Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tips and tricks.

Engagement photos are usually taken during the whirlwind of wedding planning, when last thing you need added to your plate is more stress. Stuck on what to wear or where to shoot? Here are my tips and tricks for a successful session. 

(courtesy of Janice Cui Photography.)

Tip #1: Location. Pick a spot that is meaningful to you and your fiance. If no particular location comes to mind, go to your photographer for recommendations. Photographers usually have a list of locations where they'd love to shoot and haven't had the chance.

Tip #2: Wardrobe. Dress as the best version of yourself! You want to look comfortable, fun and real. If you wear something awkward and uncomfortable, it will come across that way in your photos. Instead of matching each other, choose outfits that work together as an ensemble. Avoid wearing black, white or busy patterns; bright colors photograph vividly and add personality. Make sure your outfits are tailored to your body -- skip anything too baggy or tight. Wear comfortable shoes even if you don't plan on walking very far; standing for long periods of time can hurt your tootsies. 

Tip #3: Hair & Make-up. You want to look and feel your best on the day of your session. Consider spending a few extra dollars for a blow-out and confidence boost. Be sure to bring a hair brush with you, especially if your session is outside. For make-up, keep your look natural and don't stray too far from your daily wear. Matte make-up photographs best and will keep your skin looking flawless. Bring your lipstick, gloss or stain with your for touch ups on site and don't forget to have a small mirror on hand. 

Tip #4: Details. Be prepared to be photographed from head to toe. Check that nails are manicured and free of chips, hair is colored and free of drastic roots, and your eyebrows are groomed. Make sure your engagement ring is clean, polished and photo-ready. If your FI needs a trim, have him head to the barber a week before your session so the haircut looks natural and be sure his nails are clean. 

Tip #5: Get inspired. Google is your friend! Browse for other photo shoots done by your photographer or in your location. If you find shots you like, bring them with you. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box! Talk with your photographer ahead of time and brainstorm ideas for your shoot. Get a feel for what they have in mind and share ideas. 

Tip #6: Relax. Pretend you're out on a date and there isn't a photographer following you around. Even though you can't tell, R and I were talking to each other our entire shoot. We giggled, made jokes, and talked about where we would go for lunch after our session was over. Be natural and have fun! Talk with your photographer ahead of time and brainstorm ideas for your shoot. Get a feel for what they have in mind and share ideas.

Do you have any helpful hints for getting camera-ready?

Friday, July 30, 2010

The engagement pictures that almost weren't.

R and I never anticipated having engagement pictures taken. The budget just didn't allow it. I've said it once and I'll say it again. Read the classifieds, because without it, these amazing pictures wouldn't exist.

(photos courtesy of Janice Cui Photography.)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's going to be monumental.

I'm a sucker for free stuff. Samples in the grocery store? Yes, please! Trial size shampoo & conditioner? Don't mind if I do! So it should come as no surprise that the 'Free Offer' section of the Weddingbee classifieds is one of my most frequently visited webpages. The very first time I decided to check out the Weddingbee Classifieds, I started clicking and scrolling away, searching for any kind of free anything in the Northern Virginia area.

After just a few minutes, I saw an offer by a photographer in the area looking to build her portfolio with a free one-hour engagement session. I couldn't open my email fast enough. Without any hesitation I sent a note asking if the offer was still available and Jen, our photographer, replied very, very quickly. We planned to meet up on a Sunday morning in March in DC and, on Jen's recommendation, I sent few bits of inspiration for our session:

A few weeks later we hopped on the metro, rode in to DC, and walked away with some amazing shots. 

Word of Advice: Being cheap is fierce. Read the classifieds!

Next up: Our engagement pictures! 

Monday, July 26, 2010

The finishing touches.

Where we left off: The Save the Dates arrived on our door step! 

There was only one downfall -- when we decided on the design, we knew we'd be limited on the amount of text we could include. Originally, the Carved Tree design allowed for 3 lines of text. After tweaking a few things here and there, our design ended up with four lines of text: 

save the date for the wedding of
my first and last & his first and last
gainesville, virginia

Our problem? We needed to include the information about our wedding website for guests. Solution? Belly bands! 

 I designed our template in PowerPoint so five belly bands would fit perfectly on a single 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of card stock. After I perfected the template, I moseyed on down to Staples and found a beautiful, high-quality white linen card stock. Since I had 50 Save the Dates to belly band, I printed 12 pages of bands (just to be safe) on Momma B's inkjet printer. 

Once the print job was complete, I collected my batch of bands and visited the Kinko's down the street to have my babies professionally cut but the copy dude broke my heart and told me the strips were too thin to cut on their big awesome cutter. He led me to the shady hand-cutter and left me to do the dirty work. Boo, copy dude. I sat there for 35 minutes tediously sliding a razor across the pencil thin lines on my template and they still came out looking like junk. Not straight, guidelines still visible. I headed home, grabbed a pair of scissors and made a few quick trims. Word of advice: Unless your cutting utensil is sharp like machete, linen card stock will fray. Just thought I'd throw that out there (::cough:: copy dude ::cough::).

