Friday, December 19, 2008

i am a lucky girl

Our wedding was chosen for the next issue of Brides Chicago magazine! Here is a sneak peak, courtesy of my photographer, Dean Thorsen. Thanks, Dean, for making a bite size image for the post.


There is a little more on Charlene's blog, too. I am still waiting (impatiently! ;) for my hard copy. The digital version will have to work for now. It is so surreal to see your wedding photos laid out in this way, and to read captions like "Natalie and Jake chose this because." It has been very exciting!

If you live in the Chicago area, look out for the real deal on December 23rd!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

to my chicago girls


and boys- are you out there?

Last year, at the encouragement of Weddingbee's Mrs. Jasmine, my mom and I participated in the Sun Times' Letters to Santa project. The program pairs local Chicago children with volunteer Santas. These children are from low-income areas and may not receive a Christmas gift this year. As Santa, I was asked to buy a $25-30 gift. I received an adorable hand-written and illustrated letter from Jose, sweetly asking for a pair of Heelys or "books and stuff." The kid knew what he wanted and, fortunately, it was in my price range!

I can't even tell you how much fun we had buying, wrapping and shipping those gifts. I was even invited to write a note from Santa, telling Jose to be a good boy this year. I know that material goods aren't the most important thing, but I cannot give Jose peace or stability. I just gave him a little hope that Santa exists and that there is someone out there watching out for him. My letter this year (from Cruz) was just as adorable. He even clipped a coupon from Toys R Us for me :)

Anyway, with this crappy economy and normal holiday stress, this project might give you a little holiday cheer. Even if you don't live in the Chicago area, I guarantee that you will feel a little holly jolly when you send off that gift.

The Sun Times is currently short 7,471 Santas. Ho, ho, ho?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

a dress that could have changed it all

I have been slacking on the blog lately, but this dress forced me to post immediately.

Reem Acra Gown

This would have changed my entire wedding. Winter wedding, pale blues and silvers, hopefully some fresh snow. I am not sold on the billowy arm cuffs, but the rest of this dress is completely perfect.

If you live in the Chicago area, Belle Vie is hosting Reem Acra and Justina McCaffrey trunk shows this weekend and next. You could go see this dress in person! They have a beautiful salon, and with Vera Wang a few floors down, it could be quite a weekend.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

jennifer behr deal!

One more teeny little Daily Candy post! One year ago, Daily Candy posted a discount code for a Jennifer Behr hairpiece. I had been drooling over a few of her bridal pieces and I could finally close the deal. Just in case you are in the same boat, they are running the deal once again! You need to sign up for one of the DC newsletters if you haven't already. You won't regret it, I promise.

I chose the top left piece. Here she is in action!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

my secrets: our bouquets

I loved my flowers. Loved, loved, loved my flowers. Viviana at Petal Play Design was definitely able to compensate for peonies being out of season. I am so glad that Dean captured so many gorgeous photos of them. Get ready for lots of photos of my bouquet. Some butthead took it home with them and broke my heart. I can only relieve this pain by staring at these photos. :(


Flowers die, so I shouldn't be that sad about losing my bouquet. What I am very sad about is losing the little charm and the rosary that were wrapped around it. My Grampy made me the rosary just for that day. The charm (made by Romero Designs- I highly recommend them!) was of my Great Gram Kirby, my Grammy, my mom and me. My Great Gram Kirby and Grammy passed away shortly after this photo was taken. I loved having it attached to me most of the day. They are both now lying in someone's trash. I've spent way too much time crying about that, so back to happier photos!

Seeing my bouquet for the first time while I get un-bustled.

My back-up singers and their bouquets. Think it oh-oh-ver...

The junior bridesmaid bouquet.

Jake's boutonniere.

My brothers and their bouts. They were trying to take a funky picture of their cufflinks.

Everyone together now!

