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So, I really never thought this time would come.  I’ve taken the entire week off and doing some much-needed cleaning and packing.  There are, of course, things that need to be finalized, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why I am so calm about everything.

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My parents arrived in London yesterday, Amy and Paul are there now, and Dave and Ellen leave today.  So the most important people – aside from the bride and groom – are already in place and ready to go.  All the programs are assembled and the OOT bags are (kind of) in that direction.  There are 4 bags in the computer room that are basically completely packed and my airplane outfit is pressed and prepared.  (Okay, I knew what I was wearing on Easter…get over it!)

The dogs have their accommodations arranged and their food is already pre-measured and ready to go.  The house is a bit of a disaster, but that’s nothing a couple of hours won’t fixed.  I have one tiny surprise to purchase for my groom, and besides that – a quick jog and some softball games and we’re ready to go.

I feel so entirely accomplished – how on earth did I get it all done?!  Okay, yes, I had 18 months…that’s true, but I remember just a little while ago freaking out that nothing was going to get finished!!

Now sure, absolutely nothing for the reception has been decided – which means I’ll be in full-on reception mode upon our return to the States, but that’s nothing compared to planning a destination wedding for 16 people.

I am so calm.  I am so relaxed.  And yet, I can’t get it out of my head that I have forgotten something.  I have packed, re-packed, and re-packed again just to make sure I have it all.  I’ve made checklists for Neil and checklists for me – heck, I even made an “outfit schedule” for the whole time I’m there – just to make sure I have sufficient clothes for our trip!

Now, I don’t mean to brag, but why can’t all brides be like me?  I’m just as obsessive and compulsive as the rest of them.  I want it to be just as perfect as every other bride.  And I have surely spared no expense in the creation of our big day.  So why am I not fretting?  Why do I just go along each day thinking everything is yes, “hunky dory”?  Maybe it’s because I’m just that awesome!!!

Although, I will say this, I wish our reception response cards would come back with a little more consistency – we are still missing over 100 responses…so if you’re reading this and haven’t turned yours in – GET ON IT!! 🙂

So a note to all the brides out there – don’t stress, just smile and enjoy the ride.  I truly believe that is why I am being so calm just one week before our wedding!!! 🙂

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With only two weeks before the wedding and a week and a day before we depart, I figured now was a good time to fill you all in on the loose ends that have (for the most part) been tied up!

Reception responses have been filing in at a rate of about 2 or 3 per day and I get so excited every time someone else says “yes!”  I think to date, we’re up to about 70 confirmed guests!!  Yipee!!!  I feel so blessed that so many people want to spend a summer evening with us celebrating our marriage!!

Onto more pressing news, visas.  Yes, I found out last Thursday that despite the fact Americans don’t need a visa to visit the United Kingdom, I however do.  If you remember, I was denied a visa because I had insufficient evidence about my trip and my intentions to return to the United States (you know, aside from the fact that I know no one in the UK and that my entire family and life is here in the U.S. – but that’s neither here nor there…)  So I reapplied and Mom and I found out that if you pay the right people the right amount of money – you can get things done!!!  Well, things got done!  Our lovely friend John from Chicago has been working diligently with the British Consulate to get my visa issued pronto!  In fact, just last night I received an email that says my visa will be ready for pickup today!  Of course, I don’t want to jinx myself so I’m not holding my breath on when I’ll actually receive it!!

Everyone (that I’m aware of) has been paid and I really think this thing might actually happen!!  Everything is in order and we’re ready to go!!  My final payment to the wonderful Lorna (for flowers) was sent this morning and I think we’re good to go!!

I am so nervous but so ready at the same time.  No, I’m not nervous to marry Neil – I’m absolutely 100% ready to marry my best friend – I am however nervous about the whole ceremony and reception!  For the past year and a half, I’ve been planning things from pictures and explanations.  Aside from my own dress, I’ve not seen anything!  Heck – I haven’t even seen my Grande Dame of Honour’s dress!!!!  I have this vision in my head of exactly how it’s going to turn out – but what if it doesn’t turn out that way?  What if on June 9th, I find out that I am absolutely miserable at explaining things through an email?!  Sure, I drew a picture for Wendy and Lorna, but what if that wasn’t enough?  What if they don’t get my vision?  Sure, I know no matter what it will be the most perfect day in the world, but I can’t stop “what if-ing”.

