Rekindle That Spark

Perhaps it's been a while since you and your wife/husband/partner/spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend got together, and maybe things are a little...stale.

You love them dearly, of course. But maybe all the time you spend scheduling repair men and taking the animals to the vet (and chauffeuring the kids and fighting about chores and hosting visitors and cleaning the house and and and and...) has you out of the habit of noticing each other.

Maybe you haven't really stopped in weeks, or even months, to notice how easily the conversation flows between you, how relaxed your body is next to theirs, how often they make you laugh.

Maybe it's been a while since you really noticed what a beautiful smile they have. Or what a beautiful smile you have when they're in the room.

I have a simple solution for you. It sounds silly, but I promise you, it's not.

Make a photo book.

If you haven't made a book of photos from your wedding, congratulations.  You have prime rekindling fodder.

If you're already set with wedding photos or you aren't married, make a book from your vacation or your birthday party or a mini-book from that perfect date you shared a couple months ago.

This is key: Sit down next to each other, and look through the photos on your computer. You know the ones - the ones you took (or your photographer took) and that have since been waiting, invisible in a folder on your desktop.

Choose a photo book vendor (Adoramapix, perhaps), and spend the next few hours reliving that happy occasion while you drag and drop smiling photos that will remind you both - every time you look down at those pages on your coffee table - of how insanely lucky you are. Tell each other stories about the event that you already know but love to hear again.

When your package arrives in the mail, rip it open together and turn the pages of your book with a mixture of glee and gratitude.

Then wrap your arms around your wife/husband/partner/spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend and don't let go.

p.s. You can read all about our wedding here

How to Make a World Map Seating Chart

When I saw this image on Pinterest, I knew that I had found our seating chart.  But the picture didn't lead anywhere, so I had to figure out how to make it. 

It turned out to be quite simple, if a bit tedious.  It also turned out to be my favorite project of the wedding.

So if you're thinking of making one yourself, I say go for it!  But give yourself several hours.

World Map Seating Chart Tutorial


World map 
One piece of foam core cut to the size of the world map
One can Aleene's Tacky Spray
One box of quilting pins
Bakers twine
Card stock

My local Michaels cut the foam core to size for me.  

I used Aleene's Tacky Spray to affix the map to the foam core, following the instructions on the back of the can.  Then I laid it flat with something heavy on top and let it dry for 24 hours. 

I liked the look of simple kraft paper for the names of the guests and the countries, so I cut little rectangles from some tan card stock that I had on hand.  I used a basic black gel pen to write all of the names in cursive while we watched an episode (maybe 2?) of Mad Men on Netflix.  

I had made our original seating chart - just for figuring things out and being able to move names around - on a piece of poster board with sticky notes.  So I used that as reference originally so that I knew how many tables we were going to have and how many people would be sitting at each.  

That way I could arrange things on the world map and figure out where they would all fit and choose countries accordingly.  I would have liked to choose countries based on our travels or special places, but I ended up making the decision based, for the most part, on where the names of the guests would fit.  

Once I had that figured out, I laid all the guest names and country names in the correct positions on the world map and pinned every piece of card stock down the map.  Make sure you have something protective underneath if you're working on a nice surface.

Once everything was pinned down, I pulled out one of the country pins and tied the end of my spool of bakers twine to that pin and then poked it back into the country name on the world map.  

Then I simply wound the spool of twine back and forth through all of the pins for the guest names. 

And finally I cut the twine and tied a final knot on the original country pin.

Then I snipped the ends of the twine, and I moved on to the next country.  

And there you have it - just like that, and it was finished.

One word of caution.  Our wedding was during a pretty rainy weekend.  The map got a little ripply, I suspect from the humidity.  I still thought it was fabulous, but it's something to be aware of when you're choosing what adhesive to use.

My friend Katie - one of the many helping angels who lent their hands in the weeks and months before the wedding - made matching country signs for each of the tables. 

I was so pleased by how all the seating arrangement crafts worked out.  Of course the love and joy in the room were the important things, but I sure liked looking at that map! 

