Monday, August 30, 2010

My Post-Wedding Chop!

I grew my hair out for the wedding because I wanted it curled and down and I wanted it to look flowy and pretty under my birdcage veil. I spent a couple weeks shy of a year* growing out my hair, with just one tiny trim in May 2009 right before graduation because the split ends were killing me.

[[*Yes, we were only engaged for 8 months. But ladies, you know when these things are coming, and you have to prepare your hair!!]]

See? Curly, flowy, long hair goodness!

Anyway, by the time we made it to Jamaica I was so, so ready to chop it all off. And by the time we got home from Jamaica after a week of sitting in the hot sun with a head full of way-too-much-hair and blow-drying and straightening it every night for dinner, I was beyond ready. I needed a haircut. 

I should mention that I'm afraid of haircuts, that I often worry so much that I make myself sick before I get one, and that I more often than not ask for "just a trim" to avoid the potential disasters that might arise from big changes. So what I'm about to show you is a BIG DEAL.

Haha. Don't I look anxious and sick and worried?

So long!!!


He cut off seven inches. SEVEN INCHES. I missed my hair for a day or two, but then I started to enjoy the extra time I have in the morning without all that hair to straighten, and I decided I like it. It feels so good to finally have an actual style with layers and all again. I still use way too much shampoo when I wash my hair though. Old habits die hard. 

What do you think? 

Friday, August 27, 2010

"Ya Mon!" - Our Jamaica Honeymoon (The Overview)

So I have a few more DIY projects to share with you, but I'd really like to wait for the pro photos so I can show you the good pictures (as opposed to the hastily snapped point-n-shoot ones I took in the days before the wedding). Expect a "details" post when I get around to the wedding recaps. :)

Sooo... that brings us to our honeymoon! This will be an overview post, and then I'll go into some more details in the next post or two for those of you who want more info on the restaurants/rooms/activities/etc. at Sandals Negril.

We left the morning after the wedding for a 6-night/7-day trip to Sandals Negril in Negril, Jamaica. Our super-early flight required us to wake up at 6:00am, which was beyond brutal, but we made it to the airport on time and everything!

We went through security, grabbed some breakfast tacos (the Houston airport kind of rocks with Mexican breakfast foods), and settled down at the gate. And THEN... the gate agent mentioned that our flight was overbooked and she was looking for volunteers to take a connecting flight through Miami in exchange for $400 travel vouchers. Um, hello. We fly a lot and love travel vouchers. So we ended up being the crazy people who gave up their honeymoon direct flight for $800, and we got on a plane for Miami a couple hours later (I should mention that picked Jamaica largely because it was one of the few places we could get to without a layover. Ironic much?).

Continental treated us well... meal tickets, travel vouchers, and an upgrade to first class!!

Finally on the plane, looking awfully sleepy. We partied hard the night before. :)

Look how nice first class is! They even gave us warm moist towels pre-lunch. It was seriously fancy.

We arrived at the Montego Bay airport, then took an hour-long bus ride to Sandals Negril, our home for the next week! Upon our arrival, we were greeted with champagne and introduced to our butler, Basil. Let me tell you... having a butler ROCKS. More on that later.

Since the resort was all-inclusive and all, we pretty much did the exact same thing every day. Rather than boring you with the minor details, I'm going to just walk you through a typical day in Jamaica. Ready?

Around 10am we would wake up and head off to breakfast. Mmm pineapple pancakes.

After breakfast, we'd head over to the beach, find our cabana, get the butler to bring us some drinks, and chill and chat and read from about 11am to 1pm.

Hello cute shady palm hut cabana!

Gorgeous view. Absolutely gorgeous.

We did a lot of sitting on the beach and reading.

Then we'd head off to lunch, usually the buffet or the beach grill.

Jamaican jerk chicken! Mmmm!

After lunch we'd head back to the beach, and some days we'd go snorkeling/kayaking/etc. About half the days we got a quick rain shower in the afternoon, but we would just sit under our cabana and watch the rain. It was lovely.

Around 4:30 we'd grab one last round of drinks and head back to our suite to shower. Then I'd get all fancy for dinner and Jeff would mix up a drink and watch TV. 

