March 27, 2012

Countdown: 7 months

Fun pinata, in honor our
Cinco de Mayo engagement party!
So time is FLYING! It still doesn't even feel real that Kev and I are actually engaged, but now that we have a date to work towards it's getting there.That means it's time for me to get busy with my to-do list checking off! I'm loving having this blog as a place to talk about what's going on and how the planning is going, it's hard when people ask me how the wedding planning is going for me to not just say, "Check my blog!" But no really, I'm a social media frenzied girl, so my Facebook and this blog are where the details live! Keep me honest, y'all, if I stop posting, remind me that this is a good thing, okay? :)

March 25, 2012

Surprise & A Busy Weekend

Surprise Visit!
The last time Kevin visited, we'd decided he would come for a visit this weekend, that would mean 3 weeks between seeing each other, but we were willing to do it. Well this past week brought lots of rain and storms, so on Thursday night Kevin decided it would be best to not make the 10-hour drive in the bad weather. All day Friday I was pretty upset by this since I'd been looking forward to his visit pretty much since the last time he left, but I'd rather him be safe than trying to drive in the thunderstorms. Kevin called me when he was "on his way home from work" and I cried and was really dramatic about how sad I was because I wasn't seeing him. Little did I know - - after my second (and more pleasant, I'll talk about that later) visit to David's Bridal, this time in Mobile - - that at 10:30 Friday night he'd surprise me by calling and saying he was in Grenada, Mississippi, 5 hours away! I was so excited that I didn't even mind staying up until 3 talking on the phone to keep him awake until he arrived safely!

Cake Tasting
I'd arranged for Kevin, my mom, and me to go to Sweet Stuff in Biloxi for a cake tasting Saturday morning. Truth be told, I bet THAT'S what helped him decide to drive through the rain for a visit. :) Anyway, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. We haven't made a decision yet, though, I still want to go to Le Bakery and ask a few individuals I know.

The samples. YUM. Totally worth blowing myself out of ketosis.

Groom impatient that I made him pose before he could eat.

Bride sampling the white almond cake with buttercream.

I liked the rough iced look, plus thought the topper was cute on this one!
Buzz Lightyear Gift Registry
My sweet groom was way more excited about creating a gift registry than I'd expected. He practically begged me to agree to go to Dillard's to get one started. Needless to say, we are finding out how different our tastes are when it comes to china sets and eating utensils. We definitely agree on things like towels and bedding, though. And I will win with Keurig battle (he says I don't need one). We had an awesome salesperson at the Dillard's in Biloxi, Anthony, he said "cool beans" at least a dozen times and told us that the fact that we were super chill when the batteries of our scanner went out tells him that we "are gonna stick." We didn't get a whole lot accomplished, but we definitely had fun. Again, I'll let the photos speak for themselves.
Readying my aim.
Showing off how the LARGE towels Kevin wants.
Our short weekend together (less than 36 hours) was rounded out by going to the wedding of a friend of mine from high school and an engagement party for a couple that started dating at the same time as us. Weddings are everywhere right now! I really love, love, y'all!

March 22, 2012

Bliss Wedding Cafe

Tonight Mom and I attended a free seminar called "How to Plan a Foolproof Wedding" at the new Bliss Wedding Cafe in Gulfport.

I've been meaning to do a post about what they've got going on over there. It's pretty neat. A group of local wedding vendors has joined forces to create a wedding resource center for MS Gulf Coast brides. They've got meeting space so they can meet with couples for consultations, they've got oodles of business cards and notebooks full of information on caterers, photographers, officiants, venues, entertainment, florists, and it goes on.

In my current job, I'm lucky enough to have learned a lot of useful wedding planning knowledge via event planning, but not everything and corporate event planning is quite a bit different than planning your own wedding, so I take advantage of the services Bliss has to offer.

It was a great seminar, and the food was great! I think the other brides and couples left having learned some useful tips and wanting to come back for more.

I also won a cool door prize!

Thanks, Bliss!

