a (very) belated happy new year

Before our big trip to Asia next week, we wanted to share our growing collection of Starbucks You Are Here Collection mugs.  A majority of these were collected from our travels in 2015, both separate and together.  Besides screaming, “TAKE ALL OUR MONEY, STARBUCKS!” we love the colorful, flat design of the cityscapes to remind us of our travels and looking forward to many more in 2016!

DSC01111

This collection has grown by 5 or 6 more mugs, because the first quarter of the year has already past.  What terrible bloggers we are.  But we look forward to posting about our travels in Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong in the coming weeks and including lots of photos taken with our new Sony a6000 and MeFoto tripod!  Here’s a quick bonus photo of us testing out our equipment on a hike to Cloudland Canyon State Park in Northwest Georgia.

PICT_20160206_115902

 

DIY Modern Calligraphy

Modern calligraphy is all the rage in wedding collateral these days.  From addressing envelopes to signage — a loopy, whimsical typeface lightens the mood and brings out the joy of the occasion.

modern calligraphy_2

I really wanted to include modern calligraphy in my wedding, but I didn’t know anything about it.  So, I signed up for a trial with Skillshare and watched their modern calligraphy video tutorials. I didn’t even purchase calligraphy pens, I just used a regular pen (or chalkboard marker) and thickened the lines where they would be if I was using calligraphy materials.  I practiced a bit and can now scribble modern calligraphy all over the place!

Pro Tip: Keep a few images handy to remind remind yourself what you want  each of your letters to look like.  I always pull my reference images up when writing “calligraphy”.

Happy Handwriting!

Adventures at Blackberry Farm

We visited Blackberry Farm for our honeymoon in the winter of 2014.  Due to our schedules, we weren’t able to go for a big international trip, so we opted for a southeast treasure nestled at the base of the smoky mountains and it did not disappoint.

Blackberry Farm has always had wonderful reviews from travel magazines and articles like this and this.  And while it definitely comes with a price tag, the experience is unparalleled.  We stayed for four nights, and while many of the water sports were not available, we weren’t at a loss for things to do while at the farm.  Our scheduled activities included a spa package (the Well House was brand new when we visited and it was a beautiful facility), horseback riding, clay shooting and we added geocaching when we arrived.  While we thoroughly enjoyed all of the activities (guides are extremely knowledgeable and friendly), we also enjoyed passing our time wandering around the grounds on our own and frequently found ourselves visiting the newborn litter of lagotto romagnolos (truffle dogs).  We spent the time between meals working up an appetite for the next meal, because let’s face it — we vacation to eat.

DIY Letterpress Wedding Invitations

Aside from the flowers, letterpressing was my second favorite DIY project. This series of 3 posts from Wedding Bee is broken up into: designing the plates, using the letterpress and a breakdown of materials/costs and is pretty much what I used to guide me through the process. That being said, I HIGHLY recommend reading all three posts (multiple times) if you’re thinking about letterpressing using the L Letterpress. I’ve also heard of people building their own letterpress but I decided using the kit was just easier (and there are so many other uses for a Cuttlebug as you’ll see below).

Materials

Cuttlebug (cheapest one ordered from Amazon)
L Letterpress Kit (ordered from WilliamSonoma.com but now available at JoAnn Fabric & Craft Stores)
30ml tube of L Letterpress navy ink (ordered from Amazon)
Speedball Brayer (ordered from Amazon) — recommended by Boxcar Press’s review of the L Letterpress
Paper (purchased Watercolor booklets – the thicker the better from Michaels (with a 40% coupon or when they were on buy one get one sale) and cut them to size with the paper cutter at Kinko’s — in retrospect, ordering the really fancy, letterpress paper would have only made them look better.)
Letterpress Plates (I designed these myself on Adobe Illustrator and ordered from Boxcar Press.  It was really awesome to design an invite ourselves because it ended up being so personal.)
Corner Rounder (purchased from Michaels with a 40% off coupon — yes, this might not have been 100% necessary but rounding off the corners of everything looked so good!)

