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My mom is a new convert to all things Martha Stewart.  In the grocery store lines, she’s been known to flip through a copy of Martha’s wedding magazine.  This is honestly a magazine I’ve avoided buying in the past, but after taking a look at her Web site, I might have to reconsider.

Martha is the queen of all things beautiful!  Her Weddings Web site is no exception.  I first came across the Bride’s Guide Blog, which is run by the editors of her magazine.  The blog is a great collection of posts and photos in a variety of categories.  The thing I love most about it is the fact that it’s not outwardly promotional, something I really loathe on wedding blogs!  

Regarding Martha’s wedding web site, it’s definitely the most visually pleasing out of all the sites I’ve been to.  She has all the proper planning tools you would expect on a site.  While I won’t be registering myself to use the tools (I’m a one-stop shop kind of gal) I would definitely be interested to hear from anyone currently using them how they stack up to other sites.  

So, whether you are planning or just browsing for ideas, check out the site and magazine!

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I’ve been reading a lot about dating in a recession lately.  Which sort of makes me mad, in a way, because it almost implies to me that you can’t have fun or impress your significant other unless you spend money.  As someone who grew up without a lot of money, I always take issue with the sentiment that if you don’t have it, you’re not really living.

But to my point.  🙂  Since Jared and I are both semi-happy owners of the iPhone, we received a text message letting us know that if we went to the Bridgewater AT&T store, we could recieve 4 free tickets to a Tuesday night Somerset Patriots game.  Great promotion, AT&T!  We’ve been thinking about going, but just needed that extra push.  I’m such a pushover for free things….

For those that don’t know, the Somerset Patriots are part of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, and are actually pretty decent (they’ve captured four Championship Series titles!).  You can read more about them on Wikipedia, always a great source for knowledge, lol.

I happen to enjoy live sporting events, particularly baseball, so I would consider this a fun date.  Our tickets, as I mentioned, were free, and there really is no “bad” seat in the house.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the highest price you pay for tickets is $12.50.  How great is that?  You’ll never get a Yankee ticket for that!

While food and beverage always make a date a bit more expensive, if you eat dinner somewhere else and just get a snack at the game, it shouldn’t be that bad.  Beers will run you about $5.50, so drink with caution!

Overall, a great night and a fun way to spend a summer night!  Go Patriots!  (And thanks, AT&T!!)

Happy Monday!  Figured we needed to talk food for awhile to get everyone in the mood for a great week.  And what better way to kick it off than by talking about Mexican food!

I spent some time in Mexico when I was in college, and the thing I miss most, besides the people I met, is most certainly the food!  At the time, I would have considered myself a picky eater, but after being presented with so many options that looked amazing, I quickly let go of those qualms.  However, upon coming back, the question remained:  where in NJ can you get some great Mexican food??

Enter Sol Mexican Cafe, a new build on Route 22 in Somerville.  Jared and I have been salivating over the sign for a month or so, and after one bad day last week, we finally decided to try it!  Every time we drive by, it looks relatively crowded, so we decided to go around 6 p.m. and that seemed like the perfect time for a Thursday.

Inside, the restaurant is small, but very festive looking.  Even though there were a lot of people (and kids!!), it still managed to maintain a certain sense of quiet that made talking easy.  After spending some time with the fabulous drink menu, Jared decided to go for a Magic Hat brew and I went for the sinful pomegranate margarita.  Always a favorite!  It was served on the rocks, which is fine with me, but for those that prefer the blended kind, speak up!

Anytime we go for Mexican, we have to try the guacamole.  This one did not dissapoint. It was made tableside so you could specify mild, spicy, or atomic.  We chose mild and left out the tomatoes (Jared’s preference!).  Although it was a bit heavy on the salt, it was still great, and a decent amount for two people.

