Monday, June 15, 2015

Smitten Whittens: A Giant Lesson in Grace Not Perfection

So, I talked a bit about expectations a couple posts ago, and tonight's post will match that one.

Emily Ley has become somewhat internet famous for her stance on holding herself to a standard of grace not perfection, and this year has been the ultimate test of that for me. 

This makes the perfect lock screen for my phone right now. If y'all aren't acquainted with Emily Ley, I highly recommend you check her- and her beautiful and practical products- out. 

I wanted to be the perfect student teacher, I wanted to be the perfect fiancĂ©e, and even worse than that, I wanted to have the perfect relationship throughout our engagement. Now, anyone who is working or in school while planning a wedding knows it isn't exactly an easy task, and anyone who's ever been in a long-distance relationship knows that's no cake walk either. Combine those two situations and add your fiancĂ© buying and renovating a house on top? Yeesh. Our engagement season has been a little less rainbows and butterflies than I was expecting. (Ugh, there go those expectations again!) 
If my "rainbows and butterflies" reference didn't make you think of "She Will be Loved" by Maroon 5, you should really consider going back to 2002 for a do-over.

However, it has been a time of tremendous growth for John and me, as individuals and as a couple. John started his career and learned so many skills while making a house into a home (more on that post-wedding!), while I made my way through student teaching, getting a job, and graduating. Together, we've practiced giving each other grace when we really don't want to- and we're still practicing! However, I think that's an important part of marriage- to give each other grace is to get a taste of what we're given on a daily basis from God. 
On top of John giving me grace, I've learned to give myself grace. Okay, I've actually learned I'm terrible at giving myself grace, but again, I'm practicing! Besides the usual suspects, like giving myself grace with my appearance (oh hey, stress acne!), I'm trying to give myself grace with all those little wedding details. I'm slowly realizing it's okay not to have everything match perfectly, and if the guest table seems a little hodgepodge-y to me, so what?! It really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, and it's certainly not worth having a mental breakdown over a six foot table! 
This hilarious SomeeCard reminds me that the vast majority of our guests couldn't care less about the little details I obsess over. (Granted, I spent no where close to three months on invitations! I'm not that bad!)
Letting go of control is much easier said than done, because I'm just so detail-oriented, it's difficult for me to let the little things slide. I want all frames to match, all decor look cohesive, and I want everyone to get a clear picture of what my vision was for our wedding aesthetic. However, I also want to enjoy my last eleven days at home as a VerHage. (Okay, typing that makes me a little emotional...) The last thing I want to do is isolate myself because I'm so obsessed with every last detail that I shut my parents out.
Wow. I think this post was another therapeutic one to write. One where I spilt honesty onto the screen with the prayer that someone somewhere could maybe identify. Engagement is an incredible time; it's brought some of my highest highs and lowest lows. I know our marriage, exponentially longer than our engagement season, will bring way more joyful and trying times, and I think as long as we remember to give each other that unconditional love and grace, we'll be alright. 
Oh, and as for the lack of posts the past two days... I was celebrating one of my dearest, most wonderful friend's bachelorette weekend in Charleston, and I wouldn't change it for the world! Yay for that whole grace thing! :) 
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Friday, June 12, 2015

Smitten Whittens: Asking my Flower Girls

Now, after the bridesmaids were all taken care of (like we talked about yesterday), it was time to ask my two favorite little girls to steal the show as our flower girls. I was able to see my five year old cousin Emily go from baby to toddler while I was still at Wofford, and she is so special to me. My older, biggest-role-model cousin, Jana, has an adorable two year old daughter, Charlotte, who is technically my second cousin, but I can't imagine her not being part of our special day (especially since Jana insisted on not being a bridesmaid). 

The early childhood education major in me that loves children's literature, so it should come as no surprise that as soon as I saw Fancy Nancy had a wedding book, I was buying it. 

If that precocious little girl's stories had been around when I was little, I can guarantee Nancy would have been competing with Madeline for my favorite book character. 

Now, the story was adorable, and Nancy was sassy as ever, but I had to add a little note to the front, in order to actually ask the girls! Here's the inside of Charlotte's book: 

Of course, I had to come up with a cheesy little poem and relate it all back to the plot of the book! 

I can't say my flower girls' initial reactions were quite as ecstatic as my bridesmaids', but in their defense, Charlotte wasn't even two yet when I asked, and Emily can be pretty shy. Her immediate response? "Not doing that!" However, by the end of the night, she had Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder/ Eugene (if you haven't seen Tangled, go fix that ASAP) pretending to be Chelsea and John. :)

Emily warming up to the idea of our wedding- I hope she isn't disappointed when she finds out John isn't wearing boots and a tunic! 

