Weekends are good. Weekends in Charlotte are better.

With Graham’s deployment imminent, we checked off one huge item on our pre-deployment list this past weekend: a trip home to visit with family & friends. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it 20,000 more times, but our proximity to Charlotte is my favorite thing about living in Virginia. We woke up at a reasonable time, got breakfast, and headed out Friday morning. And we were still home by 4:00.

Friday night was for us. I always feel a little bit selfish having a date night when we’re only home for a small amount of time, but we’re both head over heels in love with our city, and I hate that we never got to date there. So, we always make time to try out a new (or favorite) restaurant for one night of our trip. This time, we tried out 5Church. My Charlotte friends rave about this place, so I finally made plans for us to go there.

And I’m so, so glad I did. But please forgive the horrible photos. It was so dark in there. I do understand that low lighting is more suitable for a date night, but in this day and age where everyone instagrams their meals, post reviews on Yelp, or blogs about them, I find really low lighting incredibly annoying.

We started with cocktails (I had the Ivey… actually I had two of them…) and the pork belly spring rolls. These were delicious. Super crispy and packed with flavor.

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I ordered the wasabi crusted salmon with bok choy and seaweed salad. This was absolutely delicious. The flavor of the wasabi was present, but not overpowering. I wish there had been more seaweed salad, since it’s one of my favorite things ever, but it was a delicious little garnish. The salmon was wonderful. It was perfectly cooked and just melted in my mouth.

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Graham had the Niman Ranch pork chop with gorgonzola fondue, and Yukon gold crushed potatoes. This was absolutely perfect. I’ve never cared for thick cut pork chops, since I always found them hard to cook. Since I’ve learned the secret, we’ve been cooking them more at home, and he’s been ordering them more in restaurants. The meat was so tender, juicy and full of flavor. The gorgonzola fondue (served as a sauce on the side), went perfectly with the flavor of the meat.

We also shared an order of brussels sprouts with bacon lardons which were delicious. Brussel sprouts have become, hands down, my favorite vegetable. And the huge bacon lardons were amazing. I could have just picked them out of the dish and called it a day.

We were both pretty full after all of that, but we couldn’t resist dessert. We went with the vanilla panna cotta, which was served with hibiscus gelee, mango curd, coconut crunch, and orchids. This was almost too pretty to eat, but we ate it anyway. And it was perfect. All of the different flavors and textures complemented each other really well.

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After dinner we walked over to Romare Bearden Park. It had just reopened and it was such a beautiful night. Charlotte is such a beautiful city!

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Saturday, we went our seperate ways for the day. Graham & his brother headed to the golf course, and I headed to the mall & to UNCC with my mom. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and I loved being back on campus (I needed some new school shirts). I was more than a little envious at everything the campus now offers (the huge, beautiful student union was completed AFTER I graduated…). After a day of shopping, Graham and I met back up and went over to a friends house for dinner. We do this every time we come home, and have since 2011, and it’s always my favorite part of our visit. Stephen & Heather play host, and he cooks something amazing. The rest of us bring side dishes, appetizers, alcohol, and our dogs, and we all sit around eating, drinking, talking and catching up for hours. We always do something different for dinner. Sometimes it’s fancy (for New Years Eve this past year, Stephen made an amazing roast), and sometimes it’s very casual. This time it was casual, and we did a hot dog bar. I recreated some of my favorite JJ’s dogs, and it was so much fun.

