Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Stationary That Almost Was

It seemed easier and like a more affordable choice when we started. It really did. I loved the idea of sitting around with all of my girlfriends, drinking wine, and glueing envelope liners, tying ribbons, affixing vintage stamps, and, finally, seeing a box of tidy, beautiful DIY invitations ready to be carried off to the post office.

The ranch-y feel I love:

But after all of the exchanged e-mails and lunch meetings I had with my (very pregnant) friend who happens to be a graphic designer, I realized that A) No matter how many times she said she could work on them after the baby was born, I just didn't want to be responsible for putting that pressure on her during that amazing time in her life, B) My friend and I were having trouble nailing down a design and focusing on the project on lunch dates because we are two chatty Cathys and, C) Making my own invitations wasn't proving to be cost effective.

My font inspiration:

During our design process, my friend suggested I look into Papeterie's DIY invitations--you choose the shape, colors, graphics, and style from a myriad of options for an affordable rate (invitations from $187.50). They print them and you put them together. It seemed like a good option, but I really wanted something custom.

Papeterie's DIY Invitations:

My fiance drew a gorgeous picture of a horse that I wanted to incorporate into our design somehow. The horse matched our ranch-y wedding, especially since we'd bonded with a colt named Doc who lives at Devil's Thumb Ranch during our last visit. Papeterie mentioned they could use our drawing, but I was hungry to find out what else was out there.

My fiance's horse:

I started calling in paper options. I wanted something textured and pulpy. Sustainable would be nice (either recycled or made from cotton pulp) and handmade would be even better. I ordered in a piece of Stardream Metallic paper from JAM Paper. It was too shiny and too thin for save-the-date postcards and cost me $3.25 just for a sample. Papel Vivo's handmade paper seemed perfect but we were worried it would be too thick to go through the printer. Crane's Lettra collection hit the mark pretty well and they were generous enough to send me every color in every weight paper for free. That's 17 pieces of paper!

The handmade feel I'm going for:

That's when I stumbled upon Sarah Parrott on I found her by typing "gocco" into the search engine on the site. Gocco is a Japanese-printing method that I don't fully understand, but basically stamps ink onto a page giving it a very handmade look and is completely customizable. Kind of like screenprinting. Her prices beat my DIY invitation's pricing, she was extremely communicative, and thus, she was hired. Stay tuned to see what she dreamed up for our save-the-dates.

Did you have any projects that went from DIY into a professional's hands?

Images 1, 2, and 5 courtesy of Martha Stewart
Image 3 courtesy of Papeterie
Image 4 courtesy of Ian Troxell

Thursday, February 26, 2009

To Pooch or Not To Pooch. That Is The Question.

For months now, we've been going back and forth about whether to include our beloved dogs in the ceremony. From the moment we were engaged, we were gung-ho on the idea of them being our ring bearers. I mean, we got them when we moved to New Mexico together two years ago as teacup-sized, two-month-old puppies. Okay, they were never teacup-sized, but 17-pounds is pretty small compared to their current state.

Meet Odin, our year-and-a-half Pit Bull-Lab mix. Or Odiferus, Wilbur, Yoda (check out his ears) or Pequeño Toro. Yep, those are all of his nicknames. All of which happen to be longer than his real name. We got him from the pound as a sick little puppy and he's grown into a handsome young chap. It would be a mistake not to include him in the wedding. I mean, he already has his tuxedo on! But, because he's a pound pup, he has his quirks which include quite a bit of anxiety in crowds of strangers, horrible leash-pulling habits, and an obsession with licking any visible skin. Hmmm...

Just a few months older than Odin is Rio. Two in April, Rio is a Saluki-Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. She hasn't taken on as many nicknames as Odin (Riolicious usually does the trick) but she does have a few idiosyncrasies that he doesn't. First, talking. She is probably the most vocal dog I've ever met. And it starts up if she gets bored--which is often because she's a high energy hound mix. (Think whippet, greyhound, anything that could run for twelve hours straight and still want more). Second, she is light as a feather, but she often gets the inkling to jump on people when she's excited. I see our wedding as one of those times. If we were getting married inside this might be okay (Notice I say might. Unless we get her declawed--which we would never--I don't see nails and taffeta being a good combination), but we're getting married in a field of grass and mud and all things disastrous.