I also hope she and Charlotte know how excited I am to have them in our wedding, and I only wish I could watch them walk down the aisle and melt everyones' hearts! (Con of an outdoor ceremony: no doors to hide behind and peek out of, only hills and trees.) 

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Smitten Whittens: Asking My 'Maids

If you read yesterday's post, you'll see I joked about how long I've been talking about doing this post, and now that I'm actually creating it, I'm like, "Uhh, this seems like a lot of build up for nothing."
Because how I asked them wasn't revolutionary, by any means.
I just took a few of my favorite glitzy things- champs, chunky glitter, and Carolyna Pro Black font- and combined them to make these:

Mini bottles of champagne are kind of my weakness.... Like how adorable are they?!

 A little closer...

On the left: "John popped the question, but before we pop the champagne..." On the right: "Will you be my bridesmaid? Love, Chelsea"

To make these, all it took was a couple packs of mini bottles of champagne, Mod Podge adhesive spray, and lots of glitter! I used finer glitter to really give it some sheen, and then the chunky glitter because it's obnoxious, and I like it. I simply used PicMonkey to make the tags, picking a fun background and my favorite font. Carolyna Pro Black is kind of our "wedding font" per say, in that it's used on lots of our paper products, from invitations to programs (you may also notice it throughout my current blog design!). With the gold polka dots on the background of the tags, and the black and white ribbon patterned, I think I achieved the "Kate Spade" vibe I was going for with these.
I was able to hand all but one of the bottles in person (boo for having my little live in Arkansas!), and the reactions ranged from squeals (okay, screams) of excitement to border-line tears, which made the glitter trail so worth it!

 One of my favorite reactions caught on camera: I had already asked Leslie (on the right in this picture) earlier that day before we surprised Christine in Charleston on her birthday. This is said birthday girl's candid reaction when I asked her to stand by my side too! Y'all, Christine is a notorious non-hugger, so to get this kind of reaction?! Priceless. :) 

I am so thankful all eight girls said "yes" to supporting me during this adventure, many of them traveling out of state (one buying a cross-country plane ticket!), and I cannot wait for the next two weeks to fly by so I can spend time with them during the wedding weekend!

Tomorrow, you'll find out how I asked my flower girls to strut their stuff down the aisle!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Smitten Whittens: Expectations

Let me give you a direct quote from yesterday's post:
"Tomorrow, you can expect a post on how I asked my 'maids." 

So.... I don't know how to break this to you, but friends, it's 11:15, I'm just now sitting down (cough, laying in my bed on my phone) to blog, and that post isn't happening tonight. 

Here's why: I spent my day at IKEA buying stuff for the wedding, working with my mom on our table seating arrangements, working with John's mom on the same thing, and then, creating a chart for said seating arrangements. It was a pretty full day, as most days have been lately, and I love staying busy! However, I hate when busy pulls John and me apart, which it has sort of done lately. 

He's been working like crazy on our house after putting in long days at work, and I've been preparing for our wedding and starting to prepare for a classroom of six year olds (although honestly, even that has been pushed to the side with all the little wedding to-dos that are popping up left and right!). Between our two crazy schedules, it leaves very little "just us" time. 

Tonight, we desperately needed that. So he picked me up, we got ice cream at Chick-fil-a, and we drove around, just talking. 

Although we love to be silly, a lot of our serious talks throughout engagement  have centered on one thing: expectations. It's hard to go in to marriage without them, but they can be so dangerous. If you want to listen to a really enlightening talk on how damaging expectations can be, just watch this Andy Stanley sermon. It's super relatable, and I highly recommend it, whether you're engaged, married, or even single! 

Basically, desires are healthy, but when we turn those desires into expectations, where we become unhappy when they're not fulfilled, it can get messy. 

This semi-serious post may seem like it was more work than if I had just stayed true to my word and shown you how I asked my bridesmaids, but I want my blog to be an authentic space, where I share "real life" wedding planning with you- not just the cutest crafts and decisions. An important part of our engagement season has been working on and growing in our relationship, which isn't always easy. Ultimately this wedding is leading up to a marriage, and that's what really matters. 
Plus, I figured, hey, you've waited almost eleven months to see how I asked my bridesmaids, what's another day going to hurt?! ;)  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Smitten Whittens: Band vs. DJ

When I go to a wedding, there are a few things I will inevitably do: 

1. Get emotional when I see the groom watch his bride walk down the aisle.
2. Pretend to fix my hair so I can sneakily wipe tears from my eyes without looking dramatic.
3. Eat wedding cake.

