Wednesday, December 15, 2010

DIY tinsel garland wreath

I saw this wreath by Creature Comforts featured on Apartment Therapy and knew I had to make it! It was easy, unique, and gave me something to do with at least two of all those tissue paper flowers I made for the wedding (and never used!). If you want to make some too, check out Martha Stewart's easy directions.

Ez at Creature Comforts used embroidery hoops for her base, but since I didn't have any and didn't want to spend the money on one, I just used aluminum foil to create a circle. Tip: Reinforce the joint with a couple pieces of foil, or else it'll come apart while you're wrapping garland around.

Then, I started wrapping a couple strands of skinny green garland I bought from Target around the foil circle, and got little shiny green garland pieces everywhere.

Ez made paper flowers out of wax paper, which has a nice sheen, but since I'd already made a bajillion out of tissue paper, I decided to give mine a holiday sparkle with silver spray glitter from Michaels. To avoid a mess inside, I took the flowers and spray outside. It was about freezing, and since I was hurrying to get inside where it was warm I didn't take any photos. But I just held the flowers out by the floral wire and sprayed them as evenly as I could with numb fingers, and let them try for a couple hours.

I attached them to the wreath using the floral wire that holds them together, and added a little sprig of fake berries I pulled off some garland I have -- and voila! A pretty little wreath that cost me only the money for the garland and spray paint (which really is optional).

Here's a close-up of the glitter on the paper flowers:

I used some red ribbon to hang it from the door.

There really are a million ways you could personalize this. How would you make it your own?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A tale of two trees

We have two Christmas trees in our house, and it makes me. so. happy. I've always been a big fan of Christmas, and having a house with so much space for decorating has been a lot of fun. And since we haven't bought a lot of furniture yet, we had plenty of room for two!

Tree #1 we cut down from the Hubs' parents' property. His family has a wonderful tradition of getting together the Sunday after Thanksgiving for a pot luck lunch and a trek into the woods to cut down a Christmas Tree. Since they're wild, each tree is unique and, by tree farm standards, a bit sparse. It makes them a challenge to decorate, but I still like the end result.

We put this tree in the dining area next to the kitchen, and I decorated it with silver and gold ornaments, plus four white glittery snowflakes from Target.

You can see the garland I put on top of the cabinets. More on that later.

Tree #2 we bought from a guy selling locally cut trees. It's got a more traditional shape and is a little fuller. We put this one in the living room and decorated it with all our sentimental ornaments from childhood and adulthood.

My favorite ornament -- angel frog!

My husband's favorite

And the first ornament we hung on our first tree in our first house!

We also hung ornaments from a collection my mother-in-law gave me as a wedding gift. Called the bride's ornament collection, it features 12 different figurines that are supposed to bring love and happiness to a newlywed couple. It's apparently a German tradition, and all the ornaments, like this angel, are adorable.

And here she is!

Isn't it beautiful? You can see the garland I hung on the stair rails, and our stockings waiting to be hung. We had a little mishap with putting up the shelves that we're going to hang our stockings on, so that's still a work in progress.

I also put garland and lights above our kitchen cabinets. I added in a few red ornaments i bought on sale at Michael's, and filled the glassware I already had up there with sparkly silver ornaments from the dollar bin at Target.

Doesn't it look pretty? I wish I could leave it up all the time...

I'm linking up to Holiday Home Christmas tree party at Thrifty Decor Chick. There are more than 500 beautiful trees posted already...holy cow!

Friday, November 26, 2010

What I'm thankful for

I will admit, Thanksgiving has always been more about food for me, and I don't often really stop and think about what I'm thankful for (besides sweet potato pie!). But this year, I had a lot to be thankful for: a great man who went from fiance to husband and a great house to call our own. The moment in time we used to talk about -- the days when we'd be married and homeowners, starting our adult lives for real -- is finally here. It seems like we've been waiting for this forever, and I feel really lucky for everyone and everything I have in my life.

I've always been grateful to be so close to my parents, both geographically and emotionally, but this Thanksgiving I felt an especially strong gratitude for them. They let us live with them for nine whole months, giving up their privacy, space and some money, I'm sure, and never once complained (at least to us!). Without their help and generosity, it would have taken us many more months, maybe years, to save up enough money for a down payment on our house and start our grown-up lives. Whenever I look around our home, I am reminded of what they were willing to do for us, and I am moved and humbled. It means more to me than if they had simply given us money for a down payment. In many ways, it's easier to open up your checkbook and write a check than open up your home for nearly a year. I hope someday the Hubs and I can be those kinds of parents -- the ones willing to sacrifice to bring our children closer to a happy future. We plan to pay them back someday for everything they've done for us.

