Amanda Moments
September 3, 2014

I’m back and finally linking up for Wedding Wednesday again!

Let’s talk about photography on the big day. I’ve talked a little about this before as being one of my regrets, but I wanted to expand on it so future brides can hopefully learn from my mistakes. Don’t get me wrong: My photographer did an amazing job. I was very happy with her. The problem was me, and specifically my not-specific direction and lack of thinking ahead to the shots I’d miss.

wedding photo tips


If I could go back in time, I would change my must-have shot list and how we handled photos on the day itself. I realized this shortly after the wedding, looking through my photos. I loved what I had! But I had some twinges about some shots that were missing entirely and some that I didn’t feel like I had nearly enough poses of. Let’s go over what I wish I had more of:

The Photos I Wish I Had (Or Had More Of)

-Couple shots. I really want more photos of just Cal and I. We have several of the bridal party and family members, but because we left ourselves for last, when time started becoming an issue, we rushed through them… and I want many more than we ended up with. I knew in the moment that I thought we should take more, but I wanted people to stop complaining about how we’d be late, so off we went. In retrospect, we weren’t late. I was the dang bride. They could have waited for me at the reception if it meant I got exactly what I wanted for photos. This was my one and only wedding day, and now I can’t go back in time for more. The chance is gone.

-Individual shots of Cal and I, separately. The reason that little headshot of my in the top corner of this blog hasn’t changed? Because I don’t have anything else to go there. That’s the only photo of just me from that day I like enough to go there. Ugh.

-Me with each bridesmaid individually. I took one of me and my MoH’s and with my new sister, but that left two bridesmaids without a photo of just us. I’ve thought of some cute gift ideas I could have done had I had those, but I don’t, and I deeply regret it. It would have been two more poses. We could have fit it in. And those two girls aren’t any less special, so I should have included them in that list.

-Cal getting ready. Thank God we hired a videographer, because they got some scenes of Cal putting his suit jacket on, but I don’t have a single photo of it. I would have loved his dad tying his tie, but I never told my photographer to leave me to go get that shot. I don’t even have a crappy cell phone photo from the guys’ room.

-More detail shots. I didn’t think I’d want many of these, but turns out now I really do want them. Yes, we got the ring shot, the bouquet shot, the shoes and the favors, but I don’t have a nice picture of my centerpieces. Which I spent hours making by hand with my friends. Now it feels like a waste because there’s no proof of how cute they turned out. You can only see one in the background of a shot from the dance floor. I also wish I had some of the gift table, the escort cards, the food in the buffet line, etc. Stuff I didn’t think about beforehand.

-Other reception moments. I knew better on this one. My photographer was 7 months pregnant at my wedding, and she had been following me around all day. I knew she’d get tired by the end, and I even told her it was OK to pack up early. At the time, I thought I had everything, but now I feel like some moments are missing. After the “big” moments from the reception (first dance, cake feeding, etc), there’s not much. I wish I had just asked someone else to take my personal camera and snap a few more shots of people mingling, at the bar, sneaking another cupcake, outside getting some fresh air, even us cleaning up!

-Rehearsal dinner. I never once even thought I’d want some photos of us at that dinner. My photog did get some really nice candid ones of people eating and opening their gifts, but I never grabbed Cal and posed for one on our last night of being single people. I don’t have one with my parents either. I wish I had planned for some posed shots that night too.

Lessons Learned

-One thing that I did right was delegate someone (my MoH) to help the photographer keep things moving, round up family members, move the groups along, and check things against the list. This for sure made our photos run much smoother, but the problem was that I hadn’t really planned the list well enough. As I thought about speaking up to get more shots of just us, she did her job and kept everything moving, but then by the end I felt like it was too late and we had to get moving. Lesson: Speak up and don’t worry about the schedule. Get what you want because you will not have another chance.

-Prioritize your photos in order of most important to you. I made the mistake of doing family shots first because I didn’t want to make them wait, but in retrospect they could gave waited if it meant me getting all the couple shots I really wanted. It really wouldn’t have been the end of the world if the reception started 30 mins later.

-Be very specific to the photographer in terms of shot list and expectations. You see, when I wrote “getting ready,” I should have wrote “Amanda and girls getting ready” and “Cal and guys getting ready,” then explained I wanted both. But I didn’t.

-Try to think of what shots you will be sad if you don’t have. Sit back and envision yourself flipping through your album in the future or looking at your photos on the wall. What do you want to be there? What will you miss if you don’t get it? What poses or people do you want to see in those? Write down every single one.

Other Brides’ Photo Regrets

I decided to ask some other gals if they had any shots they missed at their wedding too, and here’s what else others’ wished they had:

-“I wish my photographer had captured my Grandpa & I dancing. It wasn’t a planned dance, just a random slow dance & they were taking random shots of guests as most photogs do into the reception :/”

-“I’m disappointed with our photos. Things from the list I gave the photographer in advance&day of were completely missed.”

-My friend who recently got married mentioned noticing that there were more shots of the men than of the girls, and more of the groom than of her. Which makes sense since their photographer was friends with the groom, and it was probably unintentional but still a little womp womp-ish. She never thought to mention that she wanted the selection to be pretty equal, and just assumed they would be, but it just goes to show: Never assume anything and be very direct in your expectations.

What To Do After the Fact

Granted no one has a time machine that we can all go back and have re-do days, but to try and make up for it, you can:

-Schedule a first anniversary photoshoot and take the poses and shots of the two of you that got missed at the wedding.

-Schedule a trash the dress shoot.

-Make a mental note to get more photos at any future vow renewals.

-Tell any engaged friends your own photo notes so they can be better prepared and hopefully not miss anything they want!

Do you have any photo regrets? Shots you miss? Other wedding photo advice?

Wedding Wednesday

 

July 23, 2014

When it came to my wedding, I did several things my own way without a second thought to what “tradition” said I should do, and several things by the book. Just like in my regular life, sometimes I’m safe and traditional, and sometimes I’m silly and break the rules and am just me.

Since I’ve been itching to do another Wedding Wednesday post, I thought this might be a fun one to put together — a list of which traditions I did and didn’t follow.

What I Did Traditionally

Rehearsal dinner

I’m so glad I had a rehearsal dinner. I loved being able to chat and eat with my friends and family. We ended up inviting many of my out-of-town family member as well as the bridal party because I wanted as much time with them as possible. And having them around was a really great way to help distract me and calm my nerves before the big day. It also made for the perfect time to present the gifts to our wedding party.