Now, these are all guaranteed, no matter the wedding, but if it's a great wedding, there is a fourth inevitable thing I will do, and that is dance. 

And to dance at a wedding, I require music. (Gotta keep my reputation as a relatively sane human being.)

In my opinion, music, and the dancing that comes along with it, can either make or break a wedding reception. 

The southern girl in me loves shagging and swing dancing to beach music, and if the moment is right, you may find me wobbling or shuffling to a line dance (but seriously, at the right moment, with the right DJ who knows not to play the entire 5 minutes of the "Cupid Shuffle," because WOW that gets old fast). However, for me, it is never, ever grinding, because that just isn't me. Now, that's not to say I don't wanna hear songs like "Yeah!" by Usher, because I will totally dork-dance my way through that with interpretive dance moves! 

Can you say classic?!

Obviously, not everyone feels the same way I do about the same kinds of music, and that's what makes wedding entertainment so tricky! My goal is to get people on the dance floor, and I want them to stay there! However, when my guests range from ages 2-88 (true story), it's a little difficult to find music that will please everyone. 

I didn't know dancing at weddings could be so fun until last May, when I went to my first wedding with a band.... And it. was. awesome. The band was phenomenal, playing the most fun songs that kept people of all ages on the dance floor all night, and as if that wasn't good enough, they had these backup singers and dancers that looked like they were straight out of the movie "Dream Girls." I was sold. I knew when John and I got married, I'd book a band.

Ugh, can Bey just come play at my reception?!

Until I realized that booking a band means paying for a lot of people. And really good bands have really steep rates.

I talked to many people about many different bands, but for the kind of band I loved- the kind of band people would talk about for years after the wedding, we'd be spending more money than I'd be comfortable spending on one element of the day, no matter how important that element may be.

I almost signed a contract with an okay band; in fact, I did sign a contract with an okay band, but ripped it up before I put it in the mail. Because I had a realization: I would rather find an awesome DJ, and pay more for him than the average DJ, than find an okay band, and pay more for an average band than I would for an awesome DJ. Does that make sense?? Basically, awesome DJ who was a Blue Ribbon Vendor with Southern Weddings (AKA the wedding gurus, in my book) = less money than "meh" band who did covers of Prince my parents weren't crazy about. 

I'll end this with a short pro/con list about bands and DJs, but ultimately, I think John and I will be very happy we saved that money from my parents and put it towards something down the road, like six months worth of mortgage payments! ;) (I wish I was kidding, but price is definitely a good bands biggest con...)

GO DJ: less expensive than bands of equal caliber, more variety in what they can play- not stuck to a certain setlist of songs, take up little space
NO DJ: generally not as interactive with the crowd, can be bad at reading what people actually want to hear, not as exciting or special seeming as a band (I mean, my eighth grade dance had a DJ, and the MAC counter at the mall seems to have one every weekend)

GO BAND: live music is more special, gets the crowd going, looks phenomenal
NO BAND: costs more than a DJ (I mean, you're paying for more people, duh), takes up way more space than a DJ (this is also a factor I hadn't thought about, but with our covered pavilion space being precious at the reception, this is another reason I'm actually grateful the band thing didn't work out)

Tomorrow, you can expect a post on how I asked my 'maids! (Over ten months ago... #oops)

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Smitten Whittens: My Best Wedding Planning Advice

We’ve all heard the advice: enjoy your first few days of engaged bliss, and then, when you’re ready to take on wedding planning, the first thing you should do is talk budget.

Now, I’m here to tell you this is fabulous advice (heck, I talked about that with my parents a little before John and I got engaged… Curiosity got the better of me one day when I had a feeling a wedding might be in the next couple years!), but I’d like to give you even better advice. Don’t just have a budget talk; have a numbers talk.

A “numbers talk” includes budget, but it isn’t limited to just money, because for me, budget has not been the trickiest part of wedding planning. The real thorn in my side has been the guest list.

Now, you should know I’m a total planner, so I wanted to get down to business ASAP. However, I didn’t want to freak our families out a few days after our engagement by sitting them down, and asking them to help create an estimate guest count. I also wasn’t worried about just families; I was worried about John. He is not a huge fan of awkward conversations, and a conversation where you’re essentially asking your parents how much they’d be comfortable contributing and how many people they’re thinking of inviting versus how many you’re hoping to invite is, well, awkward. 

Now, in hindsight, I say embrace the awkward, because ultimately, it will save you a lot of stress, guilt, and frustration. You’ll go into venue-shopping with a clear idea of capacity requirements, and you won’t want to cry when you think about how much more the catering (and bartending, and linens...) will cost than you anticipated. Let me tell you how I can say all this with confidence...

