80 days to go and oh so much to do!

It seems like just yesterday that we hit the “100 days to go!” mark, but 20 days have flown by crazy fast and now we’re down to 80!  Eighty days still seems like a long time, but when you’ve already been engaged for a whole year, 1 month, and 3 days (not that I’ve been counting or anything ūüėČ ), it definitely feels like we’ve finally hit the homestretch!  We’ve made a bit more progress since the last time I wrote, but it seems like there’s still so much to do in a pretty short amount of time!

Things we’ve checked off our To-Do List over the past few weeks:

  • I had my first wedding dress alteration appointment last night!  Thankfully I was able to order my dress in my normal size, so it fits like a glove – except for the fact that I’m short so it needs to be hemmed. Then there’s the bustle that is going to require 8 buttons or hooks, or whatever it is that holds the train up haha.  Is 8 a lot?  I really wasn’t sure, but am curious how many buttons or hooks my fellow brides out there had to bustle your wedding dresses?
  • Flowers!  I finally booked a florist consultation last week and the consultant made me feel SO much better about the flower situation!
  • Bridesmaid and flower girl dresses have all been ordered!
  • Joe got fitted for his tux!
  • Joe designed and ordered our invitations!
  • We booked our rehearsal dinner venue – Southerly Restaurant & Patio, the restaurant adjoining our favorite gourmet grocery store, Southern Season.

And I can’t take credit for this one, but my amazing Aunt Suzanne MADE me the most beautiful JMU garter set!!! (The photo doesn’t even come close to doing it justice, because I snapped the pic in my dark living room after I opened it). You guys know how ecstatic I am to be able to wear this very special gift on my wedding day! ūüėÄ

JMU garter

So, there’s lots to be excited about, and the things that were stressing me out the most back in January (finding a florist and a rehearsal dinner venue) are looking much better! 

But despite checking all of those things off our list, it seems like I keep thinking about new things that need to be added to the list, so it never really gets much shorter. Haha!

Some of the big things that we still need to do include:

  • Cake tasting at Pearl’s Bake Shoppe to choose our flavors! ūüôā
  • Plan rehearsal dinner menu
  • Wedding reception menu planning/tasting
  • Addressing, stuffing, and sending out invitations
  • Choose our first dance song – we spent several hours the other night attempting to find a song that we could both agree on. We managed to find like 3 songs that one of us really liked and the other could “tolerate,” but it would be nice to find a song that we could both be excited about.
  • Figure out decorations….and find someone who knows how to make tulle bows. (Again, I am not even remotely talented in the DIY crafting department. LOL.)
  • Meet with our pastor to plan the ceremony
  • Then there’s all of the stuff that you can’t really do until the last few weeks, like figuring out table assignments, making place cards, finalizing head count for catering, etc.

But overall, we are very excited and can’t wait for our big day to get here!  I know all the pieces will end up coming together and falling into place, and if everything doesn’t turn out exactly how I had imagined it, that’s okay. (Woah, did I really just type that? Ha!) The important thing at the end of the day is that Joe and I will be married and we get to share and celebrate that special moment with our closest family and friends!

As always, thanks for reading and hopefully I will have more planning progress to share soon!  Now go enjoy this beautiful day! ūüôā

 

 

 

Ways to Woo Your Valentine, RVA Style! Part 1

Hopefully you won’t be shocked to hear that Valentine’s Day is only 18 days away! Whether it totally crept up on you and you desperately need a plan or you’ve already been thinking about it and just want some fresh ideas, here are some of my recommendations for an extra special RVA Valentine’s Day weekend!

1. Pick up some melt-in-your-mouth truffles from Chocolates By Kelly


Chocolate tends to be synonymous with Valentine’s Day, but before you’re tempted to grab a pre-packaged box from the grocery store, consider supporting a local chocolatier and splurging on decadent, handmade chocolates for your sweetie! Go one step further by treating your Valentine to a bottle of Kelly’s Chocolate Balsalmic Vinegar – it is an amazing complement to everything from Brussels sprouts and asparagus to ice cream. (Yes, I am serious about the Brussels sprouts, just trust me). You could also surprise that special someone by booking tickets for the two of you for one of Kelly’s upcoming chocolate making classes! Talk about earning brownie¬†points for a sweet and unique date idea! ūüėČ

2. Spoil your sweetie with Sugar Shack Donuts for breakfast

Sugar Shack Donuts = No explanation needed.

