Monday, July 28, 2014

Travel for Two

As we have been planning for our belated honeymoon, it hit me. This is the first big trip that Chris and I are taking together. 

We have traveled together before. That's not new. We drove to Iowa last summer for a reunion with my graduate school friends. We have headed out east together for the last several years to visit Chris' family. We have gone to the Rose Bowl and Florida with my family. And Chris joined me for a conference last year for some time in Orlando. 

But this time is different. This is us, planning an entire trip on our own. Over two weeks of adventures across three countries. Planes, trains, ferries and buses. Exchanging currencies. Determining what we both need in terms of structure and flexibility in our journey. Deciding when to get the advanced tickets and when to wait and make a game-time decision about what we want to do. Spending lots and lots of time trying to weigh advice from all of the interwebs. I am really enjoying our time spent researching the trip together, but wow, it can be overwhelming!

I'm finding that vacation planning can tell you a lot about your relationship. It provides insight into what each person individually values and what they need to feel fulfilled in a trip (and to stay sane). There is a need to be explicit in your expectations, and to not assume that the other person feels the same. To compromise, and make sure.

For example, Must Sees. We both have different things that we really want to do. And we can't do all of them. As we were talking about what day trips that we want to squeeze into the London leg of our trip, we were weighing our priorities of the Warner Brothers Studios to see the Harry Potter sets, a day trip through the Chunnel to Paris, and a bus tour to Stonehenge/Windsor Castle/Oxford. Sidenote: Channel + tunnel = Chunnel. Best thing ever! I'm a nerd. For both of us, Harry Potter was a given, because Harry Potter. Tickets booked. It's happening. But it was looking like it would make sense to choose between either Paris or Stonehenge versus trying to squeeze in both. For me, I'd choose Paris because I don't know when I will get there in the future. Chris also wants to go to Paris, but he worries that he'd feel some sense of regret, getting all the way to the UK and not making Stonehenge happen. Time to discuss. Is there a way that we can both be happy? 

Then there is the question of "How" we want to see different places. Are we bus trip people? Do we want a guided tour for things, or would we prefer to explore on our own? My aunt recommended that we do a biking tour of Paris, as a way to fit in a lot of sites in one day. Is that our style? Because this is our first kind of adventure, we are sort of guessing. We both agreed we weren't ready for a driving trip, so we are mixing in some self-guided destinations via public transportation, and selecting some guided day trips for the one's that seem a bit more complicated. If we go into this open minded, we can figure out what we'd prefer for next time.

Then there is the question of "What do I need on this trip to keep me from going crazy?" For me, I am pretty open to exploring lots of different things, as long as I am fed. Hangry is a thing. You can ask Chris - he's aware. He does not require specific meal times like I do. But he has learned that to avoid me getting crabby, food is important. Naps are also important.

To summarize: Naps. Food. Harry Potter. I'm excited.

How have you prioritized trip planning with a partner, friend, or family member? Any tips?    

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Our Ceremony

All of the tears. Captured by Lisa Mathewson Photography

As much as I loved some of the other details of our wedding reception, it is the ceremony that continues to stick with me. It was the best part of the wedding. Because it is what made it a wedding, and not just a fun family party.

Throughout the evening, family and friends commented that the day was very "us." They could see Chris and I in all of the smaller parts. For me, this was most true for our ceremony.

As we grappled with what we wanted our ceremony to be, we decided on a few key things:

1. It would be heartfelt and thoughtful, while not being super traditional.
2. We would walk in and out together, without a processional.
3. We wanted something more than just the readings and vows. (As to the what, that took some additional pondering).

Our Officiant

Our friend Beau graciously agreed to officiate our wedding. And I think it was really special that it was him, because he was there when we first met at a professional development event, and later reconnected at a conference. Beau has officiated a number of other weddings, including some of our other friends. Plus, I think he both looked the part, but also did an amazing job of leading us through the whole thing.

Our Ring Warming Ceremony

This. I am so glad we did this.