My only regret is that I didn’t allow myself enough time to get ready for it. After the rehearsal itself, we rushed to make the dinner reservation, and I was not looking as purrty as I wanted to be. I had visions of being able to curl my hair and touch up my makeup beforehand, but that didn’t happen. I mean I had a great time, but I do wish I looked a little more put-together in the photos from it. I was just a frazzled mess, haha. I also wish I had specified to our photographer that I wanted more photos from the dinner, because I have very few. Womp womp.

rehearsal dinner
This is seriously the best photo of us the whole dinner. Dang.

Not seeing each other before the ceremony

This for sure is one of the best decisions we made, and one of the first actually. I was surprised to learn later that very few brides still do this. “First looks” have become popular recently instead to preserve the special moment but still be able to take photos together beforehand, but I’ve always thought first looks were lame. (Sorry anyone who did them. More power to you if you did one.) I just wanted his first look to be me the moment I was coming down that aisle, because it made it so much more special. I don’t care if we made people wait longer as we took photos after the ceremony before the reception. It was our day and that’s what we wanted to do.

I should note that this was actually just as important to my husband as it was to me. I thought it was adorable that he truly wanted to wait to see me till just moments before we were married. It took lots of coordination to stay apart that morning, and avoid each other while getting ready at the site beforehand, but we did it.

He also had never seen my dress (his decision!) to add to the surprise. I did show him the photo online of the David’s Bridal listing, so he knew which dress I had selected, but he was adamant that he did not want to see me in it. Even when I brought it home and was transferring it to a different bag, he closed his eyes so he wouldn’t see the actual dress itself till it was on my body that day. I loved that that was so important to him.

ceremony

Having a white church wedding

Our whole ceremony (a few minor elements aside), was very traditional. Honestly, I liked the idea of eloping, and that’s what my husband would have chosen if it were totally up to him, but to me, I always that church wedding. I wanted to stand in a place of worship, in front of our family and friends, and tie the knot.

Ideally, I would have gotten married in the church I grew up in, but that’s in Indiana, and we wanted it all in our current town. I would have had the pastor that both dedicated and baptized me, but he was on a jungle mission trip for the whole summer. Instead, we had my husband’s uncle (who is a pastor!) be the officiant, and we held it in one of North Dakota’s oldest/historical churches that was on museum grounds. It was gorgeous and just the environment I wanted.

I wore a white dress (OK fine, it was ivory because white looked terrible on this pale skin), though I added a teal sash right after the ceremony. I wore a veil, though I didn’t want it over my face (which would not have been safe for this klutz).

church wedding

We followed traditional ceremony order and had a scripture reading from my cousin’s wife. We walked out (actually, we skipped out!) into a sea of bubbles and did a receiving line, followed by family and bridal party photos. Most all of it was by the book with a few small twists, and I kind of liked it that way.

The bridal party

I wanted to honor our best friends and family by including them in traditional wedding party roles. It wasn’t too big and wasn’t too small. We had 5  bridesmaids and 5 groomsmen, 1 flower girl, 1 ring bearer, 4 ushers, plus our officiant who was Cal’s uncle, and a guestbook attendant.

Of the bridesmaids, I designated my best friend from childhood as my matron of honor (I served as her maid of honor too!), and my best friend from here as my maid of honor. Then, my good friend from college who was one of the few people who got to see my relationship with Cal from the start, plus my other BFF from growing up, as well as Cal’s sister. I had some amazing girls standing by me.

bridesmaids

Cal had one best man and four other groomsmen. To decide which of my girls walked with the best man, we went by height to make it easy. My matron of honor and the best man were each the shortest people in the entire party, so that was perfect. He picked two of his best friends from growing up as well, plus a buddy who we’re both friends with, and his brother.

groomsmen

The ring bearer was Cal’s adorable nephew, and the flower girl was my cousin’s daughter. They both have vision problems and wear glasses, so they were super cute together. Our ushers were Cal’s bandmates and friends, our guestbook attendant was Cal’s cousin, and I asked my cousin’s wife (who has been a role model for me) to do a reading. And finally, with Cal’s uncle as our pastor, I’m really pleased with our whole party, and the balance of both of our families involved.

Bouquet and garter toss

I always thought these were fun parts of receptions and gets people involved. I refused to do a dollar dance, but I’m glad we did these. Actually, we didn’t do a traditional garter toss; we did it as a raffle where with a ticket you got to play musical chairs, and the winner got the garter. The final four people were two ushers, our brother-in-law and my mom. It was hilarious watching them all dance and fight for chairs.

Honeymoon

We couldn’t really afford a honeymoon, but we did one anyway, and even though it put us back financially for a bit, I’m still glad that we did. It was really special to get away from the post-wedding madness and spend time together as newlyweds. We picked a place neither of us had been before, but both had an interest in. The food in New Orleans was amazing, the sights were amazing, and it just overall was an amazing time.

What Traditions I Didn’t Follow

Something old, new, borrowed and blue

Besides this rhyming, I just don’t care much for this tradition. I used and did what I wanted to, whether it was old or new, borrowed or blue. Maybe I did have all those elements in somehow, but I didn’t make it a point. I didn’t want to go out of my way to include something just to check it off a list for no other reason if it didn’t make sense.

Walking down the aisle

I had asked both my mom and dad to walk me down the aisle. I get the thought behind just the father doing it to “hand off” his daughter to another man, but I always thought it was kind of silly. Like, my dad’s giving me up but my mom isn’t? They both raised me, so why wouldn’t they both “let me go”?

The music

I did already write about my wedding music selections before, but long story short: Beyonce and Stevie Wonder did our ceremony, Vitamin String Quartet did our dinner music, and the reception was a strict list of our favorite music and zero country, no requests allowed. Hey, it’s our day; I couldn’t risk some terrible tunes ruining it.

The getaway

We didn’t drive off into the sunset in a small car with tin cans tied to the bumper. We didn’t rent a limo. I wanted to go big for this and we rented a party bus instead. It fit our entire bridal party, plus photographer and videographer comfortably, and was so much fun. It may or may not have had a pole, and our best man may or may not have broken it.

party bus

The food and cake

Well, we had cake, but they were cupcakes. We did feed some to each other, but we didn’t smoosh them in each other’s faces. We did get a small 6-inch round cake so we could do the cake cutting tradition though, because I knew that part was important to my mom. Plus then we got a whole cake to ourselves. Winning.

wedding cupcakes

For our actual food, we declined a fancy plated dinner because, well, we’re not fancy. We did what not only was far more affordable and just as delicious, but just more “us.” We hired a local Italian restaurant to cater and serve it buffet-style with plastic plates and silverware. I didn’t curre! You guys, it was still soo good. We got salads, rolls, cheesy pasta, lemon chicken, potatoes, green beans and Swedish meatballs (which was my mom’s request that the restaurant happily did special for us). Oh, and they let us take home all the leftovers that we ate off of for weeks.

