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Showered in Chicago

As you can probably guess from the title of my post, I had my Chicago shower this past weekend.  Although I mean it both figuratively and literally, because we had a whole day of rains showers to match my event!  It was a wonderful afternoon and I’m so grateful to all of the beautiful ladies who came to celebrate with me!

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When I first got engaged early last year Boss Lady told me she wanted to throw me a LLLL shower here in Chicago for all my Chicago peeps, and I was so touched!  I know bridal showers are a bonus as not everyone gets one, and I was thrilled when she made the generous offer.

Boss Lady is also Mom to my flower girl Littlest C.  Littlest C was so adorable at the shower, I heard she helped set up, I saw her greet and talk to guests, and when she wasn’t bonding with Sister/MOH Big Eyes she was being the cutest, most adorable and mature 6-year-old ever!

Miss Sword, Littlest C, and Boss Lady

Miss Sword, Littlest C, and Boss Lady

The LLLL stands for Ladies Linen and Lingerie Luncheon.  Like the name implies you aren’t limited to buying off registry because sexy late night outfits and panties are encouraged as well!  I received lots of beautiful and clever gifts, and some awesome pieces of lingerie.  I think the raciest one was given to me by my mother!  AWKWARD.

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Boss Lady had the luncheon catered and the food was amazing!

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Boss Lady decorated the space with gorgeous purple and white flowers, and made the sweetest treat bags for everyone.  They included a nail polish from Victoria’s Secret, scented drawer fresheners, and adorable hankies.  All in different colors.  So clever!

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She really put together a classy event and I’m so lucky so many of my friends could make it.  Mom Sword and Sister Big Eyes were also in attendance having flown in from MN for the weekend.

This was taken at my church the morning of the shower, apparently it's the only pic I have of the three of us!

This was taken at my church the morning of the shower, apparently it’s the only pic I have of the three of us!

NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT CAKE.  I have to give a shout-out to my friends S and A for bringing the most amazing cake I’ve ever seen!!!

S and A are the sisters on the left.

S and A are the sisters on the left.  Can’t you tell?

Isn’t this thing adorable???  It’s got a tartan sash and a little sword.  I mean, COME ON.  I’m in love.

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The tartan sash definitely looked more purple in person than it showed in photos!

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Another shout-out goes to my girl M for coming up with the most unique shower game I’ve ever played!

MX

She actually printed out status’ from Facebook and had everyone guess if Mr. Sword or myself had written them.  Hilarious, smart, and perfect for our social media crazed era!  Of course most of the longer posts belonged to yours truly, but I think I was the only person who got 100%, go figure!  🙂

Mr. Sword showed up at the end of the shower so he could carry gifts to the car and help me thank everyone for coming.  I mean, most of the lingerie is a present for him anyway, right!?!

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Finally my favorite photos have to be from my sneaky Sister Big Eyes.  She was in charge of taking pictures during the shower and she decided to surprise me with an abundance of my famous “Miss Sword” poses using her own mug.  I definitely laughed out loud when I saw them on my camera later that night!   🙂

melissa collage

Did you just have a bridal shower?  Has anyone played the Facebook status game before?  Isn’t the cake just perfect??

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One of these things is not like the other

Let’s play a wee game.  (Sometimes I talk Scottish just for fun.  Wee = little, just in case that wasn’t clear.)

I’m going to show you four different photos of four different couples and you guys tell me for which couple would it make sense to host their rehearsal dinner at a restaurant called Cowboy Jacks.

1.

anniversary shoot inspiration, san diego shoot inspiration, fall wedding inspiration, farm wedding i

2.

engagement inspiration, southern engagement inspiration, cowboy engagement session, engagement sessi

3.

4.

amanda troy15

Photo by: Arielle Doneson Photography on Sparkle and Hay via Lover.ly

If you guessed Couple Number #3 (aka The Swords) you guessed correctly!  Mr. Sword and I are hosting our rehearsal dinner at Cowboy Jacks.  I can say with full confidence there is no restaurant more opposite of our tastes.  I would describe Mr. Sword and myself as modern and minimalistic city folk.  Originally we had envisioned this sophisticated and chic Chicago style rehearsal dinner, but that didn’t seem to be in the cards.  Instead, this (see below) is now in our future.

