Before and After Questionnaire: Mrs. Sword Fills You In

Hello hive!  I’m excited to join this series created by Miss Border Collie and Mrs. Barn!  I still love talking about weddings (always will!) but as a new mama, my brain is mostly focused on parenting and/or sleeping, so it’s been nice to sit back and answer these fun post-wedding questions!  Hope you enjoy!

All photos by Crystal Liepa Photography unless otherwise noted.

What was your biggest priority for the event?

I have two answers.  Number one was making sure our guests were taken care of and felt comfortable.   Many decisions were made regarding our wedding because they benefited our out-of-town guests, such as, the rehearsal dinner venue being walking distance from the hotel, the hotel wedding itself that offered transportation to and from the airport and a place to crash after the wedding.  Number two was photography.  I wanted gorgeous photos.

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What was your biggest concern for the day?

Our biggest concern was weather.  Even though all events were taking place indoors, I desperately wanted some photos taken outside.  It was early March in Minnesota and the temperature that day was in the 30’s.  It ended up raining/snowing while we were outside which meant my hair was in danger of falling flat and my dress was soaked at the bottom, but in the end it didn’t matter.  Some of my favorite memories are of cuddling with my hubby under the bridge before our ceremony.

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What DIY project did you care about the most?

None of them, I hate DIY (which in my case stands for destroy-it-yourself).  I loved all the DIY projects from our wedding, I just didn’t work on many of them, haha.  I relied on my amazing family for help in this area, my sister made the bridesmaid necklaces and bouts, my mom made the sword escort cards, a family friend painted the castle, and another family friend helped design the centerpieces.  What did I do you my ask?  I glued the letters C-A-R-D-S on a box.

What was your worst wedding-related nightmare?

I’ll consider it a mental health win that I do not remember any of my wedding related nightmares.  :)

Did you actually eat?

YES!  I’m proud to say I ate a few apps, and most of my dinner.  The key for us was utilizing a sweetheart table because it allowed us a few moments alone.  And since we did a receiving line post-ceremony there wasn’t a mad dash to make it around to each and every table.

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What is your favorite picture?

Ahhh, I have so many!  But I will play the game and only pick one.  This photograph of Mr. Sword and I is dreamy, romantic, dramatic, and beautiful.  I’d say it represents our fairy tale wedding nicely.

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(Bonus: Here is Mr. Sword’s fave wedding photo!  I love that he has one!)

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 What was the worst thing that happened at your wedding?

We were lucky to have nothing major happen, just a bunch of small things.  It rained, our photographer forgot to get a few important shots, they started our first dance song at the wrong part, our bathroom baskets were stolen after the reception, etc.  But the BEST worst thing that happened was my sister and best friend getting stuck in the elevator!  The Embassy Suites’ elevators were slow and terrible and right before family photos these two got stuck!  I was a bit panicked until I realized what was going on and after that I just thought it was the funniest thing ever.  Such a good story to tell!

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What is your favorite wedding memory?

Again, this is so difficult.  I have so many moments that stick out to me, such as my mom and sister helping me into my dress, my aunt and grandmother seeing me for the first time, walking down the aisle with my dad, saying my vows to Mr. Sword, our handfasting, and dancing the night away with our awesome family and friends.

There is one moment that stands out as supercharged and perfect.  We planned this first dance fake-out where we cut from a slow song (Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years) to a fast song (Pink’s Raise Your Glass) and on the last chorus our entire bridal party joined us on the dance floor.  It was exhilarating and love-filled and I will never forget it!

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What did your guests mention the most after the wedding?

Our guest could not stop talking about how much fun they had!  We still get compliments randomly from guests telling us what a blast they had at our wedding and how convenient it was.  Everyone loved our personalized ceremony, the lovely and funny toasts, and especially dancing to the ceilidh band!

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What did you do after the wedding?

Mr. Sword and I left a little bit before midnight (when the reception ended) and rode the scary elevators up to our room for some alone time and to pass out.  That said, many of our guests went to the hotel bar or the bar across the street to keep on partying!

