Sunday, December 29, 2013

Wedding Bells. On a Dime.

If you've been reading for a while, you've heard me talk about Operation slash the food budget.  (Which we are still very much doing with great success I might add.) You've also heard me talk about letting my natural hairs grow in and how to embrace that, and save some yearly cash while skipping visits to the salon. (Also going along alright.  I've got about two inches of natural & gray grow-out, and on a good day it doesn't bug me at all.  Once the blonde has all been grown out and cut off, I'll probably love it judging from how I feel about it thus far.  It's a process.)  You've also watched me attack Pottery Barn catalogues and soak up inspiration while making similar-for-less items.  I do believe that we're here for a whole lot more than the here-and-now, yet we can sure make the present a lovely place for those we do life with, and it doesn't have to cost an arm and leg to do it.

 When my husband's younger sister decided to get married, her biggest obstacle was finances.  I laughed and said, "Oh goodness you don't need that much money to throw a wedding!  What's a wedding anyway, but a pretty dress, nice location, a cake, some flowers, a minister and a person with a camera?  Sheesh, we could do that!"  And from that point on, it was "Okay Sash... put your money where your mouth is."  Literally. The location was decided to be at my house, and I stalked Pinterest like a mad woman and my sis in law and I sent feverish texting marathons to one another every day, all day, for weeks.  Adrain dubbed it "The Micro-Wedding."  The guest list included pretty much immediate family only, totaling approx 25 people.  That's your money-saver right there folks!  I was most worried about making it work within my very limited space of my 1500 square foot home but the guest list was manageable so it worked. 

Two photos up is my narrow chalkboard, that I've talked about before on this blog but I'm too tired to go find you any links right now.  It was made from a narrow board, pre-cut from Lowes, and covered in chalk paint, then nailed to some stained trim pieces, and it's a favorite.  I used thumb tacks and attached my ampersand from Ballard Designs to the center.  Then I printed out their names, coated the back of the paper with chalk.  Next I laid the chalk-coated paper where I wanted it on the chalk surface and traced the outline of their names with a sharp pencil.  I removed the paper and filled in the chalk outlines with chalk and the sign was done in under fifteen minutes.  You can do that! (I can't believe I didn't always know about that trick.  I think of all the many free-hand chalking I've done over the years and how much time this technique would have saved!)

 We used stickers to make the "SIP" sign then popped it into a frame I had on hand.  So easy and cute.


 We had everything planned but I hadn't seen the containers my sis in law was bringing for the hot cocoa station yet...   The day before the wedding, she brought the one that her church had agreed to lend her- it was this poopy brown monstrosity and none of us liked it.  One of my brother in law's saved the day with a sleek metal number and we banished "Old poopy" out to the garage, never to be seen again.  My Instagram peeps had a field day with ideas on how to disguise "Old poopy."  We laughed and laughed over them.

  My man insisted on the pretty white folding chairs.  He wanted his sister to have a real-feeling wedding, even if it was in our home.  I think that made me love him even more.

 In looking back I would say the biggest key to creating a wedding on about $200-300 budget was this- flexibility.  My sis in law was so thrilled to be getting married, she wasn't adamant about much, and was very willing to get creative and stay flexible.  (She totally trusted me which was a freaky and fun responsibility all in one.)  She had about two months to plan and to her credit, she made the entire process dreamy.  (Perhaps the more time you have, the more money you spend? Ha!) In the end, she found a gorgeous wedding gown at a thrift store and spot cleaned it.  We created her birdcage headband/veil after she saw a few on Pinterest that she loved and it cost about $15 to make. We also found a cute wrap sweater from a local consignment store for $10 to complete her outfit, since we knew it might be chilly for outside photos.

I hung a mirror using ribbon and an over-the-door hook, on our guest room/office armoire and she now had a dressing room/hideaway until the ceremony began. 

We knew a wedding cake was out (plus she didn't really like cake) so we made one from stacked Oreo cookies and she found a hysterical topper at Michaels.  (I used a layer of chocolate icing to attach the first layer of Oreos to the platter and then we layered them from there.  It worked great.)  A full meal was also out because the time of day was planned to be around 2:00pm (after lunch but before dinner) so she opted for a hot cocoa bar along with the cookies and let me tell you how inexpensive a tin of Cocoa and a few boxes of Oreos from Costco is.  Very.  (We used two full Costco-sized boxes for her cake.) Also perfect for a post Christmas afternoon.  (You could easily do an iced coffee bar or lemonade in the summer months, with sugar cookie cakes or donut cakes rather than the Oreo cake.  We saw tons of great alternative ideas on Pinterest.)  The cocoa stir-ins were marshmallows, white and milk chocolate chips and crushed candy canes.  She also loved the Pirouline cookies so we served those in jars alongside the cocoa.  Simple is not only elegant but easy.  Gotta love that.
The bride chose a color scheme of neutral grays, creams and whites, and a general branded theme of "Best day ever."  We printed cup liners using gray card stock, and attached them to plain white coffee cups with hot glue, and then I created a print that coordinated and we scattered the message around the house.  We used the same fonts for everything so a nice flow connected everything.  (We used Bombshell Pro and Corbel fonts on all our printed items.) 

