Monday, July 29, 2013

Money Talks

I think if you would have asked Jon and I early on in our planning what our budget was, our response would have been “cheap.” We didn’t immediately have a dollar figure in mind. I think to this day we still don’t! I didn’t want to miss out having my dream wedding because of financial restraints, but at the same time I can't fathom spending mass quantities of dollars on ONE DAY. We had to find a happy balance.

Immediately following the engagement, my parents were very up front about what they were able to contribute. We determined that their portion would cover dinner (based on a preliminary guest list) and most of the decorating costs.

It was a little more difficult and awkward having the conversation with his mom and with his dad and step-mom. It took a while and several painful conversations later to determine how much help we would have with the wedding. As it would turn out, our families and Jon and I combined are all contributing about the same amount, and it has helped us tremendously! Jon's mom's funds are helping with dinner and part of the honeymoon, Jon's dad and step mom are doing our flowers, paying for the bar, the groom's dinner, and part of the photographer fee. Such wonderful parents we have!

Then Jon and I looked at our budget. We both had growing savings accounts and were doing pretty well. However we decided that the best way to tackle our pending finances was to do this: Jon would use his savings to pay the majority of the down payment on our house (spoiler alert!), and I would use mine for the wedding. Seemed fair to me, both are shared expenses! Using resources like The Knot, I was able to come up with a wedding budget “guideline.” I knew we’d have to splurge in some areas, like photography, and cut back in others, like cake.

As of now, I’d say we are right on track. Things are still tight and we did have a hiccup in determining the honeymoon budget, but more on that later. All I know is how lucky I am to be able to have the day of my dreams without having to go into uber debt or work 2 jobs!

Bringing the Church to the Farm

As you already know, the ceremony and reception are all taking place at Gale Woods Farm. One difficult part in choosing our venue was telling Jon’s mom that we were not getting married in the church.

Jon grew up attending a Lutheran church with his mom. Once Jon started working full time after high school, his trips to church grew fewer and fewer. When he moved out, he stopped altogether, albeit the holiday occasions. Nonetheless, Jon’s faith has never been lost even though he doesn’t talk much about it. He’s pretty quiet about his faith in God, and tho he isn’t the best church-goer, he still believes quite strongly. 

I grew up in a Christian fashion. I was baptized Methodist and attended a non-denominational Christian church during my youth, but my family stopped going before I got to high school. Life got busy and we just fell out of it. Unlike Jon, whose strong faith never staggered, my faith in God waivered a bit. I went through a tough time in high school and lost my faith for a while. I couldn’t understand why bad things happen to good people, and stopped believing.

Then early in my college years, I found my faith again. It had changed slightly, and some things about the Christian faith still don’t make sense to me, but I believe in God and I talk to Him regularly.

Now, in the wedding planning, Jon was totally ok with us not getting married in the church. But he had a feeling that his mom wouldn’t love the idea.

Even as a Christian, I’ve never imagined getting married in a church. I love the outdoors and more times than not, feel His presence outside more so than within the confines of a building.

In the discussion with FMIL, we talked about how much we loved GWF and how it perfectly fit our vision. We also talked about how important it was to have a Christian based ceremony, and to bring that aspect with to GWF. At first, I think she was a little stunned by it, but then understood our vision and was happy with our choice. We wanted her contribution to the wedding to be the ceremony details – helping us find a pastor from her church and drawing up a ceremony. She LOVED it and jumped at the opportunity.
I'm thrilled that our vision can put everyone at ease and feel good about our ceremony!

Feed My Starving Guests

Previously, I told you that our venue had a strict catering list to stick to. Upon first review of said list, I immediately pointed out 2 caterers that could whip up a delicious meal to fit our Southern theme.

The first option was catering by a nationally-known chain that specializes in good BBQ. Quite FAMOUS. While I have eaten there many times and do enjoy their grub, I still felt it was a bit too casual for me. So it was on to option 2. And the clear winner.

The Lookout is a restaurant not far from where we live. I’d heard of it before, but had never eaten there. But based on their menu, BBQ was what they did. So we met with the catering manager, felt good about what they could offer (and their prices!) and scheduled a tasting. Bad blogger, I have NO pictures from this. Just imagine the tastiest BBQ you've ever had... ok? That's what this looked like!