Flowers

I saw no point in paying several hundreds on real flowers. One, I’m allergic and enjoy breathing. Two, you can’t keep real flowers very easily. Three, they make such nice fake ones these days that are more affordable, so it was an easy decision. I bought my bouquets, bouts and corsages off an amazing lady on Etsy, and then assembled a few vases with gems and stems from Michael’s myself for decorations. Easy.

wedding bouquet

*Most photos by Lori Anne Photography

Linking up for Wedding Wednesday!

Wedding Wednesday
NC Belle In Boots
What wedding traditions did you follow (or break)?
May 14, 2014

I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared our proposal story here on the blog before, so when Diamond Diaries contacted me about their website, I knew this was the perfect opportunity!

our engagement storyCal and I met early in college and had been dating about seven years at this point. We were pretty serious and had talked about getting married before, so I knew this was coming sometime. We weren’t really in a rush though, as we were still getting on our feet as adults. I was starting to get the marriage itch about a year prior, so started paying attention to warning signs, such as suddenly being more frugal with his money or checking the Internet browser history. Nothing.

I gave up for awhile and figured he’ll ask when he’s ready. I was at a pretty high-stress job at this time anyway, so I was pretty distracted.

When it happened

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How it happened

A few weeks before the proposal, Cal told me that his mom was cleaning her house and wanted to get rid of a bunch of her old jewelry and was wondering if I’d want any, so she wanted to know my ring size to see if her rings would fit me. “Cool!,” unassuming me thought. (the lightbulb did not go off.)

Then awhile later, I decided to throw a Lia Sophia party. It’s one of those direct-sale companies like Mary Kary or Pampered Chef, but for jewelry. I usually have about one party a year to earn free pieces, and a friend’s sister sells it, so I also like the excuse to gather my girlfriends up and party. An out-of-town friend was staying with us at the time, and when I walked in the door after work the day of the party, she got up and told me she was going to take Brick for a walk then gave me a weird smile.

I quickly started prepping for my party. I only had about an hour to finish tidying up the apartment and preparing some snacks. As I was doing this, Cal comes around and is acting super strange. The conversation went something like:

Him: “So … you’re having a party, huh?”

Me: “Yep. Wanna help me cut up broccoli?”

Him: “Umm, maybe. So … think you’re gonna buy any stuff tonight?”

Me: “Maybe. Probably. Can you sweep the floor or something?”

Him: (acting shifty and weird) “Yeah yeah. So … are you gonna buy a ring maybe?”

Me: “If she has one I like, maybe! Why are you being so weird? Did you break anything?”

Him: “No I didn’t break anything. I was just wondering if you were gonna buy a ring.”

Me: “Seriously, you’re acting strange. What did you do?”

Him: “Nothing! Well, so … you know, I’ve been thinking, and we’ve been together for seven years already … ”

At this point I FINALLY realized what was happening, and it was all very foggy from then on. Neither of us really remember what else he said, because next thing I know, he’s down on his knee and I’m crying. I do remember that he was holding the ring up to put it on my finger, and I shoved my right hand at him because I had no clue which hand it went on. Then we’re hugging and crying, and I was like, “This is awesome! I can’t believe it! It’s about time! OMG, I have people coming over in like 10 minutes and I still have food to make!!!”

He started helping me finish getting food ready, and my friend’s head pops in the door and she says, “Did it happen yet? Can we come in?” She had been waiting in the hallway the whole time!

We’re still crying/shaking and getting ready, and they start telling me about the whole plan. I remember saying, “Does this mean I don’t get any of your mom’s jewelry?” Yeah, that was just his rouse to get my ring size. Total lie. I was pretty bummed about that, actually!

He told me that he had just gotten the ring that day, I think, and he was freaking out because he didn’t know what to do with it, and it was burning a hole in his pocket, so he had to plan fast because he didn’t think he could keep it from me. With my party that night, he thought he’d plan a big reveal at the party itself so all my friends could be there for it. He talked to my best friend about the plan, and she expressed concern that I may not want all the attention and would prefer something more private, so he quickly changed the plan and bumped it up to before the party. (For the record, friend was right.)

By the time the rest of my friends started arriving, I didn’t say anything about what just happened. I just kept chopping veggies like it was a regular day. Finally Cal was like, “Why don’t you tell the girls the news!” So I spilled the beans. I was still in shock about it I think.

After the party, it finally started to set in. I finally had a chance to look at the new ring on my finger. I called my mom. We talked about a timeline for the wedding. I made a to-do list. We announced it on Facebook. (And while we took a photo of the ring that night, we totally didn’t even think to take one of us! Sheesh.)

ring with brick

The next day at work, I accomplished maybe one thing. It’s really hard to be productive when there’s a new shiny thing on your hand and you want to PLAN ALL THE WEDDING THINGS! My awesome friend made engagement cupcakes that night to bring to work that day, and it was so sweet. She apparently also told the rest of the ladies in my department, because I also had a gift waiting for me – a Real Simple wedding planning book and a magazine subscription already started. How sweet are my friends?!

ring cupcake

From there, it all started coming together once the shock wore off. But you know most the rest of the story. We got married on June 8, 2013 and I’ve blogged about everything since November in this space! I may have to share some more details about the planning process and how we met soon!

I think most every girl enjoys a good proposal story. I mean, after looking at the ring, the first question is usually, ‘How’d he do it?!’

That’s the concept behind DiamondDiaries.com, a website that lets brides share their unique proposal story and excitement with loved ones in an easy way. I asked the website’s co-founder Ashley Dobson to share a little more about the story behind the site.

About Diamond Diaries

She says: “My now-husband Cameron and I first started talking about Diamond Diaries on a six-hour car ride to a friend’s wedding. I had helped my friend’s fiancé pull off a full re-enactment of the scene in “10 Things I Hate About You” where Heath Ledger sings to Julia Stiles’ character on the field. We were talking about their proposal and about how much everyone loved hearing those stories, but how difficult it was to share them with everyone. Then it hit us – we should provide a way for people to easily share those stories with their friends, family and an online community.

“The brainstorming process took us to all kinds of places during that car ride and I’m pretty sure it included me singing Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) more than once, but we’re proud of what our once simple idea has turned into.

“During the year Cameron and I were working on the site, he surprised me with my own amazing proposal story (you can read it here. Once the site went live, I was connected with a whole community of other brides-to-be and it was fun to Pinterest together and share planning tips and DIY ideas.

Now my favorite part is reading the stories people submit. I don’t even know these people, but some of the stories bring me to tears. I feel so privileged to share in this special time of these people’s lives even in this small way!”

