Monday, September 29, 2008

Checking Off Wedding Tasks

If only to make myself feel better in all of this wedding craziness, I thought I'd make a list of everything we've accomplished thus far. Lists are wonderful, and crossing off taken-care-of items from said list is even more wonderful. Really. It is. It gives me a sense of peace. So, I thought I'd pour it all out here, and share a bit! Please excuse my need for order! It's part of my Myer's Briggs INFJ/ENFJ tendencies.

This is where we are:
  • Budget: established!
  • Wedding date: October, 3, 2009. Ceremony: 5:30 p.m. Cocktail Hour, Tours of Open Mansion: 6:00-6:45 PM. Dinner: 7 PM-9 PM. Cake, coffee, tea: 9 PM-10:30 PM.
  • Location: Oatlands Historic House and Gardens. Ceremony: Italian Garden. Cocktails: Terraced Gardens and front foyer of historic mansion. Dinner: Carriage House. (Note: all outdoor events have restroom facilities in the garden dependencies building).
  • Bride, Groom, and Wedding Party dressing facilities: In good weather, bride and party will get ready in the Mansion, and groom and party in the Bachelor's House. In rain, both bride and groom and respective parties will get ready in the Bachelor's House.
  • Rain back-up plan: If drizzling, still hold ceremony in garden and supply guests with umbrellas, but hold cocktail hour and dinner in Carriage House. If raining outright, all activities will take place in the Carriage House. (Note: In the event of outright rain, guests will gather around, standing up, during wedding ceremony so that the space can then be used, right after ceremony, for cocktails.
  • Oatlands Events Coordinator: Katherine Farley + team.
  • Officiant Reverend Nicholas Lubelfeld of The Falls Church.
  • Wedding Vows: Common Book of Prayer. Goal is to work with Nicholas to shorten ceremony to no more than 25 minutes). No communion will be held. Only one biblical reading. No hymns sung. Meeting with Nicholas on Sept. 30 to go over ceremony details.
  • Wedding Party: Bert English (Best Man), Matthew McClinch (Groomsman), Jennifer Armistead (Matron of Honor), Patrick Armistead (Man of Honor), Matt Witting (Groomsman/Usher), Bill English (Groomsman/Usher), Brenden Petersburg (Groomsman/Usher).
Upcoming Appointments
  • September 30: Phone meeting with Jennifer Chase, photographer.
  • September 30, 7:30 PM: Meeting with Nicholas at The Falls Church to review vows and ceremony format.
  • October 7: Danielle visit: Oatlands!
Next Steps
  • Meet with additional photographers. Select and reserve photographer. Accomplish in the next few weeks before they all disappear!
  • Reserve engagement photo shoot.
  • Begin shopping for wedding gowns.
  • Research caterers. Schedule tastings.
  • Research musicians for ceremony, cocktail hour, reception.
  • Research pastry chefs
  • Research stationary.
  • Finish content development of wedding website. Launch when Save the Date cards are issued, probably in February.
Fuzzy Ideas and Details
  • We're going with a literary theme.
  • We'd love to have a black, blue, and white color scheme, but need to scope out Carriage House reception space more closely.
  • We're obsessed with luminaries. Hanging, standing, you name it.
  • Jen is wearing black!
  • I'm in love with deep blue hydrangea.
  • We'd love to have a string quartet for the ceremony procession--and even for cocktail hour and the dinner/dancing.
  • We'd love to have a bride-groom first dance, and at least the father-bride. Not sure if this crowd is composed of dancing fiends, but we'll have a great floor for it, nonetheless!
  • We'd love to have our rehearsal dinner at Lightfoot restaurant, in historic downtown Leesburg.
  • We'd love to have an engagement party in April or May of 2009. We'd love to have it at someone's house, low key, perhaps a cookout and casual. We'd like to have this later, rather than now, and to complete our premarital counseling/mentoring first.
  • We're planning on reserving rooms at at least one B&B in historic Leesburg. Chris and I will stay here on our wedding night, and probably on Sunday night, before venturing to Dulles airport for our honeymoon plans. Possible B&B contender: Norris House.
  • Thinking of having honeymoon in Zurich > train ride through Swiss Alps > Lake Como, Italy.
More to follow... Alice is checking things off left and right!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Search for Photographer Continues

It appears that the out-of-town photographers I adore--even though one of which is only 1.5 hours away from Leesburg--charge a hefty travel and lodging fee which I find ridiculous.