3. Go for a romantic stroll at Libby Hill Park  

Okay, clearly I’m biased here because my fianc√© proposed to me at Libby Hill Park, but you certainly can’t deny the beauty of this charming spot. Bundle up, grab your honey’s hand and go for a romantic stroll while enjoying one of the best views in Richmond!

4. Share your love of art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

IMG_0021

How lucky are we Richmonders to have¬†a top comprehensive US art museum with more than 5,000 years of art from around the world, right in our back yard?! It houses a remarkable permanent collection of 33,000 works of art from almost every major world culture. No matter how many times you’ve visited, you’re sure to find something new that you never noticed before! The VMFA is the¬†perfect place to spend several hours touring the galleries, catching the Rodin exhibit before it closes in March, grabbing a hot cup of Blanchard’s Coffee from Best Cafe, and taking an afternoon stroll through the Sculpture Garden with your Valentine!

5. Rev things up and get behind the wheel at Thunderbolt Indoor Karting

Juliana racing Greg_Thunderbolt

Here I am (on the left) passing one of my coworkers during a work event. I’ll admit, I’ve got a bit of a lead foot ūüėČ

Does your Valentine have a need for speed? Challenge him or her to a thrilling go-kart race! You will both have a blast as you take to the track for a bit of friendly competition, Formula One style! Loser buys drinks or dessert afterward!

6. See a show!

Make your Valentine’s dreams come true with two tickets to paradise! Er, make that two tickets to come sail away to The Broadberry on February 13th for the 5th Annual Love Boat Luau starring RVA’s own favorite yacht rockers, Three Sheets To The Wind! These guys always put on a stellar show and keep you dancin’ in the moonlight all night long! (Humor me with the song title puns please ;). ¬†But get your tickets ASAP – this show always sells out!

Saturday Sunday Monday

A night at the theatre is always an excellent choice for a romantic evening out! Virginia Repertory Theatre’s production of Saturday, Sunday, Monday opens on February 12th at the November Theatre, just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend!

And what could be more romantic than the ballet? Richmond Ballet presents Romeo & Juliet with the Richmond Symphony at the Carpenter Theatre with performances on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Get your tickets here.

Okay, hopefully these ideas are getting your Valentine’s Day weekend planning gears going! But stay tuned for more suggestions next week!

 

Flowers and decorations and diy? Oh my!

Hey guys! ¬†So I totally flaked and left y’all hanging for 5 months. ¬†Whoops! ¬†So sorry about that. ¬†Part of the reason I stopped writing is that I wasn’t quite sure what to write about. ¬†But things have also been a bit hectic! ¬†There was “the big bike race” in September, a work trip to Ft. Lauderdale in October, a leisure trip to Ireland with my mom in November, Thanksgiving, a work trip to NYC in December, Christmas, New Year’s, and now things are finally settling down a bit! ¬†However, in the midst of all that, Joe and I still managed to make some wedding planning progress. ¬†Since my last update:

  • After trying on SO MANY dresses at too many bridal shops, I finally found and¬†ordered¬†my wedding dress! The key to finding “the one?” ¬†This shop actually had multiple dresses in my size in stock for me to try on! ¬†Almost every other store up to that point had been clipping me into dresses that were 4 or 5 sizes too big and expecting me to “visualize” what it would look like if it actually fit. ¬†Yeah, that didn’t work too well for me. ¬†Anyway, thank goodness that whole process is behind me, aside from alterations (boo for being short).
  • Joe designed and ordered our Save The Dates! ¬†He did an amazing job! ¬†I couldn’t be more thrilled with the way they turned out! ¬†HVAC mechanic extraordinaire by day, stellar graphic designer by night! ¬†I’m so lucky to have such a talented fianc√©!
  • We booked our wedding cake! (Mmmmm, I’m getting a sugar craving just thinking about Pearl’s delectable delicacies!). But we haven’t picked our flavors yet, which means there’s a yummy cake tasting in our near future! ūüôā

