{choosing a dress}

You have the ring, you have the venue and a date, now you need the dress.

Just so we are clear – you can wear whatever dress your little heart desires and there are no rules or regulations on what you can or should wear. However – there are a few things you might want to consider:

What am I willing to spend?
Whether you are funding the gown yourself, or someone has so graciously offered to assist, you need to have a budget. Sure – you can fluctuate and it is not set in stone, but you want to try on dresses that are realistic for purchase. This is why the associate at the bridal suite you are shopping at will ask what your budget is. She isn’t nosy – she wants to pull dresses in your price range so that you don’t accidentally fall in love with a dress too expensive to buy. Sometimes more expensive dresses are only more expensive because of the name, however, for the most part, they are tailored to fit a woman’s body and the materials are more glamorous. SO – don’t try them on if you don’t want to fall in love, because you probably will. Also remember that you will need to alter the dress in some way – so be sure to set aside a portion of your budget for that.

Does it fit and make sense for my venue?

If you are having a beach wedding, a ball gown is absurd. If you are having a swanky wedding at the Four Seasons, your boho dress might get you mistaken for a wedding guest and not the bride. It doesn’t need to “match” but it should make sense. Lots of wiggle room here, but I would take into consideration where you are wearing the gown and how it fits into your overall theme.

Does it fit my body?

Nothing is worse than seeing a dress online, falling in love, and trying it on in store only to look like an old bag lady. If the dress doesn’t work for your body, don’t force it. If it doesn’t fit, you will be lost in the dress and your dress will be remembered for being confusing opposed to your whole look being remembered for being so wonderful!

Can I move?

Make sure your dress is comfortable because you won’t be taking it off until the end of the night. You want to look like you are comfortable in your pictures as well. If you can’t breathe, that not only is super terrible for you – but your photos will show it, and your attitude might as well. You may think you can “stick it out” and maybe you can, but you won’t want to. Plus your feet will probably be killing you – so better just leave it to them to make your uncomfortable, you don’t need your dress joining in on the fun too. Oh – and make sure you can walk in it . You have a whole aisle to walk down – better be sure you can make it.

Is it Bridal?

I received some good advice from a coworker when I was in the debate between 2 gowns. She advised me to choose the gown that looks most like a wedding gown. She mentioned how I have my whole life to play around with dresses and styles and I should choose the dress that makes me stand out as the bride. I thought that was so true. You wear a wedding dress one time, and if you go too classic, you flirt with the risk of looking like a wedding guest in a white dress instead of a  bride.  I still LOVE that second dress though. I wonder if other brides have “the dress that got away”. Ha – I would choose my same dress again given the chance, but with so many options, you are bound to fall in love with a few.

How will it translate in photos?

I think brides should opt for at least one element in their dress that really captures attention in your photos. Whether that means a really full skirt or perhaps a extra long train or veil – something that will really capture an eye. If it’s not your dress, maybe it’s your standout shoes or jewelry – perhaps even a bolero! Ah – boleros, I will have to write about my love for them soon. What a cool way to transform a dress and give the illusion that you are wearing 2 different dresses in one night!

And when trying on dresses think about….

Who should I bring?

                I DO NOT understand the whole “Say Yes To the Dress” idea of having your whole bridal party, all your siblings, your mother and grandmother all at the appointment. I think that is way too many cooks in the kitchen and I don’t get it. I brought my sister along, and that was it. You definitely need someone there, not only for support in choosing and discussing, but quite literally to help you assist putting the gown on. But choose wisely and be selective. It is sort of an intimate experience and unless you are just stoked to show everyone, I would suggest bringing just a couple of your closest and bests.

How many should I try on to know?

There is no magic number – but the more you try on the harder the decision will be. This is kind of confusing because you also need to try on enough to know what style you like, while giving plenty of different styles a chance. I would say, once you decide on a few silhouettes or shapes you like – stick with that and eliminate other styles so you don’t make the decision exponentially  harder than it already is. I’m guessing you will probably choose one of the first dresses you try on anyway – so the others are just to solidify your choice.

