November 2010

Wedding Invitation and Save-the-Date Options

by Melissa on November 30, 2010

Even though I said that I shouldn’t get ahead of myself in planning a wedding (after all, we still have YET to book a venue, caterer, and date – although hopefully soon!), I really can’t help it!  Invitations and Save The Dates have been on my mind quite a bit.  Initially, I had wanted to buy creative invitations from Etsy and I had bookmarked a ton of favorites.  Over Thanksgiving, however, I revisited my bookmarks, and while they’re gorgeous (and I couldn’t dream of being so crafty and creative), they just left me feeling kind of blah.

I know there’s a lot of creative license permitted for Save The Dates.  But for invitations?  Formal, formal, formal.  RSVP card, inner envelopes, outer envelopes, precise wording, scripted fonts.  YAWN, YAWN, YAWN!

Then finally, it hit me!  A fabulous idea that speaks to a major interest of mine and my fiance’s.  While I’m still ironing out the details, we will most certainly not have invitations with pockets and inner and outer envelopes and pocketfolds and all that … stuff.  My idea should cost about $3/invitation + some DIY time and potential photo studio costs (like JCPenney studio cost, not professional photographer cost).  I also have a few ideas for save-the-dates, most of which are inspired by these types of cards:

Photo Booth Save-the-Date DIY Photo Strip Photo Booth Wedding Invitation Julia & Jon Save-the-Date Photo Booth Strip Card

But, let’s take a look at some other invitation and save-the-date related items I’m looking at.

We’ll definitely need some Save-the-Date props.  What do you think, buy from Etsy or DIY?

SAVE THE DATE and WEDDING SIGN Use this sign TWICE 22 x 8

HE ASKED...SHE SAID YES SET, SAVE THE DATE SIGN, PHOTO PROPS,  Announcement, Engagement, Wedding Cards, Shabby Chic Signs, Photographer, Bridal Consultant, Wedding Planner

I love this idea of using a mosaic of stamps for addressing envelopes.  Over-the-top complicated, or cute and memorable?

Buy It Now :  wedding hawaii invitations postage Vintage vintage

I’m thinking of buying a custom stamp for our return address for our envelopes.  Standard stamp or go with a monogram-type stamp?

Custom calligraphy personalized  address wood handle mounted rubber stamp-great wedding gift  - style 1280C

Has anyone ever had their wedding invitations addressed by a calligrapher?  What did you spend?  My fiancé suggested just printing them on the computer, but all the stuff I’ve read says that’s in poor taste.  Thoughts?  Some calligraphy options I’m loving:

Calligraphy Addressing for Envelopes

{ 1 comment }

The Obligatory Wedding Wire Budget Post

by Melissa on November 22, 2010

I consider myself a pretty financially savvy person, and while my fiancé and I make excellent money and we could very well afford a lavish wedding, it’s the principle of the matter that I don’t think any event deserves spending such an outrageous amount of money.

I track every penny I spend, I forecast cash flow projections for my personal accounts, and when we go on a vacation, I can tell you how much we spent on food (broken down by breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks/drinks), how much money we spend on gas (including gas mileage), and what are average per day spending was.  Some people think this is ridiculous or a waste of time, but it is something I actually enjoy doing, so for me, it’s fun!  I know where every penny goes.  I don’t have a conventional “budget” for myself broken down by categories.  I just call it “expense tracking.”  And once I start to approach a certain amount of spending for the month, I know it’s time to slow down.

I will do the same for the wedding.  For a wedding, however, I figured it was quite important to set a budget instead of just tracking our expenses.  So I went onto Wedding Wire, entered $15,000 as a total budget, and voila, Wedding Wire broke down our $15,000 budget into various categories.  It looked like this:

At first glance, I’m like, “Um, wow, this doesn’t buy much.  At second glance, I think, why, WHY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD is catering so expensive!”

Then I used the export function on Wedding Wire to export the data to a spreadsheet.  Talk about useless.  It didn’t have any formulas or anything, so if I changed a value in one of the cells, it didn’t change my overall budget figure.  After some tinkering, I developed a formula-friendly wedding budget spreadsheet and it’s now in my and my fiancé’s Google Docs account.

We’re not having any flowers, but will probably spend more on regular decor.  No attendants = no gifts for attendants.  We’re willing to spend more on a good photographer, so that figure went up.  A few other changes here and there, and before I know it, I can see how weddings can get so expensive.  I will be tracking every wedding-related penny and sharing it with you all.

