I Found the Gown

Soooo, quite a bit of exciting stuff has been happening in the Powell household over the past few days. First off, Sunday night was Yelp’s Fire & Ice Ball, the HUGE 1000+ person event that I’ve been planning for the past couple of months!

It was, in a word, AWESOME. So many amazing businesses were there offering delicious food, sips, hair styling, massages, tarot card readings, painting classes, and more. Entertainment ranged from a string quartet to a rockin’ DJ to parkour performances to a FIRE DANCER (true story!), and it was just an awesome, awesome time.

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Did I mention it was awesome? ;)

Plus, in addition to getting to promote awesome businesses from all across Northern VA, we raised almost $3500 for the SPCA of Northern Virginia!

And as if surviving throwing Yelp Northern VA’s biggest event of the year wasn’t enough excitement for one week, a couple of other fun things have been happening around the Powell household. For example…

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I am super happy to announce that my sister, Jen, is pregnant again! My beautiful niece Mia is going to be a big sister (to another little girl, yayyyyy!) come the end of August/early September, and our family could not be more thrilled.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen that Jen and Mia are in town visiting, so we were finally were able to snap a photo of this adorable pregnancy announcement. And by “we,” I mean, Ben, our brother and actual professional photographer. I call the above photo, “Skeptical Mia.”

A picture from tea on Thursday that Jenny wouldn’t let me post on social media because she hadn’t officially announced yet, haha.

I’ve actually been trying (and probably failing) to keep this news under wraps since DECEMBER, if you can believe it. My family all found out about Jen’s new bun in the oven when we were down in Macon for Christmas. I KNOW. Clearly my sister does not share my desperate need to put my entire life up on the interwebs in realtime, haha.

Speaking of which… the third piece of exciting news from the past few days is that… I purchased my wedding dress!

Spoiler alert: this is NOT my dress, hahaha. Fit & Flare = not my friend.

Unflattering silhouettes did not stop me from finding The One, and I totally said yes to the dress. And my credit card statement next month will remind me of it dearly, I’m sure.

Now, let it be said that I did not PLAN to have my dress be the first thing that I’d be crossing off my wedding checklist. After all, I haven’t even chosen my wedding venue yet (I’m pretty close to making a decision though), which means I technically don’t even have a date yet (although I’m pretty sure what it’s going to be.)

So, yes, I know that venue/date is usually the first (and, um, most important) step in wedding planning. But I really wanted to go dress shopping while my sister was in town, given that she’s my Matron (ha!) of Honor and general goodtime bestie.

My dress shopping entourage: Taylor, Jen, Anne, and my fabulously hatted mom!

So, we crammed in various bridal appointments over a few days before the Fire & Ice Ball took place, and I tried on a LOT of dresses. Turns out that while I do have a particular style I gravitate towards, within that style I basically like everything. So making a decision was actually very challening for me! Anyway, after I was able to try on all the dresses I was interested in (and I was interested in a lot of them, bahaha), I agonizingly narrowed it down to a couple of top contenders. Then, after the madness of my Yelper Party had died down, I went back to the bridal salon to finalize my decision!

I plan on going into more detail about my whole dress shopping experience later (I have some tidbits to share on what it’s like to go dress shopping as a plus-size bride, how my embarassing love for all things wedding kept me from having what I’d considering a “traditional” dress shopping experience, and how I didn’t have a “this is the one” ugly crying moment… well, not at first, anyway) but for now, let us just rejoice in the first official wedding decision having been made!

It works out that I took care of this early, anyway, since my dress is going to take up to six (SIX!) months to come in. Womp womp. At least I have lots of beautiful photos of it to keep me warm at night, right?

So, there you have it! Quite some exciting happenings, um, happening around these parts lately! And they’re just going to keep, er, happening, because this weekend I’m off to Texas for Sean’s cousin’s wedding in Dripping Springs (between Austin and San Antonio, as I understand it). The first wedding I’ll be attending as an engaged lady!