When should I try dresses on?

In the morning! You want to get there while the employees are still fresh and excited and not ready to go home. You also want to snag all the best dresses before they are in other soon to be brides dressing rooms.

Don’t forget about the top/front of the dress –

With so many beautiful skirts, trains and low dipping backs on wedding dresses these days it is easy to fall for one component of the dress while forgetting the whole picture. While I loved the back of my dress, and it was probably my favorite part, I also was in love with how the front fit, as well as the skirt and the dress as a whole. Remember that many of your pictures will be from the waist up, and from the front so the photographer can capture your beautiful face! So remember to love all aspects of your dress and don’t sacrifice a less than ok “top” of the dress just so you can have another element of the dress that you love because all your pictures will showcase the front.

Take lots of iPhone pics!

Well, if they allow it. Ask first, but if they are ok with taking pictures be sure to capture from the front, sides, and back. You will study these pictures at home later on the couch while making your decision, so you want to be sure to have a well documented library of all the dresses you tried to compare. Just be sure your soon-to-be doesn’t go thru your pictures and blow the surprise!


{beer and wine…& hard alcohol?}

So you have decided you are going to serve alcohol at your wedding. First of all, congratulations and good choice.

Assuming you have decided to cover the alcohol costs for your guests, what sort of alcohol will your bartenders be serving? Well the real question is…to serve hard alcohol or not serve hard alcohol – that is the question.

I will start by saying that J and I did not serve hard alcohol at our wedding. We decided on wine and beer. For a few reasons I will share below, but also because he drinks beer and the occasional glass of wine, and I drink wine and the occasional beer. So – beer and wine was an easy choice. Not to say he doesn’t love his whiskey and I don’t love a good Margarita or Mojito – but to keep it simple and straightforward, we opted for some grapes and a hop or 2.

However – the alcohol at your wedding, although you will presumably be having some of it, is for your guests and their preferences.

A few things to consider when choosing your alcohol:

Who will be drinking it?

Are your guests primarily your college friends who are just begging for a shot of fireball? If so, better have that on hand. Or – perhaps mainly family, meaning grandparents, aunts, uncles – those who (arguably so) – would be more comfortable with a few wine varietals and a couple kegs therefore you don’t even need to bother with the cocktails?

Do your friends/family get out of hand?         

You know these people. You invited them. Can they handle hard alcohol? Do you have a weird cousin who will spill some family secret after one too many vodka tonics or start a cupcake war? You know the ones. If you think this is a dangerous zone, I would avoid it. Not that they cant act a fool on wine and beer, but hopefully this will slow the process and avoid being over served far too soon.

Can you afford it?

Hard alcohol will cost more money – so just something to consider. You will need to buy a variety of bottles, but also remember you will need mixers as well and this can add up. It can also be really fun – so don’t let that deter you if you have the money. Just something to consider.

Ok- so you answered all the questions above, but still need some options to help you choose. Here are a couple solutions to incorporating hard alcohol at your wedding without blowing your budget and risking a sloppy reception:

The “no shot” rule – Since typically fast shots of alcohol to the face can be the biggest culprit of poor decisions, eliminate this option before it does more harm than good. A shot may help your shy friend on the dance floor, but it also might make Uncle John divorce Aunt Cheryl.

Choose a few “Specialty Cocktails” – Choosing a couple specific cocktails to have available, opposed to having anything and everything up for grabs saves money and also allows for your bartenders to serve your guests faster. They can pre pour the cocktails for fast distribution, therefore eliminating lines at the bar. You can also make this all cutesy and have a His and Hers option – maybe a couple favorite drinks of you and your fiancé.

Literal Cocktail Hour – Another option would be to only have cocktails available during the cocktail hour and the cocktail hour only. After that, beer and wine for the rest of the night. This allows guests to order a few fun drinks, or your specialty cocktails, but then keeps boozehounds at bay and your savings account intact.

