A Rose By Any Other Name

Hola!

Sorry for the long hiatus, party people! Things have gotten a little bit crazy ’round the neighborhood lately (I’ve had four Yelp events already this month, and another two to go!), and so both my blogging AND my wedding planning have been pushed to the side for a bit.

But my parents are returning from their amazing 3-week vacation in France (lucky sons of…) which finally means that a lot of the things I was waiting to do with my mom can finally get done! So I’ve got a full week of catering tastings, floral meetings, and the like set up. Hooray!

For those of you who were wondering, by the way, I did end up deciding on that Save the Date. By overwhelming response, the winner is…

So yes, Save the Dates are done and have been sent out (to all the folks whose addresses I was actually able to get, haha), which means the rest of planning is going full-steam ahead! My Big Item Wedding Checklist now looks like this:

Date: ☑

Venue: ☑

Dress: ☑ (and I ordered my veil, too!)

Caterer: ☐ (tastings this week!)

Photographer: ☑

Videographer: ☑

Flowers: ☐ (consultation this week, and see below)

Centerpieces: ☐ (in-progress)

Ceremony Musicians: ☑

DJ: ☐

Cake: ☐ (tastings scheduled)

Day-of Coordinator: ☑

Save the Dates: ☑

Invitations: ☐

Lol, notice how the list keeps growing? Hahaha. I hope to have DJ (and lighting) locked up soon, and I also have scheduled a couple of cake tastings, which, along with the catering tastings happening later this week, officially marks the start of the “fun” stuff, I’m told! Our wedding website is also live (although not 100% complete, as I’m meeting with potential hotels to book room blocks this week), which is fun (and gives me a use for all those engagement pictures, hehe.

I also am continuing to deliberate on what to do with flowers. When I first blogged about trying to figure out my priorities for the wedding, I had flowers pretty far down on the list. In fact, I didn’t even think I was going to have any flowers in my centerpieces at all! But, of course, the more planning and research (and Pinning!) I do, the more I do want some fresh blooms at the wedding, haha.

I’m meeting with a florist on Thursday, but am also still heavily considering DIY-ing the flowers, especially since I have hired a day-of coordinator to help get everything set up, AND I found out from the venue that I will be able to store things overnight on-site (though we won’t be able to set up until a few hours beforehand.)

Everyone I talk to thinks I am a bona fide crazy person for even considering DIY-ing the flowers, but I just honestly don’t think it’ll be that bad! Costco sells bulk flowers (and, as you can see above, their roses are gorgeous, I bought some off their flowers the last time I was there and they were beautiful and lasted a week!) and I am fortunate to have access to more than one wholesale flower market in this area as well. I’ve also found a site that will portion out flowers in smaller amounts than you’d be able to order online, so you can get a wider variety of flowers instead of having to buy like 200 of one kind.

332A0726 Untitled
I’ve also already DIY-ed some brooch flowers to include in my bouquet anyway (more detail to come on this in a later post), and I’ve watched a lot of tutorials on putting together bouquets, which can be done the day before. And my centerpieces are not going to be big floral centerpieces in a vase like you see at a lot of weddings, but instead will only require about a dozen loose flowers per table, which I think will be pretty easy to set up (esp. if we can stage them the night before and just have the coordinator transport them from the storage room to the tables.)

But, again, I don’t know if I may be taking on too much. At this point, it’s still easy for me to evaluate all the various DIY projects I have going on (centerpieces, ceremony backdrop, flowers) and say “I’ve got plenty of time!” but since flowers cannot be done in advance, I may be taking on more than I’ll really be able, or even want, to handle in the days before the wedding.

I dunno. I guess I’ll have a much clearer idea after I speak with the florist later this week — maybe her prices will be fairer than I’ve been seeing from other florists in the area. Who knows?

Did you DIY your flowers, or do you know anybody who has? How much did you end up spending on wedding flowers?

Engagement Paparazzi

I gotta say, one of the real perks of having a wedding photographer duo as your brother and sister-in-law is a lightning quick turnaround time on your engagement photos, hehe.

 

That’s riiiiight, our engagement photos from Taylor & Ben are back, and I’m in lovelovelove! So many great shots of Sean and me together!

