{Wedding}: Renting versus buying

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Snippet of our invite. Copyright Dennis Thompson 2012.

Renting equipment for your wedding day will be one of your larger expenses. And the more people you invite, the more expensive it gets. (That’s a not so subtle hint to keep your guest list under control.) But you don’t have to rent everything. Sometimes it’s better to purchase items rather than rent. The most frustrating aspect of this was that most rental places don’t have their prices posted online so you will have to call, email, or make an appointment with them.

Tables + chairs
Since we were getting married outside at my parents we were going to have to rent tables and chairs so we decided to make an appointment to check out the pretties, too. Tables are surprisingly affordable and chairs can be, too, if you leave your option open. Of course those bamboo chairs are gorgeous but they’re also twice the price of the folding wooden garden style chairs. And let me tell you something: people won’t remember the chairs. The folding garden chairs are a perfectly nice and affordable seating choice and they come in four color choices: white, black, pine (blonde) and a darker stain along the lines of walnut or cherry depending on where you go.

Ceremony seating
I struggled with this one. Our ceremony and reception were both held on my parents property but in slightly different areas adjacent to each other. I absolutely did not want to pay for another set of chairs for seating purposes. But since our guest list ended up being larger than we anticipated we needed more serious seating. So what’s a gal to do when she doesn’t want to spend more money? She emails her best girlfriends and asks for input and ideas on what to do. And let me say that I have the best friends I could have ever asked for – better even. They practically yelled in unison through email that I should use the reception chairs and they would move them from the ceremony to the reception tent while Dennis and I held a receiving line to greet guests. It worked so well that they were long finished before we were with the receiving line and we didn’t have to pay for double the seating. Don’t hesitate to ask for help; especially when you have to stick to a budget.

Linens + overlays
When it came to linens I was picky about some things and not picky about other things. I was choosy about length – only floor length – but not so much with regards to color. I didn’t go in with my heart set on a particular color because I had no idea what they would have in their inventory. Wherever you go, make sure they give you time to look through the linens and try them out on a display table. We narrowed our choices down to two options and then we rented one table cloth of each color and one chair of each color we were considering and hauled them out to my parent’s house for a test run. (Note: I HIGHLY advise that you rent a couple of samples and take them to your reception venue. I guarantee the lighting at the rental company will be very different from your venue’s lighting which will ultimately alter the color of your linens. Take it from this former textile student.) For overlays I purchased my own. I had already decided on burlap long before and it is foolish to rent burlap. I went on ebay and purchased a bolt at a much reduced price than I could get at a fabric store. Yes, I needed quite a bit for other things but you can still by 10, 25, 50 yards much cheaper than you can get at your local fabric store.

Eat + drink
When you’re having a DIY outdoor wedding it is a good idea to think about balancing disposables with non-disposables. Since we were doing this ourselves we wanted easy clean up but we wanted more than standard fare paper plates and plastic forks. Plus I really wanted to be environmentally responsible and not have a bunch of plastic getting thrown out. (I also didn’t want my family in the kitchen all night long.) We decided to use square bamboo plates in dinner and dessert sizes and paper napkins all purchased from a restaurant supply store online. Bamboo plates look great, are tough, and have a lovely organic look to them. And rather than go with the usual square dinner napkin, we opted for the “restaurant fold” which is one additional fold so the napkin lays as a rectangle. They don’t cost anymore than the standard square and they look more formal. For drink glasses we opted for the good ole Southern standard: the “jam jar” (mason jar). Our rental company carried them but we found it was going to cost us the same to purchase them ourselves because it was canning season and you could easily get them on sale by the case. I ultimately gave some away to my helpers and decided to keep the rest. I have no doubt that I could have easily sold them to another bride in my area had I chosen to not keep them. And that brings us to utensils which happens to be the only food service item we rented and I’m so glad we did. The bamboo and paper napkins were a good balance with the glass jars and silverware for an outdoor affair. And we didn’t even have to wash the silverware – the rental company takes care of that. All we had to do was toss them back in the plastic box they came in and send them on their way. I liked that. :)

 

Lighting the Christmas Tree

Over the years I’ve become quite adept at designing lighting for Christmas trees. I’ve designed numerous trees for various displays and thought I would share my tips for lighting a Christmas tree. If the lighting is done right, a Christmas tree will be beautiful before the first ornament is hung on a limb.