I absolutely love the concept of this site. Celebrating people’s love stories! I submitted my own proposal story to the site, and it was incredibly easy. I had soo much fun reading other people’s stories too! If you’re a bride or newlywed, I definitely recommend registering and sharing your story here. If you’d like to connect with Diamond Diaries, visit their website at www.diamonddiaries.com, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter.

Also linking up with Mary and Meredith for Wedding Wednesday!

What’s the coolest proposal story you’ve heard (your own or not!)?

May 7, 2014

picking your wedding music

It’s been awhile since I did my last wedding post, so getting back on that train today, I wanted to talk about one aspect of the wedding that meant a lot to us: the music!

Our DJ was the very first vendor we hired — that’s how excited we were about our music. Right away when we did that, we started a running list of songs we wanted to make sure to include on our list.

Thankfully my husband and I were on the same page about all of the music. That only makes sense though – a large part of the reason we met in the first place was music-related, and we have very similar tastes in tunes.

At first we focused all our energy on the reception, because let’s face it: that’s the fun part. Our list grew to have probably hundreds of our favorite songs. And I feel a little bad for our DJ because I was probably the pickiest bride when it came to our music. I made several (too long) lists for him. One was absolutely must-play because I’ll be upset if I don’t hear it; another for play if there’s time; and the last for absolutely do not play or I will freak out. No requests. Yes, I was that serious about it. My logic was this was my day and I had the right to hand-pick every song. Thankfully our DJ was absolutely amazing and put up with me without complaint. What a trooper.

We had several types of songs on our reception dance list. Cal and I both like really loud, screamy headbanging meal music, but realized only about 5% of our guests would stay in the room if that was played, so we compromised by selecting many classic or softer rock songs (think Bon Jovi, GNR, AC/DC, Poison, Michael Jackson, etc.). We also had tons of ’90s songs that reminded us of our childhood and teenage years that held sentimental value. For me, this was Enrique, Hanson, Spice Girls, All for One, Backstreet Boys, ‘NSync and so much Jock Jams, and for him, that was Kriss Kros, Ram Jam, Eddie Money, Ratt, Fatboy Slim, Johnny Cash, Spinn Doctors and Ted Nugent. Then he let me pick a selection of current pop songs that made for good danceability, yet wasn’t too offensive for my older relatives like Flo Rida, Teach Me How to Dougie, Pink, Rihanna, my gal Nicki, David Guetta and Gangnam Style. Guys, even my mom did the Gangnam dance. It was fantastic.

dancing to gangnam styleWhy yes, that is my mother dancing to Gangnam Style!

And of course, some of the cliche classics. I know a lot of brides these days veto them, but I have fun with them and knew that they draw a crowd, so I wanted to do them–we did the YMCA, hokey pokey, chicken dance and cha cha slide. If nothing else, I figured the kids would get out there for it and be entertaining. But I tell ya: those songs drew the most people out for them, so I was super glad I kept them in.

hokey pokeyPutting our left hand in

kids dancingKids stealing the show! They danced all night long!

Our grand entrance was to Shot to the Heart by Bon Jovi. My sister-in-law organized that, and made posters for the guys to carry, while the girls chased them around with Nerf guns.

grand entranceEntering grandly

For my bouquet toss, there was no question about it: it had to be Beyonce’s Single Ladies.

For our first dance, I went with something light and silly that I couldn’t resist: I Can Show You the World. Yes, the Disney Aladdin version. We giggled through the entire song.

first dance

If I had done a serious song for our first dance, it would have been Etta James’ At Last, so instead, we used that for the longest-married couple’s dance/activity.

We opted to having our DJ also play dinner music, so to again combine appropriate music with what we really like, we made a playlist of classical covers of modern songs that we love, including some metal! Thanks to Vitamin String Quartet, we played 2 hours of GNR, Adelle, Rise Against, Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, Drowning Pool, The Used, Kings of Leon, Fall Out Boy, Macklemore and Michael Jackson in formats that probably no one recognized, and I loved that. The one exception was Andrea Bochelli’s Con Te Partiro to combine our love of Will Ferrell’s movies into that night as well.

I seem to be working backward here, but planning the music for the ceremony was much, much harder. I struggled for a long time with whether I should go full-on traditional, but in the end, I decided to do what felt right to me and actually got me excited, which was doing things my way. I stumbled upon a beautiful piano cover of Beyonce’s Halo, and it moved me to that point I could not stop listening to it for weeks! I knew it had to be my entrance song. Plus, “Here Comes the Bride” is so boring, overdone and I don’t even like it one bit.

bridal entrance

Seriously, how amazing is this song?:

Then, we literally skipped out of the church to Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered.

recessional

Wow! I really didn’t mean to ramble that much about my own music, but I was very passionate about it. The point is that if tradition is important to you, by all means, follow the bridal music rules. But otherwise, it seriously is OK to do your own thing. Have fun, be creative, keep it very you. The biggest complement I received about my wedding was from a friend who said something to the effect of, “It was a very Amanda & Cal-ish day.” Absolutely right it was. So show your personalities. Pick songs that make you feel good and have meaning. It’ll make your entire day just that much more special.

Linking up for Wedding Wednesday with Mary and Meredith!

Wedding Wednesday
NC Belle In Boots
April 11, 2014

Happy Friday everyone! For a special treat today, I’m super excited to have a guest post from one of my real life friends, Lindsay! Lindsay blogs all about dogs (and sometimes cats!) at ThatMutt.com, and is someone I really admire for what she’s done with her life. She’s totally awesome, and I hope you enjoy her post about what to do if you want your dog at your wedding. (For the record, I did ask Cal if our pets could be in our wedding, but they are not nearly as well behaved as Ace, so alas, it would have been a terrible idea).

Anyway, here’s Lindsay!

dog at weddingMy husband Josh and I got married in June 2012, exactly one year before Amanda and Cal!

Josh and I are not event planners, and we wanted a simple, outdoor wedding with about 40 guests.

Forty guests, plus one dog – our Lab mix Ace.

Keeping the wedding simple and outdoors made it easier to have our dog present. The park atmosphere (and the keg) made everyone feel a little more laid back. Some of our friends were already holding beers during our actual ceremony, and afterwards we all ate catered food at the park’s picnic tables.

While everyone’s wedding is a little different, I wanted to share some of my general tips for having your dog at your wedding based on what went well (and not so well) for us.

1. Hire someone to exercise your dog.

A tired dog is a better-behaved dog, right?

I run and walk dogs as my job, so you’d think I would’ve planned this better. I thought I had done an adequate job exercising my dog in the week leading up to our wedding, but I was wrong.