And while I'm on the subject of giving thanks, I'm so happy I married into another loving and tight-knit family. People always complain about their in-laws, and I really lucked out. Mine are sweet and supportive, and I'm very thankful for that. Plus, my mother-in-law makes up one half of my devoted fan following (the other half being, of course, my mom). Now that's unconditional love.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our kitchen goes green(ish)

The hubs and I tackled our second painting project over the weekend: the kitchen and hallway. I think it went better than the first time around, though it was a lot more work getting around the cabinets and doing all the cutting in around the door frames. We also figured out our strong suits when it comes to painting: he's the taping/cutting-in master, and I'm the rolling champ. We complement each other so well!

I did most of the taping little-by-little during the week and did about half the first round of cutting in before the weekend as well. But the job still took us all day Sunday to finish, with two coats of cutting in and two coats of paint. My back was pretty sore for the next couple days, because I spent practically half the day crouched on the countertop, painting under and over the cabinets. It was a long day, but the end result was worth it! I was so happy to see that baby blue disappear.

Here's a shot of painting in progress -- what a disaster.

So, here's the kitchen eat-in area before, in all its blue glory:

And here it is in lovely Ocean Foam by Behr:

The kitchen before:

And after:

Not the same angle, but you get the idea. Doesn't it look so much more sophisticated and inviting? I love how calming it is; it makes me think of the ocean. And the color changes depending on the lighting. Sometimes it looks green, sometimes it looks gray, and sometimes a color in between. Here's the eat-in area in cloudy daylight:

Looks gray, right? It also coordinates well with the gray-toned slate floor in the entryway (in the door on the left of the above photo), and with the other decor in the house that I like to think of as subtle beachy.

It's a good thing we like the color, because we both decided it was such a pain painting the kitchen that we're never doing it again! Now it's time to figure out what to hang on the wall.

Next up in our painting adventures is the living room. It's a nice subtle yellow-beige color, but a hole-patching mishap means we'll have to paint it sooner rather than later. The old owner left all the leftover paint for us, but when we painted over the patched holes with what was labeled as the living room, it turned out it was the wrong now our living room is speckled with lighter yellow spots. We're still stumped on what color to paint it, though. Guess it's time for another agonizing hour or two in front of The Home Depot paint swatches...

On a sentimental note, today marks four years that the hubs and I have been "official." It's such a cute story, too. We'd been dating for about two months, and I asked him if it was OK if I kept a couple things at his place (contact lens solution and case, I think), and he said yes, only if he could call me his girlfriend. Awww...

Monday, November 15, 2010

The destination: homeownership

It's official. We're homeowners! It's only been a little more than two weeks, but it already feels like home, despite the remaining unpacked boxes and a few interesting paint color choices left over from the previous owners.

It might feel like we've been here a while because of all the projects we've already undertaken. Since we closed on Oct. 29, we have:

  • Painted the master bedroom
  • Installed a railing on the stairs leading to the storage over the garage*
  • Installed new locks and deadbolts on the four (yes, four!) outside doors*
  • Installed curved shower curtain rods in both bathrooms, and a double towel rack in the upstairs bathroom*
  • Patched some holes in the dining room and living room*
  • Started prep work to paint the kitchen and adjoining areas
  • Powerwashed the deck and cleaned up some tree debris from the yard*
  • Replaced some ceiling fan blades from multicolored pastel to neutral white

*I can't take the credit. The Hubs and FIL (father in law) tackled these.

So, what have I been doing, then, if I didn't do a lot of these DIY projects? I've done a lot of unpacking, cleaning, organizing and general home-making.

Oh, and of course I've done some shopping! I have to share an incredible find. We're fortunate to live close to the L.L.Bean flagship store and, even better, its outlet store. I popped in the other day to see what deals I could find, and was thrilled to find this little gem:

A couch cover, originally priced at a whopping $169, on sale for $19.95! We have lots of hand-me-down furniture, including a lovely (sarcasm) plaid small sleeper sofa. We bought a brown couch cover for it from Bed Bath and Beyond a couple years ago but, made of relatively lightweight material, it didn't hold up well, and had started to fade and wear. I wanted to replace it, but with plans of upgrading our furniture someday soon, the Hubs talked me out of spending the money on a new cover, since they cost at least $70, even at Target.

