us, even if it involves a little extra work. For example, my blog from December focused on choosing a bridesmaid dress that would work for an attendant who will be seven months pregnant at the time of the wedding. Luckily, I was able to find a dress that I liked and would fit her well. We are working on the attire for the groomswoman, since we haven’t had any luck finding a place that makes or rents tuxedos for women. We’ve looked online, but really haven’t come up with any solutions, so she will probably end up wearing a black pantsuit. I didn’t think that getting a tuxedo for a girl would be so challenging, but it will all work out. We are looking forward to celebrating with our wedding party on the day of the wedding and in the months leading up to it!

Girls

Allison and Lindsay threw me a bachelorette party in February, and we had a wonderful time! They made sure I was decked out in plenty of bachelorette gear, including a lighted tiara, a sash, and a large ring. They also gave me some really cute undergarments. My friend Melissa gave me a great throwback nightgown with the “Saved by the Bell” television show logo on it, and we joked that I would save that for the honeymoon!

Allison and Lindsay planned out a day of tastings at wineries, even though they weren’t able to partake since they’re both expecting. We had a great time at the first winery, and my friend Melissa and I enjoyed tasting the wines they had to offer. The person who did our tasting was funny and personable, and gave me some extra wine and a wine cork! We also met some very nice women who were excited that I was getting married. The second winery we went to wasn’t as fun as the first, but we still enjoyed the tasting, and ate some cheese, crackers, and grapes that Lindsay had packed.

We finished the day by going out to dinner, and then to Dairy Queen for some ice cream. Believe it or not, we were home by around 9 p.m. My bachelorette party was definitely more low-key than the ones we had for Allison and Lindsay, but I think that at this point in our lives, that suits us just fine.

Allison and Lindsay are also throwing a bridal shower for me in March, and I’m really excited to catch up with people I haven’t seen in awhile. I don’t know what games we will be playing or what kind of food we will have, but I know that it will be fabulous. We will be visiting Alex’s brother and sister-in-law for a couples’ weekend in April, and my dad and stepmom are throwing us a couples’ shower in April as well.

It’s wonderful to be supported and loved by our family and friends, and Alex and I look forward to celebrating our wedding with each and every one of them! Party on!

real bride blogger: It Only Happens Once, So Enjoy It!

Guest Post by Michelle Glynn

It’s been a busy and productive January! Alex and I went on a cruise to the Bahamas with his mother, brother, and sister-in-law during the first week of the month. When we returned, I finished moving the rest of my things to his house, so we are now officially living together. On top of all that, the wedding planning has been in full force!

We didn’t finalize our guest list before we went on the cruise, so that was first on our to-do list when we got back. It seemed like every day we would think of more people that we wanted to invite, so the list kept growing. I am very lucky to have a fabulous friend who is designing and printing save-the-date cards and invitations for us. I wanted to keep them as simple as possible, and use the black and white color scheme. We may also add a touch of pink to the invitations, but we are still in the planning stages. It’s hard to believe it’s almost time to send them out!

Before we left for the cruise, I found out that two of my bridesmaids are throwing a bachelorette party for me in February and a bridal shower in March. When I was working on the guest list for the shower, I realized that Alex and I were running out of time to set up our wedding gift registries. Yikes! Since we’ve both been living on our own, Alex and I have plenty of household items, but we’d like to have some newer and nicer things. We decided to go Bed, Bath, and Beyond to register first, since they have such a wide variety of items for the home.

MichelleI’m not much of a cook, so we invited one of our friends to come along, and give us some tips on the best type of cookware to buy. It was also nice to have another woman’s opinion, since Alex doesn’t have the same level of interest in bedding and color schemes as I have. It was a lot of fun for me to scan the “froufrou” pillows that matched the bedding we selected, because I never spent money on extras like that in the past. I also had fun selecting new dishes, since the ones that Alex and I have are mismatched. Alex was extremely excited to find a towel warmer that he immediately scanned. When we got home, he went online and added a popcorn maker to the registry, so I think he is having a little fun with this process as well!