See, whereas I basically put my entire life on the interwebs for all to watch, observer, and comment on, Sean, um, doesn’t. He changes his Facebook profile photo like once every other year, the only thing even close to social media that he participates in is Reddit (and even then, he mainly lurks, never comments). What this all equates to is a high level of resistance to the number of selfies I try to take of us. In fact, trying to get him to pose for a photo with me often results in, well:

Heh. So, imagine how wonderful it was for me to have a built-in excuse to take a plethora of pictures together with him! He was a very good sport about the entire thing, putting up with an outfit change (we literally changed in the street, hahaha) and multiple locations. Although, to be fair, he certainly got his jollies out of the whole experience too — telling me I had an imaginary bug in my hair, or bear-hugging the crap outta me, for example.

Of course, that being said, I was not without a few bloopers of my own, hehe:

Is it weird that these are some of my favorite ones? 😛

We shot our photos outside the US Botanical Gardens, as well as at Blind Whino, this really cool old church-turned-art gallery/event space in SE DC.

 
Now, it’s admittedly very difficult for me not to be super critical of myself in every photo, zeroing in on flaws that I imagine nobody else really cares about. Even with all of my preaching about loving thyself no matter your pant size, body love, and whatnot (all of which I really do believe!), I am still my own worst critic.

But I think having these photos taken is genuinely helping me live those things. I love these pictures — I love what they represent, what they portray, and I even love the way I look in them. I feel like they really showcase how truly happy I feel (cheesy, I know, but true!). Do I still wish that I didn’t have a back roll in one picture, or that my chin was jutted a little further out in another? Sure, but not enough to make me stop loving each photo nonetheless.

These pictures are a true, perfectly imperfect account of who I am now. The me that is getting to marry the man that I love. And I would much rather show the photos off than hide them away just because I don’t like the way a certain specific part of my body might be looking.

Anyway, enough with the heavy. Back to how much I freaking love the photos we took at Blind Whino! So colorful, despite the chain-link fence surrounding the building that I definitely did not realize would be there, hahaha.

 

As an extra bonus, the building is located in this really quiet neighborhood in DC, so we were able to get a few street/crosswalk shots as well! I loved the way the trees arched over this street. Made for a pretty perfect picture, I tell ya.

Also, a fun thing about shooting photos in the middle of the street is that you will get people shouting “Congratulations!” from their cars as they drive by, hahaha!

Engagement Shoot solo pictures together

I was superextraspecial excited (hard to imagine something beyond my normal level of excitement, I know, but it’s true!) to get these photos back because I have been chomping at the bit to send out our Save the Dates!

I know that January is still relatively far off, but since we have a lot of friends and family from out of town, plus with the proximity to the holidays, I want to give people as much notice as possible. Plus, I think I’m just looking to how official it’ll feel to have something printed with our wedding date on it, y’know?

Not without difficulty, we have narrowed down the Save the Date photo to these three, and I’d love your input! I definitely want to use a photo with the ampersand in it, so what do you think of the following? 1, 2, or 3?

I love all color going on in #1, but the overall image of #2 seems more striking. And while part of me thinks that #3 might be a little silly, well, so I am. So it’s definitely the most personality-ish one. Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts! I’m like 99% positive we’ll be doing a magnet Save the Date if that makes any difference.

I also can’t wait to get some of these photos uploaded to the wedding website that I’ve been working on! And to replace basically every profile photo I’ve ever had on any website ever. And to make it my phone wallpaper. And computer screensaver. And basically just pore over them obsessively forever and ever and ever and… okay, I should really go.

‘Til next time!

Make Me Over

Happy Monday, folks!

I hope you all had a stellar weekend. Mine was wonderful but busy!

It started with Sean and I taking engagement photos with Ben and Taylor:

This is a preview photo, and I am SO excited to see the rest of the shots! We went down to DC and took some pictures by the Botanical Gardens and then some in another part of DC that I can’t waaaaaait for you to see.

And the weekend ended with a seriously baller workout as part of my Yelp Elite Event yesterday:

The event was at The Worx by Maia, and it was a bootcamp-style workout that had us doing everything from battle ropes (pictured above) to tire flips to wall sits to box jumps to… whoosh!

