Photo Booth Reveal

After the photo booth drama was resolved, Ryan let me hash out which company to go with. So I picked the company with the least-offensive looking booth (at least according to Ryan... my mom had a completely different opinion).

Just this evening, I signed the contract and sent it on over.

We will have the pleasure of working with Shutterbox Photo Booth Rentals for our reception, and I'm super thrilled.

Photo Courtesy Shutterbox

I was even more excited when I realized that they are based out of my hometown!

  • Accommodates up to 10 guests
  • Unlimited number of prints
  • DVD copy of all photos
  • Petite: 4' x 5'
  • Simple on-screen instructions
  • Guest can choose color or black and white
  • Photos print instantly
  • Live slideshow on the outside of the booth
  • Booth attendant to assist guests
  • Choose between classic photo strips of 4x6 photos
  • Free online gallery of all photos
  • Graphics with your event's name and date at the bottom of each strip
  • Photo guest book with all materials provided
  • Party prop box with masks, boas, hats, etc.
I know a few of our wedding guests read this blog, but not enough to ruin the surprise. I can't wait to see what fun pictures our friends and family end up taking!


Photo Booth Drama

Discussing a photo booth led to Ryan and I's first wedding planning disagreement.

I had made a pretty extensive Excel spreadsheet comparing all the Chicago area photo booth companies... cost, number of hours, travel fees, cost for double prints, etc.

I narrowed it down to my top 3 and requested a picture of each booth from the companies. Once the photos arrived in my inbox, I showed them to Ryan so he could weigh in. But his reaction was not what I expected.

"They're all black. Do they come in any other color? That's going to look so tacky against our white ballroom."

Ummm..... wow.

The black booth vs. white walls thought had not even crossed my mind. And to be honest... now that it had, I still didn't care. I asked Ryan if the black photo booth was really going to bother him.

His answer? "Yes."

So my search began for white photo booths. Let me tell you right now... there are none.

This minor disagreement about the look of the booth was really bothering me. I was beginning to think the photo booth just wasn't going to happen. I had all but crossed it off my list, when I suddenly had an epiphany.

I went to Ryan, sat him down, and said, "This was the first thing I asked for after we got engaged. I have been wanting and obsessing over having this photo booth for months. I'm going to have to say that my dream trumps your weird thing about aesthetics."

What did he say?


Wow, that was easy. I know it's not exactly a compromise, but in a situation like this... that's not really an option. I figure somewhere along the wedding planning way, there will be one thing that Ryan feels really strongly about. And when that day comes, I'll give it to him.

...Then we'll be even.


Shopping for Wedding Bands

When we took my engagement ring in to be repaired, Ryan and I took the opportunity to do a little wedding band shopping.

Um... pretty bands with pretty diamonds? Yes, please!

As I've mentioned before, Ryan and I are pretty decisive people. So it didn't take us very long to figure out what we wanted.

Ryan's band is being ordered, and won't arrive for another 4-6 weeks, but I was able to take mine home on the spot (thank you sample-sized ring finger!).

I bought a 14K white gold semi-eternity band, and I totally love it (and kinda want to wear it, like... now).

I won't keep you waiting any longer...

I must say.... it's like that ring was made for my engagement ring. They are totally different, yet go so well together.

Once Ryan's ring arrives, we'll be dropping them off at my parents' house in Illinois so I won't be temped to wear it around the house when Ryan's not looking!


Save the Date Reveal

The Save the Dates have landed!

According to my calculations (and the text and facebook messages I've received), our Save the Dates should have arrived at their respective destinations (and if yours hasn't arrived yet, your mailman probably hates you).

So now that the majority of our guests have laid their eyes on our adorable cards, I can reveal them here... including a breakdown of how they were made and how much they cost to make.