Holy buckets. What an experience. So. Much. Food. Chef Mike was ours for the afternoon, going over every detail of our planned tasting. And Connie, who will be our site coordinator on the day, was there to answer all bajillion of my questions.

We are going with the option called the Midwest BBQ. Essentially, it’s buffet-style BBQ picnic. We picked 3 options for guests – the Lookout’s Seasoned Grilled Chicken, Pulled Beef, and hot dogs/brats. LOTS of BBQ sauce. Then along with the package we are getting sautéed green beans with almonds, cornbread muffins, the Lookout’s Home-style Potato salad, coleslaw, and fruit. Yowza.

For cocktail hour, we decided to have just some bites for folks. Fruit tray, veggie and dip tray, and chips and Mexican dip trays. And any leftovers will just go right to dinner!

As for da booze, if you can remember here, we cannot serve hard alcohol, just beer and wine. That said, we decided to stick with The Lookout on providing the alcohol. My gracious FFIL and FsMIL have offered to foot the bar bill. Jon will be in charge of picking out the beer, which could potentially be a stressful decision for him, Mr. Beer Snob. We will have to have at least 4 kegs (we like to party, what can I say?). Two standard light beers, one sort of crafty beer and one craft beer of his choosing. As for the wine, that was an easy choice for me, I went with my two favorites: pinot noir for the red and pinot grigiot for the white (NO white zin for this girl- BLECK). Standard champ for the toasts.

The food was so delicious, and I couldn’t be happier with The Lookout. Everyone who knows The Lookout has just raved about their food and atmosphere! I hope to bring the same feel to our wedding day!

I may need a bridal bib, however. I’ma get all up in that BBQ sauce.
That's what I'm talkin bout.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Blank Canvas with RULES.

Previously I talked about my LOVE for our venue Gale Woods Farm. Everything about it has that southern charm I’m looking for. AND, it’s essentially a blank canvas that we have total control of; we can decorate it however we want. Mostly.

That said there are quite a few challenges we’ve had to overcome.

The first was that the Three Rivers Park District does not allow hard liquor on the property. Beer, wine and spirits are allowed, but no hard liquor. Jon and I generally drink just beer and wine, so no problem for us. However, a majority of my family and our wedding party enjoy a mixed cocktail. We decided that our hard liquor drinkin’ crowd would just have to settle on beer or wine. Besides, hard alcohol equals potential shit show. I’d like to have a little class on our wedding day. Just a little.

Then there was the restrictive catering list. GWF has a list of approved caterers to choose from, no going outside the box with this one. Lucky for us, the choice was an easy one. But that is for another post. :D

And lastly, the decorating restrictions. Ahhh yes. They have quite the list of decorating no-no’s. No taping/affixing things to the walls, you must use magnets. Must use the ladder there to string anything from the pillars. No covering the lights. No moving around tables and chairs once they are set up. No hanging anything from the trees. No moving the picnic tables outside. No confetti/ECOFETTI/rose petals/bird seed/lavender toss (heartbreak here…REALLY wanted that TOSS after being pronounced husband and wife…). No open candle flames, they must be contained at least as tall as the flame.

Oh and to top it all off, probably the biggest challenge we will face is the timeframe. We have total use of GWF from 10am the day of until midnight. Like, must haul everything over, start set-up at 10am AND NO SOONER, be done by the ceremony at 4pm, wrap up the reception at 11pm, and get all crap out by midnight or fees will ensue. Cue slight panic.

And we are doing this entire wedding DIY. No wedding coordinator/planner/decorator. Just my loving family and friends, and the help of our vendors. Maybe my wedding fairy godmother will show up.

It will take the UTMOST organization and planning for this wedding to come together within the budgets of time and money. And believe me when I say my wonderful mother is 110% on top of things.

Anybody else have some serious challenges with their venue? Am I absolutely nuts for thinking I can pull this off?

Old McDonald Had a Farm...