More flowers next time!

daily candy's wedding guide

Twice a year, Daily Candy releases their wedding guide. I received two guides in my inbox this morning. They featured a few up-and-coming wedding vendors in the Chicago version (some a surprise, some not so much). The everywhere version highlights more general ideas to jazz up your event but keep the budget small. I definitely took advantage of loan value! Go check it out, and then peruse the other editions for inspiration when you have a moment.

Featured Chicago florist, Simply Flowers.

Friday, October 17, 2008

making the best of the rainy day

In honor of all the rain we are supposed to get in Chicago today, I wanted to share these beautiful photos that I found on Laura Novak's blog of Matt and Carol's wedding.

I truly love this photo. That car is fabulous.



my secrets: our photobooth and guest book

The photobooth was really Jake's idea. I thought they sounded like fun, but I wasn't sure if we needed it or how it would work. He did the research, found a great company and booked it. He even made a logo for us to add to the bottom of the photobooth strips. What a man, I tell you. Our guests LOVED it and I have such a crush on my guestbook.

The booth had an attendant who monitored the activity and printed the strips. Each group received two strips- one for them, one for our guestbook. The attendant made sure that they knew what to do. I bought a Kolo book from Paper Source along with an extra set of pages along with some colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, two rolls of double sided tape and an eraser. The photobooth was set up on one of the two balconys branching off of the main dining area, which meant gorgeous views of the city while you were waiting for your chance in the booth. It was also quite close to the candy bar. Party time!


We added one of my favorite photos from Erin's wedding to the cover.

You have to click on that image to really see the adorableness that is Jake's parents. We found these photobooth pictures while compiling the rehearsal dinner slideshow. His mom had written a note on the back with a few details about the photo. Unfortunately, the middle photo has been removed and is now missing, so we only know that it was in the 50's and that they were going to see a movie. Sigh, so darn cute!

We brought some props, but only a few people used them. They all loved the colored pencils, though! Here are a few of my favorite pages. Click to enlarge and get the full effect.

My bridesmaids made this work of art for me. Don't ask about the political stuff, lets just say that it was a theme at both the ceremony and the reception! The photobooth shots were taken after this lovely photo.

The top set is of a few of my favorite relatives, including my Grampy. The bottom photo is kind of hilarious, with my cousin Mike and his new wife Jessica.

My cutie parents.

I give a thumbs up to the very popular wedding photobooth. The images will give us the giggles for years to come.

happy wedding day, tina & andy!

Fellow Chicago blogger Tina from with this ring, i thee obsess is getting married today! Everyone needs to send her good vibes so that the rain holds off today. Congratulations! I can't wait to hear all about it and see all the gorgeous photos!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

my secrets: our gifts

A few months before Jake and I were engaged, a friend from work got married. Her very sweet husband bought her a cocktail ring with an orange stone as a wedding gift. They met at the University of Illinois (whose colors are orange and blue) and were married in October with bright, fall wedding colors, so this was a perfect gift. I came home going on and on about that beautiful ring. Jake must have been listening. He surprised me with a little something blue the day before our wedding.

My blue ring, my Grammy's wedding band, and my engagement ring.

Blue is my absolute favorite color. I chose not to use it in the wedding for a variety of reasons, but it was so nice to have a little something blue on my finger (and on my feet!)

He also bought me a very sweet and understated necklace with a quote from Goethe inscribed "Nothing is worth more than this day." Awwww... I felt so special wearing both the morning of the wedding.

The necklace had a small, red stone and a silver, inscribed oval hanging from the delicate chain.

Showing my rings to two of Jake's sisters.

Jake is a big fan of the French cuff shirt and he has started to acquire a nice collection of cuff links. It seemed fitting that I buy him a special pair for the wedding day. I found a pair of locket cufflinks on Red Envelope and snapped them up during a sale. I put photos of us, his parents on their wedding day, our puppy and our new home inside. Jake had already decided to wear his father's wedding day cufflinks that morning, so, rather than chose between the two, he wore one of each.