We'd leave around 6:30 and stop and have a drink before dinner.

All pretty for dinner!

All of the restaurants at Sandals Negril are really close to the beach, so we saw beautiful sunsets every day at dinner.

Usually there was some sort of entertainment going on after dinner (beach party, couples game show, Jamaican song & dance production, etc.).

Look! Bob Marley! Haha.

Then we'd head back to our suite, where we were greeted with champagne in an ice bucket and a decorated bed (usually with more desserts!).

And then, we would go to sleep, and wake up and do it all over again. Total bliss.

I'm curious... if you were on your honeymoon, and Continental offered you $800 to swap your direct flight for a connecting one that got you there three hours later, would you take it? 

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Look What I Made!" - Bouquet Charm Edition

So I've started law school, and let me tell you... it's tough! So many cases to read! But it's still better than a real job because if I get really sick of it, I can write a blog while I'm "at work!"

Today I have a last-minute mini project to share with you. While browsing through HobLob the week before the wedding (because how can you go to Hobby Lobby and not take a look at the clearance aisle?!?!) I found some little frame charms, and a little while later I had....

...personalized bouquet charms for my bridesmaids!!

I just printed out teeny tiny pictures (me w/ each of my bridesmaids) with my parents' fancy photo printer, popped 'em in the teeny tiny frames, and admired the cuteness! Take a look:

Here's one with a Sharpie for a size reference:

My mom dropped them off with my florist for me, and she put them on the bouquets. Check it out:

(clickity click to zoom in!)
(Photo from BM Amy)

My bridesmaids liked them I think. Especially since I spent the whole day before the wedding telling them there was a bouquet surprise. Haha. They were a teensy tiny detail, but I loved them!

Friday, August 20, 2010

What Life with a Husband is Like

So we've been married for a little over two weeks, and already I'm learning all these things about what life is like with a husband. The best way to describe it I think is that it's all just so very real. All the excitement and extra-strength-romance and pre-wedding frenzy are gone now, and we're just living real life. Real life. It's amazing and frustrating and exhilarating and blissful and comical all at the same time.

On one hand, there are all the things about living with another person 24/7 that just drive you a little bit crazy. Like the third drawer from the bottom in our dresser. Nearly every time Jeff open and closes it, it doesn't close all the way. It gets left like 1-2 inches open. So I shut it. This happens like every single day. He probably doesn't even know that it's happening. Haha.

Then there's the whole concept of being constantly there for each other, unconditionally. It's wonderful. It also causes you to drop everything and immediately run to the pharmacy to fill four prescriptions when your husband gets home from the dentist mumbling and looking like this:

Yep, Jeff got his wisdom teeth out last week. They had already grown in so it wasn't really a surgery like  most people have at the age of 18 or so, but it still required Vicodin and lots of Jello and soup. 

That's his teeth in the bag. Doesn't he look all Vicodin-ized?

I used to wonder how my mom had the motivation to drop everything and take care of us kids when we would get sick, and now I kinda-sorta understand. When he walked in the door like that, my mind was instantly like CVS. Medication. Go to Kroger for Jello and yogurt and applesauce. Pillow and blanket on the couch. Refill his water. Here, take these pills. 4-6 hours. etc. And it didn't stop until a few days later when he was feeling better. I didn't even have to think about it, I just did it. Must be love.

My bedside table has become a pharmacy. 

Of course, I also had the added benefit of witnessing drugged-up Jeff, which was funny. At one point he was gazing off into the distance, so I asked him what he was thinking, and he replied "I'm trying to think of a song I can play with my heel..." Oh, Vicodin.

Life with a husband is also just completely lovely at times. Every day Jeff gets home from work and walks into the apartment and puts down his laptop and gives me kisses and tells me he loves me. And it's like for a couple minutes, my real-life world is entirely perfect.

He always tells me thank you for making dinner, even though I've been doing it all the time lately. When we get in bed at night he makes sure my covers are all straight and correctly situated, because he knows that I like them to be neat and orderly (I know, I know, OCD much?). And then we turn sideways to face each other and talk about things, and it's like I get to have a slumber party with my best friend every single night.

