Monday, December 22, 2008

Ho Ho Ho!

As Christmas looms mere days away, I've taken to considering how, or if, our lives will be different when we're married. Honestly, I'm having a tough time thinking of many.

Mike and I have been together for going on 12 years (will be in February). This will be our 12th Christmas celebrated together. We've lived together for almost 3 years (only 2 of them in a row...). If there was a fight to have, we've had it. If there was a decision to make (kids and the like not included), we've made it.

Holidays are a stressful time for a lot of people, and the Bel-Grage house is no exception. This year was the first time in 12 years we've done Thanksgiving together. Last year at Thanksgiving time, we had the following conversation sitting in the then brand-new townhouse.

Kristin: So you're doing things with your family and me with mine again this year?
Mike: Yup.
Kristin: You know, we'll be officially engaged this time next year.
Mike: Yup.
Kristin: We should really consider doing Thanksgiving together next year, since we'll be engaged and all.
Mike: Sure.

And that was that. For 10 months we didn't consider it. Then Thanksgiving, as it does, came around again. And of course there was some "discussion" about how it should be handled. In the end, we just did two Thanksgivings, one earlier in the day, one later.

Planning for Christmas is quite similar. We've combined Christmases for a number of years, but never consolidated. There's always the trip to my dad's, the trip to his parents', the trip to my mom's, the trip to my aunt's. It's always a crazy, hectic week. But, as Tim Gunn says, we make it work.

This year, for the first time, there's actually some consolidation. With the power outages and storms, neither of our parents have the time to get things ready at their respective houses for Christmas. So this year, they're coming to us! After an evening of fun at my Dad's, followed by a late-evening party at family friends of Mike's parents', we'll have Christmas morning and dinner at our house. I've been all aflutter trying to get things cooked and organized, and we've had our share of "discussions" about this as well, but, overall, things are running smoothly.

As I've been planning, and baking, and prepping, I've been thinking. What's going to change when we're married? How will this all be different? Will it mean more or be more complicated? And I don't know the answer. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it can't get more complicated, short of popping out some kids.

So why bother? If we're already living together, already combining families and holidays, already living our lives, why bother get married? If nothing is going to change, what's the point?

I guess, for me anyway, it's a line in the sand. It's a day to stand and scream at the universe, "I love this man. I am going to spend my life devoted to creating a life together with him." Being married isn't going to change how we celebrate holidays, how we resolve conflict, or even how we love each other. But it will cement that love in the traditions and vows that we will share with our parents (for better in some cases, and for worse in other), grandparents, great grandparents, and great great grandparents.

Merry Christmas everyone! And a healthy and joyful New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Dress... and what comes next

So I did it. I finally called and bought my dress! I'd been dragging my feet a little bit, waiting to save up the money, and then spend that money on bills instead. Finally, this week after a lovely and generous Christmas bonus, I finally had no financial excuse and called Country Bridals in Jaffrey. When we made the trip out to Jaffrey this summer and finally decided on my dress, I was measured and picked my size. With that in place, all I had to do was call and give them my info. So exciting! As I mentioned, I'm not posting pictures of my dress on here, but if you want to see it, just let me know and I'll send you the link!

Now that the dress is ordered though, another, very serious realisation has taken hold of my brain. I have to wear it. For a whole day. And be photographed in it. More than I have ever been photographed in my life. And these are not pictures I can make silly faces in to distract from the rest of the image. Or pictures I can (or want to) look at once and pretend I didn't see.

I need to get me to the gym!

I am not a slender girl. I haven't been for pretty much my entire (very short) adult life. I have a bad relationship with food and a worse relationship with the gym. Earlier this year, I joined Weight Watchers and lost (and kept off) 20 pounds. Which is a good start. I don't expect to look like a person I am not at my wedding. I'm not looking to lose 80 pounds, or even 60 pounds. But I'd like to look like a better version of me.

So I'm going to go to the gym. Not just because I want to look good in my wedding pictures, which I do. But because I want to be healtier. And I want my body to be in better shape, for me, for Mike (*giggle*), and for the children I'm going to have in a few years.

I don't expect crazy results. But I think with a few good decisions, repeated over the next 9 months, I could do pretty well!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Centerpieces - Take Two

So I know I had my centerpieces all picked out. And they were super! And I'll likely still incorporate a lot of the candle stuff still.

But I discovered these:

A recently wed bride from NYC was selling these vases on one of my favorite wedding blogs (I read a lot of them). It was such a great deal, and Lissa-the-Amazing is picking them up for me!

I really love the cranberries and would like to do them for our wedding. But since we're getting married in September, we might be a little early for cranberry season. But we'll give it a go! I can always buy fake ones, but that just seems so silly...

So this is the new plan. For now anyway. Do you think it's enough on it's own? Or should I get some candles to go around it? (They'd have to be in glass because of restrictions from the Puritan)

Monday, December 1, 2008

When the 'moon hits your eye...

So we've started thinking about the honeymoon. Well we've been thinking about the honeymoon for some time, but now we're actually doing something about it. Not a whole lot, but a search on Orbitz here, a conversation with my grandmother there. Nothing serious, but a good start.