Bonus: Did you have a private after-party with your new spouse or crash afterward?

squeezed my swollen and tired body into slipped into my white wedding lingerie after getting out of my dress.  So yes and then definitely yes.  :)  Getting married is exhausting!!

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En Garde: The Swords Celebrate One Year

Hive, how are you all??  It’s been way too long, and I’m soooo excited to be back even if it’s just to pop in for one day.  I know there many lovely new bees reading these days so in case you’re wondering who the Swords are, take a look at these photos of our Highland Fairy Tale.  (All photos by Crystal Liepa Photography unless otherwise noted.)

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OK that’s enough photos for now but if you want to go back and read my recaps, this post has the links to all of them at the bottom.

Being married is well, great!  I will say I’m officially in the camp of those who say getting married definitely changes things.  But for us, it’s been in a good way!  I feel like our admiration and respect of each other has grown, our relationship bond is deeper, our fights (while loud and emotional) don’t last quite as long, and our intimate moments are better and more connected.

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We’ve been through a lot in one year.  Two major moves, me leaving my job as a nanny, adopting our lovely dog McKenna, Mr. Sword finding a new job in a new state, and oh yea, getting pregnant!  What what??

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That’s right, the Swords are expecting their first little dagger and we’re absolutely thrilled about it!  :)  Baby Sword is due at the end of July and while that’s pretty exciting we’re also in the middle of house hunting.  Here’s hoping we have a nursery and a home set up by summer and aren’t living with my parents anymore!  (Gulp.)

I realize I’ve probably run out on time and relevance to give wedding advice but I truly can’t help myself.  A) I love to talk about weddings and B) I have lots to share!  So do with it what you will.  No wedding is perfect but Mr. Sword and I still get compliments on ours a year later and I get misty-eyed thinking about how lovely a day it was.  I LOVED my wedding day.  Here’s why:

1. It was convenient. We had a perfect, gorgeous, albeit average hotel wedding but because guests were able to get ready, watch the ceremony, party all night, and sleep, all at the same location, they were able to open themselves to having the best time ever.

2. It was personalized.  We had a bagpiper and a Ceilidh band.  Our ceremony was liberal but religious.  I wore a tiara and Mr. Sword wore a kilt.  We had swords as our escort cards and beer bottles for centerpieces.

3.  It was full of love.  Even though it was 30 degrees and raining Mr. Sword and I were so elated to be getting married.  If you’re in love and content and comfortable, your guests will see that and it will spread everywhere.  Of course not everything went as planned (remember when my MOH and bridesmaid got stuck in an elevator?) but our family and friends were so amazing and everyone had such a good time that all I could do was smile.  You don’t need Chiavari chairs (we had ugly ballroom ones), expensive, fancy food (we served chicken), favors or bathroom baskets (OK, so we had both of those but you don’t need them), to have a perfect wedding.

Congrats and happy planning everybody!!  I may not post often but I still love reading Weddingbee!

PS I’d love for all of you to follow my new blog, Drama Happens.  It’s a relationship-focused blog where topics include but are not limited to embarrassing stories from my life, interviews from people in those culturally not-so-typical relationships, pregnancy updates, puke, my sister, bump photos, and Mr. Sword.

Until the next time,

xoxo,

Stephanie

The Swords Live Happily Ever After

It all started on the eve of Thanksgiving 2009.  I met a drunk Scottish guy and I gave him my phone number with the instructions, “I don’t call boys, boys call me.”  A phrase that haunts me still, but believe me, I didn’t mean it the way it sounds!  I was merely expressing my nervousness at my calling him.

He did call and our first date was lunch and window shopping down Michigan Ave in Chicago.  It was amazing.  By June of 2010 I was on a plane leaving the country for the very first time to visit his home in Scotland.   He proposed on February 19th, 2012 at the top of the John Hancock Building and we were wed on March 9th, 2013.  Now we live in the Kansas City area but our ultimate goal is to raise a family in Minnesota.  (Speaking of, go Minnesota for passing a same-sex marriage bill back in May; you make me proud!  Number 12 baby.)