Image via Cowboy Jacks

Yes, that is a mechanical bull.  While this restaurant has excellent food (burgers just like we wanted) and a private room (so hard to find a big enough room for all of our OOTG’s), it’s definitely a bit out of my comfort zone!


Even though there are animal carcasses on the walls and rifles in place of door handles, it’s LITERALLY across the parking lot from our hotel and that makes it perfect for the Swords.  Our main goal was to get the guests out of the hotel for at least some part of the weekend (since ceremony, reception, and Sunday brunch are all in the one location), and at first we were looking into a few restaurants at the Mall of America.  The MOA is really close and would have been relatively simple because of the free shuttles that are offered from our hotel.  Plus, it would have allowed our guests to enjoy one of Minnesota’s best attractions, but unfortunately, between a lack of space, private rooms, and ridiculously over-priced menus (because they can), we opted for a closer location.  After all, this wasn’t the first time we had made a decision based on practicality.

Funniest comment so far (as I’m sure this will be a running joke in my family for years) was when Mom Sword said, “I hope the Scottish people don’t end up assuming that all of America looks like this!”  And the thing is Mom Sword LOVES country music and is super excited about our choice of Cowboy Jacks, but it’s comical to think about how the the first “American experience” Mr. Sword and I will be showing our out-of-country guests won’t have anything to do with our personal interests!

So, is anyone else hosting a rehearsal dinner somewhere that reflects a completely different style or decor than they’re used to?  I feel like a lot of people would totally get into Cowboy Jacks; would this be the perfect place for your rehearsal dinner or wedding?

DIY (destroy-it-yourself)

I am not crafty at ALL. I have no skills in painting or doodling or gluing things together.  I have these big clumsy hands and I move way too fast to make anything that requires fine motor skills.  I’m constantly dropping things, I take way more tape than any human ever needs at one time, and my stick people look nothing like stick people!  IT’S THAT BAD.

Cut to me finding a cake topper on Etsy and really, really wanting it.  It’s a bit pricey for something I know I could make myself, or rather, something that someone could make themselves.  First I think, “45 dollars plus S&H is way too much for a cake topper, I should try to make it myself; it will feel good to be crafty.”  And then I think “No, it’s OK if I’m not a crafty bride, I’m writing my own vows aren’t I?  That’s creative. And doesn’t involve hand/eye coordination.  Then I think, “Being a DIY bride is so cool, give it a shot, I believe in you!”  And finally I think, “It’s 45 dollars, grow a pair and buy it, do you want it to look nice or not?!?!”

Here is my dream cake-topper:

image via Etsy/betteroffwed

Isn’t it gorgeous and so fitting for our theme?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens, maybe I’ll get ambitious, maybe I’ll give in and buy it… who knows!  In the meantime, lets look at some cake tasting photos because that was a decision that required very little thought.  In fact, Mr. Sword and I had a blast picking out our cake flavors!  We ended up going with a vanilla cake with strawberry curd filling and a chocolate cake with cookies and cream filling.  YUM.

The design we chose is simple and modern like our style.  It’s a three-tiered square cake with each tier a bit off center from the next one (Mr. Sword’s idea) and the piping on it is called “nest,” which just means there are some interesting lines drawn on the cake in an ivory icing.  We chose to have just the top and bottom tiers “nested” to give it a clean and contemporary look.  Our cake is included in the package we have with our hotel and it’s coming from a place called Buttercream.

Our appointment was quick and easy, and I loved that the decision of which bakery to go to was made for us, meaning one less thing I had to research!

But back to the cake topper.  For years I’ve known I wouldn’t want a traditional cake topper of the woman dragging the man (such a terrible stereotype) or the boring posed couple.  When the fad of birds and other animals became popular for cake toppers I knew I didn’t want any of those either because I’m just not a big animal person.  I do like giraffes, but a giraffe cake topper?  Really?

I was browsing Etsy when it just hit me.  WORDS.  I love words, I collect quotes, I love writing.  I would put words on our cake.  At first I was thinking of doing a version of Mr. and Mrs. in black (adorable!), but once I found my “happily ever after” I was smitten.

(all photos personal unless noted otherwise)

So now the question is, do I make it or buy it?  What would you do?  Does it look easy to make?  I have no clue what I’m doing!!

Following up!