But a mere $20 for something of better quality? Score! I also grabbed a soft, blue "picnic throw" for $6.99 (that I later discovered was definitely not worth more, since it's pretty much useless in keeping you warm...).

I put the new cover on as soon as I got home. Here's the BEFORE before, with the plaid fabric (yes, that's an egg crate stuffed under the cushions, to keep the sagging couch somewhat comfortable):

The before, with the old cover:

And the after, with new cover and throw:

Not much of a change, since it's still dark brown (only color they had for a small couch), but it still makes me happy. Now, if only I could train the Hubs to tuck everything back in after he's done laying on it...

Once we pick a color for the living room walls, I'll be doing more accessorizing -- replacing the pillows, maybe getting another throw (one that actually keeps you warm) and hanging something up on the walls. I'm already excited to decorate for Christmas! I know, we haven't even seen Thanksgiving, but I make no apologies.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The way to a (wo)man's heart

The Hubs can cook. Like, really cook. He has that innate ability to throw a bunch of ingredients together and come up with a masterpiece. I'm not gonna lie, his culinary skills definitely earned him some major points when we were first dating. One of our first dates, he invited me over to his apartment and made me Rachel Ray's You Won't Be Single For Long vodka cream pasta -- yes, that's really the name. I guess it worked!

This morning, to mark our last Sunday morning living with my parents, he made us all banana crumb muffins, the highest rated recipe ever on I committed a major faux pas by whining that I didn't really like bananas in the first place. But oh. my. god. These muffins were awesome! I may have to rethink my stance on that mushy yellow fruit... (Oh, and not only does he cook for me, but for my parents too. Double points!).

Unfortunately for the Hubs, I'm a little culinarily challenged. Okay, a lot challenged. I hid it well, until he broke his leg two years ago, and I ended up having to do all the cooking. Throwing together ingredients and trying to make something yummy usually resulted in some kind of brown, tasteless mush. I even tried following recipes and was underwhelmed by the results. I finally managed to pull together a few good meals I could handle, like tacos. I make a mean taco. But, despite my mad taco skills, he was back in the kitchen as soon as he could hobble around on one leg.

Actually, there is one meal I can consistently make and it's always good, and it's homemade mac and cheese. I know what you're thinking: "Um, hello, melted cheese and pasta -- an eight-year-old could manage that." But trust me when I tell you this is the best mac and cheese you've ever had. Yes, I'm that cocky about it.

It's from the Pillsbury Kitchens' Family Cookbook, copyright 1979, and I learned how to make it from my mom in the way she cooks, which means kind of making it up. I loosely follow the recipe, but when it comes to the cheese, I have my own little mixture that includes 3/4 of a block of Hannaford medium sharp cheddar cheese, some Kraft American cheese and whatever else I have in the house -- mozzarella, taco cheese, colby jack. I don't really measure, but throw it in until it looks and tastes right. It never tastes the same twice, but it's always yummy. I made another recipe once with fancy Gruyere cheese and lobster, and the Hubs admitted he liked the Pillsbury one better. Which is good, 'cause Gruyere ain't cheap!

The real secret? Topping it with buttered pieces of regular white bread, cut up into little pieces, before baking it. I scoff at those silly bread crumbs!

I don't know if I won the Hubs over with my mac and cheese, but I don't think it hurt. I'm looking forward to doing some cooking together in our brandy new (to us) kitchen in only one week! Maybe we'll celebrate it with more of that magic vodka sauce.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A little more about marriage...

So, last time I shared some things I'd learned about marriage from living with my parents for nine months. Let's continue that, now, with number 3:

3. People don't really change (see #2), but they can still surprise you.

After 29 years, I'm pretty sure there are things about each other my parents still don't get. Despite how well they know each other, they are always learning something new about the other person. The key to this is not taking your husband for granted, and not pigeon-holing him into some pre-defined box. And it means not falling into a rut -- it means trying new things, as a couple and as an individual, and expanding both your horizons and your ideas about the other person.

Case in point: Our honeymoon was The Hubs' and my first real trip together -- our first time on a plane together! -- and I discovered something new about him. He's a generally reserved person around people he doesn't know, but he surprised me by chatting up our cab driver, asking him if he was from Aruba, what restaurants he recommended, how the tourism season had been this year. It made me love him even more!