Let me know if you make one -  I'd love to see how it turns out!


The Wedding Reception

The fabulousness of our reception, which we named a Celebration Jamboree, is due, I believe, to three things:

1.  The fabulousness of our wedding guests
2.  The fabulousness of my wife, and
3.  The fabulousness of having a tornado watch and torrential downpour during your celebration.

Our guests were so ready to party down with us, and it was flat-out awesome to watch.  There were more than a handful of folks who were on the dance floor from the moment we invited everyone out until three hours later when we finished the night with a wild give-it-everything-you've got dance to Raise Your Glass by Pink (password "taylorspero").

Shout out to Makoto for making that video and to our friends Greg and Leslie for coming up with the idea of a jumping circle dance and making our send-off so incredible.

But before that final moment (or psuedo-final - we actually hung out with folks at the "after party," which consisted of sitting around and eating the leftover food and chatting, for another two hours), there was a ton of awesome celebration jamboreeing going on.

After the kick-ass hora dancing and the amazing food, and some wonderful toasts, it was time for the dance party.  And that's where my wife's fabulousness comes in.  To keep to our budget, we opted not to hire a DJ.  Instead, Navah spent dozens of hours putting together a playlist on itunes and then importing all of the songs into a DJ software program and blending and cross-fading them so that it sounded just like rockin' out at a club (guest post on that process from the lady herself coming up in the next few weeks).  And there was some serious rocking out.

 Of course there were a lot of really sweet moments too.

All in all, I'm gonna go with Best Night of My Life.


Venue: Windridge Tennis & Sports Camp / Photographer: Jonathan Couture / Caterer: Lewis Catering / Cupcakes: New Moon Cafe / Katie's Dress: Corey Lynn Calter (altered to remove sash) from Sweet Lady Jane / Navah's Dress: J.Crew (altered to add straps, no longer available in white)

The Wedding Ceremony

I guess I'm doing things a little backwards here - telling you all about the honeymoon before the wedding, but I was patiently waiting for the pictures from our photographer.  And we've been so happy with them and of course loving the experience of reliving the wedding as we look through them over and over again. 

It was such an exceptional weekend.  Even though the rain washed out the option of having our ceremony outdoors as we had planned, I wouldn't change a thing.  It was gorgeous in the indoor back-up location, and that made it more intimate in a way that I ended up loving.  

I still haven't processed it enough to say much more except that it was perfect and everything I could've wanted and more than I could have hoped for, which might sound like a bit much bit is absolutely the truth.

I'm not sure I've ever felt more gratitude than I did after the wedding - for our incredible friends and family and how awesomely lucky we are to have them and of course for my sweet wife who looked beautiful and bubbling with happiness to be marrying me.  Of course, the feeling was mutual.

And just wait until I share the photos from the reception!!


Fabric for the Wedding Quilt

I've known that I wanted to use squares that would be made into a quilt as our wedding guest book ever since I saw this one by Cute + Delicious.

I had seen various others during my meanderings around the internet, but I was always on the fence. But when I saw Alix's, I was sold.  Her decision to use patterned pieces and have the guests just scribble in where they could find room (or over the pattern) made for such an organic-looking finished product where the pattern was the focus, but if you looked more closely, you realized there were all those lovely signatures.

It was exactly what I wanted for mine. 

So over the weekend, I headed to Stitched, a fabulous boutique sewing store about fifteen minutes from where I live.  I'd never been and somehow didn't even know it existed for the first six months that I lived here, which is a travesty.  Of course now I can't wait to get back from the honeymoon and gorge myself on fabric, but that's a story for another day.

These patterns in the teal and red colorway from Michael Miller Fabrics caught my eye right away, but I was concerned they may look too childish.  After talking it over with the owner, I decided that was a-ok.  We agreed that a wedding quilt is all about celebration and magic, and what is more celebratory and magical than a pinwheel?  Seriously?

Also, our whole wedding weekend is at a summer camp, so we've sort of headed down the youthful delights path anyway.