We wanted to register at one more store, so we went to Pier One to set up a registry. The salesperson said they don’t do registries anymore, because their inventory turns over so much that by the time the wedding comes, many items on the registry are no longer available. I was pretty devastated, as they have so many pretty dishes and decorations, but we moved on. We went to Target, and scanned some additional kitchen items, so I think we’re done with the in-store registries now. I’ll confess that I’ve also been online more than once, and added to the registry. It’s easy to get addicted to online shopping when you are picking out items and not having to pay for them!

I also created a wedding web site for us on TheKnot.com, so that we can put the link on our invitations and our guests can visit the site for wedding information. The Knot makes it really easy to set the site up, for which I was grateful. I was able to add photos, and I could decide what kind of information I wanted displayed on the site. Another item checked off my list!

Time seems to be flying by, and I know the wedding will be here soon. We still have a lot of things to do, but we are trying to take it step by step so it doesn’t get too overwhelming. Everyone keeps telling me that I need to enjoy this time, since it only happens once, and that’s what I’m focused on.

real bride blogger: If the Shoe (or Dress) Fits, Buy It!

Guest Post by Real Bride Blogger Michelle Glynn

The first thing that comes to mind when a girl dreams about her wedding day is the dress she will wear. Well, maybe the groom is the first thing, but the dress is definitely a close second. This isn’t just any dress; it’s a magical gown that will make her look and feel like a queen. The search for this dress isn’t a typical shopping trip; it’s an event that usually includes an entourage. Apparently, I committed a bridal faux pas when I went by myself to find my wedding dress. It wasn’t my intention to actually buy a dress while I was out shopping alone, but I couldn’t risk losing my perfect gown!

Alex and I got engaged while we were on a mini-vacation at the Chesapeake Bay. I left to come home before he did, so I decided to stop at David’s Bridal in Richmond on the way back. I thought the Richmond store might have more selection than the Roanoke store, and I had just gotten engaged, so I was really excited. I also love to shop, and don’t mind shopping by myself. I tend to walk really fast and fly through stores, so it’s easier if I’m alone.

Choosing a wedding dress can cause so much anxiety because you want to look your most perfect on your big day. When I walked into David’s, I decided to peruse the clearance rack first. Since I’m only going to wear the dress once, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money. I found a wide variety of dresses to choose from, and selected five to try on. I was attempting to be sneaky and go to the dressing room alone. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really work at bridal shops, so a wedding consultant came along to help me. Thankfully, she was very friendly and easygoing. She also appreciated the fact that I had already selected some dresses to try.

I wasn’t sure about the style of dress that I wanted to buy; I just knew I didn’t want it to be strapless. The first dress I tried on was bright white, and had layers that were bunched up at the bottom. It was okay, but didn’t feel completely right. The next dress I tried on was also white, but not as bright as the first, and it was a one-shoulder design. I thought I might like it because I have a one-shoulder dress that I love, but the one-shoulder bridal gown didn’t feel right for me either. I tried on the third dress, and when I walked out of the dressing room and looked in the mirror, I knew it was the one! Of course I can’t describe what it looks like because Alex reads my blog posts, but I can tell you it felt right, and felt like me.

MG ShoesThe sales associate brought me some shoes to try on, and they were the perfect height, so I won’t need to get the dress hemmed. Normally, I would have tried to find shoes on my own that were a little cheaper, but since they were the perfect height and color, I decided to get them. It was so exciting to walk around the store in my dress, and everyone was so complimentary and excited for me. The store manager gave me a bell to ring, and we celebrated my find!

At first, not everyone in my family was happy that I had gone shopping for such a big purchase all by myself. Eventually, they came to understand that I was in the right place at the right time, and that I found what I wanted. Recently, my sister and I were browsing with my mom at a bridal shop. We saw a girl come out of the fitting room in a gown that looked perfect on her. She tried on another dress, and while she looked gorgeous, the first one just seemed to be right. I told her mom my opinion, and she said half of the people at the shop and people they sent pictures to liked the first dress, and the other half liked the second, so she wasn’t sure what her daughter was going to do. I told her I went shopping for my dress by myself, and I was so glad I didn’t have to worry about everyone else’s opinion! It may not be the norm to shop for your wedding dress alone, but I say, if the dress fits, buy it!

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