The Six Month Engagement

As the average age of today’s bride creeps up, the length of engagement seems to be shrinking at the same rate.  Increasingly, I find myself working with couples who are planning a 10, six or even four month engagement.

And it’s totally possible, y’all. I did it, with little to no wedding planning experience (my husband I married shortly before I immersed myself in the wedding industry), and you can as well.

When directed to helpful wedding websites and blogs for a “planning timeline” the bride is faced with the usual 12-18 month planning spreadsheet. Well, that’s an awesome way to start things off… 6 months or more behind.  What a great way to spend your engagement – just catching up.

Endless blog posts scream how you can still “pull off” a “short” engagement… and “overcome” a “whirlwind” timeline. Talk about creating panic in the heart of a new bride!

Let’s look at the pros and cons of a shorter engagement, instead of focusing on how “behind” you will be if you choose this route. Continue reading

Sweet Table!

This was a display we did for a memorial a few weeks back (oddly enough).  They wanted a very upbeat event, so we thought we would have a little fun with these assorted cupcakes. I literally walked around the kitchen at work grabbing things – look around your space – what can you repurpose to create a one of a kind food display?

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baking sheets loosely lined with parchment paper, baking rings, a large rolling pin and powdered sugar made this display stand out. I don’t recommend the whole cinnamon sticks… people thought they were snacks!!

Happy Planning!

-lmk

Offers of Help

Let me level with you -wedding planning is no easy task.  Whether you are planning a gala style dinner for 500 or an intimate backyard wedding for 50, or even a tiny celebration for 12, pulling together all the details is quite an undertaking.

If you are lucky enough to have a supportive family and tight knit group of friends, offers for help will start pouring in.

Your Aunt wants to make your four tiered cake (her cupcakes at Jakey’s third birthday were pretty cute after all..)

Your college-attending,  party animal of a sister wants to host your bridal shower and your bachelorette party.

Dad wants to make your ceremony arch (he took woodshop in high school).

Your bestie wants to help with your invitations. She does have great handwriting, after all.

And so on.

If you find yourself blessed enough to have offers of help, you want to say yes! As a new bride, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings (even though the previously mentioned Aunt has only made one baked good that was worth eating… everything else seemed better for using as ammunition against an impending Zombie attack.)

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So what’s a girl to do?

Be honest. Be thoughtful. And be humble.

Let’s talk about honesty.  Sure, your cash strapped sister might have all the good intentions, but should you task her with the responsibility of your Breakfast at Tiffany’s themed Bridal Shower and Girls Gone Wild stag night? Here is where you can accept part of what is being offered, but delegate the rest.  Sisters know many of your family and girlfriends, so what better person to help you set up the invite list and to plan the stag night, instead of taking on the entire cost and planning that goes into both events.   Here is where you can use the, “I don’t want you to take on so much, both time-wise and finance-wise” line.  It allows you to be honest, but hopefully not hurt her feelings.

crooked ceremony arch.jpg

Be thoughtful.  Dad wants to make you a ceremony arch, but you were hoping for a rustic door backdrop at your wedding ceremony.  Take a look at what Dad is really saying – I want to create something with my hands, to frame you while you declare your love and loyalty to the man that will replace many of my duties as your father. swoon Can you incorporate his idea? Maybe have your rustic doors behind your sweetheart table instead? Think of the pride he will feel, walking you down the aisle, seeing you, in all your beauty, surrounded by love and the beautiful, albeit slightly crooked, arch that he made with his own hands.

And you also need to be humble.  The task of wedding invitations, for example, is a pain in the ass.  Collecting names, starting spreadsheets, triple proofreading* the final draft before going to print, hand addressing the envelopes, etc.  Are you really up for all that? Or, does having your bestie spend five or six hours on this project free you up for other tasks? Sometimes even the most Type A brides have to admit that they simply cannot control everything – and the payoff can be liberating both time-wise and stress-wise.

I had to learn to be humble when planning my wedding.  It hit me when I had 10 or so family members assembling my centerpieces from the flowers that I purchased at a local grower.  I wanted them just so, the stems cut just right… At one point I realized that not only was my untrained, but very well meaning family not able to make my centerpieces look like high end $500 arrangements, but I wasn’t capable of it either! So I tried to give direction, but also let them have some artistic freedom (I said, some! Yes, I could have / should have given more, but learn from my mistakes here!)