I love this photo because Jake looks so happy and excited for everything that is going on that day. I also love it because my brother-in-law is tying my brother's bow tie for him in the background. There is nothing sweeter than seeing our families together like that. I still can't get over how handsome Jake looked that day. He should wear tuxedoes more often.

Not everyone gives wedding gifts, I realize. A sweet note that morning could be just as sentimental. Jake and I love giving each other little gifts, so trying to find something that our future spouse would wear that day was exciting. Did you exchange gifts with your fiance before the wedding? Was the gift a surprise?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

our bridesmaid dresses


I've received quite a few questions about the bridesmaid dresses. We ordered them from Simple Silhouettes, in aubergine. The selection of this color actually set my wedding colors down a whole new path. I had originally thought of chocolate brown dresses, but this color is rich and warm and still in that color family. My sister/Maid of Honor/stylist Elise chose it the day we chose the bridesmaid dresses and I am very grateful. It looked gorgeous with the leafy green, gold and pale pink

We purchased the dresses through an awesome little shop in Chicago- Vegas to Venice. The owner of the shop, Michalena, and one of her associates actually brought the dresses to us for selection and fitting. My mom and I held a brunch for my bridesmaids and we picked through fabric samples and styles. I wanted each bridesmaid to pick out her own style. My requirements were that they were all the same color (to be determined that day) and a similar length- although if someone felt strongly that they wanted a long dress, I wasn't about to argue!

It was coincidence that there were only three dresses chosen, each with two bridesmaids to wear it. It was also coincidence that the two moms in the group both chose halter dresses. And that my friend who is the most experimental with fashion and my most preppy, conservative, JCrew loving friend chose the same boatneck dress. My sister and my high school friend chose a more daring neckline with ruffles that really showed off the gorgeous silk fabric. For the beautiful little junior bridesmaid, my mom was able to buy a few yards of fabric directly from Simple Silhouettes. She made the dress to match the flower girl dresses and it turned out beautifully.

For a little review- Michalena was fabulous. The customer service was top notch. The dresses arrived right on time and fit most of the bridesmaids on the first try. The brunch/modeling session was so much fun and made everything so simple. It is one of my favorite memories from wedding planning. She carries quite a few lines of dresses, so if you are in Chicago, call her! Although I can't say much about Simple Silhouettes customer service as Michalena did all the ordering, I loved their dresses. They were cut in a very flattering way and the fabric was GORGEOUS. It didn't hurt that my bridesmaids were gorgeous, as well!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

oh.my.goodness

I have a confession. I pretty much gave up on reading blogs- celebrity gossip, design, home and garden, and definitely wedding- about two weeks before the wedding. I was totally overloaded with a new job and way too many DIY projects. Plus, even with only two weeks to go, I was still second guessing my wedding decisions. I needed to ignore my blog addiction for a bit. Then, during the first few days of our honeymoon, the hard drive on my laptop quit. Reading blogs from the hotel business center is not fun. I came home and started work/demo on our new house almost immediately. Hence, I am so not caught up on the wedding blog world.

I spent a few hours today trying to get caught up from my parent's computer. I was only able to make a small dent in my Google Reader. I missed so many sweet notes about our wedding. I have missed so many of my favorite bloggers weddings. And, I swear, there are 100 new fun wedding blogs that I have been created in the past two months. My newly engaged self is sooo jealous of my married self because of all the goodies I get to read. Its okay, honey. It will all turn out perfectly!

Naive little us, just after the engagement.

So, hello to all you newbies! Feel free to leave your site address in the comments :) What is your favorite new blog?

sometimes the best ideas come from procrastination

I wasn't all that interested in how we cut our cake. With the 71,000 details that I had swimming in my brain, this hit the bottom of the list. I thought about just renting something along with our other dinnerware. We were gifted a be-ribboned knife and server, but it wasn't really our style. We registered for a cake server but, although it had been purchased, we hadn't yet received it by the time of the wedding. During that last week, my mom and I tried to brainstorm something somewhat attractive but very easy that we could use to cut our cake. She went digging in her dining room buffet and found this.