Thus, we're stuck with the question: To pooch or not to pooch. We really want them to be a part of our day. They're practically our kids. (Wow, I sound like Angela from The Office. I promise we don't lick them clean). But is it worth all the worry?

No need to answer. Just look at this picture (below). Then tell me how you can turn that down?

Are you including any unexpected guests in your ceremony?

Image 1 by Geckoam
Image 4 by Jadam

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Top Ten Wedding Blogs

When I first got engaged, I had no idea that there were so many design decisions that went into a wedding. I hadn't been to a wedding for over six years, nor did I notice what sort of details and decor went into that wedding to make it unique or special. But then...I started surfing. Yep, that's right. Surfin' the 'net. More like the black hole; Once you start with one wedding blog, you get sucked in. Soon you're clicking on links to different design blogs which lead to more links which leads to complete design disaster.

There is so much inspiration out there, it's overwhelming. Do I want to go modern (wheatgrass in wooden boxes with Gerber Daisies "growing out of them), romantic (lush hydrangea-and-rose bouquets teeming over vintage coffee cans), or will it be more whimsical (birch branches with birds hanging from them)? The options are endless and it can stop you in your tracks.

So, here's my guide to the ten blogs that make me swoon in my desk chair (in no particular order).

1) Snippet & Ink: Besides inspiration boards that are extremely helpful with choosing a color scheme for your event, Kathryn posts tons of Real Weddings that are often country-inspired. My favorite thing to do here is type a color into the search engine and see what boards pop up.

2) A $10,000 Wedding: More anti-design than design, this blog is a reminder about what's truly important about the wedding: friends, family, food, and dancing. This couple pulled off a secluded, wedding-in-the-mountains for 10 Gs (a hard feat, if you can imagine). The blogger details her process and posts about good deals going on in the wedding world.

3) Elizabeth Anne Designs: My real love for this blog is in their "Link Love" section. They have the most comprehensive list of wedding blogs (something you can surely lose yourself in for days). Just know you've been warned.

4) Etsy Wedding: A selection of wedding-appropriate findings from treasure trove for handcrafted goods such as jewelry, soaps, invitations, dresses, anything really. As their tagline says: "Offbeat Finds for the Eclectic Bride."

5) Once Wed: Whether you're looking for Anthropologie-style design inspiration or a pre-owned wedding dress, this is your hub. I actually found the dress I thought I wanted on this website for a lot less than the store was asking and in my size. You can find the gamut of designers here: Vera Wang, David's Bridal, Lela Rose, and Nicole Miller.

6) Oh So Beautiful Paper: Out-of-the-box invitation inspiration. 'Nuff said.

7) The Ritzy Bee Blog: Details, details, details. Flowers vessels, place cards, lighting, invitations, bowls, cupcakes, and buttons, and all of the little things that us brides-to-be just can't get enough of (but, most likely, no one else will notice). Sigh.

8) Style Me Pretty: Real weddings galore. All with creativity and soul. This is the blog that will make you want to design away--just so you're worthy enough of possibly being on it one day.

9) WeddingBee: Yep, all of these blogs are about design in some form or fashion. But WeddingBee is the most real. Multiple women blog their way to the aisle (from unfair family drama to dinner plates to dress stress and beyond). Want to get advice from real brides-to-be? Head here.

10) Junebug Weddings: Not wedding-centric, although often on the topic, Junebug gives you ideas from outside the matrimonial realm which can be quite helpful in straying away from the norm. Flowers, food, fashion, and creativity in a nut shell.

Which blogs have you turned to for design-inspiration?

Images from Snippet and Ink

Friday, February 20, 2009

Inspiration Board, How I Heart Thee

One of my favorite things I've come across since scouring wedding blogs are inspiration boards--a collection of images that inspire the feeling, colors, design, and other elements that one wants to include in her (or his) weddings. My introduction to these creative collages was via Snippet & Ink, a wedding blog that builds inspiration boards daily, usually around one image that inspires the blogger. She often builds them based on colors, so finding inspiration around your color scheme (or even getting help coming up with a color scheme) is all over this site.