Young man with glasses take off his headphones making faces.

As for the offers of help for cakes, DJing, photography, catering, aka cooking – here is where I recommend you go with the experts.  I frequently have couples who tell me that the are having a “friend with a good computer be the DJ” – oh, the friend that is petrified of a microphone? Who is going to direct your guest’s attention to your first dance?  And if this person is such a good friend – don’t you want them to be a part of the celebration, not just cheap labor?  Aha! There it is.  That’s the line I encourage couples to use, “Cousin Peter, we love your Instagram pics, and agree that your fancy pants SLR camera that you tote around is amazeballs, but we want you to be able to enjoy yourself and attend as a guest.  We want you to be pampered.” I also like to recommend you throw in a, “I’m turning into a bridezilla anyway and wouldn’t want you in the crosshairs!” Self deprecating humor goes a long way in cases like this.

Of course, there are exceptions.  Maybe you are planning a 150 person wedding on a $1500 budget – then I would take advantage wholeheartedly of the family that is offering help.  But most of the weddings that I facilitate, are working with a larger budget – but yet a budget that isn’t limitless, so we are always looking for ways to save – as are most weddings these days, I’m sure.   It’s the difference between a $800 dress and a $3800 dress. To me, that’s where you make the cut, not your wedding photography, which will be shared for a lifetime, or on your DJ, who dictates the tone and helps keep your event timeline running smoothly.

The offers for help can seem overwhelming, and may come from many angles.  Thank the person for their interest, support, and promise to follow up with a phone call that week to discuss what they are offering.  Then you can set clear expectations as to what you would like, and see if what they are offering is a good fit.

And that humble piece… Let that be the part that grounds you.  That centers you.  That reminds you of how lucky are you to have a group of people that want nothing more then to support you during such a big undertaking.  A little crunchy cake never hurt anyone.

Here are a couple links to traditional tasks that parents and siblings take on during wedding planning. Enjoy!

Mothers of the Bride and Groom Tasks

MOB tasks – great tasks for sisters here as well!

Bridesmaid DIY Projects

Fun Bridesmaid Tasks

-lmk

 

 

*for frick’s sake, yes, triple check your invites before printing them AND have some Type A friend look at them as well.  I see at least one typo on at least a third of the invites I see.  Anything from a misspelling of a name, to an extra space in the address. This isn’t a tiny blog with 20 readers! These are your wedding invitations! Take T. I. M. E. with them! I like to give a copy of whatever I am proofing to a group of five of so people and offer a prize to whomever finds the three mistakes.  You might think they are perfect, but by saying three mistakes, people will look and look and look until they find something.

 

 

 

 

Gym + Homecooked Dinner EVERY day

Author’s Note: Many of my brides (and grooms!!) talk about eating healthy and getting fit for their big day… While I don’t think you should crash diet just to fit in a dress, I do think that planning your wedding might be the perfect catalyst for a healthy body overhaul – and a lifestyle change. Here is a little insight into my meal plan, which affords me the time to stay healthy at the gym.

Yes, you can go to the gym and serve a healthy home cooked meal every day.  And you can do this while working outside the home, too. It’s the perfect mystery that challenges men and women every day – how do I maintain my professional life, while providing nourishment and quality time to/with my family and still have time to keep myself healthy and de-stressed?

As Super Why would say… “the answer to our SUPER big mystery is”… PLAN AHEAD!

This is mostly about the food.  I’m hungry.

Once a month my bestie and I spend an afternoon creating freezer-crockpot meals – this is our hybrid meal planning mastermind,  a bastardization of dream dinners, crock pot recipes, family secrets and willingness to throw whatever into a pot and see what happens.