What if my dress is wrinkled?

What if the kilts don’t fit the guys?

What if my flowers are nothing like I expected?

What if my sister hates all the gifts I have picked out for her?

What if my hair isn’t quite right?

What if it rains?

Can I forgive myself if the pictures don’t turn out just right?  Can I forgive myself if I don’t “lose those last 5 pounds”?  Can I forgive myself if I don’t kiss Neil just the right way when we’re announced husband and wife?!

Now these are pretty strong talking points – and sure, when it’s all said and done, Neil and I will just just as married.  But what if everything I have done for the past eighteen months doesn’t turn out just right?

Can I forgive myself?

These are the loose ends I can’t tie up.  These are the lose ends that will ultimately make (or Heaven-forbid, break) our wedding day.  These are the things that count.

I know sulking over them won’t make the situation any better, but talking about them and expressing my worries will maybe make my heart ache a little less.  I have prided myself on being such a worry-free bride – allowing my sister to pick whatever dress she wanted, whatever shoes.  Being calm and collected.  Being organized and ready.  Those are things that I truly think will make the wedding even better…

…but there are always the what-ifs.  I can plan all I want.  I can be more organized than any bride ever thought possible.  I can do all the research in the world and have every hair in place.  But ultimately, something will go wrong.  I may not notice it, and I may absolutely notice it.  But either way – it will happen and the day will have to go on.  How do you prepare for something that you know will happen?!

With just two weeks left before our wedding, a lot of the stuff I’ve been talking about has been going through my head…typically right as I lay down for bed, but nonetheless.  But here’s what I know for sure…

…when I wake up on June 11th, I will be waking up next to the man of my dreams – my best friend.  And even if the entire wedding becomes one big disaster – he will still be my husband and I will still be his wife.  We will have our trials and we will have our successes – and we will always have each other.

And that’s what makes planning this whole big shindig worth every crying pain.

…Everybody’s happy, everybody’s free!  We’ll keep the big doors open, everyone’ll come around!

Wow!  I have been waiting SEVENTEEN months to write this post.  The post that makes everything I have been doing in the past seventeen months just a little bit more real.  The post that will take us from “two months ’til our wedding!” to “___ days ’til OUR WEDDING!!”  The time.  The effort.  The sleepless nights.  The thousands of emails.  They were all worth it.  Every minute.  We haven’t even had our wedding yet – and I already know it will be exactly what we’ve always wanted!

Now, this month’s checklist is quite a hefty one – so let’s get down to it!