Cheers- and don’t forget the champagne!

{exploring venues}

Everything about wedding planning I loved. Except choosing the venue. This decision kept me up at night, every night, until we finally picked our spot – only then was I at ease and could start to enjoy the process.

Your wedding venue determines almost everything about your day. Even what dress you choose is affected by the venue it will be worn in. The overall style and theme of your day is dependent upon where the ceremony/reception will be held and the overall feel of the space.

I have my own specific style and I would definitely say our wedding was “us” – however, I think many different styles and venues would have suited us.  Outdoor/Indoor, Modern/Traditional, Urban/Country…so how do you choose?

There are a lot of details you need to consider when choosing a venue – but personally, I think it simply comes down to a gut feeling and the overall vibe you and your fiancé get when visiting the venue. Something I remember when we had our first viewing of the space was feeling like it was “ours”. Like the feeling you get at your local bar or coffee shop,  secret restaurant or park – the kind of place where when someone else says they love it you feel defensive and inside are yelling, “no! that’s my favorite! – that’s my spot!”. It just feels right.

Dang – those are some serious feelings just over a venue. But seriously! It sets the whole mood! You have to love it!

So – ok, you have the good vibes over the spot you want to move forward with, but before you do – here are a few things to ask and consider:

What is the cost and does day of week make a difference? Seasonality?

How many guests can my venue hold?

Does my venue allow outside caterers? Preferred? Required?

How many hours are we allowed at the venue and do additional hours cost an additional fee?

What time can I enter the venue for set up? When does takedown need to be completed?

Is there a bridal suite?

Can I bring in my own alcohol?

Are there music/sound regulations?

Where will my guests park?

Do they provide day of coordination or a site manager?

May have candles?

What permits do you need to obtain when using their venue?

Also consider the details. If you want banquet seating, does the venue have space to accommodate or would you have to swap to round tables? Will the marquee lights that you just DIY’d have a place to hang? The small details are important too!

Try to have an enjoyable time exploring all your options for venues as there are so many routes to take. It’s exciting and fun, and don’t let it stress you like it did me because it all works out in the end and you will be so happy with whatever you choose. As I mentioned, there are so many different types of places –but that doesn’t mean you only have one venue soul mate :)…anywhere you choose you will be able to make “yours” – so you can’t go wrong.

Happy Venue Hunting!


{growing your hair out for your wedding…fast}


Always wanted long hair for your wedding?

Me too. Well, I cheated and clipped mine in – however, there are plenty of ways to get the job done naturally.

Protect it from heat and wash your hair less – I put these two together since I feel the only reason washing your hair less helps with the growth process is because you are blow drying it less and keeping the natural oils in your hair that will help protect it from heat. A good heat protectant spray or serum is useful too when you are going to blow dry or use heat styling tools.

Don’t cut it – If you want your hair to grow, quit getting haircuts. Unless your ends are completely unmanageable, there is no way that cutting it helps the process considering your hair grows from your scalp. Will it look healthier after a cut? Yes. Will it grow faster? No. I suppose this will just help with breakage, and help the strands from breaking higher and higher on the hair shaft – but if your hair is healthy enough, no need.

Brush your scalp – Brushing the scalp is supposed to stimulate hair growth when done with a wire bristle brush.

Biotin SupplementsI was recommended these by a hair stylist and started taking one 5000 mcg a day (when I remember). It is supposed to enhance hair growth, nail growth and even eyelash growth – so I figured it would be a win all around. My opinion – it works well enough for being a supplement with no side effects or freaky ingredients (well at least I personally have had no negative side effects). It is not a miracle product – but I think just the mental idea of taking it also makes me think it’s working. Be sure to check the mcg when you purchase, 1000 mcg will do nothing – be sure to have at least 4000 or 5000. One pill a day is enough, your body can only handle so much anyways before it rids the excess itself and then you are just wasting supplements. You can purchase them at any drugstore for under $10.00. Don’t waste your time with the fancy brands, it’s all the same.