A little context: My BFF and I both work full time during the day, and our husbands work swing / late shift.  So, generally speaking, we are responsible for cooking dinner for ourselves and the kids roughly 5 days out of the week.  For those of you taking notes, she cooks dinner 7 nights a week, 5 or so from our freezer meals.  I am home for dinner 5 nights a week, and cook maybe 3 new meals and re-create leftovers for the other two.  She has two almost elementary-aged kiddos and I have a pre-schooler. We combine families one or two nights a week, sometimes bringing extra food, other times stretching one crock pot meal to feed everyone. In other words – we adjust to life around this flexible meal planning system.

We started pre-kids, after attending a few dream dinners nights.  The concept is simple:

dream dinners infographic

And the results were AMAZING! Super quick dinners, happy husbands and no takeout.  But at $16-22 per meal, it was still a little spendy.  Yes, we were getting more variety (creating these meals from scratch, from the grocery store would run more like $25-40 a meal, since it would not be a bulk purchase), but the cost was still a little high.

This is what a dream dinners store looks like in action…

dream dinners in action

So we scratched our heads and started messing around with making our own freezer meals.  And you know what? It totally worked.

We bought our ingredients in bulk, created a massive assembly line in my kitchen, and armed ourselves with Ziploc bags and foil containers. I forget what we spent, and how many we made, but ten hours later, we both had freezers full of dinners and spent around $15 a meal.  Plus, we found our portions were larger then the ones we got at dream dinners.  We were getting a dinner, plus loads of leftovers.

The meals were thawed ahead of time, popped into the oven / cooked on the stove and voila! a home cooked meal (baked for an hour, or actively cooked on the stove for 15+/- minutes).  Gone were the days of slaving in the kitchen for an hour plus, after working all day.  Gone were the days of having a trashed kitchen to spend 30 minutes to cleanup after cooking dinner. Miracles really did happen. And we were saving money. We actually ate at decent times, and the grocery bill was lowered.

The main trick is that you are pooling your money for silly things like capers.  At $3-5 a jar, your Italian Chicken meal gets pricey (plus the $4 breadcrumbs, new $7 olive oil, $6.99/lb for the small pack of chicken, etc, etc.).  Then you throw out the rest of the capers in two months after only using a tablespoon and the breadcrumbs are worthless in six weeks.  And cardamom.  Ever bought that little jar of ground up gold? Good Lord.  At least now, when we found a recipe that called for it, we were splitting the cost! Chicken in bulk is more like $1.99-3.99 a pound. Breadcrumbs from Costco are less by the ounce – and by sharing, you CAN use up the 55 gallon drum they come in.

Things we learned from phase one of our meals:

  1. Don’t waste money on foil containers to freeze then bake your meal in.  Throw it in a Ziploc bag and call it good.  Then, use that casserole dish your Aunt got you for your wedding (trust me girls, you have one coming in the mail at some point before you tie the knot). The exception is a layered casserole. Foil containers are a must there.

  2. Don’t get overly creative with veggies on the front end.  Buy a bulk bag of green beans, split into little ziplocs and call it good.  Steam and season as you see fit when preparing your meal.  No one missed the gym because they had to season their green beans. We pepped all these fancy sides and at the end we realized we did way too much work.

  3. Do be willing to go outside your comfort zone and get away from chicken.  Pork, salmon, beef and ground turkey all freeze quite well, but the recipes take a little more searching. The other day I read a blog that mentioned kangaroo, I’m not sure if she was serious.. but the point is.. push your envelope! Lamb or goat maybe? (no joke, my neighbor is raising TWO goats for meat…)

  4. Do take chances.  The worst thing that can happen is you have to order pizza.  Not the end of the world.

  5. Do label your meals. You might think you will be able to remember / tell the bags apart… Guess what, you won’t!! I promise.  We have had several “I have something working in the crockpot. I couldn’t tell you what the hell it is to save my life, but it smells amazeballs” conversations.

A couple of years passed, we both relocated a couple times, both popped out kids and suddenly we were living a mile apart, having the same problem with dinner – now multiplied by the need to feed the kiddos something healthy and before 10pm. Here is where we entered phase two of our meals.

This time we spent about 6 hours, $400 and made a total of 28 meals, plus tons of “veggie sides.”  We both have pretty stocked pantries for things like brown rice, these healthy-ish boxed mashed potatoes (don’t laugh! they are chemical free and work for a weeknight meal!) other starchy sides.  How’s your math? $14.25 a meal.  And we had larger portions then our retail experience.  14 meals each, lasting about three weeks.