While I took my dog on extra walks that week, I should’ve exercised him even more. I should’ve walked him for 90 minutes a day instead of 45. I should’ve ran with him. I should’ve hired someone to help me instead of doing it myself.

I took Ace on a 10-minute bike ride right before I went to my hair appointment on my wedding day. This was his only exercise that day. What was I thinking? I should’ve hired someone to exercise him.

2. Don’t force a fearful dog to be around crowds.

My dog is a friendly guy who loves meeting new people. He is not scared of strangers, and I know he won’t growl at anyone or try to bite. He won’t even jump on people when he gets excited. This made it easier for me to decide it would be OK to have Ace at our wedding.

If Ace were at all fearful of strangers or of being in new places, I would’ve made a different choice. Some dogs are just too stressed out around crowds or in new places, and I think expecting them to behave at a wedding would be unfair and potentially dangerous.

If you’re unsure about your dog, I think it’s best to be on the safe side and leave him home. As a more realistic option, you could hire a friend to bring your dog to be in some of the wedding photos, and then the friend could bring your dog home afterwards.

3. Hire someone to be in charge of your dog during the wedding.

My friend Maren was a huge help handling Ace before, during and after our wedding. My brothers and my parents, Josh’s mom and a few other friends all helped out too. Still, I felt like this was a huge responsibility and burden for my guests, even if they were happy to do it. My dog is 70 pounds and strong, and he was doing a lot of whining, drooling and pulling that day. I wish I would’ve paid one or two people to be in charge of him, whether it was friends or professionals.

If your dog already has a regular pet sitter or dog walker, that person might be perfect for handling him at your wedding.

4. Don’t expect your dog to be perfect.

I always want my dog to be perfect, and you’d think I would know by now that he’s a dog and dogs are never perfect. Ace annoyed me quite a bit on our wedding day. He whined whenever he wasn’t with me, and he was so excited that he was almost always pulling on his leash.

But you know what? No one really cared but me.

No one even remembers that Ace was “naughty.” They remember how cool it was that my dog got to be there. And now I have these wonderful memories and photos of my best friend being there on our special day.

Weddings are never going to go perfectly, no matter how much planning we do. It’s just not possible, and that’s OK. If I could give my past self any advice on my wedding day, I would say, “Just relax and have fun.”

That’s actually what dogs do all the time. They don’t freak out about the unimportant stuff. They just enjoy the moment.

Overall, if you like the idea of having your dog at your wedding or at part of your wedding, you will find a way to make it work. It might add a little more stress to your day, but in my opinion it’s all worth it.

dog with wedding flowers

Isn’t she just awesome! I love her little family, and it was so fitting for Ace to be in her wedding. If you want to follow Lindsay’s blog and learn tons about doggie-related things, make sure you check her out here.

Have a great weekend!!

But first, enter a giveaway I’m co-hosting along with Paige at Moments for the Journey and others! The prize is a zipper bag of your choice from Amanda Fair Designs!

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April 7, 2014

This past Saturday was the bridal shower for my bestie whose marriage is this June. I was super excited to be asked to be a bridesmaid and to plan her shower. It was the first one I had done anything further than just show up to, so I tried to plan out every detail, and that involved lots of lists, naturally.

In the end, it went well, we had lots of food and fun, and showered our bride with lots of love. We held it at a local hotel’s conference room, and we got to bring in all our own food.

shower foodshower desserts

Our menu included deviled eggs, bean dip, chips and salsa, a veggie tray, a fruit tray, cocktail weenies in BBQ sauce, Swedish meatballs, lemon cupcakes, mini apple pies, saltine toffee, and of course, mimosas.

We played three games: he said/she said (in which I gathered quotes from both the bride and groom and everyone had to guess who said it), guess the memory (in which all guests wrote down their fave memory of the bride, one person read them all out loud, and the bride had to guess which guest said what) and bridal Mad Libs.

game sheethaving funWe opened presents, and I took my secretary role very seriously. For real, I was beyond excited for that task, for some reason.

shower gift openingWe had a stone activity that the bride-to-be found on Pinterest – we had each guest write advice or a message on stones, which she will put in clear vases and have on display at the head table at the wedding reception. How cute, right?!

bridal shower stonesIt was such a nice group of ladies, and it was so much fun. I think showers are just a blast.

shower guestsI had so much fun planning this day for my friend. I think and hope she had tons of fun. I sure did!

bride and bridesmaid(Also, holy white legs! Geez, someone needs spring to get here ASAP to get some sun on those puppies again. Dang!)

Bridal Shower Planning Tips
My tips for planning a bridal shower are to keep it simple and fun. Have some great food, play a few games, and sit back and relax. Designate one person to take photos so that her day is well documented. Have a few talking points in mind for when you welcome everyone and make announcements (I wish I had done more of that; instead, I stood up, babbled and tripped over my words. Oops.). Don’t worry too much about having every detail Pinterest worthy. It doesn’t all have to be exquisite and hand-crafted or expensive. As long as you have the basics planned out and everyone has fun, that’s all that matters. Above all, make sure the bride feels pampered, has tons of fun and doesn’t have to lift a finger!

April 2, 2014

Wedding vendors are one of the many factors of your wedding day and planning that can make or break you. Some will be great; some will be meh; some will disappoint; some will make you want to pull your hair out.

I’m one of those people who expects good customer service all the time. I don’t think I’m a rude client or customer at all, but if I’m giving you my money for any reason, I want you to wow me. Make me love you so much that I will tell all my friends about you. Earn my business. But above all, be nice.

I’m like this in everyday situations too. At Target, at the gas station, at the movie theater, at the doctor’s office. Thing is: I get it because I’ve been there. I worked retail for years. I know how awful it can be. I know you probably feel run down. But there is never any excuse for ignoring your customers or being downright rude to them. When I worked in retail, if a customer was screaming at me and all I really wanted to do was crawl in a hole and cry, I got over it, slapped on a smile and a friendly welcome to the next person in line. It’s part of the business. If you don’t like people or can’t handle the stress, get a new job. But if you choose to serve customers in ANY capacity, do your absolute best to make them leave happy. End of story.

Maybe I’m being unrealistic, maybe I’m expecting too much, but I believe that truly good customer service is dying. All too often it has become OK to pay someone for sub-par products or results. And it is not OK.

Anyway, to get off of my soapbox/tangent, the point is that I expected a lot out of my wedding vendors. On top of all the reasons stated above, these services were for the biggest day of my life. All the more reason to offer amazing service, in my opinion.

Sadly, that isn’t always the case, and frankly, it sucks. I tried to be extremely choosy about who I hired for my wedding. Not just anyone would do. Sure, price and a range of options were important, but I also looked for vendors I could trust and that I actually liked. If the person I met with, talked to or emailed wasn’t friendly or responsive, I simply didn’t hire them. I was not going to compromise my standards. It was simple: Show me that you value my business.

