Celebrating Two Wonderful Years (and counting…)

Shane and I met at Valparaiso University in Indiana, four days before the end of my summer internship there in 2009, as we were about to begin our final year of college. He had just moved into an apartment with his friends, and I was getting ready to go back to University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. I never imagined, when my internship started, that I would meet my future husband and get married on that same campus. What a fateful summer!

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September 17, 2011 was the big day, and both our ceremony and reception were on campus. Despite some major wedding planning hiccups (that’s a conversation for another day over a bottle of wine), our wedding day couldn’t have been more perfect if we tried. Our goal was to only use traditions that really had meaning to us, and to be sustainable by creating as little waste as possible, which ended up helping us keep the costs down too. With many decisions, it came down to: if we can’t do it ourselves, it’s probably not necessary.

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Rings: mine were Shane’s grandmothers and his ring was created by my metals professor from college. Both of these items are so special, not only because they are “tokens of love,” but because of who they came from.

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Dress & fascinator: the dress is another vintage item, my mom wore it on her wedding day. I found a local seamstress who fabulously transformed my dress into something a bit more modern, and a bit more “me.” I bought a pack of headbands from Target and threaded a white one through netting I found at Michael’s, then I secured them with some embroidery thread and a pretty barrette from a cruise my mom and I went on in 2007.

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Wedding party: we asked our friends to choose items that they already owned, or would wear again, in our color scheme: purple, green, orange, or brown. Our flower girl wore a dress one of our cousins wore in a previous wedding. My cousins Sarah, Emily, and Alyssa bought sale dresses from David’s Bridal. Rachael found a purple dress in her sister’s closet and paired it with a cute, green shrug. Emily, my maid of honor, spent a whopping $12 on an adorable green/gold recycled dress from one of her favorite stores. We asked the guys to wear brown pants, a cream-colored shirt, and suspenders. The matching blue ties were a coincidence! And then we all bought TOMS, cream classics for the men, grosgrain wedges or flats for the ladies, sparkly purple for our flower girl, green for Shane, and something blue for me.

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Hair and Make-up: I asked two friends to help me with these tasks. I’ve known Carrie since middle school, she was an amazing mentor during my pre-teen and early teenage years. She styled my hair when I was a junior bridesmaid in my aunt’s wedding and a bridesmaid in my dad’s wedding, and I couldn’t think of anyone better suited for this task on my own wedding day. Kayla and I met in college, I was her R.A. and then we were roommates the summer I returned from studying abroad. I found out during wedding planning that she had recently become a Mary Kay beauty consultant and knew immediately that I wouldn’t need to look any further for make-up assistance. She took wonderful care of me that day and before hand, teaching me how to take care of my skin leading up to the big day.

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Jewelry: I wore a cross from my Oma, on a chain from my mom as well as a pair of her earrings. I “braided” matching chain bracelets with embroidery thread for each of the ladies.

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Flowers: a family friend arranged some silk flowers into bouquets for myself and the bridesmaids, as well as wrist corsages for our very-important-ladies. My mother-in-law used leftover flowers for the flower girl pail (and the cake). The men wore tillandsia (or air plant) boutonnieres from Gethsemane Garden Center in Chicago, where we purchased the rest of our flowers too. We used the same potted orchids on the altar and on the head table at the reception. Our centerpieces were more tillandsia and African violets, which we invited our guests to take home. The centerpiece vases were re-used from my dad and step-mom’s wedding.

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Ring pillow: this was made with leftovers from my dress. More specifically, from the big poofy shoulders we removed at my first fitting!

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Programs & Card Box: along with our invitations, and thank-yous, our programs were handmade by my talented mother. In the spirit of sustainability, she also found this awesome basket made of recycled magazines. She used an old sign and covered it in our engagement photos, with a slot in the middle to drop cards. It was a perfect surprise 🙂

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Salt ceremony: I searched for an alternative option during the “unity ceremony,” because we wanted something different from the unity candle or a sand jar. In my research, I found that in biblical times, men would exchange salt as a binding contract with one another. Unless each man could take identify and take back his exchanged salt crystals (which is impossible), the contract could not be broken. We liked this idea as a marriage covenant with one another. We also intend to use a pinch of this salt each year on our anniversary for a meal we make together.

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Bubbles and Party Poppers: Party poppers are my absolute favorite thing during celebrations like 4th of July and New Year’s. Unfortunately, we couldn’t use anything that required cleanup outside of the church, so instead we used bubbles. But that didn’t stop us from finding a way to celebrate with a bang! My mom passed around the party poppers during the cocktail hour before we arrived. Then, when we were introduced at our reception (to the Chicago Bull’s theme song!), everyone welcomed us with mini streamers. It was awesomely adrenaline inducing!

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Place-cards: because college athletics were a big part of our lives growing up, it seemed fitting to theme our tables around the most meaningful teams: Notre Dame, Valparaiso, Northwestern, Illinois State, Wisconsin, Bradley, Whitewater, and Nevada. We made magnets with each guest’s name on the team logos to indicate which table they were assigned. My mom framed gorgeous vinyl lettering to organize the magnets, and displayed a logo on each table with a matching handmade paper flower.

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Guestbook: somewhere on the interwebz, I saw the idea to have guests sign a map, so I went out in search of an atlas. Emily helped me hunt for at a local used bookstore, where we found an atlas of southern Italy. She and I spent a semester studying abroad in Italy together, and our vacations to the south are still some of the best memories we have, so it seemed like the perfect joint effort find. We covered it with gorgeous wrapping paper with which Shane’s supervisor wrapped her gift to us.