My one complaint was that our meal came out almost immediately after the guacamole was prepared.  I’m very used to having some time in between courses, and I’m not a fan of feeling rushed, but since they were so busy, I guess it was a good thing.  I had the “Mexican Lasagna” which was a delicious tortilla and chicken layering covered with a great cheese sauce.  It came with a side of rice and beans that was too much to eat, but still welcome.  The portion size was pretty decent for the lasagna, not too big and not too small.  I’m sure the delicious cheese sauce was super healthy, too.  😉

Time for dessert!  Any time we go to a Mexican restaurant, I keep my ears open for those little two words I love “tres leches”.  I had homemade tres leches in Mexico, and ever since then have been attempting to find something just as good here.  Sol ruined it for me by adding fruit, which I never appreciate in desserts, so I had to settle for the carmel flan.  This is another dish that’s hit or miss with me after having homemade flan in Mexico, but this dish lives up to my expectations.

Overall, Sol Mexican Cafe is a place I would return to again and again!  They recently opened their Tiki Bar, so that’s definitely worth a shot at some point.

My rating:  10/10

Sol Mexican Cafe
3366 US Highway 22
Somerville, NJ 08876
908-526-4907

Read more reviews on Yelp (including mine!).

Time for another Features Friday!  This week, I came across a site called Offbeat Bride.  The blogger, Ariel, wrote a book called “Offbeat Bride:  Taffeta-Free Alternative for Independent Brides” that I saw in a magazine once.  Although I wouldn’t say I consider myself to be totally offbeat, I do appreciate a lot of the unique alternatives and advice.  With that said, here are some of my favorite posts so far:

Dancing Down the Aisle: Already featured this, but it deserves a second go.  While I would never consider doing this myself (after all, it is a ceremony, not a theatre production) I still admire these people for their bold attack!

Awesome Wedding Readings:  Jared and I have chosen to have readers at our ceremony to add some length and personal feeling to it.  Since we’re having a non-religious ceremony, we wanted to add something that was important to us.  However, we also didn’t want a reading that you heard at every wedding.  I’ve been looking around for some time, trying to find appropriate readings, and was really struggling.  Found some great ideas in this post!

Authenticity vs. attention:  As you’ve guessed from reading my blog, the one thing I struggle with the most in wedding planning is speaking up about what I want.  As a self-professed people pleaser, I’m more likely to do the things I think people want me to do rather than do what I want.  One line of this post really stuck out to me:  “On a certain level, when you’re attention-seeking, you’re handing over your happiness to other people — because that thing that you’re doing? It only really matters if someone else is looking and (hopefully) approving.”

How true is that?  Why should I be so concerned about making other people happy when this is my day?  They’ll have their own days, and on their own days, they can choose to pursue authenticity or attention.  As Ariel writes, “the pursuit of authenticity is thinking to yourself five years after the wedding, ‘I’m still living out my vows in this commitment … every single day'” rather thant hinking the day after the wedding, “OMG PEOPLE SAID OUR WEDDING WAS THE MOST AWESOME WEDDING EVAR!!!” and then realizing (I) can barely remember the day because (I was) so worked up”.

Hard Conversations: No need to go into great detail here.  All I’ll say is, I was happy to see that other people went through this.  A lot of people give me flack for the fact taht my brother will be escorting me down the aisle, and it’s always nice to read that people outside my bubble struggle with these issues too.

Happy reading!

A Chris Brown processional?  What more could a girl ask for.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-94JhLEiN0

I just sent an email to my coworkers and promised $100 to the next person that got married who did this.  These people are brave and AWESOME!!!

Jared sent this to me, so that means he must want to do it…. 😉

A few weeks ago, Jared and I celebrated our 2 year dating anniversary.  Since we’ll use any excuse to eat out, we decided to try a local restaurant.  Which brings me to my review for the Gladstone Tavern.

I’ve always liked the looks of this place.  The Gladstone Tavern was fashioned out of an 1847 colonial farmhouse.  The tavern has a dining room and outdoor terrace as well as a private dining room for events.  We chose to sit in the dining room since the outdoor terrace was a little crowded.  It’s always a good sign to me when a restuarant is crowded on a weekday!

