I knew wearing an extra fancy wedding dress was not something that particularly mattered to me, but once Mike and I had determined our wedding date and location, it was hard to resist the urge to spend hours flipping through bridal magazines and blogs in search of the perfect dress. But I soon found myself a bit overwhelmed - not only by the seemingly endless amount of dresses on the market, but also by the fact that is seemed like every dress was four times my budget.!I began to fret that I just wouldn’t find anything in my price range that would also look beautiful and classic. After a Friday night of vegging and watching Say Yes to the Dress, I called to cancel my appointment at that same store - their starting dress price was more than the top end of my budget!
But, at the advice of someone much more in the know than me, I made my dress appointments at three stores that carried a few dresses that I liked. My parents traveled to Manhattan for a weekend and we spent most of the day Saturday shopping for wedding dresses. That day is one that will remain very close to my heart, even with the moments when I felt confused by too many choices or angry at bad customer service.
Here are a few things I learned from shopping for the perfect wedding dress:
Make your appointments well in advance and be flexible on your availability. This is one of the few times that you (and your dress shopping entourage) will need to adjust your schedule to that of the stores you wish to visit. Do your hair and makeup. I scheduled blowouts for my mom and I - partly because I knew there would be no room in our apartment to get ready and partly because I wanted us to feel really beautiful for the day. Wear conservative undergarments. This was the very good advice of the same person who helped reassure me that I would find something in my price point. You will be dressing and undressing all day with a stranger (and potentially in front of your entourage and other customers). Bring a list or photos of the dresses you like from the store. It will help the salesperson not only help pull those gowns quickly, but also make other suggestions based on your preferences. Be open to at least trying on dresses of all shapes and materials. I went into my day adamant that I wanted all lace and absolutely no strapless, but I felt matronly in every gown that fit this description. I decided (happily) on a strapless gown with no lace. Don’t feel as though you need to have “the moment”. I thought I was going to have that moment; I’ve cried watching other people and their families have “the moment” on TV. I didn’t cry (Daddy was fighting back tears though!), but I knew it was the one.
Be prepared to feel overwhelmed at some point during your appointment. For me, it was when I found an equally jaw-dropping dress at my second appointment. It was much fancier and I began to question if I should be more “dressed-up” for my wedding day. The dresses will start to blur together. When it gets to this point, it’s time to finish your appointment and take a break. Schedule a really delicious lunch between your dress appointments. You will be hungry and need time to decompress. Order a glass of wine. Don’t worry about fitting into the last dresses of the day. If you are stuck between a number of dresses, consider both your ceremony and reception venues. For me, I ended up having a tough decision between two beautiful dresses - one a bit more casual than the other - but either would have been perfect for the chapel. But I knew I wasn’t planning to change into a second dress for the reception, which was in a casual atmosphere. If I chose the fancier dress, I knew I would be worried all night about having people step on it and ruin it - not exactly how I wanted to celebrate! Don’t be worried that you will be pressured into “saying yes to the dress”. I was - I had nightmares about it! Your salesperson should not (and in most stores will not) pressure you to make a snap decision; even if you do, there is a big chance you will have second thoughts about your choice. Have them write down the information for the dresses and any accessories you liked, then leave and take the time you need to make your decision. If you are treated badly by a store - LEAVE! I chose to stay and have my appointment just to be positive my perfect dress wasn’t waiting for me there. In hindsight, I NEVER would have ordered my dress from this store anyway, so staying and being frustrated was quite pointless. Write thank you notes (or emails) to the sales people who helped you during your appointment. Those ladies spent a lot of time helping you button and pin numerous dresses!
Last night, Mike and I had our first official meet-up with other newly admitted Duke MBA students and their partners in the New York City area. It was organized by Duke as an evening to network, ask questions, both big and small, to Fuqua alums, and to generally indulge in the excitement of being admitted to the school.
The first few minutes of each conversation were a bit awkward, as you might expect in a room full of people whose worlds would be colliding in just a few short months. “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” were questions that began most conversations, but that stiffness soon gave way as people picked up on pieces of each other’s stories to make connections to their own interests and experiences. Soon enough, the conversations were flowing just as freely as the beer and wine – no coincidence, I’m sure!
I will admit that I was a bit nervous going into the evening. And as students began talking about their current jobs and titles, I could begin to feel my palms sweat. Could I possibly stand here, nodding my head, and smiling politely with a conversation centered around strategy versus management consulting for the scheduled two hours? Did this make me a terrible future MBA wife for needing to fight that feeling of my eyes glazing over?