So how do you achieve this? By having enough light, enough variety to support the style you are working toward, and keeping cord exposure as minimal as possible. In my experience most people under-light their tree.  Most boxes suggest 100 lights per foot. However, trees are as varied in height and shape as people. A very thick, dense tree needs more lights per foot than a skinny, woodland tree. If you have a tree that is very rotund, thick, or dense (regardless of height), increase the lights by at least 50 lights per foot.

There are two instances when I recommend using minimal lights for lighting a Christmas tree:

  • If you have a tree that has the  sparse and open woodland style, then you can use less than the 100 lights per foot suggestion. With this type of tree having too many lights detracts from the tree because the cord takes over the tree even with using the wrapping technique I describe later in this post.
  • The second instance I recommend minimal lights is if you are going for a very simple, rustic feel. A few strands of larger bulbs (C7 or C9) loosely strung around the tree is quite simple and lovely.

Tips to consider when lighting your tree:

*Use mini-lights as a base for your tree not as the single source of light. This base will also be the largest number of lights on your tree.

*Add layers of lights to your tree by seeking out various bulb shapes and diffusers (little covers for mini-lights that change the shape of the emitted light). Layering light strands of varying sizes adds a lot of depth and interest to a tree. For example, on our family tree I layer strands of C7 bulbs and bubble lights over the mini-light base. And by  working off of a mini-light base, you won’t need to add as many alternate light strands to achieve a great effect. The size of the additional bulbs and length of light strands will determine how many to add. Larger bulbs and longer strand length generally means fewer additional strands of lights than smaller bulbs and/or shorter strands. For my eight foot tree I use 5 strands of bubble lights and two strands of C7 lights.

Multicolored lights featured on a vintage themed tree.

Multicolored lights featured on a vintage themed tree.

*When purchasing a variety of lights for your tree, be sure to consider how they will look as a whole. If you are using multicolor transparent mini-lights as the base, opaque C7s over the top will not work as well as their transparent counterparts since the colors are quite different.

*Are you a staunch clear/white lights supporter? Shake it up by tossing in a few strands of flicker bulbs. Flicker lights average about 7 bulbs per strand so the effect is quite subtle. They preserve the formality of trees lit with clear lights while also adding movement and the warmth of candle glow.  If you have children in your home, try adding a strand of novelty lights in fun shapes such as peppermints or snowflakes. It’s a great way to keep the clear lights you love while mixing in some fun for the little ones. Want to keep a more formal clear/white light look? Without a doubt adding in different shapes and sizes of clear and frosted bulbs lends such a lovely, snowy effect. Look for stars, faceted, or even snowball-like globe lights in two sizes for a snowy appearance. And to come back to the movement I spoke of earlier, adding in twinkle lights or bubble lights in clear/white adds a bit of fun and is still in keeping with the formality.

A flocked tree bedecked in a white mini lights base and accented with vintage style colorful bubble lights.

A flocked tree bedecked in a white mini lights base and accented with vintage style colorful bubble lights.

*Love the smell of a live tree? LED lights can be a big help here. Since 80% of the energy incandescent lights emit is heat, replacing them with LED lights can aid in preserving the moisture content in your tree not to mention the energy savings they provide. LED lights come in an array of bulb shapes and sizes so pick two or three to dress your tree or add a strand of novelty lights as your third option. Most novelty lights are still incandescent. However, if you’re using them as your third option, these lights will be fewer in number and still less heat than if you used all incandescent lights.

