Tips for Packing for a Vacation

As you know (because I won’t stop talking about) Dave and I are finally off on our Ireland honeymoon! Traveling overseas is exciting, especially when you have gone as long as we have without a real vacation. But it can also be stressful when you consider the amount of preparation that goes into an international vacation. Once you’re passed the basics of booking a flight, hotels, etc, there’s still the daunting task of packing.

Tips for Packing for a Vacation1

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1. Make a Packing List. This is absolutely vital for me when I’m packing to go away. Part of it is that I love making lists and legitimately enjoy the process. Also, I know I would forget things if I didn’t make a list. I’ve definitely gone away for a weekend or more, only to discover that I hadn’t packed any deodorant, underwear, etc. Save yourself the extra shopping trip as soon as you arrive and realize what you forgot!

For me, it’s helpful to organize my list. In one section I’ll have clothes. In another I’ll have toiletries. In the final section I’ll have extras like phone charger, book, camera, etc. For the honeymoon I also did separate sections for carry-on versus checked luggage.

2. Make All Your Clothes Match. When you’re packing for more than just a few days, I recommend sticking to a particular color scheme, at least for basics. If you pack a brightly color skirt or pair of pants, you’re likely only going to be able to wear that for one outfit. A pair of jeans or black maxi skirt go a lot further and you can wear them with just about anything. For accessories, pick neutral colors so they can be worn across outfits. Dave and I are going to Ireland for 10 days and if we each packed 10 tops, 10 bottoms, etc, we would be carrying a much heavier suitcase.

3. Carry-On Only. This doesn’t work for all trips, but I definitely recommend sticking to just a carry-on suitcase when possible. I did almost two weeks in Europe with just a carry-on bag, as well as a week in Brazil. Did I have to re-wear clothing? You bet. But it was so much more efficient to pack only what I needed and save the time and money that goes into checked luggage. Plus this forced me to only pack what I knew I needed as opposed to packing a bunch of “just in case” pieces.

4. Pack Travel Size. Unless your trip is like a month, spring for the travel size toiletries. There is absolute no reason you need to carry around two pounds of shampoo when three ounces would be more than enough. When you consider all the toiletries you have (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, contact solution, etc), you’re talking a LOT of weight if you bring the full size containers. In additional to the hassle of carrying around an extra heavy bag, you’re also wasting valuable space in your suitcase.

5. Make Essentials Accessible. When you’re packing, consider what you’re going to need to get out of the suitcase first. It doesn’t make sense to have the dress you’re planning on wearing the last day of the trip at the top of the suitcase. And it would be a huge hassle to get to TSA and realize you’ve packed your passport at the very bottom. They won’t appreciate that, and neither will the people behind you in line. I always put those important documents in a separate, more accessible purse. Then I try to layer my clothing in the order I’m going to wear it.

6. Dress Comfortably. Pick the most comfortable item from your suitcase and wear that on the plane. Especially if you’re going overseas or on a red eye. It also wouldn’t hurt to wear your larger items (sweatshirt, etc) so they aren’t taking up all that space in the suitcase. Planes tend to be chilly anyways, so you’ll probably appreciate the layers.

What are your best tips for packing for a vacation?

Lessons I Learned Wedding Planning, Part 1

Today I wanted to share with you some of the lessons I learned while planning my wedding. I’m not an expert on weddings, nor a professional in the wedding industry. But I did just spend two years planning my own wedding, and I can tell you I learned a lot from it. I’ve both read and written a lot about weddings and wedding planning, something I’ll continue to do going forward to share the things I learned with brides-to-be. As you can see from the title, I’ve labeled this post as “Part 1”. Though the wedding has passed by the time you’re reading this post, I’m writing it a few days before. And I know that when I sit down to write Part 2, there will be so many lessons learned on the day of that I can’t possibly imagine right now. For now, enjoy Part 1 of the lessons I’ve learned while wedding planning.

Lessons I Learned Wedding Planning, Part 1

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1. Start early. When Dave and I got engaged, we set our date for two years away. It was difficult picking what seemed like an imaginary date in the future to have our wedding, but it was definitely the realistic and responsible thing to do. But that didn’t stop be from starting the planning right away. And you know what? It payed off. There wasn’t a single vendor I was interested in who had to turn me away because they already had my date booked. And in some cases I was able to sign a contract at 2013 or 2014 prices instead of 2015 prices.