The rehearsal dinner is taking place at The Salt Lick, which is a famous BBQ place that Sean has literally been telling me about since we started dating. Needless to say, I am PSYCHED about that (pre-wedding diet, what?), oh yeah, and I guess there’s also the whole meeting the rest of Sean’s family and going to a celebration of love thing. ;)

Hopefully I’ll get to check in here again before I leave for the Lonestar State, but either way, I’ll see you soon!

Breakfast, Onesies, and Technicolor Schnauzers

Well, it’s official: I am twenty-seven years old. Do you think that makes me an adult yet?

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Actually, don’t answer that.

As I mentioned in my last post, I celebrated this year’s birthday with a festive pajama jam breakfast party!

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Instead of my usual MO of putting together a themed excuse to get drunk birthday party, I opted to do someting more low-key and daytime-friendly. So, this year, friends donned their PJs and came over in the AM (well, late AM) for some scrumptious brunch treats!

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I put together a brunch table full of goodies, including a cereal bar, mimosa bar, little breakfast canapes, and even whipped up a batch of waffle iron hashbrowns.

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For the cereal bar, I put out four kinds of cereal (Cheerios, Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and four kinds of milks (almond, 2%, chocolate, and skim). In retrospect, I probably should have put out one non-sugar cereal, and skipped the skim milk (which apparently nobody likes, hahaha.)

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The breakfast canapes were made from mini Eggo waffles topped either with whipped cream and a strawberry or brushed with maple syrup and a small piece of bacon. They were the hit of the party! Super delicious and fun to eat.

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The waffle iron hashbrowns were outta this world, too. All you do is pick up a bag of frozen tater tots from the grocery store and pop ‘em into the waffle iron. Squish ‘em down and let them cook! They get perfectly crisp on all sides and turned out way better than cooking tots in the oven. I am a waffle iron believer now!

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The mimosa bar was a lot of fun, too! I got four different kinds of juices — orange, orange mango, grapefruit, and guava — and had some additional fruit for folks to pop into their glass. I kept the champagne on ice and, voila!

Of course, the very best part of having a breakfast-themed birthday party is the fact that for your cake, well… see for yourself.

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Isn’t it beautiful? Donut cake > regular cake.

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Ta-da! Birthday pajama jam brunch success!

If you’re thinking about doing a breakfast bar for an upcoming event, I say definitely do it! It was really easy to set up (the biggest thing is just having enough pitchers/serving bowls), and of course picking up supplies at the grocery store is easy and relatively inexpensive.

Plus, Pikachu onesie aside, I think it’s a very elegant way to present breakfast/brunch. This sort of thing would be perfect for a bridal shower, baby shower, or mother’s day celebration in addition to birthdays. It would also be really fun to do brinner (breakfast for dinner) for a nighttime party!

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Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that I dyed Daxter and Pixel for the occasion, heeeeeeeee. :D

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Now they’re ready for Spring! (Don’t worry, I used completely animal-safe, vegetable-based dye.)

And so, alas, my twenty-seventh birthday has come and gone. But something tells me that 27 is going to be my very best year yet. I can’t wait to see what’s to come!

On the Eve of My Twenty-Seventh Birthday

Happy National Sibling Day to these two weirdos!

I’m pretty sure this picture (taken at Ben’s rehearsal dinner) is the most Asian any of us have ever looked, or will ever look again.

Anyway, in addition to today being National Remind People You Aren’t An Only Child Day, it is also the eve of my 27th birthday! Yep, tomorrow is not only Bring Your Own Cup Day at 7-11, it is also my birthdaaaay!

You guys know how much I love my birthday, but this year I’m actually not feeling quite as birthday-y as I normally am at this point each year. Maybe it’s because of this ginormous Yelp event I’ve got happening in nine days time, or the fact that I just got engaged (two weeks ago today!), but my birthday just hasn’t felt like as big of a focus for me this year.

