The dresses

Last weekend I chose my wedding dress. It was a surprisingly painless process (except for the torture devices they clip you into. But you can’t complain too much when your flab disappears…)

I couldn’t get an appointment at one place and only got one at a second store because someone canceled. But really I think the stars aligned for our shopping day. My mom and sister were able to zip up from Kansas after yet another snowstorm delayed our plans, attend a Nia class and get to our first appointment at a place that was friendly and patient and not at all pushy.

I found a dress I liked there, but decided to continue to our second appointment, just in case. We drove all the way out to Perry, Iowa to a bridal store on recommendations from several people I met during the planning of last year’s Juice wedding issue. One of the employees is this pint-sized woman who’s been dressing brides for decades, and she was so complimentary and sweet. She said I have a lot of “pluses” when it comes to wearing dresses.

And there I found the winner, the one, the dress that’s as me as you’ll find. My mom cried, and made me cry. We decided it was the long line of tiny white buttons up the back that was the most special. I don’t know why, I just wanted them.

So here’s your sneak peek. I don’t even know the name of the dress, I just know I’m lucky to have it.

I also picked out the bridesmaid dresses (beforehand, actually) because I had known for a while that the J.Crew Sophia dress was exactly what I wanted. It also came in the right color and was on sale about a month ago, so the bridesmaids already have them. And I was right. They are perfect!

My friend Jennie also picked out a dress over the weekend, and we both agreed that we were pretty shocked at how set people get about all the “shoulds” of weddings. If you don’t have colors, if you don’t have a date set, if you don’t want to get married in a church it’s like you’ve committed a crime or something. And I’m all about being organized, but I certainly don’t think the world will stop if you want to break tradition. See, A Practical Wedding, for more sanity.

So now we’ve got to start looking at menswear. Actually, we have been looking already and it’s tough to find exactly what we want. H&M seems to have the most potential, but we don’t have one here. Oh well. I’m all about traveling to shop!

Reflections on 2009

Despite parts of this year being pretty awful (I keep hearing people say they can’t wait for it to be over), this has been one of the most enlightening years of my life. I guess I thought that by the time I finished college I would know who I really was, but the truth is most of that education has come in my later 20s, and especially this past year.

I learned that it was possible for me to do what I loved. But that making it profitable was a much bigger challenge.

I learned I could teach Nia, and that there was an exercise that was right for me, and my body. I’m so grateful for that.

I got engaged to someone who truly loves me for me. And I’m pretty grateful for that, too.

I learned an incredible amount about how to run a crafty business, and saw it start to thrive by the end of the year. The business part was pretty humbling at times, and I had to start over on some projects more times than I’d care to admit. But I feel so much more confident now, and ready to grow Mary Marie even more.

I admitted to myself what I truly wanted to do with my life. And I realized that some things I thought I wanted to do, I didn’t want to do at all. Maybe I just thought I was supposed to. Regardless, I have to keep telling myself to stay on the right path, and close some doors so that others can open.

I spent a lot of time musing about the future. Mike and I had a lot of heart-to-hearts. We know we want to make some changes, but we’re not sure how it will play out yet. We thought we’d tackle the whole wedding thing first.

And about that. Though I’ve had world’s longest engagement, I still felt the many pressures to get caught up in wedding planning to the point of insanity, and I never let it happen. So far, it’s been fun (sans the budget part… OMG). And thanks to A Practical Wedding, I know it can still be fun, down to the last stressful minutes.

2009 was also a good year for this little blog. I remember how excited I was the first time I checked Google Reader and discovered I had 11 subscribers. Whoever they were, I love them for that. And whoever’s still reading, thanks for continuing to support me.

So here’s to more lessons in 2010. I’ll be celebrating the new year with a sushi dinner and night out at the Des Moines Social Club. And then, who knows. So many big things are set to happen in 2010 (the wedding, turning 30, watching some of my closest friends tie the knot, too), I can’t imagine it being just another year.

Engagement photos

Coincidentally, I happened to meet Joe Crimmings while I was working on Juice’s wedding issue back in January. He shot photos of one of the most chic urban weddings I’ve ever seen, and I ended up looking through hundreds of them to choose just a few for the issue. A week after we finished the issue, I was engaged.

