our wedding: the reception & goodbye

Here it is: the last wedding post! Finally, after the getting ready and the formals and the ceremony and all that came with it, we come to the part that everybody knows, since we’re all being honest, is the most important: the reception. Oh, how fun.

Our very first thing that Will and I did as a couple was celebrate with our families. We had about three seconds after walking out of sight of our guests before all of our bridal party and family streamed in, and everything exploded into hugging and kissing and laughing all at once. And so we spent a little bit of time together as a new big family (and took a few pictures) while our guests wandered over to the other part of the castle.

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Our reception was set up in the courtyard opposite the ceremony, which was about three feet away and mirrored the first (palm trees and all). We rented long farmhouse tables and set dinner up family-style, so that everybody could get as little or as much food as their heart desired without having to get up and stand in line. On the other side of the courtyard, we had a little dance floor and a lounge area for those who wanted to get off their feet. The wonderful Charleston-based Event Works did our rentals, and my incredible friends set up all the decor beforehand.

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Now, a note about dinner. We loved our food, which was expertly prepared by Carefree Catering and was, really, one of the most talked-about aspects of our wedding. I’ve heard before that it is impossible to have wedding food that tastes anything other than mediocre, at the best. That, my friends, is a lie. Ours ranged from a selection of cornbread style muffins to pulled pork to the best crabcakes in the whole wide world. And thanks to the folks at Carefree, it was truly great in every way.

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I really could not say enough wonderful things about our speeches and toasts. My dad made me laugh, Will’s best man left me inspired, and my maid of honor made me cry big happy tears, to say the least. I felt, and still do, so grateful to have these people in our lives.

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Will’s and my first dance was to “Lucky” by Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz. As I’ve said before, we spent a great deal of our relationship long-distance, and so the song meant quite a bit to us. All I could think about was that we’d never have to say goodbye again. It was sweet and great and just what it should be.

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My dad and I danced to “My Girl” by the Temptations. Ever since I remember, he has been singing that song to me, and so it was chosen without a second thought. The two of us took dance lessons before the wedding (it turns out that my dad is quite the dancer) and so we swirled around the dance floor happily.

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Will and his mom, on the other hand, danced to “How I Love You” by Rob Laufer. Their dance, actually, lasted for only about a minute and a half before Will’s sister ran onto the dance floor to be with the two of them. His brother was waved over and then I, after being reminded that I was now a part of their family, joined them. The whole affair caused a great mixture of laughter and tears.

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And then things went the way that receptions normally go. The dance floor was opened, the cake was served, and we simply celebrated.

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I do want to take a moment, being a sweets-sort-of-girl, to celebrate our desserts. Our cake was wonderfully done by Myra at Incredible Edibles, and was a brown sugar cake with salted caramel + chocolate ganache with toffee bits. We also served a buttermilk cake with fresh peach conserve filling, so that guests could choose between something a little more heavy and something on the lighter side. Both, in my humble opinion, were delicious.

At some point in the wedding planning process, I had also had an idea for a custom-done sammy cart, where guests could choose from a variety of ice creams and cookies, and then have somebody make a ice cream cookie sandwich right in front of them. To my dismay, I couldn’t find anybody in the area who offered the service, or would even consider it. That is, until I found Bruster’s Ice Cream. These incredible people listened to my ideas and responded simply with, “We’ll make it work”. And they did. Our cookie options were Triple Chocolate, White Chocolate Macadamia, Peanut Butter, and Almond Butter, plus Brownies. And our ice cream flavors were Butter Pecan, Mango Ginger, Hershey’s Dark Chocolate, and Black Raspberry. It was so delightful to see my thoughts bloom into real life, and of course, we loved our sammies at the wedding.
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And then we danced. And danced. And talked to our family and friends. And danced.

The whole reception felt carefree and alive, with lights twinkling above and the sea breeze sweeping through every few minutes. Our grandparents sat on lounge chairs and sipped sweet tea, while my young cousins swirled around the dance floor. People ate lots and laughed lots and, of course, did the Cha Cha Slide and Gangnam Style and whatever else they thought of. I hope that our guests felt appreciated and honored and joyful, and that it was a night worth remembering for them, each in their own way. I, for one, was deliriously happy.