She and my dad had their names and their wedding date engraved on their cake knife. She lent it to me, adding another "old and borrowed" item to our wedding day. Afterwards, we came up with the idea of having Jake and my names and our wedding date engraved into the back. We will use small letters so that my three siblings can do the same. A family heirloom invented, on the spot.

my secrets: the cake

When it came to my cake, this is what I had in mind.

In order to achieve this look, I purchased a mold from Decorate the Cake and brought it to my baker. She seemed pretty confident that she could pull it off. She even tested a bit while I waited to see how it would turn out. She planned to use the mold to create the design on each layer by removing sections. Hopefully, this would create a new design on each layer. It didn't turn out exactly as I was hoping. The layers were quite thick, far from the delicate lace I was hoping for. I didn't actually realize how poorly this was executed until just this moment, comparing the photos.

My cake was absolutely saved by my cake topper.

How sweet are those little birds? My aunt made them from her handmade alpaca wool, using alpacas from another Aunt and Uncle's farm. She made the hat, just in case you were wondering. All the little pieces were borrowed from other super crafty projects that she had going on around the house. My uncle created the legs out of a strong metal wire, allowing them to nestle perfectly in the top of my cake. They were made with so much care and love, how could they not fix my sad and saggy cake?

Me and my crafty Aunt/Godmother Denise

I do want to mention that the cake was delicious, even if the design did not live up to Martha's standards. It was very soft and perfectly sweet.

the secrets: food and booze

This post isn't destined to be the most thrilling- either in photography or content- but I know that we had such a hard time deciding on our menu. I thought this might be helpful! All photos by Thorsen Photography.

Jake and I wanted to make the food as easy as possible. Although we truly trusted Calihan Catering, we had been to too many events with seared tuna on a wasabi cracker. We wanted simple, comfort food and that was exactly what was delivered.

Pigs in blankets, with "fancy" mustard. Jake makes these at home all the time, so it was a sweet, kind of silly homage to his cooking skills. The rosemary sprig really classes it up, no?

Mini cheeseburgers. These were (according to the red meat eating guests) totally delicious. There was a fresh slice of roma tomato on each burger. We also served pretzel bites with mustard (my favorite) and little slices of pizza.

Our signature cocktails were margaritas (my specialty) and Fat Tire Beer. This is where things got a little wonky, and it was one of the few places where one of my vendors messed up. I was told that they were ordering 2 cases of Fat Tire in 30 oz. bottles. Once poured into smaller glasses, that should have been more than enough for everyone to get a taste of our favorite beer and then some. Instead, 2 cases were ordered and the catering staff started handing out bottles. I thought that I had received a bottle because I was special. The Fat Tire ran out way too quickly and very few guests even realized that there was a specialty beer. Sad... but not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

My mom was making fun of me for drinking beer out of a bottle. "But Mom, look how pretty the bottle is!"

I also didn't realize that they were going to be using icky margarita mix with inexpensive tequila. They look pretty, even without my requested salt. My poor Grampy loves a good margarita and he wasn't able to finish his.

I don't have any photos of dinner, but it was yummy! For the salad, we served a small greens salad with a little mug full of yummy tomato basil soup and two wedges of grilled cheese. Aside from a few guests thinking that the soup was salad dressing, it went over really well! The head table could all join the clean plate club. We chose a stuffed chicken breast (they left part of the bone in, keeping it juicier) with sweet potato fries, asparagus and roasted cherry tomatoes.

The late night snacks were a hit in miniature form- little shamrock shakes and bite size reuben sandwiches. My dad and I anxiously await those green shakes every year, so it was fun to have them passed on trays during their off season. McDonald's should be on watch!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

another sneaky peek

This photo captures all of my bridesmaids before we head into the photo booth. My sister Elise realized, perhaps for the first time that night, that her family had just tripled in size. She was calling Jake's sisters "SISSSTA!!!" and brothers-in-law "BROOOTHER!!!" all night, and they were serving it right back to her. I believe this photo was taken mid-sister chant, with my bridesmaids chiming in.

