The Cotton Year

I think it’s fun and kind of kitschy to give anniversary gifts corresponding to the traditional year gifts. Last year was paper. This second year of marriage is celebrated with cotton, though a modern list I consulted also lists china. Cotton is much more fun and practical, so I thought I’d go with that.

I had a hard time figuring out what to get Dan for our cotton anniversary. A shirt seemed to simple. He has a lot of ties. We have enough sheet sets from the wedding showers to last us for years to come. I wanted something a little bit off the beaten path.

During my search, I came across a ton of great cotton-related gift ideas. I didn’t use these, but I thought I’d help out a fellow wife who is coming up on her second year anniversary.

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1. What guy wouldn’t love a hat for his favorite team? We’re Cubs fan, and it’s baseball season, but feel free to pick an off-season sport hat (like the Bears) to give your guy something to look forward to when the weather cools.

2. Every man can use another pair or two of boxers. J. Crew has some fun designs, but they can be pricey. Old Navy usually has similar prints for a little cheaper.

3. Splurge on a new rug for your home. This may be one of those presents you pick out together and make a part of both of your gifts, but you’ll have a constant reminder of your second anniversary there on the floor.

4. Tie your gift to a promise of a fun event. Use your towel on the next trip to the beach or pool.

5. OK, I’ll admit this one is out of my price range, but I love the sentiment of looking at where each of you have come from and seeing the family you’ve made together. Since I’m a big DIY-er, I would try to make this one myself. Or, if hand stitching isn’t your thing, you can always design a family tree yourself on the computer, and have it printed onto fabric at spoonflower.  I particularly like these modern family trees, and I’m hoping to design something similar one day.

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(from my tree & me)

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(from etsy)

Frame it or hang it up as is for a great statement piece of art.

6. Another high ticket item, but could be done so much cheaper on your own. Here’s a great tutorial I cam across on how to make it. I love the natural look of the pillow, and it would look great on the bed.

I didn’t get any of the above, so what did I actually get Dan?

As I always try to make part of a person’s gift (it seems more special that way), I made him these pillow cases.

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They say “same thing as always,” which is our way of saying I love you.

The method of making them was easy enough. I bought a pack of two 600 thread count standard pillow cases. I washed and ironed them first, to avoid any shrinking issues.

Next, I found a font I liked in word and printed it out. I traced over it on the pillowcase in very light pencil. It’s kind of hard to see.

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I just sewed over it in plain sewing thread.

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For the store-bought gifts, I got Dan two other things with a cotton theme.

I got him a duffel bag for the many mini-getaways to come.

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On our last trip to Lake Geneva, Dan had trouble finding a bag that wasn’t carry on sized to hold his things, so I knew this gift would be perfect.

The final item was just a photo of the gift…for now. It is a hammock (from overstock.com).

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When we move to a house with a backyard, we’ll spend hours laying out in it. But for now, with no place to use it, I’m giving Dan the promise of buying him a hammock. It totally reminds me of our honeymoon in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. There, we sat in the hammocks after dinner and enjoyed the warm air and pretty view. Dan’s a tall guy, so he didn’t fit so well in those hammocks, but should fit fine in this large one.

Dan really enjoyed his gifts, which made me happy.

I guess I should start thinking now for traditional Year 3 gifts. The theme: Leather. Yikes.

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Two Years of Wedded Bliss

It’s our wedding anniversary – 2 years and still going strong!

I gave you the play by play of our wedding last year, so check out that post if you want to learn all about our big day.

For today, I thought I’d share one of my favorite candid wedding photos, taken by a friend.

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Those big smiles on our faces get me every time.

I’m off celebrating, but check back tomorrow for a run down on gifts you can give for a year two (cotton) anniversary!

A Perfectly Personalized Wedding

Last weekend, the nicest, sweetest girl I know tied the knot in a beautiful outdoor ceremony.
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She married her best friend, and truly her other half in every way.

I absolutely adored every detail of the big soiree, and I loved how personal every last touch was. How did they accomplish this?

For instance, the overarching theme was flying/aircraft. Kelly and Tim met and work at Boeing, in Seattle, so it was a perfect fit.  

They made yellow paper airplanes to throw as they walked down the aisle after having just been married. Such a cute idea! And way easier to clean up than rice!