Once the strips were trimmed, I wanted to be sure the info on the front would be centered on the card after the belly band was secure. Since the cards are 5" wide and the strips are 11" across, we found the centered 5 inches on the strips and marked small lines (at 3" and 8") on the backs of the belly bands. 

Using the lines on the back of the strips as a guide, we lined the marks up with the edges of the card and folded. Pretend like you don't see my terribly chipped fingernail.

Once the belly bands were scored at the right spot, we applied a Zot to the edge of one side of the strip, folded down the other side, and attached the band. 

After noticing that our Save the Dates were lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, I made a quick trip to Michael's and picked up a roll of craft wrapping paper for an awesome $4.99. When I returned to our humble abode, I created a envelope liner template using an old file folder and one of our extra envelopes.  I traced the outline of the envelope on to the folder and then cut just inside the lines to be sure the template would create liners that actually fit inside the envelope (too tight of a fit can cause puckering and bunching in your envelopes!). While I addressed envelopes, R traced and cut envelope liners from our roll of craft paper. 

When we collected the right amount of liners, I slid them into the envelopes, ran my unmanicured fingernail along the crease of the envelope flap, and then secured the liner with a few small pieces of double stick tape. The last bit of work came in addressing the envelopes. With a tan, fine point Sharpie in hand, I scrawled out addresses in my own (sometimes pitiful) cursive. Gallons of blood, sweat and tears later (okay, maybe that's an exaggeration), our Save the Dates were finished!

(all photos in this post taken by yours truly. You're welcome.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

A beautiful bloom.

The first time I thought about what I'd look like on my wedding day wasn't when I was 8, dressed up in the hat my mom wore (hello, 80's) on her wedding day, and it wasn't when I went to my first wedding in 8th grade.

The first time I thought about what I'd look like on my wedding day, I was sitting in a movie theater with my college roommate, A. Faithful patrons of the Dollar Theatre, we rarely ventured over to Governor's Square to see any of the new releases, so who knows what made us fork out the cash to go see 27 Dresses. At the risk of looking like a massive dork, I'll be honest. When I saw Jane walk toward Kevin at the end of the movie with her gorgeous dress and beautiful bouquet, I leaned in to A and whispered, "I call dibs on that hairstyle for my wedding."

Long before the hair flower trend blew up in the blogosphere (at least I think long before, I wasn't really following the wedding trends in college), I knew that on my wedding day, I'd have a bloom snuggled up in my knot of hair.

Like many other brides do, I decided to go with a faux flower rather than using the real thing. After browsing Etsy and every other website known to man, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity for my first DIY project!

What you'll need: 
  • Squares of fabric in your choice of colors (tulle, organza, chiffon, etc.)
  • Piece of cardboard for your template (an empty cereal box or soda carton might work best, go with something thin)
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Pearls and/or beads (optional)
  • Hot Glue Gun (optional)
  • Hair clip
Step 1:
  • Trace or draw a design on your piece of cardboard and cut it out. Be creative with the shape of your template! I drew my petals to look more triangular.  
  • Pin your template to a stack of fabric squares to keep it in place. 

Step 2:
  • Using your scissors, cut around your template. You may want to do this step more than once using smaller stacks of fabric to make cutting easier. Keep in mind, the more fabric you use, the thicker your hair flower will be. 
  • Once all of the cutting had been done, pull the layers of fabric apart and layer them again, this time with the petals alternating and shifting slightly to one side each time. Pin your layers together.

Step 3:
  • Place two small stitches in the center of your stack of fabric. This will hold the fabric together, making the stack easier to handle and the next step a tad easier. 

Step 4: 
  • After you've stitched the center together, fold your fabric stack in half and place a stitch on either side. The center stitch you made in Step 3 will keep the fabric from sliding out of place while you fold it. It will be especially helpful if you've decided to make a thicker flower. 

Step 5:
  • Holding each end of your fabric stack outside of the stitches you made in Step 4, bring the sides together forming a cone-like shape with your fabric. Using pins, secure the ends together. Using your needle and thread, stitch the sides together. I found that sewing in a corset patter held the fabric together pretty securely. 

Step 6 (optional):
  • My original idea was to sew a few beads and pearls into the center of the hair flower, but mine was so thick it almost would have been pointless. The easiest way to add the pearls/beads would be to add a dollop of hot glue to the center of your bud and arrange the pearls/beads to your liking. 
Step 7: 
  • Add a hair clip. Sew/hot glue it on to the back of your hair flower.
Step 8: 
  • Admire your work! Please excuse my crazy hair in this picture. I had yet to straighten in that day but now I'm only further convinced that I should never leave the house without doing so. 

What was your first DIY project? Are you planning on wearing a hair flower? 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

They're here!

There I was, trying to wrangle and leash two small beasts before one of them decided to let their bladder have a free-for-all all over the tile. After a few minutes of struggle, I managed to get things under control just enough to open the front door, take a step or two and trip, almost falling down the steps to certain doom. Pissed that I almost just died right there on the front steps, I turned around the see what the crap I just tripped over. When I realized what the small parcel was, I forgave it for my attempted murder, took the pooches on the quickest walk around the neighborhood everrrrr and raced back inside. Our Save the Dates are here!