Method

This was a two person job and I’m glad that my husband has always been so supportive of high-commitment DIY projects. He inked the plate, while I handled placing the paper, folding the plate over and putting it through the Cuttlebug.

The L Letterpress has a hinge and two sides and opens and folds like a book. To one side, you affix your “plate” (it comes like a heavy duty sticker and the kit comes with some heavy duty double stick tape you can use if you need to use your plates a second time.) On the other side, you lay out your paper (I always used 2-3 pieces of the watercolor paper to get a deeper imprint into my inked copy, this is probably not necessary if you are using actual letterpress paper.) When the L Letterpress is folded like a book you feed it through the Cuttlebug and the inked plate presses against the paper, inking it and leaving a slight, inked intent. Viola!

This process yields one invite at a time. So if you’re doing an invite, a reply card, maps/directions and an envelope… and 100 invites… you are inking and rolling through 400 times. (We were able to fit the two smaller card plates into the letterpress at once so we saved some labor there.) But seriously, this is not a project for the faint of heart. Or for the bride sending out 400 invites.

Inking is a trial and error process — with the trick being you’d rather have less ink than more ink, because more ink will require you to wipe down your plates and start anew. Extra ink gets into every crevice. every. crevice. But wiping it with a baby wipe and running a blank sheet through a few times usually can get most of it out, but is a pain in the butt. Once you get pretty good at judging how much ink was the right amount, you’ll hit a groove of inking and pressing and then you just repeat. 100 times.  I also realized in retrospect, that if I am inviting 100 people, it really only need 60-75 invitations, so I seriously overproduced.  But this just allowed me to pick the best looking ones to mail out.

Price

My invites came out to be about $3.85 per invite (this includes postage for the invite and reply card, so really $2.87 per invite). If I used Vista Print or something, it probably would have been cheaper, but this was a pretty low cost (but high time commitment) way to get letterpressed invites that we love.

This price per invite has probably has gone down because I used my Cuttlebug for a lot of other wedding-related items including: outer envelopes, reply envelopes, table numbers, escort cards and thank you notes using plates we already had & left over water color paper. For the reply envelopes, I printed our return address on them from a regular printer and put them through the Cuttlebug using an emboss folder to get it to have the wood texture — it made cheap, kraft paper envelopes from Michael’s look really fancy!  I would have done both envelopes, but the larger one was too big for the folder. Oh well.

Summary

Invitation (5×7), Reply Card & Information Card (5½x4) designed by us, plates created by Boxcar Press, navy blue letterpress ink on watercolor paper.
Outer Envelope Michael’s A7 kraft envelope, silver letterpress ink on back side with return address.
Reply Envelope Michael’s A2 kraft envelope, printed return address & embossed with wood texture.
Escort Cards (2.5×2.5) navy blue letterpress ink, plates included with L Letterpress kit, handwritten names in gold paint pen, numbers die cutted scrapbook paper from Cuttlebug.
Table Numbers no ink, letterpressed plates included with L letterpress kit, traced with gold paint pen, numbers cut with xacto knife from scrapbook paper.
Thank You Notes designed by us, plates created by Boxcar Press, navy blue letterpress ink on watercolor paper.

Cost-Effective Wedding Attire

Wedding attire can be expensive and we really wanted to allocate more of our wedding budget to things like food & drinks & food (we know where our priorities are).  That’s why we went to great lengths to find the best value and save money for our bridal party’s attire.  In total, we spent less than $1,200 on suits (& ties) for four groomsmen and the groom and dresses for four bridesmaids and the bride!  & we think all ten of us looked pretty fly.

Here’s how we did it

Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids dresses were ordered online from Donna Morgan.  I purchased final sale while there was an additional percentage off and they came out to be about $59.99 each (+ tax).  I wanted to find a dress that was long (so they could wear leggings under their dresses because it was really, really cold).  I love the ethereal, chiffon overlay on these dresses.

