Wedding Planning Adventures: Dress Shopping

No matter how traditional or non-traditional you are when it comes to weddings, to all of you brides-to-be out there: Go dress shopping! Even if your wedding dress will be the first dress you even lay down your dollar bills on, I promise, it’s really fun. Well, in theory, it should be really really fun. I definitely have some feedback on dress shopping to all of your bride-to-bes and also to your bridesmaids, friends and family who decide they would like to give input.

If you didn’t know, I love Say Yes to the Dress. I am really really a sucker for it. It’s so fun to watch all of the brides shopping for their dresses, see all of the styles, and hear some great love stories. The drama many families bring with them dress shopping on these shows also makes me glad that isn’t my entourage. So on that note, one of my recommendations is to leave that drama at home. 

I tried on dresses for the first time in Virginia and the dress I found was a combination of many things I loved (btw – it also had a lot of things I loved from photos I took along). I definitely thought it was the one. But, it was unrealistic to order it in Virginia, so I made an appointment at the only store in Alaska that carried the wedding designer (Maggie Sottero – beautiful dresses!!) that I wanted. They didn’t have the dress in store, but I knew ahead of time that they could order it. Of course I love to try on dresses, so I had planned to try on more in a similar style that I was drawn to and was flattering on me and compare it to the photos of me in the first dress I picked in Virginia. At first, every dress I tried on was just as “nope, not as great as the other dress…”

But then I tried on this beautiful dress that made me feel even better than when I tried on the dress I found in Virginia. This was it. There was no other contender. I even compared photo to photo, and still, the one I had just picked was more than I could have wanted. In Virginia, I had chosen my top 3 of dresses. They each had something I loved. This dress has all of the things I loved in those dresses in one. This was the dress. I said yes to the dress! It was a bonus that it was $500 less than the other. I am so so glad I decided to try on more dresses. If not, I would have not found this more than I love even more than the one I thought was it.

I would post a picture but… that would ruin it for all of those coming on the big day. 😉

Tips for your wedding dress adventure:

  1. Do NOT wait until the last minute. Unless you want to buy something off the rack, its not in your best interest (actually its never in your best interest). When I ordered my dress, they said it should arrive in late April/early May. If you aren’t doing the math yet, its only December, so that’s 6 months away and 2 months before my wedding. Its just enough time to get my dress and get all of my fittings/alterations in. I live in a faraway land, of course, but it still typically takes anywhere from 4-6 months to order dresses.
  2. When you know you are ready find your perfect dress, make an appointment. You need all of that time committed to you.
  3. On that note, keep an open mind and don’t have your heart set on a certain dress you see in bridal magazine or pinterest. You may try it on and it looks nothing like the phone.
  4. Check out dress styles online and print some of your favorites. You’ll want them as a starting point when you get to the shop.
  5. Many say to bring a strapless bra. I recommend that or a white one, but I didn’t wear a bra when I tried on any of my dresses. Most have some built in support and its more accurate for you to go bra-less, but bring yours just in case.
  6. Wear a thong or low-profile underwear. It’ll help you to see how the dress will lay and what it will show. I tried on a couple of dresses that showed my low-profile underwear line – and that was a kicker for me.
  7. Bring along the shoes you plan to wear or ones with the same heal. If you are planning to wear flats (like me) or a small heal, see how much you would need hemmed and if you need to order a shorter dress (see below).
  8. TRY ON ALL THE STYLES! All different necklines, ballgown, strapless, mermaid – try them ALL on. First of all, its so fun to try on dresses and the dresses that look ridiculous are just as fun to laugh about. I promise, you may fall in love with something totally different than what you thought you liked.
  9. Set a realistic budget and STICK TO IT. When I started looking at dress prices, I realized my dress budget was not realistic so we set a new dress budget and definitely stuck to it.
  10. Leave your dramatic friends and family at home. You don’t owe it to anyone to tell them you’re going dress shopping or to take them with you. This is supposed to be a magical experience for you, so share it with those you love and those who will embrace the experience with you. These people will chose not to tell you that you look like a “peacock” or give you other notes of how unflattering a dress looks because lets be honest, they may be talking about the dress you’re trying on, but the reality in, it sounds like a bunch of judges telling you how you don’t fit that dress.
  11. And my biggest piece of advice from my experience: Go to more than one store, even if you think you’ve found the one. 
  12. Did I mention you should enjoy yourself? You should. It’s all about you, girlfriend. YOU need to love the dress and if you love it, your groom-to-be will too.

