the wedding chronicles | decision #18

THE HONEYMOON

Hello!  Phillip Davis here.  By now I am sure that everyone knows who I am:  Kelsey’s fiance, “other half,” photographer for our NRW (New Restaurant Wednesday) excursions, vacation planner aficionado, and finally significant other.  It’s great to finally guest blog on her website, and for that reason I am honored to begin my blogging quest with wedding decision number 18, the honeymoon!

This decision came to me as a surprise because I did not know where to begin.  I have envisioned lots of different places and ideas that could all be very unique to our traveling experiences thus far.  For instance, we could travel abroad and visit new countries over in Europe and make it a week-long excursion by “Euro” hopping around.  We could keep things simple and do a domestic road trip around the Atlantic coastline with food and drink stops along the way.  Or, we could make it a nice getaway to a Caribbean island and relax on the beach.  It was very difficult and challenging to decide because my dialogue with Kelsey for the past year has been something like, “So, honey, where would you like to go for our honeymoon?”  She’d respond, “Oh, it doesn’t matter…as long as we are together.”  This made the decision more difficult in my mind because I would have hoped she could have envisioned the ideal spot for us to land for a week or two.

With the help from our AAA agent Renee, we decided to give her a visit during one of our vacation days away from work and grab some suggestions from her.  Now Renee came highly recommended by our siblings Kyle and Kari since they used her to plan their two-week European excursion a couple of months ago.  The family mentioned to us that “prices were good, “she was the best agent at AAA”, and “you won’t be disappointed.”  Seeing that family is almost always right about these kind of decisions and ideas, Kelsey and I gave her a try.

When we arrived at the AAA office, the entire staff was very friendly and welcomed us inside.  Renee, who was diligently typing away at her computer and finishing a phone call with a prior client, smiled at us and said, “You must be Kelsey and Phillip; please grab a seat.”  Immediately Kelsey and I sat at the two seats at her desk and introduced ourselves.  Renee’s first question to us was “So, where do you envision going for your honeymoon?”  Kelsey began by responding, “Anywhere that is adult-friendly and has no kiddos around.”  I nodded my head in agreement but wasn’t quite sure what to say after, so I let the ladies continue in conversation.  Shortly thereafter Renee grabbed a large AAA destination handbook that literally looked like the Bible for vacationers!  She flipped through the pages and came across some highly recommended resorts in the Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands.  Notice the pattern?  I may have mentioned to Renee that a Caribbean resort wouldn’t be such a bad idea, so she went on to peruse the typical spots that most adults had traveled to.  Now I was excited and wanted to see which resorts would be nice for a relaxing time.

Of the countless options we saw in the book, Renee did in fact recommend a few resorts in the Dominican Republic (specifically the Punta Cana area) that would suit us perfectly.  The options were adults only, all-inclusive, provided easy beach access, and included amenities and activities to do.  Shortly after hearing the details of these resorts, Kelsey and I decided to leave the office and think about it together.

I did some more research on my own accord while Kelsey was traveling for work and came to a final decision that would be ideal for our needs.  I decided on the perfect resort in the Dominican Republic that would an ideal spot for our first week as newlyweds.  Besides, I wanted to ensure that Kelsey gets a massage or two while there and that we can go on a snorkeling excursion, which by the way is included in the resort package!  To me it’s a win-win situation and I am sure that Kelsey will enjoy it, and that is all that matters to me.

the wedding chronicles | decisions #16 and #17

HAIR & MAKEUP

probably two of the more important decisions to make for many brides, your wedding hair and wedding makeup can make all the difference in helping you feel your absolute best on your big day, and this is coming from a girl who pretty much never wears makeup nowadays and considers it a small miracle if her hair manages to stay presentable from sun up to sun down.  the trick to it all, as several past brides have told me, is to let the stylists create a wedding day look that simply enhances, not masks, what the good Lord already gave you.  well, when i look at it that way, i’m much more open to the idea.