For the most part, I chose well. Here’s how I fared with my vendors (yep, there’s some horror stories in here too) and some tips for future brides:

-Videographer.
Oh dear. This vendor area caused me the most ups and downs. I first chose one videographer who also had some a la carte add-ons like uplighting a photo booth, and so the idea of bundling for a great price sounded awesome. He also had an amazing portfolio and hundreds of glowing reviews. What could go wrong? Turns out, lots. I’m not sure what I did to upset this guy, but he refused to acknowledge my existence. After one initial reply to my first email inquiry, he dropped off the face of the earth. I emailed, called and Facebook messaged him so many times and even said, “I want to hire you. Please let me know how to get you payment so I can reserve your services.” Nothing. Meanwhile, I saw that he was posting to his business Facebook page, was updating his website, adding new testimonials and video examples, so clearly he was still alive. I became so irate at his non-reply that I posted an angry complaint on his Facebook wall, which he promptly deleted, so I wrote him a bad review on Wedding Wire, which they deleted (apparently you have to have an actual contract and service booked to complain about a vendor there. dumb.), and finally, reported him to the Better Business Bureau. Sucker.

I felt deflated and was so upset about this and thought I just wouldn’t have a videographer. I looked at others, but none of the examples I saw were all that impressive. I gave up. And then one glorious day at a bridal expo, I saw a booth for a Grassfire Studios, a newish videographer in town. I wandered over, but wasn’t expecting much at this point. OMG you guys, THEY WERE AMAZING. They were the opposite of Douchey McDouchersons. I hired them and they exceeded every expectation I had. They were attentive, responsive, friendly, helpful, nice, professional, talented and just friggin’ awesome. I couldn’t have been happier with them.

Looking back, there’s obviously a reason the first guy didn’t work out. I was meant to meet Grassfire. They were meant to make my video, I am certain of it, and I thank the wedding gods for sending them to me. I obviously wrote them glowing reviews online, gave them a testimonial, gushed about them on my Facebook, and recommended every bride I knew in town to book them. Because that is what I do when you provide great service. Justin and Preston, I can’t thank you enough. This is also on my wedding page, but check out this stellar video I got from them:
[vimeo http://vimeo.com/71069874]

The takeaway: The right vendors will find you, and if someone isn’t working out, they don’t deserve your business. Move on and find someone better, even if you don’t think it’s possible. It is. Let those wedding gods get to work! 🙂

-Photographer
I had my heart set on one particular photographer at first. Her photos were seriously amazing. I couldn’t believe what she was able to capture on film. I had to have her. … Until I saw her prices. I did consider splurging on it anyway, but in the end, we couldn’t justify spending that much on photos, no matter how awesome they’d be.

I was sad about this for awhile until it suddenly hit me one day: A good friend from high school is a hobby photographer and even took the photos for my other friends’ wedding. Duh! Lori ended up taking seriously beautiful photos for my special day that would rival anything from the first gal I wanted, and for about four times cheaper. Win.

Oh, and she shot the wedding while 7 months pregnant. That, my friends, is a good vendor and a good friend. Love you, Lori!

wedding church

Photo courtesy Lori Anne Photography

The takeaway: While the very best is tempting, if it’s over your budget, get creative and see if you can get just as good stuff from someone else. It is worth it.

-Dress & Tuxes/Suits
Here’s horror story No. 2! OK, well the good news first: My dress came from David’s Bridal. I was super hesitant about a chain at first and worried about bad service, dumb corporate policies and cheap products, but I was so pleasantly surprised. I did look at an upscale bridal boutique in addition to David’s, and they were overpriced and snooty. No thank you! David’s got me a great dress at a great price with great service every single time I was in there. So impressed with that.

church wedding day

Photo courtesy Lori Anne Photography

The bad news: Men’s Wearhouse was truly awful. We went with them because of their partnership with David’s and because they carry the exact same colors, so our groomsmen’s suits would match the bridesmaid’s dresses perfectly. What a bad idea. By the time we realized how terrible they were, we were locked in and it was too late to back out. For one, despite our wanting suits, they kept pushing tuxes on us, and because their system is so bad, every time I’d call about something, they’d say they can’t find my order. Turns out they have a separate suit book (yes, book. like a physical binder with notepaper thrown in it) from their tux log, which is kept on their computer. After we got past that hurdle, they ordered the wrong stuff, for the wrong people, lost our records, couldn’t keep track of any details, asked the guys to pay for the suits even though I already had, wouldn’t accept the called-in measurements from one groomsmen, lost the groom’s measurements and claimed he never got them (which he did), and when we were in the store, no one seemed to have a clue how anything worked. We got the runaround, and even when we spoke with the store manager, she clearly didn’t have it together either. She apologized for all of the problems, but essentially blamed it on everyone else. Needless to say we were super happy when we got the suits picked up and didn’t have to deal with them anymore.

The takeaway: David’s Bridal rules, Men’s Wearhouse drools.

-Flowers
I knew that there was probably no way I could afford real flowers for my wedding, and I didn’t really want them anyway because 1) I am allergic to pollen, and 2) I wouldn’t be able to keep them. I took to good ol’ Etsy to find someone to make my bouquets, which ended up being super awesome. They were custom, handmade, and the shop owner (shout out to Linda at My Favors and Flowers!) was a joy. She let me tweak until it was perfect, was super friendly and responsive, and best of all, I get to keep my bouquet. And the bridesmaids got to keep theirs too! Sure you can dry some petals from your flowers and throw ’em in a shadow box, but I wanted to keep the whole thing, as is. And it’s gorgeous.

bridesmaid wedding bouquet

Photo courtesy Lori Anne Photography

For the flowers that I wanted in vases throughout the ceremony and reception venues, I got some more fakies from Michaels and put ’em in a vase with pretty gems. Done. And cheaply. Win.

The takeaway: Sometimes real is overrated. It’s OK to go fake!

-Ceremony & Reception Sites
You’d be surprised by some of the hidden gems in your town. The place we ended up having our ceremony was our last choice simply because we never thought of them! We searched high and low for our ceremony location and could not get in anywhere that was within our price range. Then one day, Cal had a lightbulb moment and suggested Bonanzaville, which is this old North Dakota pioneer village museum, and everything was perfect about it. We got married in an old yet beautiful church on the museum grounds, and afterward, guests got to tour it while we took pictures with the unique old buildings as our background.