  • Grooms: If you are renting a tux, visit the formalwear shop to get measured.
    • Check!  All the measurements for all the men have been sent off to Wendy and she ordered the kilts a few weeks ago!  I still cannot believe how much back-and-forth there was!!  I’m pretty sure we decided…and re-decided…on kilt colors, ties, etc. about 12 times!!
  • Brides: Confirm delivery date for your wedding dress and schedule your dress fittings.
    • Yes, a couple Saturday’s ago was my official first dress fitting and it went off perfectly!!  I am expecting to pick up my slightly altered dress on the 29th of May!  Just in time for Mama & Papa to take it with them!
  • Submit your newspaper wedding announcement.
    • This will get done…but not until after we’re married.  Seems a little silly to do it beforehand!
  • Grooms: Buy gifts for your best man.
    • Eh, let’s just say that I have asked him about this!!  His simple responses is “nothing”.  I don’t think he quite understands the etiquette here!
  • Decide on what type of guest book you want.
    • Good thinking!!  I had totally forgotten about this!!!  Maybe I’ll check out Etsy and see what they have in store…
  • Finish and print ceremony programs.
    • Ugh…dragging my feet.  Yes, I have them started – but what I have started is measly in comparison to what needs to be done!!!  I just need to set aside a date to DO IT.  Of course, it’d also help, too, if I have all the songs in order.  That’s a fiasco in and of itself!  But Wendy is working diligently on it and I’m sure she’ll have some solutions soon!
  • Send out rehearsal dinner invitations.
    • Well, instead of doing this, we’re making OOT Boxes!!!  I am SO beyond excited about them.  I sincerely hope they are a token of our appreciation for everyone who has gone through a lot to make it to our wedding!!  Within the OOT box will be an itinerary for the week – which includes the invitation to the rehearsal dinner!
  • Have your hair and makeup trial runs and finalize your wedding day beauty appointments.
    • Well, I have those appointments scheduled, but obviously we can’t exactly do them until we get there!!  I’ll consider it a check!!!
  • Get the marriage license and make appointments for blood tests (if necessary).  Check when the license expires.
    • Well, isn’t that special.  Fortunately, no, we won’t need a blood test, but we do have an appointment for 8:30 am on June 1st to “get our marriage license”…
  • Work on a “must-play” wedding song list.
    • Check!  We’ve been doing this for a few months now and I think we’ve got about 4 hours of music…which is way too much in my opinion.  We’ll also have to work on this for the reception here…but I’m not worrying about that until June 20th!
  • Pick up wedding rings and check the inscriptions before you leave the store.
    • Well, no inscriptions, but we did pick up the rings eons ago! Check!!
  • Discuss your ceremony music with musicians and agree on final choices.
    • Discussions have occurred and we are currently working on final selections.  Most everything is okay, we just need a couple more prelude songs.
  • Confirm wedding-night and honeymoon reservations.
    • Check!!  I have all the paperwork and will be making the final deposit on Saturday!
  • Brides: Shop for all additional accessories like stockings, earrings, a clutch, etc.
    • Check!!  Got the earrings for Christmas, wearing Mom’s pearl necklace, got the bracelet a couple weeks ago, along with the clutch and hair accessories.  I’d say I’m good to go!
  • Confirm that your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance covers your rings and gifts.
    • We’ll probably wait on this until we get home…when we’re actually Neil & Amanda Barnes!
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting or phone call with the officiant to go over ceremony timing and details.
    • Isn’t that what the REHEARSAL is for?!  Check!
  • Wrap all gifts for the wedding party and write each attendant a nice note.
    • I’ll get around to it – promise!  It’ll probably wait until after we’re in Scotland though!
  • Brides: Pick up your wedding dress.
    • May 29th!  It’s all mine!!!
  • Brides: Make sure you have your garter and  your “something old, new, borrowed, and blue” if you want to include these customs in your wedding.
    • Check!  Stay tuned for a fun little post about that!!
  • Call or email wedding party to relay critical information related to rehearsal and wedding.
    • Hello!! OOT Boxes?!
  • Brides: Get your final haircut.
    • Tomorrow. 10:30 AM.  I’m ON it!
  • Work out wedding day timing and details and draw up a day-of schedule.
    • Currently working on it.  I am hoping to give each person their own so they know exactly what to expect for “their part”!!
  • Finalize and special preferences, readings, or other ceremony details with your officiant.
    • He’s been over everything and has given it all the big check-a-roo!!  He’s been so easy to work with – I can’t complain!!!
  • Get a head start on those thank-you notes.
    • I don’t really know what thank-you notes I should be writing…we haven’t gotten anything that hasn’t already been “thank-you’d”.  Hmm…maybe they know something I don’t….?!
  • Do all paperwork for official documents if you are changing  your name.
    • The Knot must just know things I don’t.  I read through the “changing your name” article and pretty much I can’t do squat until after we have the marriage certificate.  Oh well…we’ll consider it a check because pretty much, I’m changing my name.  Hate to break it to ya, Mom and Dad, but “Arnold” hasn’t necessarily “defined me as a person…Amanda, yes, but I’m okay either way!
  • Have your bridal portraits or boudoir photography session, if you decide to get one.
    • Eh, I think the photos on the day of are enough…I’m not that full of myself that I need a bajillion photos!
  • Call your reception site manager and make sure your vendors all have access to the site when they need it.
    • Ugh! Don’t get me started.  We don’t even have a menu finalized yet… Enough said.
  • If you’re having a receiving line, determine the order you want everyone to stand in.
    • Uh…all 16 of us?!  Yeah, I don’t think it’s t hat big of a deal!!
  • Call guests who haven’t RSVP’d for the wedding and rehearsal dinner.  It’s okay to do this, you need a final head count!
    • Well, I know the people going to Scotland…once the reception rolls around a little closer, I’ll get on this!
  • Brides: Pick up your veil or headpiece.
    • Check!
  • Brides: Practice walking in your wedding shoes.
    • Oh, my flats?!  Ha!  Check!!
  • Determine any wedding day assignments for members of the wedding party, and make lists/info sheets as needed.
    • Ohhh, I am on it!!  I love lists and info sheets!!!  Don’t you worry your little head…
  • Give final head count to the caterer.  Confirm all catering set-up instructions and menu items.
    • Head count: check!  Menu items: for another day…
  • Confirm head count, delivery time, and reception location with your cake baker.
    • Ahh…the luxury of having Wendy.
  • Put together the reception seating plan if you’re having a seated reception meal.
    • Scotland: that’s pretty easy.  Here: We’ll have to wait until we have more RSVPs.
  • Buy materials for and make or buy escort cards.
    • Again…only needed for our reception here.  I’ll do it once we return.  I am really not too concerned with our reception here!!  Let’s get one thing out of the way, first!
  • Treat your bridesmaids to a traditional bridesmaids’ tea, a party at your place, or just cocktails to thank your attendants for all their help.
    • Oh, I’m sure we can find some very traditional tea once we get abroad!!!