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When it was time to go, I changed into a little dress from Anthropologie’s BHLDN collection, and our guests all gathered with sparklers. Will and I walked along the pathway as they all smiled and waved and said goodbye, and then he surprised me by spinning me around, to finish it all up. And then we drove off into the dark. It was a gorgeous end to it all, and we felt loved beyond measure as we set off into our new life together.

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Well, friends, this is the end. Thank you, a thousand times, for reading. Our wedding was incredible and I know that for me, it has been great fun reliving it with you… but now I must admit that in the end, it was just one day. And so I’m off to write about every other crazy, thought-provoking, sweet thing that life has to offer. Adieu, for now. I’ll hope I’ll see you next time.

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p.s. Thanks, once again, to Nancy Ray Photography. You’re the best.

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our wedding: my vows

William David Middlebrook, today, on our wedding day, I promise to honor you, cherish you, and hold you in my heart
. For now and for always, I will accept you for all that you are, encouraging your individuality and embracing you in all your complexity. I promise to listen to you, to seek your opinions and trust your judgments
, and to honor your desires as I would my own. I will savor our time together and, to the best of my ability, choose patience over nagging, gratitude over complaining, and forgiveness over bitterness each day. I vow to be open and honest with you, to always seek to learn more about you, to be your best friend. I promise to smile at you, to encourage you, to surprise you, and to seek new ways to bless you. In every way that I can, I will lift you up. I will be generous in my laughter, effusive in my affection, and unyielding in my fidelity. No matter what comes our way- in times of delight, in the fullness of dreams, in moments of sorrow, conflict, or loss- I promise to stand by you as we together seek to honor God with this life. Today, in the presence of the Lord and of our family and friends, I vow to do all this and more, to be your wife and only yours.

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our wedding: the ceremony

I want to begin this post by saying “thank you” to all of you who have taken the time to look through our wedding photos. It really has been so much fun to share them with you, and your sweet words and encouragement are very much appreciated. So thank you. And welcome to part III: the ceremony! All in all, Will and I had a small wedding, with just under 80 people. Our ceremony was intimate and sweet, with our closest friends and family gathered together amid the palm trees, each ready to love and support us from the beginning of our marriage onwards. To be honest, most of what I remember from this time is simply feelings- waves of wonder and awe and rightness at finally getting married, a sense of gratitude for the presence of those around me, excitement and happiness and pride… all blended together in such a way that it is hard to define it even now, over four months later.

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Before the ceremony began, our guests gathered in the same little courtyard where we would read our vows. They signed our guestbook- a gorgeous thumbprint tree handpainted by PaperTwig on Etsy- and spoke soft words and peeked around corners to wave to me as I waited in an adjacent room. We had asked one of my dearest friends, also, to facilitate a ring-warming during this time. As our friends and family entered the area, she offered them a chance to silently “warm” our rings with their blessing, prayers, and wishes for our marriage. In between guests, she prayed over them with her own prayers, and so blessed us beyond measure. When I look back, this is another one of those decisions that I am oh-so-thankful we made… it made our ceremony feel even more intimate and sweet and consecrated.

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We began the ceremony, as most people do, with a song. The processional was lead by our grandmothers and mothers, who walked down the aisle to “Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop” by Landon Pigg. Aren’t they lovely?

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They were followed by our bridal party…. when it was time for them to walk down the aisle, the song “Let the Words Escape” by Chris Rice began. In my opinion, this song is one of the most beautiful ones out there (and is the inspiration behind the name of the blog, too). It opens, “Love, how did I find you?/ Was I even breathing before I knew your name?/ Who could ever have planned this?/ Arranged the whole planet to all turn out this way?“, and just gets even more gorgeous from there. My dad walked me down the aisle, and we came around the corner as the music crescendoed (“I love you/ How can I say/ I love you?/ Let the words escape”).