Since I’d made a list of goals and “wish list” goals before leaving for our big planning trip, I’d thought it’d be fun to go through them and see how much I got accomplished.  I have to say that while the trip was overall really good and productive, it was also a bit stressful and a little too fast-paced at times.  If at all possible, I DO NOT recommend cramming in as much stuff as we did, unless of course you have to!!  I’ve also added a list of things that were accomplished that I didn’t even plan for!!  🙂

Mean, lean, list-checking-off machines!

Lean, mean, list-checking-off machines!

Goals for Minnesota Trip #2:

  • choose our photographer- CHECK!
  • choose our videographer- CHECK!
  • complete cake testing- CHECK!
  • solidify signature drink- CHECK!
  • take our Pastor out to dinner and discuss the ceremony- CHECK!
  • select and buy a wedding dress- CHECK!
  • hire a bagpiper- CHECK!
  • eat at one or two of the restaurants we are considering for our OOTG rehearsal dinner-CHECK!
I have to toot my own horn for just a second here because I’m super impressed with Mr. Scottish and myself for somehow accomplishing all the major things we set out to do while in Minnesota.  I will be doing individual updates on everything (complete with photos) so I won’t go into details now, but it’s worth noting that I’m also thrilled that no one canceled on us the entire week.  Let me repeat that, aside from one or two rescheduled appointments, EVERY SINGLE VENDOR was where they said they would be when they said they would be there.  And most people commented on how ahead of the game we were with our appointments.  WIN WIN.
Let’s see how we did with our “wish list” goals!

“Wish List” for Minnesota Trip #2:

  • hire a Ceilidh band- CHECK!
  • choose a gown for my bridesmaids- CHECK!
  • brainstorm venue options with Sister/MOH Big Eyes for her wedding- CHECK!  (well we saw Sister Big Eyes’ venue, but it had already been chosen)
  • get The Glue fitted for his kilt rental- CHECK!
  • clean and consolidate the one closet of my stuff still left at my parent’s house- nope
  • work on centerpieces- CHECK!
  • plan my next wedding planning trip to MN- CHECK!
  • visit with friends and family- CHECK! 
  • hit up Sam’s Club- nope, but my Mom went, does that count?
  • order our STD’s (photos pending)- CHECK!

It feels so good to see that most of these items can be checked off the list as well!  I had no idea how much we actually accomplished until I did this (it all felt sort of muddled in my brain after five days of non-stop moving).  Now let’s see what else we got done that I would consider an “extra.”
  • buy Dad a new suit from Kohl’s
  • show Auntie B and BM L Dawg our venue for the first time
  • buy supplies to make cutesy girl-type cards for ???? (can’t reveal that info at this time)
  • take Mom around Bed, Bath, and Beyond to show her what we’ve registered for
  • try on summer dresses for Sister/MOH Big Eyes’ wedding
  • help my Mom buy her dress for Sister/MOH Big Eyes’ wedding
  • buy my bridal corset bra
  • find a headpiece for bridal outfit (a gift from Auntie B, more details on that to come)
(all photos personal)

WOW.  I can’t wait to get started on all the updates!  Does anyone else use wedding check lists?  Are you ahead of the game or are you using a more relaxed timeline?

Busy busy bee

We have a lot of appointments set for our second trip to Minnesota.  And by a lot, I mean around 3 or 4 appointments per day.  It’s kind of intense.  I’m taking this long-distance planning very seriously.  And to be honest, I’m super pumped!  I literally can’t wait.  This is my dream, going around meeting people for coffee or wine to discuss a big party all about me (and Mr. Scottish)?  SOUNDS AMAZING.  Perhaps this is why my Mother thinks I should be a wedding planner, I’m not very interested in that career path, but I do love to help the people in my life with their weddings.  Since MOH Big Eyes is recently engaged, I can start tagging along to her appointments as well and demanding only the best for her!  🙂

This is a screenshot of my upcoming week.  Only the vendor and bridal gown/bridesmaid appts are set in stone, but there is a tiny bit of wiggle room for the other stuff.  Remember when I said I scheduled in specific time for Mr. Scottish to play video games and drink beer?  Well here is the proof!  And a funny little tidbit:  When talking with Mr. Scottish about doing this screenshot, I said, “What is a screenshot exactly?  Do you take a picture of your computer screen with your camera and then upload it?”  Insert laugh here.   But seriously that is what made sense to me!!  I am computer illiterate and Mr. Scottish nicely puts up with me.  Consequently, this screenshot is courtesy of him.  If  I ever need to make another one, Lord help me…

Hey, other Long-Distance brides!  How do you plan your time at home?  And also how many photographers do couples normally meet with?  We are meeting with four total, two at the low end of our price range and two at the high end of it, just to compare!