After spending an hour or so cutting out the squares, I'm 100% sold and just excited to have everyone sign them and then start to make a quilt that we'll treasure forever!


Burlap Inspiration

Last night I was up to my elbows in burlap, our apartment filled with the earthy smell.  And my fingers cramping from cutting.

I hope to share a tutorial for my simple fabric runners when I'm back from the wedding and honeymoon (the runners are for the reception).  But for the moment, here are some burlap inspiration photos for those of you who are planning a wedding or for those of you who, like me, just can't get enough of that scratchy weave.

Image credits: 1/2/3/4/5


Finding Gratitude

I wrote this post many months ago - back in August of last year. But for a variety of reasons, I got shy about posting it. This week, after reading about North Carolina and listening to Obama's speech, I pulled it out again. So here it is. 

Navah and I got engaged last April. We looked around at a few venues, talked about our visions for the ceremony; then life got crazy, and we put the planning on hold for a bit.  When we finally started taking steps towards actually making choices, I got completely overwhelmed. Every time we talked about anything wedding-related, I would get panicky - not about the marriage part, but about the wedding itself. Within moments, I would be either hysterical or despondent. How would we make all of these decisions, please everyone, stay within our budget, and still have a good time?! Thinking about planning felt like a waste - there was no way it would be right. 

And then two things happened. First, my fiancée told me she was avoiding talking to me about the wedding because my negativity was hard to take. That was a (much needed) kick in the gut. I had become so cranky about our wedding that my own fiancée didn't even want to talk to me about it. This, after I had pined for these moments?  I knew six months in that she was it for me, and four years later, I was pouting every time we had to make a decision?  To be wallowing in pity and despair seemed like a rather poor use of my energy. 
And second, A Practical Wedding hosted the Yay New York! Party (complete with two weddings) to celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage in "the City." I was glad they were doing it, and I followed along as Meg live-blogged the event. But then she started writing about being weepy, how everyone was weepy, and how important the day was.  And I realized that I was totally unconnected emotionally to what she was talking about. 
But why?  I'm a lesbian.  I'm getting married – legally – in a state where I wouldn't have been able to five years ago.  I still can’t get married in my home state of Georgia.  So why no emotions?  Why no connection to the celebration of equal marriage rights in the most known city in the United States?  I rolled the question around in my mind for days, trying to sort out my emotions (or lack thereof). 
Once, I was very invested in gay rights and marriage equality.  I taped the front page of the paper to my bedroom door when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.  I held up signs outside ex-gay conventions.  I stuffed envelopes at PFLAG volunteer nights.  I started law school thinking I would become a gay rights evangelist. 
What now?  I tried to analyze myself - maybe I was avoiding the connection because I was so overwhelmed by my own wedding planning; maybe I just didn't care about New York. 
But a little ugly thought kept nagging at me - maybe I had become complacent.  Maybe my gay life in DC had gotten so easy that I had forgotten to remember.  Maybe I had forgotten about the people in Georgia who can’t legalize their unions, about the non-biological mothers with no legal rights who have their children torn from them by their once-loving partners, about the couples in the few states with equal marriage who still have to go through crazy machinations to file federal tax returns.  Maybe I had forgotten about the suicides and the bullying and the homelessness, about what it must mean to a young teenage girl, afraid of her feelings, to see pictures on television and the computer of lesbian couples happily taking part in the most sacred of our institutions.  Maybe I had forgotten what I felt like before I entered into this liberal haven, where no one bats an eyelash when my fiancée and I walk by holding hands.  Perhaps I had forgotten how lucky I am that next year I will be marrying the love of my life in front of my family and my friends, that we will sign a marriage license and it will take a legal act to end that union. That our children, when we have them, will be 100% mine and 100% hers from Day One. Perhaps I had forgotten to be grateful. 
There will be a day somewhere in the future when gay and lesbian couples will get married and be no more grateful for the day's blessings than anyone else because they won't remember that there was ever anything different.  I hope for that day.  But today is not it.  And it won't be next year.  While there are people in so many states who can’t experience the joy of saying "my wife" or "my husband" without qualification, I’m ashamed that I forgot to be grateful. 
We’re not going to plan everything perfectly, and we won’t please everyone.  It’s the nature of weddings.  But how awesome, how truly awesome that I get to even try with this woman that I love.  That we can plan this celebration and that when we get things wrong, we’ll get them wrong together.  That at the end of all the partying and the festivities, I’ll go to sleep next to my wife.  And if that’s not getting it right, I’m not sure what is.