Suffice it to say, it was cray, and I can already feel my muscles hating me (which admittedly doesn’t make me super excited for how I’m gonna feel TOMORROW, haha.)

Anyway, in between those two bookending weekend events, I did some bridal makeup for blog reader Ashley’s big day!

 
Her wedding looked so beautiful! I feel like I have so much appreciation for all the little things that go into weddings now that I’m planning one of my own. And the whole time we were helping her and her bridal party get ready, I just kept thinking how much fun it’s going to be when it’s my turn, hehe!

Of course, while I was there doing makeup for Ashley and her bridesmaids, the inevitable question came up as to whether or not I was going to do my own makeup for my wedding. In the beginning, I thought it would be a no-brainer that, yes, I would definitely want to do my own makeup, but now I’m actually a little torn!

See, the dilemma comes from this: I love makeup, doing makeup, prettifying myself, and prettifying others. I own a lot of makeup (a LOT, hahahaha), and I’ve done makeup for quite a few bridesmaids and a couple of brides at this point.

But, that being said, I feel like most women want their wedding day to feel special and different. And having someone else do your makeup most definitely gives you that pampered feeling. Plus, this way I would definitely have someone there to do the makeup for my bridesmaids who might not want or know how to do it themselves (since I probably won’t really have time to do everyone else’s makeup on my own wedding day, haha.)

Plus, face makeup is not really my specialty (I’d say eye makeup is where I’m strongest), and I especially like the idea of getting airbrushed foundation, especially since I get red-faced suuuuper easily.

But! On the other hand, it obviously costs money to hire someone to do makeup, so there are budgetary concerns. Plus, you hear these stories about women who get their makeup done professional and don’t like it, so they end up redoing it all themselves anyway. I mean, I’d do a trial to make sure I was happy, of course, but there’s still that risk.

Anyway, so this is my current dilemma. I know it’s probably nothing I need to decide RIGHT now, but since I just did bridal makeup this weekend, what can I say? It’s on my mind. I’ll let it percolate a little bit more, but I’d love to hear from you guys on what you did or didn’t do with regard to your wedding day makeup!

Did you get your makeup done on your wedding day? Or did you do your own?

Wedding Update: 37 Weeks Out

Aloha!

Hope everyone’s having a good week! Mine’s started out a little rocky, as I think I’m fighting a sickness of some kind. I’ve just been crazy exhausted for the past few days, and Friday night I got hit with the WORST headache of my entire life. It was so bad that I practically had to pull the car over on the way back from seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron. All I wanted to do was cry in the dark somewhere with my hands over my head.

I am fortunate in that I don’t tend to get very many headaches (I have so much sympathy for those of you who deal with migraines and the like), but I think that just meant I was even less prepared to deal with this one. It lasted almost all weekend! At first I thought maybe it was my body reacting to the liquid sugar I poured into it (in the form of a White Raspberry Icee) during the movie, but when it didn’t go away… I dunno, the headache coupled with my exhaustion over the past few days does lead me to believe that perhaps it’s something more. Maybe I’m legit getting sick, or perhaps it’s stress-related, or, hey, maybe it’s even tied to my monthly ladytime.

Whatever the case may be, I’ve basically spent the past few days sleeping a lot and generally just moping around the house being useless. And while that has indeed affected my ability to be productive with, like, my job (yesterday I took a sick day — my first since I started working for Yelp), it hasn’t stopped me from trying to be productive with regard to another component of my life.

With that component obviously being wedding planning. Duh.

First-off, here’s the latest update on where we’re at with the major wedding-related items:

Date: ☑

Venue: ☑

Dress: ☑

Caterer: ☐ (tastings scheduled)

Photographer: ☑

Videographer: ☑

Flowers: ☐

Centerpieces: ☐ (in-progress)

DJ: ☐

Cake: ☐

Save the Dates: ☐

Invitations: ☐

In addition to having selected our date and venue, as well as my dress ordered, we’ve now got the photographer and videographer officially selected as well. Contracts have been signed, deposits have been sent out, and things are starting to come along!