Next, the place card table was full of yellow airplanes. They folded a mini paper airplane as guest cards, with your name and the table you were sitting at printed on the body of the plane. Here’s mine next to their adorable menu card.
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Perhaps the coolest thing they did was the table identifiers. They didn’t do table numbers, or even name each table after a place they had been to together (they are quite the travelers). No, each table was named after an airport!
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Even cooler – each table had a boarding pass as its identifier. We sat at YSE, which is the airport in Canada near Whistler, which is a very special place to the couple. They met while on a long weekend at Whistler with mutual friends. Tim proposed there, and they have taken many trips there since then.

To me, the neat part was the scan code websites they created! Each “boarding pass” table identifier had a code you could scan with your phone, which brought up information on the airport, a photo of the couple in that city, and a some words on why that city is special to the couple. I was blown away by both the creativeness and the sheer ability to create such a thing! I was honored when Kelly told me that our University of Illinois locations themed tables inspired her. She clearly took that idea even further, and created something so truly unique! You can check out their airport codes for yourself here.

Of course, the bride and groom sat at LUV. Awwww.
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As one final airplane touch, at the bar, they had small packs of Southwest roasted peanuts. So cute and totally fitting the theme!
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Just for funsies, she also had a photo booth, which was so cool, and the filmstrips printed became her guest book. The photo booth attendant glued them into a book with blank pages, and you wrote your good wishes to the couple next to your strip of photos! I wish I took a picture of it. Instead, here’s some friends and I with the bride.
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Finally, Kelly and Tim had fourth-meal! Sliders and corn dogs – you can’t go wrong!
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Congratulations, Kelly and Tim! I’m so happy for you!

Exactly One Year Ago

Exactly one year ago, I married my best friend and embarked on the crazy life journey called marriage.

Over the last 2 weeks, you saw a behind the scenes view of the months leading up to the wedding. Today, I thought I’d do a quick overview of the wedding itself, mostly in picture form. Note: Most of these photos were taken by the very talented Rob Barcroft of RHB Photography.

My June 5, 2010.

I woke up and dashed to the salon to get ready. I got my hair did. And my make up done.
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Dan got ready too.
 

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We arrived at the church. And did a final check in the brides room.

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Dan was in seclusion.
 

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I walked down the aisle.
 

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And Dan looked at me lovingly.
 

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Then the good stuff. Dan gave me my ring and promised to be true to me. I did the same for him.
 

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The priest forgot to pronounce us man and wife, and he didn’t give us a kiss. Here we are walking down the aisle…confused. Are we married?
 

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We posed for some more photos at church.

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Then hopped on the trolley and headed to a park for, you guessed it, more photos. We drank his and hers champagne, how sweet.
 

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We arrived at our photo site, and finally let our hair down for some fun.
 

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My flower girls made sure my veil stayed in place.
 

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Once we took about a zillion pictures, we hurried to get to the reception hall, where we walked in as Mr. and Mrs. for the first time.
 

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We danced our first dance.

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We cut some cake.

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I cried during the best man and maid of honor speeches.

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Dan made a speech, thanking family, friends, and everyone for helping us throughout our lives and on this special day.

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We danced.
 

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And danced.

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And danced some more.
 

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Dan drank to a toast made in his honor by his fraternity brothers.

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While I did the traditional Loving Cup with my AOII sorority sisters.
 

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We stole a minute to eat the White Castle we had brought in. It was my only meal of the night.

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I took a few moments to dance to boy band songs with my friends. Just like old times.
 

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Soon,  it was time for the last dance,
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And our wedding day was over.

Thank you to everyone who made all my wedding dreams come true.

And thank you to Dan, who I’m lucky enough to have by my side each and every day.

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Love you.

It’s the Little Things

For my final wedding preparations post, I thought I’d include all the little DIY items I did that, put together, created a big impact.

I’ll start with the things related to the kids in the wedding party. Look at those cuties.
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Flower girls need flower baskets. I bought plain white flower girl baskets and pink ribbon from Michael’s (don’t forget the 40% off coupon, which applies throughout this post). I had some black ribbon laying around from my first pomander try, and I even had pearl flower-shaped buttons from a craft kit I’ve had for ages. I hot glued the black ribbon down the middle of the basket first, starting the inside. It wrapped around the whole basket, including underneath. Once it dried, I did the same thing with the pink ribbon. I cut a small pink ribbon square and glued that to the inside bottom of the basket, so you didn’t see the edges of the long ribbons. Finally, I glued 3 pearl flowers onto the ribbon. Coincidentally, the flower girl dresses had pearl flowers on the skirt, so it matched perfectly. 
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I was recently told at least one of the baskets is still kicking and has been re-purposed as a container to store Barbie clothes. Nice. Total per basket: around $6.

