Monday, December 14, 2009

Dave Ramsey is my hero!

Have you heard of this man?  If not, you should google him (or just follow the link)...he changed my life.  Before we married, Alex signed us up for Financial Peace University (FPU) with Dave Ramsey.  I was a little excited...but mostly just curious in what possessed my future husband to sign his Sunday afternoons away in the middle of football season.  Well, the simple answer behind my bewilderment is that God is great!  God put Dave Ramsey and FPU in our lives because he knew this is a tool that we needed to create a great marriage.  Did you know that 57% of divorces are caused by financial stress?  Well, FPU set our marriage up for great success.  The financial instruction Dave gives is both simple and genius.  Mostly common sense...but a common sense that is sort of lost in today's society.  The concept is easy: save money, eliminate debt and give generously.  We are currently on baby step 2: paying off consumer debt (uggghhh!!!) And we are living like no one else (very cheaply) so that someday we can live like no one else (in financial peace)!!!  Dave's slogan.  Long story short, we are so bought into this concept that we just agreed to teach our own session of Financial Peace University for our church.  This is a DVD driven course and we will be leading it in the spring. Dave Ramsey has changed my entire outlook on money.  It no longer controls my life and causes strife.  But now I see it as a gift from God, a tool if you will, to help others.  Please join Alex and me in February for Financial Peace University.  Just send me a comment if you would like more information on how to sign up!  So while you are planning your fantastic wedding, you can also plan your fantastic marraige!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Crystal Genes Photography

So once upon a time, I posted on Craigslist to be a free wedding planner...offer still stands...I got several responses...and am working on one wedding.  I got one unexpected response...not from a bride but from a photographer.  Crystal Genes is her name.  She suggested we meet to toss around ideas, strategies, etc. Turns out, she had all the great ideas and strategies, and I was just her eager student.  We met in the coolest little bakery in NoDa called Amelie's.  I had the pumpkin muffin (it was terrific).  Crystal, in the few weeks I have known her, has taught me many valuable lessons...such as the importance of networking, but her enthusiasm and generous spirit has also inspired me.  After only a few short minutes of meeting her, she offered to help me out with a few suggestions: 1. start a blog (check) 2. offer a deal with her (such as next person to book her will get free wedding planning....we are still working on that) and 3. allow her to do a lifestyle shoot for me so that I would have some professional photos to market myself.  I was very nervous to take her up on this's been a long time since I've had pictures taken of just me (I'm thinking Senior pictures in High School).  But I agreed, and was secretly excited for the upcoming shoot.  On a brisk Sunday morning we took the pictures in downtown Mooresville.  Looking at the places we were shooting, I thought how in the world can she turn this into a beautiful photo!?  Today a friend told me she could not believe that the "ugly" wall in downtown Mooresville could look so cool!  But that is the thing about Crystal...she is such a super talented photographer!  After she sent me the photos I was speechless at their beauty (not my beauty...but the photos!)  But also in how beautiful she made me look and feel!  Crystal, you are an amazing photographer!  Thank you so much for doing this shoot for me!  

Monday, December 7, 2009

Girls on the Run is so much Fun!

So while this blog really is about wedding planning...let me tell you about some other event planning I do.  For the last three years I have helped direct 5k races in Mooresville and Statesville.  Primarily my job is recruiting and directing volunteers: super fun, but also very stressful!  This weekend was the Girls on the Run New Balance 5k.  Girls on the Run is my favorite organization to work with and I devote most of my time and energy here!  If you have not heard of GOTR, it was founded in Charlotte and is now an international non-profit.  The program builds self-esteem and teaches healthy lifestyles to young girls while they train for a 5k race.  The race at the end of the season is truly a life-changing moment for these girls.  For some this is a dream come true, and for some this is the hardest thing they have ever done in their life!  Unlike other 5ks I have worked, this one is a real emotional experience and moves you to the core.  First off, simply imagine an 8 year old running a 5k race!  The feat was incomprehensible to me!  These young girls really do run a 5k!  I ran my first 5k at the age of 24!  I remember my first race like it was yesterday.  And I can only imagine that this experience will be imprinted on their memories for the rest of their lives as well!  I stood at the finish line on Saturday and helped give out medals as each girl passed.  (Each girl receives a medal!) Other coaches and GOTR board members were at the finish line cheering the girls on and handing out medals. The coaches were so eager to see their girls finishing!  And the girls just ran up and were so elated to see their coaches cheering them on!  A special shout out goes to all the coaches for GOTR. These women volunteer, giving their time and energy to this program.  The girls meet twice a week all semester long to train for this race!  That is a huge commitment from volunteers! What a fantastic gift they are giving to all of these young girls!  Another shout out to all the volunteers for Saturday's race!  It was so cold and rainy all morning, but we all had  a wonderful time!  Lastly, to Jennifer Summers, the council director, who has put her heart and soul into this program.  We had a fantastic race on Saturday and it is all because of her careful organization and preparation!  If you would like more info about this program or would like to coach or volunteer please let me know!  You can also check out their website (the link is above).  Girls on the Run is so much fun!!!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cookie Party!!!

