Thursday, December 29, 2011

How we found our wedding photographer in a pizza shop

I never attempted to write about our photographer before.  I think I digest thousands of photos each evening, as I flip through the posts from my favorite blogs.  With my feet in two blogging worlds, wedding and design, I'm keeping track of hundreds of feeds with my blog reader.  I love photography. Photography is so important to me that I felt like a post about it deserved a lot of my time.  Having taken a few days off around the holidays, I now feel as though I can write about this aspect of our wedding.

You'd think that someone who loves photography would have launched an exhaustive search of portfolios, interviewed a dozen photographers, and created an elaborate assessment tool before picking a vendor.  I like to say that I made up my mind in a pizza parlor...but it's not entirely true.

In the winter of 2010, some people Marc knows opened a pizza shop in Charlottesville.  When we visited for the first time, I was struck by their choice to make the interior very modern since most pizza places attempt an old world look.  The shop had a wall covered in steel panels that immediately occurred to me as something cool to photograph or to use as a backdrop for a photo shoot.  The next time we visited, a photographer showed up with a couple and started doing a maternity shoot against that wall.  I remember thinking that if that photographer also saw something appealing in that steel wall, I had to see more of her work.

Did an image from a maternity session sell me on a photographer?  Not really.  However, it led me to start watching her blog and the blogs of other local photographers to get a sense of the different styles out there. I quickly realized that Charlottesville has an amazing community of photographers.  Marc knew a few personally and we would later get to know a few more through friends.  The options were fantastic, but that's not always a good thing if you appreciate different styles.  I started to fear that it could take us months to find a photographer for our wedding.

I found myself going back to the blog of the photographer I saw at the pizza shop again and again.  Her name is Elisa Bricker.  Elisa and her husband, Edward, run Elisa B Photography.

Recognize the location of this video? / Video by Josh Gooden of Josh Gooden Cinematography

Elisa and I met at a coffee shop during the busy season in my industry, which means I was probably a bit chatty after working in solitude for too many days in a row.  We had a fun conversation about blogs and shoes and flowers and other things that I don't remember right now.  I remember thinking that I wouldn't mind having Elisa by my side on the most important day of my life.  I liked that she worked with her husband, so a second shooter wouldn't by a mystery.   I also liked that she was tech savvy and involved in social media.

 About a week after our coffee shop meeting, we signed a contact and gave Elisa a deposit.  We could have drawn the process out for weeks or months, but I decided to trust my instinct and resist the urge to mount an elaborate search.  I'm so happy with our decision.

Did anyone else simply trust their instinct when it came to one of their wedding vendors in lieu of doing a thorough search of all the options?
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More fun with fabric (my framed table numbers)

Before we started wedding planning, I had two speeds when it came to DIY projects: full speed or full stop.  I almost never chipped away at a project slowly.  I did it all or I didn't do it.  When it came to making our table numbers, I went full speed and got them done...three different times.

I mentioned my first project when I talked about my table number inspiration pictures.  I made clay plaques to use as numbers and I didn't like them.  The second round was with Ikea Tolsby frames, which seem to have become a staple of wedding DIYers.  I liked the frames, but they didn't really go with our wedding's style.  Finally, I decided to use this Style Me Pretty picture as inspiration for my third and final attempt at table numbers:

I love fabric.  I knew I could find a fabric that worked with our colors if I searched long enough.  I looked locally, I looked while I was on a business trip, and I looked online.  I found plenty of possibilities, but one fabric stood out among the thousands of swatches I saw.  It was a Robert Allen for Dwell Studio fabric that I saw at Calico Corners.  While the colors weren't right, the feel of the fabric was.

Vintage Plumes by Robert Allen in the Birch colorwa

 After looking around, I realized that it came in a blue colorway, but Calico Corners didn't have that in stock.  I took the sample home with me and decided that it would be perfect for a few wedding projects.  The $70 per yard price, on the other hand, was not perfect.

A quick check online showed that most online fabric stores were selling the fabric for around $56 per yard.  While this is an okay price for upholstery fabric, it's not great for something that's going to be used in crafts.  I debated for a few days while I looked for other options.  Nothing compared.  I ordered two precious yards.  When it arrived, I unrolled the fabric and couldn't help starting at it for a while.  Isn't it pretty?

Vintage Plumes by Robert Allen in the Jade colorwa

My next task was to find some nice, but relatively inexpensive frames.  I imagined wood frames with a weathered, silver finish looking great with my fabric.  Stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls had plenty of frames, but couldn't find too many multiples of the ones I liked.  Michael's and Hobby Lobby had a few possibilities, but nothing jumped off the shelf at me.