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I mentioned in another post that we had decided upon an unplugged wedding, and that we loved the difference it made in our day. Before the ceremony, we asked our guests to avoid using cameras and cell phones throughout the wedding. This way, they could be fully present and fully focused during both the ceremony and reception, and we would be able to see our loved ones faces’ rather than a bunch of cameras and phones pointed our way. It was wonderful. Truly, truly, truly wonderful.

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In truth, one of the things that stands out most about our ceremony was, well, how hot it was. Throughout most of the sermon, I was actually very close to fainting… between the sun and the standing and the gown and the heels, I was mostly preoccupied with trying to stay conscious. As soon as we began to say our vows, though, my mind cleared. We were able to complete the ceremony without any major incident, and I was kept very well hydrated throughout the rest of the night. But honestly and truly, the fact that our wedding was flawed did not put even the smallest dent in all of those sweet feelings I mentioned earlier- the excitement and gratitude and joy. In fact, it perhaps served to strengthen them even more. Our wedding was not some sort of show, where everything just had to go off without a hitch. Instead, it was hot. It was very hot. And that made it all the better.

Plus, at the end of it all, we become husband and wife.

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our wedding: the formals

As promised, it’s time for part II of our wedding photos… yay!

There are certain things, when I look back at our wedding day, that I am 100% grateful that we decided to do. Getting comfy sandals to change into during the reception, for example, or having an unplugged wedding (more on that later). Doing a “first look” was one of those decisions. Will and I were both so incredibly thankful that we went this route! It was such a blessed, quiet, joyful time, where the two of us could really connect before the craziness of the day. We hugged and kissed and told each other “I love you” a thousand times, and I could not be more grateful for those moments.

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Aren’t our friends just wonderful? I could never tell you how lovely, how supportive, and how encouraging they are all. Here’s a little post celebrating the bridal party, if you want to know more. Needless to say, I felt so blessed to have them all by my side.

After the ceremony, we took formal family photos… where Will and I spent lots of time hugging all of the people we love.

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And then the two of us had some “oh my goodness, we’re married!” time together. Hence, the looking-at-the-ring, smiling-like-crazy, on-the-verge-of-tears photos below. Oh, and that sign behind us? That’s custom-made by a lovely Etsy seller, Teressa. It’s a verse from Song of Solomon (4:3), and reads “I have found the one whom my soul loves”.

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And that’s us! I feel so grateful that our day included sweet time with both my husband and our dearest friends, where we could smile all we wanted… and especially that Nancy was there to catch it all! It was a gorgeous time.

My next post will move a little backwards- there, I’ll share all about the ceremony. For that, though, you have to wait. At least, for a little while.

p.s. As for credits, I should mention that the fabulous Flowers on Broadway did our boutonnieres and bouquets. They did, in my opinion, an incredible job.

our wedding: getting ready

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How could I ever begin to describe our wedding? It was, in each and every way, perfect. I could have never hoped for a more beautiful day, for more laughter, for more love and support from our incredible friends and family. Thanks to the lovely Nancy Ray of Nancy Ray Photography and her husband, we have absolutely gorgeous photos of every moment.

Both the ceremony and reception took place at Atalaya Castle, in Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, SC. This beautiful beachside structure was originally the winter home of the philanthropist Archer Huntington and his wife, sculpter Anna Huntington. It’s a gorgeous of square of corridors and rooms, with two palm-lined courtyards in the middle, close enough to the beach to hear the waves.

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Our programs (pictured at top) were designed by Kacey from the Etsy shop HooplaLova. The invitation suite (directly above) was designed jointly by myself and my mother-in-law. Needless to say, she’s quite incredible.

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Will and I were so lucky to have wonderful friends, who flew across the country- from California and Texas and Illinois- to love on us for this day. Ami, of Ami Bridal Creations took care of both my hair and airbrush makeup, and was kind and attentive and incredibly talented. She did an excellent job and made me feel more beautiful than I have ever felt.