As I mentioned before, part of being a good wedding planner is being a good hostess. Hosting parties in my home is one of my most favorite things! This year I hosted my very first Thanksgiving, and with the help of my mom it was a perfect event. Tomorrow I am hosting my favorite party of the year...the Annual Cookie Party for all of my Y friends. Here are some things I am doing this year to make this party even better than last year:

First you have to invite your guests (duh!) I use evite for all of my in-home parties. Cheap and Easy!

All husbands/boyfriends are invited to come. We wouldn't want to leave them out :) Trust me, they love every minute of the Cookie Party! Last year they enjoyed a rousing night of video games and beers in the living room.

Each woman is asked to bring two dozen cookies. These cookies are munched on throughout the evening...and all leftovers get swapped. This is a great idea for the holidays. Now instead of just 2 or 3 kinds of cookies I can have an assortment of 10-12 cookies. This may be cheating...but I use these cookies as gifts throughout the season...for the mailman, people at church, neighbors, etc.

I appointed one friend to bring baked sugar cookies that need to be decorated. Then we spend the evening decorating cookies! This happened by accident last year (Ashley's crafty planning or the busy girl just ran out of time) and was such a fun activity.

Because we all met in some way at the YMCA...I plan healthy snacks to go along with the evening of cookies. This year I am serving up hummus and veggies and cheese and crackers. Simple, yes...but really you don't want to get bogged down preparing food when you have so much baking to do in advance!

Now as the hostess, I too have to provide cookies. I am baking some in advance, but I'm also planning to bake some while everyone is here. I am preparing all the dough today...that will save me tons of stress tomorrow! I will bake some tomorrow afternoon before the party and save some dough to bake tomorrow night. This gives us fresh, warm cookies right out of the oven to eat! Yum!

Other than baking cookies for the party, I have prepared by cleaning the house (ugghh!) and also decorating it for the holidays.  Alex and I set up all of our Christmas decorations last weekend!  The one Christmas decoration yet to be set up is my annual Gingerbread house.  Alex thinks these are silly, but I just love them.  This year, I will enlist my girlfriends to help me decorate it at the party as a fun activity.  (That will also relieve Alex of this "silly" task!)  I have not ventured as far as to bake my own gingerbread...I still use the box.  Maybe next year!

Before I sign off today, I will just share with you one of my favorite cookie recipes.  My mom always made these when I was kid and I am attempting them for the first time this year.  Please comment with your favorite cookie recipes for me to try next year!

Thumbprint Cookies

2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flou
2 large egg whites
1 cup finely chopped nuts of choice (I'm using pecans)
1/3 cup jam (any flavor-I'm using Strawberry)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg yolks, vanilla extract and salt.  Gradually stir in flour.  Refridgerate dough at least 1 hour until easy to work with. Form dough into 1-inch diameter balls. Dip lightly into beaten egg whites, then roll in nuts.  Place 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. Press down center of each with thumb.  Bake for 16 to 18 minutes until golden bown. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Just before serving, fill centers of cookies with jam.  (You can also fill with jam before baking...I'm going to try both methods to see which I like better).

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the Beginning

So I suppose the most logical place to start would be... the beginning.  For me the beginning of this dream- wedding planning- started at own wedding.  I've always known that event planning was what I wanted to do.  But weddings became my focus because I had such a blast planning my own wedding.  I married my one true love last year, November 9, 2008.  We just celebrated our one year anniversary and even after that whole year, I still look at my own wedding album at least once a week.  I am truly obsessed with my wedding. Ask anyone, they will tell you, that I just really think my wedding kicked butt.  We had so much fun, it was a beautiful day, and not to toot my own horn (but I'm going to anyway) but the day went off without a single hitch.  I had some help with my wedding.  The planning was all me and Alex (the groom) but we did utilize a few others to help with the day of coordination.  My good friend Susan Wolff helped direct the timing of the know: grooms men in places, bride hidden from groom, ring bear walk down the aisle now, bridesmaids now, and finally time for the Bride!  At the bare minimum I suggest all brides have a ceremony director. Even if it is just a friend helping out.  Otherwise the bridesmaids will be out of order, the violinist will be playing the wedding march while your grandma is walking down the aisle, or worse, the groom might get a sneak peek before the ceremony begins!  The other help we received was from the Wedding Coordinator for the reception location: Julie Greene.  Our wedding was a Charlotte Uptown event!  The ceremony was at St. Mary's Chapel and the reception at the Holiday Inn in uptown.  Julie was fantastic in coordinating the vendors on the wedding day.  If your reception location does not offer a coordinator built in to your package, this is also a must have person.  On the day of the wedding all of your vendors are arriving and they all need to know where to put everything.  Trust me brides, you do not want to deal with this the day of your wedding.  You have your hair to get done, your make-up and usually a few bridesmaids to round up.  Basically, you do not want to stress on your wedding day, there is so much to stress about before the big day!  But see, that is where I come in.  I love to stress.  Ok, maybe that is crazy...but the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding is super fun for me.  So thus a dream was born.

Check out these websites:

Photos from the "Big Day"
On top of the Holiday Inn Center City-great photo op
In the trolley on the way to the reception!