I think the thing that scares me the most is just the big unknown about the budget.  I always hear about catering horror stories about how they nickel and dime you for added expenses after you’ve signed the contract.  Or alterations adding more than $500 to a wedding dress.

I’ve been developing some other worksheets to help us estimate our projected expenses in the best way possible.

Did you go over your wedding budget?  By how much?


Link and Forum Roundup Friday

by Melissa on November 19, 2010


Here are some links and wedding forum discussions that have caught my attention this week!


Broke Ass Bride discusses bar options at a wedding.  This is something we’re struggling with too.  My fiancé doesn’t drink, so he thinks it’s a waste to pay for a bar.  But as a drinker myself, I know that it’s in bad taste to have no alcohol or a cash bar.  I think we’ll definitely go with at least a beer/wine/soda option. 

District Weddings posted the all-time important question – how to get in shape for your wedding.  I just posted my wedding workout plans myself.  I’d love to hear what other brides (including those of us in the metro DC area) are doing to get in shape for their wedding. 

An ice cream truck at a wedding?  Can we have one too?  Read more about it over at Manolo for the Brides

I’ve started to stalk the vendor forums over at BridalTweet.  This thread, in particular, got me especially wound up.  Have ANY of these vendors ever had to pay for their OWN wedding?  So many posts about how it angers them that brides and grooms pick price as their priority.  Yep, price is definitely a priority for those of us in the real world. 

We’re planning on including our friends’ and families’ children at both our wedding ceremony and reception, so we won’t have to worry about how to deliver the news to invitees that are parents.  I’ve never really understood not inviting kids to weddings, but I guess everyone has their own preferences. 

So, I had never even heard of a bride and groom seeing each other before the wedding to take photos, until I read it in the first wedding reference book I bought last month, The Wedding Book (review to follow in a future post).  I guess it’s more common that what I thought, but I still don’t think I’d want to my fiancé until I start to walk down the aisle. 

A good centerpiece for a fall wedding?  Maybe I should collect fallen leaves this year!

And in funny wedding news for the week, this bridal party kept it a secret from the bride that their limo had been carjacked


I had one first, Kate!

by Melissa on November 17, 2010

Okay, okay, I know Princess Diana actually had it first, but thank you Kate for letting everyone know that sapphire engagement rings are wicked cool!  I’m sure that most of you have heard that Prince William proposed to his girlfriend Kate Middleton with an 18 carat sapphire surrounded by diamonds.

Related News Stories (both mention the online store where my fiancé bought my sapphire engagement ring, The Natural Sapphire Company!

My ring (photo taken at the Leaning Tower of Pisa in early October, just two days after my fiancé proposed!

Ring at Leaning Tower of Pisa

and the upcoming Princess Kate’s Sapphire Engagement Ring:


Kate Middleton's RingPhoto: Chris Jackson/Getty Images


Okay, okay, so her ring is a bit bigger.  No jealousy here.  Just much love for colored gemstones as engagement rings!


My DIY Get-in-Shape Plan for Wedding

by Melissa on November 17, 2010

I’ve created an ideal workout schedule for myself to help me look good in a wedding dress in 1+ year (depending on the date we book for our wedding, hopefully next November or so).  I’m currently a size 14-16 right now, and I’m hoping to lose enough weight by March or April so that I can start hitting those size-10 sample dress sales!  Because from what I understand of them, they pretty much all come in size 10’s (and have even read that those size 10’s are much more like size 6.  *sigh*

So, as part of my DIY get-in-shape plan for my date-TBD wedding, I have set a goal to lose nearly 60 pounds.  Back in 2004, I lost 40 pounds on WeightWatchers (and have subsequently put most of it back on because of stupidity and laziness), so I know it’s something I can do again.  In addition to following WeightWatchers once again, I propose the following workout plan for the next year.  I know that this is ambitious, and yes, things will certainly get in the way and change.  But this is the goal.  Something to strive for.


Daytime Workout

Lunchtime Workout

Evening Workout

November 15 – January 1

100 Pushups Workout

Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred (5-6x/week)

January 1 – February 1

100 Pushups Workout

Jillian Michael’s Boost Metabolism Banish Fat (3x/week)

Yoga for Weight Loss (2-3x/week)

February 1 – March 1

100 Pushups Workout

Jillian Michael’s Shred it with Weights (3x/week)

Yoga for Weight Loss (2-3x/week)

March 1 – April 1

100 Pushups Workout

Jillian Michael’s No More Trouble Zones (3x/week)

Jillian Michael’s Yoga Meltdown (2-3x/week)

April 1 – May 1


May 1 – June 1

10 Minute Abs

Walk/Lunchtime Yoga or Pilates


June 1 – July 1

10 Minute Abs

Walk/Lunchtime Yoga or Pilates


July 1 – August 1

10 Minute Abs

Walk/Lunchtime Yoga or Pilates


August 1 – September 1

10 Minute Pilates Workout?


September 1 – October 1

10 Minute Pilates Workout?

Personal Trainer? P90x?  Wedding Dance Lessons?