Questions to ask and things to talk about with your dress shop:

  1. Do they provide any free alterations?
  2. Discuss the alterations! For me, I live 6 hours from the shop where I ordered my dress, so we talked extensively about alteration options and they gave me a recommendation for my dress alternation in my town. Make sure you talk about what alterations you might need, pricing, if you are required to get alterations there, etc.
  3. Can you order a shorter dress? Many dresses come 3-4 inches shorter. It may have an extra cost and take a couple more weeks for the dress to arrive, but if you are short, you should really consider it.
  4. Did you order the color you wanted and can you see how all the colors might look to make a decision? Sometimes you can be shown a dress overlay on a different color you might want that can give you an idea of what it’ll look like.
  5. If needed, do they ship and for how much?
  6. The place you are buying your dress from is now one of your vendors – get a contract so you can ensure you get the right dress and everything is understood up front. Most places will already have one, so make sure you read over it before you sign your life away.

Adventures in Wedding Planning: Finding a Caterer

Well ladies (or couples)…the adventures in wedding planning continue. We have a lot of big things done including finding our venue, photographer and even the baker for our cake. Deposit checks flying left and right. Finding the caterer was our most recent adventure and was, yet again, one that proved to be like the other things in trying to plan a wedding in Fairbanks.

As is my experience so far, not a lot of businesses (wedding vendors) in Fairbanks have websites. So I do a lot of asking around and searching on Facebook. I got a few recommendations and they included a mix of having decent to crappy websites, only Facebook pages, and only a phone number to call. So – here we go! I made a lot of Facebook message contacts. Some people never got back to me, one returned my message and it took forever to get her on the phone and another contacted me via message and by phone. So I started by started to one caterer and went from there.

Well, she ended up being pretty flakey. I was able to contact her and send her some basic info to get started and try to set up a meeting with her. She called and asked how sure I was I wanted to book with her (before even meeting her) and said she had another bride wanting the same date. Since I had contacted her first, she was willing to hold the date. She flaked out on our first meeting and called the night before the rescheduled meeting time to say she was too busy during this holiday season and wanted to know if we could do it over the phone. She then asked what exactly I wanted to meet about in person and said we should probable meet in person. I should also mention that when talking about the kind of food I wanted, she had no suggestions and expected me to come up with food options that didn’t have bread or dairy in them and even said “it would be great if you have any recipes you like, if you could share them.” So, the end of our last conversation was that she wanted to check in after the new year and was willing to hold my date.

After this unhappy conversation and fear of not finding another caterer if I ended up not wanting to work with her, I looked more in-depth into other options. I found and met with a great caterer who was available, willing to work within my budget, and uses almost 100% local farmers and our local organic co-op. She was very open, honest, and most of all very organized and thorough. She had a lot of great ideas, was interested in me as a bride and my wedding and had a lot of great suggestions and referrals for other part of my reception. There was no mistaking when I left my meeting with her, that I wanted her to be part of our wedding.

So watch out for suggestions on catering and review of our vendors post-wedding. Our good and bad experiences will be shared so people don’t have to make the same mistakes we have or have the same encounters we have!

Who needs a DJ, anyway?

Another adventure update in wedding planning! There are quite a few! I’m amazed at how far I’ve gotten in wedding planning and we have 237 days left until the big day!

  1. I found MY dress! Unexpected but exciting.
  2. I found the perfect bridesmaid dresses! Also exciting.
  3. We found an officiant who is a friend of the fiance and makes it much more special to us.
  4. 2 of the 3 groomsman have been asked and have accepted. Thank goodness!
  5. We found a caterer that we (well more I) just love! Deposit down! Woo-hoo! Glad to be able to say “we’re not going with you” to the flakey caterer in town.
  6. Engagement photos are scheduled for December and Save the Dates will go out in January. This year, don’t look for a Christmas card from us. We’ll be doing “holiday season” cards because we are lazy and want to save postage when we send out our Save the Dates (there’s a little tip for ya!).
  7. We decided – ain’t no body got money for a DJ!

No money for a DJ, you say? Well, $1,000+ for someone to play music and tell people to get movin’ and grovin’ seemed like a big waste to us in our modest budget. I should, however, give a disclosure here that I do have friends and friends of friends who are DJs. I don’t doubt that what they do is useful and engaging. In fact, I asked a connection I have who is a DJ/Emcee to do our wedding in hopes to get a good price and make it worth it. He is engaging and plays a great variety of music, making him both a great DJ and emcee. However, he was unavailable on our wedding day.

So, that being said, after lots of searching around, getting opinions and seeing what other friends have done or are planning to do – we decided on not hiring a DJ/Emcee combo. You might also ask “why not live music, then?” Well, that would be a lot to agree on and with our varying music tastes, me and fiance could probably never find a live band we both wanted for our wedding. Plus, he was not so partial to the idea of a live band. So, here’s what we are planning:

  1. To use that extra money on my dress and our caterer.
  2. Using Spotify as our playlist. You can add what songs you want and upgrade to skip the commercials. Its like Pandora on steroids.
  3. Enlist a friend to “emcee” the important stuff for us like intro, first dance, cupcake cutting (yes, cupcake), speeches, etc. Of all the people we know, we are pretty sure we (1)have someone willing to do it and (2)have someone awesome enough to do it.