Church, Frolfing, and Grilling

By the end of our whirlwind wedding planning weekend, both Mr. Scottish and I were ready to relax and focus on something else, luckily we weren’t leaving for Chicago until later that evening so we were able to spend Mother’s Day with my Mom.  Note: Mother’s Day in the UK is on a different date than the one in the US.  Pro: Both of our moms get their own special day.  Con: We have two different days to remember!  Win win: I plan on celebrating BOTH once I’m a mother.  🙂

My Mom wanted to do three things on her day, 1) She wanted all of us attend church with her, 2) She wanted us all to hang out and do something fun together as a family, and 3) She wanted all of US to be in charge of lunch (for once!).  Number 1 was successful and that morning we filled up almost a full row at my home church.  Number 2 was almost fully successful, but since Sister Big Eyes had a lot of grad school homework to finish and my Dad recently had foot surgery, only four of us made it out for frolfing.  Frolfing is also known as frisbee golfing (get it?) and it’s awesome.  See below.

Me and my brother (The Glue)

Mr. Scottish and I

My mommy and me!!

Good form Mom!

Mr. Scottish burns easily and he forgot sunscreen!

Finally number 3 was a slight fail due to my Dad (sorry Dad, throwing you under the bus here), because he forgot to tell me that I was in charge of dessert for the big meal!  Sister knew she was doing the veggies, The Glue knew he was supposed to be grilling, Dad knew he had to buy everything and be in charge, he just isn’t very good at the latter part of it, but no one told me what I was supposed to do!  After a quick verbal lashing at my father browsing of the internet we magically whipped up some strawberry shortcake for dessert.  Saved!

After opening gifts, it was time to head to the airport. The weekend went by in a flash, but it was truly wonderful.  And it wasn’t too hard to say goodbye because I knew I’d be back in June for a FULL WEEK of wedding planning.  If you thought I fit a lot into this weekend, then you ain’t seen nothing yet!  I’ll probably be able to get 15 posts out of that week… gotta love long-distance planning!  Plus, since Sister/MOH Big Eyes is beginning to plan her wedding so I imagine the week will get even busier.

So busy in fact that I actually blocked in time for Mr. Scottish to play video games and drink beer while we’re there because while he is awesome with wedding planning and happens to be a very helpful groom-to-be, he is a male and I know he can only take so much!  It’s like drinking kool-aid with not enough water.  YIKES.

And that’s how our Minnesota Wedding Planning Trip #1 went down.

Anyone else in an LDR with their wedding?  How do you plan your visits?

(all photos personal)

Tasting some chick-y and meeting with Coordinator A

After we ooh’d and ahh’d over the atrium (where our ceremony will be taking place), we were ushered into the restaurant to meet with our wedding coordinator A and to taste test our meal options.  Now, we decided right off the bat that chicken was more in our price range than steak, even though Mr. Sword and I both love a good steak!  But my all-time favorite meat is chicken (boring I know) so it seems fitting that we serve our guests chicken at our wedding.  We were served three dishes of chicken: piccatta, champagne, and the hotel’s personalized version, chandelaise. Each chicken came with a different potato and a different veggie option.  For potatoes, we could choose between scalloped, mashed, or roasted red.  The vegetable options were asparagus, green bean almondine, and a medley.

Drum roll please:  We chose the chicken chandelaise with a side of roasted red potatoes and a vegetable medley!!  I know some of our wedding guests are going to read this but I have no secrets when it comes to our wedding dish, in fact, I’ll probably tell most of them in person, perhaps like this, “GUESS WHAT?  We’re having this AMAZING chicken dish at our wedding, I know you’ll like it!  If I was rich you’d be getting an option of steak or fish as well, but as it is I really hope you like CHICKEN cause that’s what we’re serving!!”   Of course we will have a vegetarian option available for those non-meat eaters among our friends and family, and a chicken fingers and fries will serve as our kid’s option.