now, the question regarding hair and makeup is where do you begin your search?  as far as things go for me, i first started with what i knew, which was who my sister-in-law kari hired when she and kyle got married back in 2014.  she happily gave me some contact information, and i quickly turned around to send the first of many e-mail messages.  kyle and kari got married in roswell, georgia, which meant most of their vendors were local to the greater atlanta area.  therein was a bit of a problem for me:  with our wedding being in peachtree city (practically on the complete opposite side of town and definitely outside the greater atlanta area), i would have to pay travel fees per mile for the stylists to get to me.  now, if we were having a remote destination wedding, i’d understandably bite the bullet and pay, but before committing, i decided to investigate and see if we had other options.

as it would end up being the case for many of our vendors, i asked the director at glendalough manor if they had any preferred recommendations for hair and makeup.  what do you know, they did!  as soon as i was able, i booked the trial appointments and invited the crew to come along for the fun.

now, if you aren’t in “the know” in this regard, oftentimes you do a trial or dress rehearsal for hair and makeup before your actual wedding day.  i know, i know.  among all the other things on our to-do list, you might not feel like you have time for this sort of thing.  i used to think that way, too.  however, i highly encourage you go through with the trials and here is exactly why.

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the wedding chronicles | decision #15

THE TABLE & ITS SETTINGS

in the grand scheme of things you might not really care about the table settings.  you’re probably even asking “kelsey, who really cares about the table settings?  why do i need to spend time worrying about this?  don’t i have more important things to decide?”  well, the answer is because if you are having a traditional sit-down reception (maybe a buffet or family-style dinner or a plated three-course meal) where your guests will be at a table, you will have options.  your caterer will bombard you with all sorts of linen colors and designs, standard table settings options and upgrades that are available, the chairs that come by default and then the fancy ones.  believe me when i say it can become a big blur very quickly.

my initial thought was “people are just at the tables to eat and then they’re on the dance floor and up and about after the meal is over, so why wouldn’t the regular options suffice?”  for us and our venue they wouldn’t suffice because they looked just a little too plain and needed a little something extra.  thankfully we had room in our budget to do a little upgrading on the tablecloths to elevate the whole picture a bit.  i could have gone really crazy with chair covers and gilded plate chargers, but the more i thought about it the more i realized that sometimes simple is better.  a little glitz and glam goes a long way, and as far as the table goes i had to remind myself that our homemade centerpieces with the upgraded tablecloths, tealights, silverware, favors, and napkins would be more than enough because folks are going to have purses and clutches and other items to place on the table and we don’t want the tables feeling too cluttered.  you certainly don’t have to do any upgrading at all if it isn’t for you or if you don’t have the funds, but the good thing is that if you are wise with your choices, you can get a big bang for a few bucks more.

the wedding chronicles | decision #14

THE WEDDING BANDS

shopping for wedding bands was one of the most fun afternoons for phillip and me.  we returned to the same shop where phillip found my engagement ring and spent a couple of hours browsing rings, putting on rings, taking off rings, the whole enchilada!  the jewelers were patient with us as they explained everything and helped us narrow down our “styles” among the seemingly endless sea of options.  did we want something traditional?  did we want to be trendy?  did we want our rings to “go together?”  did we want yellow gold or white gold or a more non-traditional material entirely?  you see how it can be easy to spend lots of time trying to decide, yes?

we started the day off by looking for a band for me first.  i felt like i was in a dream as i examined case upon case of beautiful diamonds and designs.  i was so lucky to just be there browsing and even more fortunate that one of these gorgeous creations would be mine!  the owner melanie pulled some styles that were good pairings with my engagement ring, ones that matched nicely and others that were a little different but still complementary.  melanie made a good observation, saying that nowadays it’s very common for the wedding band to not necessarily match the engagement ring at all.  sometimes a “set” can be very beautiful but there really are now no rules for what the wedding band must be.  i liked that very much!  there are some things in life about which i am very old school and traditional, but i found that my eye was being drawn to some of the more modern band designs.  how about that!  i could have searched for hours more, but at some point the process gets a little overwhelming honestly.  i found i was stuck between one traditional band and one modern band.  not wanting to rush me, melanie suggested i wear both of them with my engagement ring in between while phillip searched for his ring.  she said that after having them on for a little while i would likely be more drawn to one of them.  well, i cannot argue with an expert, so i kept them both on as we switched gears to look for phillip’s band.