*When buying LED lights be sure to check the color in stores with displays before purchasing. Multicolor LED strands are often limited in color variety in stores. I recommend purchasing lights with that have 5 or 6 color varieties. Unfortunately 5 colors are more difficult to come by in stores. They are quite plentiful online however and I definitely recommend seeking them out. Four colors are most common in physical stores and the least desirable.  I purchased multicolor LEDs last year from Lowe’s not realizing at the time that LEDs came in different color collections. Unfortunately the ones I purchased are the four color type: red, blue, green and yellow – which is actually more yellow-orange than yellow. Take my mistake to heart and shop online. Those extra pink or purple lights included on the 5 and 6 strand lights really do add a nice depth of color. If you purchase clear LED strands, be sure to check the color. There are three types of clear LEDs: polar white, warm white and pure white. Polar white LEDs have a distinct bluish appearance that bring to mind old school fluorescent bulbs. Warm white LEDs mimic the color of traditional incandescent lights and pure white are just that – a very clean, clear pure white light. Again, check stores with displays to be sure you get the color you desire.

Techniques for the mini-light base:

There are a couple of techniques to use to add the mini-light base to your tree. The goal is to keep cords as hidden as possible. We do this by either wrapping the lights snuggly around the branch or weaving them down the branch.  A sparse tree generally needs some wrapping to keep the cord minimally exposed. Denser trees and trees with downward sloping branches can get away with weaving. Weaving is literally weaving the strand side to side across the branch and around each evergreen finger. There is no need to be perfect; you’re just trying to achieve an even distribution of lights while keeping the cords close to the branch structure. With both techniques you will need to work your way down the branch toward you and then back up the branch toward the trunk before moving to the next branch. It is more time consuming but the effect can’t be beat.

Following are a few websites dedicated to Christmas lights if you can’t find what you’re looking for in your local hardware or department stores.

Christmas light websites:

http://www.christmaslights.com

http://www.christmaslightsetc.com

http://www.1000bulbs.com (great site for bulb replacements)

http://www.christmasdepot.com

http://www.holidayleds.com

http://www.bronners.com (another great site for bulb replacements)

http://www.christmas-light-source.com

{Wedding}: Photographer

Choosing a photographer was one of the most difficult decisions to make. We decided early on this would be our biggest expense. Dennis and I love to dabble in photography and while we’re nowhere near professional, we do know good professional work when we see it. What we had to determine was how much we were going to need to spend to get the skill set we wanted. I shared with Dennis that I didn’t want to spend $2k or $3 for photos I knew I wouldn’t be happy with; he agreed as I knew he would. We also wanted a photographer who offered packages that gave us the opportunity to post, print and share our photos at will. This is really important if you want to be able to post your images online or have a print made without having to ask your photographer for permission every time you wish to do so. If you are unsure, ASK. It costs more for this option but it is worth it in the end.

Photos are an investment. These photos are what you will have when the big day is over so keep that in mind when deciding how much you want to spend on a photographer. Go with someone who has a classic style and doesn’t do a lot of trendy filters. Think about old wedding photos. They look as great now as they did when they were taken. Fifteen years from now you will wish you had gone with a classic look. Do yourself a favor and look at as many photographer websites as you can (hint #1 – check out their blogs; they’re frequently less distracting than their fancy flash websites). I found in my search that there were dozens of wedding photographers in the $2500 -$3000 range. We also found that most of them either couldn’t get a true focus or they did a lot of enhancements to the images to make the photograph better. If a photographer can’t get a good shot straight out of the camera then you don’t want them photographing your wedding. The adjustments after the fact should be minimal.

When Dennis and I first discussed wedding photos, we initially weren’t very interested in having engagement photos. But the photographer and package we chose included an engagement photo session and we came to like the idea. We don’t have many good pictures of us together and here was a built in opportunity for professional ones. I’m glad we have them. Be sure to consider having them included in your photography package if it’s in your budget.
Following are a few photos from our engagement session. We were embarrassed at first (public place! eek!) but Daniel was superb. He really put us at ease quickly.

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Even sat in the same booth from our first meeting!