And then my bestie re-discovered the crock pot – in the form of this All-Clad slow cooker.

michmashs crockpot

 

I wrinkled my nose and we cooked independently for awhile.  Then she brought up our freezer meals. But this time there was a catch – she wanted them to be crock pot friendly.  Ugh. I hated crock pots.  Dry, tasteless mushy food.  No thanks! But she insisted.

And we all know, sometimes you just have to let your BFF win.

So we had another freezer meal session, this time, making recipes that were crockpot friendly.  Somewhere in the process, her mom heard about this, and sent me a new Cuisinart Crock Pot.  So, I gave it a try.

my crockpot

Ladies, I shit you not, I use this thing three to five times a week.  It has been a godsend.

Last month, we tipped the scales at about 30 meals for under $350.  $11.50ish for dinner, plus sides with leftovers? Sign me up. All in about three (yes, three) hours of prep.  We go back and forth the week before meal prep, hunting down recipes, debating old favorites to use or to cut,  creating a master grocery list and splitting up the shopping.

And get this – because you throw everything in the crockpot before leaving for work, all you do is toss some rice in the cooker and veggies in the microwave when you get home.  Tell me that isn’t the easiest thing you have ever heard of. Faster than delivery, healthier than takeout, cheaper than going to the store on the way home.

Here we are mid prep! Well, here the kitchen is, at least. Not pictured is my prep station on the kitchen counter(s).  We have settled into a Lizzy Mae dices, slices and browns (veggies and meat) and the BFF measures and assembles.  I’m a fast fox and she is meticulous at following rules.  Know each other’s strengths and capitalize on them.

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What do we do with this extra time? Hit the gym, of course! No, seriously. Now we both have time to go to the gym on the way home from work.  You see, if dinner only take 15 minutes from walking in the door to serving on the table, you can get off work at 5, gym from 530-630, home by 645, dinner by 7.  Adjust for your schedule, of course, but you get the message.  By planning ahead for the week, we know what to thaw, when to combine forces, and what nights to make a gourmet meal from scratch (aka, gym rest day).

And gone are the $50 trips to the grocery store and hour of prep for a home cooked meal.

A few notes and things we have learned in phase two:

  1. Thaw. Your. Meal. Proper thawing prevents mushiness.

  2. You don’t need a fancy programmable machine.  I thought I wanted a delay start, but since the meal I put in the pot is cold (thawed, but cold), it can simmer for 10 hours and be OK.  Or, I have hubby start it for me.

  3. Washing the crock pot itself is a pain in the ass.  But less of a pain if you do it while the pot is still hot/warm.  Not slimy and cold, sitting in the sink overnight.

  4. Double up  / triple up on meals you really like.  After all, this is a month +/- of dinners, so you CAN have sweet & spicy meatballs twice.  And no one has ever said no to balsamic chicken for the third time in a month.  Activate your bulk-buying power!

  5. Alternate the master grocery list creation! BFF uses a spreadsheet and I use a list.  Either way, no one’s feelings get hurt.

  6. Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Yes, I can break down 15 onions in five minutes, but I struggle to follow recipes exactly, and get bored easily.  Enter my bestie, who keeps us in line by actually taking the time to measure the salt, instead of just throwing in “whatever.”

And it’s fun! We let the kids run around the house, laugh and tell stories, agree to disagree about certain cooking techniques, and look forward to providing reasonable healthy nourishment for our families.

I think this spring, we will transition into Phase Three – we are looking at buying a pig or half pig (locally raised and slaughtered) and possibly a side of beef.  I really want to do chickens (some for eggs, some for meat), and have my dad help me put in raised beds for an extensive herb & veggie garden. We also have a neighbor that raises goats, and I would like to talk to him about that… Now that we have the science and mechanics down, I hope we can focus on being local, sustainable and organic.  After all, it is the PNW and that is how we roll!

Does that give you some insight as to how we make time to hit the gym and spend time out of the kitchen?  Do you meal prep? Have you tried it with a friend? Have any great recipes to share?