And then in the morning I wake up to all 7 of his alarms that go off before he decides to actually get up.

And that, my friends, is what real life with a husband is like.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thank You, Thank You Very Much...

So we're now 19 days past the wedding, and my thank-you notes are DONE. D-O-N-E done.

(pauses for applause)

Yep, I finished 'em. And I mailed them the day before yesterday (which means really they were done at the 17-day mark). This just might be my biggest bridal achievement so far. I was far more excited to mail these than I was to mail our wedding invitations.

The weird thing about wedding thank-you notes is that you really do feel genuinely grateful to alllll these people, but you hardly have time to be really thoughtful in each one because you've got a million of them to write. I did my best to really personalize each one and show how much we appreciated the gifts we received and the efforts people made to be there for us.

Here's what contributed to my being done so soon after the wedding:
  1. I've been writing thank-you notes for months. - I wrote all the shower thank-yous right after the showers, and I wrote thank-yous for mailed gifts as they came. This took care of about 60% of the thank-you notes before the wedding day.
  2. I had a Excel spreadsheet open while we opened wedding gifts. - I added a column for "gifts" to our guest list spreadsheet, and I just typed in what we opened. Then I just had to print out the spreadsheet and get to writing.
  3. I recruited my husband to help. - I know some people think it's the woman's job to do thank you notes and such, but I'm apparently too much of a feminist to let my husband get away with doing none of the work. I gave Jeff all the ones addressed to people I hardly know, or to his college friends. This saved me about seven thank-you notes during our engagement, and another ten or so post-wedding. It was hugely helpful though, because they were the ones it would have been harder for me to write meaningfully. I did make it easy on him by stamping and addressing the envelopes, and putting little Post-its inside the card with the person's name and what the gift was. :o)
  4. I had a deadline. - I told myself that no matter what, I'd be done before law school starts. And it starts on Monday, so I was working on a pretty small timeframe. Deadline = motivation.
So that's it! Goodbye thank-you notes! May you make your recipients feel appreciated and loved!

How long after your wedding did it take you to finish your thank-yous? Are thank-you notes a dying tradition?

PS - If you're the person who gave us a set of glasses and a Bed Bath & Beyond gift card, and you happen to be reading this, please let me know because your gift had no card and I'd love to send you a thank-you note!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Big Fat Catholic Wedding: Part VIII - "The Rules"

Even before I was engaged, I had heard this rumor that Catholic churches have a lot of "rules" about weddings. Speaking from my experience, those rumors are totally true.

 Let me share with you just a sampling of the rules I was given by Prince of Peace:

  • The bridal suite and groom's parlor may not be used prior to 1 hour before the ceremony begins.
  • All belongings must be removed from the bridal suite and groom's parlor before the start of the Ceremony.
  • Photographers must remain out of view of the congregation.
  • Picture taking after the ceremony is limited to 20 minutes immediately following the wedding.
  • Videographers must remain stationary.
  • Artificial flowers are not permitted inside the Church or Chapel at any time.
  • Flower petals (real or artificial) may not be thrown or dropped at any time.
  • Rice/birdseed/confetti/flower petals may not under any circumstances be thrown on church grounds.
  • No aisle runners allowed.
  • No pre-recorded music is allowed.
  • A Prince of Peace cantor and accompanist must be used (and paid), regardless of what other musicians will be at the Ceremony.
  • A friend of the bride or groom may sing in addition to the Prince of Peace cantor, but not instead of the PoP cantor. Guest singers must be approved by the Associate Director of Worship, and fees will be charged for any rehearsals the guest singer requires with the PoP musicians.
  • Bridesmaids and Groomsmen are limited to 7 each in the Church, or 3 each in the Chapel.
  • Flower girls and ring bears must be at least 7 years of age.
  • No receiving lines.
  • Non-church wedding coordinators are not allowed to assist you.
Sheesh, huh? That being said, it seems like these rules are made to be broken. I know we broke quite a few:
  • My flower girls were 2 and 4, neither of which is anywhere near 7 years old.
  • I had 6 bridesmaids, Jeff had 5 groomsmen. The limit was 3. 
  • We didn't empty out the bride and groom rooms until after the Ceremony, and the coordinator was perfectly okay with it.
  • My photographer moved up and down the side aisles. I'm sure the congregation could see her. The coordinator told her it was okay.
  • We spent about 25 minutes taking formal photos. No one said anything when we hit the 20-minute limit.
Some of the rules I totally understand. Others I just don't get. I'm sure they have reasons behind all of these things, but it does seem a bit excessive. I totally agree with protecting the sacred quality of the Sacrament of marriage and preserving liturgical integrity, but why can't we have an aisle runner?