October 1 – Wedding Day!

Six Week Six Pack

100 Pushups Workout

Personal Trainer?  P90x?  Wedding Dance Lessons?

So here’s the deal, I have already done most of these workouts, with the exception of Insanity and the Yoga DVDs, so I know what I’m in for.  I even did about two weeks of P90x.  I quit out of laziness.  I must say though, the Jillian Michaels’ DVDs really prepared me for P90x.  The hardest types of workouts I struggle with, no joke, is yoga.  Totally kicks my ass.  I have really weak arm muscles and it just hurts to hold those poses for so long!

My lunchtime workouts are very simple and basic.  The Pushups workouts I’ll just do right in my office and in my regular office clothes.  On days when it’s not sweltering or freezing cold, I can also take a walk around the city.

I’ll be back each Wednesday to update you on my workouts, including weight lost, calories burned, and challenges and successes!

So what about you all?  What did you do to get in shape for your wedding?


DC-Area Wedding Venue Visits Review

by Melissa on November 15, 2010

The past few weekends, we have visited 5 venues and attended one wedding show/event thing (the Not So Big Wedding Boutique at Rockwood Manor).

We really, really fell in love with one venue this weekend, Glen Echo Park.  However, we don’t want to get our hopes up until we get catering estimates in, since they have a list of only six approved caterers.  In addition to Glen Echo Park, I think all the venues have pros and cons for what we’re looking for:

Brambleton Golf Course

  • Pros: Inexpensive venue rental, available for rent for the FULL day (and even night before), good parking situation, nearby hotels, outdoor ceremony option, and a covered pavilion with roll-down sides for staying warm.  Tables and chairs included.
  • Cons: The pavilion was right off a golf course, and all the trees were way off in the distance.  One caterer allowed (Blue Heron).  No outside alcohol permitted (and it’s expensive).


Brambleton Golf Course Pavilion

Cabell’s Mill – We stopped here without an appointment (I’ve had iffy luck getting people to call me back from Cabell’s Mill), so there was no one there to talk to.

  • Pros:  It seemed lovely, and from photos on their website, has an outdoor terrace that can be tented.  Although it’s unclear if those tents have roll down sides
  • Cons:  The indoor part, although we only viewed it through the window, seemed small and had low ceilings.  The building is right on a busy road.

    Cabell's Mill Venue Visit

Turkey Run Park – I must say, I really like this venue, and until we saw Glen Echo Park, it was my top choice.  My old company used to hold their annual picnic here, and it was lovely.

  • Pros: Very inexpensive ($650 for the shelter).  Inexpensive in-house catering.  Unique options for rent, including moon bounces and rock climbing walls.  The pavilion/shelter has roll down sides for climate control, and it is in a wooded setting, perfect for a fall wedding.  There’s fireplaces in two of the shelters, which are perfect for the s’mores I want to serve.
  • Cons: The restrooms were up a slight hill, which might prove difficult for our older or mobility-challenged guests.  Photos from weddings that Turkey Run sent us showed guests sitting at picnic tables (including for the ceremonies).  Although this isn’t a huge deal, picnic tables can get quite uncomfortable after a while.  The buffet-style food is served out of a separate pavilion, meaning guests would have to leave the climate-controlled pavilion to get their food.  If it’s a cold day, that would not be fun.

Turkey Run Park Pavilion

Seneca Creek Lodge –  Definitely not in the running

  • Pros: Inexpensive venue.  Outside alcohol permitted, saving us a boatload of money.  Fireplace inside the lodge.  Huge lawn with a wooded backdrop, and they allow tenting.
  • Cons: Way too rustic for my tastes.  The lodge itself seemed very small.  The woman who was there to answer questions, did not know the answers to very basic stuff, like how much the security deposit was, and what months are considered “off peak” season.

Seneca Creek Lodge

Rockwood Manor – No longer in the running

  • Pros: You can rent out guestrooms for a nominal extra cost, allowing close family to stay at the venue for the weekend.  Beautiful location, ample parking.  Several options for ceremony and reception locations on site.
  • Cons: Out of our budget.  We originally liked the idea of having guestrooms available onsite, but this would just be too expensive.  Also, it really wasn’t THAT nice for the cost.  Although, in full disclosure, we combined our visit with the “Not So Big Wedding Boutique” that was being held there, so it may have been difficult to visualize.