We've always wanted to go to Italy for our honeymoon. Long, long ago when the earth was green and Mike and I were first dating (read 1996) we used to hang out at the Mall. Cause that's what you do when you're 14. And my favorite store to wander in was always Prints Plus. It was kinda like a pop-art museum. They had all of these awesome prints hung up (and some really lame ones, with led lights in them, but I digress) and they changed the pictures from time to time. Well there were two pictures that were my absolute favorites. The first was a picture of Venice, all orange in the sun set, with the gondolas and the buildings silhouetted in black. I was completely enamored with it. And for our X anniversary (I can't even remember... that's awful... maybe 2nd? 3rd?), Mike bought it for me. It was the first poster I put up in my freshman dorm room when I moved in. The second picture was this gothic painting of a little girl with a teddy bear in her pj's, blowing bubbles off an old building with a gargoyle reaching out to catch one. I swore two things in front of those pictures (a very hallowed place, indeed): one day the picture of the little girl would hang in my living room, and I'd go to Italy for my honeymoon. Mike got the picture of the little girl framed shortly after we moved into our house last November.

Senior year of high school there was a group trip to Italy planned by one of the Latin teachers over February break. I jumped at the opportunity. And I think deep down, Mike was a little upset that I went without him. But even though I've been there before, I think the experience will be completely different this time around. I was there so long ago and never once left the hotel except when I was with the group of everyone. So I'm really excited to explore it as an adult. :-)

The one place I'm most excited to go is San Marco Square in Venice. You've seen it in movies and commercials. It's the big huge square with all the pigeons.

When I am having trouble going to sleep because my mind is racing and I'm stressing over something, this is my happy place that I go to. There's a cafe in the first corner of the square with outdoor seating. And I'll sit on a chair with a cappucino and look out at the water or just stir my coffee. And I'll be asleep in an instant. I didn't get to go to the cafe when I was there - because we were there during Mardi Gras week and it was SO packed. And it costs more to sit in cafes then to just get a snack and move on so we never stopped. But that's what I most want to do. I want to sit at the cafe, and get a cappucino and hold my husband's hand.

Just thinking about it makes me so happy. The first time I went to Italy it was the first time I'd ever been out of the country. I was just SO excited I could barely think. And I just let it all wash over me. I had no expectations except to see things I hadn't seen. And I remember my 18 year old self stopping in the middle of the street in Florence and thinking, "This is the happiest moment of my entire life. Right here." And while there have been some really good moments since then, that unbridled joy is still unmatched. It was just all consuming happiness. I don't know if it'll be the same when I get to go back, but I have a sneaking suspicion that bringing my new husband and experiencing it all with the freedom to roam and wander will make it all the more special.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


As I mentioned in my last post (all 5 minutes ago), Mike and I knew from the start that we were looking for a secular ceremony that would be deeply meaningful to the both of us. We knew that we wanted someone who could take our long history and blend it with the prospect of our long future together. We wanted someone who would, of course, give the day the appropriate gravitas but still understand that it was me and Mike, and well, gravitas isn't our forte.

Half-heartedly and half-serious, we mentioned to our friend DJ how wonderful it would be if he could officiate our ceremony. I met DJ about 2 weeks after I met Mike, and Mike's known him even longer. DJ has been with us for the good times (he was our roommate in Nashua) and the bad (he was my roommate in Nashua after Mike moved out). It's funny to think, but he is one of both Mike's and my closest and dearest friends. Both of us. Pretty much equally. Before we had asked DJ, when we were considering our bridal party, I was considering fighting Mike to get DJ to be on my side instead of his.

DJ is one of the most spiritual and religious people I know. His faith is deep and a significant part of who he is. I was worried, when I first asked him, that he wouldn't consider officiating for this reason. You see, in order to officiate our wedding, DJ had to become ordained with the Universal Life Church and I was a little hesitant to ask him because I didn't know if it would conflict with his faith.

After we asked, DJ did quite a bit of research into what would be involved, how the process would work, etc. When he finally got back to us, he explained that he would be honored to do it but there were a few hoops he had to jump through.

So for those considering this option, here are the steps.

Step 1. Become Ordained.
Seems complicated, no? Actually it's really not. The Universal Life Church provides free ordinations over the Internet with the catch being you pay to get all the paper work and all the extra goodies. After a few minutes, DJ was officially Reverend DJ.

Step 2. Get your paperwork in.
Once you've ordered the necessary paperwork, it's time to wait. For DJ, it took a few weeks.

Step 3. Ask for permission.
In NH, an in-state ordained minister may marry any citizen. Well, any citizen looking to marry someone of the opposite sex, but that's a post for another day. If you're an out-of-state minister, you have to apply for a special dispensation to marry a specific couple. In DJ's case, that's us! (actually, it's us and another couple. The weekend after our wedding, DJ's marrying another couple friend of his!)

Step 4. Wait for permission.
Like all bureaucracy, getting the permission takes time. But a few weeks ago DJ got this in the mail!

I don't know if you can read that, but the gist of it says that Rev. DJ is authorized to marry us! Woo Hoo!!!

We are so honored to have someone so close to us solemnize our marriage (sounds so darn official). DJ is so special to both of us and having him perform the ceremony will make it so personal and meaningful to us. Our ceremony won't be too long, but what it lacks for in length, it will more than make up for in meaning, sentiment and love. We are so lucky not only to love each other but to love the person who will be marrying us!

Where It's At

Neither Mike nor I are particularly religious people. When we first started talking about getting married (umm... about 10 years ago or so...), we both knew we didn't want to be married by a priest in a church. For me the decision was based on a lot of things. But most importantly, I want to stand by every single word I am going to say at my wedding, and not fudge anything, even a little bit.

So Mike and I always knew that we'd be married in a secular ceremony in a not-particularly religious place. Growing up in Londonderry, we often drove past this little stone chapel in Hudson. It's surrounded by a wrought iron gate and set back from the road. It is just the perfect little chapel. Whenever we talked about where we were going to get married, Mike always picked the Alvirne Chapel as the place.
Isn't it so cute?? A visit to the chapel was the first order of business when we began wedding planning. And we even visited the chapel before we were ever engaged! Like a whole YEAR before we were ever engaged. Once we were officially engaged, we went back and booked our date right away!