March 21, 2012

Engagement Photos Scheduled

Today I spoke with Dan Tripp of Mission Photo in St. Louis and I feel really good about it! When I go to St. Louis for Easter, we'll meet up with Dan to have some engagement photos taken in charming St. Charles, Missouri. Dan said my vision is right up his alley, so I hope we'll have some beautiful shots to use for our Save the Dates! We plan on having some photos taken here in Ocean Springs, as well, but I'm working with a tight deadline to get some photos to use on Save the Date cards since they'll have to be out by the end of April. I also thought that since the wedding festivities are going to be here on the Coast, that it'd be nice to have some engagement photos taken in Kevin's hometown.
Wikipedia image of Historical St. Charles
Mission Photo seems like a great choice, their goal is to use photography to raise funds for going on mission trips, earlier trips including coming to South Mississippi to work after Hurricane Katrina (this is when he had me sold)! They started their biz after they realized how expensive just some creative family photos could be (vs. typical studio ones), so they also aim to provide an affordable option for people seeking fun, creative photography.

March 19, 2012

Speaking of Music...

I want to hear some of my followers' (past brides/grooms or not) thoughts on reception music. When it's time for Jesse to start up the DJing, I want a good mix of songs that will get our guests of all generations out on the dance floor. Think KC and the Sunshine Band to get funky, songs that will allow for some sweet slow songs to showcase our nice ballroom dancing skills (hopefully). I'm not opposed to getting a little crunk later in the night, but I don't want my MawMaw and PawPaw's beautiful waltz followed by Baby Got Back.

Suggestions, please! Must plays or absolutely nots! :)

March 18, 2012

The Wedding Singer

Wedding Singer: Hold the Cheese
A few weeks ago Kevin and I met with a DJ/emcee that's pretty popular on the coast. While we had a great chat with him and he seemed like he could really meet our needs for the wedding reception, his rates are way out of our price range and the folks with the checkbook told me I needed to seek other options.

Since I knew a live band (a good one) would be well over our price range also, I decided I should contact Jesse Hill. He's a local college guy with a voice that with your eyes closed you'd swear was Frank Sinatra or Michael Buble. Jesse's dad Bill is an old friend of my parents' and he used to be in a band himself. We actually hired Jesse two years ago for a company holiday event. He wowed the crowd.

Bill told us Jesse would be performing at the Palace Casino this past Friday night so my parents and aunt and I went out to hear him. He was as great as I remembered (even with a sore throat having just driven in from spring breaking at Panama City Beach). He's able to provide live singing, emceeing and can DJ for a fraction of the cost of the other guy we'd talked to. I'm happy with our choice and am glad to be supporting a local young guy with a bright future.

I took this video so Kevin could hear him sing, as well. Sorry for the crappy quality of the video, it was dark in the lounge and I didn't want to be THAT girl who turned the light on her camera. We love this song. Enjoy!

March 13, 2012

Observation: bobby pins are like roaches

Just a quick humor break in the midst of moving (back into parents' house to save money for wedding, this is the beginning of a wild adventure), I had this epiphany tonight while clearing out the remnants of my bedroom in my first and favorite apartment.

You know how dinosaurs and wooly mammoths and saber tooth tigers and all those prehistoric animals were here a long, long time ago and then died and were gone forever? But those roachy pests crawling below their feet somehow managed to make it through whatever catastrophic event it was that did them in, right?

I predict that hundreds of years from now, when I am nothing but a pile of dust (maybe the rest of us humans are all gone, too, who knows), that just as there will still be roaches, there will still be bobby pins.
These are authentic bobby pin specimens with  human hair still attached to them!

I believe the blonde ones I usually purchase are especially efficient at reproducing and scattering, much like their roach cousins. The photo above shows the number of bobby pins I found embedded in my carpet on the THIRD time of crawling around on my hands and knees to try and save them from their imminent doom of the vacuum cleaner.

Maybe if someone finds this blog a million years from now, they'll remember me as the girl who predicted that bobby pins would outlast the humans. Or something like that. :)

March 10, 2012

Say Yes to the Dress: Part 1

Today I went for my first round of trying out wedding dresses. I went into the appointment, KNOWING we would not buy anything. Not that I have anything against David's Bridal, but I have my heart set on going to this shop in Metairie that several people have recommended.That being said, I believe my disappointing experience was half-my attitude and half-the terrible service and lack of dresses in stock.