Gocco PG-10 (used): $150.00, WeddingBee Classifieds
125 A6 Notecards in Blossom (Pink): $20.50, Paper Source
100 A6 Envelopes in Night (Navy): $34.50, Paper Source
Silver Pitt Bullet Tip Pen: $3.95, Paper Source
93 4x6 Photos: $11.84, Snapfish
100 44-cent Stamps: $45.00, USPS
Total (minus the Gocco, which will be used for Invitations and then resold) = $115.79
or $1.41 per Save the Date (82 sent so far)

First of all, here was our inspiration...

Ryan and I are both pretty creative people, and good with graphics, so we knew it would be a breeze to recreate this.

After I made the design in PhotoShop, Ryan transferred it over to InDesign. I created the screen for my Gocco, and I was ready to print!

First, I mixed the blue and black ink to make a Navy Blue...

I set up my work station on our coffee table...

I inked the screen and was ready to print!

I practiced on a few pieces of printer paper...

The first few prints turned out kinda splotchy...

But after a few practices and ink readjustments, they started coming out pretty good. I finally just sucked it up and began printing on our pink cards.

When they were all done and dry, Ryan and I made a pile of "good" prints and "bad" prints so we could make sure everyone got a legible Save the Date.

We had a photo of the two of us printed to include in the envelopes, then Ryan helped me stuff...

I did some lovely faux-ligraphy (aka fancy cursive) to address all 82 envelopes...

We stamped them with 44-cent King and Queen of Hearts LOVE stamps, and they were ready to go!

Into the mailbox they go!

Here is the final product (click to enlarge)!

I'm really excited to receive such positive response from family and friends. Totally worth our time, and not too costly.


Hey Mr. DJ...

Put a record on!

We have booked our DJ. So what if we only interviewed one company. We talked to them on the phone and just knew they were perfect.

We are going with Style Matters DJs. They've got stellar reviews all over the internet, answered all our questions right away, and seem to be exactly what we're looking for in a DJ.

Less than 24 hours after speaking with them, we were mailing in our deposit. The total cost came in under budget (yayyy!), but the real sneak-attack killer was the traveling expenses. We are getting married in a Chicago suburb, and they charge you for every 25 miles outside of Chicago they have to travel. We are over 50 miles away. Ouch. But I'm finding this common among Chicago vendors.

But even so... it's totally worth it to have a real professional Chicago DJ instead of just some kid from the suburbs who spins in his basement.

Now that we have that covered, our major vendor To Do list is dwindling. All that's left is the florist and bakery.


Oh Crap

The diamond in my engagement ring fell out.

I was going to blog about other things, but I think this pretty much trumps them all.

Before I give anyone any heart attacks, I'll tell you that yes, I still have the diamond.

It all started yesterday morning when I looked down at my ring and thought, "hmm... the diamond looks crooked."

All day long, I kept looking down and noticing more and more just how crooked the diamond was. Here is the email I sent Ryan from work yesterday afternoon:
"This is weird, but I'm pretty sure the diamond in my ring is crooked. I don't know if it's always been that way of if I knocked it out of alignment, but we should definitely get it checked out this weekend. Don't want it falling out!"
Ha. Total foreshadowing.

So yesterday evening, after dinner, I was sitting at my desk, admiring my crooked diamond, when I pressed my finger down on the top of it. There was a tiny "click", like the diamond had moved. Well, that's not good!

I pressed it again, and POP... the diamond fell out. Right there onto my desk.

I laughed (yes, laughed), because I had totally seen this coming, yet I was still surprised. But I was relieved that it had happened while I was paying attention instead of, say... going for a run.

I called Ryan and he couldn't believe it. We already had plans to visit the jeweler on Saturday to shop wedding bands, so the timing couldn't have been better. But, still... it's only been four months. That doesn't really give me too much confidence in my ring!


The Honeymoon Reveal

After weighing our options and eliminating some fierce competition, Ryan and I have decided to spend our honeymoon at the Excellence Playa Mujeres.