The Alvirne Chapel was built by Alfred Hill for his wife Virginia (Alvirne is a portmanteau of their name). The Hill's were a prominent Hudson family in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The chapel fits about 115 people (including the standing bridal party) so our day might just be standing-room only!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Good bye Dru

Just a quick note. Last night we had to put down our second kitten, Dru. She had the same problems Spike did and it was devastating watching her get sick too.

The doctor was confident that this wasn't something that Chewie and Jake can get - and we're really hoping she's right.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Flowers, flowers, flowers

When I first told Mike that I was thinking of making all of our bouquets for the wedding, he thought it was a really bad idea. He had this image of me as a stress ball, running around the day before our wedding with flowers in one hand and a box of tissues in the other. He still may not be wrong...

But that's not going to stop me from trying. A few weeks ago, Leah and I bought a few bunches of roses from Hannaford and set to work trying to make a bouquet. I, of course, being the irresponsible blogger that I am, don't have pictures for you. But I'll steal generic ones from the internet to illustrate.

I'd done my research in advance. I looked at a few descriptions on a few of my wedding blogs - including this one from Wedding Bee - and then I found this lovely video.

With that behind us, we set to work. We tried a few different times and a couple different ways to get what I was looking for. Which was basically this:
I want something with varying heights but not crazy. I like the idea of the accent flower, but we just had roses to work with. After a few tries, we were pretty pleased with what we came up with. It should *hopefully* not take up the ENTIRE day before the wedding and I have a great resource behind me for support (and not just my amazing bridesmaids).

During my travels on the Internet, I discovered 2G Roses. A company based in California, they specialize in all natural growing and direct to consumer distribution. And they specialize in wedding flowers.
We provide fresh cut flowers and greens to people who want to do some or all of their own arranging. The only finished product that we supply are green garlands. Doing the arrangements yourself is not as difficult as it sounds. Arranging flowers is actually quite easy if you stay away from complex styles. Keep in mind that flowers are attractive all by themselves and you have to work very hard to make them look bad. We have had thousands of brides do their own flowers and their skill levels have been from "what's a rose?" to former florist and I have yet to see one that didn't pull it off.
I can get 150 red and white roses for under $160. That will be more than enough for the 6 bridesmaids and my bouquets, the boutonniere for the groomsmen, dads and Mike, and the corsages for the moms and grandmas. That'll leave room for error, broken flowers, and even ambition if I want to do something more.

Like all craft projects, the potential for me pouting is definitely there. But I made it through the test run with minimal stomping and I think the second time around will be even better. I'm planning on ordering a "test bunch" in a few months to give it another try and to see the quality of their flowers.

And anytime I think the project is getting overwhelming, I'm just going to stop, smell the roses (hehehehe) and remember how much freaking money I'm saving by doing this myself.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

107th day of my wedding

A quote from a recent Wedding Bee entry:
In Judaism there is a willingness to ignore the boundaries between everyday life and holiness. Thus your wedding begins when you first announce your decision to marry and includes every aspect of planning and preparing for the big day. Even arguments about who gets invited and what gets served for dinner are part of the festivities. Nor is your wedding over until the last thank-you note is written, the last photograph is pasted in the scrapbook, and the last bill is paid.
I couldn't have said better how I really feel about our wedding. I'm so excited to spend a day declaring my love for Mike, to tell the world out loud my plans to spend my life with him, to commit to our relationship and our family wholly and without reservation. But for me it's more than that.

My wedding is not about that one special day, the perfect flowers, the perfect dress, the perfect menu. It is about bringing those people in the world who are most special to us to one place, standing in front of them, and then celebrating with them, well into the night. Of course I care about the dress, the flowers, the menu. I want them to be wonderful and fun, and they will be. But that's not what's most important.

This quote reminds me that life isn't made up of singular important days, that our journey to become husband and wife doesn't begin and end on a short aisle in a small chapel in Hudson. It's about how we treat each other every day, it's about who we chose to have stand by us as we make this journey.

There are 347 days left of my wedding. And I'm sure not all of them will be filled by the clarity I have right now. I'll become overwhelmed with the importance of table numbers, I'll fight my way through the seating chart, and I'm sure cry (or at least pout extensively) about plenty of craft projects. But hopefully those days will be few, and I can look to this quotation and remember that the wedding has already begun. That the journey has already started, and that if I squint my eyes and listen closely, the aisle's right in front of me and the music's already started.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Always a bridesmaid, a bride next year

So I have the wonderful privilege of being a bridesmaid for one of my dearest friends Steph. Tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 pm she will marry the man she loves. I couldn't be happier for her.

As I've attended bridal fairs, floral appointments, bridesmaid dress shopping and linen appointments over the past year while she's been planning, I've had the opportunity to get a head start on my planning. And her wedding will certainly be beautiful! I just had the chance to see the preview of her flowers, and they are simply magnificent. All fall colors with roses, dahlias, tulips, daisies and eucalyptus leaves - they are just breathtaking. They made me reconsider doing my flowers myself, but only for a moment. The elegance of her wedding is something I can't try to match.

With her permission, I'll hopefully post some pictures from the wedding next week. They're sure to be amazing. Steph looks spectacular in her dress, and everything is going to be just perfect for her day. I couldn't be more excited or happy for her.

I'm off to go get ready for the rehearsal!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thank You!

Thank you so much to Leah and Kirsten and everyone who helped them with the engagement party last night.

We had such a wonderful time!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And then there were three...

Just a quick, non-wedding related post.