Does your church have any crazy rules about weddings?

This concludes the "My Big Fat Catholic Wedding"series. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Housewife Fail #1

So ever since we got back from Jamaica I've been playing housewife. Jeff goes to work everyday, and I... well, I don't. Instead, I clean. And I cook. And I do laundry. And then I clean some more. And then I organize things, which is basically like cleaning but different. And then I count down the hours until Jeff gets home so I have a human being to talk to.

I should mention that this arrangement is only going to last until Friday when I start law school, but for now we're totally epitomizing 1950s gender roles. I've been doing quite well, and I'm actually pretty proud of my clean home and empty laundry baskets and fridge stocked full of leftovers. I totally rock at being a housewife. Or at least I thought I did, until today when I fried our mattress pad. Yep, fried it.

It all started when our fancy new sheets seemed to be rubbing their dye off on the mattress pad. It was bothering me that our previously-stark-white mattress pad was turning orangeish, do I decided a trip through the washing machine would be worth a shot. So I washed it, and then stuck it in the dryer on low.

When I took it out of the dryer an hour later, it was all stuck to itself. The dryer totally killed it. It's all melted and burnt and completely unsalvageable. Now I've dried mattress pads before, and this has never happened. In shock, I searched for the "care instructions" tag, which greeted me with these words: "If mattress pad does not have free range of movement in washer or dryer, manually reposition periodically to avoid scorching." Duh. That makes sense. Too bad our dryer in this apartment is Barbie-doll sized and required quite a bit of pushing and stuffing to make the mattress pad fit in there. Stupid tiny dryer.

At that point I was left with a couple options. 1) Run out and use some of the BBB gift cards from the wedding on a new mattress pad and avoid having to tell the brand-new husband that I'm kind of a failure at laundry, or 2) Wait till Jeff gets home and show him the crunchy mess and go get a new mattress pad together. I went with option 2, mostly because I'm kind of sick of Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Also because the mattress pad was the fancy kind with lots of fluffy filling, and I was pretty sure he'd notice if I switched it out for something else.

Lucky for me, I have a wonderful husband who was just as shocked as I was upon looking at what used to be our mattress pad. He totally shared my frustration with the teeny tiny dryer, and then he threw it away for me (the mattress pad, not the dryer). We then went out to BBB and purchased a new one, with plenty of fluffy filling. This one will not be taking any trips through the dryer 'o scorchiness.

Has anybody else made the same mistake? If not, learn from mine! What's your biggest housewife fail?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Big Fat Catholic Wedding: Part VII - The Money Breakdown

One of the things I was really curious about when we first got engaged was just how much it was going to cost to get married in the Catholic Church. The answer (unfortunately) is quite a large chunk of change.

Wedding prices vary from Church to Church, but most Catholic churches are in the same general ballpark. I thought the amount we paid the church was a bit excessive, especially considering that the Church technically isn't allowed to charge for Sacraments (from Prince of Peace: "There is no charge for Sacraments in the Catholic Church. Our parish incurs expenses such as heating/air conditioning, maintenance, and clean-up for weddings. To help defray these expenses, you are asked to pay a church usage fee of $600"). It seems to me like $600 is a bit much for A/C and clean-up, but who knows. Here's what we paid:

Chapel Usage Fee - $600 (this includes a $200 discount for registered parishioners)
Accompanist - $150*
Cantor - $125*
Clergy "Gift" - $75**
Required FOCCUS test - $25
Required Engaged Encounter retreat - $195
Required Premarital Counseling - $100

Total: $1270 (this does not include flowers for the Ceremony, non-Church musicians for the Ceremony, etc.)