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Wine & Beer: thankfully, Valpo altered their dry campus rules for special events since my time as an intern there. They didn’t serve any, but they had contracts with local venues. We chose Bistro 157 because they were willing to fulfill our request to offer local beer and wine at a very affordable price. They even snuck a beer to each of us before dinner (during which the bar was not serving) since we missed our cocktail hour. They served their house sparkling wine for the toast, as well as wine from Easley Winery, and beer from Upland Brewery and Bell’s Brewery. We were happy to hear how many of our guests enjoyed the craft brews.

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Cake & Donuts: Shane has a bit of a sweet tooth, and although we both love chocolate cake, our favorite weekend treat is to get donuts! We decided to share that treat with our guests, which was catered from Chuck’s Bakery. But we still wanted to cut a cake, so Shane’s mom made us a chocolate cake, with rainbow chip frosting per my request 🙂 Our cake toppers came from a little candy shop in our neighborhood. We cut our cake to the tune of Bright Eyes’ “First Day of My Life“. We cut the bottom layer and saved the top layer in our freezer to eat on our first anniversary.

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First Dance: I used to travel for work, and during a particularly long drive one day, I played all of the songs from my Regina Spektor collection. I frequently swapped music with friends during college, so it was no surprise to me that I hadn’t already heard all of her songs in my collection. When her cover of John Lennon’s “Real Love” came on, I couldn’t think of a song that more perfectly summed up the way I felt about Shane. I sent him a text later that day and told him he just HAD to listen to the song. We agreed that it would be perfect for our first dance.

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We decided, rather last minute due to some venue snafus, to have Trans-Audio DJ at our reception. I’m so glad we did because Fabian took care of every single thing, and we celebrated worry-free. Aside from that, hiring a DJ led to one of my favorite planning memories of Shane, Emily, and I sitting on our living room floor browsing youtube for our “must play” list, giggling together the whole time.

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A big thanks to our fabulous photographers for capturing all of these wonderful moments from our wedding day!

And thanks to you for letting me share these special moments 🙂


A Golden Birthday Celebration

I absolutely love birthday parties. As an adult, I attend far less than I did as a kid, and I think that’s too bad! Birthdays are the perfect excuse to get your friends together and overindulge in all of the delicious things. So when I decided to plan a party for Shane’s golden birthday (you know, turning 26 on the 26th of the month) I wanted to go all out.

Per usual, I turned to Pinterest right away and curated this “Golden Celebration” board. I gave it a broad name because as I was searching for decor ideas, I realized that there are many, MANY reasons to throw a party with a gold theme: Oscars, weddings, new years, golden anniversaries, etc. I asked Shane for his input on an accent color, and he picked blue (he’s been watching Notre Dame with his dad since he was a kid, so this should have been an obvious option for me).  We hosted the party in the evening at our church, during one of their “Thursdays are Fine with Wine” summer events. Each fine with wine is hosted by a member of the church, and this made finding a venue so easy! Between the color scheme and time of day, I had the perfect inspiration for invitations.

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I really love designing sunbursts, and was pleased to see that Adobe Illustrator has some really great sunset color schemes to make my gradients. I simply inserted this image into an email and send them to our guest list a few weeks before the party. This was much simpler than creating an event on facebook and hoping everyone would find their invite, or creating a custom e-invitation with evite or pingg.

For the rest of the decor, my goal was not to buy anything that could easily be made (everything but the candles, really), and to use decor things we already owned or would use again. I loved the idea of painting some sort of banner, but I wasn’t sure I had the time (or space to let it dry). So instead I used a blue frame we had at home, and some leftover gold paper from a previous custom order, and hand lettered the simple sign below (sadly, I left my DSLR camera at home, so please bear with the 3 megapixel mobile photos). Instead of a cake, we made a pyramid of baked chocolate donuts dusted with powdered sugar and topped with gold sprinkles! I was inspired by this cake and this cake.

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Before we decided on a venue, I was thinking of coming up with a beer pairing with picnic foods, but that didn’t quite fit the scope of fine with wine. Instead, we stopped by Half Acre Brewing and asked them to refill our growler with some of their Daisy Cutter golden ale (get it? golden ale for a golden birthday?!). We set out a few jars of gold-wrapped candy (rolo, mini reese’s cups, and hershey’s nuggets with almonds) as well as a salmon spread with sliced bread and homemade salsa with tortilla chips.

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With Shane’s help (thank goodness!), I turned an ordinary string of lights into tassel garland with lights. We used this tutorial, and all of our patience. I recommend a couple good movies or a TV series to keep your mind pre-occupied during future tassel garland projects 🙂 Now that college football season is in full swing, this garland hangs in our living room and we turn it on during ND games!

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I was super excited when it was time to light the candles and sing happy birthday. The gold candles came from party city, and I bought the star-shaped sparkler candle as an alternative to a “2” and “6”. They were sold out of one of the numbers when I went to place the order, but it was just as well since it matched the star garland and Shane is an amateur astronomer. Please note my gold sparkly nail polish too, I told you I wanted to go all out!

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Below are a couple night shots, not the easiest to capture with the phone. On the left are a few vases with tea lights inside, which I decorated with gold curling ribbon (this was my favorite money saving project because we spent 85 cents on the ribbon, rather than buying five pre-curled ribbons for $2.95 a piece!) and some star garland, all of which we had lying around at home. On the right, you can see our tassel garland among the other decorations in the garden.

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Oh, and the next day (his actual birthday) we met for dinner and I brought his gift. There were plenty of sheets and strips of tissue remaining from the tassel garland, so I used those for an extra festive gift wrapping (the couple sitting next to us even complimented how nice it looked). I gave him The Brewmaster’s Bible and tucked a hand made card inside, telling him that we would go shopping for a home brewing starter kit together (we ultimately bought this kit from Whole Foods and are loving it)!

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Enjoy 26 Shane ❤