Yesterday morning Mike and I had to say goodbye to one of our kittens, Spike. For the past month, his little body has been fighting a virus and yesterday morning we held him in our arms and said goodbye.

Spike and Drusilla were an engagement gift for Mike back in July. Over the past the 2 1/2 months, we have been so very lucky to have Spike as a part of our lives. Before he was sick, he spent hours bounding up and down the stairs, teasing his older brothers Jake and Chewbacca, and adoring his little sister. He would follow Mike around the house and cuddle with us while we watched TV. He'd wake us up in the middle of the night purring in our ears.

When Spike got sick, we did everything we could to help him. He spent a week earlier this month at the animal hospital ever day, and spent every night back home in bed with us. He was quite the cuddle bug, curling up in the nook of our arms at night, purring loudly and falling to sleep. After 6 days in the hospital, he seemed to make a turn for the better. His temperature was down and he was eating again - chicken and gravy flavored baby food.

A week back at the house and Spike was cuddly as ever. He was sluggish and tired, but still followed us around the house to curl up with us wherever we were. He wasn't eating on his own, so Mike had to force feed him baby food with a syringe. He certainly didn't like it but he never ran away and within two minutes was always back on Mike's lap.

Over this past weekend, Spike made a turn for the worse. He had stopped eating on his own completely and had started peeing around the house, a cat signal that something is very wrong. Yesterday morning, I brought him back to the vet hospital. The doctor was less than optimistic.

After another series of tests and x-rays, the mysterious virus was FIP. Most cats are exposed to FIP and respond normally but Spike's little immune system couldn't handle it. The vet told us that there is no treatment for FIP and that, at most, Spike would have another day or two, and they wouldn't be comfortable. Mike drove down from work and we held Spike as he purred and purred. Even at the end, as sick as he was, he knew how loved he was.

Our little family is having a rough couple days but we'll make it through to the other side. Thank you to everyone who has been so thoughtful and supportive to us. We love you all.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Our Negative One Year Anniversary

Ok, so I may get some flack for this being super cheesy but this is a wedding blog after all....

So today is our negative one year anniversary. And we're celebrating it. Well kinda. We're going to make a nice dinner and maybe not play video games and watch DVR and ignore each other all night. That kind of celebrating. Which, for us, is a pretty big deal.

I know it's kinda silly that we're celebrating a negative anniversary, especially when we still have a perfectly good one to celebrate - our dating anniversary, February 28, 1997. But I think this is a good chance for us to try the new anniversary on for size, see how we like it. It's going to be pretty hard to break the habit of calling our dating anniversary "our anniversary," since we've been using that for going on twelve years. But I think it'll be fun to have both. And if you think I'm giving up the other one, you're mistaken. :)

Beyond the cute, silly negative anniversary celebrating, can we stop for a minute and remind ourselves that we're getting married in a YEAR! Woooooooo Hoooooooooo. Like an actual, real year. 365 days from now. The little countdown widget I have on my homepage is at 365! I put it up there almost a year ago, when we first picked the theoretical date, way before we were ever engaged! It's so freaking exciting.

Do you think Hallmark makes negative anniversary cards?

Monday, September 8, 2008

We've got a hotel

After the realization that we were getting married on NASCAR Race Weekend, I went into overdrive (tee hee - pun intended) looking for a place to reserve a block of hotel rooms. My goal was to be as sneaky as possible and hopefully use the fact that we were still a year away to my advantage. It's a touch deceptive, sure, but if they're going to jack the prices up for an event I couldn't care less about, I figured it was only fair.

Despite a handful of calls and some disapointingly unresponsive sales people, our guests will have the option of staying at the lovely Four Points Sheraton. We've reserved a block of 15 rooms for our guests at a perfectly reasonable rate.

I stopped by the Sheraton the other day and it's a lovely hotel. I'm hoping people will take advantage of the decent rate (any number of people can stay in the room) and be able to enjoy the party without worrying about driving a long distance. We're even working with the hotel to get a shuttle bus to pick guests up from the reception so everyone can enjoy themselves to the fullest.

Getting this contract signed certainly eased my worry about the hotel. Leaving plenty of room to worry about other things... like the cake, flowers, wedding bands, the two weddings I'm going to over the next three weeks, waiting a whole year to marry my best friend, actually paying for my dress and everything else, finding a decent price for transportation/limo, the plethora of craft projects I've invented for myself, the save the dates.... you know, not much. :-)

We're getting married when?!

I have a tendency to think highly of myself for certain things. It has always been a point of pride that until two years ago, I never had a cavity. Another recent point of pride is how I am seemingly way ahead of things in the wedding planning department. I don't think I'm terribly conceited, but these are things I'm proud of myself for.

Well both bubbles were burst this week.

After not going to the dentist for two years for lack of dental insurance, I had an appointment this week with a new dentist highly recommended by Leah.
Dr. Raymond Bolduc of Auburn Dentistry was delightful. He was extraordinarily thorough, taking x-rays and inspecting both them and my teeth very carefully. He then took color pictures of my teeth to show me what he had seen both during his inspection and then compared to the x-rays. I was very impressed. He, however, was not. We found a few cavities - and I was pretty bummed out about it. But we have a plan in place for getting them all taken care of and I should be good as new in no time. Well, in some time, but not too long.

On the wedding planning front, I was so excited to tick the photographer and tasting off the list that I figured I'd start asking around about hotels. My first stop was to the brand spanking new Fairfield Inn in Hooksett, a mere 1/2 mile from our reception site.I was really hopeful that this would be THE place. Since we weren't having our reception at a hotel, we wanted a way for people to get home safe and sound after an evening of revelling. The proximity to the reception site made it perfect. I scheduled an appointment with the very delightful sales manager.