Wow!!  That was a lengthy one!!!  I think we’re pretty much set…  I am ready to get this show on the road!  I am ready to step into my wedding dress.  I am ready to walk down the aisle to my best friend.  I am ready for it all…I just cannot wait any longer!

…AND THEY’RE OFF!!!!

No, I’m not talking about horses – although, did you see that muddy mess of a race on Saturday?!  I’ll just say this – I was peeking through my fingers to watch, I was so afraid a horse was going down…but they didn’t and once again Calvin Borel and his silly little voice took the race by storm.  His enthusiasm excites me!

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But enough about the Kentucky Derby…I’m really talking about INVITATIONS!!!  

Yes, ma’am!  They. Are. Off.  Gone. Adios. Auf Wiedersehen. Arrivederci. Au revoir. (Okay, that’s all the different languages I can think of…)Can you believe it?!  After all the ridiculous work that went into it, they are finally on their way to the little hands of our guests!  I can’t wait to start getting responses back!!  

So now that they are off and will be slowly arriving at their final destination, I am happy to present all our hard work (our = Emily and I…and Neil, he did lick the envelopes…all the envelopes, after all!  In fact, I could probably add a little bit of Dana and Eric in there, too, it was a group effort!)These little beasts did not present a simple DIY task.  In fact, just today, Mom asked me why I decided to DIY the invitations to begin with.  And the truth is…cost!  I found some invitations I absolutely loved.  L.O.V.E. LOVED.  But they started at $9.00 an invite (Hey! No one said I didn’t have expensive taste!!!)  First, it began with me getting an idea in my head.  Then I went to Michael’s and Hobby Lobby and started pulling paper together off the shelves until I had what I wanted.  Then I went home and started to experiment.  Let me tell you, the first draft was definitely that…a draft.  It was awful!!  Of course, it didn’t help that I used double-sided tape to keep things down.  I also hadn’t found out about the amazingness of the bone folder, either – it’s amazing the difference it makes!!  Then there was the second draft.  This time, I solicited the help of Mrs. Davis and off to Hobby Lobby and Michael’s we went.  Then and only then did I realize that I didn’t have to get my paper at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s – but that I could get it online.  WHO KNEW!?  So I ordered some samples and my fiance and I sat down to see which ones we liked.  We ordered so many samples it wasn’t even funny!  I have a stack of about 30 samples!!!  Then my first order was placed.  And in a few short days, the perfect paper was in my hands!!  And finally, wedding invitation creation could commence.  Even after ordering the supplies, the invitation still changed several times.  But we finally settled on what would be perfect and we began to put them together!  