So, I am back in the search, and the search is pressing, as two of the three local photojournalists I've contacted are already booked for October 3, 2009. Absolutely amazing. I'm convinced that brides throughout Virginia, who are getting married in the fall of 2009, already had their dream weddings all planned out with their favorite vendors and just waited until the groom came along. It's a scary briderly world out there, especially when we've only been engaged two months and our wedding's more than a year away, and I haven't wasted a moment! Still, I feel the crunch to square away these major decisions.

Tonight, Chris landed upon a list of wedding photojournalists in the DC area, as photojournalism is definitely the style we want! Of these, we really like the following:

Len Spoden
Jennifer Chase
Carl Bower
Stephen Voss

We are also in the process of contemplating CMH photo and Brian Lusby's photography (though we'd have to make a decision before Monday, as another couple is most likely going to book him for the 3rd).

Of these, my favorites are Jennifer Chase and Len Spoden. I've written them both, and hope to hear back soon!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wedding Weather, October 3rd

With every outdoor wedding venue there is always a risk of foul weather--rain, drizzle, thunder, lightning. These are all possibilities, and if there is one thing that has and continues to stress me out is not knowing what to expect on October 3, 2009 at our beloved Oatlands.

What's so difficult about all of this is that if the weather plays along, the scenery and gardens and whole experience will be a dream come true. If it rains, it will still be a dream come true (I am, after all, marrying Chris!), but scenic-wise it will be about an 8, as our rain back-up plan is in the foyer of the Carriage House, in the room adjacent to the reception/dining area. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the Carriage House has a lot of rustic charm, but it's no Italian garden! However, if it rains, as mom has told me several times of an old wive's tale, Chris and I are sure to have a long happy marriage! I believe we will regardless!

So, what's a bride to do, in the face of this uncontrollable variable that is the weather? Run reports on the online Farmer's Almanac, of course!
The first time I did this, I manually selected dates across 62 years, and found that it rained on October 3 only 2% of the time across that time span. However, recently, I ran a customized report online for the years 2007-1973, and found that it rained on 10 of those 35 days--or 29%. This is slightly more risky. However, it is reassuring, at least, that the average daily rain count was only .10 inches, which isn't too bad, and occurs mostly in the morning, clearing up by late afternoon and evening, which is good for our 5:30 ceremony start time.

Looking ahead for 2009, the Almanac reports a drier October, on account of a longer summer next year. So we shall see! It will be interesting to see what it does this Friday, October 3rd.

But, as I see it, there's really no control over the whole issue. I just need to let it be what it will be, but it's hard when you're in love with a vision of a day, of a place. But, as one of our dear groomsmen told me recently, "it doesn't matter where you guys are Ally, the point is that it will be magical because you and Chris are there."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

These Photographers, I Adore

Searched the web, wide and far and with the help of Somer's keen internet skills (!), and these are my two favorite photographers, for both wedding and engagement purposes: Stone Blue Productions and Kellie Kano. Both are just lovely, smooth, full of energy and a romance all their own, authentic and creative. The black and white treatment is gorgeous, dramatic. I love it, particularly the shots (in color) with unusual backdrops: broken windows, exaggerated foregrounds, old brick buildings. I also adore the quirky snapshots: couples kissing, wide-eyed, playful, chasing, wearing hats, dancing along long pathways and corridors. Both photographers handle faces, shadow, and portraiture amazingly.

I think either of these would do a fabulous job with Chris and I at Oatlands, particularly by the reflecting pool, the wine vines, the old barns and wooden fences and wrap around porches and wide white columns, the lush rolling hills, the Blue Ridge in the distance.

Alice is contemplating... Perhaps I will, out of curiosity, write to each and inquire about their price ranges. Both travel, so that is encouraging.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Our Officiant!