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Sunday, we made an impromptu trip to Carowinds for one reason, and pretty much one reason only: Fury325. It’s supposedly the tallest giga coaster in the world. It’s taller than the statue of liberty (it’s 325 feet tall), goes 95mph,  has over 6,000 feet of track, and that first drop? It drops you at an 81 degree angle. We got to Carowinds pretty soon after they opened, and immediately got in line. The temperatures the night before had dropped really low, so the grease was sticking. So they had to run it over, and over, and over, before letting passengers on. We waited in line for two hours to the minute, and it was absolutely worth it. That first drop really is incredible, because you can’t see a damned thing. You’re going up, looking at the sky the whole time, and you can’t see how much further there is to go. So, the anticipation is building and all of a sudden you come to a stop, and you know this is it. It was completely exhilarating. After the ride, we stayed at the park for several more hours and rode more rides, but mostly we marveled at how much the place had changed. Carowinds used to be owned by Paramount, but was sold in 2006. With the sale, a lot of the rides were renamed. In the past year, to highlight the new coaster, they completely revamped the front entrance. Basically, nothing looked like we remembered. I grew up at Carowinds. We had season passes every year, and went every weekend, so it definitely took some getting used to.

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After we left Carowinds, we went to visit with Graham’s grandparents, then went out to dinner with our families. We are incredibly lucky, because our families not only get along incredibly well, but they actually like each other. We went to Nan & Byrons, since I knew their menu would please even the picky eaters, and had an absolutely wonderful dinner.

2015-03-29 19.46.22My mom, who is the most… vanilla… eater ever, ordered a cheeseburger. It was huge and looked delicious. My mom is also teeny-tiny, and barely touched her fries, so I was more than happy to help with those!2015-03-29 19.46.37-1My father-in-law ordered the pork chop with cheddar grits, caramelized pineapple, fried jalapenos, bourbon mustard glaze. I didn’t try this, but it got rave reviews from those who did try it. 2015-03-29 19.46.49-1Graham ordered the Spicy NY strip, crushed Yukon potatoes, crispy onions, garlic confit, red wine sauce and this was amaaaaaaaaazing. I usually order seafood when we go out, but this was good enough to make me want to order red meat next time.

2015-03-29 19.46.58-1My mother-in-law had the pan Roasted Chicken, bacon & blue cheese popovers, sauteed green beans, blueberry marmalade, and natural chicken jus. I had a bite of the chicken, and it was moist and really delicious. She didn’t finish this, so Graham was more than happy to finish it up for her =) (Can we talk about how unfair it is that he is as skinny as he is, when he eats like he does??)2015-03-29 19.47.28-1My brother-in-law had four of their signature tacos. I don’t remember which ones he ordered, but all received rave reviews. 2015-03-29 19.47.44-1And lastly, I had the pan seared scallops, oven roasted sweet potatoes, caramelized Brussels sprouts, red wine bloomed cranberries, spiced candied walnuts, brown butter. This was absolutely delicious, even though the plating was completely atrocious. Even Graham commented that for the first time, my dinner was the ugliest. The appearance of this was definitely disappointing, since you eat with your eyes first, but everything was so good. Brussels & cranberries are one of my favorite things, and I can never turn down a good scallop, and these scallops were excellent.

So, yeah. Short, but wonderful visit home. Now I’m going to be completely selfish for the next few weeks and soak up as much time with my husband as I possibly can.

I’m swooning over Wedding Paper Divas…

“I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Wedding Paper Divas. I received a product and a promotional item to thank me for participating.”

When I was planning my wedding, one of the biggest headaches I had was caused by the invitations. Or actually, by the quality of the invitations. I didn’t want to go to a Hallmark store and spend hours flipping through one of the huge invitation binders (even though that was my favorite thing to do when I worked at a Hallmark store…). I wanted the ease of ordering invitations from my couch, but I also wanted to be able to see & feel the paper they would be printed on. So, what’s a girl to do?

Back in 2011, when I got married, I ended up designing my own invitation, and finding a printing company that would not only print it, but send me samples of their papers. The problem with doing things this way was that the minimum quantity you could order from this printer was 500. So, I have 400ish extra wedding invitations in my closet. Even though getting invitations I loved was a huge hassle, it was worth the effort. Invitations are such an important part of the big day. They really tie everything together, and kind of let your guests know what to expect. If I receive an invitation in the mail with gold foil & formal calligraphy, I’m expecting a much different ceremony and reception than if I receive a brightly colored, typographic invitation.