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I know it’s easy to get wrapped up in a big wedding bubble when you’re deep in the middle of planning.  I know that some people in real life have lovingly and not-so-lovingly called me wedding-obsessed and/or crazy, but if I’m going to be crazy about one thing, it’s love. I will always cherish and enjoy weddings.  They represent beginnings, blending of families, and unfiltered bliss.

If I may indulge in one last piece of advice, here are my three best tips for a stunning and fabulous wedding:

1. Personalize, personalize, personalize.

2. Think like a guest.

3. Go for the deal!  (Life is short.  And if you can save ten bucks per head by having a March wedding in Minnesota then go for it, because April will not be any better weather-wise.)

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Blogging for this community has been such a rich blessing for me as a woman, a writer, and especially a bride.  To all of you who have followed my journey since the beginning, I commend you!  (I realize I can be a bit verbose at times.)  To the blogger friends I’ve made along the way, thank you for your amazing support.  To those of you who kept it real with me, your opinions were always appreciated as was the reminder that I can’t possibly please everyone.

From the moment I woke up after a vivid dream with the words “A Highland Fairy Tale” in my head, to the day it was all so beautifully executed, I’ve had a blast.  Mr. Sword, you are the most amazing man I know.  Our wedding was perfect because our relationship is solid and a happy, loving couple is all anyone should expect at a wedding.  I look forward to many more special moments with you as my husband.

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HOLD ON A SEC… who is that sneaking into our family photo???  Oh yes, that’s our new baby girl.  She’s a one year old hound mix with a brindle coat and she’s kind of amazing.  We got her from a shelter in mid-August and we LOVE being doggie parents.  Should we call her our dagger or just a small sword?

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Her name is McKenna.  Of course it’s a Scottish name because that’s exactly something I would do.  Isn’t she the cutest?

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I’m still planning on writing and well, being me, so if you’re so inclined, please feel free to check out my new relationship blog, Drama Happens.  I’d love to be able to share more of my life with you all!

With that, The Swords are leaving the building.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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(all photos personal)

One last thought!  The fact that I could never make a Sword in the Stone wedding reference in my year of blogging really upsets me.  Anyone got anything good?  :)

Love,
Stephanie

Cathartic Vendor Review

At first I struggled with whether or not to review my vendors because the information is only relevant to those people getting married in Minnesota.  But being that there are not very many Weddingbee blogger bees from MN, I decided to go ahead and write the post.

The reason this is cathartic for me is because I had a bit of an issue with one of my main vendors.  I’m not sure how to handle my frustration while still being the bigger person and avoiding pointless catty comments other than to be as vague as possible while still letting it all out.

I am disappointed in how things went down with my photographer.  Sister Big Eyes’ and I shrendored her, which makes my frustrations doubly upsetting.

Our photographer is a talented artist no doubt but she was not easy to work with.  For example, my photos were late, multiple other promised deadlines were missed, and there was an overall lack of business savvy.  Days before Sister Big Eyes’ wedding there was an issue via email that could have been easily avoided with better communication.  There were misunderstandings about expectations, excuses instead of apologies, and both of us are still waiting on a part of our package, an album we were promised.

While I do love my pictures and am incredibly thankful for them, it’s hard for me to encourage others to hire her when she caused us both so much unnecessary stress, which is why I’m not linking to her website or recommending her.  (Although her information is not difficult to find if you go to any of my recaps.)

To turn this into something positive, here are a few things to remember that I wish I had known when interviewing photographers besides the usual, look at all the photos from one wedding, not just the favorites, and make sure they match your aesthetic/vision.