Bride

I got very lucky and purchased my dress from David’s Bridal on Black Friday over a year before my wedding when all sale items were an additional 50% off (who knew DB celebrated Black Friday, amiright?).  While I’ve heard many mixed opinions about David’s Bridal, their prices are very competitive because they want to move merchandise.  However, when searching for wedding dresses I went to several smaller, boutique stores to try dresses on.  The sales associates at these stores were much more knowledgeable about their products and asked great leading questions to get me to think about what dresses/styles/materials I liked or didn’t like which was very helpful because nine times out of ten I loved every single dress I tried on. Let’s face it, wedding dresses are (for the most part) all beautiful.

I opted for this princess cut champagne dress with tulle overlay by Oleg Cassini, because when else can a normal person were such a dress?  For that reason, I am currently selling the dress if anyone is interested.

Groom & Groomsmen

I balked at the price of renting tuxes and suits. So I set my heart on purchasing suits so our guys could wear them over and over again.  H&M actually has a fairly wide selection AND they are slim fit (an added bonus).  At retail, a set of grey jacket and pants would cost approximately $100 — REASONABLE.  But we took it a step further.  By signing up for H&M’s newsletter, you can get a coupon for 20% off one item.  H&M accepts coupons shown from your smart phone, and they don’t keep track of how many times the coupon has been used.  So, we purchased five jackets and five pairs of pants one at a time, using my 20% off coupon each time. We purchased the items on Georgia’s no-sales-tax-back-to-school day for additional savings.  The suits came out to be close to $80 each. We also purchased the matching vest from H&M for the groom.  We asked our groomsmen to bring their own white shirt and brown shoes.

For ties, we went to JC Penney and used their “spend $25 get $10 off” coupons (that’s a 40% discount!).  We broke our items into multiple transactions (Extreme Couponing style) getting as close as we could to $25 per transaction.  We got four ties to match the bridesmaid’s dresses and a  champagne tie for the groom, to match the bride.

Summary

Bride Dress: Oleg Cassini (CWG468); Jewelry: Necklace from Costco & Earrings from Macy’s (gifts from my mother-in-law); Shoes: Audrey Brooke Quillan Platform Pump from DSW; Shrug: previously owned from Old Navy (classy.)
Bridesmaids Dress: Donna Morgan Amy in Grey Ridge
Groomsmen Jacket & Pants: H&M; Ties: Stafford from JC Penney
Groom Jacket, Pants & Vest: H&M; Tie: Stafford from JC Penney; Shoes: Cole Haan; Watch: Motorola Moto 360

Your bridal party can still look good on a budget.

DIY Wedding Flowers

Doing your own wedding flowers may seem like a daunting task, but if you plan out a good strategy, set aside some time the day before the wedding and have a team of happy helpers, you can save a lot on floral arrangements that you’re likely to throw away afterwards anyways.

Every good plan starts with research.  I found Blooms by the Box to be the most helpful resource (particularly their tips on flower storage) and almost purchased from them, but found a local wholesale vendor that would sell to DIY brides.  I also found this article from A Practical Wedding to be particularly helpful.  (On a side note, APW is a wonderful resource for planning articles, specifically timelines and run of show tips. No need to buy the book, just use the interwebs.)  From my research I discovered that all bouquets and centerpieces are composed of focal flowers, secondary flowers, greens and filler.  Flowers were also usually positioned in sets of three to get an even, spherical shape.

The next step was to scour the internet for photos and litter my Pinterest board with ideas and flowers/greens/filler that I fancied.  I then created a flower palette as the base of my selection & purchasing process (many of these flowers got traded out for cheaper alternatives, but the colors and overall feel remained the same).

flower_palette

Then it was on to my first recon mission to the wholesale flower shop to take a look at the flowers I liked.  I looked at how voluminous they were and how many stems came in a bundle.  I also talked with the staff there, as they were very helpful and gave good tips on storage and seasonality.  For those of you who are worried about flowers being in season, I found that is wasn’t really an issue because flowers are sourced from all over the world and chances are, something you like is growing somewhere.  The earlier you go, the better — flowers get purchased by retailers very early in the morning and they might be sold out of a lot of items if you go too late.  Also, don’t forget to bring your camera/phone to take photos & a jacket because it’s cold in there!  Excuse the blurriness of the photos, it was really cold.