I’ve scheduled tastings with our top two caterer choices, though we won’t be doing the tastings until after my parents return from their vacation in southern France (sooooo jealous) in mid-June. And as far as centerpieces/wedding decor goes, I’ve already started on some of it!

Not sure if you know this about me, but I actually really enjoy crafting. I’m all about that craft life, man. Give me a roll of butcher paper, yarn, some Mod Podge, and a truckload of glitter, and I’ll be occupied for hours. So, that being said, I am indeed planning on DIY-ing quite a few elements of the wedding — almost all of the centerpiece components, escort cards, even the majority of my own bridal bouquet.

I know it’s kind of early still, but since I have a lot of relatively ambitious projects in mind, I figured it’d be much better to get an early start on the wedding craft projects. That way, if I get tired/annoyed/too many papercuts/high off of spray paint fumes, I can take a breather without feeling the pressure of being on a time crunch just yet.

 

For those of you who are interested, I definitely plan on writing posts that detail the various craft projects I’m working on.

Of course, with so many different components that I’m creating myself, I know that I’ll need some help to make sure everything gets set up on the actual wedding day. So I’ve also been chatting with a few different planners about day-of coordination.

Some folks might not see the value in hiring a day-of coordinator, especially when you have friends or family who might be willing to help out. I, however, really loathe the idea of inconveniencing anyone, so I think it’d be better just to have someone specific in charge of all the day-of tasks — getting the centerpieces on the tables, making sure the dessert bar labels go out, moving decor from the ceremony space to the reception space, helping to pack up at the end of the night, etc. Plus, I hear time and time again from past brides that the best thing they did was to hire a day-of coordinator! How can you argue with that?

Now, as mentioned, a lot of what I’ve already started working on isn’t super time-sensitive. After all, we’re still a good 8 months out from the wedding date. The most time-sensitive thing is probably our Save the Dates, which I am definitely trying to get out soon (especially since our wedding will be taking place somewhat close to the winter holidays, I want to give folks as much notice as possible.)

Sean and I were supposed to have our engagement photoshoot with my brother and sister-in-law (Taylor & Ben Photography) on Sunday, but, alas, circumstances intervened. So we’ve rescheduled for Friday instead! Which means I get to spend another four days obsessing over how I should wear my hair and whether I’m making the right accessory choices, heh.

Once we have our engagement photos in-hand (or, rather, in-computer), I’ll hopefully be able to whip up a quick Save the Date design (I’m thinking I wanna do a magnet), order ’em, and get them out pronto. And once we have our photos, I’ll also be looking to launch the wedding website that I’ve been working on!

Anyway, I think that just about catches us up to where I’m at with the whole wedding planning shebang! Still quite a few “big” items to nail down, but we’re definitely making headway.

Here’s to many more weeks of getting glue on my fingers, obsessively comparing vendor proposals, trying to figure out if it would be truly crazy to try and DIY the wedding flowers (all of my family members say I’m muy loca for even considering it, but A Practical Wedding make it seem soooo doable…), and glitterizing, well, everything.

Did you DIY (or, perhaps if your fiance is less glitter-averse than Sean, DIT) any of your wedding components? 

Gown Hunt: Plus-Size Edition

So, as you may have already seen, I said “Yes!” to my wedding dress a couple of weeks ago. In fact, it was the very first major wedding decision that I made, go figure! One thing to immediately check off the Wedding To-Do list, hehe.

Now, I know that for many people, buying your dress before you even have your venue or date solidified is a little bit crazypants, and I didn’t necessarily intend to have my decision made so early on, but that being said, it wasn’t a quick decision either. It took visiting quite a few different salon visits and trying on just a few different dresses before I made my decision, so I’m glad I got started early.

Now, for those of you who may be hoping for a fairytale story all about how I tried on The Dress, knew immediately, cried, and it was all over, I hate to disappoint you, but that’s not exactly how it went for me. I mean, I did find The Dress, and there were tears (eventually), but it didn’t exactly go down the way you see it on TV.

I was actually pretty anxious about the dress-buying process, due to a combination of my love of designer wedding dresses and the fact that I am most definitely NOT a sample size. See, unless you’re shopping exclusively at big box stores like Kleinfeld’s or David’s Bridal (or at a salon that specializes in plus-size gowns), sample sizes dresses are what you have to work with. And for those of us ladies with a little more to love, the wedding dress samples in bridal salons will almost certainly NOT be your size.