I was really pleased when I went in. The Fairfield Inn in Hooksett has only been open for seven weeks and everything is shiny an pretty. The decor is lovely and everything is fresh and clean.

And with that we've come to the point where my little wedding-bubble burst. The very delightful sales manager walked out with the contract reserving the rooms. She explained that she'd checked her event calendar and it turns out that our wedding is not the only event happening in the state of New Hampshire that weekend. We're getting married the same weekend as the NASCAR race!

While this certainly won't interrupt my plans to blatantly ignore said NASCAR race as I do every other race, there is a slight problem. The race is a big deal in New Hampshire. A huge deal. A "locals-avoid-the-highways" and the police redirect one lane of traffic on the highway to go the other way kind of big deal. Hotels from the border up through Concord will be booked up, and at higher-than-normal event rates. Ack!!

The very delightful sales manager proceeded to give me what I considered to be a ludicrous price offer. I politely thanked her for her time, took the offer and left the hotel.

Well crap! What am I going to do now? I proceeded to call around to a few other hotels. One of them was completely BOOKED already. I thought I was planning ahead! It's more than a year out for goodness sake. After a deep breath, I did what I do best, I compiled a spreadsheet of all of the hotels within a reasonable distance and called up each sales manager and asked for a quote.

I've heard back from a couple, and still waiting on one. I'm cautiously optimistic. But I know one thing for certain. Those save-the-dates I was considering not bothering to send out? They're going to definitely have to go out - and with hotel information on them!

Free Food!

So one of the fun things about planning a wedding is free food. Free cake, free snacks, free dinners! Last week Dad, Amy, Mike and I went down to the Puritan for a tasting. Yum-o.

I don't know what the policy is here - do I share the menu? Do I not? Do I tell everyone reading this blog (Hi Leah, Hi... ummm... me...) everything there possibly is to know about the wedding before it happens so it's not even remotely surprising or interesting by the time September 19th comes? Am I really trying to void the entire point of this blog with this babbling little entry?

*deep breath*

Hi there! Sorry about that. :-) Back to the tasting.

Mike and I knew going into the tasting a few things we HAD to have. We had to have scallops wrapped in bacon, they're his favorite. And we had to have prime rib, cause well, I wanted it. And it's generally pretty hard to mess up and is yummy and delicious. But mostly because I wanted it. We brought Dad and Amy along because my palette isn't exactly refined... While I like a bunch of food and read way too many food blogs, there are certain things that I still don't like all that much....
I know, what red-blooded American doesn't like ketchup?? That'd be me. Mike and I wanted a better perspective, and Amy and Dad like food, so they were happy to join us for some of the free variety!

We met with Barbara, the facilities manager at the Puritan and she was excited to show us the food. Since we already knew we wanted scallops, we didn't need to taste them. So for appetizers, we started with asparagus spears wrapped in phyllo dough with asiago cheese and then mushroom puffs. While I didn't really like the asparagus part, the phyllo dough and cheese was yummy, and I was hungry enough to pop it right in my mouth. Something those who know my eating habits are quite impressed about. Though I wasn't the biggest fan, both Dad and Amy agreed they were pretty tasty.

The mushroom puffs on the other hand - huge hit. They were flaky and gooey and tasty all around. Instead of stuffed mushrooms, they were mushrooms stuffed inside phyllo. They were awesome. They immediately made it on the menu. The asparagus, while pretty good, didn't make the cut. And we ended up going with a not-tasted spinach and cheese spanakopita. I'm sure they'll be delicious!

After appetizers, we moved on to chicken. I knew in advance that I wanted to do a beef and chicken choice (with the understanding that any dietary restrictions would be easily managed) so we needed to try some chickens! Barbara had ordered us a stuffed chicken, a chicken cordon blue, and a grilled chicken with special sauce. I know, creepy name, but that's one of the most famous dishes at the Puritan.

The chicken tasting was very Goldilocks. The first one was too dry (the stuffed chicken), the second one was too tangy (the 'special sauce') but the third one was juuuust right (the chicken cordon blue).

Barbara had tried to warn us that the stuffed chicken was, as she put it, "generic wedding food" but I like stuffing, so I asked to try it anyway. Well she didn't steer us wrong - it was kinda bland and boring and definitely not their best offering. The Special Sauce chicken was certainly yummy, but there was a pretty strong terriaki sauce flavor to it that I just thought was too tangy and too... terriaki-y. Amy agreed. But the chicken cordon blue was awesome. It used the same special sauce as the grilled chicken, but the ham and the cheese of the chicken really helped to mellow out the sauce and give it some nice extra flavor. All four of us were big fans.

And with that, it was settled! We officially have a menu!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Photographer Visit

Mike and I drove up to York, ME this past weekend to meet with the second of the two photographers we're considering for the wedding, Amy Root-Donle.

As you may remember, we narrowed our choices down to two photographers, the aforementioned Amy and also Geoff Forester. After the DJ, we think that the photographer is one of the most important vendors to consider. It is through them that we'll be reminded of all the best details and moments of the wedding that will likely go by in a blur that day. So we have to trust them to do what we cannot - be level headed and observant and in all places at once that day when we're going to be much to busy giving each other googly eyes and, I imagine, hugging just about everyone we know.

We met with Geoff a couple weeks ago and were very impressed with him. He showed us a variety of his work, some selected shots and, most importantly, a full wedding album. This was important for us because we knew any photographer worth anything could get a select amount of great shots over a variety of weddings, but we needed someone who could capture all those great moments in our day. And he had a dog at his office, so he was a big hit with Mike.