4. It's about the bad times. I cringe when I hear or read people talking about their relationship and saying, "95% of the time, things are great, but that other 5% makes me want to end it...". Nothing is rainbows and puppies 100% of the time, but the tough times shouldn't make you want to run every time. In reality, it's the lows that define you as a couple. No matter how bad things get, you should always have each other's backs. And realizing that the tough times are just as important as the happy times in building your relationship makes them easier to bear and makes you less apt to want to throw in the towel at every little bump in the road. I can honestly say that, even when The Hubs and I have hit a rough patch, I never think it's lacking. Our relationship is great 100% of the time, even when it's not, because we're always a team and we're committed to making it work. And I know my parents have had tough times too, but how they've navigated those challenges has made their marriage last for 29 years.

You might notice these marriage lessons aren't super idealistic or romantic. What can I say? I guess I'm a realist at heart. But seriously, it's not all butterflies, people!

Anyways, enough lecturing. In only a short ten days, we'll be closing on our first house and reentering the grown-up population, at least in theory. While I did say I've enjoyed living with my parents, I'm more than ready to leave. It was nice being taken care of, but after a while I started to feel like I was losing the adult part of my identity. Come home from work, watch TV until mom says it's dinner time, eat dinner, watch some more TV... yeah, it sounds fun in theory, but after a few months, the grown-up part of you starts to feel guilty and a little unfulfilled. Who knew I'd miss dishes? I think we're more than ready for the adult responsibility headed our way!

P.S. This blog has a semi-new design and some new pages on design and decor ideas for our new house. What do you think? Soon this blog will feature more of our trials and tribulations in home ownership, like remodeling, decorating and figuring out how to use a riding lawnmower. Yes, apparently I have to learn how to mow a lawn. There are some adult responsibilities I'd rather leave to my imagination...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Paying it forward

I'm not gonna lie -- I've really liked living with my parents. Maybe it's because my mom cooks me dinner and insists on cleaning up. Maybe it's because my dad rents movies I want to see and lets me watch them. Or maybe it's because they're saving us a boatload of money through their generosity.

In any case, the situation has been a lot easier than I expected. I've always gotten along really well with my parents, and it's good to see them getting along with The Hubs and getting to know him more.

Granted, there are downsides to co-habitation: lack of privacy, and not just for what you think. We always have a mediator for our arguments, whether we want one or not -- and someone who can tell me after-the-fact, "You know, you were kinda bitchy." (My parents don't always pick my side!) Plus, as the only one who's lived with all of them, I sometimes feel like the middle man, working to make sure my husband isn't driving my parents nuts and vice versa, and explaining each other's quirks ("I don't know why The Hubs slams cupboard doors, Mom"; "I don't know why my dad likes spaghetti but not elbow macaroni, Hubs." Etc.) Even though everyone seems to be getting along perfectly fine, my constant worry over little wrinkles has left me feeling a little drained.

We've learned some lessons from my parents about what it means to make a marriage work. And now, I'll share them some of them with you!

(Note: I'm going to use male pronouns here when referring to a spouse, because I'm married to a man, and the linguistic gymnastics required by the English language to make it gender-neutral would make me give up writing this half-way through. This is not some kind of some heteronormative gesture -- it's a gripe with grammar!)

1. Marriage is work. I kind of already knew this, but it's always a good reminder that the romantic comedy ending -- the realization that they belong together, a sappy speech and then smooth sailing -- only exists in the movies. The marriage is not the ending, but the beginning of a lifetime of new experiences, happiness, challenges and yes, work. The Hubs and I both acknowledged that things wouldn't always be easy, and hopefully anyone else who's gotten as far as the altar (or the birch arbor, in our case) has figured this out.

2. People don't really change. Again, romantic comedies -- not on the mark. Sure, it seems awfully sweet when the notorious ladies' man suddenly decides he wants a wife, two kids and a place in the 'burbs, but in reality, a complete 180 rarely happens (I won't say never because, well, I don't have that kind of authority on the world). That doesn't mean people's attitudes and reactions won't change as they get older, because our experiences do shape how we view ourselves and the world. And anyone in a happy relationship wants to make the other person happy too. A messy person may become less messy with lots of coaxing, and an impatient person might ease up once kids enter the picture. But a messy person will never become a neatfreak, and an impatient person will never become the picture of patience.

It sounds obvious, but so many people stay in a relationship waiting for the other person to become what they want instead of accepting the person they are. Marriage won't make a person grow up, want to clean a bathroom, like jazz music or care about politics. If you're marrying someone wishing he were different or, worse, expecting him to become different, then you might as well get your divorce lawyer ready.