Turns out, even MBA students don’t have that much interest in spending hours discussing such things, at least not after a full day of work and in the atmosphere of a bar. Soon we were all discussing our moving plans, where we planned to live, restaurants we wanted to try, trips the students were looking forward to taking, golfing, and how partners were planning to start their job searches. Before I knew it and just as we were getting to know people, the crowd was thinning and the bar had been shut down for over an hour; we had just passed three hours with Mike’s future classmates and our future friends.
On the way out, I smiled at the mile marker sign pointing south to Durham, North Carolina – 423 miles away. How fitting – we were just 4 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days away from our projected moving date. We left feeling reassured, not that we needed to be, that Duke was a perfect fit for Mike, for both of us, for the next two years of our life, which I already feel will pass just as quickly as those three hours.
When Mike and I first got engaged, we agreed to just enjoy those first few days and to not jump straight into wedding planning. I am so thankful we forced ourselves to take that time, to not worry about the details, but instead to focus on our excitement and the well wishes of so many special people in our lives. When the details and the planning get particularly frustrating, I think back on those summer days of happiness and pure joy.
But, of course, we did have to begin planning our day. At that point we knew there was a possibility we would be moving for Mike's MBA program, so we wanted to have the wedding before we packed our bags, meaning we had just under a year to work with. But no matter your time frame, taking the leap into wedding planning can quickly become overwhelming. As a future bride, you've likely already started scouring wedding blogs for ideas and pinning one beautiful photo after another. But how to you actually make that jump from inspired to planned?
I think the best place to begin is to first decide on the date and location. You need both of these things set when you start speaking with vendors about their availability. Try to be flexible with your date, but don't be surprised when what seemed like 12 possible weekends turns into just one weekend that works for everyone - you, your sweetie, family, friends. For the location, if you don't already have your heart set on a certain place, discuss all of your ideas and start taking into account the travel your guests will need to endure to watch you walk down the aisle. If you want a small destination wedding, this might not be such an issue, but otherwise you want to ensure your guests can afford to make the trip.
Next, and equally as important, is to start the dreaded discussion of your wedding budget. You can't begin to move from daydreams to actual plans until you at least have a rough idea of your budget. Talk about areas of the wedding that you would like to invest and also areas that you can cut back. For us personally, we wanted to invest in our photographer and our reception, so we decided to cut back on the invitations and my dress. Wedding Wire has a good budget tool to get you started. Once you start booking vendors and making payments, I would suggest creating your own spreadsheet to keep track of everything - it will get confusing quickly and you want to make sure your vendors are all paid on time!
Once you have these three things set - date, location, and budget - start thinking about the overall feel you want to achieve during your day. Obviously the season and location are going to play big roles in this decision! There is no need to put a label on the feel (unless you want to!), but you do need to have an idea of the atmosphere you hope to achieve, as it will drive so many other parts of your wedding - the invitations, your dress, and the decor for a black-tie wedding will be very different than that at a rustic barnyard wedding!
At this point, if you are on Pinterest (I hope you are!), start breaking out your "wedding inspiration board" into specific areas of the wedding: flowers, photos, invitations, dress, etc. You can see how I have organized my boards here. Get rid of anything that you've pinned previously that doesn't fit the overall feel of your day and start pinning things that you love that fit the feel!
Once you have these important details figured out and you have a clear vision for your day, it's time to start contacting vendors to see if they are available and if their price points fit into your budget. I have found the checklist on Wedding Wire to be a good reference to know exactly when I should be contacting each vendor; though I always think earlier is better! If the wedding is somewhere you know, start asking family/friends for good recommendations - then visit their websites to start developing your own opinion. If you need vendor recommendations, search wedding blogs (such as Style Me Pretty, 100 Layer Cake, and Southern Weddings - my personal favorite!) for your region, as they often include contact information for each vendor with their featured weddings. I've also found it helpful to ask our booked vendors for their recommendations on vendors that we might not know that much about. I have found coordinating all of the vendors to be the most frustrating piece thus far in wedding planning (another post for another day) so do try to have some patience (and lots of wine!) going into this portion.
I hope this helps get all of you lovely brides-to-be started in the right direction!
When 2013 rolled in, I needed to make some decisions on how to keep up with Project Life. I started this project last year as a way to easily document our lives, from the boring weeks to the life-changing weeks. I loved (and still do) the simplicity of the idea, I loved getting those photos and those memories off my hard drive and into the pages. But when things got busy, I seemed to lose all creativity and I was soon backlogging everything.