We met with Amy this past weekend at her home/studio in York, ME. The drive up was absolutely worth it! Her work is really fantastic. And beyond that, she made us SO comfortable the instant we met her. She was pleasant, professional, thoughtful. She talked about her style, how she works, all that. And when Mike told her about our idea of our exit out of the church, she was almost as excited as he was! Someone who can get that pumped about our silly ideas is good in our book!

Our plan now is to hash out the details and try to book her as soon as we can!

Next up... our tasting at the Puritan!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shoes... but more importantly Spreadsheets

So I don't know if you've noticed this about me before, but I'm really excited about my wedding. And planning it. And organizing it. :) The week I got back from my vacation (Mike and I were engaged for 3 days before I went on a 9 day vacation without him), I created a google spreadsheet with a to-do list 60 items long. Mike was horrified.
(click for larger image)
With 78 items on the list now, we're not deleting things we've accomplished, just shading them differently. This is mostly just so I can feel good about my accomplishments. :) The spreadsheet now includes different sheets for the to-do list, vendor payments, day-of schedule, dj options, dress shops, reception site options, reception math, everything we've worked on to date. I thought I was good.

Then Leah sent me the most amazing thing ever. (click for larger image)

This is a detailed and intricate spreadsheet listing 34 possible wedding shoe options with links, sort-able by designer, name, price, heel, toe, style, fabric, and color. And asked me to insert my comments on each to help her adjust her search accordingly. Not only is this a feat of bridesmaidly wonderfulness, it is an organizational and research marvel that I just had to share with the internet!

And... I think I found my shoes! And best of all, has a 365 day return policy so even if I change my mind, buying them more than a YEAR before my wedding is still totally acceptable!

Monday, August 18, 2008

What Wedding Dress Shopping Taught Me About Love

The image of the bride-to-be, emerging from her dressing room, her face glowing with happiness as she looks in the mirror, she knows it's the one. This fantasy scenario, one that actually happens to a lot of people (Hi Steph!), did not happen to me. I was not blessed with this clarity, with this magical experience. Dress shopping was a process for me, but I wouldn't have had it any other way.

I guess it makes sense that I didn't emerge from a dressing room bathed in heavenly light and know the dress was "the one." That certainly didn't happen when I was searching for the much more important "one," Mike. On the surface, our story sounds fairy-tale happy. Boy meets girl during girl's second week of high school. Boy turns to best friend, says, "I'm going to marry that girl." Fast forward 13 years. Boy and girl marry.

The reality of our relationship is far from what it appears on the surface. Over the 12 years that we have known each other, I never had a flash of clarity, the sudden realization that Mike was "the one." And other than that first moment that he saw me (true story), I doubt Mike has either.

That's not to say I don't desperately, completely, deeply, madly love Mike. I long to spend the rest of my life with him. I am so excited to grow old with him, to have children and a family with him. I am so thrilled to be marrying him.

To get to this point, to get to the I Do's, has taken a lot of WORK. It's been a process. And I wouldn't have had it any other way. Over the past twelve years we've dated, broken up 5 (maybe 6) times, dated other people, moved into 3 houses, out of 2 (and not always at the same time). We've said hurtful, awful things to each other. We've cried.

We've also fell more deeply in love than we ever could have imagined. We've learned, grown into adults, become the type of people who can be there for another person wholly and completely without losing themselves. We've bought a house and adopted four cats, and developed a family of friends that will be with us for the rest of our lives.

This process of learning, growing, loving has taken twelve years. And I don't think we'll ever finish. For us, or I suppose I can just say for me, love is not a stagnant thing, something that happens instantly and then exists in perpetuity. Love is a living, changing thing that has to be nurtured the same way as any other living thing. Work is needed to keep it alive and growing, and I'm excited to get my hands dirty!

So now that I've babbled on, I'll get back to what I was talking about.... dress shopping! Amazing how I can make a post about picking out a wedding dress this long without even mentioning anything about actually GOING dress shopping...

I guess what I'm saying is that even though I didn't have that moment of "OMG this is the one," I'm completely thrilled to have picked my wedding dress this past weekend. And just like with everything else, it took work. Over the past month, my wonderful bridesmaids, my mother and my future mother in law accompanied me to three different bridal shops across New Hampshire. I tried on all SORTS of dresses, some of which I liked, others that I really loathed. In the end, at each place I found two that I really liked. Going into this weekend, I was down to my top three choices.

I thought I had a front runner in mind when we started, but I wanted to make sure I didn't just have a proximity crush on it because it was the last dress I tried on. But sure enough, after slipping into all three, I was completely confident I found my dress. And when I put it on, a huge smile burst onto my face. No heavenly light, but confidence that I'd found exactly what I was looking for.

Kinda like the wonderful man who will be by my side when I'm finally wearing it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The DJ and the Dress (unrelated topics)

When last we spoke, I was talking about how important I thought the DJ decision was. And that I was a bit nervous about finding "the right one." Well as luck would have it, we got it on the first try!

To be completely honest, I'm not sure if luck had much to do with it. Mike and I looked at a lot of DJ videos and were very selective about who we met with. And it was a very successful process! May I introduce you to our DJ, Mr. Kevin Sawler.The minute we met Kevin, we were very impressed with his professionalism, his honesty and his directness. He spoke about how important it was for a DJ to manage the flow of the wedding, to take a very strong Master of Ceremony role. He spoke about how accommodating he is to the bride and groom's style and wishes and his commitment to his job. Mike and I were very pleased. Kevin hadn't even made it out of the door of Panera before we turned to each other and said, "Let's book him."