Our wedding is now less than 5 months away! ¬†It was 10 whole months away when I wrote my last post! ¬†I guess time does fly by after all! ¬†I’m thrilled that it’s getting closer, but I’m also starting to freak out about the big things that still haven’t been nailed down yet. ¬†My current dilemma involves flowers, decorations, and the rehearsal dinner (and I’m sure plenty of other things will be added to that list soon, but those are the big ones right now). ¬†Allow me to discuss my thoughts/issues on these items…

Flowers & Decorations

Richmond has tons of florists, floral artists, floral designers, and whatever else they are calling themselves these days, so there’s certainly no shortage of options to choose from. ¬†Admittedly, I have been putting off the flower decisions because the whole process terrifies me. ¬†Everyone says you have to be extra careful because flowers can really blow your budget in no time. ¬†Considering that I’ve already blown my budget in several other areas, I would really prefer to keep this one in check.

Realizing that I would have to tackle it sooner or later, I brought up the subject during Christmas dinner with my cousin who got married in May 2014. ¬†She used to work at a florist shop, so she picked out her own flowers from a wholesaler and then arranged them herself before the wedding. ¬†Basically she’s a superstar. ¬†She informed me that getting your wedding flowers from a florist typically costs 3 TIMES what you would pay at a wholesaler! ¬†Three times!!! ¬†I realize you have to pay for their labor and arranging expertise, but couldn’t they just charge 2 times wholesale cost instead of 3?! ¬†Ugh!

So again, people keep encouraging me to go pick out my own flowers and arrange them myself. ¬†“You can watch tutorials on YouTube!” they say. ¬†Here’s the thing. ¬†I’m that person who receives a ProFlowers delivery, being so confident that it will look just as pretty out of the box as the arranged bouquet on the website, but when I cut the stems and insert the bouquet into the provided vase, they flop out in every direction and I can’t ever get them to make one pretty, cohesive bouquet. ¬†Herein lies my dilemma. ¬†I can’t even make a pre-ordered bouquet look presentable, so how would there possibly be any hope for me to arrange my own wedding flowers? ¬†Not to mention the fact that I would have absolutely no idea which flowers go together, how many of each varietal I would need, and how much filler is necessary, etc.

So basically I just went on a rant/venting session to explain why I am currently trying to pick a florist and reluctantly shell out way too much $$$ on flowers that nobody is going to remember and that are just going to die the next day anyhow. ¬†Wow, apparently realizing what a ripoff the wedding industry is has turned super optimistic Juliana into a cynic. ūüė¶ ¬†It just makes me sick that in order to have a nice wedding, you have to shell out the equivalent of a hefty house down-payment. ¬†There are so many articles, websites, and books out there that promise sure fire ways to plan a wedding on a tight budget, but I haven’t found any of their advice to actually work unless you are a total DIYer. ¬†That method doesn’t work for people like me who haven’t been good at arts & crafts since middle school. ¬†You know those “Pinterest fail” photos that you see on social media?

PinterestWeddingFlowerFail

Yeah, I don’t want to end up there, but that would totally be me if I personally attempted to make decorations, flower arrangements, or anything else for my wedding. ¬†I suspect there are plenty of other brides like me out there, hence why the wedding industry can charge exhorbitant prices for everything because they know we don’t have any other option.

End rant. ¬†Now it’s time for me to suck it up and hire a florist. ¬†On that note, if anyone out there can suggest any talented, affordable florists in Richmond, I would greatly appreciate it!

And since I just went on a total flower/wedding cost tangent, I’ll save the rehearsal dinner post for next time.

Regards,
A Slightly Stressed-out RVA Bride

Progress, Frustration, & Impatience…10 months to go!

Friends! ¬†Did you think I had thrown in the towel and decided to bail on sharing my wedding planning experiences? ¬†If you’re reading this, thank you for not giving up on me! I’m sorry I totally flaked for the past 4 months. ¬†Anyway, I’m¬†finally back and thankfully I have lots of updates!

Progress

Since my last post, we have put a significant dent in our Wedding Planning To-Do checklist!