Viviscal-This works. Seriously – the only reason I don’t take it every single day, all year, is because of the price. Retail is $150 every three months and when I run out I just can’t ever get myself to cough up $150 again. However, then I wait a couple months, miss it – and buy it again. I don’t think that is how you are supposed to use it – so sporadically, but hey – I notice a difference and for the time periods I’m using it – it works. Check it out here. The reviews on this product are great, with most people saying they noticed a difference in their hair within the first month.

Argan (Moroccan) Oils– By now Moroccan Oil has created its own craze and has quite a bit of hype in the past few years. There are plenty of different brands and duplicates of this product. This product doesn’t help your hair grow- but it keeps the hair you do have on your head -and helps keep it healthy. This product also helps repair damage caused by heating tools. There are so many claims about what this will do for your hair, but basically since its an oil, it will moisturize your hair and keep it from becoming dry and brittle – and therefore protecting from breakage and damage. Best part about this oil is it is fine-hair friendly. It doesn’t weigh my hair down – which is essential to any product I put in this zero volume mane of mine.

Be good to your hair. It’s easier than you think and gives you an excuse to not have perfectly curled and flat ironed hair each day.

See this related post for more ways to keep your hair shiny, healthy, long  and attached to your head.

**Photos taken by Jessica and Amanda of Jessica Janae Studios.

**Red hair in first photo belongs to Jackie from Little J Style, blonde hair is Amber Fillerup, and brunette is  Makenzie Hamilton.

{when planning makes you want to…stream}

While planning your wedding, you might start to notice that the process starts to…consume your mind. You also might start to notice that no matter how sweet and supportive your friends are, they don’t want to constantly hear about what napkin colors you are debating, whether you should wear your hair up or down, should you wear wedges because they are more comfortable or stilettos to make you taller? Unless you happen to be telling me, or anyone else who just loves the miniscule details, most people just want to see what dress you are wearing and what venue you chose.

So where do you turn?


Below is a list of options to binge watch when you want to forget about planning your event for a while – but when you can’t let go of the floral designs dancing in your head all day and still need your daily wedding planning fix:

My Fair Wedding I love this one. David Tutera is hilariously blunt with his brides and the entertainment is real. I’m pretty sure the episodes are decently dated and you probably want to avoid all décor suggestions, however he does have some good takeaways. His etiquette suggestions, advice to the bride and thoughts on “theme” and consistency throughout the wedding are really good. I was pretty sure I was going to have my bridesmaids pick their own dresses (in a similar color) – until I watched this show (nothing wrong with doing that at all, and it can be really adorable, however – he had such valid points that I couldn’t go thru with it).

Wedded to Perfection –Ok now this one actually has some good design takeaways. However – you will probably need to double or triple your budget to pull most of it. This show features a husband and wife duo wedding planning business. They build mock design tables, go on food tastings, and seriously transform basic places into extraordinary event spaces. However, Netflix only has a few episodes available to stream, so don’t be surprised when the moment you finally get into the show, the season is over.

Four Weddings – This show is brutal. 4 brides go around attending each other’s wedding and then rating it on a 1-10 scale based on certain criteria. The bride who receives the highest score receives an all expenses paid honeymoon. You should see how brutal these women are on each other – from critiquing each other’s dress to dissing the food. Also another show you don’t watch for décor or attire inspiration – so look somewhere else for that.

Bridezillas – OMG yes. The series title speaks for itself. These women are crazy and I feel like most of them don’t even like the person they are about to marry, or their bridesmaids, or their mothers.

Happy watching and if all else fails, just stream Gossip Girl – again.


{national average}

As you can guess, many variables determine the cost of your wedding and the cost can be controlled. However, let me tell you – whatever route you take, it will cost money – and if it doesn’t cost you any money, it’s costing someone plenty of dough (more about the shock of wedding costs here).