Reverend Nicholas Lubelfeld of The Falls Church has expressed his willingness to perform our wedding ceremony! Chris and I are thrilled, and hope to meet with Nicholas soon to review the vows and service, both taken from the Book of Common Prayer. The vows are rich and lovely, though we want to be sure, since the ceremony is outdoors (and indoors at the Carriage House with everyone standing up and around us if it rains) that the ceremony is kept to a 25-30 minute minimum. We may need to do some editing, possibly on the readings, but we'll have to see. Chris read through the BOP and it took him about 25 minutes, so that is encouraging.

Nicholas is a lovely man, and one of the few people I know who can utter a single sentence containing the topics of The Chronicles of Narnia, healthy relationships, Peter the disciple, and medieval architecture without blinking an eye. He has a delightful sense of humor and a wonderful, compassionate way about him. We couldn't think of a more fitting person to officiate our marriage. Hope to make an appointment with Nicholas soon.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Themed Weddings: Creative or a Bust?

I have been toying for the last month or so with incorporating a theme into our wedding--and by theme I was thinking something personal, something that captures both Chris and me, our interests, our loves, a bond that connects us. Themes have become quite popular these days--those that go beyond color and season and into a theme that says something about the couple involved.

I have seen many a themed wedding online, and many of them are downright ghastly, including the infamous Al Capone themed wedding, the Great Gatsby wedding, and even Star Trek influenced weddings complete with Klingon costumes. And I'm serious about that last one. It actually happened.

As for Chris and I, we love wine, Virginia, nature, fall, books, and film. These define so much of our relationship, as well as how we spend our time enjoying one another. With the wedding in Oatlands, we've got Virginia covered. With the ceremony in beautiful, natural, and organic gardens in October we've definitely got fall and nature covered. However, books and film are wide open, and up for discussion.

Film is tricky, but books--ah...books--we might really have something there. Initial ideas for how to incorporate this theme:
This is probably as far as I'd take any theme--besides, of course, extending it to invitations and stationary--and this literary theme is clever enough to be a lot of fun, I think, and, of course, to promote Chris' and my love of literature.

However, there are a few hesitations I have in going with this theme:

(1) Is this appropriate for a wedding? I think it would be unique. And educational! But is it appropriate? Worth it?

(2) The vintage typewriter accessories and typewriter itself are black, and I want to make sure our color scheme would work with this. I am in love with blue and black and white (so beautiful and funnily enough the same decor as my house), and this would work beautifully with this theme, but I am concerned about the fact that the Carriage House at Oatlands has a green baseboard around the perimeter of the room (though the rest of it is wooden and rustic, minus a few strips of carpet in the table area, which mom and I have a plan for covering, as well as the trim around four posts which lovely fabric will handle). Would this clash? I will post pictures of the Carriage House soon for further consideration. If so, open to other colors--except green. We won't do green.

(3) Is a literary theme distracting from the historic beauty of Oatlands itself? Would we do better to go with a more natural, rustic flair? To incorporate, instead, brown leaves from the fall, or more rustic accessories?

Alice continues her quest through the maze that is her reception decor. First step: find way to cover carpet, possibly trim in Carriage House. Second step: finalize color scheme, based on results of step one. Third step: see if literary theme can work with this. Fourth step: move in on stationary and matching invitation scheme. Fifth step: Finalize wedding website with all elements thusly incorporated.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Dress

The wedding dress is a complex garment, emotionally speaking--it is the gown you wear when you cross over from singledom to marriedom; it must be intrinsic to your personality and style; and it is the one gown you will wear in life that will make the largest fashion statement. Ever. So how does a woman pick this gown? The pressure seems immense.