It also helps reduce the stress of wedding planning so much. We were really able to take our time and not look at a check-list, worried we were falling behind. Here’s how it went. In September, I bought my dress (some people will tell you not to buy that early because you’ll fall in love with something else. I solved that by not looking at any other dresses, and I’m more in love with my dress than I was then). Then I didn’t do anything for awhile! In November we booked our venue/caterer, and took a couple of months off for the holidays. We didn’t book the next vendor until January, and the next one a few months later. By the time we hit the one-year mark, the vendors and large details were already worked out and I had an entire year to focus on DIY projects and small details.

There were definitely downsides to having a long engagement, but there were zero downsides to starting to plan as soon as I could. Whether your engagement is six months or two years, get an early start.

2. Consult previous brides. There have been a few other couples in our life who were either planning their wedding at the same time as us or had gotten married in the few years leading up to our engagement. These women have advice to share. Listen to it! It was a cousin who had gotten married four years before our engagement who suggested we have a wedding the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. It would never have occurred to me to get married on a Sunday, but we had the benefit of of paying discounted Sunday prices AND none of our guests having to work the next day because of the holiday. So it was basically like a cheaper Saturday!

3. Choose the most important things to splurge on. Unless you have an unlimited wedding budget (in which case I would be jealous), you can’t splurge on everything. Choose a few things that are most important to you and make them your splurges. Figure out a way to cut back on everything else. We chose venue, photographer and honeymoon as ours. We went over budget on those, and cut elsewhere. We found a low price on an awesome DJ, which made that part easy. We didn’t spend much on flowers, decor, cake, or paper.

4. Know when to DIY. NOT all DIY projects are cheaper. They just aren’t! Know which ones will save you money versus which will cost you the same amount, but increase your stress level. The things that you can DIY can save you a lot of money. I designed our Save the Date cards and invitations in Canva myself and printed them for cheap at a local printer. We paid a fraction of what many people spend on invitations. I also bought silk flowers and made the bouquets myself. They look the same to me (because I don’t care much about flowers) and cost maybe $100 for all 6!

5. Know when to compromise. If there is something wedding-related that you disagree with your or mother-in-law where they care a LOT and you don’t care that much, it might be a time to give in. It’s an important day for them as well. Throw them a bone once in awhile.

6. Know when NOT to compromise. People are going to have a lot of opinions on your wedding. People from parents, to coworkers, to odd distant relatives. While it’s important to compromise, it’s also your wedding and it’s important to hold onto the things that are important to you. The only person who’s opinion is as important as your is the one you’re marrying.

7. Stick to your budget. When you get engaged, you and your fiance should decide on a number you feel comfortable spending. Try your best to stick to that. There are a lot of pretty, shiny things in the wedding industry that someone will convince you you have to have. Well unless that something is a marriage license, you don’t have to have it to get married. You and your fiance know your financial situation best, so it’s okay to say no to things you don’t need. One magical day is not worth a loan the price of a new car.

8. Don’t obsess. I had a two year engagement. If I turned every day and every conversation into all about the wedding, people would have gotten sick of me very quickly and I would have gotten sick of my wedding very quickly. Planning a wedding is a big deal, but it’s not the only nor the most important thing going on in everyone’s life or yours! Don’t let wedding planning take over your life and don’t let if have an adverse reaction on the relationships in your life.

I hope these tips can help you. Some I learned from making the mistake myself and others were mistakes that I missed, but noticed in others. Wedding planning can be an amazing experience, and it’s important to focus on the best parts of it!

Wedding Send Off

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There were surely times over the past two years where I felt time was moving in slow motion. When we hit the one-year point, already halfway through our engagement, it felt like we had an eternity to go. There were times I was furious with myself for having such a long engagement, even though I knew we needed that buffer after college.

Now that we’re just a few days away, I have no freaking clue where the time went. Wasn’t I just in college, hanging out with my boyfriend and thinking that maybe someday we’d get married? The engagement felt painfully long at times, but now looking back, it feels like it’s gone by in the blink of an eye.

As insanely excited as I am to finally be married, there are some things I’m going to miss about being engaged. It was fun! I love doing research and making spreadsheets, so that part was a dream. It was fun looking at amazing venues and eating free cake. Yes, I will those things. But more than anything, I’m excited to be married. And to have this whole planning ordeal over with! No one tells you how much planning goes into a wedding! Okay, maybe they do and I just didn’t listen.