On a whim, I went into a craft store called Ben Franklin while in Richmond one evening a couple weeks ago.  I remember there being a Ben Franklin in a neighboring town when I was growing up, but the store had closed long ago.  A staff member told me that they originated in Richmond, VA and only operate seven stores now, all of which are in Virginia.  As luck would have it, they had the perfect frames.  The price on them was so low that I had to ask if it was correct.

 I had thought I'd spend about $10 per frame originally and I wound up spending just over $12 for all ten frames! 

Next I had to pick a paint color for the wooden numbers that would be mounted on my Robert Allen fabric and framed in my $1.20 frames.  Marc was a champ as I debated colors in the paint aisle at the craft store.  He didn't see a difference between the two colors I decided to test.  I thought there was a clear winner.  I painted each number, then sprayed them all with a matte, acrylic top coat. 

The paint on the right won

Assembling all the pieces was my favorite part.  The weave of my fabric wasn't tight, so I flipped the frame liner and glued it to the back of the frame so black wouldn't show through in the end.   I cut ten, 4x6 rectangles of my precious fabric and used a Mod Podge to mount them on the back of each picture frame. Mod Podge has a formula specifically for fabrics, but I used a jar of the basic kind that I had on hand and that worked just fine.

I let the glue and Mod Podge dry for a while, put the frames together, and then glued the painted numbers to the fabric with light, even strokes of hot glue.  Start to finish, the assembly part of this project took about an hour and a half, not counting drying time.

I have to admit that I was almost giddy over how well this project turned out!  This might be my favorite DIY so far!

What have been your favorite DIY projects?
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Creative table numbers

I've been going to weddings for ten years and I have never seen table numbers handled in a creative way.  This might be why I love seeing pictures of interesting ways to present the numbers on wedding blogs.  I knew that I'd be making our table numbers pretty soon into our planning.  I just had to find a favorite idea among all the inspirations pictures on my Pinterest boards.

Marc, who seems to notice more details than the average groom-to-be, couldn't fathom what I meant when I talked about our table numbers.  I think he was also used to just seeing a simple number on a metal stick.  As with all of my DIY projects, he was encouraging and was on board once he saw some pictures.

One idea we nixed was using places, songs, or some other words instead of numbers.  We had been watching an episode of Four Weddings during which the guest brides couldn't find their seats in a large reception room because the tables had names instead of numbers.  Perhaps the words being used were in alphabetical order, but the poor guests seemed lost.

We briefly considered a combination of numbers and pictures.  We thought about staging a photo shoot with Baxter in which he'd have the different numbers on or around him, but we decided that from afar, the numbers probably wouldn't stand out.  We visualized our guests being just like those on the Four Weddings episode.  They'd be wandering around the room, peering at the tables in attempts to figure out which one was theirs.

I made the clay plaques above by following the tutorial on The Sweetest Occasion's blog, but they wound up being the size of a playing card.  That seemed a bit small.  I used white clay, but there wasn't any contrast in color and I again worried about people being able to see the number from afar.

Using chalkboards was a cute idea, but they felt a tad too rustic for the overall feel we were going for with our wedding.  I can be a perfectionist when it comes to projects and I knew I'd want my chalk numbers to be the prettiest ones ever made, which would probably mean freaking out with chalk all over me on the morning of the big day.

From Merrily Wed / Photo by Courtney Aaron

When I found pictures of moss numbers, I was pretty excited.  I already made moss covered letters to use outside, so the little letters could continue the theme.  They were so cute!

When I came across pictures that used patterns, either with fabric or paper, the thoughts of the moss covered letters disappeared.  These were definitely the projects that made me most excited.  I just had to decide which I liked best and how I could mount the numbers in a way that would be clearly visible to guests entering our reception.

Have you seen table numbers displayed in a creative way?  Did you DIY table numbers or are you planning to?  What are you going to do?
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'm back...sort of

Since I became a Weddingbee blogger about a month ago, almost every free moment I've had has been dedicated to getting my Miss Mink persona up and running on the site.  Well, at this point, I think I'm in a comfortable rhythm and can get back to updating you all on what's happening at Maison Small & Chic.

During the start-up phase at the Bee, I was a two-posts-per-day blogger, which took quite a bit of time...time I don't necessarily have during my busy season at work.  I'm not longer a newbee and my pace is my own now.  I have a self-imposed pace that mimics the one I had here for the last few years.

If you want to follow me in both places, hit the Weddingbee image above and you'll be taken to my line of posts on the site.  Go to the main Weddingbee site to see the posts from all of the bloggers.