Check back later for more marriage lessons!

In the meantime, The Hubs and I will be busy packing to move into our new house at the end of the month. Despite how nice it's been living with my parents, The Hubs and I are ready to move on to our first home -- and a whole new set of lessons to learn. Like how to paint.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The heart behind the wood and nails

My hands are clammy. My mind is racing. My heart is doing little jumps inside my chest. I’m checking my email every five minutes, waiting for that message from our Realtor saying our offer on a house was accepted. “Don’t get emotionally invested in the home buying process,” everyone says. Easier said than done!

Home buying, like other major life milestones (choosing a spouse, college, etc.), requires lots of planning and rational thought, and The Hubs and I came at the process with that in spades -- complicated Excel spreadsheets tracking our budget and spending, lists of our “must-have” and “would-like-to-have” features in our future home, a list of a handful properties we’ve been eyeing that we handed to our Realtor. We took a first-time home buyer class and did lots of research. When we showed up to look at houses (eight!) last Saturday, we each had a clipboard, a camera and our own checklists and questions to ask -- and some Power Bars and bottles of water, to fuel the search. Would you expect anything less from this Red Binder Girl and a detail-oriented engineer?

With a clear idea of what we wanted and how much we could spend, it didn’t take us long to find the one. A few hours after touring houses, we emailed our Realtor to say we wanted to make an offer. Monday night, we made an offer. Tuesday, the sellers countered, and we made another offer. It’s not a done deal yet -- the sellers still have a little under six hours as I write this to accept the offer and sign the papers -- or say no thanks. Thus, the sweaty palms, frenzied mindset and stomach flips -- did I mention the stomach flips yet?

Despite all our lists and spreadsheets and practicality, our bodies know this is an emotional process, especially for a right-brained girl like me and a guy who, despite his outward appearance, is pretty sentimental deep down. We’ve been trying hard not to get attached to this house, but it’s hard to sign your financial life away for a piece of property without envisioning how you’d live there -- what your furniture would look like in it, what great dinner parties you’d have, where you’d put the Christmas tree. Without this thought process, every house is the same -- wood and nails. There's a reason why they say the home is where the heart is.

Keeping my emotions out of it was hard while we toured houses, especially those currently occupied. It was weird to see pictures on the refrigerator, clothes in the closet and water droplets in the tub. The reporter side of me wanted to observe all the details and learn more about these mysterious people.

In the house we’re hoping to buy, U.S. Navy memorabilia decorated the walls. The documents signed by the sellers showed the wife signing for her husband. I couldn’t help but start to form a picture in my mind -- a husband in the Navy, shipped overseas or transferred to another base, his family in Maine left to sell what had been their home for six years. Who knows if any of this is true, but separating out the family from the house was harder for me than I thought it would be.

It made me think about when my parents sold my childhood house when I was 12. I remember being angry we had to leave, even though the new house was bigger and better (to smooth things over, my parents promised we’d get a pool -- and 13 years later, that still hasn’t happened. I’ve given up on that dream). What made matters worse is that our new house wasn’t finished when we had to move out, so we spent three months living with my aunt and cousins. My pre-teen, angst-ridden self enjoyed telling people I was homeless, as if I spent every night in a cardboard box outside the 7-11 instead of in a perfectly nice house (okay, I had to share a room with my parents, but still). In my head, I thought of all the terrible things the new owners were doing to the place I grew up. Who were these new people in our house that made us leave even before we had a new place to go?

Now, I wonder if maybe the kids living at this house we want to buy feel the same way about me. While it’s a happy time for The Hubs and I, it’s likely a sad time for them. But I try not to dwell on that, or else I’d never make it through this process.

Instead, I think about our own kids, and the memories they’ll have in this house, if we do buy it. And someday, if we decide to move, it’ll be the place our kids remember as their first home. It’ll be the house, like The Hubs said, that our kids will drive by with their boyfriends or girlfriends, going real slow to see how it’s changed, saying, “This is where I grew up.” How are you not supposed to get emotional thinking about that?

But, if someday we do make the kids move, we will not pull that pool trick. That’s just mean.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Notes on a nuptial

The wedding is now nearly two months in the past, but I’m still thinking about it -- mostly because it was one of the best nights of my life and I would love to relive it (minus spending all the money).