 Bella wanted to say hi. Notice her wet chin from the massive drink she had to take after our speed walk around the block.

Here's the breakdown:
  • Design: Carved Tree Save the Date by pottsdesign from Minted
  • Paper: Minted's Signature Paper, a luxurious soft cotton texture. 120lb, 15.5 thickness
  • Cost: $152 @ $3.04 each
    • 50 cards: $114
    • Return address printing: $38
  • Review: The ordering process with Minted is extremely easy. The option to personalize the fonts, font size, and wording for no extra charge (we added an additional line of text) is convenient and stress free. Our proof came to us within an hour of placing our order with no mistakes. Shipping is quick and problem-free and, once our product arrive, it were definitely better than what I was anticipating. The paper quality was sturdy and thick, the printing job was fabulous and the cute little note from Luis, who took care of our order, was sweet and unexpected. 
  • Final thoughts: I'd recommend Minted in a heartbeat to anyone looking for stationery. They offer Save the Dates, invitation suites, bridal shower invitations, birth announcements, holiday cards and more! There is definitely something for everyone! 
Next up: The finishing touches! Bellybands, envelope liners and an attempt at DIY calligraphy. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How being a Type A freak can sometimes be helpful, or Booking the Venue.

When we began looking for a reception venue, our choices were all over the map. Literally. Some of our options were more than 90 minutes from the church. While this might seem like no big deal to some people, I thought it might be a bit of a journey for our guests, especially since nearly half of them are out-of-towners. In an attempt to make things a little easier, R and I started looking for venues relatively close by. After searching high and low, we were left with two golf clubs no more than 10 minutes away from the church and (in true M fashion) I could not make a decision.

Choice Uno was Bristow Manor Golf Club, just down the street from Momma B's.

The elegant manor house has beautiful views of the course and countryside, but on the other hand, the reception area -- a separate building to the left of the manor house -- would have needed quite a bit of work to get ready for our paaartaaay . It had dingy white walls, painted grey cement floors, and not much else. The coordinator had mentioned to me that the venue had been seriously considering installing hardwood floors in the reception area and making chiavari chairs (squeee!!!) a part of their basic package but then she mentioned that they had recently nixed the idea of such awesomeness because of the economic downturn. Le sigh.

Choice Dos was Stonewall Golf Club. While it didn't have quite the same awe factor as Bristow in terms of curb appeal, the inside of the venue was just beautiful. And there is a cannon out front. A cannon!

I loved the large arched windows around the perimeter of the room and all of the natural light they let in, not to mention the beautiful stone patio just outside the room overlooking the course. The chandeliers were something I really liked and there was plenty of space for all of our guests. The room was extremely comfortable and, unlike Bristow, having a dance floor didn't cost any extra cash.

With two very close contenders, and being the type-A freak that I am, I made a list of the pros and cons for each option. In the end, we decided to sign a contract with Stonewall. 

Writing out the pros and cons for each venue was really helpful for us. It was the little things that helped us choose. It kept us both thinking straight about what would be best for not only us, but for our guests as well. If we hadn't, we might not have realized that choosing Bristow would mean our guests walking outside to the manor house to use the restroom ... in November ... in Northern VA. Brrrr.

Advice: As cliche as it sounds, make a list of pros and cons when you're stuck. You'll be surprised how easily the decision will come. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Location, Location, Location.

One wedding detail of which I was absolutely certain (don't get used to this, it doesn't happen often) was the location of our ceremony. Raised a Roman Catholic, my faith has been a large part of my life and being married in the church has always been extremely important to me. Since I know we all love less talk and more photos, I'll keep the suspense short. So without further ado....

(source, because this architect needs a raise.)

Ummmmm, can you say gorgeous? Pictures do this church no justice whatsoever. After our engagement, I knew immediately that I wanted to be married here. Not just because of the beautiful interior! I'm deeper than that, people!! The community here is fantastic and the parishioners are so kind. I called the wedding ministry about 2 weeks after we decided on a date and our day was open! As soon as I got the word, I hopped into my little Hyundai and headed their way to fill out the information and put down the deposit.

Did you have a location in mind from the beginning? Were you able to snatch up your dream spot?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The engagement ring that was: My new bling.

Catch up here and here.

(personal photo. courtesy of Reza.)

There I was, with two beautiful rings and no decision. I asked Momma B which one she liked better. I asked Reza. I asked all of the women working in the store, plus a couple who came in to trade in some gold. I can't decide what movie to see when R and I go out -- how was I supposed to choose a ring!!

Suddenly, a random thought popped in to my head.

"Hey, Reza. Are these rings one piece? Or are the settings soldered on like my other ring?"

After inspection, Reza let me know that one of the rings was soldered together (no bueno), the other was one piece. The decision was made for me...

... and I couldn't be happier! R loves the ring and I've gotten a ton of comments on it already! It's absolutely gorgeous. And since the matching band was sold with it as a pair, I don't have to worry about finding one to fit.

Soooo, what do you think? Good buy or bad decision?

p.s. I just realized that the cover of the book my precious bling is sitting on says Playboy. tehehe.