Picking the Right Photographer:

  • Get a timeline in the contract so that you have something to refer back to if they are late getting you your photos.
  • Ask them how many weddings they shoot per year, the lower the number the more time they will have to devote to the ones they have booked.
  • Trust your instincts, to quote Oprah quoting Maya Angelou, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
  • Respect them as an artist but remember you have a right to hold them accountable as a paying client.  Be kind but firm with expectations.
  • Finally, do NOT pass their name along to someone else until AFTER you’ve had the full experience of working them.  Unless of course you’re sisters getting married within three months of each other and it makes sense for you both.  :)

Now that the icky stuff is out of the way, let me tell you about a shrendoring experience that was the complete opposite of the last one.

Laura Westrem: A+

Sister Big Eyes’ and I shared our hair/makeup artist and I would recommend her a million times over!  She was so easy to be around and really focused on making the bride feel special and happy.  She also got to know our family pretty well from doing both weddings and she offered Sister and I discounts at both weddings.  She works really hard but still makes time to respond to emails, and was extremely accommodating of my out-of-town schedule.  If I need a hair/makeup artist in the future, I’m calling Laura.

Midwest Sound and DJ: B

The music selection at the reception was fantastic but they caused us some unnecessary stress by phoning the week of the wedding saying they couldn’t get the legal copies of TWO songs for our ceremony.  I was pretty annoyed because I had sent them our packet of song choices back in February.  The issue was resolved in time but it was still frustrating.

Embassy Suites Bloomington: A-

What can I say?  This hotel knows weddings.  The two ladies in charge are both very nice and great with responding quickly over email.  They worked with me when I had to set up meetings pretty far in advance and they answered all my questions without making me feel stupid.  A few hiccups, one they asked for a payment after I’d already given it (I almost paid them twice for the same thing but luckily we caught it), and they switched my coordinator at the last minute, and AGAIN I found out the week of the wedding.  It wasn’t a huge issue, but being that I’d only met one of the two woman, I felt very much like the rug was pulled out from under me.  Their expertise in the wedding biz came through in the end and it didn’t matter who my coordinator was, it all got done.

Also, one last thing, that doesn’t really have to do with Embassy Suites, or so we think, our bathroom baskets were stolen!  I was pretty pissed at the time, not only because those baskets were from my own house but mostly because we were going to reuse them for Sister Big Eyes’ wedding and instead we had to purchase new baskets and new items and make them all over again!  Dear people who steal bathroom baskets: you make me sad.  Drag your ass to Target and buy a Tide-to-go pen on your own dime!

The Gunn Slingers: A+++

Our Ceilidh band was the highlight of the night.  Hire them.  They rule.  Since they don’t have a website Google them to find their Facebook page or private message me for an email address.

Evan the Bagpiper: A+

He was young, sweet, talented, and on time.  He even came to our rehearsal.  Everyone loved his music.  Private message me for his email address if you want pipes for your Minnesota wedding!

Lake Harriet Florist: A

My bouquets were stunning and she worked within my meager budget.  The first and last place we went to, win win.

Videography

I can’t review or link to my videographers because they are done filming weddings and do not want inquires about them, but they rocked.  And if I ever need to film a commercial, I’m calling them.  :)

Did you have a frustrating experience with a vendor that you need some closure on?  Is anyone else shrendoring?!?!  :)

The Big Bad Budget Post- Sword Edition

I want to start this post with a collective groan (ullllhhh) because it’s all about wedding budgets and money.  I’m going to share our real figures accurately as possible, aside from rounding up or down to keep things easier.  (I hate math.)

Obviously, some of you might be like, “HOLY SH&T MRS. SWORD, you spent that much on one day?!?!?”  And some of you might be like, “Wow, that’s barely anything.  My entire budget is two or three times that.”

But hopefully most of you have less extreme reactions to our budget and can find something that relates to your own wedding.  Everyone’s situation is unique to them, and we all know there are two major things that affect the cost of a wedding: location and budget.  That being said, here is the Sword nitty-gritty.