It sounds clichĂ©, right? One of the best nights of my life -- really? Hey, I’m surprised too. I imagined stress, drama, unforeseen disasters: buffet lines that never
moved, drunken and rambling toasts, an empty dance floor save for one guy doing the sprinkler.

But instead, the greatest thing happened. We walked back down the aisle, husband and wife, and as soon as we got out of view, we wrapped our arms around each other and laughed in utter exhilaration. There are few pictures of me looking serene, contemplative or poised. I’m smiling or laughing in all of them. I’m impossibly happy.

During the reception, as we sat there at our sweetheart table and looked out over everything that had come together so well -- all the people in our life who meant the most to us, the people who had cheered our entrance as M
r. and Mrs. so enthusiastically -- all the stress and doubt fell away and this great big feeling of happiness settled over us. I don’t remember all the moments of that night -- it’s true what they say, it flies by -- but I do remember that feeling.

We worked hard to make it to that feeling, and may never have it again, at least not quite the same way. Short of reliving it via a magi
cal time machine, the next best thing is to talk about it. Share the wealth. Pay it forward. Irritate people with unsolicited advice. Let it commence!

Be the red binder girl (or guy):
In other words, be organized. My red
binder was not just a fanciful collection of centerpiece ideas. I had contracts, questions to ask vendors, budget information, and lists and lists of things to remember, ponder and mull. I had maps, and phone numbers, even a calculator. I printed out pictures of our venue, which allowed me to show the DJ where he could set up and the photographer where she could shoot. Pictures and swatches of the dresses gave the florist clear ideas for coordinating colors.

Do not let people convince you this is being a bridezilla/groomzilla. Being
thorough is not the same as screaming obscenities at your caterer for serving cantaloupe instead of honey dew. There will be people who throw out that terribly offensive word as soon as you open your mouth with, “I was thinking…” These people either got married 30 years ago when your parents still planned the whole thing, or are insanely jealous of how on top of things you are. At least that’s what I liked to tell myself.

Be thick-skinned:
Your BFF will whine about not having a date to bring. Your in-laws will pressure you to have your wedding the same weekend as Nana’s birthday. Your fiancĂ© will not care about favors, flowers or what color shoes your bridesmaids wear (but will, inexplicably, have strong opinions about what kind of tie the DJ wears and which Beastie Boys song is most appropriate for a wedding reception).

Do not take any of it personally. Human beings in general are selfish creatures -- it’s that whole survival thing. Many people’s immediate reactions will be to focus on how the wedding and its various details affect them. Don’t worry. It’s only a matter of time before you become that annoying friend who responds to news of a friend’s wedding date with, “
June really doesn’t work for me…maybe you could do it in May instead?” (Oh, and the best Beastie Boys song? “Fight For Your Right (to Party).” Duh).

Screw etiquette:
Don’t tell Emily Post I said that. But seriously, there are lots of antiquated rules w
hen it comes to having a wedding -- what you should wear at what time of the day, who should host the shower, what color your cake should be. Only a few of these rules really serve a practical purpose; most serve to help people sell wedding planning books. Take all etiquette rules with a big (margarita and) grain of salt.

Case in point: After lots of agonizing debate, we decided not to have kids at the wedding, except for The Hubs’ niece and nephew. All the etiquette books said to simply write the parents’ names on the invitation and spread the news word-of-mouth. “Writing ‘Adult-only reception’ is tacky,” they said. Big fat flop. Our RSVP cards were full of write-ins, and we probably ended up hurting some feelings. Those three little words that would have been like Kryptonite to Miss Manners probably would have been well-appreciated by our guest list.

Make it count: Remember, you will (in theory) only do it once. Many people use this as an excuse to spend $200 on trivial things like monogrammed cocktail napkins everyone crumples up anyways or $1,000 for a three-foot-tall cake with frosting that looks like plastic.

What it really should mean is that you should make it what you want. Ignore what the magazines tell you about which colors go well together or what’s “in” for centerpieces this year, and do what makes you happy. Want a bouquet made out of aluminum wire? Sounds good. Want Mario-themed invitations? Go for it. Want to get married in a Taco Bell? Hey, whatever floats your bo
at. Want to get married dressed as Wonder Woman? Why not?

But seriously. A wedding is a big investment no matter how much you spend, and there’s no point in going through the whole shebang if at the end of it you feel like a cookie cutter.

We skipped the costumes or fast-food locations, but we did our
best to inject our own personalities. Hey, we turned 13 pounds of strawberries into homemade wine! Not too shabby.

(Wine photo by Clare Norton)