... and we're gonna get married at it!
I have a confession to make guys. I’m a one hitter-quitter. Case in point: I only looked at one venue in person. SPOILER ALERT: this is a trend in just about all the planning to follow... 

So starting with the venue.  

What is more southern than having a wedding in a barn? Not much! How many barns are there in the metro area that holds roughly 200 people available for rent that aren’t a bazillion dollars? NOT MANY. Like 2, in fact.  

My mom actually first introduced me to our venue after her first round of searching. I remember briefly looking into it, bookmarking the site, and after about 2 more hours of coming up with nothing, going back to the original site.  

May I present to you, Gale Woods Farm.

Personal photo looking at the back of the barn

Personal photo looking at the barn from a distance. Le sigh, how lovely.

Personal photo of the ceremony space overlooking Whaletale Lake.
GWF is actually part of the Three Rivers Park District in Minnesota, a chain of parks and recreation centers around the metro area.
Where our actual wedding is held is at the pavilion, which USED to be a farm. However, the actual farm is just down the road a bit. So surrounding the pavilion are cows, sheep, and chickens. My last visit there in September, we got to see the BIG sheepdog that hangs out to protect the sheep from wolves. And there’ll even be barn kitties that hang around!
Our ceremony will be held outside (weather permitting) in a scenic part of the farm overlooking Whaletale Lake.
Cocktail hour will be held outside the pavilion (again, weather permitting) where there will be drinks, lawn games, and good times. You best believe I'll be burying some bourbon to keep the rain at bay... more on that later. :D
Dinner and dancing will follow inside the pavilion, where rain or shine, we will be doin the hoe-down show-down and kickin’ up our boots all night!
BOOM. What I LOVE about GWF is that it all takes place in one location. No driving around between the ceremony and reception, just more time to spend getting down on da dance floor!!
Just 2 weeks after getting engaged, my mom, dad and I ventured out to GWF to check it out in person during an open house. Jon had to work that day but gave his blessing to move full steam ahead and just catch up with him after.
Me and my daddy standing right where I'll say my vows! (personal photo)
I LOVED IT. The open space, the ability to transform the inside however we want, the general rustic feel it has, and of course, the price tag. It came in well under budget! HOT DAMN!
I took some pictures, showed Jon when I got home and raved about it, and he told me if I loved it to book it. So I did. The very next day.
Anyone else only look at ONE venue before deciding it was the one?

A Vision Emerges

As our friends and family began to learn about our engagement, they all began asking the same question: WHEN?

For a few days, we promised to just relax and enjoy the high of the engagement. But it didn’t last. I was already deep in wedding inspiration land. Finally, we sat down and really started to talk about when we should wed.

We knew that we needed to give ourselves plenty of time because we also had been talking about buying a house. The housing market was at its prime, and it was time to take our living situation from apartment living to home living. So we needed to be able to save for a down payment and for a wedding.

We narrowed it down to two time frames: early fall of 2013 or summer of 2014. A spring or winter wedding was out of the question for me, I had always dreamed of a warm wedding day.

Summer of 2014 seemed much too long, so fall it was. August was too humid still, and October was starting to get cold, so September it was. And there we determined when to marry. We got the WHEN, now we need to figure out the HOW.

I have been dreaming of my wedding day for like, ever. I’ve always wondered what it would look like, what I would look like, and most importantly, who it would be with. Now that I finally knew who, it was time to discuss the what!

Once Jon and I began discussing our wedding vision, we knew these things:

 1.       It must be local. For a split second we talked about an elopement far off in an enchanted destination, but quickly realized it was far too important to have our dear friends and family surrounding us.
2.       It must be a laid-back, semi-formal type affair. We didn’t want a stuffy, black-tie event. We wanted everyone to feel comfortable and enjoy themselves, without losing the class any wedding should have! No redneck wedding here…

3.       Lastly, it must be on a Saturday. I know that often time weddings are cheaper on Fridays or Sundays. However, we both agreed that it would be well worth the money spent to have our guests enjoy the whole weekend without having to take off work or leave early because they worked the next day.

With these things in mind, I knew I wanted something more than a simple banquet hall/country club wedding. And in the great state of Minnesota, it’s hard to come by because of the generally unforgiving weather.