If you are getting married or think that is on the horizon, consider starting a blog and applying to be a Bee when you are 7 months away from your wedding.  I had no idea that becoming a Bee is akin to joining a sorority.  The Bee bloggers are a sorority where creativity and writing skills are the common bond.  I feel so lucky to be part of this amazing group of women.  After just a few weeks, I feel overwhelmed by the support I feel as part of the group. 
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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Registry Regret

In October, I spent a few hours at Macy's to create our registry.  I was pretty happy with how it went and felt like Macy's registry page was easy to navigate and simple to use. 

Last week, when Rue La La had some items from my china pattern for sale, I wondered if the pattern was being discontinued.  I quick went to Macy's and saw a bunch of notes that looked like this:

While that screen shot is of a note on my flatware, it was also under every single item on my china list.  I called Waterford right away.  They told me that they didn't discontinue my pattern and that demand actually exceeded the supply.  They couldn't keep it in stock because it's pretty popular.

Macy's decided on it's own to stop carrying the pattern, which is kind of funny in light of how popular it is.  In about 10 minutes time, I moved my entire registry over to Bed, Bath & Beyond.  See ya later, Macy's!

My mother went in to BB&B to buy something off the registry and told me that she found the people in the little wedding office to be very helpful.  She thought the process of buying off the BB&B registry was quick and easy.

Anyone have any great experiences with registries?  How about not-so-great experiences?  I'm curious if Macy's routinely discontinues items despite them being popular. 
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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Shop Tour: The moving sale at Quince

I thought I'd share some pictures from my favorite home store in Charlottesville, Quince.  The store is getting ready to move and owner Sharon Manering has put everything on sale. 

Aside from having great furniture, Quince always has tons of fun gifts that are perfect for hostess gifts.  This is where I sometimes shop for those people who seem to have everything.  There are lots of great, small items.

I don't usually get too excited about candles and reed diffusers, but the line that Quince carries is really wonderful. 

Sharon is also offering 20% off new Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams orders, so you can have some fun with the yummy fabrics on the rack below.

I hope that if you're shopping in Downtown Charlottesville for Small Business Saturday, that you'll stop into Quince!

126 Garrett Street
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 296-0062 
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The thrill of "oops paint"

Do you know about opps paint? I think oops paint has a magnetic property because I can't keep away from it.

Oops paint is paint that has been rejected or not picked up by a customer at the hardware store.    Some hardware stores, like the Home Depot in which I took the picture above, have their opps paint in a pretty prominent location.  Others, like the Lowes in my town, have it tucked away so you have to do some searching for it.  If you have small projects on your to-do list, you owe it to yourself to find this section. It's a treasure trove of cheap paint.

Lowes generally charges $1 to $1.50 for a sample jar of oops paint (generally called mistint paint there) and about $2.50 to $5 for larger cans.  Home Depot generally charges 50 cents for sample jars and $1 to $2.50 for the small cans.  Over the last few months, I've built up a little stock pile for my wedding projects. 

These are just the cans I still have.  Plenty have been mixed with other colors and used up completely. 

Do you buy oops paint?
For what projects have you used it?
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Friday, November 18, 2011

I am Miss Mink

Last night, I got some amazing news.  Probably the biggest news I've gotten as a blogger in recent years...and you all know this year has been pretty eventful.  I was told that I am joining The Wedding Bee.

If you haven't been planning a wedding, you might not know about "The Bee."  Wedding Bee is a group blog that updates constantly throughout the day with posts from about 20 women who are at different stages in their wedding planning process.  The site also has a wildly popular message board, classifieds area, and galleries.  On average, The Bee gets about 14 million page views per month.  Last June, they had 1.4 absolute unique visitors. 

When I got the word that I was joining the blogging ranks at The Bee, I was stunned.  I assumed I was a bit too old to be interesting to the average bride and that having Bees in Maryland and Richmond would prompt the editors to want someone who would bring more geographic diversity.  I was wrong.

So, I'm a Bee!  All of the Bees blog under special names and avatars that change by "generation."  This generation is "Woodland Creatures" and I was given a few choices from which to pick my identity.  After being momentarily attracted to the opossum (because there is a Phish song called Possom and we love Phish), I decided that the mink was more my style.

So, my wedding planning is about to get a much wider audience.  I'll continue here, as usual, but there will be some other people chiming in over on my posts over on The Bee.
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Small action, big step

Edited so you stalkers don't track down my friends and family ;)

Tonight, I mailed our Save the Date envelopes to the woman who is going to address them.  Though we are by no means early in our wedding planning, this very simple action felt like a very big step.  We are actually at a point where we aren't just talking about something that's going to happen in the far off future.  We're actually about to give our guests a somewhat-formal notice that they're invited.  We're *that* close to our wedding.

I found the person who is doing the addressing via Wedding Bee, a message board that's been my very good companion for the last year.  I'm not calling her a calligrapher because I don't want a super old-fashioned font on our Save the Dates.  Suffice it to say, her work has a nice flair and she lives about 25 minutes from my hometown.  It's amazing how often you can find a Jersey connection, even living in Central Virginia.