So what was it that sealed the deal? This YouTube video, actually. The resort has absolutely everything we could ask for in a honeymoon, plus things we had never even thought of. The video highlights just how unbelievable gorgeous and immaculate it really is.

Here's just some of the stuff we'll enjoy on our trip...
  • 7 swimming pools
  • 8 international restaurants (reservations are never required)
  • 11 bars
  • 24-hour free room-service
  • Pool and beach waiter service
  • Free non-motorized water sports (sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, etc)
  • Food and drinks whenever you want (omg, you know this is my favorite part!)
  • Daily activities and nightly entertainment
  • All taxes and gratuity included (so you don't have to carry around money... ever!)
And of course, here are the special honeymoon perks...
  • Fresh basket of fruit upon arrival
  • Bottle of sparkling wine
  • Romantic dinner
  • Turn-Down service
  • Champagne breakfast in bed
  • 15% discount on spa treatments (I think this calls for a couples massage!)
Here are some photos of the resort...

Who wouldn't want to enjoy that view during lunch?

The lazy river, which wraps around the entire resort.

Private romantic dinner on the beach.

You can even get a suite with your own private rooftop pool!

Perhaps we should have held off on making this decision until later in the year. Now that I know where we're going, I just want to go now! I may or may not be looking forward to the honeymoon just as much as the wedding.

Ryan says he plans on having alcohol with every meal. Looks like we made a good choice.


Sun, Sand, and Cocktails... Oh My!

We decided on our honeymoon! Yes, that was quick. What can I say... we know what we like.

Our criteria:
  • under $4,000 for 6 nights
  • all-inclusive (we really like to eat and drink)
  • tropical (duh)
  • fun things to do (excursions, etc)
My original list of possible honeymoon destinations, and why some locales got the boot...

Jamaica - It seemed too built up and commercialized. We're looking for something with a more secluded feeling.
Dominican Republic - I had been here before. We really preferred to choose a place that neither of us had ever been.
St. Lucia - Too secluded. The #1 resort on the island didn't even had air conditioning or TVs in the rooms! We like our modern comforts.
Aruba - Again, with it being too built up. I was surprised at this one, but it just didn't feel "right".
Costa Rica - Can we say bugs?! I hate bugs. I've heard Costa Rica is beautiful, but it's a little exotic for our tastes, and I couldn't find any all-inclusive resorts that didn't get terrible reviews.
Belize - I had a hard time finding all-inclusive resorts in Belize. It's a pretty small country.

So that left us with Mexico. A country that had originally started at the very bottom of my list had quickly shot up due to ideal climates, stellar reviews, and pristine beaches.

Our list of possible resorts in Mexico...

Royal Playa del Carmen: $3,053 for a Royal Oceanfront suite with indoor jacuzzi. The resort has a 91% rating on TripAdvisor. Negative reviews: heavy on the party scene, rocky beach.

Excellence Riviera Cancun: $3,141 for an Excellence Junior Oceanfront suite with indoor/outdoor jacuzzi. The resort has a 92% rating on TripAdvisor. Negative reviews: I had a hard time finding any.

Excellence Playa Mujeres: $3,258 for an Excellence Junior Oceanfront suite with indoor/outdoor jacuzzi. The resort has a 92% rating on TripAdvisor. Negative reviews: Crowded pools (which might not be an issue since we're going in the off-season).

El Dorado Maroma: $3,906 for a Beachfront suite with indoor jacuzzi. The resort has a 90% rating on TripAdvisor. Negative reviews: Boring, low on entertainment.

Well, it was obvious to us that the Excellence resorts just stood out above the rest (at this point, I don't even remember what drew me to the other 2 in the first place!).

But the idea of having 2 resorts owned by the same company in the same city confused us. They both have between 400-500 rooms. They both have 8 restaurants. They both have roughly the same number of pools and bars. And they're practically the same price.

Oh, how will we ever decide?!