Was it an easy process?  Definitely not.  Was it a fun process?  At times – but mostly no.  Was it worth it?  150% YES!  I absolutely love the end result – and now I just have to make sure I keep up with that height of DIY-talent with the rest of the wedding. 

Most of the supplies…ready to go.  I have to admit – there were about 15 Invitation Creation Extravaganza days!!!  This is just one of many…  

Piles upon piles upon piles…there were so many piles I couldn’t even keep them straight at times!!  

Mrs. Davis and her lifesaving “dots”.  I cannot tell you how simple they are to use!!  If you’re beginning a wedding DIY project – INVEST!!  Although, I will say they presented an issue…we ran out of them about 72 times!!!  Grr!!  

The whole invitation suite!!!  (Minus the belly band…)  I love them!!!  And I feel so accomplished to know that we completely designed them 100% on our own!!  And just FYI: the three cards around the invitation went into a pocket on the back of the blue card! 🙂  So creative!  

Me with a sigh of relief…ONE DOWN, a billion to go!!!!  

I am so happy that HUGE DIY nightmare project is over with!!!  It’s such a daunting task, but I will admit it was worth it!!(Unless noted, pictures are courtesy of ME!! and Emily, of course!)

Wow – we’re really starting to creep up on this big thing they call a wedding!  Phew…I was starting to think it was  never going to come…

…but alas, it is, and now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty details.  Which puts us in a bit of a hairy situation.

Lovely sister – aka Grande Dame of Honour – informed me several  months ago that she would be wearing her hair down…whether that meant half-up/half-down or completely down, I have no idea.  Either way, I have attempted to compile some photographs of hair that I personally enjoy.

I want her to feel beautiful – and I want her to love her hair just as much as she loves me!! 🙂  I don’t want to be the crabby bride that says, “Here.  This is how your hair will look for my wedding.  Deal with it.”  I let her choose her dress style (of course, color was kind of a given) and I let her choose her shoes.  I *kind of* let her chose her jewelry – or I at least asked her input.  Since I only have one bridesmaid, it’s easy to kind of let those decisions become hers!  Heck, if nothing else, it’s less stress on me!!

Anyway, I’m secretly devising a plan that has to do with hair and therefore, I need an idea of what her hair is going to look like!  Just an idea…not a definite decision.  I want my sister to be happy.  After all, it is my wedding day and if someone isn’t happy on my wedding day, well, it won’t make for much of a happy event!  And I definitely want it to be a happy event!!!

So here’s my plan…cleverly and nonchalantly place these photos on this journal for her perusal.  She can give  me her opinion and perhaps create a collaboration of my ideas and hers and we can come to a conclusion!!!  Then, we’ll  have a winner and my *secret* can be completed!!! 🙂

So, let’s vote…

***Let me update this to say that Sister has decided she’s wearing her hair like she did for her own wedding – only problem…she can’t find any pictures of the back of her hair because of her veil.  This is what my gorgeous sister looked like on her wedding day…

I really could not tell you who to give credit to on these photos!!!  My apologies!

So, there – my sister was gorgeous and so was her hair!  Well, that got me to thinking…if we can’t find any picture of the back of her hair, what happens if her hair doesn’t turn out perfect come June 10th?!  So here’s my attempt to be of any assistance at all…

all photos courtesy of WeddingChannel.com

The unfortunate thing is that I have looked high and low – I have looked at photographers blogs – I have searched WeddingBee – and I just can’t seem to find any pictures that would be much help!!  I do really adore #1, though, I think it’s very simple and perfect!! 🙂  If nothing else, I hope this at least helps a bit!!