Allow me to elaborate for those of you who might not be familiar with the process. Bridal salons usually own dresses in one size, and that size is usually a “wedding” size 10 or 12. Which, in real life, equals about a street size 6 or 8. (How cruel is that, by the way? C’mon, wedding industry! How about a little vanity sizing, eh?)

Soooo, what this means is that if you’re smaller than the sample size, when you try on a dress, your consultant will use clamps and pins to pull in the dress to make it fit closer to your body.

And for someone on the other side, when the sample is too small, the salon will use clamps and pins to clip the dress to your bra, or use other means of securing it, since it won’t be able to zip up all the way.

But what did this mean for someone who is a size 16, like me? Well, it meant that I was admittedly pretty nervous going into the whole dress shopping experience, that’s what. After all, what if I would be physically unable to try on the dresses I liked? You hear horror stories about plus-sized brides going dress shopping and having to do things like hold the dress up in front of them to “get an idea,” since they can’t actually put it on. I was definitely not excited about that prospect.

Complicating things further was the fact that I knew dress shopping wouldn’t exactly be a “classic” experience for me. You know, the kind that you see on SYTTD, where you go in and tell the consultant some things you like, and they pull dresses for you. Stuff like, “I like lace, I don’t like beading, I’m open to a mermaid-style silhouette,” and all that.

But I’ve spent so much time reading blogs, watching TLC, and generally being a crazyperson, that I already knew specifically which dresses I wanted to try — Hayley Paige Dori, Lazaro 3450, Jim Hjlem 8500, Monique Lhullier Bliss ballgown, and so on. So I actually chose bridal salons to visit based on whether or not they carried those gowns (most salons list what designers they carry on their website, so I just called to ask if they had those specific gowns.) Which also meant that I wasn’t able to simply go to a plus-sized bridal atelier to find my gown, because the two that are in this area don’t carry the dresses that I wanted to see.

Anyway, knowing that I loved certain gowns but being unsure as to whether or not I’d actually be able to try them on, one of the first things that I did was make an impromptu solo visit to David’s Bridal (where the above photos were taken as well.) I wanted to be able to try on some different shapes and silhouettes, since they do carry most of their dresses in larger sizes (and they also go by normal sizing there — I tried on dresses that were primarily sizes 14 – 18.)

While I already had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, this appointment definitely confirmed the silhouettes I liked (A-line and ballgown):

Versus those that, well, just were simply not as flattering (pretty much anything else, haha):

None of the DB dresses I tried ended up being “the One,” (the Melissa Sweet in the upper left corner of the first collage was the one I liked best), and even if I had fallen in love that day, I knew I wouldn’t have been able to commit without first being able to see the other dresses that I already had in mind. So, armed with some knowledge of how different shapes looked on my body, and a lot of hope, I made my bridal salon appointments.

And, lo and behold… the dresses fit!

Lazaro 3450

Sort of!

This Lazaro blew my mind with its ombre skirt, but was reeeeeeally far outside of my budget, womp womp.

I mean, obviously they didn’t fit. But, amazing, miraculously, astonishingly, I was able to get on every dress I had my eye on — with a bit of finagling, of course. They were barely able to zip up at all, so the bodices were basically left totally open in the back and all had to be pinned/clamped on. But! I was able to get a real idea of how the dresses would look… with just a little of imagination needed to reassure my mom that my boobs will (hopefully) not be spilling out of my dress once it’s in my size. Heh.

Now, I do think that it just happened to be good fortune that the silhouette I loved was also the easiest for me to try on (since the size of my hips/butt doesn’t really matter with ballgowns), but if I had been looking for a more fitted style, I would probably have been SOL.

Anyway, from there on out, it was basically just a matter of trying on the, um, not small number of dresses that I had my greedy eyes on, hahaha.