Glen Echo Park Bumper Car Pavilion – Loved SO much about this venue

  • Pros: Relatively inexpensive to rent, especially in the off season.  Able to hold the ceremony and reception at the park.  Unique setting and gorgeous art-deco style buildings.  The events manager was extremely helpful and knowledgeable.  Plastic roll down sides are attached to the Bumper Car Pavilion for climate control.
  • Cons: Only six approved caterers, many of which are high-end.  Tables and chairs are not included and would be an added expense from the caterer or a party rental company.  Decorating may require some creativity, because no tacks, tape, or nails are permitted.

Cuddle Up Pavilion at Glen Echo Park (Potential Ceremony Site)

Bumper Car Pavilion at Glen Echo Park


7 Ways To Get Organized when Planning a Wedding

by Melissa on November 11, 2010

I just got engaged in early October.  We were on vacation when my fiance proposed, and within a few days of returning, I started “wedding planning.”  Unfortunately what I ended up with was a jumbled mix of e-mail responses, saved delicious links, and information given to me in different and confusing formats.  So, in my first month of wedding planning, this is what I have learned:

  1. Always cc your fiance (and other folks anxious to help) on e-mail communications. This may only apply to grooms-to-be who are actually interested in helping you pick out wedding venues or caterers, but to avoid duplication of efforts, make sure you cc each other when sending e-mails to potential vendors, that way you don’t both send requests-for-information to the same vendor.  This may also apply to siblings, parents, etc. who may also be e-mailing on your behalf.  Make sure that you request that the recipient use the “reply all” function when replying to your e-mail, that way you don’t have to worry about forwarding responses.


  3. Set up a Google Docs account (or some other shared collaboration tool for documents and spreadsheets). My fiance and I have been using Google Docs for years now.  We use one spreadsheet to organize our shared monthy expenses, different documents and spreadsheets to organize vacations, etc.  We started a guest list spreadsheet so that we could add names to the document whenever someone came to mind, and didn’t have to worry about adding it to the most up-to-date version, or asking each other to e-mail it.  We also created a “Wedding” Google Doc Folder, and we save all our vendor correspondence and export it to Google Docs.  Boom, everything is saved in once, centralized location.


  5. Create an information collection worksheet for different types of vendors. What I have found very infuriating, is that different vendors give you information in so many different ways.  Even if you do ask them a specific list of questions, some respond specifically to your questions, others just attach brochures or pricing sheets.  We have our list of priorities, and created a worksheet so that we’re sure to collect the same information from each vendor.  We fill in the worksheet with the appropriate information, follow up on any missing sections, and then lo and behold, we have everyone’s information in one simple, easy to read, uniform format.  Our venue worksheet is pictured in my previous post.

  6. If you don’t already have one, set up a shared bookmarking account, like  I look up some wedding stuff during downtime at work, and do some at home.  I love using delicious to bookmark sites from any computer and then viewing those same saved links from another computer.  It’s also a good shared information collection tool, to let your fiance or family or friends what venues or caterers you’ve bookmarked, links to dresses you like, color palettes, etc.

  7. Create a custom Google Map to pinpoint all the venues you’d like to visit. This will help you visualize how far the venues are from your house, and different clusters of venue locations.  Then you can arrange for site visits for one day for many of the venues that are located close to each other.  Share the Google Map with your fiance and others that will be going with you.

  8. The phone is your friend. I am a total online geek.  I prefer to use e-mail for everything.  If a venue’s pricing information is not on their website and says to call for information, forget it.  But I have discovered that making a quick call can solve a lot of headaches.  First, you get a good back-and-forth conversation.  The first time I called a caterer, instead of e-mailing, I got all sorts of useful information, including valuable information about some of the venues we were considering.  That led to a good conversation about venue selection and how familiar the caterer is with different places.  I also told her that we were expecting about 100-150 people at our wedding.  She told me that it’s always better to give a caterer just one number, that way it’s easier to compare figures down the road, and you can always change the number until the last minute anyway.

  9. Don’t get ahead of yourself. I have to admit, this whole wedding planning thing is not as fun as I thought it would be.  Dealing with vendors and caterers is boring and keeps causing sticker shock over and over.  It’s so easy to get ahead of myself with ideas for save-the-date videos, wedding dresses, and amazing wedding invitations.  Stuff I consider to be much more fun.  There will plenty of time for all that once we have actually settled on a venue and date!