Our location of choice was our first meeting: Fido’s Coffee. It’s a special place to us. Many years ago it was a pet salon and my grandmother used to take her poodle there for her haircuts! It also happens to be the same coffee house where my best friend and her husband first met.

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Peeking.

Prior to our first face to face meeting, we chatted online with great attempts to “out-dork” the other. We both collect children’s books and Dennis brought some of his favorites to our first date. Just as we were running out the door to go meet Daniel, I had Dennis grab a few books. I don’t typically care for props unless they further inform the moment and locale – it seemed only right to have them there.

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I win!

Something I looked for in a photographer: ability to shoot candid photos. If they can take good candid photos, chances are they’re good at their craft. Of course, this is in addition to the OBVIOUS things they should already be able to do – image composition, exposure, being sure to achieve focus – you’d be surprised at the number who can not…

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When in Nashville…

Since our wedding was going to be outside at an abandoned farmhouse, we thought it would be fun to also have some urban photos for contrast. Printers Alley is a popular spot for locals to take pics – we appreciate the history behind it.

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A Printer’s Alley closeup.

One other thing to look for when perusing potential photographers: how good are they at capturing depth of field? Depth of field is a way to put the focus on the subject. See how sharp we are in contrast to the out of focus background? If that background had been in focus, the photo would be busy. This isn’t a hard skill to learn; I can do it. I’m sharing this because people who use the depth of field  pay attention to the background in photos. This is very important. You don’t want cluttered images.

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us.

Our photographer of choice: Daniel Sutton. He is professional, talented and very comfortable to be around. And his wife is a doll. Well, he is too. :)

{Wedding}: What we’re not doing

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Snippet of our invite. Copyright Dennis Thompson 2012.

It’s safe to say I’m a nontraditional bride. I’d even go so far as to say I’m an anti-bride. (But I’m still Southern!) There are a great many things I, nay, we’ve decided to do differently. I’ve always believed that a wedding should reflect who you are as a couple and not do things simply because it’s social convention or trendy. I love heritage and tradition as it relates to family but we don’t have much of it with regards to weddings in my family.  It’s wonderful to wear your grandmother’s veil if you have it but some of our grandmother’s were daughters of blacksmiths. They eloped or went to a justice of the peace. The wedding doesn’t mean any less without these things of course.

No attendants.

Being a bridesmaid is fun when you’re in your young twenties but loses its luster as we move into our thirties. We realize just how much we are asking of our friends for this role. Most importantly, it can be an expensive request. When I shared that we had decided against attendants, my friends all said they would be more than happy to wear an ugly dress for me if I wanted it. Needless to say, we all had a good laugh over that one! Who doesn’t have an ugly bridesmaid dress story to tell?! For me to ask friends to spend money on a dress they will likely never wear again is unbelievably selfish. And even though dresses are a might prettier today than yesteryear, I still have never worn a bridesmaid dress after the wedding for which I purchased it. No way I was doing that to my friends. I would only have asked them if I could have paid for it myself. I’ve always thought that if you’re going to ask people to be an attendant, then YOU should foot the bill  for their required attire. It is YOUR wedding after all. It may be tradition to have attendants but it was also tradition to get married in the backyard of your family home and have one attendant who simply wore the best dress she already owned. So in some ways I guess I am reverting to tradition. At least in the “getting married in the backyard” sense. :)

No writing of personal vows.

When we met with our officiant, Dan, he asked what we wanted for our ceremony. We pretty much said, “Do what you like. This is your area of expertise”. He appreciated it but not in an egotistical manner. We’re supremely fortunate that Dan is a very dear friend and we knew we could trust him to do this without much input from us. We don’t believe we can say it any better than he can – I defy anyone to try.

No padding.