NOTE:  The chandelaise chicken comes with mushrooms, but Mr. Sword and I HATE mushrooms with a passion, so we are getting a special version of the dish without any ‘shrooms.  I’ve always been a picky eater and 9 times out of 10 I have to ask for something to be removed from a dish at a restaurant (yes I’m THAT girl), so why should it be any different on my wedding day?  🙂

I only got one decent photo of the food before myself, Mr. Sword and my parents devoured it all!

The thing is I barely had time to eat a bite from each plate because I was too busy talking to our awesome Coordinator A.  I call her a coordinator even though her real title is something along the lines of Catering Manager.  She’s been really helpful, especially talking to me on the phone before I’d even met her, assuring me of this thing or that thing since I hadn’t yet seen the hotel.

These are just a few of the things Coordinator A and I discussed!

White, Ivory, or Black linens?  Ivory.  Since ivory is one of our colors  it was an easy decision!

Napkin color: Chocolate brown.  While a  purple color sounded great, they only had one very ordinary shade of purple available, and I am scared that it wouldn’t  match the purple in the kilt we’ve ordered!  I don’t mind weddings that incorporate different shades of one color throughout their day, but I want to be intentional if I decide to go that route, not accidental.  Therefore, until we see the kilt in person there will be no buying of anything purple colored!  That includes bridesmaid dresses, ribbons, etc.  Plus, I think the chocolate napkins will compliment our centerpieces nicely, (more on that to come in a later post)!

Alcohol?   This one of Mr. Sword’s BIG decisions, because well, he drinks beer, and I don’t.  Since he’s European there will be no Bud or Miller at our wedding.  He knew he definitely wanted a more premium option of beer, but since we also have a lot of Americans attending the wedding, and we also know that most girls who drink beer prefer light beer, we had to have one Scottish appropriate beer and one American appropriate beer.  I’m keeping those decisions secret for now!  My Dad came up with the American light beer choice and Mr. Sword agreed that out of the possible crappy American beer options, that was one of the better ones!

Between the beer and the potatoes (his other BIG decision) Mr. Sword was a very helpful groom-to-be!  He listened when he needed to listen, supported when he needed to support, and offered his input fairly often.  I got to choose the wine, but we didn’t even discuss how many bottles to order and we barely touched on our idea of having a signature drink, but we are super excited about the concept of it!  This is Mr. Sword in front of the bar area of the restaurant in the hotel!

DJ: We will be using theirs. It’s just so much easier that way!  Plus, there’s a nice discount.

Cake: Buttercream (It’s part of our package luckily!)

Gift opening room for the day after the wedding:  Sure!!  Even though we aren’t expecting a lot of gifts, (they might be shipped to Chicago ahead of time and we think that people buying a flight to our wedding will be gift enough), we decided this would be a nice way to say hi to everyone one last time.  Mr. Sword and I are postponing the honeymoon until a few weeks after the wedding so we can tie up loose ends and continue to enjoy our out-of-town family before they return home, so a private brunch with everyone the next morning sounded like a great plan!

Draping:  No.  It was going to cost us 1000 dollars to have draping all through the banquet hall, and we couldn’t justify that cost.  Plus, Mr. Sword was complaining that the draping appeared to be hung so low it might hit his head (Mr. Sword stands at a tall 6’2″).  Alternatively, Coordinator A did suggested putting up a waterfall of draping behind our sweetheart table (we are opting against the traditional head table) that’s only 15 feet wide at 10 dollars a foot.  Once we heard that option, we were sold!  Now our table will stand-out from the rest with its own little backdrop!

Lighting:  This was a tough decision.  To put up extra lighting around the room is 600 dollars, but in the end we decided that wasn’t too much to give the room some nice ambiance and a good romantic feel!

Flowers: We opted to not use their floral centerpieces and instead we are going with something more unique to us.

Coordinator A and I also discussed things like TIMELINE and guest count.   It felt like the appointment went too quickly and I know we will probably end up meeting again before the wedding, but it felt great to be making decisions and it made me really excited for the BIG DAY!

(all photos personal and used with permission)

How did your first meeting with your coordinator or reception place go?  Did you find a package deal or are you booking things separately?