For our reception, it was in our local Country Inn & Suites. It may not have been an upscale soiree at the most beautiful place in town, but we didn’t care. It was nice, had good amenities for our out-of-town guests, had a wonderful price, and Megan there was wonderful – great service from her and our bartender who created a custom drink for us. Win!

The takeaway: Think outside the box. Consider locations that may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t cross something off under the assumption it won’t be right or classy enough. Give it a fair shot, because you will be surprised at how many great deals for great places are all around you.

-Caterer
As much as I would have loved to feel fancy and serve $30 per plate plated entrees, we simply didn’t have that in our budget. We asked Country Inn for a list of recommended caterers since they didn’t have an in-house restaurant, and ended up choosing one from that list that we never would have thought of on our own. At first I was looking just at actual catering businesses, our grocery stores and colleges, but wasn’t finding the kind of food we wanted at our price point. When we saw Johnny Carino’s (a small chain Italian restaurant), I didn’t even know they offered catering, and thought for sure it’d be way too expensive. It wasn’t. They got us an amazing deal for tons of food. And literally every single dish we tasted at our consultation was to die for. We simply couldn’t beat the price for the quality of food. And the service, on top of that, was stellar. They communicated well and were so friendly. I felt like they genuinely appreciated our business.

eating dinner

-Hair & Makeup
I looked into those fancy schmancy spas and salons, and even highly considered hiring one of those come-to-your-hotel-room wedding hair and makeup specialty ladies, but again, budget. So I booked a trial at two separate local salons for airbrush makeup and my regular hair salon. Both were awesome, and for a fraction of the price of those hoity toity places. Sure, we had to drive to each ourselves, but that’s OK!

wedding hairstyle in progress

Photo courtesy Lori Anne Photography

-Rings
We went with Zales for our wedding bands simply because that’s where Cal got my engagement ring. They were … OK. We’re happy with the products, but the service was just so-so. They talked me into getting the credit card so we could make payments on the bands, but stupid me didn’t ask the APR (big mistake. It’s through the roof. Of all my 11 credit cards, Zales by far had the highest rate. Ouch).

One thing we didn’t consider was getting them insured till it was too late. I called Zales after the fact to ask if they do appraisals, and the woman who answered didn’t even know the answer. Turns out they do, but for a nice fee, and only by mail. We went to a local jewelry shop instead and got our appraisals for 3x less than Zales would have charged and didn’t even have to mail them off. A Cutting Edge for the win!

The takeaway: Don’t get suckered into a credit card and check if your jewelry shop does their own appraisals.

wedding rings

Photo courtesy Lori Anne Photography

Of course, I had some more vendors, but these were the ones that stood out to me for one reason or another. Choose wisely when picking your vendors, keep an open mind, and don’t stand for bad service.

(P.S. Sorry for this post that went in a very different direction than my original intention. I think you get the picture though, right?)

Did you have any outstanding wedding vendors? Do you ever settle for poor customer service?

March 19, 2014

As I’ve rambled on about before, I learned a lot in planning my wedding and would do lots of things different if I had a time machine. I don’t though, so let me pass on some tips to you! So many of the lessons I came away with after my wedding could come to one simple thing: I wish I had enjoyed my engagement, and the whole process, more. I get it: It’s super easy to get caught up in the details. You want to plan the BEST day ever and completely lose yourself while striving for a Pinterest perfect wedding. But it could come at a cost. Your sanity.

Save yourself from an embarrassing meltdown like I had and avoid having regrets.

enjoying your engagement tip picture

So without further ado, here’s some of my own tips for enjoying your engagement to the fullest:

-Be organized without overdoing it. Not everything needs to be color-coded and meticulously organized, but you do need a basic system so that you can easily find something when you need it. Keep all your wedding items and papers in one place (the corner of a spare bedroom or closet is great), and have a binder or folder with the most important papers, including a checklist, phone numbers of vendors, etc., that you can take with you to appointments or planning sessions with your bridal party.

-Ask for help! Seriously. Don’t suck it up and do it all yourself like I tried to, because you simply can’t do it unless you find a way to live without sleep. Enlist your bridal party, parents, crafty friends, co-workers, whoever you can get. Bribe them with candy. Whatever it takes to get some assistance in any area you need. And revel in the great people in your life that are willing to take time out of their day for you!

-Stick to (and make) a budget. When you get to the point you’ve realized you’ve overspent, there’s probably not much you can do to take it back, so don’t let it happen in the first place. Remember that it’s more important to invest in your marriage, not your wedding.

-Breathe. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, sit back, close your eyes for a minute and simply breathe deeply. It’s crazy how much something as simple as that can help you calm down. If that’s not enough, walk away and do something else for awhile. Try yoga even!

-Have plenty of date nights with your fiancé. Make time for each other and be in the moment! It’s so important to not let your relationship slide to the back burner during this time. You’re engaged! Enjoy it! Prioritize spending quality time together and find fun ways to connect. I think it’s also important to talk a lot. Get to know each other on a deeper level. Ask each other hard questions. It’s amazing what you learn about your partner when you take the time to ask!

-Make lots of time for you. Go ahead, get massages leading up to the big day, schedule a facial and plenty of pedicures! Pamper yourself, because loving yourself is important too. If you’re tight on money, have an at-home spa day, or devote one entire weekend day to reading on the couch with your fave beverage. Go for a long walk in the park. Whatever it takes to relax your mind, have some fun and recharge your battery without doing anything wedding-related.

-Think about your expectations of your husband, bridal party and close family members and communicate to them what EXACTLY you want out of them. Never assume anything. (I assumed my mom would show up to help me get ready before the ceremony, but she didn’t because I didn’t tell her to be there. She simply didn’t know and wanted to help make sure the church was prepared and greet guests as they arrived, which was nice, but not what I had envisioned. That is 100% my fault.)

-Stick to your guns. Don’t let anyone else persuade you from wandering from your wedding-day dreams. If you really truly want to walk down the aisle to Spice Girls, do it. If you want to serve broccoli-flavored cake, do it. Who cares if someone thinks it’s weird or untraditional. It’s your day. Do what YOU want. They have/had their own day to do what they want.

-Accept the fact that things more than likely will go wrong on your wedding day and leading up to it. You probably will be disappointed in something, someone will make your big day all about them, and people you thought you could rely on may fail you. And as much as all of that sucks, it’s completely normal and there’s nothing you can do about it.

-Remember the big picture. What’s most important at the end of the day is that you get to marry the man (or woman!) you love. View your wedding as a success if that happens. As long as you and your spouse are happy with your decisions, you’re set.

The reason I think it’s so important to have an enjoyable engagement is so that you can carry it into your upcoming marriage. You want to set a good tone for your new life together. You don’t want to go into it frantic and frazzled! You (probably) only get to be engaged once, so you want to be able to look back on that time of your life and smile. It’s a happy time; enjoy it!