Like I said, I didn't want to force awkward on everyone, so I decided, “No need to freak everyone out! I will just create a ballpark guest-list myself!” (Can anyone else tell how terrible of an idea this is already? Yeah? I thought so.)

In my mind, the guest list was great. It included all of my family, all of John’s family (plus a handful or two of question marks where great-aunts and second cousins would naturally go), plenty of family-friend spots, and John’s and my closest friends.  The list was right around 150. So, when John and I found out our dream-venue maxed out at 200 people? That’s fine! We aren’t expecting any more than 140 people to actually come! Our favorite venue was the perfect size, so we signed the contract immediately!

I later realized I was way wrong. I asked for a guest list from John’s family, and went through my family’s address book. I told my parents I was being “cut-throat,” and my poor, selfless parents just nodded and let me decide which of our family-friends made the cut, even though they were the ones footing the bill. I was determined this celebration would be about John and me, and it only made sense to invite people who would be in our future. Will they be on our Christmas card list? Nope? Well then, they're off the list. 

Now, when I received the guest list from John’s family, I realized how selfish I had been- John and I couldn’t just decide who was important enough to invite to our wedding. Our family's opinions mattered too. After understanding my embarrassing mistake, I went back to my parents, and apologized. I had been overly aggressive when I was trying to keep the guest list small, and I didn’t even consider whom my parents wanted to invite.

Ultimately, when all was said and done, our guest list was a little over two hundred people. Yikes. I had sorely underestimated our guest count, because I shied away from a numbers talk with our families.

Now, obviously there are people who won’t come, but a lot of my guests are family (both of my parents come from bigger families) and a lot of John’s guests are family-friends who live nearby, which means lots of people will come. And we are so, so excited about that and very blessed to have so many loved ones! We are also very thankful we are right at our venue's limit and not way above it!

Whew. That was a lot, but I just wanted to give y’all our story, so you’d understand why it’s important to have a numbers talk! Now here is a short list of how to have a productive numbers talk:

1. Come in with grateful heart. No matter what your parents can contribute, they should have some say in your wedding. I don’t care if they’re renting out Disney World or cannot contribute financially. Either way, they have supported you since you were born, and they will give crucial emotional support leading up to the big day. If you go in with no expectations, you will be delighted with whatever comes!
2. Come in with an open mind. Know that what you think is a reasonable guest list and what your parents think is a reasonable guest list might be two totally different things.
3. Have the same talk with both families. Don’t do what I did and be super strict on one side and not even address the other! If you are truly going in with no expectations, no one should feel offended that you brought this up; it's just part of wedding talk! 
4. Do what makes you happy. Yes, I've been saying to be flexible and open-minded, and while I had to learn to do all this, I never gave up my vision for what John and I wanted: an intimate, casual yet classic, Southern wedding about the marriage. Thanks to my mother’s great advise she’s given me for a long time, I’m a firm believer a wedding should be what you and your groom want. So if you are set on a certain venue that you know has a capacity constraint, or you are dying for a small, intimate wedding, go for it!  However, make sure you’re clear about this during your numbers talk so everyone is on the same page with how many guests to invite!

Is anyone still with me? I know it's a long post, but I promise, doing this will make you the happiest bride-to-be in all the land! I also promise my future wedding posts won't be nearly as wordy or boring! Next up: music. 

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Three Weeks 'til Wedding

Okay, technically, it is less than three weeks. 
I mean, WHAT?!

People (and by people, I mean the two to three sweet friends who optimistically check my blog on occasion in hopes of there actually being a new post), that is just crazy.
No, I have not been a good blogger, but by golly, I've been busy with the following:
-Student teaching
- Falling in love with with my kindergarteners during said student teaching
-House hunting
- Buying a house (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
- Applying for jobs
- Getting a job (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
- Graduating
- Wedding planning
- Beginning to set up my classroom
- Trying to get in shape for said wedding
Now, we obviously have a lot of life to catch up on! I've decided that every day, for the next three weeks, I will blog. And I mean it. Unlike the last several times I did the whole, "I'm back!" thing for a good post or two and then disappeared into the abyss that is real life (which can get a little cray-cray). 
Tomorrow, you'll read a post I wrote in February. I thought it was my best wedding advice then, and after re-reading the post, I would agree with February-Chelsea. Except for when June-Chelsea gets stressed about the devilish details and would say the best advice is to just hire a wedding planner! ;) 
Here's to three weeks of Whitten Wedding posts, so I can document this amazingly fun, time-consuming, and emotional journey that has led (and is still leading) up to our wedding- maybe with a dash of other stuff in between, because I'm pretty darn excited about the whole "job" thing. :) 
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