-lmk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY: Crepe Paper Flowers

My Aunt, Andrea, is fricking amazing. I adore her decorating style, and am always envious of how crafty she is.  Growing up, I always thought her to be so cool and fashion forward – seriously, for a while I think I wanted to be her when I grew up. Not a Wedding Planner, or a Teacher, I wanted to be Andrea.

A few years ago, when she was actively publishing her “Under a Blue Moon” blog (where I get a ton of my inspiration), she posted a well written, clear and concise essay on these gorgeous crepe paper flowers.

Then she made a simple tutorial and the damn thing practically went viral (again, I swoon with adoration). Click the link above for the complete post and instructions. Then get lost in her blog because it is a goldmine for great crafty things.

crepep paper tutorial

Need more for your paper flower fix? Check out this post from sheknows.com. 101 different paper flower tutorials – my aunt’s three year old (at the time) post made the list at number 9!

So here it is – perfect for your DIY wedding flowers, or to decorate packages this Holiday Season.  Thank you to Andrea for letting me borrow her content!!

-lmk

 

 

DIY Painted Bottles

Ooh! How I love these centerpieces from Cece & Ryan’s Wedding this past summer!! The fabulous bride spent a year gathering various bottles (wine bottles, liquor bottles, milk bottles, vinegar / olive oil bottles, even jars would work!) and painted them to match her vintage-romantic-bling wedding.

I love her use of ombre colors – easier to bring all your ideas together, rather then trying to match that EXACT shade of plum…

Wash & dry the bottles thoroughly, the simply paint your favorite colors on the outside.  You could also spray paint the bottles for a smoother finish, however, I simply adore the little brush strokes that you can see on these pieces.  Any paint will work, but a milk-paint or chalk-paint will give you that matte, boho (rustic) look.

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Variations (I have tested all three techniques mentioned in the blog and they all have lovely results that fit an array of styles):

starbucks painted lattes

From Pinterest: Use glass milk containers and masking tape for a more intricate design like this DIY bride did (link to original pin here) in the picture above.  In this case, the crafter smoothed out the brush strokes, which fits the style better.  More latex in the paint should help with this.

 

Looking for that glassy-baby, candy glass look? Pour paint inside the bottles and swirl around until completely coated. Glassy baby picture from website, link to tutorial as shown in picture here.

 

Want faux mercury glass? Spray the inside of the bottle with a 50/50 vinegar/water mix, so the glass looks sweaty, spray paint Krylon’s “Looking Glass” mirror spray paint on the wet beads and allow to day. Good pinterest tutorial here

On paper, teal and gold might not seem like a good fit, however, in person? A new favorite – a stunning combination.

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Congratulations to this happy couple and thank you, thank you, thank you for the DIY inspiration!

-lmk

Quick Tips: Cake Cutting Sets

Hello and Happy Wedding Planning!

Today’s quick tip should be read BEFORE you buy that $80 Vera Wang cake cutting set (or… *GASP* the $12 one from Michael’s).

Save. Your. Money.

You read me right…. don’t buy that fancy cake cutting set.  You are going to do one of the following:

(A) Forget to bring it to your wedding venue and have your poor bridesmaid skip getting her hair done so she can race to your apartment (that kinda looks like a wedding bomb went off in it, BTDub), and NOT EVEN FIND IT.  Which will result in….

(B) Having to buy the LAST ONE from Michaels’ (looks like crap and was clearly returned by another bride last week)

or

(C) You won’t ever use it again.  Even at Thanksgiving.  Because they are just too special.  If you even remember to bring it home.

Just borrow one of mine.  Seriously.  Every wedding venue has at least 60 extras.

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Spend the $80 on Champagne Flutes with your initials monogrammed instead. KIDDING! Skip that too.  Now you have $120 to spend on the extra 30 minutes of DJ time, a personalized guest book / guest book photo, the bar, alterations, SHOES. Or just come in $120 under budget.

Of course, if you already bought a set, promise me you will use it after your wedding.  Please?  Bring it out at every birthday and use it to cut the cake.  Use it at Christmas to slice the chocolate yule log, and carve your Thanksgiving turkey with it.  Make it part of a family tradition, not a dust collector in a drawer.

-lmk