Now, I have always been completely and utterly enamored with southern weddings. I love the traditions, the music, the food, the atmosphere, the style. I love living in Minnesota, don’t get me wrong. But part of me feels like I was meant to be a southern gal. So when it came time to plan the wedding, I immediately began researching how to bring a southern style wedding north of the Mason Dixie line! After sharing this dream with Jon, he gave me the thumbs up and away I went!!

It's Not Coffee, It's a RING!

The proposal story. One that I never tire of telling. But as always, every story must begin with a back-story. And it has to do with something that Jon and I are both quite fond of – coffee.

The time around Jon’s birthday in late February was spent in Colorado Springs for a dear friend of mine’s wedding. We had a fabulous time hiking, celebrating and partying it up! I was a bridesmaid for her, and she has accepted the honor of returning the favor! Right before we left for Colorado, Jon brought home a Keruig coffee maker from work that was supposedly broken. After taking it apart, Jon determined that all it needed was a new part, so he ordered it and tracked it’s shipping while we were in Colorado (boys and tracking orders, it’s so odd).

Well the part arrived just a day or two after our return from Colorado. With the new part installed, we had to test it out! But we hadn’t purchased K-cups yet.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Our 14-month anniversary. The day went about as any other. After work I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill and did some ab-work, and then I made pasta for dinner. We decided to run to Target to price out K-cups and grab a few groceries.

 We wondered around Target, bought a few groceries but no K-cups. Figured we could find them cheaper elsewhere. I distinctly remember on the drive home, singing loudly and obnoxiously to Taylor Swift’s “Ours,” just doing what I normally do. Well folks, apparently that was enough for Jon to make his decision.

Inside, I started to put groceries away when I noticed him chuckling and acting goofy for no reason.

“Ok, fess up mister, what is going on?” I asked.

He just shook his head and said, “Wait right here, in this spot, don’t move. I have to go get something from the car.” And he left out the front door.

I looked at Bella and shrugged. Then it dawned on me. “I bet he bought me K-cups as a surprise!!” I started dancing around the kitchen, not doing what I was told because I had a feeling I was getting coffee!!

I continued to put groceries away when the door opened and in walked Jon – with nothing in his hands. What?? No coffee?

Him – “I told you to stay put!”

Me – “No coffee?”

Him – “What? What about coffee?”

Me – “You didn’t get me K-cups?”

He started laughing. “Nope not quite.”

What happened next is still a blur to me. There in our kitchen, he started hugging me and kissing me and saying things like, “You know I love you right? And that I want to spend the rest of my life with you?”

And I’m just standing there like, “yeahhhhhhhhhh.”

And then suddenly I’m like, OHMYGOD! And BOOM he gets down on one knee and presents me with a shiny, brand new, sparkly diamond ring and says “Will you marry me?”

Enter SHOCK. I’m just staring down at him, speechless, a full 10 seconds before I squeak out, “Are you shi**ing me??”

Yes folks, this was the first thing out of my mouth. Not “Of course!” and “YES I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!” Not entirely proud of it, but it is what it is.

Then it starts coming back to me and I yell “YES!” and pull him up into a bear hug. He awkwardly hands me the ring and I’m like, uh aren’t you supposed to put that on for me? So he does. And I can’t stop smiling and kissing him and staring at the beautiful ring on my hand!! WE’RE ENGAGED!!!

Personal photo, our first picture as an engaged couple, taken the next day. 
He’s shocked I didn’t cry, and I’m just still in plain shock. I probably would have cried, if I would have known what was coming. But it came up too quick!

Immediately I begin the task of phoning friends and family, texting photos of my new bling.
Personal photo, my GORGEOUS solitaire Jon picked out all by himself!
I understood what this cloud nine feeling was. I couldn’t sleep, I was too giddy. But somehow I found sleep, next to my brand new fiancé.

The Guessing Game

On Christmas Eve of 2011, we snuggled on the couch after a fabulous pot roast dinner, drank red wine and watched Love Actually. I knew we were opening presents the next morning, and although there was a larger gift for me, I couldn’t help but wonder, is there more? Perhaps something small and sparkly? We had been talking about marriage for some time now, and I was starting to get a bit antsy. Not pushy at all, but curious.  