Sooooo, instead of big themed par-tay in honor of my favorite pop culture obsession du jour (feel free to check out my Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Frozen-themed birthdays of the past), I’m having a birthday brunch pajama jam instead! I mean, what sounds better than lounging around in my PJs while friends come hang out, sip mimosas, and eat cereal with me?

So my brunch party is happening on Sunday, while tomorrow (my actual birthday) kicks off with another wedding venue visit, then a birthday lunch with Sean’s mom (we share the same birthday!), and then some kinda birthday surprise from my fiance (whee, that’s fun to say!) that he won’t tell me about, heehee. And THEN on Wednesday, my sister and Mia come into town (yay!), so we’re doing my family birthday celebration on that day!

Okay, okay, so I guess I am starting to get excited about all this birthday hubbub after all. :P

All right then… see you guys when I’m 27!

Gettin’ Crafty: Bridesmaid Boxes

So, in the spirit of this blog officially being a Judgment-Free Zone when it comes to my wedding crazy, I actually already have my first wedding-related craft project to tell you all about!

I fully admit that I’m the kind of gal who has had a wedding board on Pinterest long before she was actually anywhere near becoming a bride. Pinterest is, as I imagine most women would agree, both an incredible boon and incredible drag when it comes to wedding planning.

On the one hand, it makes it so easy to create a visual inspiration board for what you want your special day to look like. On the other hand, it makes it SO easy to give yourself unrealistic expectations of what you’ll be able to acheive on said special day.

I guarantee you that many of the weddings that I have Pinned to my own board had budgets way, way, way larger than mine, and that’s what makes them exactly so Pinterest/magazine-worthy (I made the mistake of inquiring to a photographer that I saw in a recent issue of Washingtonian Bride & Groom or whatever and am still reeling from the sticker shock, haha). But, thankfully, Pinterest is also the land of DIY and there are actually a lot of awesome tutorials and ideas on there for things that you can create as long as you are willing to put the time and effort in.

Fortunately, I happen to enjoy crafting — to a degree — so I imagine that my wedding planning experience will involve a healthy balance of DIY and outsourcing. And the first do-it-myself project I wanted to tackle? Bridesmaids boxes!

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Many of you have probably seen something similar to these before, right? A cute little box with some little gifts or favors all meant as a way to bribe ask your friends to be part of your bridal party. I’ve seen them come in many varieties — wooden cigar boxes, gift bags, shoeboxes, lunchboxes — and with different contents — food, favors, photos, wedding information booklets — but they all have the same purpose: asking some special folks to stand up there with you on your big day!

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I know that asking your friends to be part of your bridal party is not something that requires any kind of elaborate gifts or gestures, but, as you all know, I’m just a pomp-and-circumstance kinda gal. Plus, with two of my bridesmaids living out of town, I wanted to be able to give them something a little more fun than a FaceTime call.

So, inspired by various things other people had put together, I set out to create my own little set of “Will You Be My Bridesmaid?” boxes. I ordered some plain brown decoupage boxes off of Amazon, some Mod Podge, and a crapton of gold glitter, and went to town!

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If I were a good blogger, I’d have taken photos of the actual crafting process while it was happening, but as it was, my hands were pretty much covered in glitter the entire time so maybe it’s better that I wasn’t handling my big expensive camera at that point, hahaha. But it was actually a VERY simple process that anyone can replicate (as long as you’re okay with having glitter as a permanent part of your home decor, of course), so here’s how to do it:

  1. First, place oversized letter sticker of each girls’ first initial on the box top.
  2. Brush on a thin layer of Mod Podge (using a foam brush) over the entire top and sides.
  3. Shake, shake, shake, shake it off out! Cover the entire thing with glitter (Mod Podge actually dries quite fast, so work quickly)
  4. Remove the letter sticker from the top, leaving a blank, glitter-less silhouette in its wake.
  5. Brush on another layer of Mod Podge — thicker this time — to seal the glitter on.
  6. Let dry and voila! A glittertastic and beautiful personalized box, at your disposal.