Wedding Paper Divas has made things much, much easier for brides today. You can get samples of most of the invitations on their website (and right now with the code FREETRY, you can get them for absolutely free-they’re usually $1.00 each), and the samples come in a fabulous kit that shows you everything they have to offer.

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I swooned as soon as I opened the kit. They made sure that everything you could possibly be curious about was included.
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They included samples of all of the paper types, and what’s even better, is they printed ink splotches on each piece of paper. Curious about what blush would look like on the ecru paper? Done. Curious about what meadow would look like on the pearl shimmer paper? Done. 2015-02-23 05.13.292015-02-23 04.51.282015-02-23 05.13.57

On the other side of the kit, there is information about their design service, about the trim options for your invitations, the fonts they offer (they even show you the fonts in different sizes), envelope options, etc. Basically any question you could possibly have about your wedding invitations in answered in this little packet. 2015-02-23 04.51.34 2015-02-23 05.12.23 2015-02-23 05.12.36One day I will talk Graham into a third ceremony, but that day isn’t today. Luckily I have a friend who is getting married later this year, so she let me take control of her wedding stationary. So now lets look at the samples we picked out.

First, we looked at bridal shower invitations. Obviously, we’re into the chalkboard style. This was one of the things I really loved about Wedding Paper Divas. They have so many styles to choose from, no matter what your personal style is. And the styles range from what is currently modern and trendy, to very classic and formal. Chalkboards are very in right now, and thanks to Pinterest, my friend is featuring a lot of chalkboards at her wedding (a chalkboard sign with wedding party details, instead of traditional programs, mason jars with chalkboard labels on them-so people can keep track of their glasses throughout the day, and even her guest book will be chalkboard-esque, with black pages and silver markers for people to write with). We were really happy with the three that we selected.

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We were beyond happy with the quality of the wedding invitations. We actually picked out four samples, but these were our favorites. I loved almost everything about both of these invitation suites. The typographic one was my favorite (this one was actually very similar to my own invitation), but the bride loved the floral one.
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And once we flipped them over and saw what was on the back of them, I completely agreed with her. How cute are the backs of these invitations???
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Luckily, one of the color options (there were 3 for this one) that Wedding Paper Divas featured for this invitation was perfect for her color scheme, but one of my favorite features they offer is the ability to pick your own color scheme. You tell them what color you want, and one of their design specialists will email you a copy of the invitation, which you can then order a sample of. 2015-02-23 05.11.15 2015-02-23 05.11.20 2015-02-23 05.11.25Since the sample kit came with a pretty good coupon, we went ahead and placed an invitation order. They should be here soon, and I can’t wait to share those with you guys when they arrive!

 

 

Wedding Wednesday: 10 Ways to Save on Your Big Day.

 

Like I’ve said before, I’m not a wedding professional, but I love weddings, and I had a love/relationship with planning ours. Graham was in Kuwait, I was planning a wedding in Charlotte from Arkansas, and I was doing it with a relatively small budget. Before I moved to Arkansas, my mother was very generous when it came to helping me pay off my credit card debt, so I didn’t want her to have to pay thousands & thousands of dollars for a wedding on top of that. She paid for my dress, but Graham and I paid for the rest by ourselves. Once all was said & done, we were able to stay under our budget (including the honeymoon). I wanted a beautiful wedding, but I didn’t want to go into a crazy amount of debt for it. So, here are some things I did, or wish I had done, to save money.

1) Prioritize. The very first thing you need to do when you’re figuring out what your budget is, and where/how you want to splurge, is to figure out what matters most. Different people prioritize different things. Some people splurge on an $8,000 photographer. For others it’s the dream dress. Some want amazing flowers covering every inch of the venue. Find out what matters most when it comes to your vision of your big day and spend accordingly. For us, it was our cake and our photographer. I was immensely happy with both, and was happy we allotted so much of our relatively small budget to those areas.

