Our photographers, Sarah & Ben, arrived, and I knew things were about to get real. Yikes, how was it already time to get dressed? I decided I wanted my mom and two MOHs to come into the bedroom to help.
I learned at my dress fittings that it was easiest to put my shoes on first. I haven’t mentioned them yet, but I spent a long time looking for the perfect pair of shoes. I wanted something beautiful and feminine, but I felt limited because we were having an outdoor reception with a bulk of it involving walking on grass. I just couldn’t get excited about wearing flats on my wedding day. To me, there is just something sexy about those extra few inches and heels can have a huge impact how a woman carries herself. I knew wedges would be the perfect compromise and after many frantic weeks of searching, I found these Badgley Mischka beauties.
The sun glimmered into my hotel room as I woke up. After a week of checking the weather neurotically (and a few bargains with God involving my first-born), the sun was shining. There was a beautiful, blue sky and I just knew that nothing could stop it from being the most wonderful day of my life.
I spent those first 20 minutes in a calm haze. Re-making my bed, shaving my legs, you know…the important things. Around 6:45am, MOH K rolled in, ready to get the party started. My mom and all the bridesmaids were planning to come to my extra large hotel room where we would have our hair and make-up done.
On the surface, we had a nice relaxing morning. We had a chairs set up around a conference table for the girls to rotate through. It was a total estrogen-fest.
My barely awake junior BM. She was so cute as she tried to decide what she wanted to do with her hair. She decided she wanted “some curls on top of her head and some curls in her face.”
We were ready to shake off the stressful rehearsal at the church and kick back with our wedding party. We booked a private room at Pane Rustica, a cute little restaurant in South Tampa. The service was impeccable and the food delicious. We wanted to save money and opted for a buffet with only wine and beer. Now admittedly, I am a bit of a buffet snob. (I think I was at the end of the line at a few too many weddings and missed out on the good potatoes.) This was one swanky buffet…I mean the salad bar had fresh mozzarella balls and grilled artichoke. The wine and beer were high end and our guests had no idea we were saving money.
My mom had the idea to give everyone a name tag to wear at the dinner since so many people from different points in our lives would be there. No party of mine was going to have ugly white stickers, so I made a quick last minute trip to Hobby Lobby to get a few pins and sparkle paper.
My MIL and BM A went to the restaurant early and set these at each plate (and it ended up being a quick and easy way to assign seats!).
The bridal party also had their gifts sitting on their chairs. I had a hard time picking out gifts, because I wanted to give something the girls would actually use, but also respect their personal style. My ladies got a little assortment of wonderful:
After our fantastic day at Harry Potter World, we headed back to the Embassy Suites in downtown Tampa where many of our other guests were ready to get the party started at the Manager’s Reception. For all of you brides who are considering a room block at the Embassy Suites, DO IT. In addition to a hot breakfast, the Embassy Suites also includes a manager’s reception every evening which basically = free booze for two hours. This quickly turned into the unofficial welcome party, and when Mr. Squirrel finally arrived in the last car the whole lobby was chanting his name. It was a blast!
The next morning when I woke up, I was so relieved to see the sun shining. I mean, how could our guests come to Florida and not see some waves? We spent the day at Pass-A-Grille Beach in St. Petersburg.
|My brother in law scoping out the water.|
We couldn’t have possibly been any lazier. We caught some rays, jammed to music, and played in the water.
Let’s get these recaps going!!!
The Squirrel clan is made up of a bunch of huge Harry Potter fans. My sisters would be at the bookstore for every midnight release. They would stay up all night reading their books. When I woke up at 8:00 or 9:00am, my sisters would be on the final chapters. I was ready to grab their book as soon as they went to pass out.
The day before the day before our wedding (aka…Thursday) we invited our wedding guests to join us at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. It only takes a little over an hour to get there from Tampa and I figured if my family and friends were going to shell out the big bucks to fly to Florida, they should get the most out of their trip. We included information about this pre-wedding activity in our invitation and ultimately had about 25 people go (1/4 of all the wedding guests).
MOH K and I were literally on cloud nine as we walked into the Harry Potter section of the park. I waited in line with all the children so we could get a pic with the conductor of the Hogwarts Express.
He’s so jolly! Perhaps the best. job. ever.
Side note: In the weeks leading up to the wedding, I had worked hard to perfect my tan. I was terrified that spending the entire day in the hot Orlando sun would give me tragic tan lines and/or turn me into a tomato. With my wedding two days later, I had no wiggle room. Therefore, I planned my HP outfit with great care. Tube dress? Check. SPF 50? Check.
Did anyone else wake up six months out from your wedding and realize, “Crud, I have no idea where to go on a honeymoon.” But you were completely overwhelmed with wedding planning that the thought of planning the logistics of a vacation made you queasy?
Yep, that’s us.