Later I wrote a story about Joe, and his incredible journey of surviving cancer in college, then recovering and ultimately celebrating five years cancer-free with a major triathlon and the birth of his son. It was a very powerful story.

But in the end we chose Joe to shoot our wedding and engagement photos because he is incredibly talented, easy to work with, and most importantly – willing to drive a zillion hours to our location and bring his lovely wife, Libby, as the second photographer. We are so lucky to have them as part of our wedding.

So, enough blabbing. Here are some of my favorite photos from our engagement session. They were all taken in Des Moines, and I think they capture us so well as a couple — urban and outdoorsy, not too serious, and of course, in love. 🙂

If you’d like Joe to shoot your wedding or other important life event, see his work here.

Wedding colors and paper flowers

The wedding is still about 13 months away, but I have made a little progress I can share with you. (And by the way, even if your wedding is 10 years away, you will still get bombarded by crazed bridal store employees).

I picked out some colors I really love.

I’d had my heart set on chocolate brown for bridesmaid dresses, and thankfully that color (here it’s called espresso) is still very popular and easy to find. I’m also dreaming of a white wedding dress with a brown sash or ribbon. I think there needs to be a touch of something different there.

The accent color I love is persimmon, a slightly reddish orange. Since this will be a fall wedding – or somewhere between late summer and fall – I think this combination will work perfectly.

Martha Stewart Weddings had a great spread on DIY paper flowers recently, and I absolutely love their tutorial for making tissue paper pom-poms to hang from a ceiling. They have a how-to for smaller flowers that they suggest making into napkin rings. I’m thinking I will make bunches of these in different sizes and colors (maybe pink and cream along with the orange) and create centerpieces. That could save quite a bit of money on fresh flowers.

So, last night I made a test version and it worked so well!

I absolutely love this look. You can also make the little tissue paper accordions in advance, and then unfold them when you get to the location so they don’t get squashed in transit.


So we celebrated our engagement and my career change with some of our favorite foods. And sangria.

There are a million ways to make sangria, but basically it’s wine and fruit. I made mine with two bottles of rose, a green apple, an orange, half a pound of strawberries and fresh mint. To make it fizzy I added a bottle of club soda (not sure the size, maybe a liter?), and to sweeten it I added one batch of simple sugar (1 cup each of water and sugar heated until the sugar dissolves).

I also left it in the fridge overnight so that everything would get good and mixed together. It was wonderful!

Of course I made guacamole.

So much guacamole. Although I ended up getting full on a friend’s mango salsa instead.

Here’s the cake. Heart-shaped, of course.

I used Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Cake, but substituted a can of cream cheese frosting for the real stuff since we were already cooking so much.

Really, you could do this with a vanilla cake mix, too. Just bake it in two pans and stack the layers. You top each layer with mashed up strawberries that have been sitting in sugar until they start to make juice. Since the cake soaks up the fruit juice it tastes even better a day later.

So the deposit’s paid, the contract’s signed, and we are on our way to having a wedding. I’m hoping to post soon on all the sources where I’ve been finding inspiration — there are some great (free) ones out there!

We set a date!

In all my recounting of the Denver trip I guess I sort of skimmed over the fact that we set a date for our wedding. We will be getting married Sept. 18, 2010 in Lutsen, Minnesota. The resort there is just beautiful, and we will be able to have the ceremony right next to the water (weather permitting, of course).

This was the first major decision we’ve had to make for the wedding, so it feels amazing to actually get started planning this thing!

Looking at wedding venues

So we finally got up to Lake Superior to look at potential wedding venues. It’s not a totally unusual area to have a wedding, but there are very few places that can do the ceremony and reception all in one, holding more than 50-80 guests. We decided to visit two resorts, Lutsen and the Naniboujou Lodge. Thankfully, they both turned out to be viable options, and each was totally unique.

We started out looking at Naniboujou, which is a longer drive, but closer to Mike’s family’s cabin. It was built in the ’20s as an exclusive club, and still has the over-the-top paint job and original stylized furniture.

I have never seen anything like it.