Now, we saved some money by having our wedding in the Chapel instead of the Church. Weddings in the Church at Prince of Peace require a "Sound Minister" to man the mixing board, which is another $100. We also saved money by skipping the full Mass. Full Mass (with Communion) weddings require two altar servers at $20 each. So if you were to do a Full Mass wedding in the large Church, you'd be looking at a $1410 bill.

*We hired a string quartet to do the music for our Ceremony. However, the Church had its own arrangements of music for the Gospel Acclamation (the "Alleluia" thing) and the Responsorial Psalm, which required a piano player and singer. I've been to other weddings where the GA and RP were read rather than sung, but Prince of Peace required the piano/cantor thing in order to "conform to liturgical tradition." So, we basically were forced to pay $275 for approximately 2 minutes of music. You do what you've gotta do.

**From what I can tell, anywhere from $50 to $150 is acceptable for a gift to the priest. We went with $75.

Summary: Getting married in the Catholic Church is expensive. Some of what you're paying for is the marriage prep process and the priest you're working with, which (in my opinion) are pretty valuable. Some of what you're paying for is 2 minutes of singing or a lousy marriage counselor, which (in my opinion) aren't valuable.

For Jeff and me there was never any hesitation about having our wedding in a Catholic Church. We both were steadfastly set on it, and we just paid the payments because we didn't have a choice. But I can imagine the high prices would turn some people away from Catholic weddings, which is sad.

What do you think? Are the required payments excessive? Fair? Catholic readers: would those prices make you hesitate to have a Catholic wedding?


Previously in this series:
Part I - The Process
Part II - The FOCCUS test

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Big Fat Catholic Wedding: Part VI - The Priest Meetings

As part of our marriage prep process, we had to have two meetings with the priest that married us, Father John.

The first meeting was right at the beginning. We had to actually meet with him and discuss our relationship before we could set a date for the wedding with the Church. During the first meeting we mostly talked about Jeff and me... our careers, our faith, our history together, etc. We also discussed the sacrament of marriage, and Father John reminded us of the importance of God in our relationship. 

Highlights from Meeting #1:
  • Jeff and Father John talked for a while about Jeff's journey towards becoming Catholic (he's been Episcopal for quite a while, which is like as close to Catholic as it gets, and he's wanted to officially become Catholic for a while, but it's been hard with all of the moving he's been doing lately) and Father John gave us some great advice.
  • Father John shared with us these statistics: The divorce rate among all married couples is pretty close to 1 out of every 2 (around 50%). The divorce rate among couples who identify themselves as "Christian" is nearly the same. The divorce rate among couples who identify themselves as "Christian" AND attend Church every Sunday is 1 out of every 20 couples (around 5%). The divorce rate among couples who identify themselves as Christian, attend Church every Sunday, AND actively practice their faith in their home (praying together, keeping Bibles/rosaries/etc where they can be easily used, etc) is only 1 out of every 200 couples (around 0.5%). I don't know where he got this information, or how accurate it really is, but it was a good reminder that actively living your faith has enormous marital benefits.
  • At the end of our meeting Father John had us stand in front of him, just like we did on our wedding day. He gave us a blessing, and then had us kiss, just like we did at the actual wedding.
The second meeting with Father John took place about a month before the wedding. During that meeting we mostly discussed the wedding ceremony, what each part signified, and how it would all happen.

Highlights from Meeting #2:
  • Father John told us that from what he could remember about our last meeting, we were a couple whose relationship was "built on a faith platform." What a wonderful compliment!
  • Father John told us that in a Catholic marriage ceremony, the Priest does not "marry the couple." Instead, the couple marries themselves. The Priest must be present, but the bride and the groom actually marry each other by saying the vows. 
  • Father John insisted that I practice kneeling in my wedding dress before the wedding. Apparently some brides have trouble with it and end up falling over or pulling their strapless dresses down. Eek. (I never practiced, and I was just fine. Haha)
  • Again, he had us stand side by side in front of him for a blessing and a kiss at the end of the meeting. 
We enjoyed both of our meetings with Father John, but both times it was insanely hard to schedule a meeting. Father John's schedule seemed to be only available for weekday meetings during business hours, which was especially difficult while I was living in College Station. We ended up having the first meeting on a Sunday afternoon after weeks of trying to schedule one during a time that I could drive to Cypress, and for the second one Jeff had to take half a day off work to be there. 