As much as we love to travel, we knew we wanted our honeymoon to be ridiculously easy and brainless to plan. Hello Mr. Cruise. We spent about an hour looking at a few different cruise lines, destinations, and lengths. We paid our deposit and didn’t think about it again until the morning after our wedding.
Literally, Mr. S was a the lobby of the hotel printing out our boarding tickets about 11:45 AM the day of our cruise…
We had no idea what we were doing. We pulled up and saw this beauty:
And it was the best day of our lives!
It has been a week since our wedding and it still feels surreal to me. I am still wandering about in this haze where my heart is about to burst out of my chest. Our wedding was so much better than I could have ever hoped. It wasn’t just the ceremony or the gorgeous reception, but it was all the little details that make my heart flutter just reminiscing. The moment I saw my bridesmaids lined up in their mismatched dresses for the first time, watching Mr. Squirrel’s friends boogie down with my cousins, listening to my grandfather encourage shots of Patron during his dinner blessing… I loved catching Mr. Squirrel’s eyes across the dance floor and dancing our way back to each other, the awe I felt on the water taxi as I got the first peek at our venue, the moment at dinner when I looked around the table and felt completely surrounded by love, laughter, and many drunken fools…
Well, we are only a few days away from the big day! The last five days have been absolutely crazy as my mom, sister, and I have worked our tushes off to finalize everything. Our vendors have their final payments, we have a priest (and a deacon!), Mr. S just took his last exam of the semester, and we are just so ready to be married!
Our family and friends started to arrive in town and it has been so nice to sit back and relax with our family’s signature drink: the blueberry muffin (blueberry vodka and Crystal Light lemonade). I am so relieved to have all the stress and hard work behind us and all the fun to look forward to this week. It has been a long, exciting, and often draining process, but I wanted to share one last project with you before the big day.
As I mentioned earlier, our dance floor is essentially a large covered veranda that is completely surrounded by a concrete bench. My wonderful aunt is helping sew 24 pillows to spread around the benches. These pillows are natural colors—brown, moss green, and tan. I wanted to top these off with some personalized pillows that had our new last name and cheesy hearts. I swear this is the only burlap I snuck into the wedding! (It is hard to resist sometimes.)
These pillows were made completely from scratch. I bought a few yards of burlap at the fabric store. I laid the throw pillows from my couch on top of the fabric and basically just cut around them. I didn’t measure, but just winged it. I then printed out the various letters and words on my home printer. Again, I used various sized letters depending on how big the pillow was. I then used black paint to paint directly on the burlap.
Inside our OOT bags, we knew we wanted to include a packet with helpful information. Our guests won’t have any locals to point them in the right direction. Also, Mr. Squirrel and I have a number of other activities planned for our guests to make the whole weekend a party! This packet was a way to get them all of the information the guests need: locations, times, directions, and contact numbers.
I know OOT bags can quickly become expensive as you start buying in bulk. For those who can’t swing the whole bag, I highly encourage you to at least make a welcome packet that can be passed out to your guests when they arrive. Printing is the only real cost. Heck, print it at home in black and white and call it a day.
The tedious part of these is gathering all the information. Thankfully, MOH K is truly an angel and she spent a ton of time compiling the information and designing it into this cute booklet. Honestly, this is a great task to pass off to a local bridesmaid! (Feels good to delegate!)
Our book opened with a welcome message to our guests. Of course it had to fit the sun theme! We had some fun with fonts and included a table of contents. When designing the layout, we filled in empty space with fun facts like pointing guests to where we got engaged (so they can walk there and check it out!).
Next is the ever important contact information. I did not want guests calling us, so I gave them plenty of options. We included a large group with people from both families and both sides of the bridal party so everyone would have a direct contact and it would limit the phone tag. We also used this page to communicate important information about transportation to the venue. In our case, the means the water taxi!
Even though we are having our wedding in Florida, I didn’t want a beach wedding or shell decor of any kind. I have shied away from any typical “Florida” reference with one exception: our out of town bags.
Our bags are sunshine themed! Ninety-nine percent of our guests are traveling hundreds of miles to come to our wedding, and as much as Mr. S and I were the main motivation to come, so was the thought of an awesome Florida vaca. The out of town bags will be the first glimpse of our wedding and we wanted it to set a really fun and exciting tone!
The bags themselves are pretty generic. I bought them in doses at Michaels. With coupons, I could get a pack of 13 for about $3.50. I found a cute stamp and drew in a quick sun. On the other side, it lists our last names and welcomes them to the wedding.
Inside is where things started to get fun. My sister, MOH K, helped design and print these clever “Do Not Disturb” signs. Since many of the guest will be at the hotel early, we wanted one side to be more of a “Hey, I’m here for the Squirrel wedding, come on in!”