After scanning those high-gloss wedding magazines (thank you, Somer, you are a dear!), and looking at hundreds of wedding websites, I have learned a few things about gowns of this nature and what my eye seems to gravitate towards.
  • I am not a big, poofy dress kind of person.
  • I am not a skin baring all type of person.
  • I am not a modern person.
  • I like minimalism.
  • I adore gowns that have touches of vintage, a look from another time period, but strangely, not gowns from the time periods themselves.
  • I want to feel like a slight garden nymph with a historic backbone.
With this in mind, I have found three gowns or at least "looks" that I would feel so beautiful in. Of course, mind you, I haven't tried any of these on in reality, and as we learned through venue shopping, reality and vision have a way of dueling with one another. For now, though, my intention is to try these three gowns on, wherever they may be, and go from there:

Gown #1: The Marielle gown, by Augusta Jones
Gown #2: The Destiny gown, by Augusta Jones
Gown #3: The strapless, bolero gown, by Watters

Photographer, Wanted

Alice is on the search for a magic picture maker--engagement photos, wedding photos, the whole shebang. Chris and I were thinking we'd arrange to have our engagement photos taken at Oatlands, just in case it rains and we won't have a record of enjoying the outdoor splendor that is the manor, gardens, and rolling hills. Clever plan, I say.

I'd ideally like a photographer who has an understanding of the lighting at Leesburg, who has a keen touch with black and white and a sense of capturing personality in key moments. Romantic and personal and warm, a slight sense of humor, is the feel we're after, rather than formal. I've seen portfolios in the later, and it's not our cup of tea. I'll see if I can sift through examples, give you more of an idea of what we're looking for...!

Does anyone know of a photographer in the Leesburg area? Or perhaps in the neighboring vicinity that fits these qualifications? We are on the search, and hope to lock in someone soon for engagement photos. We're open to suggestions!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Venue Shopping: The Real Story

So, it occurred to me that my post from yesterday removed all of the blemishes, the difficulty, the tears, and the ridiculous behavior I demonstrated in my search for our wedding venue. This is false advertising, particularly for any other brides who may come across this page and think somehow that they are alone in their desperation to find the "perfect place"--wherever that is.

So, this is my briderly confession:

TRUTH: I am in love with my venue.

: I found it a month ago.

: I ignored my intuition in favor of listening to other's opinions.

I zipped through the middle and all relevant parts of this great state, without shame and without much sleep in search of something even "better."

I cried twice at work, fretting that the vision in my mind could never be met by an actual, concrete space in reality, and even entertained notions about hiring an architect, a landscape designer, and a road builder to bring these fanciful notions to life.

I cried at the fact that I cried about this.

I googled elopement packages in Las Vegas, Provence, Lake Como, and New Zealand.

TRUTH: I returned to my first love in venues, only to realize--after all of this said behavior above--that Oatlands was truly the one.

I made doubly sure that Oatlands was the one by parking at the front gate and illegally crawling over the fence to have "one more look" after hours.

I need to stay away from all things venue-related from this point forward.

Vision and reality are two separate planets, and brides should stop trying to force two worlds to get along seamlessly, instead accepting the beauty of what's before us, working with slight setbacks, bringing our creativity to the fold. Perfection is the ultimate myth.

Alice's next adventure: Finding a wedding officiant. Alice is hoping this doesn't involve more highway trips. She's carsick.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Splendid Venue, Indeed

It was a ten hour journey, through Appalachia by car and foot and pure caffeinated determination. There were small venues and large ones--all historic and rustic and hidden, some more than others. But behold: the wedding venue has been selected, a beacon of Virginia beauty.

I give you Oatlands Plantation of Leeesburg, Virginia--250 years of manor splendor and Italian gardens that terrace and wind up rolling hills and down to a quaint Carriage House. Beyond there are the Blue Ridge mountains, the hills of grassy Virginia falling like blankets all around.

When I first laid eyes on Oatlands, I fell instantly in love--it was as though I had seen it all before, been here before: the feeling of an embrace when coming home, a familiar notion of knowing you're where you belong.

Chris and I wanted to have a historic Virginia wedding--where we met, fell in love, where our past and present and future intersect. We couldn't think of a more fitting venue than that of a historic manor, a shining example of Virginia historic preservation: holding onto the past, progressing forward with a lasting foundation.

Our plan, for now, is to hold the wedding in the lower Italian garden, the cocktail hour on the porch of the manor and up through the terraced gardens, and dinner in the quaint Carriage House--all amongst the changing autumn foliage in October sunset.

More to come, more to follow. Alice is navigating her way through wedding wonderland, afterall. Who knew.