March 10, 2014

When I was planning my wedding, I overresearched everything. I subscribed to tons of websites and wedding newsletters, got tons of magazines and books and scoured message boards. What I found was that most actually weren’t that helpful. None of the bridal magazines taught me anything, and much of the information everywhere was either common sense, or the same tips regurgitated over and over.

However, there were a few that actually were useful. Ones that I bookmarked, dog-eared and referred to several times. These are my highly recommended wedding reads!

book-3

Of course, The Knot website is well known, but I also found it the most comprehensive website out there for all my needs. I also used its virtual checklist to keep track of my to-dos, made my wedding website there, researched vendors and read tips lists, but I most loved their wedding shop. Their prices rivaled other websites and stores, and I bought about half of my decorations and ceremony/reception items from them. They also always had great sales and coupons, so I saved a good amount of money by ordering there too.

Real Simple Weddings. This book was given to me as a gift from a sweet co-worker who told me her sister found it super helpful in planning her wedding. It had chapters for all the big things to plan for in your wedding. It overviewed the different types of dress shapes, flower types for your bouquets, and had the most comprehensive checklist of any source I found. This was the first book I had that really helped me get a handle on planning.

The Knot Book of Wedding Lists. It’s no secret. I love lists. For everything I do in my life. This book had a list for every possible thing to consider in planning, and I found many of them incredibly helpful. Questions to ask your vendors. Order of events for the ceremony and reception. Items to put in guests’ welcome bags. Things to consider for the rehearsal dinner. Duties for the wedding party. Types of stationery to consider. Sample invitation wording. List of shots for the photographer. Dress types for you and bridesmaids. Items to have in your day-of bag. Top reception songs. Items to put on your registry. Organizing your honeymoon. Loved this book.

The Nest Newlywed Handbook. Another book from the folks from The Knot. This one was what I read on our honeymoon. It had great tips for starting your married life together. Tips for combining finances, dealing with new insurance choices, buying your first home, decorating as a couple, throwing parties, having date nights, combining families and dealing with in-laws, starting your family and having children, communicating as a couple, and your futures together. But what I liked most about this book was its list of questions at the end of each chapter. They were questions to ask your spouse and discuss together to get to know eachother and expectations better. One night on our honeymoon we went over most of them, and it was really nice to have those questions to prompt our discussions. Some of the questions included: What aspect of your parents’ relationship do you most admire? Say I get a surprise bonus…do we splurge on something big or save it for a rainy day? What belonging of mine would you throw out first? Who are the five friends you most hope to still have in ten years? What will happen when our parents get old?

The other book pictured that I didn’t write about is one that my husband read. It had very thoughtful ideas on marriage and comes very highly recommended. It’s on my to-read list when I get caught up.

For any newlyweds or future brides, I hope you find these as helpful as I did! For any married ladies, what other resources did you find most helpful in planning your wedding?

January 28, 2014

I was pretty certain my whole life that when I got married, I’d change my last name. Being a sociology minor though, I did have a period of doubting that. I actually met a few people who broke the societal norm – the chair of the department took his wife’s last name, and a classmate who got married made up a new last name that both she and her husband took. I thought it was super cool, and I totally got it. Why should the woman have to make the sacrifice? It’s essentially like a new identity, especially if you’re well into your career and have established yourself with your maiden name. My own mom has some regrets about changing hers for various reasons.

For me, in the end, I still wanted to take my husband’s last name. In several ways, I consider myself modern and sometimes even a feminist. But another part of me is very traditional. I liked the idea of being unified with my husband by name. It shows the world we belong together. It showed his family that I was proud to join them. If and when we have children, we’ll all share one last name. The idea of saying “the Hoflands” was really appealing to me.

At the same time, I spent 27 years of my life with one name, and parting with it made me a little sad. It became my identity. I was attached to it. My nickname in high school was my last name. Few people actually called me Amanda. Plus, I had many published stories from my time at the magazine and other endeavors in my maiden name. I didn’t have it in me to totally throw it away.

My compromise to please both the nostalgic part of me with the traditionalist was to make my maiden name a second middle name. In the eyes of the law, I’m a Hofland. That’s what I scribble on my checks now. But knowing that my maiden name is still legally a part of me, now as a middle name, is comforting. It’s just tucked in there whether I want to use it or not. For my professional writing post-marriage, I did decide to use both so my articles could be linked.

I gotta tell you though: Holy cow, I was not prepared for the process of changing it. It was for more involved than I ever could have imagined. If you’ve ever moved, you know how many places you have to change your address. But for changing your name? Double it. Or more.

To do it, I took a few name-change checklists from the Internet and combined them into what applied to me, adding and deleting till I had a complete list of every single place I could think of that had my name somewhere. Of course there’s the social security office, DMV, banks, credit card companies, TV and Internet service, etc., but so many other forgotten places like the library, magazine subscriptions, dentist, even your Amazon registration.

I printed out my massive list and carried it around with me for months. During breaks at work, I’d go through a few each day. What no one told me about this process was how many copies of my certified marriage certificate I’d need. Not just any old photocopy. A CERTIFIED copy. With some kind of “seal” from the courthouse. Which cost $10 for each copy. And most places wanted to keep that one copy that cost me $10. Awesome.

Thankfully not every entry on the list needed a certified copy, but probably at least 5 or more did. Some wanted that certified copy mailed to them with an application for a name change, some wanted a regular copy faxed to them with a hand-written cover sheet, some allowed me to just email them a scanned file of it, and a select few needed no evidence and took my word for it (God bless those ones).

Every single one required an initial phone call to find out what the procedure was, and that meant lots of time on hard-to-navigate automated systems that takes you in circles, talking to foreign people with such thick accents I couldn’t understand a thing, being transferred around multiple departments, multiple times, and playing many rounds of phone tag. I was on the phone so much over those few months changing my name that I went over on my voice usage. Which I’ve never done before.

It was a GIANT pain. That’s one of the things no one warned me about, how dang time-consuming it would be. The best part: Some still haven’t gotten it right. Many months later, Wells Fargo is still struggling to get it changed (three emails, many phone calls and two in-person branch visits later). DirecTV was the next worst. Because my old roommate was still listed on my account, they had to have her permission first, which in itself was a pain. She and I were both on the phone with them about three or more times each, each time getting a different story from each person we talked to. I wanted to scream. Actually, I did. I screamed a lot. I didn’t see why it was so hard and was taking so long.

But was it worth it? Absolutely. I love being a Hofland. One night I told my husband that I’m glad I have his name. His reply: “No, it’s our name now.” I melted.