Elise, with the cute Twigs & Honey hair piece, and Vicki in the center.
Image from Thorsen Photography

the secrets: paper, v. 2

(Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Dean Thorsen)

the secrets: paper, v.1

Lastly in paper, escort cards and table numbers.

Inspiration from Saipua.


Reality from my head.

This was the first place finisher in the "surprise curveball at the end" category of wedding craziness. The goal was to attach the placecards to the metal garden stakes in such a way that they could easily be removed by our guests. We didn't want any injuries if everyone was walking around with sharp metal object. Our plan was to use removable glue dots to stick the cards to the stakes. They kept falling off and the placecards would not lie flat. We tried more glue dots, magnets and string. We realized Elmer's Glue would do the trick, although we still weren't sure how to close the placecards. A hole punch and ribbon may have seemed like overkill several weeks prior, but they worked in a pinch.

Yes, we grew our own boxes of moss. We crazy! But, they are still blooming in my mom's backyard and they look lovely. My dad built the boxes and white washed them.

I wish I had the talent to have made these, but alas, I am no artist. I bought the cards from Paper Source and the easels from Hobby Lobby. My original plan was to frame old wedding photos of our parents and grandparents. I scratched this idea when I came up very short on photos from Jake's side. Plan B were these sweet "counting cards," each with a different bird highlighted.

Our candy bar was not your typical candy bar. Candies were chosen not for their color, but for their ideal taste. Jake and I chose our favorite candy and then invited our parents to chose theirs as well.


The bags said "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I've Got Love In My Tummy. Thanks for sharing our day with us! Love, Natalie & Jake." We bought the bags online and printed them on Paper Source 2" labels. Easy, peasey. As is usually the case, the candy bar was a smashing success.

I took Mrs. Lemon's lead and made cards directing our guests to our Picasa photo page. This, plus another email reminder, helped us create an awesome collection of photos. It was totally one of those last minute "do I really need to do this?!" things, but it worked like a charm.

The little chandelier was drawn by Margot of Atelier Isabey to match the two gorgeous chandeliers hanging from Cafe Brauer's celing. We used the image again and again on our menus, candy jars, napkins and more.

Whew! Believe it or not, there is even more that I could say about paper, but I am sure you have all had enough. Next up: food and drink!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

the secrets: paper, v. 1

Two comments to preface this post. All photos by Dean Thorsen, all paper from the Paper Source. My two BFFs. This is a glimpse into all of our DIY goodies!

Say hello to the winner of the "this shouldn't take very long... and then it does" award. My menus.


I used to LOVE making fortune tellers when I was in grade school. We would write silly things like "You will marry Kermit the Frog" on the inside and giggle, while secretly wondering if it could be true. When I saw Darcy's suggestion for a fun cocktail party game, I knew I had to have it. Chicago knottie katvon was also inspired and kindly sent me her template. My dad helped me use Visio to make it my own as I couldn't find an appropriate program on my Mac. The design ended up being pretty straightforward.

Folding 200 of them... not so much. I never thought I would say this, but I heart my bone folder. I could not have made it through without her. In the end, the menus were fabulous and my guests loved them. They also looked pretty cute on their napkins.

Next up, my programs.

Here was my inspiration, from the Bride's Cafe.


And here are mine. Please pretend that there are pretty, swooshy last names instead of big white blocks.

This was truly a team effort. I wrote the program and laid out the format in PowerPoint. Jake messed it up when he tried to re-do it in Word, and then he and my dad recreated it in PowerPoint, printed, cut and folded them (with the bone folder!). My mom sewed them closed. I lurved them so!

This post got a little too long, so look out for round two- escort cards, table numbers and a few other little goodies.
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