So this year, since I knew I wanted to continue with the project, I decided to keep it as simple as possible, at least until after the wedding/the move/the business is up and running. I promised myself not to feel bad about not having the extra time to spend doing especially creative things. What was really most important to me was to keep going, get things in the pockets, and not feel behind.
Part of not feeling behind was ceasing to photograph and post every week. Instead, I decided to try out photographing and posting just one month at a time. Sometimes I need an extra few days (sometimes weeks) to find the time to organize everything. I usually operate better under a deadline, but telling myself, "This week needs to be done and photographed by Monday so you can post on Tuesday!" just wasn't working for me. It was causing me to push the project away, feeling like a failure each week I missed.
So, without further ado, here are my pages from January 2013! They are all very simple, but they are done once I add the week numbers and dates.
Week #1:Monday, December 31st - Sunday, January 6th
This was a tough week to document, due to a death in Mike's family. I decided to just do a half page for this week and chose a patterned paper to fill up the pockets. I added just a few things - the label from the champagne we silently sipped at midnight, a receipt from a hot cocoa meet-up with a local photographer, and a business card from a trip we made to City Swiggers. I also included the prayer card from the wake.
Week #2: Monday, January 7th - Sunday, January 13th
Boy, did we need some good news after a rough start to the year. It arrived in the form of Mike's acceptance letter into the MBA program at Duke! I'm sure you can't tell how crazy excited we both were! I included a photo of Mike modeling his new Blue Devils hat, our celebratory beers, and a copy of his acceptance letter (not pictured here).
Week #3:Monday, January 14th - Sunday, January 20th
We were still very much riding on the high of Mike's acceptance, but also starting to realize that our days in Manhattan were becoming numbered. That realization resulted in a trip to City Bakery (their pretzel croissants will be missed!) and a weekend trip to the Met. I also included a note from my parents to Mike (he loved getting a packaged addressed only to him from Virginia!) and our first wedding cake tasting!
Week #4:Monday, January 21st - Sunday, January 27th
This past Saturday, CrossFit Metropolis hosted their Valentine's Day Throwdown. I usually go to the earliest morning class (you can see the first throwdown here and the second throwdown here), then stick around to photograph the last three classes, the excitement in the gym increasing with each hour. But I tweaked my shoulder a couple weeks ago trying to get my first godforsaken pull-up, so I decided to sit this one out as the workout was very heavy on the shoulder work.
Saturday's workout was as follows:
In 12 minutes:
Run 800 meters
As many thrusters as possible in remaining time.
Each person's score was the number of thrusters completed multiplied by the weight they had on the bar, so a little strategy was involved. Every class ended with people laid out on the floor, gasping for air to fill their lungs. People cheered others on to push themselves to complete more than they expected. As always, throwdown days are my favorite, with so many inspiring people and so much encouragement filling the four walls of our gym!
A few years ago, I happily won this updated version of Emily Post's Etiquette at a work event and I cannot tell you how many times I have referenced it - between acting as the Maid of Honor at my sister's wedding last May to, now, planning my own wedding in June. It has served as the perfect reference for not only the actual wedding day, but also things big tasks leading up to the day, including the wording for the invitations and setting-up the registries.
Now, don't take this to mean our engagement and wedding day will be textbook perfect in the world of Emily Post. But by referencing this book, I at least know how things should ideally be done; afterwards, Mike and I are able to determine whether we want to change things slightly to better fit the feel of our day or us as a couple.
I realize, for some, the thought of referencing a book on etiquette to plan their wedding day may seem silly or old-fashioned. But, now just four months away from our big day, I'll let you in on a little secret - there will be people who expect you to do things in a traditional manner, in accordance to common etiquette, no matter if you are having a black-tie wedding or getting married in your parent's backyard. These probably will not be your close friends, but likely family members and family friends one or two generations older than you. I'm not saying they will judge you for taking a different course; I'm saying they have experienced a world where weddings were, mostly, conducted according to such guidelines.
So if you or someone you love is beginning to plan their wedding, I would highly recommend picking-up a copy of this book - this version has also been updated to include modern-day methods, like wedding websites and social media - to be aware of the tradition surrounding the day. By all means, adopt most of the guidelines and change those that you feel might make your day too stuffy or rigid, just as I am doing. If nothing else, I have found it useful to be prepared with knowing the traditional etiquette and an honest answer when some of our unconventional (barely, I assure you) plans have been questioned!