We're very excited. Kevin was very open with his opinions, but is happy to defer to us. That's absolutely critical, I think. We want someone who will share their expertise, especially on things we don't have strong feelings about. But we're confident that the things we DO have strong feelings about will be handled exactly to our liking.

In other news, I've narrowed my dress selections to three possible options. I'll be going with a smattering of my bridesmaids tomorrow to try them on in succession to make a decision. I've got online pictures of two of them, so if you'd like to see them let me know. I shan't be posting pictures of them here because, on occasion, my fiancee does visit this site.

Wish me luck!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hey Mister DJ, Put a Record On

Hiring a DJ is, I think, one of the most important decisions you make about a wedding. This is the person who will be responsible for the entire flow of your reception. (S)He will be responsible for setting the tone, pace and attitude of the evening. If he (let's just assume he) is cheesy, corny, rushed, too excited, boring, slow, forgetful, or just annoying, he will have a huge impact on the evening.

"I guess," you say. "But Kristin, isn't the most important thing that the people you love are with you to share in the joy of your wedding?"

Of course. That's the most important thing. But I've already picked Mike and our friends, and our families kinda came with the package. But the DJ, the all powerful man with the microphone, will be in charge. And that's a little nerve racking.

So what am I looking for in a DJ? I suppose it's easier to talk about what I'm NOT looking for.
There will be no props. None. This means no leis,
no silly hats,
no bowties on ladies (or the macarena for that matter),
and you will not see me rocking an inflatable guitar in my wedding dress.
Now I'm not trying to suggest that these things aren't fun - or that for some brides and weddings, they really add to the evening. But for me, they remind me of a fourth grade birthday party. If I wouldn't have these things a regular party that I was throwing, I'm certainly not going to have them at a really big, fairly expensive, life altering party that I'm throwing.

So I guess what this all means is that the tone of the reception is important to me. I want it to be fun - I want it to be a TON of fun. I want it to most definitely be a party. But I want it to be a party that is characteristic of who we are. And we are not people who play with inflatable guitars in formal wear. Now if it was a Rock Band guitar... well that'd be a different story.

Mike and I looked at two different companies, and probably 50 DJ videos. Some of them we turned off after a few seconds, others we watched in abject horror. But there were a smattering of DJ's we liked. With consideration to availability and how much we like them, we are meeting with the ONE DJ from both companies that fits the bill. We're meeting him on Monday. If he shows up with a lei I can't guarantee I won't burst into tears.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My Fiance is Amazing

As a newly engaged person, I have to say that my fiance is amazing. He did, after all, just get me a very pretty, very shiny piece of jewelry. But the amazing-ness that is my fiance goes well beyond bling. It includes quotes like this.
I will do whatever you decide is best.
Now Mike is by no means a push over when it comes to wedding stuff. He's a far cry from the non-involved grooms-to-be that just show up at their weddings. When asked, he offers opinions on everything from photographers to bridesmaid dress colors to table numbers. Not only does it make it more "our" wedding, it also helps me decide if my opinions are crazy, or if I am actually invested in them. Which, when you're considering things like $1,000 chair covers and $6 a bag M&M's, is very important! (Don't worry, you won't be seeing either of those at our wedding, cooler heads prevailed)

What's most amazing about my fiance is that he knows when to say these things. He can tell when I actually need his opinion about something, or if I'm just asking out of courtesy. And he knows the absolute best ways to calm down my occasionally frazzled self.

I realize I'm mostly gushing, and this has almost nothing to do with the wedding and is probably not very interesting. But he's awesome. Thought you should know. :)

Friday, August 1, 2008


So this is SUPER premature. I know. Unlike the reception site, the photographer and the DJ, our centerpieces are not going to book up before we decide what we do. Nonetheless, I'm thinking about it. Cause, well, I'm a little loopy.

So. Centerpieces. I've known since I started thinking about my wedding (which, contrary to popular belief wasn't a full 11 years ago) that I didn't want big elaborate floral centerpieces. I didn't want anything too high or too cluttered. They just aren't my style. If I was going to do floral centerpieces, they'd be simple. Like this:
Pretty, simple, classic. I'll likely do red flowers, but this would be the gist. Maybe a clear bowl instead of the white vase, but just that.

But what if I don't want floral centerpieces? After all, wedding flowers are expensive, complicated, fragile, easily ruined, wilted or destroyed. What if I did something else? Like candles...
A wider view of this type of arrangement:

I think it's so dramatic. It's still simple in its concept but I think it's just so darn elegant. If I did do candles, they'd have to be unscented (all those candles would overpower to food). The reception venue permits candles as long as they're in glass - so this would be totally allowable.

I still have PLENTY of time to decide what I'm going to do for my centerpieces. So if you have any ideas - let me know!

Thursday, July 31, 2008


So I lied. I thought, "Once we pick a reception site, things will calm down." I actually said as such, right here. Well I lied.

But I didn't do it on purpose. I meant for things to slow down.... honest I did. But in doing some cursory research on DJ's and Photographers - I realized, again, that more than half of the people we called were booked! So slow down I am not, at least not quite yet. But I can't lie - I'm having fun with it.

We did bunches of research about photographers, and have been casually looking at them for a bit now. I got serious with it this week with a long perusal of this site. I really like the photojournalist style of wedding photographers and I knew that was going to be a major deciding factor in who we went with. This page was such a great resource - it quickly gave me a huge list of possibilities and was very up front with costs and capabilities. I was very impressed.

We've narrowed down our choices to two photographers. They have similar price ranges and styles, and we're going to set up appointments with them next month. (See I can say "next month" all casually like I'm taking my time... when really, next month starts tomorrow....)