I'd been a good girl and registered on their website online beforehand and saved a few gowns to "my favorites." Five dresses total, three were their Vera Wang line. We show up at the store. It's MADNESS. I'd forgotten it's prom season. Not to mention, countless last-minute-shopping spring brides. Even though I'd entered all of my information online, I had to shout it out above the noise to the hostess for her to re-enter it into the system. Strike one. On top of that, a terrible Nickelback song was playing on the store radio. Strike two. Then they immediately tell me that the three Vera Wang dresses I'd saved as favorites aren't in stock because their store doesn't carry them, but they recommend they could order one (after I pay for it) or I could go to Jackson if I wanted to try them on. Mmhmm. OKAY. Strike three.

And now, perhaps I'm at guilt here for having watched a few too many marathons of Say Yes to the Dress, but I was flat out heartbroken when my "bridal consultant" (I say it like that because you can hardly call her that, she's simply stuck in a retail job until she gets through school, OBVIOUSLY) had to go get something out of her car and sent my mom and I to look through the racks and pick out some I'd like to try. Bleh. I'm pretty much over it by now and we had just gotten there.

I grab a few. My consultant shows me to my fitting room, where another bride's entire family and bridesmaids are sitting outside of the door. She then hangs up the dresses and shuts the door saying, "You won't need any help putting these on, huh?" I just kind of mumbled, "Umm... I'll let you know if I do."

To save you all from the gory play-by-play, I'll conclude by saying it wasn't THAT terrible. I accomplished a little of what I'd wanted to, to try on different styles with my body type to see what I liked (not to mention added motivation to stay strong on my diet). The consultant had a nice personality but does not belong in that position. We left there and visited the next-door Men's Wearhouse (which had excellent service) and I found a groom/groomsmen look I really like. I just might need a little guidance on how much I can expect a groomsman to be willing to pay for a tux. I'm pretty desensitized to that since being a bridesmaid (x5) is not a cheap honor and it just comes with the territory that you're going to be forking over some money for a dress, shoes, jewelry, hair, gifts, showers, parties, traveling, hotels, etc. Disclaimer: I don't want to make them spend a ton, but I think under $200 for a tux is reasonable. Right?

Any advice from former or current brides would be a big help!

March 9, 2012

I'm a Southern Weddings Blogger!

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon the Southern Weddings Magazine website. I was SO excited to find such a niche, especially one that I instantly found inspiration from and hope to be able to contribute to with my own wedding. I did a search on their site for Mississippi weddings and found none. :( And under preferred vendors from Mississippi, there were only two. :( Heartbroken. I wondered why this Southern Wedding website was leaving out a truly southern state with very blog-worthy weddings happening 52 weekends of the year.

So instead of tweeting my complaints about it, I was proactive and sent a note to Emily, their Art Director. She responded sweetly, of course, explaining that they're only able to feature weddings based on submissions they receive (she did provide links to two past featured MS weddings that had been archived). Today they posted a call for brides blogging in the South. I responded and got their official button (you can see it over to the right) and am listed on their page! Woo hoo!

So I plan on talking to my photographer and creating a plan to get the necessary shots to submit our wedding to hopefully get featured and I'd like to challenge any of my followers who are Mississippi brides or know one to submit theirs too! Let's get Mississippi featured on the Southern Weddings website! They also need vendors, so I want to encourage the vendors I know to get involved with this website to help showcase what we have going on here in Mississippi!

March 7, 2012

Venue Showcase

To my handful of followers, I'm sure you're just dying to know more information about the venues we've chosen for our wedding festivities. I'm super excited about the places our guests will get to experience. Our choices satisfy my desires as well as the groom's while also providing a scenic 
and historical picture window for our out-of-town guests. Our local guests will appreciate the selections, as well, I'm sure.
Gulf Hills Hotel overlooking Back Bay and Fort Bayou
Ever since I moved into the Gulf Hills neighborhood nearly two years ago, I knew that I wanted it to play some part in our wedding logistics plan. It's picturesque in that it's a golf course and hotel nestled quaintly into one of the coast's oldest upscale neighborhoods. 