I was initially a bit anxious that our ceremony is slim with regards to time and flirted with the idea of adding “something”. If something is meaningful to you as a couple, do it. Don’t pad your ceremony with vignettes of people doing things just to make the ceremony longer. We ultimately decided against solos or readings. There will be no lighting of a unity candle or pouring of symbolic sand in a vase. We’re going for simple. Nothing to detract from the words spoken to one another – the whole reason we’ll be there in the first place. When Dan asked us about the framework of our ceremony, I shared that I felt no need to pad the ceremony just to wear my dress longer. He laughed. Knowingly. Which brings me to the dress…

Dress shopping.

I didn’t do the big dress shopping excursion that daughters usually do with their mothers and grandmothers. Of everything we decided to not do, this is the one thing I wish I could have done. Even after I purchased my dress I later lamented to the Mr. how I wished I’d had that moment. His response? “Babe if you want to buy a dress to have that moment, then let’s see that it happens.” I choked back tears over that! But what I wanted can’t be purchased in a bridal store; at least not one where I live. I wanted vintage and color! Vintage is what I bought which means I didn’t have the family outing. However, I did show mom every dress I liked before I purchased. So essentially she was there. We were just looking at my laptop instead. And the bonus? I got two dresses for less than half what most women spend on one. Plus no one will have a dress that looks like mine. :)

Rings 

Oh we purchased rings. We just did it differently. We bought the Mr.’s ring on etsy. I showed him a ring I thought looked like “him” and he got interested in the possibilities of anything besides a gold band. He originally wanted a wood ring but changed his mind to meteorite instead. I can not say how excited I am for him to have a little piece of the universe on his finger. He proposed on one of our shuttle launch excursions so it’s extra special in my mind. As for mine, we didn’t go the traditional wedding band route. I really wanted a band on each side of my engagement ring but I needed them to be narrow since I wanted two of them. I have very small hands and anything large just looks silly on me. The perfect solution? Ladies stacking bands. They happened to have two diamond ones and it worked out perfectly. (Bonus: they’re also less expensive than traditional bands!) You can get them in most any semi-precious stone, too. I almost chose two blue topaz bands. Almost. The Mr. suggested getting those at a later date. I like that idea!

Bouquet

I’ve decided to not carry a bouquet. Most will be surprised since I’m known as an avid flower gardener. I really wanted to do something different plus I don’t have an attendant to hand it off to when we exchange rings. But I’ve found a fabulous substitute that fits perfectly with my vintage dress. You’ll just have to wait to find out what it is! And no I will not be tossing it the single women in attendance!

Garter

No, just no. Even as a kid I found that to be pervy.

No his and hers cakes.

Actually no to cake period. For multiple reasons. First, I dislike his and hers cakes. I’ve never really understood the separation. The bigger reason we’re not having cake is due to our wedding being outside. It may be hot. Or not. The weather changes every 15 minutes in middle Tennessee so one never knows exactly what to expect. I would hate to purchase a cake from my favorite baker only to have it be a pile of buttery goo in the heat. I asked the women in my family if they would bake pies and cobblers to bring for a dessert table. It’s so much more special to have homemade desserts from family and it’s a way for them to be included in the day. In a later post I’ll share what my lovely girlfriends did for us at my shower with regards to cake!

{Wedding}: A word on our outdoor venue

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Snippet of our invite. copyright © Dennis Thompson 2012.

We got really lucky with our venue. My parents own property with an old abandoned farmhouse and we loved the idea of having a bonfire bbq wedding there. As it turns out that’s changing up a bit for two reasons: our guest list is longer than we originally wanted – approximately 150 as opposed to the 100 we were expecting (they add up quickly friends) – and the drought which has made the bonfire part of it sketchy and dangerous for now (though we have been getting rain lately – in July!).