A few tips/notes:

  • Make sure you’re working over a newspaper/tarp/something that can catch the glitter, because you’ll want to A) protect your carpet/floor and B) catch and re-use as much fallen glitter as possible.
  • Brushing the Mod Podge on over the glitter worked awesome to seal it in, but it will WRECK your foam brush. So I definitely recommend getting multiple brushes (I got like a 20 pack for $5 on Amazon.)
  • I used this exact same process to glitterize the bottom of the champagne glasses that I included in each box (got the glasses for $0.99 each at Goodwill.)

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Hopefully my gals will be able/willing to use the boxes to hold keepsakes or other things around the house, but even if not, I still had fun making ‘em!

As for the contents, you can really put in whatever you want! I filled the boxes with the aforementioned glitterized champagne glass and a mini bottle of sparkling wine, a photo collage (I picked up frames at Goodwill and spray painted them gold), some Ferrero Rocher chocolates (my favorite!), and — most importantly — a card that said, “Will you be my bridesmaid?” on the outside and had lots of sappy stuff on the inside.

I had ideas to include even more stuff — ring pops, nail polish, print-outs of potential dresses that I liked — but even just these items pretty much filled the boxes to the max (one of the picture frames was too big to fit inside the box, oops!). Plus, as it turned out, I couldn’t find ring pops anywhere, I have no idea what kinds of dresses I’d like them to look at yet, and gold glitter nail polish is like $8 a bottle, hahahaha.

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I did end up adding a couple of extra items to my sister/matron of honor’s box, since I’m pretty sure that Mia just assumes that any box that gets opened at her house is meant for her anyway. I swear, that little diva is going to make the gosh-darned cutest flower girl EVER.

 

I am happy (and relieved) to report that all four of my wonderful bridesmaids said yes, so I’ll be hanging with a quartet of stonecold foxes on my wedding day! Surpringly, settling on a number of bridesmaids and figuring out who to ask was actually pretty difficult for me — and I really didn’t expect it to be something I agonized over. Alas, I just don’t love the way huge bridal parties look, but if there was a way to have like ten bridesmaids without having to bust out a wide-angle lens to fit them all in a photo, I totally would have done it.

Now, if only Sean would tell me who he’s considering having as groomsmen… every time I bring it up, he says, “I dunno, I haven’t thought about it yet.” And I’m just like, “Oooookay, but doesn’t me asking you kinda make you think about it at least a little?” Men, go figure.

Bridesmaids Collage

Anyway, for those who are curious, my bridesmaid lineup consists of… Jenny (my sister and MOH), Taylor (my sister-in-law and de facto photography consultant), Holly (who was my friend back when my fashion sense was limited to my school uniform), and Jessica (who I actually met through this very blog! See, the internet really does make dreams come true — Sean and I also met online, hehe.)

I’m super excited and lucky to have this rockin’ band of weirdos at my side through the next however-long period of pre-wedded bliss — they really have no idea what they’re getting into. ;) Though I do promise not to make them wear anything too heinous…

"And the best thing is you could shorten it and wear it again!"
“And the best thing is you could shorten it and wear it again!”

Did you have a small or large bridal party? How did you ask them to be part of your big day?

Venues, Venues Everywhere…

…and not a drop to drink! Well, not yet, anyway.

As you might be able to tell from the title of this post, this past weekend marked my first active foray into active wedding planning activities: venue visits!

This might seem like a super fast development to a lot of you (and, hey, maybe it is!) but my reason for hitting the ground running with looking at venues is twofold:

1) Without a venue, you don’t have a date, and without a date, you can’t really plan, um, well, anything else. After al, the kind of venue you choose can have a big impact on what kind of wedding you end up having — maybe you thought you’d be planning a cute, Etsy-chic DIY-style wedding, but end up falling for an elegant and luxe-feeling hotel venue. Or maybe you figured you’d have an autumn vineyard wedding, but the winery you fell in love with is only available in the Spring. You get the picture.

