Wedding Wednesday: January Update

So, that was quite a whirlwind of a holiday. With a wedding now on the calendar (August 8, 2015), it's been quite a month preparing and living in the moment as a full on "bride!" I'm taking a moment each month to just share the excitement of my wedding planning here, as many friends and family are already asking me about how the wedding preparations are going.

But first, let me just confess something... I hate weddings. I really do. I was married once before and hated the planning of it. The first time around, I dated a guy for 11 months before he proposed. A month later, we got married. In that month, I didn't do the typical bridal stuff or wedding planning. There was no flipping through bridal magazines, no trip to the bridal salon to try on an actual wedding dress, no experience in visiting a bridal fair and meeting vendors, no picking out pretty invitations or even having a chance to taste test potential wedding menus or wedding cakes. None of that.

In that one month window, I ended up printing invitations on my home computer. I ordered our cake from a local grocery store. Flowers were from a warehouse store, in which I made my own centerpieces and reserved a few flowers for my bouquet. For my dress, I just grabbed a white and floral printed dress from a retail store to wear. My then sister in law, who was a makeup artist, partied a bit too hard the night before my wedding so she wasn't able to do my makeup as planned... and I ended up doing it myself with the random makeup I did have (and I'm not one to wear much make up to begin with.) Our photographer was a photography student who was just starting out and never shot a wedding before, but knew how to take pictures with his camera. There was no bridal party, no bachelor or bachelorette parties or any bridal shower to celebrate with. We had a nice ceremony with the Justice of the Peace and our reception was held at a local restaurant. It was simple and quaint. We got through the day and everyone was happy.

Looking back, I realize how much I resented not having a wedding I really wanted. Instead, I approached it as a project that needed to get done and I completely disregarded the sentimental aspect of it all. I mean, I was getting married and it was a moment to celebrate finding love, being in love and spending the rest of my life with this one man. Or so I thought.

Needless to say, that marriage didn't work out or last the rest of my life as I hoped. When I ended my marriage, I honestly didn't think I would get married again. I didn't really have any high hopes of being in a relationship, much less one that would ever allow me to truly find love. Meeting, dating or even the idea of falling in love was not on my radar. I was content with just going about life and focusing on being the best mom I could be to Joel, my career, my family and friends. Besides, I always felt my past relationships lacked that special *something* even though I went along saying, 'I love you'. Well, that is until now.

Is it weird that despite dating Patrick for over two and a half years, I still get tingles and butterflies whenever we're together? Is it normal that we have this strange language between us full of inside jokes or funny commentaries about the world around us? Neither of us are perfect, but there is no one I can think of more perfect than Patrick for me. Without gushing all over about how immensely happy I am to have Patrick to share my life with, my views of weddings have changed.

I know I started this off with how much I hate weddings, but quite honestly, it's probably because I didn't really appreciate what they meant. Even more so if I never really experienced the amazing feeling of being in love... without any hesitation or feeling anything is lacking or 'settling'. That said, my approach to wedding planning this {I'm confident it's the final} time around is much different. I'm actually having fun and really embracing all the things I missed out on before.

So Patrick did a surprise proposal Christmas morning. And for those that have asked, I'm especially impressed in his choice of the engagement ring... He actually noticed that the only jewelry I wear (my earrings and the ring my parents gave me when I turned 18 years old) has a 'flower or starburst' pattern. The ring definitely captures my style and I love how the band interwines with more diamonds.

Now let's talk wedding planning! A lot has been done since that Christmas morning. Overall, I'm actually impressed how easy and stress free it has been! Initially, we thought about a destination wedding in Hawaii. Because doing so would be quite a request of our family and friends, we thought bringing the islands to the Midwest would be easier and more fun. As a result, we're having an upscale Hawaiian luau wedding. The main colors for the wedding will be coral and ivory, with hints of rose, purple, and bamboo green. Birds of Paradise and orchids are my favorite flowers (which also are abundant in Hawaii), both of which will be highlighted in our wedding stationary and reception... so I'm especially excited about how it will all come together!

Patrick and I have both been previously married and neither of us want a formal wedding (it's just not our style) so we're really excited to have a fun celebration with the tropics in mind. We have a very small wedding party - I've asked my dear friend Melissa to stand as my Maid of Honor and Patrick has asked Joel to stand as his Best Boy (and our Ring Bearer.) We are also asking our immediate family members and their families to join in our processional for the ceremony.