2) Consider having your wedding on a day other than Saturday. We wanted to get married on a Saturday like everyone else in the world, but the Saturday in question was New Years Eve. So, we moved our wedding to Friday, December 30th. The cost of the venue dropped $1,000 by moving our date to Friday. I was really concerned that people wouldn’t come, considering it was on a Friday, but nearly everyone we invited still came. The people who didn’t come were really out-of-state (like Texas & California) and wouldn’t have come regardless.

3) Unless gorgeous flowers are the one thing you must have (see #1), consider alternatives to floral centerpieces. We used lanterns from Ikea, candles from Kohl’s and spray painted pinecones. We loved our centerpieces, and so did our guests. We spent less than $20 on each one (12 total) and had planned to sell the lanterns after the ceremony. But a handful of our guests helped us out A LOT, and really loved them, so we gave almost all of them all away (keeping two for ourselves). We also saved when it came to flowers by having a family friend make the bouquets & boutonnieres. She bought fresh flowers at the Farmers Market & and Sam’s Club, and they turned out absolutely beautiful, and cost next to nothing.

4) This one may sound odd, but buy as much stuff as you can, instead of renting. I bought navy blue cloth napkins on Craigslist & eBay. I spent about $75 for 125 napkins, and sold them on Craigslist after the wedding for $50. The main event rental company in Charlotte charged $0.55 for navy blue linen napkins, which would have totaled $68.75. Since I bought my own and then sold them, I only ended up spending $25 for our napkins. Same with glassware. I bought a ton of water goblets from Wal-Mart and wine glasses & champagne flutes from Ikea and spent around $170. I kept enough for my family to all use for holiday dinners & sold the rest to my cousin for her wedding for $90. There are also a ton of websites (i.e. Tradesy) that let you sell your wedding things after the big day. If you can bear to part with your dress (I can’t), you can even sell that.

5) Print your own invitations. Whether you buy a design off of Etsy (like this one) for a small fee to print yourself, or design it yourself, it’s SO much cheaper than buying them from big company like Carlson Craft or Crane. This way, you can get exactly what you want and save a ton of money. The printer I used worked quickly, had tons of paper types to choose from, and I literally ordered 500 invitations (it was the smallest quantity they offered) for $78.85. Now, I know not many people need 500 invitations, but I was able to mail out the 120, frame one, make coasters with a few, scrapbook some, and yeah. Plenty of invitations. (I was very picky about the quality of the paper, and was really pleased with the samples I received from uPrinting. If you’re less insane, you could get out for a LOT cheaper.)

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6) Pick a venue with more flexible bar options. Now, this won’t work if you have your heart set on a specific venue which requires you to use their bar service/catering service, but if you’re flexible, it could save you so much money. We close a venue right outside the city limits and they had the most relaxed bar policy. We had to purchase an insurance policy (for $128, but since Graham is active duty military, it was a good idea regardless), but we were allowed to have anyone we want bar tend (like a friend), and buy our own alcohol. We spent maybe $500 on SO MUCH beer & wine, had a ton leftover and got to keep it, and paid our bartender $200 plus tips. The cheapest quote we got for a bartender, wine & beer and glassware was over $1900. And that was for one red wine, one white and one type of beer.

7) Same goes with your food. Don’t pick a venue that makes you choose from a list of their vendors. It takes away from your options and you get stuck spending more than you might have if you got to choose anyone you wanted. Our venue also had no limitations on who catered. We bought our own food (from Sam’s), cooked our own food (my sweet father-in-law was grilling chicken & pork tenderloin the day of the wedding), and served our guests a ton of food and it cost us less than $500. Also, consider a buffet instead of a sit down dinner. The cheapest catering company we looked at charged around $20 per person. With our guest list of 125 people, that would have cost us over $2500.

8) Re-think whether or not you need every little thing you always thought you needed.  Do you really need programs? Probably not. Use a chalkboard sign with the details of your wedding party written on it. It’s cute, fun and a heck of a lot cheaper than 100+ programs. Do you really need personalized beverage napkins? Nope. Go to Party City and buy napkins in your wedding colors. I promise, your guests won’t miss having your name and wedding date on them.