Mr. Sword and I got married in Bloomington, MN in the County of Hennepin (much to the dismay of many of our friends who wanted an excuse to take a trip to Scotland).  I went to this Cost of Wedding website for more information on the average budget for someone getting married in this area.

Average Cost of Wedding in Hennepin County, MN: Between $20,732 and $34,553, with most couples not spending over 10,000 dollars.

The Sword’s Wedding Budget Goal: $25,000

Total Cost of A Highland Fairy Tale: $28,267

For a grand total of 3,267 dollars over budget, we’ll take it!  :)

Who Contributed: 1/3 Mrs. Sword’s parents, 1/3 Mr. Sword’s parents, 1/3 the Swords themselves.  It was a group effort!

The Budget Breakdown:

Rehearsal Dinner at Cowboy Jack’s: $1,500 (this includes burgers and a drink for about 70 people and Mr. Sword’s tres leches groom’s cake)

Bridal Attire (including alterations, jewelry, and shoes): $1,300

Groom’s Attire (including custom-made kilt from Scotland and accessories): $2,000

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YES, we spent more on Mr. Sword than me!  Love it.

6 yards extra fabric of family named tartan that is really one-of-a-kind and was used multiple times: $645.00

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Flowers: $550 (five bouquets and four corsages)

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Centerpieces: $285 (this is just what we spent, Mom Sword spent more finishing them up)

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Venue and Catering: $11,000 (this includes three sections of the ballroom and all that comes with them, one hour open bar, plated dinner for all guests, beer, wine, signature drinks, soda, late night snack, draping behind sweetheart table, purple uplighting, and the cake)

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Atrium rental fee for ceremony: $500

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Officiant: $275

Marriage License: $40 (MN charges $115 unless you show proof of premarital counseling which lowers it to 40 bucks)

Bagpiper: $250

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Photography: $2,160 (after a discount for finding her through a blog)

Videography: $2,300 (for four separately edited films- trailer, full video, ceremony, and Best Man Speech)

Ceilidh Band: $550 (for one hour of playing)

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DJ (including glow sticks, extra lighting, and lapel mic rental): $1,040

Wedding band hers: $600 (white gold)

Wedding band his: $210 (tungsten)

Hair and Makeup: $200 (for a trial and the day of, which was super discounted, I love my girl!)

Hair Extensions: $170 (have worn them a total of four times so far and plan on wearing them again in the future, so worth it!)

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Gifts for bridal party and family: approx. $1,000 (which sounds scary but that is split between 20 people which equals roughly around 50 bucks a person, seems reasonable to me)

Shortbread favors for guests: $115

Invitations and STD’s: $642

Sorry for the blurs!

Sorry for the blurs!

Storybook Guestbook: $90

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Crafting supplies, OOTG bags, stamps, and other misc: $500 (most of which was spent at JoAnn’s)

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Tips for vendors: $370

Accommodations: $260 (for two nights, one before wedding, and one after, wedding night was complimentary)

Sword escort card display: Gifted by Mom Sword

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Pre-wedding Mani/Pedi: Gifted by BM L Dawg

Not Included Costs: Honeymoon and engagement ring.  We feel those two items are separate from our wedding budget.

What We Skipped:

Transportation:  One stop shop wedding meant we didn’t need to transport guests at all.  The hotel had a shuttle that ran people to and from the airport as well as the Mall of America.  When we went off-site for photos we had family and friends drive us.

Chair Covers:  Ah, yea, didn’t miss ’em.

Photo Booth: A good wedding trend, but one I had no desire to indulge in.  Our dance party reception was a hit without it.

All photos by Crystal Liepa Photography unless otherwise noted.

Phew!  Hope this post was informative and interesting at the same time.  Tomorrow I’m going to share my vendor reviews and then it’s time for The Swords to say goodbye.  :(

Rock the Frock: Sister Style

Hive, I am THRILLED to share these sister shoot photos with you.  I’ve been daydreaming about them since Sister Big Eyes told me last year that she wanted to do a photo shoot with BOTH of us in our wedding gowns.