Needlepoint Save the Date: Exploit Your Dog

About a year ago, I saw this bandana, made by my friend Caitlin, featured on I knew I wanted to make something like it, but I'm not so great with cross-stitching. And I love the look of appliqued fabric with stitching around it. 

Also, I didn't want to wait to see it around cute little Jammer's neck until our wedding day. 

The solution? Make a needlepoint version for the save the date. 

So I started. 

Using regular ol' Microsoft Word, I picked a font that I liked and printed out our initials and the date the size that I wanted for the bandana. 

I pulled out a bunch of scrap fabric and chose some prints that I thought went together for the letters. 

Using tracing paper and a pen, I traced the outline of the letters onto my chosen fabrics. 

After cutting them out, I cut out some light-weight fusible interfacing in the same letter shapes and ironed it onto the fabric according to the instructions. 

I placed the letters onto my fabric, using a straight edge to arrange them, and then ironed them onto the plain fabric I was using for the bandana. 

From there, it was time to put the fabric in an embroider hoop, pick a coordinating-color embroidery thread, and begin doing a blanket stitch all the way around each letter. 

I included some pictures of the blanket stitch process, but if you need a great tutorial, I'd check here

Once I had completed blanket stitching all the way around all the letters, I was ready to move on to the date. 

I measured the letters on my fabric and the numbers on my original print-out to find the exact center of each. 

Once I'd lined it up, I traced the numbers onto my fabric.

And then used a basic back stitch for them and sewed a couple buttons in between the numbers. 

The final step was to cut out the fabric into the bandana shape. I used another of Jammer's bandanas as a template. 

And there it was. 

Originally I planned to take a picture just of Jammer with the little needlepoint bandana around his neck, but those pictures just weren't doing it for me. 

He looked so somber that I felt like we were inviting people to our funeral instead of a wedding. 

We decided that we had to get us in the picture somehow. 

This was our first try, but in order to get our hands in the picture the way we wanted, the letters on the bandana were too small. 

But luckily we landed on our final version, with Jammer looking like a stern butler but us looking joyful in the background: 


A Practical Wedding

If you chat with me in real life, you know I'm mildly moderately seriously obsessed with the blog A Practical Wedding and also with the amazing Meg Keene, the woman behind the blog (which is much more than a blog now).  She has created a rich community of brides, brides-to-be, wives - women (and maybe some men?) talking about relationships and what it means to be in them, honor them, and celebrate them in every different way imaginable. 

She also wrote a delightful book of the same name about wedding planning that fills what was an inexplicable hole in the wedding book world - a common sense book that doesn't make you feel like everything you're doing is (1) wrong, (2) too expensive, (3) not expensive enough, or (4) likely to make your family run out crying.  Reading her book has been like a breath of fresh air.  When she talked about how absolutely normal it is for couples to fight more than ever during the engagement period and how important those fights are as the couple wades into new territory and tests the boundaries of their blossoming "baby family," I wanted to fly to California and hug her. 

Today Meg starts her book tour, and I cannot tell you how disappointed I am that I won't get to attend any of her talks.  I'll say this much - it's a lot of disappointment.  Imagine slumped shoulders, frantically scrolling through the dates and locations over and over again hoping that a new one will pop up, deeper slumped shoulders, downcast eyes, harumphing.  You get the picture.

The closest I can get is to keep reading about the tour on A Practical Wedding and to share one of their fabulous ad buttons here.  I'll also be running it in my sidebar.  If you can make it to one of the talks, tell me about it.  Send me pictures.  Call me and hold the phone up while Meg talks.