9) A great way to save money is to do a virtual response card. If most of your guests are old (like ours were), and you don’t want to do that, consider a postcard instead of a card/envelope combo. A postcard will save time & money. You won’t have to address and stuff 125 (or however many you have) envelopes, and you’ll save a good bit on stamps. Even though the card is small, if it’s in an envelope, they won’t let you use a postcard stamp. The price of a stamp is currently $0.49. For our response cards (if we sent them out with today’s rates) that would be $61.25. For postcard stamps it would be $42.50. Not a lot of savings, but every little bit helps!

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10) Or, if you want to save a lot of money and go on one heck of a honeymoon, just elope 😉 A lot of you may not know this, but Graham and I were married legally on April 23, 2011 and celebrated our marriage with a formal wedding on December 30, 2011. He deployed a lot earlier than he thought he would, so we had a quick wedding before he left. We got married in the gardens at my university, with just our parents, our brothers, the minister and his wife. We went to a fabulous dinner afterwards at The Kings Kitchen, and then spent our wedding night at the Ritz-Carlton. It was perfect. Graham is more social than I am, and wanted the big reception, but having an elopement in a pretty place will save you a whole lot of money. I’d pick a place prettier than the courthouse (I have a serious problem with wedding photos with a sign in the background pointing to the jail), dress up, grab a minister and the people who matter most and have a small, perfect wedding without spending thousands of dollars. A lot of photographers offer cheaper packages for elopements and small weddings. Check out this beautiful elopement my social media friend Kate photographed. So intimate & lovely.

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Wedding Wednesday: Centerpieces

Blame it on the fact that I follow about 15 wedding professionals on Instagram, but weddings are pretty much taking over my mind these days. Especially when The Graceful Host spent the weekend instagramming one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever seen. I guess it’s silly for someone who celebrated her third wedding anniversary a few months ago to start babbling about weddings, but oh well.

We had a few splurges when it came to our (second) wedding (the cake, the photographer, the dress). We didn’t go overboard, but we went slightly over budget on each of those things. But I was okay with that, because those were the things that mattered to me. Especially the cake…

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Oh, my perfect, perfect cake… (Photo by JJ Horton Photography)

*ahem*. Anyways…

Other things mattered less. Like flowers. To me, live flowers are such a waste. They’re expensive, and they die. I was in a wedding once that had the most beautiful pink & white roses everywhere. Before the ceremony started, I snuck out of the dressing room to get a peek. By the time the ceremony ended, they had wilted and started to turn brown (it was a really hot July day…).  My bff’s mom made our bouquets from flowers from the farmers market & from Sam’s Club, and I went with an inexpensive non floral centerpiece. We used lanterns from Ikea, spray painted silver, filled them with candles from Kohl’s I got for NOTHING (oh, the power of eBay coupons…) and some spray painted pinecones. They were probably about $25 each, and we were thrilled with them. We had even planned to sell them after the wedding on Craigslist, but our wedding elves loved them so much we gave all of them away (and kept two for ourselves).

Where I’m going with this, is that even though I don’t see the point in spending a ton of money on flowers (especially for centerpieces), this weekend I was blown away by how beautiful floral centerpieces are. So, to show my new found appreciation for flowers, here are some centerpieces I’m loving!

I’ll be back on a future Wednesday with cakes I’m drooling over… Think I can convince Graham to have a 3rd wedding? 😉

Wedding Ettiquette: Send back your effing RSVP!

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When I was planning our wedding, the biggest stress factor was not centerpieces, flowers, in-laws or budgets. The one single thing that caused me the most stress was the fact that people were apparently incapable of sending back an addressed, stamped RSVP card.
One of Graham’s friends is getting married in March, and we received the invitation in the mail today. (Oh, and here’s a helpful tip for future brides & grooms: put a last name SOMEWHERE on the freaking invitation…) We’re not going to be able to attend, so I immediately sent back the RSVP card. It literally took less than 30 seconds to write our names, check a box, and put it back in the envelope & seal it. Thirty seconds. So it got me thinking… why is it so damned hard for people to RSVP to a wedding? The person whose invitation we received today did not RSVP to ours. He didn’t send back the (stamped & addressed) postcard, or respond to the multiple texts Graham sent, so I was tempted not to respond. Unfortunately my southern manners & seven years of Hallmark has ingrained proper etiquette in me, so I sent it back.
So, just in case anyone needs a little lesson in sending back an RSVP card, I’m going to break it down so that you all know how easy it is.
1) First you get the invitation in your mailbox one day.