I already knew Jon did not to ring shop together; he wanted to pick one out on his own time and surprise me with it. He did not want me to know when he would propose. He didn’t want ANYONE else to know and ruin the surprise.  

Well Christmas morning came, and I squealed with delight as I opened a new Nook reading tablet, something he had thought of completely on his own! There was also a t-shirt and some other little things, but nothing of the sort that is worn on the left hand. I was not disappointed, I simply figured it was still too soon, give it some time. He must have sensed what I was looking for, and over my breakfast quiche he made some comment about how 2012 is going to be an exciting year with “big” events. Say what?? I resolved from there out not to make any more assumptions or guesses as to when a proposal was coming, I wanted to be surprised all on my own.  

January 6, 2012 came, and we celebrated our first anniversary. We went out to Red Lobster (classy right?) and then rented a movie from Redbox. Again, a brief moment washed over me where I thought a proposal could be coming up, but I was wrong, and quickly dismissed the idea and moved on.
A couple weekends later, Jon went on an overnight trip with the boys for a hockey game. While he was out, Melodie and I thought it would be fun to pop into a jeweler and just try rings on for funsies, just to see what I liked. We giggled over the bling and of the thought of me getting married. I immediately found myself drawn to traditional solitaire rings. But I kept the ring shopping trip a secret and went about my way.

Chips and Salsa for Breakfast?

While I totally and completely respect the decision to wait until marriage to live with your SO, I knew personally that I need to know Jon on an intimate level before we could consider marriage. It’s incredible what you think you know about someone until you live with them. Especially of the opposite sex.

Interesting habits and tendencies, for example leaving cupboard doors open. Not rinsing off the knife after it’s been in peanut butter. Leaving dirty boxers on the floor after a shower. Eating chips and salsa for breakfast.

Guys, to this day, I’m still learning the art of “pick your battles.” I got over the fact that sometimes he likes odd things for breakfast, while I find it disgusting. I close the cupboard doors for him without making a fuss. I even (mostly) pick up his dirty laundry without complaining.

What I’m trying to say is, at first when we moved in, I tried to correct everything. And it eventually made us argue. We argued over things like, the right way to load the dishwasher, where the dog should sit while we eat dinner, the best way to clean a carpet stain. It’s difficult to mesh two people’s lives under one roof. It really is.

Looking back, I overreacted at times. It takes time and patience to learn how to live with someone. You REALLY learn good communication skills, like how to bring up something that’s bothering you without playing the cold-shoulder-I’m-fine-snotty-attitude-game that I was definitely guilty of playing. Yep don’t play that anymore.

Yes there was a learning curve, but ultimately moving in with Jon was the best decision. Seeing his sweet face every night and every morning was worth the move.  As the months passed, I started wondering when we would reach the next stage- a proposal.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Jon and I started a true relationship in full force. It would be the trend of every event to follow.  

Things just fell into place with Jon. I felt so comfortable with him, everything just made sense. While I had a laundry list of failed relationships in the past, this was something new to Jon. He only had one “relationship” in his past which lasted only a few months. So I figured I’d be the one showing him the ropes of couple-dom. Boy was I wrong.  

Jon taught me something in our relationship. You do or don’t. Don’t overthink it, don’t complicate it, don’t try and change the natural course. I spent YEARS trying to pick through every minuscule detail of why I had so many failed relationships, and with Jon, it was like a giant light bulb went on. I saw the light. He was everything I never had before. It was a breath of fresh air.  

March is when I knew I was in love with Jon. There was a Sunday evening where I was laying on the couch with him, wrapped up in his arms, watching Forest Gump, and I knew that me and Jon, we were like peas and carrots. I felt the urge to tell him “I love you” bubble up so many times, but I held back, figuring it was too soon.  