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the wedding chronicles | decision #13

THE HOTEL

once you all figure out how many people are going to be coming to your wedding, you then have to figure out where to put all of them!  how you go about figuring out accommodations depends, i think, largely on where your wedding is.  if you are having a destination wedding, your options might be very specific and limited.  if your wedding is going to be in a rural part of town, you may need to consider if there is lodging nearby or if guests will need to drive a little to get to the ceremony and reception.  luckily for phillip and me peachtree city has a good number of options for where our guests can stay, so based on his local knowledge and his mother michele’s recommendations, we (along with grandma lorraine because she was in town from ohio) began the hunt for the perfect hotel for ourselves and our guests.

the first place we looked was the crowne plaza.  michele mentioned it is a popular spot in town for conferences and of course visitors but is maybe best known for their Easter brunch.  well, any spot that serves a good brunch sounds like it’s worth a look!  we all piled into the kia and drove to the plaza and were initially in “like” with it because of the beautiful landscaping and tucked away feel.  so far so good.  after parking we then walked into the lobby and unfortunately were very underwhelmed.  per the front desk employee (who was very nice and informative), the plaza was undergoing renovations and, for us, was in too much of that “renovating” state for us to see past it.  not wanting to write the plaza off too soon, we took some time to walk the grounds and check out everything.  the plaza does have a picturesque water feature that is overlooked by the dining area, but this pro could not outweigh the biggest con for us, which was that the guest buildings felt very spread out and disconnected.  i truly think it would take you almost ten minutes to walk from one end of the property to the other, which would be unfortunate if our guests weren’t all booked in a block of rooms close together.  so, just like that we hopped in the car and carried on to our next destination, the hilton garden inn.

hilton garden inns tend to be one of my preferred lodging choices, mostly out of habit from work and also because i have a hilton rewards account.  🙂  the hgi in peachtree city is located off highway 74 and is easy to find, two things that seemed like positives to me.  just like at the crowne plaza, though, i was disappointed in the hgi right upon walking through its doors.  its lobby is tiny!  with a guest list of at least 150 and assuming maybe half of them stay at the hotel for the wedding, there would be no way people would be able to gather comfortably in their downtime.  in addition to a small lobby, the dining area for breakfast and the bar area were pretty tight as well.  out of courtesy to the employee who was showing us around, we still took a look at their larger gathering spaces (which of course come at an additional cost) and their rooms (which were pretty standard).  if i were visiting peachtree city on my own or with a small group of people, the hgi would be a great fit.  but for an event where nearly half of the guests are out-of-towners, the hilton garden inn wouldn’t work at all.  shall we press onward?

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the wedding chronicles | decision #12

THE GUEST LIST

based on my wedding planning experience, i think it’s a safe thing to say that the guest list very easily goes hand-in-hand with the venue.  as such this post probably could have come much earlier in the wedding chronicles, but better late than never.  🙂  i think it’s possible to think of it this way:  either your guest list dictates your venue or your venue dictates your guest list.  do we think this assessment is fair?  in my opinion it is because if you are in love with a particular space but it only can hold 100 people, then the guest list is 100.  on the other hand if you and your fiance(e) have humongous families and you know at least 200 people will be there, well then you’re going to need a ceremony and reception site big enough to fit them all, and that requirement in and of itself may eliminate certain locations.  again, sometimes your wedding decisions can be very logical.