2) You open the envelope and pull out several items, and admire the invitation. Admire the time & money someone spent picking out (or designing) the perfect invitation & RSVP cards. Our RSVP was a postcard (cheaper postage, FTW), but in addition to the invitation & RSVP card, you may have a small (addressed & stamped) envelope.

3) Look how easy it is: you just write your name in the space provided, check a box & write in how many people are attending.

4) Look at that! There is already a stamp & an address! So all that’s left is to put it in a mailbox somewhere.

So there you have it! Sending back an RSVP card takes less than 30 seconds. And it relieves so much stress from an overwhelmed bride. Do you have any idea how satisfying it is to check guests names off of a list? Do you know how stressful it is to not have an RSVP, and have no clue if people are coming? What do you do? Just tell yourself they are coming, and then spend the money as if they are? What if they don’t? You’re out a lot of money. Or just assume that they aren’t coming. And then they do, and you don’t have enough seats, food, alcohol, cake, favors, etc.

Although, what might even be worse is having people RSVP and then not show up. We had about 15 people RSVP “yes”, and then not show up. Thanks for that, by the way. Those 15 people wasted $300 for us. Please keep that in mind when you’re making your plans. Weddings are not cheap, and every little bit helps when you don’t have a Biltmore sized budget.

 

 

Our Wedding: The Photography

I currently live in Arkansas, but our wedding was in the Charlotte area, so I never had a chance to meet the Jessica (and her husband/partner Jeremy) until we met in downtown Charlotte for our engagement pictures. I asked for recommendations on Twitter one night, and got a few good prospects. One of them being JJ Horton Photography. I ultimately picked them based on the quality of the work I had seen on their site, the recommendation from an acquaintance from college and (very importantly) they were in our budget.
 
I didn’t really know what to expect, and I was really nervous. I would have liked to have met them in person before booking to get a sense of their personalities and whether or not we would work well together, but the long distance planning & the need to book services pretty far in advance made that impossible. I’m a professional bridesmaid, and a lot of the photographers I’ve been around in the past were not exactly my style, having leaned more towards posed, formal pictures than relaxed and fun candid photos. That definitely was not the case and Jessica and Jeremy immediately helped put me to ease. We chatted and made small talk while we walked around downtown and by the time they started shooting, I was more relaxed. What I loved most about our e-session was that Jessica would tell us where to stand, and tell us just to be ourselves and talk to one another and she and Jeremy would start shooting. Of course there were some posed pictures, but they seemed interested in letting our personalities and how much we love each other shine through. (You can check out some of our “engagement” photos here =))
 
With our wedding, we had an even better experience. (First of all, they were the only people who were on time the entire day =)) Jessica took the time to get to know me through twitter, pinterest and Facebook, and I think the photos from our wedding reflect that. I spent a lot of time worrying (and tweeting) about centerpieces and place settings, and gushing about how gorgeous my cake was going to be, and she captured all of those things. Her detailed shots of my wedding cake made me so happy since I hated cutting into it and ruining that perfect cake. She definitely takes the time to get to know her clients and listens to what they have to say and what they want, so that they can have the perfect photographs from that day.
 
I LOVE that the photos from the reception captured SO much of the fun from the evening. They seemed to have a knack for getting the shot when someone is laughing their hardest, or when people are slow dancing and you can absolutely feel the love. My in-laws are the most happily married couple I have ever known, and they got a series of shots of them dancing and laughing, and the pictures are just absolutely perfect. I saw things that I never noticed during the night, and I think I must have looked at them a 1000 times already. They managed to capture SO much… from my brother-in-law getting down & dirty on the dance floor, to my 4 year old cousin dancing with her older brother. 
  