To hold a wedding there, you actually have to rent out the entire lodge, and they can set up their huge dining room for the dinner/dance part. The downside, though, is that you have to wait until the off-season, which is late October. And the rooms were pretty teeny and didn’t have TVs. Some people might relish that, others might be annoyed. Still, we were just blown away by how unique the interior was, and thought it would certainly be a memorable wedding.

When we got outside to the parking lot we saw this. A sign?

Mike was saying it would have to be a pretty impressive venue to top that one. But when we got to Lutsen the next day, he was impressed. And I was really smitten. The beachside location, where a river runs into the lake is just gorgeous.

And as we toured all of the different lodging options (log cabins, townhouses, condos, some with beds for up to 6 or 8 people), we liked it even more. Hearing that we could choose any date, including the late-September fall color period we’d hoped for, was a bonus.

They also offer hiking tours and sea kayaking lessons, and have a frisbee golf course. The downside is probably the cost, which is a little higher, and the fact that you have to vacate the dining room pretty early, and end your dance by 11 at the latest.

I am a go-with-your-gut type of person, and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed that Lutsen was the type of place I had pictured in my head for a wedding. The views are incredible, and the reception room feels like a blank slate I can decorate how I want, which is really important to me.

So now begins the process of seeing if we can make it work. I really hope we can swing it, because I’m anxious to set a date and get this thing rolling!

The mother lode

When your craft involves making something new out of something old, you get pretty excited over finding the “old” supplies. And for me, that’s the ultra glamorous pile of partially burnt candles.

So I got pretty excited when I was at a wedding over the weekend and every other table was covered with flickering white pillar candles. It’s really the mother lode for me when I can find used wax that is both white and unscented, because then I can remake it into virtually anything. I take the colorful ones and the scented ones, too, but this is ideal. So thanks to Erin, the bride, for letting me pack them up after the reception and carry them home like a crazy bag lady. I have big plans for them!

I loved her “placecards”, too. They’re little galvanized metal buckets with a potted pansy inside. Instead of saying what kind of plant they are, the sticks denote the person seated there and the color refers to what they wanted for dinner. Clever!

It’s amazing how quickly the mania starts

I really don’t want this to become a wedding blog, but the chances of me not mentioning the zillion details that I’m sure will go into planning my wedding are pretty much nil. Hope that’s OK.

Today a friend delivered some magazines and these adorable planning folders, which I intend to use. I love cute organization products!

Do tell me if you know of great Web sites, blogs, magazines, etc. where I can find ideas. I am very much still in the idea phase.

North Shore weekend

It was pretty snowy along the shores of Lake Superior last weekend.

Cold, too. Can you see that? It says something like -12.

But we braved it for a weekend away. I love going there in winter, when the tourists are long gone and we can drive far out of cell phone range to Mike’s parents’ cabin near Grand Marais, Minnesota.

This time we weren’t in a hurry. We stopped a lot. Discovered an incredibly good restaurant near Duluth called the New Scenic Cafe, where I had butternut squash stuffed ravioli in a divine cream sauce with spinach, sun dried tomatoes, pecans and a hard salty cheese shaved on top. No picture of that, unfortunately.

We also stopped at our usual scenic overlook, where the ice chunks crash up against the shore. (I heard people surf in this lake. Why??)

And at the Split Rock lighthouse, just before sunset.

We woke up with the sun, much earlier than we usually do on a weekend. This is what you call nature TV.

We snowshoe-ed, Mike taught me how to build a fire (the proper Eagle Scout way), and then cozied up with a few lanterns for the evening.

I can’t tell you how essential it is for me to truly get away sometimes. You need the perspective. When all you have is a wind-up radio playing WTIP, the greatest public radio station on earth, you soon forget all your woes. You laugh at the deadpan host saying how he’s wired from drinking too much coffee and read the local news briefs in the paper (“Woman fell through the ice at Devil’s Track River. She refused treatment.”) You wish you could stay, but miss hot showers too much.

So we did all there was to do. We played marathon rounds of Yahtzee. Then we played Scrabble. Mike beat me, of course.

And then, this.


I’d say it was a good weekend. About the best you could have.