as far as things go for phillip and me, we do have larger families and lots of out-of-town guests but also lots of locals since the event is taking place in phillip’s hometown of peachtree city.  so me?  i’m hopeful that most of the folks who received save-the-dates (and have invitations on the way in january) will be able to join us.  for our venues we’re paying for a minimum number of guests, so if at least that many if not a few more show i’ll be quite happy.  with that being said, i have heard from other couples who are recently engaged/married a statistic that about 30% of your guests won’t be able to make it.  well that’s just too bad, right?  but it also is a fact of life and is what it is.  regardless, understanding that a certain percentage of people won’t be able to join you in your big day can sometimes cause a little uncertainty as far as choosing a location.  do you pick a place that will fit a maximum of 70% of your guest list (if we’re going off this statistic) or do you book a venue that will hold 70%+ in the wonderful event that most of your guests can come?  that decision i leave up to you.  we are okay with having a minimum and then, if necessary, paying extra if we go over that amount.  however, if that is not your style, you’ll need to be more mindful about the venue you choose.  make sense?  i think so, too.

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the wedding chronicles | decision #11

THE FLOWERS

figuring out the flowers for our wedding has been an exciting process.  now, i may not have inherited my mother’s green thumb (at least not yet), but i do recognize and appreciate beautiful bouquets and buds and arrangements when i see them.  i can honestly say i had nearly as many floral magazine tear-outs as ones for the wedding dress!  and if the sky was the limit as far as the flower budget goes, you would see fresh flowers everywhere.  they would be on the church pew ends, they would be on an arch over the entrance to the reception, they would be the centerpiece for every table in the room, they would be fragrant and lush and in sight no matter where you look.  but, fresh flowers everywhere come at a steep cost, and as i have expressed previously, unless you have an unlimited budget, you will have to compromise at some point.  with all this being said, i am not at all discouraged about what my budget is for the flowers.  you just have to get creative with what you pick and where you use them and no one will be the wiser.  🙂

let’s take the centerpieces for starters.  big, blossoming centerpiece bouquets are often so beautiful and picturesque and certainly wedding day appropriate.  however, when you have a guest list of over 150, you’re going to need a lot of tables which of course means you’d then need a lot of centerpieces.  as much as i wish i could work fresh centerpieces into the budget, i also recognize that fresh centerpieces often cannot be repurposed, which means their beautiful lives are very short-lived.  you see how things start to come into perspective?  with this being known, it’s actually kind of a neat thing because then your centerpieces can be whatever you want them to be!  you could of course do silk flowers if you still want something floral, but just hop on pinterest and you’ll find thousands of floral centerpiece alternatives, many of them which you can do yourself.  i’m sure you’ve been to receptions where a picture of the newlyweds is in the center and surrounded by tealights galore or even where other common interests of the couple are used to depict one table from the other.  think maps of where the couple has vacationed together or pieces of music from their favorite composers.  really the options are endless!  i’m very excited for our handmade centerpieces and cannot wait for them to be revealed to our guests in april.

now, as far as flowers go elsewhere in the wedding (bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres), i decided real flowers were my heart’s desire, because where would the world be without real flowers!  many of the magazine pages i came across depicted the popular styles of today, which include lots of faded eucalyptus and soft pastel colors and even a few succulents here and there.  and although something like that would be perfect for our spring wedding, i wasn’t emotionally moved by them and didn’t feel they fit into our overall theme.  so, when my mother came in town for some wedding errands one weekend, we looked through all my ideas together and, thankfully, had the perfect luck in finding the combinations of greens and pinks and whites that would fit in just right for our big day.  the bridesmaids will hold some beautiful bouquets of greenery; the mothers’ and grandmothers’ wrist corsages will be simple and elegant; phillip, his best man, and the groomsmen have boutonnieres with ingredients inspired by my croatian heritage; and last but not least, my bouquet is going to be a fabulous combination of varying shades of pink with lots of different flower shapes and, in my mind, is going to be a spectacle in and of itself!  i can hardly contain my excitement!