Picking a wedding photographer is, in my opinion, the second most important decision you have to make when planning a wedding (the first is the cake =)). When the day is over, all that is left is the marriage and the pictures from the day. There are a lot of ways you can cut corners when wedding planning to save money, but the photography is not one of them. JJ Horton Photography ended up being slightly over our budget, but it was worth it, in my opinion. Every time I look at the framed images on my wall, I smile. When I’m bored I’ll flip through my pictures on Facebook and smile as I remember our perfect day. Be sure to find the right photographer to document that day.
 
And on a seperate, but related note, buying the disc of digital images may seem pricey, but it is also absolutely worth it. I’m not one for the fancy, expensive albums. I’m happy with the book I had printed from My Publisher and the enlargements I ordered from Snap Fish, but none of those things are possible without buying those images. You can’t upload them to facebook, share them on a blog *ahem* or anything else without that disc.
 

Every single photo here was taken by JJ Horton Photography.

Our Wedding: The Cake

The second in a yet to be determined series of posts about our wedding. This one is about my favorite aspect of the whole event: my our cake.

Photo by JJ Horton Photography

I knew exactly what I wanted my cake to look like, but thanks to Cake Wrecks, I was terrified about finding a baker. I looked at a few people. Some were out of my price range, and others took three weeks to return my call (note to any wedding professional who may read this: DON’T DO THAT.). When I was browsing the Knot one night, I came across Cake Lady Jill. She had excellent reviews, had been featured on Style Me Pretty, and has been named one of the best wedding vendors in NC by the Knot members for the past two years. I assumed she would be out of our price range, but her prices are very reasonable.

Photo by JJ Horton Photography

After looking at her work, I knew she could handle my whimsical cake, so I took a chance and went ahead and booked her before being able to sample her cakes (a BIG downfall of planning an out of town wedding). But when I was home in October for my bridal shower, my mom and I met with her to do a tasting, and I was absolutely blown away. First, she is a ball of energy and has the most fun personality ever. She had pretty big sized pieces of each of her cake flavors, all of her fillings and frosting flavors laid out as well. She assembled pieces for both of us with her flavor recommendations.

It was very, very hard to choose. I wasn’t a huge fan of the almond cake (it tasted like marzipan) but everything else was delicious. ESPECIALLY the lemon cake. Oh my goodness. That was the flavor we picked for the biggest tier. It was lemon cake, filled with fresh strawberries and lemon curd for the first layer and cream cheese frosting for the second layer. It was covered in Italian meringue buttercream and then covered in fondant.

Photo by JJ Horton Photography

Our top layer was even more delicious. It was a simple vanilla cake filled with raspberry jam, lemon curd and a layer of fresh raspberries. It was one of the best cakes and flavor combinations I’ve ever tasted (I’ve now started mixing lemon curd and raspberry jam at home and topping vanilla ice cream with it).

The middle layer was my least favorite. It was chocolate cake filled with raspberry buttercream and fresh raspberries. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was still very good. I’m just not a big fan of chocolate cake unless they are seriously mounded with a creamy buttercream frosting. But Jill told me that every wedding she does, people always ask which layer is the chocolate one, and mom recommended I do at least one chocolate layer as well.

Photo by JJ Horton Photography

Jill was a pleasure to work with. When I met with her and showed her what I had in mind, we talked colors and design and she emailed me three sketches of cake designs based on what we had discussed. I didn’t love one of them, so I emailed her and she promptly sent me another one (which ended up being the one). On the way of the wedding she arrived to set up while we were out doing pictures and set the cake up quickly. Our friends who were at our venue were seriously impressed at such a small woman just hoisting the cake up above her shoulders considering how much it weighed.

I absolutely can not recommend Jill enough. Anyone getting married in the greater Charlotte area should definitely schedule a consultation with her ASAP.