What methods have you used (or wish you knew about) to get organized in the early stages of wedding planning?


Tools to Help Organize Wedding Venue Information

by Melissa on November 9, 2010

Multi-tasking is not a good thing when it comes to wedding planning.  I’ll do some things during down-time at work, like e-mailing venues and caterers, or look for dress ideas or decorations on Etsy.  I’ve also been reviewing photographer’s blogs and looking for fun save-the-date videos on YouTube.  But  No need to look at any decorations or dresses until I have a venue and date set.  And while I’m at it, I need to organize all of it better.

I developed a list of questions for Washington, DC-area caterers based on guidance from some wedding planning books, various websites and blogs, and some plain common sense.  My initial organization tool was a spreadsheet that had a column for each question so I could enter in the caterers’ However, this quickly proved impossible to use.  Most caterers did not respond to our specific questions, but rather, just sent us a pricing list for various menus.  Sounds like it might work, right?  Hardly.  Multiple menu options and pricing, various bar options, some that include service in the per-person price, others that don’t, some that include tables and linens always, some that only provide them if the venue doesn’t provide them.  These are all way to many factors to include in a simple spreadsheet.  Plus, it’s been difficult to keep track of who I contact.  Some caterers prefer e-mail, some have a contact form on their website.  I try to keep track, but it’s difficult as I just look at things in the course of a google search.  You know how it is.  I’m having similar difficulty tracking and streamlining the information I get from venues.

Well, this disorganized method has got to stop.  Things are getting way out of hand, and it’s leading to a lot of wasted time.  Although I’m a true tech-girl and initially dismissed the “wedding binder” that I have seen mentioned a few places, I think a paper form may be the way to go for this.  Also, I think I need to start printing things out, that way I don’t always have to go back to my e-mail and vendor websites to find information.

So, I’ve created a form that contains fields of information that I want to collect from venues and caterers, that way, I have one, consistent looking form to refer to when I need to refresh my memory about a venue.  This is my venue form.  We’ve used it at all the venues we have looked at the last two weeks.  It contains all the information that is important to us about a venue, and it allows us to have a uniform method of collecting and reviewing information.  Anything I should add?

{ 1 comment }

Selecting a Wedding Venue in the DC Area

by Melissa on November 8, 2010

So here are some DC-area wedding venues we are (or were) considering for a ceremony and reception:

A few places have really surprised me with how expensive they are.  I always thought that by going “outside the city,” that things would be cheaper.  What has shocked me the most is how expensive wineries are!  I thought that since most of them are 1+ hour from DC, that they’d be reasonable.  Nope, many charge an average of $5000 just for the venue alone!  One, Breaux Vineyards, actually requires you to hire a coordinator on your own!  Now, I’m planning on getting a “month of” coordinator no matter what venue I pick.  But seriously, if you’re going to charge $5600 for me to use your venue, provide your own onsite coordinator.  What a racket!  So what exactly am I looking for in a venue?

  • Outdoor/Indoor options (Things like picnic pavilions with roll-down siding in case it’s cold or raining), or places that have an indoor reception but that expand onto an outdoor patio that’s covered.
  • Unique (but not stuffy).  I was originally very intrigued by the idea of various historical mansion properties in the area.  In addition to their expense, the more I looked at them, the more I realized that they’re just not really my style.  Regal staircases and formal parlors are just not the vibe I want to give off for my wedding.  Beautiful to visit, I’m sure, but just not for my wedding.
  • Must have nice floors.  I know this sounds very picky and specific, but seriously, how UGLY is hotel carpeting?  Hardwood floors or nice simple tile will do it for me, thank you very much.  No nasty-ass carpeting.
  • Although I like the idea of an outside option, I don’t like anything too rustic
  • Either A) has inexpensive in-house catering options, or B) allows for outside caterers.

I have looked extensively into local parks, like Virginia State Parks and Maryland State Parks and Fairfax County, etc. for various picnic pavilions.  They all seem to have them, but not with the covered sides.  I want an October or November wedding, and I just don’t want to take the risk of having cold guests.  Most parks also don’t allow fires, so there goes my s’mores idea.  I realize there are plenty of other unique venues in the DC area, and I’m pretty sure I’ve contacted most of them (if one more person tells me The Torpedo Factory, I’ll scream), but most of them are more than what we’re willing to spend.  But if you have any thoughts, please let me know!



by Melissa on November 4, 2010

Welcome to SuperNoVABride (as in Northern Virginia).  Soon this blog will be filled with rants, tips, and general information about having a low cost wedding in the DC area.  Can it be done?  We’ll see!