The most exciting decision? ¬†We officially booked our reception venue in June! ¬†This was when I let out a huge sigh of relief, because not only did it check-off our venue search, but it also took care of a whole host of other things! ¬†Our venue has an on-site caterer, provides tables, chairs, table linens, china, glassware, silverware, linen napkins, cocktail napkins, and more! ¬†No need for rentals! No more searching for a caterer! Check, check, and many more checks! ūüôā

Another big decision? We booked an incredible photographer! Kendall Thow, owner of Simply Green Photography! ¬†She and I met for coffee one afternoon and I knew right away that she needed to be our wedding photographer! ¬†Her sweet personality, impressive portfolio, and obvious passion for capturing special moments totally won me over, so I booked her on the spot! ¬†If you’re looking for a talented, creative, and fun wedding photographer – you should contact her ASAP!

The most fun and memorable decision? ¬†Taking engagement photos! We had an absolute blast doing our engagement photo shoot with Simply Green Photography at Libby Hill Park – a beautiful and appropriate spot, since that’s where Joe proposed! ūüėČ ¬†I’ve shared a few photos below, but please check out the link above for Kendall’s blog post of our full engagement shoot.

Engagement pic 2

Joe_Juliana 1st engagement pic

JulianaJoe-24

JulianaJoe-43JulianaJoe-27

JulianaJoe-90

Another fun decision? ¬†We booked our DJ after attending Choice Entertainment‘s “Meet The DJ Night” last week! ¬†He’s going to¬†ensure that our reception is a total blast! The best part? ¬†He has a BRITISH ACCENT!!!!! Ahhhh! ūüôā

The last major decision that we’ve recently crossed off our list? ¬†We booked our videographer! ¬†I know some couples choose to forego a videographer in order to save a bit of money, but despite my other efforts to scale back our budget, cutting out video wasn’t an option in my book. ¬†Considering my undergrad degree from JMU is in Media Arts & Design: Digital Video & Cinema, y’all know video is something I feel very strongly about, so choosing the right videographer was a very important decision for me! ¬†We’re really excited that¬†Mark from Kwolity Productions¬†will be capturing our wedding day!

Current Frustration

Y’all, nobody told me that wedding dress shopping would be such a long and frustrating process! ¬†I have friends who found their dress¬†at the very first shop they went to. ¬†Other friends went to 2 or 3 shops before they found the one. ¬†No such luck here. ¬†So far, I’ve been to FIVE bridal salons and tried on more dresses than I can remember. ¬†My dress shopping experience thus far has ranged from: “This is definitely not the one!” to “Eh, it’s not terrible…” to “This could potentially work?” to “I really like the top of this dress, but I wish I could merge it with the bottom of the last one I tried on.” But until I try on the dress that makes me exclaim, “This is absolutely the one!” I can’t bring myself to¬†commit that kind of cash to a dress that is just okay. There’s still¬†one very reputable salon here in town where a friend of mine works that I¬†haven’t been able to get an appointment at yet, so please keep your fingers crossed that I’ll find my dream dress there!

Impatience

When Joe popped the question back in February and we started discussing potential wedding dates, I really had no concept of how long it would take to plan a wedding. ¬†I had always heard that venues usually book at least a year in advance, so I was shooting for that. But there were a lot of factors to consider. ¬†For example, one year from our engagement date would have been February 2016. ¬†However, I despise cold weather (not to mention how icky my skin gets during the colder months), so a winter wedding was out of the question. ¬†Spring weather in RVA can be hit or miss, plus that’s usually one of my busiest times at work, so we also nixed that. ¬†I had always dreamed of having a June wedding, but June 2015 would have only given us 4 months to plan, and that just didn’t seem feasible. ¬†I was also open to considering the autumn months. ¬†However, this September, Richmond is hosting the UCI Road World Cycling Championships. ¬†This is super exciting, as it will put RVA in the international spotlight, but when you work in tourism and your city is hosting such a high profile event, it’s¬†definitely¬†not a good idea for you to schedule your wedding during that month. ¬†Then, with work travel and other events lined up for October, we realized that wouldn’t be a good fit either. ¬†Thus, we ended up looking into 2016 and scheduling our wedding date for June 4th, which is nearly 16 months after we got engaged.