But what does the “average” wedding cost?

The Knot : $29,858

Life2PointOh: $26,984

My Online Wedding Help: $20,204 – $32,327

It’s interesting to read comments from brides on these sites. They are either appalled by the average number and spend significantly less, or they are shocked that couples can get away by only spending around 30K! So, this just reminds me that it is all relative and there really is no “average”. Spend what you are comfortable with and if you live in one of the following states (like I do) – just be aware that you will be blessed with paying more than everyone else:




Rhode Island

New York


Via MyOnlineWeddingHelp.com

{wedding party – do or don’t?}

Featured image courtesy of Rustic Wedding Chic.

For J and I we never thought twice on having a wedding party. It seemed an obvious choice and not having one never really crossed our minds. However, although it seems exciting to choose the group that will stand next to you in support on your wedding day, and throughout the wedding planning process, it can be challenging – in numerous ways. The more people you choose – the harder it is to coordinate attire, accommodations, showers, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, and opinions. However, where do you draw the line? Everyone invited to your wedding are people that you love and how do you tell some that they will be being honored as a bridesmaid or groomsmen and not others when each and every person plays an equally important role in your life?

Bottom line is that it is tough and kind of awkward when choosing your wedding party. It is also thrilling to share with your nearest and dearest that you want to honor them by requesting their role in either the groomsmen or bridesmaid position.

When considering a wedding party there are so many routes to take. Do you choose those who are currently in your life – supporting you and your soon-to-be spouse? Those who have been with you thru your past and know you from the beginning? Do you consider choosing those who you are sure will be in your life for centuries after the wedding?

The truth is – you choose who you want and for whatever reason you want. Siblings, friends, college, high school, new friends, old friends – any and all of the above – there isn’t a specific template. Nor should there be.

Things to consider:

  • Don’t choose out of obligation. There are no rules here and unless your family has some sort of tradition, you are not obligated to have any specific person in this group. Even if they chose you to be in their wedding party.
  • Include as many as you like but be sure to remember than balancing and accommodating opinions is very tough, and as the bride you already have about a billion decisions to make during this process.
  • Being in a wedding party is expensive and time consuming. As a bride, do your best to remember this and consider the group in your decisions. Also be easy on yourself because when making choices – sometimes what works for all might be more expensive or inconvenient than you hoped. Sometimes it’s just unavoidable – your group should understand.
  • Have fun. If choosing is too tough – opt out!

To explore the latter, here are some thoughts from another bride who opted out of a wedding party:

“Since we got married, I’ve received a lot of questions about our wedding. Everything from how we picked the location (it was in my beloved hometown of Mill Valley), whether we wrote our own vows (yes), to where we registered (Michael C. Fina, Crate & Barrel, and Bloomingdale’s). But one that’s asked with surprising frequency is about wedding parties. Geoffrey and I opted to not have a bridal or groom’s party, which isn’t the typical choice, but one about which we felt strongly. Since I figured other people were curious, I thought I’d share our reasoning.

I have a really great group of friends. Girls who I can call in the middle of the night if I’m upset, girls who offer such sound advice I question whether they know me better than I know myself, girls who make my life feel complete, girls who have become my family. However, having been a bridesmaid I also know the stress it can cause people and I wanted the day to be a celebration of our love and commitment. I didn’t feel the need to have them stand alongside me in order to feel their support. Don’t get me wrong – they were with me every step of the way, from dress shopping to getting ready the morning of, but I disliked the idea of deeming only a few of them as “favorites.” I felt like our wedding was one big celebration in which every single guest was equally important.

There were others things that we did surrounding our wedding that weren’t exactly traditional, but that’s what made it exciting. There’s no right or wrong answer to anything, as long as it feels right to you.” Emily Shuman, Cupcakes and Cashmere

Good luck and have fun with the process while remembering that you are blessed in the first place to have people in your life that will stand and support you because you wouldn’t have made it this far without them.