If you haven't heard of a ring warming ceremony before, know that I had never seen one in person before we found it online. As we planned our ceremony, we didn't want to do a unity candle or a sand ceremony. Something about pouring sand in the same venue where our guests would be eating just sounded like an accident waiting to happen. I'm clumsy. As we explored other options, I read quite a bit about Celtic handfasting, before deciding that while we both have Irish roots, it wasn't something we felt confident about pulling off, and we didn't want to screw up something that holds a sacred place within a culture.

After reading a few things about a ring warming ceremony (here and here), it just felt like the right fit for us. It was a way to involve all of our family and friends in our ceremony, rather than feeling like they were just "spectators," which I really liked. And I truly believe that things carry energy in them, and having our loved ones inject our wedding bands with their love and positive energy seemed pretty awesome.

Many of the different sites that we read talked about the challenges of timing for this, so we put it at the beginning of the ceremony, in case the rings took awhile to get through all of our guests. We were a bit nervous about it, as specially as we talked it through with the wedding party in our Skype wedding rehearsal (side note: best idea ever) and worried that there might be awkward standing in silence. Also, sweaty, gross rings. But then we just decided to let it happen. Two of our friends, Aileen and Lucy, served as "ring bears," making sure that the ring was passed through all of our guests and returned safely to the front.

As we watched our rings pass through our family and friends hands, it just felt really intimate and special. And I had to hold back tears, as my grandmother was the last one to hold the rings and bring them back to the groomsmen.

Our Readings

We looked at a couple of different readings, and ultimately decided on "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in/my heart)" by e.e. cummings, which was beautifully read by Katie, one of my best friends from college. I first heard the poem during the wedding scene in "In Her Shoes," and way back then thought it was the perfect wedding reading.

Our second reading was "He'll Make Me Happy" by Jeff Moss. Also known as Miss Piggy and Kermit's wedding song. We're Muppets people. Call us cheesy, if you will. But the lyrics are actually pretty special, and our friend Ann did an awesome job reading it without it sounding corny at all. She did refrain from doing Kermit and Piggy voices, which was probably a good choice.

Our Vows

We had discussed writing our own vows. Not for us. We are much more likely to share our feelings and thoughts with each other privately, than to do so in front of folks, even if they are our loved ones. I don't think either of us would have gotten through them and actually been able to say the words - I had a hard enough time repeating back what Beau said first.

After much searching and finding things that we didn't want to say...("honor and obey" was out for sure), we found these online (slightly modified), and thought they fit us:

(Chris), I choose you to be my partner
Loving what I know of you
And trusting what I do not yet know
I look forward to the opportunity to grow alongside you
Getting to know the person you will become
And falling in love with you a little more every day
I promise to love and cherish you
To laugh with you and grieve with you
To be truthful and honest with you
And to bravely face together whatever life may bring us

It felt a bit ironic that a few months before the wedding, we watched one of the last How I Met Your Mother episodes where Barney was struggling to write his vows. He points out that Marshall and Lily had already broken all of their vows. They make the decision to update them, and continue updating them later on. Because life changes. And there are no perfect vows.

While our vows may not be perfect for our entire lives together, I don't know if that is a reasonable goal to be striving for. I think, instead, as we made the commitment to entering into this formal partnership together, albeit a legally binding one, we both agreed to do the best that we can. To try. And to understand that there will be many points along our journey together where stuff will get real and we will deal with it. And more than one time where we will have to face an obstacle that we never saw coming. In that regard, they are the best vows that they could be, for us.

What I Remember Most
  • So initially my event-planning brain was on, and I couldn't get past the fact that we were standing really far off center from the ribbon backdrop. I was totally preoccupied. Did it really matter? No. Did it bug me? Absolutely. Once the ring ceremony started, I made everyone move. I own that this is sort of crazy, but that's just who I am.
  • Chris couldn't look at me because he was too worried he'd lose it. He spent most of the ceremony looking down at the ceremony script in Beau's hands. I watched him watching what Beau was reading. Such a handsome husband.
  • Vaguely knowing that other folks were there and that some were a bit teary, but having no idea that there were LOTS of tears. When I was told that a friend was genuinely sobbing, it was a total surprise.
  • Concentrating really hard on saying the right words.
  • Being SO happy and so excited when it was all official!
Seriously the best day.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Finer Details

I wanted to share some of the wedding projects, and how they turned out. I debated sharing my "Hot Tos" as I did them, but there was no way that I could do that along the way, as it just felt like too much. A number of them developed into love-hate relationships. I said "Why did I think this was a good idea?" many times. But now, I'm actually pretty proud of the ones that we focused on.