When figuring out where to have our wedding take place, we knew we wanted to avoid a banquet venue and hotel. We love being outdoors and one of our favorite activities is hiking through forest preserves. That's when we started looking at local forest preserves for the perfect spot. And we found one! It's a fairly new preserve that was renovated recently with a brand new all year round shelter. It's very close to home and sits on a large lake. There's plenty of trails, lush scenery and slightly hidden so it's romantically secluded too. The best part? The venue rental from sunrise to sundown is a whopping $100! Score!

After spending an amazing time in Philippines, I wanted to pay homage to my culture. As a result, we plan on incorporating some Filipino traditions in our wedding and will include things like the Filipino candle, coins, veil/cord and coins into the ceremony:
Candle - Two candles lit by both our families symbolize how they light our lives and guide us as we live life as a new couple. The candles are then used to light one candle by the bride and groom.  
Coins (Arras) - Thirteen coins (or arras) symbolize Christ and his twelve apostles. These coins also symbolize the prosperity that would be shared by the new couple and the couple's commitment to mutually contribute to their relationship, family and community.  
Veil - The veil is a symbol of purity and is placed over the shoulders of the couple to symbolize their union. 
Cord - The cord is a symbol of the couple's bond and is knotted into the infinity symbol. which means they are no longer two individuals but rather one combined union in their new life as a couple. This knotted cord is then placed over the heads of the couple, above the veil.
Now here comes the fun part - food & drinks! Even before the ceremony, as guests arrive, we'll have some light appetizers and a tropical drink station available. I picked up some really cute bamboo servingware for guests to use as plates. Some appetizers I'm thinking of offering include Filipino lumpia (eggrolls), Filipino empanadas, poke or ahi tuna salad, plantain and taro chips, mango salsa, etc. I've still got time to nail down the appetizers...

Let's not forget about the drinks! To quench the thirst of our guests, we're setting up a few beverage dispensers for our tropical drink station. It will be available throughout the reception as well and will include a variety of tropical punches incorporating flavors like mango, guava, pineapple, coconut, mandarin orange, calamansi, etc. I'm also excited about our signature cocktail - mai tais! It's a fitting drink for our luau, complete with drink parasols. There will be the usual bottles of wine, beer, and hard ciders too.

After the ceremony, we'll be kicking off our luau reception with more food (of course!) The food will be catered by a few different vendors (which have yet to be determined) and we'll have a buffet of Hawaiian and Asian dishes. I'm still in the process of finalizing what will be served but I know our guests will not be leaving hungry. Aside from a whole roasted pig (Cebuano lechon), we're planning on a few food stations in addition to a buffet so folks don't get stuck in a bottle neck waiting to eat. Some stations I had in mind were a lettuce wrap station offering a variety of fillings and sauces and also a sushi-maki station, Some other dishes I plan on offering on the buffet include Hawaiian macaroni salad, Hawaiian coleslaw, Hawaiian dinner rolls, Filipino pancit noodles, fried and steamed rice, a variety of stir fry dishes, etc. Choosing the final dishes will be a difficult choice!

We will also have a dessert table featuring a plethora of fresh fruits and a Filipino 'halo halo' station. Halo Halo was one of our favorite treats while we were in the Philippines and we want to share this delicious concoction with our guests! Essentially, it's a mix of exotic tropical fruits and imported sweets from the Philippines that's topped with shaved ice, drizzled with sweetened milk and stirred together. Halo halo literally means to 'mix, mix' in Tagalog, making it a fun and interactive treat perfect for a summer day. Another way to describe it is what happens with a Hawaiian shaved ice + milkshake and bubble tea got together, if that makes any sense lol.

Of course, in addition to our desserts, we'll have a small 8" wedding cake for us to cut into (white cake with passion fruit mousse filling) and a couple cupcake towers for our guests. We're going with a simple scroll design on the sides of the cake that will also be used on top of the cupcakes as well, along with matching ribbon colors to our tropical flower cake topper. We chose cupcakes over cake since they are much easier to serve and don't require any utensils! The flavors and fillings we decided on for our cupcakes include:
White cake w/passion fruit mousse and buttercream frosting (regular & gluten free)
Lemon cake w/lemon berry mousse and buttercream frosting
Chocolate cake w/cherry filling and chocolate buttercream frosting
Red velvet cake w/cream cheese filling and frosting

For flowers, it seemed like such a shame to have fresh flowers that eventually will die. Patrick and I tend to keep little momentos of our dates (even to this day) and it seemed only fitting to find flowers that I can keep as a momento as well. I went with a florist that specializes in 'real touch' silk flowers and I fell in love with one of her tropical collections. It was perfect for our theme so I ordered my bridal bouquet, maid of honor bouquet, Patrick's boutonniere, Joel's boutonniere and our floral cake topper.