2) I’m a crazy person and I’m just really, really, really excited to be engaged. (You already knew this one, methinks.)

Plus, as many of you know, I plan a lot of events as part of my job for Yelp, and have thus been able to familiarize myself with a fair number of event venues — restaurants, hotels, and unique spots — in the Northern Virginia/DC area. So I already had a mental list of some of the places I would want to take a look at when the time came not for planning an Elite Event, but any personal events as well, including but not limited to My Big Day™.

I looked at three venues over the weekend (one on Friday with my sister-in-law Taylor and my mom, and two on Saturday with Sean), and I have a few more visits scheduled this week. I will admit, I have mixed feelings on the whole venue search process thus far, because I’d definitely classify it as one of the “less fun” aspects of planning… but, of course, it’s arguably one of the most important ones at the same time.

It’s just that I can already see how much time and coordination venue hunting involves — just to figure out a time to go check out a place, let alone the time it takes to do the actual checking out. And I say that knowing that I’m already at a huge advantage given that I work from home, so I have a lot more flexibility in being able to go see places, whereas I’m sure many brides have to squeeze in like five back-to-back venue visits a day on the weekends.

I know a lot of it has to do with the fact that with all those years spent dreaming about my future wedding, I totally romanticized it. So now that it’s here, anything that requires rigorous scheduling, back-and-forth communication, or basically anything less than those totally overwhelming, tears-of-joy experiences you see on WeTV is just kind of depressing.

And because I didn’t immediately have a “Hallelujah!” moment at the three places I’ve seen, I’m guess I’m just feeling a little more cautious now about the additional visits I have set up this week (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I realize.) I’m sure I could write paragraphs about each of the places we saw this weekend, but I’ll try to keep it short and sweet for ya, just in case you’re curious to know my thoughts:

The Woodlands at Algonkian: Probably very beautiful in the late spring/summer, but without leaves on all the trees the landscape is only so-so. The ballroom is very pretty, and I liked the bridal getting-ready room, but the entire space was a LOT smaller than I would have thought, and the cocktail hour space is really not big enough for a large wedding.

Airlie: Beautiful grounds and absolutely perfect if you’re a rustic country-chic kinda gal, which I am decidedly not. I did like the idea of being able to have an entire wedding weekend in one place (rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception, next-day brunch), but all of the buildings except for the main house and event pavilion smelled very smokehouse/fireplace-y, which I didn’t like.

Hotel Monaco Alexandria: My favorite of the three by far. I LOVE Kimpton hotels and I love Old Town Alexandria, so it was already primed to be a favorite from the get-go. Great, unique decor, with a recently renovated bridal suite that was oh-so-beautiful. BUT the ballroom is kinda small and the pricing puts it at the high-end of our budget. It’s still in the running, but I’m trying not to get too attached, haha.

Hard though this may be to believe, I never have really thought of myself as a particularly picky person. I’m the kind of person who never sends things back, who is patient when waiting in long lines, who is pretty understanding when someone is running late or an accident happens. Which is why it’s a little weird for me to acknowledge how picky I’m being with this. I fully recognize that it’s unreasonable to want it all, but that certainly doesn’t stop me from wanting it all the same. I want a super unique venue with great natural light and nice house chairs and linen options and 8-hour rental period and, oh yeah, still falls within my budget.

I know, I’m pretty much the worst.

I’ll admit though, it was a pretty good reality check for me to go on my first site visits and not fall head over heels immediately, given how prone I am to get carried away with excitement (shocking, I know). Anything to keep myself slightly more down to earth, right?

And anyway, there is certainly no shortage of great venues in the Metro DC area. Now, great venues that are also affordable might be a different story, but we’ll tackle that when we have to, hahaha. Onward!

What was your wedding venue like? Or, if you’re not married yet, where do you see yourself getting married?