So here we go...

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography
Our invitations were one of my favorite early projects. We ordered them through replybydesignstudio, and made arrangements through Chris' dad to print them at his company. They were simple and elegant. With the awesome help of my friend Claudia, we added the baker's twine and the gold glitter envelope liners, made from glitter wrapping paper from Paper Source. 

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography

Our table ceterpieces were fairly simple. My amazing aunt made black and white "summer stripe" table squares and runners, which were featured throughout our event. Seamstress extraordinaire! We then used gold chargers as a base for the flowers, which were in an assortment of mason jars wrapped in baker's twine as well. I was all about the baker's twine, and using it wherever it made sense. I will tell you about how I ended up with $40 worth of the stuff some other time...

We did simple table numbers in black Ikea frames, which had different quotes on them. 

And one of my favorite, but more tedious details, were the votives. I added loose gold glitter with a bit of glue tape to the rims of the votive holders. Messy. Lesson learned: should have sealed the stuff. Just one of the many reasons that I continue to find glitter in the cats fur. 

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography
One of our main goals for the wedding was to feature Milwaukee. Many of our friends and family were coming from out of town, and we wanted them to fall in love with the city that we call home. Because, of course, we want them to come back! That was why we chose Milwaukee Public Market as the perfect downtown wedding venue. The venue has such an amazing vibe, just by itself, and the staff did an amazing job of transforming the second floor area into a beautiful wedding space. Through the culinary magic of their different vendors, we were also able to feature foods that said Wisconsin, like brat bites, cheese, and mini cream puffs. Plus they showcased an awesome assortment of Wisconsin beers. It was seriously the best venue ever, and the only one that we looked at. Serious plug: If you are looking to get married in Milwaukee and want a fun venue, you must chat with Ellen and the other staff at the Milwaukee Public Market. 

We also thought it would be a fun twist to utilize the Milwaukee handkerchief from HANMade Milwaukee, as our "guest book." One of my favorite moments on the day after the wedding was looking at all of the places that folks had signed. While many put their names around the border, others picked out locations on the map that may have been special to them. I can't wait to frame it and hang it up in our house! 

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography
We also wanted folks to have the opportunity to leave us a longer message, or advice as we start our first year of marriage. I found a cute little blue ceramic market basket at Anthropologie, that looked just like one you might put strawberries in. I thought it was an awesome fit for the location, and can't wait to figure out how to use it at home.

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography

Glitter was ever present throughout our wedding. In fact, long before we got married, I nicknamed our wedding, "Project Glitter Bomb." One of the sparkling touches was on the banners that we featured throughout the venue. Using a modified version of this tutorial from A Practical Wedding, I utilized a party banner kit from Party City to make banners that said "Mr" and "Mrs," "Always," and "Treat Yo Self," for the dessert table of course. I traced each of the letters with more of the glitter wrapping paper, and then adhered them to the different colored letters. They were on of my favorite things to see come to life in the beautiful space.

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography
Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography
Ahh, the ribbon backdrop. No project became a bigger pain in the butt over the course of making it. And in hindsight, I would have loved to add some additional width to the thing. But it did look pretty nice for our ceremony.

A few other little things made the day special:
  • Bathroom baskets with all of the essentials for our guests. You know, tide pens, mints, bobby pins, etc.
  • Black and white striped "L-O-V-E" letters. Not my best painting, but they turned out okay and made good photo props.
  • Our fun and simple cake topper, that graced the little 9 inch cake that we purchased from Whole Foods. I think this was actually one of the first things that we bought.  
I am happy to provide tutorials on any of the crafty things if you are looking to do something similar. Just let me know which ones.
So there you go! : )

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