I do a lot of flower gardening and we both loved the idea of being outside in October with the huge oak trees around us. However, if you plan an outdoor wedding you essentially have to plan for two weddings because you MUST have a rain plan. I’ll admit that our rain plan is pathetically simple. Basically just a tent. If it rains we aren’t going to do a lot of fancy, schmancy decorating up of the tent – that gets quite expensive. Our tent is just large enough to accommodate the tables and dance floor and there simply won’t be room for much else.  It will basically be whatever is on the tables and the pickup truck load of pumpkins I plan to purchase from the local pumpkin farm. I know what you’re thinking, “but Jennifer, what if it comes a downpour?” I have of course considered this. A lot. And if it rains I will likely cry, not bridezilla cry mind you, but cry that all of our decorating will be for naught if it rains. We are both creatives and detail people so the decorating part has been quite fun and lengthy in planning. That would mean that all of the months of planning will be tossed out if it rains. But this is what you must understand if you’re going to have an outdoor wedding. You simply have to be okay with the fact that it *might* rain. We chose October not only because it is our favorite month but also because it happens to be the driest month in our part of the country; an obvious choice if you want to be married outside. You plan as much as you can and then you have to let it go.

I’ll go ahead and give you a heads up that tents are expensive. Stupidly expensive if you ask me. It’s a tent not the Taj Mahal. Remember that a tent rental is bare bones which means no lighting so think about that should you want or need lighting. Our rental place utilized a software program to map out the floor plan for us should we have to use the tent. Notice I said “have to”. Ah, that doesn’t mean we are married to the tent rental right? No. Most companies have a cut off for making changes and removing items from your rental agreement. Our vendor allows removal of anything from our rental agreement up to 5 days out which should be plenty of time if there is no rain in the weather forecast. Be sure to ask about the cut off for final changes if, like us, you prefer to have your overhead be decorated by tree tops and sky rather than tent and poles.

{Gardening}: A fritillary landing

 

A fritillary lands on a sunset coneflower. It’s been largely quiet this year in the butterfly garden due to the drought. We’ve been getting rain the last couple of weeks which is really strange for us this time of year. But at least we’re getting some. Too late for much to happen now but I’m thankful for the break from watering to keep everything alive. Plus water from the tap just doesn’t provide the same benefit. The garden has mostly bolted and there isn’t much pretty to see but lots of spent seed heads. The cardinal vines did finally sprout from the rains which will be a lovely shock of color in the coming weeks.

{Wedding}: The guest list

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Snippet from our invitation.
copyright © 2012 Dennis Thompson

I recommend making the guest list before you start venue shopping because it will dictate the size venue you need (not to mention dictating price).

This was easily the most difficult task. At least on my side as I have the larger family. People are notorious for getting their feelings hurt if you don’t invite them to your wedding. I also find this hilarious since most people say they dislike having to go to weddings. I’ve had people invite themselves and UN-invite themselves – both are quite amusing since none of these individuals are actually on the list.

No one can tell you who to invite and who not to invite; that is a row you will have to hoe yourself. However I can offer up some advice: don’t invite everyone you’ve ever known and don’t let your family invite friends who are not your friends. This is YOUR wedding. It should be an occasion of your nearest and dearest supporting you on this journey. It’s not a high school dance and it’s not a performance.

I’ve seen what can happen when you invite people to far on the fringe of your circle. They don’t RSVP by the date; they RSVP with more people than the invitation was addressed; they don’t RSVP at all. If you keep it to the  people with whom you are the closest, the likelihood of reception issues will be lessoned considerably. And don’t have the pastor do a “y’all come” style invite at the end of the ceremony. People who did not RSVP will come and you won’t have enough seats for them. Trust me. I’ve seen it happen.

Remember there are rules to be observed. I recommend reading through them. It is best to know the rules so that if you choose to break any, they were well considered and done so with purpose. Some of these rules are quite necessary; especially with regards to addressing invitations properly. Some rules are ridiculous. My personal ridiculous favorite? The rule that you should invite those who invited you to their wedding. We’re not following that one. I don’t see any reason to invite someone on this basis alone. They may not be a significant part of your life. They might have gone for the concert sized performance wedding and invited everyone they’ve ever known with 23 bridesmaids and 500 attendees. If you only chat through Facebook, chances are they don’t need to be there. Repaying an invite with an invite is archaic.