Another quick money-saving tip related to the flower girls – buy your own roses and pull them apart yourself. I can’t remember the exact amount the florist wanted to share us for the rose petals to fill 2 flower girl baskets, but it was a bunch cheaper to run to Costco the day before the wedding and buy a dozen roses there. My mom pulled them apart the morning of the wedding. And she had enough left over to decorate the food table when she hosted some family at her house in between the wedding and the reception. Total for the flowers: about $15 for flowers for the aisle and a couple small table arrangements.

Though I don’t have a photo of the ring bearer pillows, I kept the cost down for those by buying the pillow that matched the flower girl basket (it had small pearls on it) from Michael’s, and using the thin pink ribbon leftover from the bubbles to tie a bow where the rings would have been. No, my ring bearers weren’t trusted with the actual rings. Total per pillow: about $6.

Also related to the kids was the cute hot pink and lime green beach buckets that I filled with toys, games, and coloring supplies for them – all from the dollar store. The pink bucket held stuff for the girls, the green bucket was for the boys. 
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I knew the kids wouldn’t sit still throughout dinner, and kids running around during a meal drives me crazy. With the stuff I gave them, I didn’t hear one peep out of them all through dinner and their little butts stayed put in their chairs. I consider that to be well worth the $20 or so I spent.

I really enjoyed the wedding bubbles we handed out to our guests with the programs. Actually, our flower girls handed them out. We bought the bubbles in bulk from Wal-Mart (100 for $15) and headed to Michael’s for some super thin ribbon in black, pink and green. I think each roll was under $1 and we got 6 rolls, 2 in each color. I found the basket at my parents’ house and my crafty aunt made the fancy bow. Grand total: about $20.
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As you can see from this awesome photo taken outside church, the $20 bubble expense was well worth it.
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One of my favorite little DIY projects was the wedding ceremony programs. Unfortunately, I have no picture of it, but what made it super special was the little little stories we included about each wedding attendant. Each bridesmaid and groomsman had a small paragraph about them in the program that shared something about them and the history they had with Dan and I. So many times I had been to weddings where you see the attendants and wonder who they are. I wanted our guests to know them since they are pretty fabulous people.

Speaking of stationery, the programs, guest book, invitations, and place cards all matched. So should the unity candle! I didn’t DIY for this project though. The thought of matching the candle to our stationery didn’t occur to me until a few weeks before the wedding. By that time, I had so many other things on my mind that I knew I wouldn’t have the time to make the candles. I looked on etsy to see if anyone could make the candles for me, and I found wreathartist’s shop. We sent her a copy of our invitation, and she worked with Dan to create a design. I love the way she put the “c” and “d” on the separate candles we used to light the middle one. 
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I think the cake toppers were my favorite little wedding thing. I found a woman on etsy (fanciefanniesbridal) who created little wooden versions of the bride and groom. She asked about every detail – the color of Dan’s vest and tie, what kind of flowers were in my bouquet, how I would be wearing my hair, the style of my dress (she requested a photo of it), and even our eye colors. The little me looked so spot on, I wouldn’t even show it to Dan before the wedding since I was keeping my dress a secret from him. This woman is seriously a wood painting genius.  
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Though this last tip isn’t really cost cutting, it is a way to do good and give back on your big day. We decided not to give out favors, and instead gave the money we would have spent to charity. We chose PAWS Chicago. I had always wanted a dog, and we knew that before long, we’d be adding a canine addition to our family. Dan’s work matched our donation, so we were able to double our gift. Ironically, we didn’t find our Phoebe girl at PAWS. She came from another amazing no-kill shelter, Orphans of the Storm. I highly recommend going the donation route. To let everyone know why they wouldn’t be receiving a favor, we made a small sign telling of our donation that we set next to the guest book.

So there you have it. I’ve shared all my wedding prep tips and money-saving tricks with you. I hope they helped you, and saved you some serious dough.

Be sure to check back on Sunday, June 5 for my last wedding-related post on the wedding itself!