flower_recon

This recon mission allowed me to see what I liked, didn’t like, what was too dark or too small or didn’t fit the color scheme. And helped me move onto the next step in planning you own flowers: how much to buy?  For that, I used this helpful spreadsheet that a lady at the flower shop showed me:

flowers_spreadsheet

In the left column, I made a list of all the flowers I wanted to purchase.  Across the top, I made a list of everything that I would need flowers for.  Be sure to use excel or a pencil, because I changed this chart a gazillion times before I was happy with the final order.  I ended up ordering white hydrangeas, mini green hydrangeas, chablis spray roses, thistle, delphinium, queen anne’s lace, limonium in misty blue, solidego, seeded eucalyptus, high and arena roses, green carnations and white fuji mums.  While I had pre-ordered for pick-up, the cottage yarrow I ordered didn’t look very healthy that day, so I grabbed a bunch of peach statice instead.  In order to reduce costs, I ordered fewer spray roses and opted to get high and area roses, which came in bunches of 25 at $1.25 each and fewer mini green hydrangeas (which were $1.50 each) in favor of green carnations (which were $0.48 each).  Mixing in cheaper flowers gave our centerpieces more volume at a lower cost, but still looked good visually next to some of the more striking flowers like the fuji mums.

I picked up the flowers 2 days before the wedding and prepped them according to the tips I got from Blooms by the Box.  We assembled everything the morning before the wedding (with the exception of the boutonnieres which we did the morning of the wedding so that they wouldn’t wilt) and kept everything in a cool place before taking them to the venue the next day.  For things like the bouquets, we worked in teams of two, so one person could hold everything together and the other could cut and add flowers, and wrap the finished product tightly in floral tape.

In total, we made 1 bride’s bouquet, 4 bridesmaids bouquets, 3 boutonnieres for moms and grandmothers, 1 boutonniere for my dad, 5 boutonnieres for the groom and his groomsmen, centerpieces for 10 tables which were a mix of large and small vases, and accent pieces for the guestbook table, escort and dessert tables and one large centerpiece for the sweetheart table.  The total cost of my flowers was $480 (including 4 pairs of flower sheers).  Vases were a collection of mason jars, drinking glasses from estate sales that I frequented with my mother-in-law and baby food jars with the labels peeled off.  Other supplies included floral tape, floral pins and burlap to wrap the bouquets once we put them together.  I also had decent amount of leftover flowers, which were used to decorate our wedding cake (made by the wonderful pastry chef at Empire State South).

All in all, our wedding flowers was probably my favorite DIY project and it saved us quiet a bit of money as bouquets themselves can be almost $100 each!

All About Wedding Decor

This is the first on a series of posts about our experience wedding planning including our DIY projects and tips for saving money.  I originally got the idea for Empire State South as a wedding venue from this post on style me pretty and for those of you who are planning on a smaller wedding (anything under 100) I highly, highly recommend having your wedding at a restaurant.

Let me start by saying that I had my heart set on a barn wedding.  My wedding Pinterest board was lit up with photos of wooden structures and string lights for the longest time.  However, the logistics and cost of having a barn wedding in December were beyond my abilities and budget as I had little desire to coordinate rental equipment, caterers, transportation, etc. to a remote site in the middle of winter.  That being said, I loved the rustic wooden feel of the decor at Empire State South — none of which I had to set up myself.  We bought out the entire restaurant for the evening and used their tables, chairs, silverware and had no worries or issues with delays in the kitchen or meal preference cards because the staff there does a dinner service every single night and is adept at dealing with timing from the kitchen and food allergies.  As for cost, the restaurant didn’t require a room rental fee, just a food and beverage minimum (money that we would have spent anyways on food… and beverages).

Needless to say, the food was excellent, the venue was beautiful and we love Empire State South (and Hugh Acheson & his unibrow)!