I'm curious... other brides - how many meetings did you have with your officiant? I felt like two was kind of a low number, but maybe that's just me. Did you enjoy your meetings?

Previously in this series:
Part I - The Process
Part II - The FOCCUS test

My Big Fat Catholic Wedding: Part V - Engaged Encounter

I had some Catholic wedding post drafts saved, so I figured I'd finish up the "My Big Fat Catholic Wedding" series as well while I'm waiting on pro photos from the wedding.

One of our marriage prep requirements with the Church was to attend a retreat called "Engaged Encounter." We went to a retreat center in Houston from Friday at 6:00 until Sunday at noon, and we spent the weekend with 25 other engaged couples. Some of the couples weren't actually Catholic... apparently some Protestant churches recommend that their couples go on this retreat as well.

The retreat was structured differently from any other retreat I've ever been on. First of all, the host couples encouraged us to really focus on our fiances, and spend quality time just the two of us. There were no ice breakers, no silly retreat games, and virtually no efforts to make us befriend the other couples. The activities were all done in couples, and we even ate our meals in pairs... just the two of us.

Our retreat had three married host couples (married 45 years, 15 years, and 7 years) and one priest. The basic structure of the retreat was this:

1. Listen to one of the host couples and the priest discuss a certain topic.
2. Separate from your fiance and answer questions about the same topic in your workbook.
3. Get back together with your fiance and read and discuss each others' answers.
4. Repeat.

One of the couples and the priest giving a talk

Sitting in the conference room (we look sleepy because it was Sunday and they made us stay up late and get up early every day!!)

Here are our workbooks:

Each talk had a topic, like this:

I may have been tired of sitting still and doodled all over my page.

Each topic had a set of questions to answer:

Then there was space to answer the questions in:

We always had time to write our answers separately, and then we got together again to read each other's and discuss them. It was a great opportunity to really be honest and share everything. Even though many of the questions were things we've already discussed multiple times, it was still nice to spend a weekend totally focused on our relationship. It was really confirming to read each other's answers and talk about them. By the time we left on Sunday, we just felt so ready to be married, and so incredibly sure that God really created us for each other. I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it was to take a break from wedding planning and spend three days thinking about what really matters - our relationship. 

In addition to the talks and questions, we also had Mass on Saturday and Sunday, and we spent some time on Saturday night praying for our relationship, and writing a prayer for our marriage. At the end, we received two certificates:

One looked like this, and we had to show it to the Church to prove we completed the course.

The other certificate was for Twogether in Texas, a program that offers discounted marriage licenses to couples who do at least 8 hours of coursework in marriage preparation. We took our certificate to get our marriage license, and we were able to purchase it for $11 instead of $71!

All in all, we thought Engaged Encounter was a wonderful program, and we were so glad we went. Aside from everything else, it gave us the chance to spend quality one-on-one time with each other for 2 1/2 whole days, which was really great. I would definitely recommend the program to anyone... you won't regret going!

For more information on Engaged Encounter, visit

Previously in this series:
Part I - The Process
Part II - The FOCCUS test

Friday, August 13, 2010

Look, look! Pictures!

Okay, I'm interrupting the organized post-wedding blogging plan again because our photographer just so happens to be amazing and already sent a teeny tiny sneak peak for us and I just had to share them with you! These are some of the photos we took after the ceremony of just Jeff and me (all from Kelli Nicole):

I believe there was some sort of joke going on here about Jeff's giant biceps. Or something.

Poor bouquet. Thrown to the ground. Don't worry, I picked it right back up!

Haha. This is very, very hard in heels.