Wedding Bee, a blog on which brides-to-be detail their planning process, has given me many useful tools (which I'll elaborate on later), but one in particular is Polyvore--a website that allows you to make your own inspiration boards as well as look at other brides' inspiration boards. You can clip images from anywhere on the internet and add them to your personal Polyvore stash to be used in a future board or save other people's boards that you admire. It's really simple to use and they even have a tutorial on how to do it.

Check out my farm-wedding board above. It makes me giddy.

What tools have you used to help you come up with the design, decor, or color scheme for your wedding?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Kind Gesture

My fiance and his family haven't always been on the best of terms (no one's fault, in particular). Tumultuous teenage years can often send children and their parents in unwieldy directions. I know mine did. But, I also happen to come from a family that is overly-communicative (read: two psychologist parents), therefore most of our problems (read: my teenage angst) were solved by the time I left for college. My fiance's, however, weren't. His family (and him) chose to sweep their issues under the rug and act chummily when face-to-face, but never deal with their misunderstandings and years of less-than-nice feelings.

That is, until recently. When we lived in New York City, we went up to his parent's house to get away from the grime and grit that is Manhattan. They live in the rolling countryside of the Finger Lakes region in a restored barn. It's amazing, quite frankly. The more and more we visited, the more I could feel the walls break down and warmer feelings come through. It wasn't so much that either party had shifted their views or that deep, problem-fixing conversations were taking place, but that, with a fourth party in the relationship (me), the dynamic was changing. They were no longer only visiting with their son, they were visiting with both of us. And we, as a couple, have developed our own persona. A persona that neither we nor his parents knew before, but a persona that they had to get know, nonetheless. Adding that dynamic-changing role took a little vulnerability on all of our parts, but it's opened up the door a little for emotion, risks, becoming closer and laying things out on the table.

The peace-making moment was this: my future-stepmother-in-law gave her son (my fiance) her mother's engagement ring to give to me. Now, a lot of families pass jewelry down the line, creating heirlooms. For my future-stepmother-in-law, this was more difficult. Her mom passed away when she was six. This platinum-and-diamond ring has much more value to her than probably most of the jewelry in her jewelry box. And not completely because of the metal.

The ring arrived one day via FedEx (he didn't have it when he proposed) and I waited until we were together one evening to open it up. I had preconceived notions of what an antique ring would look like. I pictured ornate curly-ques and thin, fragile details. The ring that arrived was art deco and boxy. It's from depression-era Brooklyn which is, ironically, where we used to live in New York. I slipped it on (okay, after three re-sizings) and, no matter that it's not what I imagined, I cherish it daily. It has major symbolism, and aesthetically, I've grown to love its classic simplicity.

Along with the ring came a card that read something like a peace-offering from his stepmom. To give us something so near and dear to her was a symbol of how much she cares about their relationship (which is now all of our relationship). It makes me proud to wear an heirloom that would have many stories to tell if it could talk--stories of hard times, good times, and lonely times. It's a daily reminder that life is not easy, but with a few words and a little generosity, it can be be a whole lot smoother.

Does anything in your wedding have back story?

Photos by Tim Carr

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

J Crew's Honeymoon (and Wardrobe) Giveaway

Just in case you don't get fifteen e-mails a day from J. Crew with drool-worthy discounts and new items, they've just posted a Honeymoon Giveaway contest. How does five nights at a luxury hotel in Santorini, Greece, sound? Pretty good to me. On top of that, they're giving away a $2,000 wardrobe so you can look à la mode while abroad.

Not engaged? You can enter the contest for your friends who are and help out their chances of winning (wink, wink).

Just head here, enter your info (you decide if you want to sign on to their e-mail blasts) and play the matching-the-images game they've set up. You can play it once, daily, through March 15th. 2009.

Just promise me you'll share the wealth when you win. Just kidding--good luck!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Search Begins...