Where I'll spend my last night as a single lady.
Trivia: Elvis had an custom, oversized king bed put in this
room originally, but the hotel now keeps a regular
king size mattress, hence the oversized headboard.

I believe that Mississippi girls are born to love Elvis. The King of Rock and Roll is our own state's baby boy and many of us know the lyrics to Hound Dog before we're out of diapers. Elvis made his summer home at Gulf Hills in the 50s, courting a local Biloxi lady. He's still a legend around these parts, locals proudly pointing out places he visited and the older generations remember seeing him around town.

The bar Elvis used to play guitar from.
My own PawPaw, now gone, used to tell the best stories about working at Gulf Hills and holding the reins for Elvis as he rode the horses at the old dude ranch. PawPaw also knew every nook and cranny and every quirky fact about the neighborhood, as he laid the foundation for many of the homes in the 70s with his dirt and gravel hauling business.

Gulf Hills is where I've got a room block for our guests and I'll spend the night in the Love Me Tender, Love Me Suite with my bridesmaids the night before the wedding. The photos pictured above are from the suite.
Artistic view of St. Alphonsus

Nuptial Mass
Kevin and I will be united in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony by a full mass at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in quaint downtown Ocean Springs. The ceremony choice was a no-brainer as both of us are pretty serious about our Catholic faith and want our marriage blessed by the church. St. Al's sits among moss covered live oak trees and is a mere one block from Ocean Springs beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. It's also one block from the restaurants and shopping downtown has to offer. After the sun goes down, our guests can enjoy the nightlife on Government Street.

Aside from the simplistic beauty of this church (which the groom and I both feel rivals that of the magnificent Nativity Cathedral), I've got a few sentimental connections to this parish. Long before I was even thought of and back in the day when fishing and mud riding was what kept them busy, my own dear parents were married at the same St. Alphonsus church in August of 1980.
A very young Mama and Dad in 1980 at St. Alphonsus.

My mama's family actually attended St. Alphonsus as she was growing up. Last January when our family faced the unthinkable - the sickness and death of PawPaw - as our time left with him grew smaller, we asked the tough question of, "What church do you want us to use?" Although he'd attended another church in his older years, he told us with complete certainty that he wanted St. Alphonsus for his funeral mass and services. That connection may be a somber one, but it still serves as a reminder of the special significance of the church to our family.
A friend's wedding held at St. Alphonsus in November
The last reason I decided St. Alphonsus was the only choice for our wedding is that the pastor there now is Father Henry McInerney, the same priest who baptized me back in 1986. This past weekend when Kevin and I met with him together for the first time, Fr. Henry joked with me, apologizing for he did not remember baptizing me nearly 26 years ago. I smiled and said, "That's okay Father, neither do I." :) His Irish accent will provide comedic relief in the ceremony, especially hearing him say KOWALEWSKI.

This is an older picture, that parking lot no longer exists.
The reception venue of choice was possibly the hardest decision of all. There were a couple of options, but the Nativity Sacred Heart Center provides a happy compromise for all parties involved. It's actually the parish hall for Nativity Cathedral. It is the old Sacred Heart Academy, a long-closed Catholic school. It's been renovated into a beautiful event space, complete with tall ceilings, wood floors and ornate lighting. I love it because it fits very well with my vintage travel decor. Just walking in the ballroom gave me the feeling that I was stepping back in time but with updated features and modern equipment. They provide the tables and chairs is nice, too. I checked the bathrooms, plenty of stalls, and a good deal of counter space should my heart desire to fancy it up in there. I also really like that it's also got a classroom with a private potty so I'll have my own refuge for bustling dress, refreshing hair or makeup, and my bridesmaids and other attendants can have a place to keep their stuff.
This is what it looks like now.

The ginormous windows will let in a great deal of natural sunlight in the early hours of the reception, I'm hoping for great pictures with folks not having to use flashes, etc. I'm in love with the entranceway as well (not shown here), it's a good sized foyer that will allow for a large sign in table for my secret sign-in idea (no books here, y'all), there is also room to set up the display of our parents' and grandparents' wedding photos and any other decor I could imagine could fit there.
They have another set of banquet chairs, the ones I'll use
are yellow with gold metal.