I had a pile of projects taunting me for months. They fell into three categories:
1. A project I had already started, but was boring.
2. A project I had already started, but realized it was miserable.
3. A project I couldn’t find the will to start because I just knew it would be miserable.
And this is where a Mom (or amazing bridesmaid, favorite aunt, etc.) comes in.
When my mom came to visit, I literally did nothing. Instead of doubling the productivity, I basically went to my job during the day and watched her work at night. I was so burnt out. In my mind, knowing my mom was helping “advance” the wedding progress meant I had a hall pass that week.
Honestly, the woman was exhausting to watch. She can get more accomplished in a week than I can in three months! Without any further ado, the amazingness that is Mama Squirrel:
For the past year, my mom, sisters, and I have been collecting any and every cheap candle that we can get our hands on. My venue has strict rules about candles. I am allowed to use them, but they must be in glass containers. Hello hurricane and faux-hurricane glassware. We collected this glassware mainly from thrift stores and in the clearance section. I found that regular glasses worked great! Some of my best deals came from huge glassware sets that I found at Big Lots and Macy’s.
The collection kept building and building. Bags and boxes were piled on top of each other. It was a hot mess. Mama S got to work:
Do not allow yourself to panic.
Yes, you may have worked with him months ago to perfect every detail of your ceremony. Yes, you may have really connected with him as a person and his style. Yes, he may have been an integral part of your fiance’s conversion to the faith.
But do not panic.
Better yet, go turn on the news and see all the crazy things that are happening in the world. It will help keep things in perspective. Know that, luckily, you still have two whole weeks to figure things out. Just think, it could have happened the day before and then you may just have had to panic.
How could this possibly happen, you may ask?
Planning the rehearsal dinner was a huge headache for us. I figured it would be a piece of cake compared to the complicated reception with twice as many people. Definitely not.
I don’t want to drag out the pain so here’s the short version:
Mr. Squirrel and I kept going back and forth between having a casual “welcome picnic” with all the guests or a fancier sit down dinner with only immediate family and wedding party. I was rooting for the welcome party for a long time. I loved the idea of seeing all the guests as much as possible. It was great in theory, but a logistical nightmare. We couldn’t find a venue (who knew parks were $500 to rent for the evening?) and without any family or close friends in town to help, a DIY dinner for 90 people was a scary thought.
Mr. Squirrel could see my frustration, so he jumped in and took the rehearsal dinner reigns. He started making calls to restaurants all over Tampa. Some of the responses were just laughable. One manager rambled on for twenty minutes about how “of course they could accommodate our party” and there would be signature food, drinks, basically anything our little hearts could desire…all for a $5000 minimum. Hah, no.
We capped our budget for the rehearsal dinner at $1500 and we quickly realized that, in order to have it at a restaurant, we had to limit our guest count to the 45 people that made up the bridal party and immediate family. I was bummed, but we came up with a little bit of a compromise (…wait for it).
Mr. Squirrel finally found a great restaurant called Pane Rustica. (Remember, I just spared you about four months of restaurant calling.) It has your traditional American smattering of options: steak, seafood, pasta, etc. They have an in-house bakery with some insane goodies for dessert. The decor is pretty swanky and we will have our own private room for our loud obnoxious families (a requirement for us!). You see, my family historically interprets “rehearsal dinner” to mean “roast.”
We decided we weren’t.
I know I haven’t shared most of the decor, but we are getting a lot of help from our florist, Arlene. I swear our entire wedding will not look like a big stump of wood. Just a reminder, our theme is Midsummer Night’s Dream and the long tables will be full of moss, candles, bright flowers, and twinkle lights!
Back to the wood.
I just can’t resist it! It is cheap and charming at the same time. It is easy to cut, carve, and write on. I love how each piece of wood is unique and the more “damaged,” the better. A little while ago I asked for some help coming up with a plan for our escort cards. I decided to keep things simple (I’m finally starting to get it!).
My dad rocks and quickly cut out about 150 wood rounds that looked sort of like this:
Image via FiNeGRaiNeD on Etsy
It didn’t take him long at all. All you need are a few long branches and a saw of some sort. The sizes of the wood ranged from about two and a half to three and a half inches in diameter. Some of these were smooth with light wood, others had dark texture patterns running through the middle. I love the size and texture variations.
Last week was a big week in the Squirrel world—Mr. S became Catholic! After years of thinking and months of planning, this was such a huge evening for us.
Mr. S was baptized and raised as a Christian, but kind of hopped around churches growing up. As an adult, he had a strong relationship with God, but he wanted a faith community as well. Being Catholic has always been a huge part of my life. After we had been dating for a while, Mr. S started going to church with me on Sundays. I never put any pressure on Mr. S to convert. Faith is such a personal thing and I would never ask someone to do that for me. I just wanted to offer my support as Mr. S explored his own spiritual journey.