I really want to post them without these downer disclaimers but truthfully I feel a bit self-conscious about my appearance in some of the pictures.  I’d been dancing all day at Sister’s wedding and was a bit sweaty and swollen.  Plus, for some idiotic reason I took my hair out of its side up do and it just doesn’t look right with no time or professional to fix it.  (Sorry about the whiny moment.)

That aside, these pictures are so incredibly special to me.  My Sister and I had a rough start to this wedding planning journey but in the end, there is no one in the world I’d rather have shared it with.

The location: Our parent’s backyard at their home in a southern suburb of the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

The dresses: Both Mori Lee with ruching and ruffles but hers is white, and mine is ivory.  Hers is a dropped waist, corset back, and beading.  Mine is a fit-n-flare with zip up and buttons down the back.

The men: Both of them officially our husbands now!  We actually hauled Mr. Sword’s kilt ensemble all the way from Chicago for this short shoot but it was totally worth it!

Strike…a…pose!

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This one is just of Mr. Sword and myself because we wanted a picture highlighting his sword cuff links.

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After we sent the guys away it was time for some sisters only bridal portraits.  We had such a blast!

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Veils?  Yes please.  And not just to cover up my sunburn from Sister’s ceremony earlier that day…

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This next one has a good view of the differences in our bodices.

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Would you ever do a photo shoot with another bride, a sister, or friend, or otherwise?  I 100% recommend it!

All photos by Crystal Liepa Photography.

Sister Sword’s Fancy Picnic Wedding

You didn’t think I would leave you all hanging on Sister Big Eyes’ gorgeous wedding, did you?  Sister and Brother-in-law were married on a Sunday in June three months and one week after the Sword wedding.  It was also the same day as our grandparent’s wedding anniversary AND Father’s Day, making it all that more special.

Dearest hive, I will now attempt to do the impossible, I will recap Sister Big Eyes’ wedding in ONE SINGLE BUT INCREDIBLY LONG BLOG POST.  Never mind that recapping my Highland Fairy Tale took about 40 posts, I truly believe I can do this!  Hopefully you’ll recognize a lot of familiar faces but in a whole new setting this time!  Minnesota in the summer is quite lovely.

A Fancy Picnic

Getting Ready

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Does that look familiar?  I have the same shot, see below.  Cool huh?

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cheers

Auntie B’s reaction to seeing the bride:

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Does it remind you of the last time she saw a bride?

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I love this next shot!

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First Look and Portraits

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sister faces

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Guess who made it to another Minnesota wedding all the way from Bismarck, ND… our grandparents!  We are the luckiest.  :)

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Ceremony

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Look who’s escorting his new Mother-in-law down the aisle, a squinty Mr. Sword!

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Yours truly as Matron of Honor.

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They sang their vows to each other- it was amazing!  And they did a God’s knot, which Sister Big Eyes braided during the ceremony.

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Yay, another receiving line, our family loves giving hugs!

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Details

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For their guestbook, they had everyone sign an old guitar, and how cute are their functional yet personalized guitar picks that were used as confetti and available for guests to take home!  An authentic picnic basket was used for cards.

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Reception

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This guy again, killed it with another great Father of the Bride toast- can you imagine having to do TWO in three months?!?

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Sister and BIL had taken lessons ahead of time, and they did a fantastic job on their first dance!

first dance

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Sister Big Eyes invited some of her former students to come towards the end of the day and dance their favorite line dances with her at the reception.  It was really sweet.

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One thing I regret we couldn’t have was a cute send-off!  These ribbon wands were a huge hit with everyone.  :)

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Mr. Sword and myself drove them away from their reception and to my parent’s house, it was time for our Sister Rock the Frock Photo Shoot!!  Coming up NEXT!

All photos by Crystal Liepa Photography because remember, we shrendored.

PHEW, I did it!  :)  Did you see any details or ideas that inspired you for your wedding?