We've secured the Biloxi Visitor's Center for the rehearsal dinner, but the only pictures they've given me have been tiny little pictures from a word document they sent. Once I have better images I'll showcase that, as well.

My next orders of business are to formally ask my bridesmaids for their hands in bridesmaidery and to send Save the Dates as soon as we have engagement pictures taken!

Also - Project: Wedding Diet started hardcore last week and I'm already 7 pounds down.

March 6, 2012

Date Update!

Alright folks, it's getting real. We have a wedding date! Last night my mom and my friend Jessica, who's actually starting her own business as a wedding designer, and I visited the Sacred Heart Center in Biloxi and decided it was a winner, put down a deposit and signed the contract. Done!

The date will be October 27, 2012. Maybe I'm biased because I am an October baby, but I am so excited to be getting married in my favorite month! My next post will be to introduce you all to our venues and tell you a little about why I chose each one, I am truly happy with our choices so far. I think from rehearsal dinner to ceremony to reception to lodging for our guests, we have made great decisions keeping both ourselves and our guests in mind.

March 1, 2012

Project: Wedding Date

Holy crap. This process is kicking my butt. The emotions I've experienced since getting engaged have ranged from ultimate euphoria to wanting to pull my hair out.
Oddly enough I found
this image on a bridal website

And it's not even been three weeks yet. I KNOW. We're pretty dead-set on a 2012 wedding especially considering I'm moving back in with the parents and as much as I love dad and #momzilla, I'd rather that stay not be longer than it has to be.

We decided fall would be a nice time to get married. The coast is beautiful in the fall and we have to plan at least 6 months out to take the required marriage preparation classes through the church. Requirement number 1, check.

Kevin has two friends getting married in September and one that is in the Marines not returning until October, okay, dealing well. And then comes the round of musical church appointments.

I've gone from wanting the grand, magnificent, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral for the ceremony to seeking the quaint, homey, familiar, and still gorgeous appear of St. Alphonsus (also where my parents were married, grandfather's funeral, and the priest there baptized me). I've flip flopped between these two options about eleventy billion times in the last two and a half weeks.

Gulf Hills Hotel and Conference Center
Then there's the reception venue. I had my heart set initially on a St. Alphonsus ceremony and Gulf Hills reception. Gulf Hills is the neighborhood where I live, it's got a golf course and a charming ballroom and hotel nestled among the live oaks along the bayou. Elvis stayed there during the summers of his hey-day and my grandfather used to work there and then basically laid the foundation for the entire neighborhood. It's got history, charm, great views, and SUCKY policies. I had tears in my eyes as the event coordinator toured us through the Love Me Tender, Love Me Suite where I can just imagine myself spending my last night as a single girl with my bridesmaids in tow. And then came the heartbreaking policy conversation, the event is limited to 4 hours and you have to purchase your alcohol from them (Kevin wants to take care of that). I realize 4 hours is probably longer than the new Mr. and Mrs. Kowalewski will want to stay, but I want my family and friends to be able to party into the night if that's what tickles their fancy. Room block here? Yes. Reception? Eh...

Sacred Heart Center
So then came another option, the Sacred Heart Center, the parish hall adjacent to Nativity BVM. Beautiful venue, a renovated schoolhouse, GIANT windows letting in lots of sunlight to kill the party mood since we'd likely have to have a daytime wedding. This venue also comes with a hefty fee. It's still a viable option though.

And then the groom, affectionately called groomzilla starting today, fell in love with a third venue. The brand spanking new Biloxi Visitor's Center. It's a gorgeous building, reasonable fees, is also a museum, and is unavailable on the dates we have churches available. GREAT. It's got an awesome view of the beach, the lighthouse, a magnificent porch to watch the sunset on. But neither of us have been there. Sooooo we're doing that this weekend.

I'm still working to find a date that will make everyone happy, and preferably one that will include the photographer I've had my heart set on for quite some time now, Lisa Tilley.

Hopefully during groom's visit this weekend we'll make a decision We've got meetings with a priest, a DJ, possibly a caterer, a photographer, and plan to check out a venue or two or three.

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