Clockwise from top: Lazaro 3108, Hayley Paige Londyn, Monique Lhullier Bliss ballgown, Hayley Paige Dori (white), Jim Hjelm 8500, Hayley Paige Dori (alabaster)

And I did also try on additional dresses that the consultants recommended, some of which I also really liked:

Clockwise from top: Lazaro 3018, Watters Carina bodice and Ahsan skirt, Hayley Paige Lennon (omg this sample was so small), Lazaro 3100

So yeah, as if I hadn’t been annoying enough throughout the dress-buying process, as it turned out, I basically loved every single dress I tried on. Oops. So trying on dresses turned out to be more like a process of elimination rather than a “This is the one!” kind of experience.

I was able to say goodbye to some because they were too expensive (the easiest way to eliminate options, haha), some because they didn’t feel quite “bridal” enough (though I still looooved the gowns), and some just didn’t have quite the “unique” factor that I was looking for. And eventually I narrowed down my choices to just two dresses!

I actually ended up trying on both of my final contenders multiple times because I was so enamoured with them both, and had a pretty difficult time deciding between the two of them because they were so different. Which, I know, sounds super cliche, but it’s true! They have totally different aesthetics and general feel, even if the silhouette is similar.

We did do our own little version of “jacking me up” (as Monty from SYTTD Atlanta puts it, haha), with the whole veil/belt/hairpiece reveal and, I am happy to report, that I did finally have my tearful reaction (hooray!) to one dress in particular. But I was still torn because while I did have that visceral reaction to one dress, I kept thinking that the other dress was more in-keeping with the overall theme and vision for the wedding.

So I left the final bridal appointment having decided not to decide just yet. I wanted to take the weekend to think about it, and I’m definitely glad that I did because…

… as you probably already suspected, eventually a decision was made! Turns out that over the weekend, I couldn’t get one dress out of my mind (the one I ended up crying for), and I knew that was probably a pretty good sign. So, I headed back to the salon and officially made my purchase!

I won’t be revealing my dress here on the blog on the off-chance that Sean suddenly decides to start reading here (he doesn’t normally follow my blog, but you never know…), but I will share with you what the runner-up was:

Hayley Paige Josie

The Hayley Paige Josie was in close, close contention for being my wedding dress, due to it’s incredible fully beaded bodice (these pictures really don’t do it justice) and beautiful color (it comes in both white and moonstone.) I also thought it had a really glamorous feel, which fit very well with the overall wedding vibe I was thinking of.

Ultimately, though, I decided that this dress had so much wow-factor, it was almost overwhelming. I also thought it would be harder to accessorize with, since the bodice of the dress is already so blingy. And when it came down to it, the dress I chose just felt entirely more “me,” which definitely makes it feel like the right choice.

So, I put my deposit down and couldn’t be happier with my decision! The agonizing part now is going to be waiting for it to come in! Designer dresses can take anywhere from three to six months to come in, and then have another month or two of alterations after that. Whew!

It does bear mentioning that I had to pay a “size surcharge” on top of the cost of the dress, which, let me tell you, didn’t feel super great. Apparently with Hayley Paige any dress over a bridal size 18 come with an extra fee. Which, I gotta say, does kind of feel like BS to me, because you could be a street size 10 or 12 and still have to order a bridal size 18 depending on your measurements.

See, to be safe, wedding dresses are usually ordered based on the size that matches your largest measurement (since it is infinitely easier to take in a dress over letting it out.) Actually, that was a bit of a dilemma in and of itself, because my hips measured several sizes above my waist, but the consultant said that it should be fine to order the dress based on the smaller size because of the silhouette. Anyway, what’s done is done with regard to paying the fat tax surcharge, and I’m still happy with my choice. It just wasn’t the most self-esteem boosting part of the experience, haha.

So there you have it! My “I Found the Gown” experience from beginning to end. Well, from beginning until I get it in my hands, and then the alterations process can begin, haha. Hopefully, I was able to accurately portray my gown shopping experience. There aren’t a ton of resources out there on what dress shopping is like for a plus-size bride in general, let alone for someone who has as, ahem, particular tastes as me, so I’m hoping this will be a helpful accounting for at least one other person out there? And if not, at least I got to post a lot of pictures of gorgeous dresses, so that’s fun. 😛

What was your gown shopping experience like? And what did your wedding dress look like?