And good heavens, buy the book.


Wedding Confession: Helen of Troy Can't Even Cut It

Thank you so much for all of your kind comments and emails on my last post about our engagement.  While I rarely wish stress on anyone (only every now and then - I have bad moments), knowing I'm not alone in my anxiety does make me feel a bit better.  How is it that no one wants to feel this anxious about a wedding and yet somehow we all get sucked into it?

I've been looking at wedding dresses online - because it makes total sense to start looking for a dress before you even know what time of year you're going to have your wedding.  Seriously, though - I'm not actually looking for a dress.  I'm just scoping out the scene - what do I like?  What's out there?

I want a simple dress - something short and not too bride-y, maybe I'll even forgo white and do a peach or champagne color.  I pinned several dresses from Anthropologie the other day, and I liked one of them so much that I started thinking oh my gosh, I need to go ahead and get this!


Reminder:  No wedding date.

I didn't let that stop me -  I started, as one does I do when one buys I buy clothing, to envision myself in the dress at my wedding.  In my head, there I was cuttin' a rug at the reception, shaking it around, having an awesome time.  Then I envisioned myself walking down the aisle, and something went terribly wrong.  I came face to face with My Inner Bride.  I'm not going to call her a bridezilla because the word's overused, and I'm not sure I'm ready to pile that onto myself quite yet.  But this gal - My Inner Bride, she's a treat.

Her problem with me in this adorable dress?

I look too normal.  I'm not...wait for it...glowing.  That's right.  That's the problem - I'm not glowing.  According to MIB, when I walk down the aisle on my wedding day, jaws should duh-rop.  Everyone watching me should think to themselves  Oh. My. God.  How have I failed to notice all of these years that Katie is the most beautiful woman to ever walk the earth?

I know - seriously?

MIB wants me to wear something like this:

Wedding Inspirasi

And when Navah sees me, she should be overcome - o.ver.come. - by the realization that she has made the best decision ever, thinking to herself Wow! this is the best decision of my life.  I'm marrying someone who looks exactly like Kate Winslet.  

I tried to explain to MIB that I look exactly 0% like Kate Winslet (though wouldn't that be fun) and that no wedding dress could change that.  And what's more, I'm pretty sure if Navah were running this little Katie's-like-a-celebrity-on-her-wedding-day fantasy, it would involve me slightly tripping as I walk down the aisle, catching myself and making a witty and self-deprecating remark and Navah thinking to herself Wow, this is the best decision of my life.  I'm marrying someone exactly like Tina Fey.

There are probably 18 things that you want to try to explain to MIB right now.  I'm with you, but her brain has been sucked out by whichever wedding myth it is that says The Bride is supposed to look more beautiful than she's ever looked in her life and preferably more beautiful than anyone else has ever looked in the history of the world.  You know that scene from Love Actually where Kiera Knightley's character watches the video that her husband's-best-friend-who-actually-loves-her made of their wedding?  And she looks sort of disgustingly ethereal the whole time?

That's what MIB's looking for.

The whole thing reminds me of when I went to pick up my high school senior pictures from the photographer. I remember driving over there and being all fluttery.  I had never had professional photographs taken before - at least not as a semi-adult and not of just me - and I was so excited to get them back.  I waited to look at them until I got back into my car, and then I sat and slowly opened the cover to  All the pictures just looked like me.  It was a huge disappointment.  It's not that I think I'm ugly, it's just that I get these ideas in my head about things like Portraits and Weddings.  Hmm....perhaps it's not MIB so much as plain old-fashioned vanity.

The ridiculous thing about all of it is that I'm not The Bride here.  I'm A Bride.  There's another one - my intended, the person I'm super excited to be marrying.  I've always been sort of bothered by the Focus On The Bride - like maybe the groom wishes everyone at the wedding would come over and tell him that he's never looked better instead of making jokes about how ridiculous it is that he ever got someone as great as the bride to marry him?  That's something we don't have to worry about at our wedding, so you'd think that maybe I could do away with the whole be-the-most-beautiful-person-in-the-room/ever business.  Oh, but that vanity is a sneaky little thing.