And what would a Hawaiian luau be without fresh leis? I've hosted luau parties in the past and always resorted to those plastic poly leis... but not this time. We are going authentic for the wedding and having fresh Hawaiian leis shipped in. Our guests will be greeted with a floral lei made of purple Dendrobium orchids. We hope it will set the tone with a touch of flair and these leis also double as a favor our guests can take home.

Along with a fresh floral lei, guests will also receive a colorful woven buri fan as another wedding favor with a purpose. These are from the Philippines and tie in my Filipino roots while being useful in case the weather is a bit warm. I love how colorful they are and how they're just a bit more special than the typical plain natural colored fans.

Table centerpieces will also feature potted orchids, which will given away to a guest at each table. I'll be attending the Orchid Show at the Chicago Botanic Garden next month and after the show, I plan on purchasing quite a few potted orchids which we will take care of (with the help of Patrick's mom, who is a master gardner herself!). I opted for potted plants over the typical floral vase so our guests can enjoy them a bit longer and hopefully nurture them for quite a long time.

During the wedding, we have a special treat for our guests. We won't have the usual DJ persuading folks to get on the dance floor, but we are having some professional entertainment. We've hired some Hawaiian musicians to provide music throughout the ceremony and reception. There will also be a special show put on by Hawaiian dancers to really bring the tropical vibe. We cannot wait!

To add to the overall luau feel of our wedding celebration, we are asking our guests to dress up in Aloha attire (or Hawaiian inspired attire). This also reflects how much we want a fun and casual celebration - nothing stuffing or formal. We want our guests to really take in our special moment comfortably and celebrate in style.
The stationary for the wedding is one I customized and features birds of paradise flowers with the colors of our wedding. They were easy to create and came out beautifully. The invites are being sent in kraft brown envelopes along with a matching RSVP card. I also customized the postage with the same birds of paradise image with our names and wedding date.

So let's talk about dresses. I said, "Yes!" to the dress recently and I couldn't have been more thrilled. As previously mentioned, I didn't get to do the fun bridal stuff the first time around, so when my friend/Maid of Honor suggested going to a bridal shop to try on dresses, I kinda shed some tears in the fitting room because it was a special moment for me. The first time I went to the bridal shop, I tried on three dresses. It was the third dress that I couldn't get out of my mind and the minute I saw it, it made my heart jump. I tried it on and it wasn't quite the right fit but that dress still stuck with me. A week later, I decided to go back to the bridal salon and try it on in another better fitting size. After the bridal associate pinned the dress where it needed to be shortened and altered, I took a look in the mirror. And it happened. I cried. Like ugly cry lol. {Special thanks to my bestie, Melissa, for being there to give me a hug and telling me how beautiful I looked. She called it early on that she didn't want me to stop looking for a dress until I tried one on and cried lol.} All I could think about when I saw myself in this dress was how beautiful it was, how perfectly it fit me and my style, and how it was finally time I got a chance to enjoy this moment. I can only hope that when Patrick sees me in this dress, it'll make his heart jump too. I won't be posting pictures of the dress, as it's going to be a surprise for him and he may be reading this lol.

Now onto Melissa's dress! I asked her to go look for a dress that she liked and she found one. It was beautiful on her and I loved how it was light and comfortable. I purchased the dress for her and was shocked to find out that the dress was less than $30! What?! The dress was such a steal and will be perfect with the small bouquet I ordered for her.

Then I talked to my sister about my dress and finding Melissa's dress at a steal. My sister and my niece wanted to be involved in the wedding so they will greeting our guests with the fresh floral leis. To have them look more like part of the wedding party, I purchased the same dress for both of them, only in the plum color, which will go with the purple Dendrobium Orchids they will greeting guests with.