I used the narrow hallway when you first enter my home as a welcoming station.  We set out wrapped Jordan almonds, her guest book with small cards and a pen.  I maximized the tiny space by printing up simple signs and hanging them on the wall.  The signs included her theme of "Best day ever" (Print will be available from my shop next month) and one that read, "Thank you for celebrating with us.  Please sign our guest book & have a sweet treat."  The big ampersand was a gift from one of my besties, Nurse Nicki, who said, "This just screamed Sasha to me... and feel free to paint it or do anything you want to it."  I do love a friend who GETS me.  Ha!  Yes, I painted it white.  Yes, I have plans to make it into a marquee letter next.


My sis in law really liked the simplicity of baby's breath so we ordered two grower's bunches from a grocery store florist.  That ended up totaling around $30-$40, and from that we made her bouquet, a boutonniere for the groom, a huge bouquet in a galvanized bucket for the table top, along with a few smaller arrangements on counter tops. Her bouquet was a snap, just wiring a handful of baby's breath together, then wrapping and pinning it with a white satin ribbon and cutting the flower stem ends nice and even. 

Don't ask about the boutonniere-making process, as I wanted to throw it out the window. 

(Hey, I never told her I was a florist... I just told her that I was free. Ha!)

For decorations we knew that days after Christmas, there would still be plenty of Christmas-y decor out.  She wanted me to keep my tree up, but just take everything but lights off it, and it was really pretty.  We both loved this idea  and purchased some wide crepe paper rolls from Paper Mart.  We cut them down the middle, fringed the edges, then hung them from the ceiling.  To the backs we added some strings of white lights and it was magical.  I was so scared it was going to be prom-like but it truly wasn't.  It was simple and pretty and everyone kind of caught their breath when the rounded the corner and saw it. We used mason jars wrapped them with printed vellum paper for cocoa stir-in labels, and that could not have been simpler.  We rented white folding chairs since we had about 24 people total.  They were about $2.00-$3 a piece depending on which kind of chair you rented.  We used a long drop cloth with sticky backing for the runner and that was that. (Please ignore the trampled look it has in this photo- this was after gazillions of children had run back and forth over the top of it.  Still, nobody tripped or fell. Praise the Lord!)

We toyed with the idea of  setting up a few drop cloth covered hay bales around our backyard fire pit but decided to just keep it cozy indoors. No bride really wants to smell like campfire smoke. 

My father is an ordained minister so he agreed to do her wedding for free and I promised to take a few photos of them.  I do think that calling in favors from family and friends is a great way to save money and it is awesome to involve others in your special day.  Though I was a bit freaked out about taking their photos- It pretty much scared the pee right out of me to be honest, but they were sweet and said they would be okay with anything.  (I was prepared to hold them to that and didn't breathe a sigh of relief until it was all said and done, and photos were uploaded onto my computer.)  I will share loads of photos from their special day after New Year's, otherwise we'd be here all day.... but for now I have included a few of the ones I've shared on Instagram already and don't you think they are a sweet-looking pair? 

(Adrain says I always end my posts with a question.  Do I really do that? Have you noticed that about me too?)  

"Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up."
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas feels so long ago...

The remainders of dropped food and silken flower petals have been swept up.  Folding white chairs have been collapsed and stacked neatly in the garage, awaiting their Monday return to the rental store.  Furniture and wall hangings have been dragged back in from the garage, and are slowly resuming familiar places.   Family members have been hugged again and again as well-wishes were called out to them.  Car doors have been slammed, horns honking at one another, and goodbyes have been waved from my front porch.

Quiet descends.

The wedding of Adrain's younger sister is over tonight, and you're talking to one tired woman right now.  Ive you have been following me on Instagram, (@Lemonademakinmama) you've seen a bit of the play-by-play of the day's events.  It was lovely. 

And Christmas?  That blessed holiday that consumed my thoughts for the past month or more... well it seems like it was decades ago.  I realized that I hadn't shared any photos or thoughts from Christmas, when we were suddenly thrust into "Operation Have a Wedding on a Dime."  I will be sharing a ton of sweet photos and memories from the blessed event, but before I do that, I wanted to share a bit of our Christmas with you before the New Year hits and I totally forget. 

 Thankful for... a man who takes over breakfast making duties on occasion. 
 Thankful for funny memories over a ham grinder.  This is the very same grinder I used to help my mama with when she made her special ham-pineapple loaf for Christmas.  Loved making it for my kiddos. 
 Thankful for... moments of celebration.  Reasons to celebrate... Jesus being born.

 Thankful for... sunshine pouring into my kitchen.