This afternoon is officially the beginning of my wedding vacation. The wedding is on Sunday and then Dave and I jet off on our honeymoon!

You’ll still see blog posts while I’m away, just not everyday. There will be around three posts per week that I’ve pre-scheduled, as well as some social media goodness. I’ll miss the blogosphere, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for a little break!

Enjoy your Memorial Day and the next two weeks!

The Final Days of Wedding Planning

Final Days of Wedding Planning

Well guys, this is it. After two years of wedding planning and 8 months of writing about my wedding planning on this blog, we’ve only got a few days left and this is my last Wedding Wednesday post! (I’ll still post wedding planning tips, there just won’t be posts following my own planning!) I’m stuck at work still today and tomorrow, but then Friday the wedding weekend begins! We’ll start with some wedding prep (ie a trip to the nail salon). Saturday is the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and Sunday is the big day.

Our life has been a flurry of planning lately. I’ve virtually been taken over by a slew of to-do lists. Most of them are long. And scary. The biggest tasks lately have been the seating chart, final meetings with vendors and putting together the wedding day timeline, and buying tons of last-minute items that we’ve forgotten. Dave had this bachelor party last weekend and I had my final dress fitting! I’m going to be exhausted after a day of dragging around that bad boy, but it’s going to be worth it!

Strangely, it still hasn’t hit either of us that we’re getting married in just a few days. Maybe it won’t until the wedding day? Or until I’m walking down the aisle? Who knows.

The wedding day isn’t even here yet, but I can finally see all of our day coming together as we finish up the last few details. It’s been a lot of work, to say the least. Luckily I’ve got a fiance who wasn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and get his wedding planning hands dirty.

And even if it doesn’t all come together and the day is a disaster, that steak, open bar, and marrying the most amazing guy ever will sure make it the best day of my life.

Creating a Wedding Day Timeline

For your wedding day (or weekend) to run smoothly, it’s important to create a timeline so everyone is clear where/when events are happening, and so that it’s easy to stay on track. Your wedding day is going to be a busy one, and any sense of order you can get will make a huge difference. Being only a week and a half away from the wedding and having had our final meetings with all of our vendors, I am in full force finalizing the timeline. Here are some tips I can offer to far.

Creating a Wedding Day Timeline

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+Consult with your vendors. Your hair stylist knows better than you how long it will take to do hair for six bridesmaids, just like your photographer will know better than you how long pictures will take. Make sure to talk to all the vendors before setting anything in stone.

+Skip the gap. Often times a couple will have the ceremony early in the day and then have several hours before the cocktail or reception. People are becoming less tolerant of this. Have a later ceremony and take pictures during cocktail hour.

+First look or no? Obviously the tradition is for the groom to not see the bride before the wedding, but many couples and ditching that tradition in exchange for a first look. You’ll have to be ready earlier, but it saves time after the ceremony. For the record, Dave and I are sticking with tradition. He won’t see me until I’m walking down the aisle!

+What type of dinner are you having? This will definitely play a role in determining your timeline! If you’re having a large wedding or a buffet dinner, you’re going to want to budget extra time.

+Leave wiggle room. If one thing runs late, you don’t want it to throw the entire day’s schedule off drastically. Schedule more time than you need for everything.

+Don’t street about changes. I guarantee not everything on your wedding day is going to start at the exact minute designated on your timeline. That’s okay. Don’t let it stress you out and throw off your mood for the whole day.

+Trust your vendors. They are the experts. They are professionals. They have done countless weddings before and I guarantee several of those had the timeline go out of whack. Defer to them and trust that they can help straighten things out.

For those who have been married, what are you best timeline tips?

Two Years Ago

Two years ago I graduated from college. After four years of hard work, I finally put on the cap and gown and walked across the stage. That day two years ago was one of the best days of my life, but not because I graduated college. Yes, that was awesome. But something even better happened.

After the graduation ceremony, Dave and I had a joint graduation party with out friends and family. We rented a small building at a park and got a ton of food. Early on during the party Dave said he thought we should stand up and thank everyone for coming. He got about three words in when a good friend of ours walked up to me with a small note card. In the past, Dave had made me scavenger hunts for birthdays and holidays, making me search for my gift. I assumed he was doing so again. So I followed the clues which led me to different friends and family members at the party. Finally, the last clue led me to Dave. And when I turned around, he was down on one knee with a ring (exactly the ring I wanted, in fact)!