Last bit of advice, follow the rules when it comes to addressing invites. There is a social code built in and people expect it. Don’t go changing these rules. They are there to avoid confusion. There is no way for people to know who is invited and who isn’t if you don’t have their name on the invite. All adults should receive their own invite either as part of a couple or as an individual. If individuals are allowed a guest, it should say “and Guest” so they know they are welcome to bring a date. Invited children should be named on the invite. If they are not then they are not invited*. See how important this is? It really is important. Don’t try to save money by skimping on the number of invites. I know invitations are expensive. We just sent ours off to be printed and embossed so I am well informed at this point (eep!). If you have more people than your chosen invite budget can accommodate, then you need to choose a less expensive option. You’ll only create confusion and you might not have some people at your wedding simply because they didn’t know you wanted them to share in your day. Besides, there are plenty of online  companies with lovely ready made templates. I’m marrying a graphic designer who also happens to be a typography snob so I knew we would be spending more simply because this is important to him. Figure out what’s important to you and then figure out where you can skimp.

*I feel I must offer a warning here, some families will bring their children regardless of whether the invite includes them or not. Some people just can’t imagine that you wouldn’t want their children at your wedding. The best thing to do is to consult etiquette on how to address this. There is plenty of good info online to address these difficult and delicate situations. 

{Wedding}: It’s our turn

engagement ringCome October of this year my fiance of four years and I are getting married. And we’re planning it ourselves. Madness you say? Perhaps. But we have our reasons: We’re both creatives and love a project; we’re both particular about how we want everything to look; we’re both crazy. Plus we’re trying to not spend a ridiculous amount of money. Though, admittedly, the Mr. keeps saying, “we can hire someone to do that”. And me, “no”.

I’m sharing this info because I decided to blog about our do-it-yourself wedding. I know lots of people go the DIY wedding route but I’ve never seen anyone document what they did along the way. I want to do this so other couples can see just what goes into it should you be control freaks interested in doing it yourself. There is much to consider but there is one thing I know for sure:

there are as many decisions as you want to make.

And that is what you must keep in the forefront of your mind when planning. At the end of the day you need only you, your intended, an officiant, witnesses and a certificate. Everything else is frosting. Remember that when you’re pulling your hair out because you can’t decide what color table cloth to choose or your fiance is dragging his feet on designing your invites. Not that I would know anything about either of those. Ahem.

It’s been wedding year in my family (four weddings to be exact) and I’ve learned a lot simply by watching how my cousins’ navigated their big days. (The Mr. has been known to take notes even!) Feel free to follow along on twitter. My handle is twitter.com/offmyredcarpet. We even have a celebrity style nickname and hashtag courtesy of our friends: jennis (jennifer + dennis). Please ask any questions along the way. I love to help people make their spaces beautiful and I’m happy to do that for you and share what I’ve learned.

{Gardening}: Butterfly misses

Every summer for the last 10 years or so I raise Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies. It began quite by accident when I discovered four plump green caterpillars on a potted fennel plant. I’ve always been observant of nature but raising these beautiful insects made me even more so. I now notice the cyclical nature of wildlife; insects in particular. There are good years and bad years it seems for every species. This season is no different. Sadly, it is not one for butterflies; rather, it is not conducive to raising larger butterflies. Tiger Swallowtails, Easterns, Mourning Cloaks, Pipevines are all few and far between. We’ve had record breaking temps this June when we usually don’t get triple digits until August. The lack of rain has parched the ground, dried up the wildflowers (or caused them to bolt early if luck would have it) and brought the driest of heat that I can remember. To date, I’ve had two caterpillars. Both were in May. I doubt there will be anymore this year. Even the passion vine that is usually a nursery for the Gulf Fritillary is void of its usual orange and black spiked munchers. We need rain. Badly. Not only for the wildlife but for the landscape.

For now, I’ll have to enjoy my precious ‘pillars through previous years pics.

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pudgy baby

Magnificent creatures butterflies are…

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It’s a boy!