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And such was our “getting ready” process. It was a lovely time, full of anticipation and smiles and hope and “are you excited?”s; of me checking to make sure, for the twentieth time, that I had my vows; of peeking out into the courtyard to see guests arriving. And as for what comes next… well, you’ll have to wait for the next post for that.

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p.s. For those of you who might be wondering, my dress was Wtoo’s Camilla, my hairpiece was from Etsy’s Silver Pencils, and my shoes were by rsvp from Zappos. The groomsmen, on the other hand, were wearing Perry Ellis Suit Separates.

a poem for you

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To laugh often and much;

to win the respect of intelligent people

and the affection of children;

to earn the appreciation of honest critics

and to endure the betrayal of false friends.

To appreciate beauty;

to find the best in others;

to leave the world a bit better

whether by a healthy child, a garden patch,

or a redeemed social condition;

to know that even one life has breathed easier

because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

– Bessie A. Stanley.

p.s. photo here.

relationship tidbits: silence and respect

Here is my rule, one that I very much believe in and do my best to live out and would recommend to anybody who is in a serious (and healthy) relationship:

Never speak badly about my husband.

When I made my vows, I promised to love Will, to seek goodness for him, to build him up and treat him with respect. I vowed to be his partner and his confidante, his faithful lover. I promised forgiveness and patience and gratitude. Complaining about him to my friends or my mom or to my co-workers… that is the very opposite of those things.

Yes, there are times when I feel tired, annoyed, or upset with Will. We fight (often). Sometimes, he makes me cry. Other times, his habits get on my nerves. We grate on each other, we annoy each other, we anger each other just like any other couple. But, instead of venting about those things, I choose to uphold my marriage vows. I cannot imagine how humiliated I would be if I overheard Will complaining about me to a friend…. and I would never want to place him in a similar situation. Instead, he deserves my honor and my respect. No matter how innocuous it may seem, I will not put him down in front of others. I will not place him in a position to be ridiculed. I will not lower somebody else’s (well-earned) opinion of him.

The two of us are tied together, with our lives and our beings and our desires intertwined… so much so that I cannot imagine pulling away from “us” to belittle him in front of others. If something needs to be said, it should be said between Will and I, not vented to a third party. If it cannot be resolved between just the two of us, it is time to go (together) to a mentor or to a counselor. Outside of those situations, venting is simply damaging. As I have said before, making our relationship public would not do anybody good.  Instead, my mantra: silence and honor and respect. Our relationship, I believe, is well worth holding my tongue.

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p.s. photo here.

p.s.s want more tidbits? try these.

the joy of toddlerdom

Let me preface this by saying that I do not have kids…

…But, I do work with two-year-olds.

Fourteen two-year-olds, to be exact. Little balls of energy who are constantly running into each other, getting stuck on things, taking toys from their friends, pulling off their shoes (and then crying when they can’t get them back on), throwing food on the floor, having tantrums, biting everything (and everyone) in sight, and just generally being little tornados of craziness.

And thus, I feel qualified to laugh when I read these websites. Because I understand. And I thought it might make a few of you nod your heads as well.

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Reasons Why My Son Is Crying

Reasons Why Kids Are the Actually The Worst

The Honest Toddler

46 Reasons My Three Year Old Might Be Freaking Out

It helps to have a little humor, right? It’s one of my favorite coping mechanisms, when I am trying to potty train, clean up after lunch, and keep them all from hurting each other at the same time.

p.s. Has anybody heard of this stuff? I’d love to see it in practice, but of course I can’t use it in a daycare. Pros? Cons?

p.s.s. Of course, I love children. I think that there is plenty to be said, too, about why kids act the way they do, and how to address said situations in a healthy manner. If you’re interested, here is an insightful article on why toddlers are so prone to tantrums. It helps (me, at least) to try to understand what exactly their little minds are going through.

humans of new york

Have you guys seen this site? I discovered it the other day, and now I can’t stop absorbing everything it has to offer.