The time has come for me to purchase new glasses. It's been seven years since I last had to shop for frames, a time period that might seem too long for some, but I mostly wear contacts and save my glasses wearing for evenings, weekends, or when my allergies get particularly bad during the spring. My frames held up remarkably well over the years, at least until the fateful morning that I put them on top of my head to put in my contacts and they tumbled backwards onto our cold, stone bathroom floor, the left arm making a clean break with the rest of the frames. I tried tape for awhile and then just gave up completely, sporting glasses around the apartment without a left arm. I call them my cuddling glasses, as they are perfect for leaning over on Mike's shoulder and still being able to see; Mike, on the other hand, refers to them as my villain glasses.
But with allergy season just around the corner and my desire to stop wearing contacts all the time in front of a computer screen (long photo editing sessions with contacts are leading to very bloodshot eyes!), the time has come to shop for a new pair. I didn't want to spend lots of money on them, so I was intrigued when my boss recommended Warby Parker, a company that sells frames and lenses for just $95 AND donates a pair to someone in need.
Armed with my updated prescription, Mike and I ventured downtown to run some errands, including a stop at Warby Parker's NYC store. I had looked briefly online and noticed their at-home try on option, but figured since I live in the city, I might as well try them on at the store.
Just inside from the winter chill, I turned towards the showroom - mobbed with a crowd three walls of people deep. I took a deep breath and joined the masses thinking, "How bad could this really be?"
How bad?! I might have lasted a total of 90 seconds until I couldn't take the shoving, elbowing, judgmental looks as I tried on the first pair of frames. The scene was best described by the woman behind me, just after we escaped the madness and waited impatiently for the elevator: "Aggressive hipsters."
Suddenly that at-home try on option looked pretty great! I ordered five frames that I liked from the site, they arrived, I had five days to try them on, and then I shipped them right back to the company. Peaceful, quiet, no mean glances.
I narrowed my selection down to two and think I have decided on these, as they are a bit more modern, but still have a classic shape. I really love the tortoise shell and I think it is a bit softer with my features than the black frames I currently have. I can't yet speak to the process of actually ordering my glasses, but I do highly recommend their home try-on option if you are also in the market for a pair of glasses that won't break the bank!
(And, yes, I totally got even with those elbow-throwing hipsters by taking photos of glasses and blogging about my selection process!)
In the past week, I have been overwhelmed by the response I have received on my new website. Thank you all so much for letting me know how much you like it! Some of you love the colors, some of you love the patterns, others of you are just happy to see my work free from
a templated site.
In addition to the congratulations, I have also received a lot of questions regarding the software I used and where I learned to design my own website. For those of you that have asked, or who might be wondering, after much contemplation on my part, I happily decided to use Showit. Previously, I housed my portfolio on a templated site last year and felt I was very happy with it until my recent switch. At that point, I couldn't fathom paying a monthly fee to house my website; at least not if photography wasn't a large source of income for me. I merely needed a simple website to direct people to when they requested to see my portfolio and, I naively assumed, more people would begin to find me now that I actually had a website. As it turns out, that wasn't true at all.
But last year, I was not facing an impeding move; to be honest, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do with my professional life. This year, with our wedding just four months away and our move from Manhattan to Durham, North Carolina just four and a half months away, I know I need to invest in myself, in the business I hope to build. Last year, I had job security to fall back upon if no one liked my work; right now I want more than anything to make my vision behind my camera sufficient.
It was a few weeks ago at Justin & Mary's NYC stop of their "What's Next?" Tour, while I was internally debating where to host my online portfolio, that I was totally sold on the value in investing in Showit. I was introduced to Ashley and Chris of Ashley Therese Photography and as we were talking, I explained my unique situation of starting a business in NYC, moving to North Carolina for two years, and then moving back to NYC for the foreseeable future. As I expressed my concern in finding North Carolina photographers to reach out to for second shooter opportunities, Chris explained to me that Showit provided a map that I could reference to find photographers close to where we would be living in North Carolina. There were even groups I could join, Showit groups, where I could meet local photographers and begin to get my name out there.
And that sold me. I already knew from the demo that the software was intuitive for me to use, even if I am awhile away from being able to afford a true designer to create my branding. It was mostly the cost, the extra money it would take each moth out of my limited disposable income that I had worried about. But the cost was on-par with other high-end portfolio websites and it also came with it's own community of photographers that I could reach out to make connections. So, for me, the choice was clear and I have already been so pleased with everything about the software and the company.