I’m Sitting at the Morrow Plots

As you already know, Dan and I are both proud University of Illinois graduates.

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We hoped to share our school spirit with our wedding guests by adding U of I touches where we could, and where it wouldn’t be too much. I like orange and blue as much as the next Illini, but not enough to make those our wedding colors.

I did use Illini blue as my something blue though. Check out the cute garter my maid of honor gave me. Love it.

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But I digress.
 
We decided a fun way to showcase U of I would be to name tables after University of Illinois buildings/landmarks/nearby places we frequented during our 4 years in college. No boring numbers for us.
 
I made a list of possible table names and we whittled the list down to 22 (1 for each table):
 
The Union
Alpha Omicron Pi
Psi Upsilon
Alma Mater
Morrow Plots
The Quad
Eternal Flame
Assembly Hall
Memorial Stadium
Foellinger
Our Tree
Undergrad Library
Farm Lake
Kams
The Arch
Krannert
Wohler’s
Greg Hall
Fountain
Frat Park
The Armory
Espresso Royale

Once we figured out our list, I pulled out my photo archives. I looked for photos of Dan and I at each of these spots back when we were in college. I found a good number of photos, but I was missing some.
 
Luckily, I realized this before Homecoming 2009, which was 8 months before our wedding. While we were in Champaign to cheer on our team, some of Dan’s fraternity brothers were nice enough to play photographers and get some shots of us around campus so we would have a photo of us at every location.
 
Once I picked out all my favorite photos, Dan got to work on the table name cards. Our designer freind Lauren made the names in a similar style to the invitations (and the place cards, guest book, programs, and thank you notes). We included a little story on each table card which explained why the building was significant to us. Here’s an example:

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The guests seemed to really like it. We saw a number of people going from table to table to read each story. Some guests later commented to me that it was fun getting to know a little bit more about us on our wedding day.
 
As for Dan and I, we opted for a sweethearts’ table, which only sat the two of us. We figured it would be better for our wedding party to sit with their friends/family since we’d be up talking to guests the whole time anyways. Even though it was cheesy, we named our table…the Union.

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Awwwww.
 

Christina and Dan Request the Honor of Your Presence

You had a sneak peak at our wedding stationery style last week when I showed you our guest book. Here’s the actual invitation:
 

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The invitation is the first wedding-related item that your guests will see if you don’t send save the date cards (which we didn’t). It sets the tone for your big day. The invitation needs to match the mood you want at your wedding. If your wedding is super fancy, you shouldn’t be using an ink pad and stamp to be making your invitations.

Dan and I wanted a playful, fun wedding. My instinct first shot me towards looking up invitation on Wedding Paper Divas, but then Dan had the truly wonderful idea of designing the invitations ourselves. Could we do such a thing?

Dan is a senior copywriter at an ad agency, so he has quite a knack with words. He would need a helper though, an art director. One of Dan’s co-worker’s, Lauren, stepped up to the challenge and what they came up with far exceeded any expectation I had for an invitation.

Let’s start at the beginning. First thing is deciding your wedding colors. I always knew black and hot pink would be featured on my big day. I found it to be an elegant, but modern combination. We threw in lime green for an extra pop of color.

We hightailed it over to Paper Source to see what we could find in the colors we liked. We ended up going with the Open End Envelope in fuchsia for the outer envelope and the 4 Bar Envelope in black for the response card. For the invitation itself, we used Luxe Fino Paper in cream. We took full advantage of the bulk order discount too. It saved us a few pennies.

Dan and Lauren designed every piece of the invitation themselves. Along with the actual invitation, we also sent the response card,

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and my favorite piece – the timeline/reception card/map all in one.
 

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I just love the map key that shows where the church, reception hall, and hotel are. Those icons are adorable!

Speaking of icons, Dan and I had a sort of logo that we used in many elements of the wedding. It was this:
 

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Can you see what it is? Yep, the ampersand symbol is actually an interlocking pink “c” and a white “d” – our initials. Clever, huh? That came about thanks to Dan and Lauren. What a great design! We printed the symbol on label paper and stuck one on the back of each invitation to close it, which worked kind of like a  modern day seal.

When all was said and done, we spent about $400 on our invitations. Compared to the $900+ it would cost to get custom invitations designed and printed, I was very happy for our savings.

Now if only I could come up with a way to cut the time it takes to stuff the envelopes and get the invitations out. That would be a real accomplish.