“Humans of New York” is a photojournalistic effort to portray the humanity of those people around us- you know, those people who pass you on the street, who stand behind you in line at the DMV, who work in the office downstairs- the people you never think about. The photographer, Brandon, takes beautiful photos of people he sees around New York City, and then interviews them for a short quotation or story. The snippets range from heartbreaking to warming to laugh-out-loud-funny. It is absolutely gripping.

You see, I’ve discovered recently how often it is that we forget that other people are humans. Something about our society makes it acceptable, and we forget that the people around us have lives outside of the setting in which we interact with them. We don’t think about the fact that they have thoughts and dreams and hopes and stories. We see them only as they relate to us, and forget that they are the center of their own world, just like you are the locus around which all of your thoughts are oriented. When I worked in customer service, it was not uncommon for people to hang up on me, to berate me, to treat me as if I was some machine with no motivations other than the desire to take their money. They were rude and mean and sometimes even wrote bad things about me on the Internet. And I truly believe that it is because they forgot. They forgot that I had feelings. They never considered that I left work at the end of the day, changed into my pajamas, and laid in bed thinking about what they said and how they acted.

That, I believe, is why I love “Humans of New York” so much.

Because it’s a reminder.

And I think we all need to be reminded.

Here is a sample of his work:

tumblr_mq74l8gtFt1qggwnvo1_1280“Once, I was in a talent show, and at the end, everyone stood up and clapped!”

tumblr_mpk144ckjm1qggwnvo1_1280“I’m a chef.” “So tell me something you’ve learned as a chef that also applies to life in general.””…if you don’t eat, you’ll die.”

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“Why were you homeless?” “It just got to a point where my mom couldn’t maintain anymore. The sad part was that it was during high school. So I had to keep it a secret. Cause, you know, it’s high school.”

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I asked his favorite thing about his son, and he replied: “That he’s very loving.” Hearing this, the boy asked: “What about basketball?” The dad answered: “I like that you’re good at basketball. But my favorite thing is that you’re very loving.”

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“I’m going home to see my mother.” “Oh, is it her birthday?” “Nope. I just love my mother, and she loves flowers.”

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“We’ve been friends since we were 13.” “What’s the most fun you’ve ever had together?” “Oh, we don’t know…” “Well, what’s the hardest you’ve ever laughed together?” “Now you listen here! I want you to write down these questions you’re asking us, pull them out when you’re 85 years old, and see if you can answer them yourself!”

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“My town in Colombia is very beautiful. I don’t travel because I want to leave my home. I travel because I need to know why I’m staying.”

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“After this I go to work at a pizza shop. My wife and I were college professors in Bangladesh. I taught accounting. But one dollar in America becomes eighty dollars when we send it back home.”

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“She’s compassionate.” “Tell me about a time she was compassionate.” He took a couple minutes, then said, haltingly: “It’s not about a time. She’s compassionate toward who I am. Every time.”

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“It was easier than I thought it’d be.”

on wedding planning

I feel pretty proud about my wedding planning skills.

I mean, I certainly wasn’t perfect…. I had my moments of stress throughout our 15 months of engagement. But overall, piecing our wedding day together was an exciting, delightful, and deeply satisfying process for me. And when I look back at that time, there are a few select things that really made the difference between feeling organized & confident & put together, and feeling overwhelmed & underprepared.

Now, part of me is already rolling my eyes at myself, for putting together a list like this. Isn’t it a little presumptuous to assume that my advice can be of use anybody at all? But here is my blogging philosophy: if any of my tips or tricks or methods helps, even in the least, just one of you brides-to-be out there, well, then it’s worth writing about. So, here were my most helpful resources. The tools & the tricks, the needle and thread, that made my wedding possible.

1) Pinterest.com was, by far, one of my favorite wedding planning sites. I didn’t use it in a this-is-exactly-what-I-want-and-if-it’s-not-that-way-I-will-die sort of way. Instead, I simply pinned anything that caught my eye, without considering whether it was what I wanted. That was this board (and I began this process well over a year before Will & I were engaged). And then, once we got engaged, I organized it all into boards by subject…”the paper”, the flowers”, “the food”, and so on and so forth. And here’s the amazing thing: there were patterns. It turned out that I wanted an updo. How do I know this? Because every single one of my “the hair” pins looked exactly the same. I showed my “the cake” board to my baker during our initial consult: she took one look at it and said “So, you want a round, tiered, white buttercream cake with sugar flowers?”. Using Pinterest enabled me to identify what it was that I loved. And that took so much pressure off the decision-making process, because I already had confirmation that I could live with (and delight in) the choices.