At first, I liked the idea of having so much time to plan, and it has admittedly been nice booking venues and vendors without anyone already being booked on our date. ¬†But y’all, I don’t think I really understood how long 16 months really is. ¬†We are still¬†10 months out and have already checked off many of the bigger items. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for having extra time to plan and save money, but I am so impatient! ¬†I can’t wait to marry Joe, and now I’m kicking myself for putting it off so long. ¬†But alas, the date has been set and deposits have been paid, so¬†I just have to suck it up and hope that these next 10 months fly by. I keep hearing that they will.

Okay, I think that’s enough for now. ¬†Hopefully I’ll get my act together and you won’t have to wait another 4 months to hear from me again. ūüôā ¬†Thanks for reading!

Top RVA Spots for Scenic Engagement Photo Shoots

In the midst of scouting out reception venues, I am also keenly aware of the fact that I need to schedule our engagement pics ASAP before our photographer gets booked up with spring/summer weddings.  While there’s one special spot in particular that I’m leaning toward, Richmond has so many scenic locations that it’s tough to narrow down the options!  Here are my Top RVA Engagement Shoot Locations so far:

1. Libby Hill Park

“The View That Named Richmond” is one of my absolute favorite views in our wonderful city!  I always considered it to be a special place, but on February 13, 2015, it took on a whole new meaning.  Before a dinner date in Shockoe Bottom, Joe took a little detour and brought me to Libby Hill Park to pop the question! ūüôā  He knew how much I love that place and also that I frequently bring travel writers to enjoy the view.  Now I have an extra special personal story to share with the writers there, and I get to relive that incredible moment every time I visit.

   

     

     

2. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Living just a few blocks from the VMFA, it is easily one of my favorite places in all of Richmond!  You can often find me there on Friday evenings enjoying Friday Art & Wine with my fianc√© and friends, on weekdays escorting travel writers through the impressive galleries, and on weekends perusing new exhibits or in the sculpture garden basking in the sunshine and serenity.

This photo was taken on one of the first warm Saturdays of spring. We just so happened to witness an engagement shoot while taking in the beauty!

  

3. Maymont

Boasting acres of beautiful gardens, there’s certainly no shortage of photogenic spots at Maymont!  My personal favorites are the Italian and Japanese Gardens, pictured below. 

I captured this gorgeous Italian Garden scene while strolling around during the 2014 Richmond Jazz Festival.

  

  

 

4. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Named USA Today’s #2 Best Public Garden in North America, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is filled with stunning beauty everywhere you look!

    

 

LGBG decorated for 2014 Dominion Gardenfest of Lights

5. Virginia Capitol Square

This is an especially tempting option for those of us who used to (and those who still do) work in state government for the great Commonwealth of Virginia.  But even non-politicos can appreciate the grandeur of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Capitol building.

 

 

6. Agecroft Hall

I mean, where else can you take photos in front of an authentic (not to mention gorgeous and well-lansdscaped) Tudor mansion?!

  

   

7. Virginia War Memorial

The Virginia War Memorial boasts an amphitheater and breathtaking views of the Downtown skyline. ‘Nuff said.

  

   

8. Lake Rooty (Innsbrook)

I discovered this somewhat hidden gem while working at the Ironworks office building in Innsbrook several years ago.  On pretty days, you could usually find me walking laps on the trail around Lake Rooty.  If you’d like some scenic water shots in your engagement photos, this could be a great option to consider!

  

 

 

Did I leave any of your favorite spots off the list?  Please share them with us in the comments!  Once you’ve nailed down the location(s) for your engagement shoot, next comes the fun of picking out cute outfits! ūüôā

* All images ¬© Juliana Comer. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Venue Visit #1 – Lewis Ginter Recreation Association

 Lewis Ginter Recreation Association. This venue is located in a lovely Northside neighborhood near Union Presbyterian Seminary.

As I approached the building entrance, I was greeted by some lovely JMU-colored flowers! ūüôā¬†

And I was also excited to step through the front door and see that the walls in the hallway/foyer are purple!

Other definite pros: You can choose your own caterer and supply your own alcohol (after obtaining the necessary ABC license, which is required for all venues/events in the Commonwealth of Virginia).  The lovely white lights and paper lanterns hanging from the rafters give the reception hall an added touch of elegance..