So we discussed them both to death, flipped back and forth on a daily basis, and finally made a decision last night.

Which resort will we be spending our honeymoon at? Stay tuned for the reveal, along with tons of drool-worthy details!


I Heart Weekends

1) The paper arrived and the Save the Dates are done! The Gocco wasn't nearly as scary as I had pictured, although I probably could have done a slightly better job with my printing. Well, practice makes perfect. Hopefully by the time Invitation-printing rolls around, I'll be a regular pro!

2) My handwriting is way better than I thought. And, surprise-surprise... I remember cursive! All this means that self-addressing my Save the Date envelopes (and dare I even say... our Invitation envelopes) is not at all out of the question.

3) Major Honeymoon research is happening. Despite our instant gut reaction of "bleh", I think we are actually leaning towards Mexico. I am amazed to discover that they have some fabulous all-inclusive resorts. I'm wishing it was time for our honeymoon right now.

4) I informed my ladies they should be on the look out for a knee-length navy blue dress and silver heels to wear to my wedding. Cut, style, fabric all optional. Gigantor orange floral print not (that's a "no").

5) Now off to tan myself! Ryan and I are headed to the Michigan dunes tomorrow for some much needed beachy relaxation. Mmmmm.....

More detail-oriented posts are in store for next week, so stay tuned. Happy weekend!


Save the Date... or Else!

I designed our Save the Dates last week. This weekend, Ryan transferred my Photoshop file to InDesign. We printed it out at his office, cut it to size, and now we're ready to print.

So what's the hold-up?

We don't have paper. We went to Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and JoAnn Fabric. They had cards and envelopes... but they didn't have the right size, price, or quantity.

$1.00 per card? Are you kidding me?!

So I bought our cards on Paper Source. We went with 125 A6 Notecards in Blossum (pink), and 200 A6 Envelopes in Night (navy blue).

I received an email that said our package was our for delivery, so now my Gocco and I just wait patiently. I think I have my weekend activity planned out. Is it lame that I'm excited to start printing?


Honeymoon Surprise

After spending at least 3 days straight telling Ryan how we were $10,000 over our budget, he pulled out a huge surprise... As our wedding gift, his parents have offered to pay for our honeymoon.

Wha?! ::double take::

That's thousands off our budget! Thousands of dollars that Ryan and I would be paying out of our own pockets. Just... wow.

We have been truly blessed with incredibly generous parents.

Now where should we go... St. Barths? Belize? Costa Rica? Dominican Republic? Jamaica? Mexico? Aruba?

So many options! Planning our honeymoon will be so much more enjoyable with this enormous weight lifted.


The Key to Planning Success

Do lots of research, don't be picky, and follow your instincts.

As I've mentioned many times before, I don't have many married friends (only one... and she got married in Cincinnati). That means I don't have anyone to recommend photographers or florists or DJs. I have to find them all on my own.

The criteria I use to determine if someone makes it to my finalist list:
  • They have good reviews. Yelp is my favorite site to stalk potential vendors. You can find reviews on practically everyone. Each company is entitled to a few negative reviews or raving lunatic ex-brides, but if the negative is over 1/3, it probably really is their fault.
  • They have a nice website. It seems shallow, but a company who doesn't keep up their website makes me think they don't have the money... or they aren't into staying on top of trends. Both of those are giant red flags. If a florist is still showcasing centerpieces from 1992, that's a problem.
  • They respond quickly. It means they care about your business. They probably live by the age-old rule that the customer is always right.
  • They don't claim to do everything. Vendors who say things like, "we don't have a style... your style is our style" are lying and just want your business. Make sure you see samples of their work and ensure that their style meshes with yours. You don't want to end up with a cake wreck because the baker had no idea how to emulate your favorite design.

Overall, if they give you a good feeling, it's probably the right move. At least one of your vendors is bound to let you down at some point, so expect the best, but prepare for the worst.
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