Two months and three states. That is what it took to finally find the barn for our reception. Because Ian and I come from opposite sides of the country, we had to come up with a solution for who would travel. Would my family go from Los Angeles to New York? Would his go from New York to California? Would they meet somewhere in the middle? Neither of us has a family that is particularly larger than the other. But, for monetary reasons, my family could travel from California to the East Coast more feasibly. Thus, my Google search from New Mexico was kicked off to find the perfect barn on the East Coast.

I combed through New York's resources and abused the terms "New York," "Barn," and "Wedding" in search engines. But nothing I came across felt right. We were a month out from our engagement party, which was to be held in New York, so we knew we'd be able to visit venues, but only a few since we had limited time.

The first place I got stuck on was Riverside Farms in Vermont, about a five hour drive from Ian's hometown. This is a venue that flies somewhat under the radar, unlike Round Barn Farm, which is beautiful but a bit of a wedding factory. Three-hundred acre Riverside Farms not only has one wedding barn, they have four and a meadow protected by a small mountain. It's secluded and full of antiques and completely not manufactured. I loved it. The price, well, I didn't love that as much. That said, the owners told me about a property they owned down the road called The Amee Farm (pictured above) which wasn't on as much land but included a 16-bedroom farmhouse and a newly restored barn with organic garden. I loved the idea of all of our wedding party and family staying in the house while cute bed-and-breakfasts nearby would suffice for the other guests. But there were two things I couldn't quite latch on to: 1) There wasn't anywhere to have a private, secluded ceremony. The farmhouse sits just above the busiest road in town (Okay, not that busy. It's Vermont, but still.) and the ceremony would have to be on the hill overlooking the road and town. Or, the road and town would be looking up at you. 2) The three-story barn was still under construction. The reception venue was planned for the second floor which had a flat ceiling because of the third floor above it, thus ruining any novelty of celebrating in a barn structure. I want high ceilings, people. And, visiting the farm was my first time in Vermont and I was starting to feel like I wanted some connection to my locale of choice.

A few days later, in New York, we decided to check out a few venues that didn't have barns at all. The first was Ian's family friend's new lake home--also under construction--about twenty minutes from Ian's hometown. There was a beautiful field on the lake with a couple of trees I could totally see saying "I Do" under, but the lawn in front of the house didn't seem big enough. Plus the idea of bringing in every table, chair, fork, knife, speaker, and light was enough to make me say no. As generous as the offer to use the house was.

The second venue was actually recommended by a bridesmaid who had driven up for the engagement party from New York City. She stayed in a sweet little bed-and-breakfast called Berry Hill Gardens bed-and-breakfast. The five-bedroom house was a little outdated, but the gardens in front were stunning with a trellis to use as an aisle and flowers everywhere. Talk about not needing to decorate. But, alas, this didn't feel right either.

The third place we went in New York has a bit of family history--Ian's great-grandmother had been a caretaker on this amazing property: Hyde Hall near Cooperstown, NY. Hyde Hall is a historic mansion on a grassy hill overlooking Otsego Lake in the Finger Lakes region. After rushing around the grounds, on our way to the airport, I was ready to say yes. The views were fabulous for the ceremony, the mossy, marble building had the perfect amount of history creeping up its walls, and I loved the family-tie. Plus, this was the first place we'd seen that didn't have any construction going on. But, Ian didn't like the idea of paying a site fee that came with absolutely nothing but the grounds. Hmph. This was proving to be difficult.

It wasn't until we were back in New Mexico, feeling more unsure than ever about where we wanted to get married, that we found it. I was reading my Real Simple Weddings book late one night when I came across a wedding in a barn in southern Colorado. Light. Bulb. We were only two hours from Southern Colorado. The weight of planning a wedding from afar lifted from my shoulders. I Googled, and Googled, and Googled. Blue Lake Ranch in Durango looked nice, but Durango is really too remote for our traveling guests. Dunton Hot Springs near Telluride is even more remote but almost seemed worth it: You can rent the entire town (yes, it's an old ghost town) including the multiple hot-spring pools. But the price proved it too remote in more ways than one.