the wedding chronicles | decision #10

THE MUSIC

chugging along through our to-do list, phillip and i had to make a decision about the music for both the ceremony and the reception.  we kind of worked our way backwards and began with figuring out what we wanted to do for the reception.  the ballroom at glendalough manor does have a fantastic stage for live music, and ever since i was a little girl i always thought it would be fantastic to have a live band playing at my wedding reception.  to that point, our friends grant and leah had a great 7-piece band play at their reception a few years ago, and it really was everything you could imagine a good wedding band to be.  they played modern favorites as well as great traditional reception songs and fit in perfectly with the atmosphere of the night.  the same goes for my cousin sara and her now husband christian.  at their wedding earlier this year they had a jammin’ band that belted out every rock hit you could imagine, including “sweet home alabama”!  now, as we all likely understand, a great band comes at a great price, and as much as i would love to have live music, phillip and i together decided we’d rather spend those (likely) thousands of dollars elsewhere on our big day.  unless you have an unlimited budget, you have to pick and choose at certain points.

now, glendalough manor has dozens of preferred vendors if you need help finding any and luckily one of those includes a house dj who has done nearly every single one of the wedding receptions at the manor.  he goes by the name jules and after meeting with him a few months ago, it was an easy decision to say “yes” to him as our wedding dj.  he was prepared for our meeting, answered our questions without hesitation, and was even open to suggestions for specific requests we had.  as nearly any guest will tell you, a good reception needs good music, so we are hoping that jules will get you all out the dance floor because that is certainly where you will find us!

as for the ceremony, since it is at phillip’s childhood church of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, there are understandably certain restrictions about the kind of music you can and cannot have.  however, we do thankfully have some flexibility.  for example, we can have recorded music played through the speakers or we can have live musicians.  we can go with more contemporary selections or keep it traditional with those wedding songs that have stood the test of time.  it really is up to us, and since phillip and i both are musically inclined, i anticipate we will be able to collaborate together to pick music that will complement the emotion of the day and be a perfect fit for us as individuals and a couple.  music means so much to us and i bet the soundtrack we pick for the ceremony won’t leave a dry eye in the house.  make sure you pack those tissues!

the wedding chronicles | decision #9

THE CAKE

in addition to being very dedicated to picking out a great photographer, phillip was also very excited about working together to pick out the perfect cakes for our big day.  now, you might be curious when i say “cakes,” as in multiple cakes and not just one, and you are reading correctly.  not at all modern-day weddings but at many it is a popular trend to have the standard wedding cake and now also a groom’s cake.  a groom’s cake, what is that?  well, it’s exactly what it sounds like it is:  a cake the groom gets to pick and decorate all to his liking.  now, this isn’t to be said that a bride and groom are incapable these days of picking a single cake together (which phillip and i definitely were able to do), but it’s just another fun thing (essentially another cost, if we’re being very honest) that helps to represent the coming together of two individuals into a single marriage.  and, if you’re like phillip and me and planning on only having one wedding day, then why not!  the more cakes the merrier.  🙂

although several bakers were recommended by the wedding coordinator, we decided first to try out a local baker near and dear to the davis family.  sister’s sweet creations has been baking cakes for years in peachtree city, and of all those bakes they have baked, several include countless cakes enjoyed at davis family birthday parties, events, and occasions of all sorts.  and so since cathy (the lead baker at sister’s sweet creations) already had a special place in phillip’s heart, we figured we’d start with her and go from there.  so, phillip, his mother michele, and i met up on a beautiful thursday afternoon to press our luck at sister’s sweet creations.

the bakery has a tiny storefront, but right in the middle they’d put together a couple of tables with a generous spread of freshly baked cupcakes, cookies, and all sorts of frostings.  i think i could get used to this kind of service!