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2) I found WeddingWire.com especially helpful for looking through vendor reviews. I used the site to find my incredible makeup artist and stylist, to consult about my caterer, and to confirm our decision on a photographer. I didn’t, however, use any of their other tools, mostly because I was perfectly happy with theKnot.com (see below)… plus, when I skimmed through them, I mostly felt pretty “eh” about it all. And I tend to trust my instinct on things like that.

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3) Speaking of  TheKnot.com… I  would highly recommend signing up as soon as you get engaged. I loved it. Specifically, I loved the individualized “My Checklist” and “My Guest List” portions. Plus, there’s a countdown feature on the homepage, which is always a happy thing.

– “My Checklist” appealed to my type-A, organized, cross-it-off-the-list personality at its very core. It is a detailed, exhaustive account of pretty much everything you could need to do before (and after) the wedding. Every other list I found was vague and spotty… with this one, I felt assured that there was nothing I had to remember, because it was all written down and organized, with all the “to-dos” in one place. It’s also totally customizable, which meant that I could add random things like “Pay 90-day payment to photographer” or “Buy sparklers for the exit” or “Make kraft paper signs for the reception”. And I could remove those things that didn’t apply to me, or move the order around as I saw fit. I should make a note, though, that it operates on a due date system, where it puts a little alarm clock beside all the items that you don’t check off “in time”. Brides: you will NOT do it all in time! As for me, I mostly just tried to ignore the clocks and see it as a general timeline.

-“My Guest List” was also a pretty incredible tool. All you have to do is input the guests’ names and addresses, and then you have a brilliant way of keeping track of the RSVPs, the seating chart, the gifts, and the thank-you notes (among other things). It was, truly, a lifesaver. Each time I got an RSVP in the mail, I simply logged on and pressed “Accepted” or “Declined”. TheKnot automatically kept track of how many people would attend the wedding and generated a customizable seating chart. When we received a gift, I entered it beside the person’s name, and then when I dropped the thank-you note in the mail, I just checked the box that said “Thank You Sent”. It kept everything clear and simple. And here’s the fact: even though I thought I would be able to remember it all (what kind of terrible person doesn’t remember whether her great-aunt RSVPed?), I couldn’t. And so, like I said, it was a lifesaver.

Another note about TheKnot.com: although the community boards can be helpful, I would make sure to put on a tough skin before you post anything. Many (many) of the regulars who post here are more than a little condescending and simply mean. I hate to say it, but I really feel like I need to warn you. I almost cried the first time they responded to one of my questions.

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4) The one thing that I couldn’t find online was a thorough, flexible budget application. So… I made one. Click here to download a draft of my Excel wedding budget. Obviously, we didn’t actually use all of the budgeted items on this sheet (no calligrapher for us!). But I figured it’s better, for these purposes, to include something than leave it off. So go ahead and make it your own: change the sections, hide rows, alter columns… whatever it takes for you to feel comfortable. Then,  insert your budgeted numbers, and let Excel do the rest.  I hope it helps!

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5) And last, but not least, I loved my handy dandy pocket accordion file. I picked it up on a whim from Staples, and ended up using from the first venue meeting it all the way until last week (when I sold my wedding dress). This was perfect for all the little pieces of paper that you gather when wedding planning: from random business cards to receipts of purchase to copies of contracts. I kept it in my car, so that it was easily accessible everytime I went to a vendor meeting and walked out with a handful of papers. Yay for organization!

 

So, there you go. There’s not much more to say… except, happy planning! I hope that your engagement is filled with all the goodness that the season has to offer. And may you always be checking things off your list.