During my tour, someone was setting up for a reception that seated 125 guests, which gives you an idea of the reception hall’s capacity when leaving room for a dance floor.

While I liked the venue and found it to be quite nice overall, the building has a couple of features that I wasn’t expecting and I think it may be helpful to share them with other future brides who may also be considering this venue.

There’s currently no A/C in the building (although they may potentially install it at some point in the future). ¬†Joe and I are planning a late spring/early summer wedding, and Richmonders know all too well that May and June temperatures in RVA usually warrant some A/C action. ¬†(Heck, today’s high was 82 and it’s just the beginning of April!). The venue does offer several industrial-sized fans though, if you want to go that route.

The reception hall is on the second floor, which is only accessible by climbing one and a half flights of stairs. This is obviously not an ideal situation for elderly or handicapped guests.  

Additionally, there are no bathrooms on the second floor, so guests would have to climb the stairs multiple times throughout the reception. 

The Lewis Ginter Recreation Association is really a lovely venue, but may not be the best choice for us based on our anticipated number of guests, time of year of our wedding, and potential accessibility issues. ¬†However, if you are planning a fall or early spring wedding with around 125 guests (more if you don’t need a dance floor), and if the accessibility factor isn’t an issue for you or your guests, this could be a wonderful option for you!

Stay tuned…the wedding reception venue search continues!

Unexpected monkey wrench

Sometimes when you’re so completely wrapped up in something, it takes an unfortunate (or even scary!) event to snap you out of it and put things back into perspective.  Unfortunately, I learned this lesson the hard way on Saturday afternoon.  After leaving a new members class at my church, I quickly stopped by my apartment to change clothes and grab a quick snack, then headed off toward my fianc√©’s house.  We had dinner plans with some friends in Williamsburg later that evening and I was also excited to squeeze in a bit of outlet shopping beforehand.  However, our plans don’t always work out quite how we intend them to.

While driving down Broad Street on my way to the interstate, I started to proceed through a green light when a driver attempting to make a left turn failed to yield the right of way and plowed right into Sunny III.

ÔĽŅÔĽŅÔĽŅ

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So, needless to say, over the past 2 days since the accident occurred, my world has gone from obsessing over guest list size, reception venue inquiries, and wedding budgeting to agonizing over car insurance claims, collision repair centers, and rental car pickup.  Not to mention dealing with a very sore/stiff neck and shoulders. (When comparing the scenarios, the wedding planning issues that I’ve been stressing over don’t seem nearly so bad!).

Following my accident, despite being grateful and thanking God that I wasn’t hurt, I got really upset (as in crying on my fianc√©’s shoulder again upset) at the likelihood that I would now have to use my wedding budget to buy a new car. (This was after my fianc√© explained to me that when cars are totaled, insurance companies pay you the depreciated value of the car, rather than how much it would actually cost to buy a new one.  I’m so naive about these things).  Of course, there is the slight possibility that Sunny III can be fixed, but I’m not super optimistic about that.

Did I mention that Sunny III’s top was just replaced in January and also had brand new tires?  Okay sorry, I’ll stop venting now.  This is a wedding blog, not a sports car enthusiast site, after all. ūüôā

Anyway, they say all bad things happen for a reason and that maybe one day I’ll look back on it and understand why.  In the meantime, I’m still super bummed, but this whole situation provided a much needed reminder that we should never take our circumstances for granted, because things could always be worse.  My initial wedding budget and guest list restrictions that I complained about earlier don’t seem so bad in hindsight, especially now that I could be looking at cutting it in half to buy a new car.

More importantly than that, the outpouring of love, concern, and support from my family, friends, and coworkers after my accident has really put things into perspective for me.  Material objects, whether a favorite yellow car, a preferred wedding venue, or having certain types of flowers in a bridal bouquet, are not at all significant in the grand scheme of things.  Cars can be replaced, but our loved ones cannot be.  Life’s too short and precious to spend it stressing out over wedding plans or crying over a wrecked convertible.

Plus, overcoming life’s unexpected events makes us stronger, right? ūüôā

On that note, I’m off to nurse my sore muscles and attempt to not think about cars or weddings.

G’night y’all!