The truth is, I can't remember a wedding I've ever been to when I didn't think that the bride looked stunningly gorgeous.  Not a one.  There's just something about the day - the energy, the excitement, perhaps the nerves.  Everyone is kind of glowing.  So I guess the only danger here is that I'll let my vanity run away with a dress that would really make me happy and comfortable on The Big Day (perhaps not calling it that would help).  The other day on A Practical Wedding, a bride wrote about how she was sort of ho-hum about her wedding dress when she bought it but that on her wedding day, she was so happy that she was comfortable and wearing a regular bra.  I thought now, that's the right attitude.

Hopefully if I work really hard, I can kick MIB to the curb and end up in a dress that's comfortable and relaxed and makes me feel good.  And maybe if I'm lucky, I'll glow.


Navah and I Are Getting Hitched!

I would like to tell you that the last week has been amazing, but that would be only a partial truth.  In some ways, it has been.  Sharing this excitement with each other and with all of our friends has been exhilarating.  There has been a lot of squealing, which is always great.  And a congratulatory email every 10 minutes really breaks up the work day.

But as much as I wish that we had remained calm and collected about this whole process, I have to admit that within less than one week we were both having anxiety dreams.  I can't remember mine when I wake up, but they involve the need for very intense problem solving.  Though we make daily promises to each other to relax, there is just something about the knowledge that there's a wedding to be planned that makes all of life a little more stressful.

Every phone call with family has the potential to turn into a wedding conversation.  Don't get me wrong - our families are incredibly supportive, and in some ways, having a lesbian wedding lets us off the hook a bit.  There are fewer preconceived notions about what a wedding should look like when it's two girls getting married.  And it helps cut down our numbers a bit as some more distant family members just can't get behind it.

Even so, there are still any number of issues that can have me in tears or proclaiming elopement (which I actually really don't want at all) within minutes.  You've probably guessed the first one.  Money.  I'm not even in a place to say everything that's happening around money, though I will say that it's happening only one week in and before a single vendor has been chosen - which of course means that it's all about how much this whole shindig should cost and who's paying what.

Naively, I thought these things wouldn't come up.  We want a simple wedding - nothing too fancy.  But simple is in, unfortunately.  Rustic, barn weddings are the thing.  Every other wedding picture I see is some bride in a short dress romping through a field.  So simple doesn't exactly mean inexpensive.

And, to be honest, we only want the simple that we want.  So while it might be cheaper and in some ways simpler (though not in other ways) to have a wedding with 15 people, we'd really prefer somewhere around 100.  While it would undoubtedly be cheaper to prepare our own wedding food, it's definitely not simpler to be preparing noshes two seconds before you put on your dress.  Though Navah would prefer to just put disposable cameras on all the tables, I feel really sad about the idea of not having professional photos of the day.  And I could go on.  There are so many little decisions to make, and every one of them is complicated, and every one of them seems to cost money.

I've been obsessed with John and Sherry's wedding over at Young House Love, which at first had me excited about what a beautiful wedding we could plan on a small budget and has more recently left me convinced that I'm a horrible, superficial person because I think that $4000 is a small budget can't seem to figure out how to plan a wedding on $4000.

I would like to wrap this post up with a lesson learned, a pithy quote, an answer of some sort, but that seems false at this point.  I'm still excited to plan this wedding, and I'm trying to take in the comments that I read all over the interwebs that It's Just Not That Big of A Deal and that The Day Will Happen and Relax.  And I'm still head over heels for Navah and so happy that at the end of all of this, I'll get to call her my wife (which I will - I've told her that I will no longer user her name - only Wife).  But for now, my emotions have fallen prey to all of the stories about this day and what it's supposed to be.

So here's to trying to relax and remember how flippin' awesome it is that (1) I get to marry Navah, (2) It will be legal here in good 'ol DC, and (3) It will happen, and It will be awesome.