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It was perfect and surreal. Being able to share that experience with many of the people I love most was awesome, and it made the rest of the party so much more exciting! In fact, it probably would have been kind of a boring party otherwise!

Hearing about the day pre-proposal from Dave is actually really funny now. The poor guy sat through the entire graduation ceremony with the ring in his pocket, nervous as can be. The surprise was almost spoiled once earlier in the day by his Grandma over speaker phone, and his dad promptly hung up on her when she was mid-sentence. Dave was sure she had given it away. I didn’t even notice.

It’s crazy to think that day is already two years ago. I’ve honestly never known two years to go by so fast. And after two years of wedding planning, we’ll be getting married in LESS than two weeks!

The last two years have brought Dave and I so many major milestones and huge life events including graduating college, getting engaged, moving to a different city and getting our first big kid jobs, and now, getting married. As amazing as these last two years have been, I can’t wait to see what the first two years of marriage look like!

Wedding Wednesday: Making the Seating Chart

Throughout the wedding planning process, I dreaded the task of making the seating chart for the reception. It’s a tricky thing. It’s can be a monotonous and time-consuming process, yet it’s one you can’t really complete until all of your RSVP’s have been returned a few weeks before the wedding. You can attempt a tentative seating chart earlier (like I did), but it’s definitely going to change when the no’s start rolling in.

Here are some tips to make this daunting process a little more manageable for you:

Seating Chart

+Start with the wedding party. The head table is the traditional option, but more and more couples are opting for a sweetheart table. There are benefits to both, but you might consider letting the make-up of your wedding party dictate which way you go. If most of your party is married with children, they might prefer to sit with their families. A younger couple with mostly single friends? Go for the head table!

+Seating the parents. There are different options here as well. Some couples choose to sit with their parents. Some might choose to let each set of parents have their own table so they can sit with their immediate families. Others elect to put all the parents at one table together. This could be impacted if you have siblings who aren’t in the wedding party, or divorced parents who they’d prefer not to seat together.

+Should you assign seating? I’ve been to weddings with seating charts, and weddings with open seating. Overall I prefer seating charts and will always recommend couples go this route, especially if you’re having anything but a very small wedding. There are a few different reasons I dislike open seating.

  1. Open seating can be awkward as people look for their seat. People roam around, looking for an open seat or someone they know.
  2. Couples and families can be split up. There’s nothing worse than being the last couple to arrive at dinner, only to discover you can’t even sit with your spouse. Or to attend a wedding with a few small children, only to not find a table where you can sit with them.
  3. Important people without a seat. Without a seating chart, you run the risk that your grandma ends up sitting in the table furthest away. She probably isn’t going to be able to hear any speeches, or interact with her family!

+Assigned seats versus tables? Just because you’re creating a seating chart doesn’t mean you have to assign individual seat. In fact, it’s usually easier not to. Just assign what table people will be sitting at! This way people can sit next to whomever they want at their table, and you might be able to get away without place cards.

Keep in mind, some venues might require assigned seats with place cards to make it easier for their servers to deliver food.

+Group together common groups. One of the first things I did when I was starting our seating chart was to group people together by category: my family, Dave’s family, coworkers, friends, etc. I used these guidelines when seating people.

+Enlist your parents. Parents might be able to at least give some insight as to how best seat their family members. This will be especially important if there will be family members you don’t know well.

+Consider demographics. Everyone should be seating by at least one person they know. But for the rest of the table, consider the ages, personalities, etc of those sitting there. Try to group similar ages, maybe even personalities.

+Creating the seating chart. There are a few different ways to do this. These days there are tons of ways to do this online. Most wedding websites (The Knot, Wedding Wire) have their own seating chart software where you can input guest names and move them into seats.

I personally chose to go the old pen and paper route! I created a floor plan of our reception on a poster, and used paper to create the tables and people. I designated each group with a different color so it would be easier to group them together. The seating chart went light years faster than I thought it would (though I still have many changes to make!) I’m such a visual person, I prefer to physically have the layout in front of my to play with.

If you’re married or getting married, I would love to hear about your experience with the seating chart! Please leave a comment and tell me about it! If you aren’t married, what are some of your seating pet peeves when attending a wedding.