Third time's a charm. I stumbled upon Devil's Thumb Ranch. Five-thousand raw acres of mountainous Colorado with a renovated barn on a completely, sustainable ranch. Whew. That's a mouthful, but that's because it has a lot to offer.

People ask me why Colorado? One, it's in between both of our families. But it's also a place Ian and I steal away to for long weekends in the mountains, so we associate it with fun, adventure, and relaxation.

In the end, we decided on what felt right. We knew that traveling would be involved for at least half the guests so we decided to make it a destination wedding for everyone. The ranch feels unique, is filled with one-of-a-kind antiques, has gourmet food, and, most importantly, has an inclusive-package that fit our budget. Well, sort of.

How many venues did you look at before you found the one? Did you always know what you were looking for or did you stumble upon it, unexpectedly?

Photo 1 by AndrewTCurry
Last photo by Laura Dombrowski

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Women Who Came Before Me

Unlike the title would imply, this post is not about my mother, my grandmother, or even my great-grandmother. Not that I didn't like my mom's wedding--she got married in a chapel on a grassy knoll over the ocean in Malibu. Not too shabby. I even looked into a venue nearby, a venue I'd dreamed about since I was a child playing in the sand on the beach that it borders: The Adamson House, a historic spanish-style casa that edges right up to the most popular surfing beach in Los Angeles. Turns out, The Adamson House was ridiculously out of our budget and, in the moment I found that out, it dispelled any dreams of getting married in my hometown of Los Angeles. Okay, true, I didn't look very hard, but when I get my heart set on something, I have trouble seeing anything else.

Until I started sifting through design blogs and magazines and falling hopelessly in love with all things barefoot, earthy, rustic, wide open and natural. I feel warmth when I think about these ideas, especially within an industry that mass produces all things uptight, too-poised, well-coiffed, and picture perfect. Thus, Ian and I decided all we need is a field for our ceremony and a barn for all of our friends and family to gather and dance.

My fiance is the main reason for our choice. He's a country boy who grew up amidst maple- and apple-trees, who had dirt under his fingernails every afternoon as a child, and has taught me how to plant trees, build fires, and walk barefoot in the grass. His love for barns was born because he grew up in one. His father renovated a barn into their home with his own two hands so we felt like this structure was very meaningful to celebrate in.

The second seed of inspiration comes from a couple brides I came across who pulled off warm, unique, and country-inspired celebrations of their own. The first was Maie and Jim, a couple who got married in upstate New York, where Ian is from, on a private estate. That launched my search for an estate, a farm, a lodge, a summer camp, anywhere we could rent out for all of our guests to gather for the entire weekend. They pulled off details I'd never seen before: hay as benches during the ceremony and antique doors as an alter of sorts. Not to mention her Monique Lhuillier gown had me drooling at my computer.

The second bride I saw was featured on Once Wed, a favorite blog of mine, under the name "Oh My Deer." That also happens to be the eponymous name of her shop on, an "ebay" for people selling crafts and homemade goods. The thing I love about Chelsea and Tec's wedding was the way all of their friends and family members became a part of the wedding by contributing things (a great budgeting tool). The trinkets on the tables were donated by friends, the trees on the tables--thought to have died--came to life about a month before the wedding after debuting in her sisters wedding, and the property was also a friends. Chelsea's designs inspired me to be unique, collect vintage bottles and tins as vases, and mainly, she taught me not to worry about it looking so "pulled together." If each thing has a reason for being there, it will all fall into place.

My mom still tells me stories about her wedding--how she doesn't remember ever feeling the pressure that brides do now, to pull off some overly-designed event. She hardly remembers where she got her flowers, she mentions the chapel being donated to my father and her, and that her dress, a long-sleeved, Victorian-style gown (that still sits yellowing in her closet) cost $300 from a store ironically named Country Bride. Maybe the lesson here is one from her: It's been over thirty years since my parents had their humble celebration and they're still married. Regardless of cost or showiness, their wedding was a symbol of their love, and that's what stands strong in her memory.

Which brides have inspired your wedding? Are they friends or did you find them via internet? Which of your details were inspired by that bride?

Photos 1 and 2 by Vallentyne Photography
Photos 3 and 4 by Jose Villa