Melissa and I also recently attended my first bridal fair. I didn't know what to expect but was reassured after seeing how organized and welcoming it was. At the fair, I met quite a few vendors but going in, I wanted to try finding a hairstylist, make up artist and officiant. I really lucked out because I met a hairstylist, only to find out that we're practically neighbors... and we know a mutual person! I booked her on the spot since we clicked so well and her express hairstyle she did on me turned out great. I've already seen her since the bridal fair for a long overdue haircut I needed and she really is great as a hairstylist and new friend. Next to the hairstylist was a makeup stylist and I loved how the express makeup session felt so light and clean, and I looked great after seeing the airbrush job done on me. It was also a coincidence that one of the makeup artists and I have mutual friends... and she also lives in the subdivision next to us! Before leaving the makeup stylist, I was asked to put my name into a raffle for the chance to win a free makeup trial. By the time I got home, I received an email stating I won the raffle for the free makeup trial! I also had the opportunity to meet an officiant who also lives very close to us and made me feel really comfortable. We've also met once again after the bridal fair and he got to meet Patrick and Joel. Overall, the bridal fair helped me knock out three vendors I needed and not only did I get them booked, I love that they live so close and made some new neighbor friends in the process.

The day before the wedding, we're also hosting a 'Pre-Wedding Picnic' at the same venue as our ceremony and reception. This is going to be a great opportunity for our families to hang out, meet up with our out of town guests and have a little reunion of our friends. It's all about spending quality time with everyone before the big day since we anticipate the wedding day may be a big blur. Although our wedding will be a casual affair, this picnic will be even more casual with a southern picnic theme. I plan on decking out the picnic tables in yellow gingham tablecloths, throwing some fresh flowers in mason jars for centerpieces, serving up fried chicken, bbq ribs and accompanying side dishes and having a pie buffet for dessert. I haven't planned out too much for the picnic just yet, but will have more time in the next few months to finalize everything.

Since we have a weekend of events in store, we also wanted to provide our guests with an option to stay close with comfortable accommodations. We reserved a block of hotel rooms nearby, in a location that our guests can truly make it a 'staycation' for the wedding weekend. We're fortunate that we live so close to some top tourist attractions including an amusement park, waterpark & resort, outlet malls and both Chicago and Milwaukee are a quick drive away.

And finally, we've got our honeymoon plans squared away too. We've done quite a bit of travel on our own and together. The most memorable destination to date has to be our Philippines trip since Patrick is the only person outside of my immediate family that got to really meet my extended family. When we were thinking of places to go, Hawaii was a favorite choice since it would have been where we would have had a destination wedding. I've been to Hawaii in the past but Patrick has not... and for our honeymoon, we really wanted a place we can both experience for our first time. That said, Mexico is a country neither of us have visited. The more we looked into it, the more excited we were... and so it was decided. We'll be spending most of our time on the sugar white sand beach on Mexico's Riviera Maya coast at the Excellence Riviera Cancun All-Inclusive Resort. This is a classic all-suite Mediterranean style resort of stucco, tile and marble. It's also situated in between vibrant Cancun, cosmopolitan Playa del Carmen and the Ancient Mayan ruins, all a short distance away.

Despite all our wedding plans, we have one rule. Our rule for the wedding is not to incur any debt and I'm thankful that this wedding is well within our budget. We both have strong feelings about starting out our marriage financially sound and so far we've kept that rule. And for those curious, here are the vendors/details we've secured thus far...

Date - Saturday, August 8, 2015
Location - a local forest preserve for both ceremony and reception
Theme - upscale Hawaiian luau
Officiant - Tyler Byrnum
Photographer (Engagement session/Pre-Wedding Picnic) - BJ Aguado Photography
Photographer & Photo Booth (Wedding Day) - Roland Gozun Photography
Entertainment - Barefoot Hawaiian
Wedding Floral - Sharon Nagassar Designs
Hawaiian Leis - Hawaiian Lei Company
Hair Stylist - Blondie Hair Artistry
Makeup Stylist - Simply Perfect Makeup
Dress & hairpiece - David's Bridal
Wedding Party Dresses - David's Bridal
Bakery - Lovin Oven Cakery
Invitations & Custom Postage - Simply Smitten Designs & Zazzle
Hotel Accommodations - Country Inn & Suites
Whole Roasted Pig - Adeline's Catering
Honeymoon - Excellence Riviera Cancun All Inclusive Resort

Stay tuned next month for an update with where I am in wedding planning! Although it may seem I got a lot done thus far with all the vendors booked and many things decided/confirmed, there are still quite a few things yet to do and figure out details for. The subsequent updates probably won't be nearly as long or detailed as this post, but will be enough to keep interested family and friends in the loop. And with all the wedding planning going on, this quote really captures my true sentiments...

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