I have to admit that there's a little voice in the back of my head that wonders if anyone will get our Save the Date notice and wonder why they're invited.  Our guest list is smaller than the average wedding, so that's probably just some insecurity on my part.  I've actually seen other brides-to-be make similar comments on the message boards.  Did anyone else go through this? 

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The story of the Save the Date photo

These days, sending a "Save the Date" announcement before a wedding is standard practice.  It's obviously a nice way to give out of town guests some time to make travel plans, but it's always a way to give a hint about the style of wedding you're planning.

We wound up ordering our Save the Dates much earlier than most.  There was a good reason for it...

As I mentioned yesterday, I started reading wedding blogs pretty regularly a little over a year ago.  Just as the design blogs have giveaways, the wedding blogs have giveaways.  Just as I enter design blog giveaways now and then, I started entering the wedding blog giveaways.  I wound up winning quite a few things.  So many that the women at work started joking that there was a book in my wedding planning experience (not so sure about that).

One of the first giveaways I won was for set of custom Save the Date announcements from The Happy Envelope, a fantastic stationary company in Knoxville, TN.  The only problem: we were so early in our wedding planning that we didn't have a picture or wedding website to put on the Save the Dates.  We had a date.  We had a location.  That was it.

We wanted the Save the Date had to be a little quirky and it had to include Baxter.  I started poring through photos to find something that would work.  At some point in looking through photos, a different "take" on American Gothic came to mind.   If you don't remember, this is American Gothic:

That's not exactly the kind of imagine you'd expect to see on a Save the Date, is it?

I tried to explain what I was thinking to some friends, but they weren't quite feeling it.  Everyone seemed to want the very traditional picture of us embracing or canoodling in a popular location.  It didn't feel like us.   So, one afternoon after work, we went to an area of our neighborhood that has a brick sidewalk and a brick wall.  I swept as many cherry blossom petals out of the way as I could and set my camera up on a stool, prepared to use the timer button as many times as needed to get the shot that was in my head.

After the first terrible shot, a graduate student came walking by and offered to snap a few pictures for us.  Luckily, he also had a Nikon and he understood what I was going for when I explained what we were trying to do.  Within a minute, we had the image.

I was giddy.  I uploaded the photo to show some people on a fairly traditional wedding message board and the first response was "your heads are cut off."  I decided to try a different message board that felt a little more creative to me.  Maybe a more diverse group of brides understand what I was doing?  The comments rolled in and they were positive.  I wasn't crazy!  One person even said it reminded her of American Gothic.  Another said "I will be mad if you don't use this."

We changed the color to sepia for the Save the Dates and I hastily put together a bare bones wedding website so we'd have an address for the cards (more on the website on another day). The Happy Envelope had a proof back in a couple days, then sent our finished Save the Dates soon after.  They've been sitting on a shelf for months. I finally took them down last night so I could send the envelopes out to be addressed.

Even though I've had them for months, the idea of actually sending these out is making the wedding feel closer.

If you're married, did you send Save the Dates?  
Do you like receiving them?
Do you expect them to have a picture of the couple on them?
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The rise (and fall?) of the wedding mustache

When I first started blogging, I was aware of wedding blogs, but wasn't too interested in them.  The wedding blogs started making their way into my blog reader about a year and a half ago and I quickly noticed a trend: the wedding mustache.

I did a little research out of curiosity and it seems as though the wedding mustache started showing up on the blogs in 2009.  By 2010, they were everywhere.  I don't think a day went by that I didn't see an image of someone holding a mustache on a stick on one of the wedding blogs. They felt very hip at first, but like many things hipster, I started feeling like they were getting over done.  They went from being part of the hipster weddings...

To being part of more traditional ones...

I always find myself running in the opposite direction from trends (and I have to admit I've been a little sad when things Marc and I thought about having at our wedding became trendy).  When I met with my photographer for the first time, I blurted out "no mustaches!"  She must have thought that was an odd request, but she was fine with it.

I have definitely softened a bit to the mustaches over the last year.  I created a Pinterest board just for mustache pictures so that I'd be excited to see them.  The strategy worked.

In my blog surfing, I found two different takes on the same theme that I think are really, really cool.  The second one is from a wedding that was held in a museum and it reminds me of Breakfast at Tiffanys.  I am not considering doing these myself...I think these couples own these ideas!

I can't tell you how much I love those last two photos.  They crack me up!  I bet that wedding was a blast!

How do you feel about props in wedding photos?  
Are you all about the kitsch or do you like more traditional images?  
Have you ever worn a mustache at a wedding?
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