April 1st, my best friend Melodie, Katie, Jon and I were at Stella’s in South Minneapolis, the favorite hangout spot of Mel and me, having drinks. Us girls had been bar hopping all day. Jon had come to pick us up and join us for a drink. At some point, Katie and Mel decided to go do a lap around the bar, leaving Jon and I at our table, deep in conversation. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, I believe it was about Bella actually, when Jon just looked me in the eyes and said, “I love you.” I quickly blurted back that I loved him too, that I was just scared to tell him in fear that it was too early. He agreed. So there it was. Romantic right? In a bar, after drinking, on April fools day. I hoped he wasn’t fooling.  

Thankfully he wasn’t. In the morning, in sunlight and sober-ness, he told me he loved me again.

 To this day, we say “I love you” multiple, multiple times a day. I think it’s the one phrase that can never be over-used in a relationship.

How We Came to Be

After a brutal and unnecessary break up in August of 2010, I sat meddling over my life problems with a dear friend of mine, Katie. I sat hating on men and swearing off relationships forever, she thought about her boyfriend Ben's friend, Jon. He too was single and not in a place to be in a relationship. She said he could be my "Band-Aid" and someone to just have fun with. Katie and Ben had just bought a house together and were throwing a housewarming party in a few weeks, I could meet Jon there. I didn't think much of it.

When it came time for the housewarming party, I was geared up to meet this Jon fellow. I was excited to just be young and single and meet new people. Upon arrival, Katie pointed him out immediately. This cute guy with blonde hair and gorgeous blue eyes. He had a green baseball cap on and was drinking Miller High Life. I could get down with that. Unfortunately, it seemed as though he wasn't as interested in me. Jon made no effort to introduce himself or say hello.

Finally, three beers deep, I waltzed right over, stuck out my hand, and introduced myself. Hell, I had nothing to lose. He told me his name, we made VERY small talk, and that was it. Well I tried. So I left the party with no intentions of ever hearing from him again.

That night I had a Facebook friend request from none other than Mr. Jon. I accepted, found no skeletons in his Facebook profile, and went to bed.

I thought nothing of Jon over the next few months and went about life normally. Katie and Ben hosted a Christmas party in December and I attended, looking to have a good time with friends. MOMENTS after walking through the front door came Jon, walking up and saying "Hey, hi how've you been?" What?! This guy who had made NO effort to communicate with me over the last 3 months now wanted to be friends? Odd.

That evening Jon and I talked a lot. Most of that talking came from the liquid courage I was consuming that will forever be known as Christmas Drank, a lethal combination of hot apple cider and cinnamon schnapps. We talked. We flirted. The evening turned to night, and night turned to morning.

While we had every intentions of staying "just friends," something changed and our hang-outs turned into dates and friendship turned into a relationship. And the rest they say, is history.


Hey y'all!! I'm Stephanie and I'm so excited for to share with you my journey to say I DO! to the most wonderful man I've ever known! It has been a heck of a ride and it's not even close to being over yet! We are planning a rustic/chic/elegant/casual/good-time Charlie/love-filled September affair at a BARN! I live in the city, but I want nothing more than to be wed in the great outdoors.

I LOVE everything about Minneapolis and am a die-hard Minnesotan for life, but I think a part of me was meant to be a Southern gal. This means that together my darling fiancé Jon and I are planning on throwing a full-blown Southern wedding mixed with our Minnesota heritage. Think burlap, lace, mason jars, bbq on a farm overlooking one of our 10,000 lakes!

Who are we you ask? By day Jon is a Business Manager for a property near the University of Minnesota campus and I assure all things quality for a company that manufactures effervescent dietary supplements. By night we are runners, gym rats, fit foodies, watchers of Duck Dynasty and the Voice, and loving pet parents. Bella is our 4-year-old black lab mix and Lindsey Lohan is my 5-year-old cat.

Jon is my better half. He completes me in every way, filling in every hole and gap I have. When I'm bouncing off the walls and running in every which way with no sense of direction, he pulls me back to reality and grounds me. We finish each other's sentences, I know his thoughts, and love his flaws. He brings out the best of me, and I to him. He truly is, the mac to my cheese.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Oholendt Photography

With just over TWO months till the big day, we have a lot to cover from the day he asked for my hand to my last post as a Ms.!

Jump on the bandwagon y'all, it's going to be a crazy ride!

Love love love,