Our two choices are Geoff Forester:

and Amy Root Donle:

I think they are both so talented - and they find the prettiest moments. What do you think? Do you like one more than the other?

Monday, July 28, 2008

We have a decision!

Well just about...

We've selected a venue (yay!) after some seriously advanced math last night. While I made dinner last night (yummy roast chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans), Mike sat in the dining room with the computer and did all of the math. We looked at how many courses a place offered, specific packages and what was included, and just about everything else.

Drumroll please....

Things haven't been officially finalized with deposits and all that, but we're pretty excited with the decision and we think all other stakeholders (read: my dad, who's helping out with some of the moola) will be pleased with our decision. It's affordable, easy to get to, near hotels, within 35 minutes driving distance from the chapel, has yummy food, and is super accommodating and flexible.

So flexible in fact, that when I called our contact there, she put our date on hold right away! I'd explained to her until we had a stakeholder meeting (ie - dinner at my dad's on Thursday to discuss), we couldn't officially reserve the date since the deposit is due within seven days of the reservation. She told me it was no problem if it was two weeks or three and that she'd put our rooms on reserve right away for the time and date we wanted!

Now I want to clear something up... Once upon a time (like, say, 6 months ago), I may have made a disparaging remark (or two or three) about the idea of having a wedding at the Puritan. While I'd been to the Backroom (the restraunty part, not the function hally part) and enjoyed both their mudslides and their chicken fingers, it seemed like an odd place for a reception. I was hesitant, at first, to even visit it. It seemed dark and old and not very formal.

Which was why the Puritan was the last on our Reception Venue World Tour. After visiting five other places and not finding anything that felt just right, I was more than happy to give just about anything a try. And besides, as Mike said, I was just being snobby. So I booked the appointment, and we went. I am so glad we did!

The rooms we have are so pretty. The first picture shows the view from what would be our head table. The second shows a view of the two rooms with the divider open. The third shows the permanent dance floor (and the divider closed on the far wall). We're really excited. It's nothing elaborate or crazy, but it's ours and we'll certainly make it our own!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wedding Math

So now that we've been to all of the reception venue possibilities, Mike and I have to sit down and actually make... a decision!

Each of the venues we've visited have things we liked about it. The Crowne Plaza was fancy and pretty and had a great menu. The Derryfield had a good room and pretty grounds. Candia Woods was affordable, had a great package and pretty picture spots. The Highlander Inn was.... um.... close to the airport. The Granite Rose had a great room, a good package, nice extras like a bridal suite and a day-of coordinator. The Puritan was affordable, had a nice room, and yummy chicken fingers (though doubtful we'll be serving those at the reception!).

Right away there is one we can take off the list. That leaves five possibilities. So this weekend we will will embark on Wedding Math!

More complicated than calculus, trickier than trigonometry, more grueling than geometry, Wedding Math requires complex algorithms, advanced theory, and, well, a lot of multiplication. Things we'll be taking into account: price per plate - and what it includes (salad? soup? seated meal or buffet? champagne toast?); package -and what it includes (dj? limo? hotel room?); proximity to the ceremony site and hotels; look and feel of the venue - both the room and the picture places; quality of food; etc.

Just thinking about it makes my brain a little wobbly. But hopefully we'll come out of this weekend with a definitive choice, and one that hasn't been booked on our date yet!

The kittens

So this is only marginally related to the wedding, but I wanted to post a picture of the newest additions to our little family.

Spike is the one on the left, black long-haired. Dru is on the right. They're just the cutest!

When I asked Mike what he wanted for an engagement gift, he had to think about it. First he wanted a puppy, but after realizing that we just don't have the lifestyle right now for a puppy, he decided he wanted not one, but two kittens. I was a little hesitant at first, especially since we already have two wonderful cats, Jake and Chewbacca. But I am easily swayed by cute things, so it wasn't tough to convince me to get them...

Now our little family consists of four cats and the two of us. It's nice to take a step back from reading all of the wedding blogs, looking at venues, and shopping for dresses, and realize what we're doing. We're getting married. We're starting our own family. Kids are still a little ways off for us, but in the mean time, we'll be the Grages Family. And we'll have Spike and Dru and Jake and Chewie to make sure we rarely make it through a full night's sleep.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Venues, Venues, Venues

We've been looking at venues since about a week after we got engaged. The reason it took a week was because I was on vacation and away from the internet and my blackberry. Within two days of returning state-side, I had booked our first appointment. And I realized how late to the game we already were.

I understand that's horrifying to think thatt with a wedding date almost 15 months away, there is no way we could be considered behind in planning. But it's true! Of the 15 or so places I looked into, more than half were booked. So we started visiting.

And visiting...

Tomorrow marks our (hopefully) last visit. We're going to the Puritan here in Manchester. A true Manchester institution, the Puritan has been making the best mudslides and chicken fingers this side of, well, anywhere. I realize that's a ridiculous combination of food and drink, and not necessarily something we'll be serving at the wedding, but I'm excited to go visit and take a look.

We've liked most of the places we've visited. Some were better prepared for our arrival than others. Some were (much) more expensive than others. But after each visit, we had a better idea of what we were looking for in a venue and what we most certainly were not looking for.

Hopefully by the end of this week, we'll actually have a decision made about the reception site and wedding planning may calm down for a few weeks (I keep saying that but I just don't believe it...). In the mean time, I've already begun dress shopping... but that's a post for another day.

Hello World!

So it's official. Mike and I are engaged! I'm beyond excited about it and so happy to be planning our wedding.

This blog will be for planning purposes and will mostly be used for me to babble on about wedding stuff in an attempt to curb the amount I talk about it in public. Hope you enjoy!!