I’ll let you know what our recommendation ends up being depending on how this goes! #brideonabudget

Wedding Planning in a Small Town: Fairbanks, Alaska

Do you ever wonder what it’s like to plan a wedding in a small town? Combine that with being in a state that might as well be considered a small town, and you’ve got Alaska. Narrow it down even more and you’ve got Fairbanks, Alaska.

Many people consider Alaska to be an amazing spot for a destination wedding. I would absolutely agree with you. We are SO excited to share our state and our town with our family and friends. But what brides who do no live in Alaska often end up doing is getting married in the very over-priced wedding destination known as Anchorage, Alaska. When we began looking around the state to decide where we wanted to get married, we couldn’t believe how much places charged for services.

We definitely wanted to be able to plan our wedding in our own comfy town but are definitely discovering the challenges of a small town. Here’s a few of our fun adventures.

  1. Most vendors come by word of mouth. Many people do not have websites (which I consider to make you a legitimate business and a very good, low-cost business investment) and depend on either word of mouth or social media (aka Facebook) for their incoming business.  This can also mean more legwork to find services you need.
  2. There aren’t a lot of options for each type of service. This often translates to “we don’t have to act professional or do that great of a job.”
  3. Response time is relative. Meaning many people in the wedding industry here also function on Alaska time. If you don’t know what Alaska time is, we are far behind and far slower than the rest of … well, anywhere. It typically doesn’t bother me much, but I feel like when you’re running a business, you shouldn’t be functioning on Alaska time.
  4. What’s a contract? Sometimes, it’s your job to make sure a vendor contract is in place. Many people are a little too “go with the flow.”
  5. You have to ASK. Things you think would come normal with working with a venue, may not. So you have to ask (“can we do a tasting, do you have a portfolio, can we have a tour…”. Its much like the contracts.
  6. Some people you will contact or work with are just..quirky. I feel like that doesn’t need a lot more explanation.
  7. Plan to have some meetings off the beaten path. Many vendors have shops out of their homes and their homes might just be in some sketchy places off the beaten path. Living here as long as we have, we are accustomed to this, but we occasionally giggle when we pull up somewhere and think “can you imagine if we didn’t live here?”
  8. Traveling is inevitable. Not everything I’ve needed has been in Fairbanks and the “big city” calls for some things like wedding and bridesmaid dresses.

Now for the things we appreciate (I might still be debating if the tradeoff is worth it):

  1. The quirky people (not the flakey) are indeed quirky but often wonderful at what they do and care about giving you great work.
  2. You can negotiate anything and everything.
  3. They are just as flexible with us. Sometimes weather doesn’t permit us making it out to a meeting to sign a contract, and they aren’t going to give away our date because of it.
  4. The people we work with are Alaskan and show it. They care about us and our special day because that’s how Alaskans are.
  5. We get to share our home with our friends and family! What is greater than that? It became a determining factor for us when we chose where we were going to get married. As weird and quirky as Fairbanks is, and as much of a pain it continues to be in planning a wedding, it is a our and we get to share that! Even the “rustic…” (when I say that, its kind of a stretch) feel of our venue truly is not just Alaskan – but very Fairbanksan and really, I just love it.


We’re Engaged!

That’s right, you read the title correctly. I am finally engaged! But really, I shouldn’t say finally because the timing is just right. So often we use finally in our sentences as if to say “its taken forever and my patience is running out…” for life hands us everything in the its correct timing. My upcoming posts will explain more (wink wink).

So… the engagement! Oh my! Oh my! How did he pop the question? After recently graduating from USC with my Master of Social Work (MSW), my partner took me out for a nice dinner at Lavelle’s. At dinner, he gave me a present to celebrate my success in graduating. I opened it and it was a beautiful stemless wine glass with an etched sea otter. He said “I combined your two favorite things – wine and sea otters.” As I went to put it back in the box, he said “wait, there’s more. Keep digging in the box.” So I pulled out tons of newspaper and found a small, round, plastic case maybe half an inch thick. I picked it up and it held… a beautiful ring! I looked up at Scott and said, with tearful eyes, “what is this?!” and he of course said “will you marry me?” Of course, of course! The ring is a beautiful gold band that belonged to his great grandmother. I admire it everyday. It is so beautiful, simple and fitting to me and to us as a couple!

Now we are around 2 1/2 months into our engagement and busy busy planning for our summer 2016 Alaska wedding. It is so exciting! We have much of the big things done, which is exciting. But planning a wedding in the small town of Fairbanks, Alaska? Talk about crazy! But planning our wedding has been fun and I’ll share more as we go – which includes where I do and don’t recommend going if you, too, want to plan your wedding in our small little town in Alaska.