 Thankful for... gf monkey bread.  Mmmm.
 Thankful for... sweet moments mid-Christmas morning as kiddos play and relax.
 Thankful for- your Christmas cards.  I can't tell you how it blesses our hearts to get your sweet cards even though most of you, we've never even met!  So fun! (And next year I am going to TRY to get some cards out myself.)
Photos.  I didn't actually take that many.  I don't know what  my deal was... no, actually that's not entirely true.  I do.  One child was requiring a LOT out of my husband and I, (most of you have been there so you know) a cold was starting to settle into my chest, and a good book was sucking me down to my uncomfortable (and slightly odd-smelling) sofa.  What can I say?  I snapped a few here and there, but only in the quiet moments, not the flurry.

We hit the candle-lit service which is always sweet.  I love singing Silent Night and lifting my single candle in unison with hundreds of other candles and sweet voices.  Then we rushed to grandma's house for Christmas eve celebrating.  Then home to bed.  Then up again with grandparents on the doorstep for breakfast (and mimosas) at eight.  And then we let the kiddos tear into their gifts.  The weekend highlights included laughing over this book.  Eating eggnog french toast made by my man.  Watching my man set up a hiking tent in the kitchen.  Opening up a box of slippers that contained three slippers.  Going to see Saving Mr. Banks.  Crying during the movie. (It was very sweet.) Dealing with the child that was requiring a lot from us, as he was in full blown meltdown by the evening of Christmas day... and finally sinking down on my mattress, mumbling a prayer of thanks for family, loved ones, and children's bedtimes before hitting the ground running for wedding prep the next morning. Ha! 

And now... I shall nap. 

(But...I will return soon with tons of great wedding ideas that will save $ and look cute.)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The expectant hush.

I wait for it each year.  That point in time, where the to-do list is shoved aside and my expectations get examined and then carefully packed away, with the quiet acceptance of the here and now.  I wait to find that expectant hush, where worship and celebration meet in a glorious union, and all of the cares, worries and frivolities of the season begin to finally melt away.

This year, getting to that place has been a challenge.  Adrain often says that relationships are like a bank account.  You make deposits and you make withdrawals but you have to make sure there are enough deposits being made to balance the withdrawals.  We've been given a mission field, and we love it... but lately we've had withdrawal after withdrawal with very few deposits.  We realized too late, that we had been drained to nearly nothing and it was past time to reassess a few things and a few boundary lines.  You can't really "give" when you've been bled dry.  We have been left angry, hurt or frustrated on more than one occasion over this past month.  We've been left on one hand, wanting to be brutally honest, yet on the other... wanting to be respectful and not damage the fragile remains of the relationships.  Oh what a delicate balance.

Yesterday, we chose to step back in order to breathe again, and in the quiet of the day, the great Gift made it's presence known to our hearts.  Jesus, with His tender voice and compassionate nature reminded us that we must love and forgive to the extent that we have been loved and forgiven by Him.  We swallowed hard and laid down the things we couldn't change.  The frustrations with people we couldn't change- people who don't seem to be capable of change. We laid down our expectations.  Those expectations when left unmet, leave us wanting, and bitter, and so confused in our anger. The only thing that can be done is to let that go. So we let it all go....stretching our fingers out wide in front of us, palms up in desperate prayers for those hurting in our circle. I've heard it said that a person drowning in a stormy ocean can not reach for the rescue rope when they are clinging desperately to the side of sinking craft.  The only way to survive is to let go of the thing sucking you down and put all of your faith into lurching toward that which can save you, both arms outstretched to grasp it.

We all deal with difficult situations or frustrating encounters with loved ones covered in sand paper that rub us the wrong way.  And we have all probably thought, "Hey, this isn't the way the holiday is supposed to go!"  But that's what messes us up in the first place- that expectation that it's going to be better this time.... or finally be different...  or finally change, etc.  That's a heavy load to carry and the only place a person carrying a load that size can get relief is by leaving it at the foot of the manger, knowing that the shadow of the cross and the love modeled and poured out for us there, is our lifeline.  That is where our only saving power is found.  That is where our bitterness turns into thankfulness.  That is where anger melts away and love and forgiveness slip through the cracks of our hearts.

(And now because I probably won't blog again until next week, I wanted to leave you with a few photos of the past week.  We got some snow for a day.  It's nearly all gone now.  Rained away.  So sad.  Ava danced in a gorgeous old theatre- she was an angel- and did a lovely job both nights.  I was taking photos and somehow flipped my manual focus button on at some point, so most of my shots didn't turn out.  I'll show you them anyway.  I made the same coconut chocolate tart from Thanksgiving, only we added a layer of my salted caramel sauce in between the coconut crust and the ganache.  Oh my heaven.  (I sprinkled pink sea salt on top too.)  All of my greenery died so I did some reshuffling.  The tree in a wood bowl is my favorite.)

As we prepare for this week, my man and I are focusing on the saving power that begins with a baby, born for our many sins. Born to die, born to rise from the grips of that death and born to save.  We give you our heartfelt wishes for peace and the assurance that in whatever circumstance you are in right now... God sees you.  Even you.  He sees your joys and He sees your tears.  He came for you and He would have come even if it had been for ONLY you.  

Merry Christmas my friends.

John 3:30 "He must become greater; I must become less.”