cathy first asked for all the “vitals” – the wedding date, location, number of guests, so on and so forth.  we were in luck that our wedding date was available and, better yet, that she and her crew only commit to one wedding per day.  i definitely liked that answer, knowing that our cakes will be her primary focus.  so far so good, and we hadn’t even taken a taste!

we then also started talking design.  for the wedding cake, we hadn’t yet pinned down a particular style or color or theme, but the good news is that sister’s sweet creations has a lot of experience with many different techniques.  we together scrolled through their gallery online as cathy pointed out different trends and ideas, and even though we didn’t finalize anything for the wedding cake, i do think we got a better of what will work for us and our venue.

now as for the groom’s cake, phillip had a very specific vision in mind.  i don’t want to spoil the surprise, so all i’ll say is this:  phillip’s cake definitely represents who he is and the things he loves.  i highly recommend you check out his cake (and the wedding cake, too) before dinner is done at the reception.  we think you’ll love them both!

at this point you’re likely thinking to yourself, “kelsey, it’s great that you’re going with a local baker and we can’t wait to see these stunning cake designs, but what about the flavors?  what do we have to look forward to in five months?”  well, i’ll start by saying that all the cakes and frostings and buttercreams we tasted at sister’s sweet creations were delicious.  but, of course, having all of them in one cake or even two might be a little much.  so, if you insist on knowing, we were able to narrow down the delicious flavors as follows.  first, the groom’s cake will be a combination of chocolate cake and peanut butter frosting (we highly recommend getting a slice of this one when you’re there).  and as for the wedding cake, it will be three tiers, one with the bakery’s signature flavor called “strawberry champagne,” one with a classic and delicious white almond, and a third with dangerously sweet white chocolate raspberry.  i expect it will be grand and rich and the perfect treat to satisfy your sweet teeth.  we of course hope you love them as much as we do, but if not, then more cake for us!  🙂

rumor has it

that chipotle now has queso.  actually, it’s not really a rumor.  they’ve been promoting it for about a month now on tv and here in atlanta they’ve even put up big ‘ole billboard advertisements.

earlier this week i’d so conveniently forgotten my packed lunch at home in the refrigerator, so i ended up needing to go out for a bite to eat.  i wanted something quick and satisfying and figured chipotle would be a solid choice, especially since it’s very close to our office.  i ordered my chicken bowl like always and then decided i’d take a chance and try a cup of the queso with some chips.  i hadn’t heard the best reviews about it on social media but we all know how social media can be, so i thought i’d go out on a limb and find out for myself.

i ripped into the chips, opened the queso, took a dip, and had my first bite.  first things first, the spices they used in the queso were actually very tasty.  it was flavorful and had the slightest kick, probably due to the chipotle chili and jalapeno.  i took a couple more tastes and thought, “well, this isn’t as bad as people were making it sound.”

but then as i made my way to the bottom of the queso cup, a funny taste started to linger in my mouth.  something tasted off about the cheese and then the texture started to bother me as well.  the queso was very, very thick and actually not very smooth at all.  i guess “gloopy” would be a good word to use to describe it.  as for the cheese, i realized the issue after looking at the ingredient listing online:  they use cheddar cheese – ick!  now, don’t get me wrong, i love cheddar cheese, i love all cheese!  i haven’t yet met a cheese i don’t drool over, but cheddar cheese seems like the completely wrong choice for a queso.  maybe that’s because here in the south we’re used to a nice mild, white, smooth cheese in our queso or maybe it’s just because cheddar cheese really isn’t a good idea at all.  regardless, after finishing the queso (because i hate to waste) i swiftly scarfed down my chicken bowl to get the bad tastes out of my mouth.

now, with all this being said, i advise you try chipotle’s queso at your own risk.  and, if you do insist on giving it a taste, i will say this:  try just a cup of the stuff.  i truly don’t think it’d be wise to drizzle this stuff all over your tacos or burrito or bowl and ruin your entire meal.  you have been warned!