We had a hard time picking an appetizer, as all of the choices looked great.  We ended up going with the Wisconsin Artisan Cheeses, which came with grapes and sliced apples as well as three large chunks of cheese and a basket of baguettes.  Another plus:  typically, restaurants will give you a cheese platter with only a handful of baguettes, assuming you’re not going to come close to finishing even 1/4 of the cheese they provide.  The cheese was excellent, and it was a great starter to our meal.  Probably shouldn’t have eaten as much as I did, but I can’t resist a fresh block of parmesan.  😉

As a meal, I decided to get the hanger steak in a cabernet sauce.  I’m not usually a huge steak fan, but the other menu choices just didn’t jump out at me.  I don’t like a lot of fish, and the pork and lamb dishes did not catch my attention.  The steak was very decent, although definitely undercooked based on what I asked for.  I did change my mind about that, so it’s possible the waitress got confused, but still.  This is why I hardly ever order steak!  But the sauce was definitely worth it.

Dessert: the best part of an anniversary meal!  Out of all of the restaurants we’ve been to recently, this one wins as far as dessert choices are concerned.  I hate when it’s the typicaly creme brulee, chocolate molten cake, and sorbet choices.  Really?  That’s all you can think of, amazing chefs?  Although they did have some of the usuals on the menu, the Gladstone Tavern also featured interesting desserts and specials that made it hard to choose. I chose the Peanut Butter “Sandwich”, a great mix of cake and icing.  It was to die for!  Definitely a nice option for those of us that get tired of creme brulee!

For those that may not be interested in the full dining experience, the Gladstone Tavern also features a tavern menu where the beer list is longer than the food list.  Might be worth going back for the more casual menu!

In total, I really enjoyed eating at the Gladstone Tavern.  The dress code seemed to be mixed, with some patrons arriving in work attire and others in jeans with young children in tow (I believe there was a children’s menu!).  Overall, definitely a place I would go back to!

My rating:  9/10

Gladstone Tavern
273 Main Street
Gladstone, NJ 07934
908-234-9055
http://www.gladstonetavern.com

Happy Friday to all!  As with every Friday, it’s time to feature another site that I read every now and then to get some different wedding ideas.  Since we’ve moved past the full wedding planning sites and into the blog-o-sphere, the structure of these posts will be a bit different!

Real Life Wedding Planning at first seemed to me a bit too focused on celebrity weddings.  Sorry, Kara DioGuardi, but my budget doesn’t really allow me to give my guests personally insribed iPods with music selections made by my business partner.  However, the more I read, the more I kind of like the style of this site.  Even though most of us will never have the budget for some of these things, here are a few tips from the posts I liked:

  • Kara DioGuardi’s wedding included moments of remembrances for her late mother and her groom’s late sister-definitely something Jared and I will be incorporating to honor our grandparents we were close to
  • For a black and white wedding theme, they suggest decorating strawberries to look like they are wearing tuxedos-nice!
  • Kendra Wilkinson’s outdoor wedding included a white aisle runner that led to an arch decorated with roses and hydrangeas-the arch and aisle runner are definitely something Jared and I plan to incorporate into our wedding.  Though it’s indoors, it dresses up the room a bit more!
  • If you’re planning an outdoor wedding, provide water or lemonade for when guests arrive-it can get hot out there!
  • If you’re a bride, make sure you EAT before the ceremony!  This is a big one for me, given that I tend to not feel so hot if I don’t eat.  Waiting until 1 p.m. or later is not an option.  Eating breakfast will not cause you to not fit in your dress 🙂

Make sure you visit Real Life Wedding Planning to get some interesting tips of your own!  It looks a little spammy and keyword stuffed, but it’s easy to read and I love learning from other brides!

Our story left off with me lying on my mom’s pull out bed trying to imagine myself in “the dress”.  🙂

Saturday was Alfred Angelo and David’s Bridal out in Allentown, PA.  I was actually ready to cancel both after Friday, but figured we should go just in case.  Alfred Angelo was the first appointment I made after falling in love with their dresses in the magazines.  I had flipped through plenty of magazines, and those were the only dresses catching my eye!

The Allentown location is Alfred Angelo’s flagship store.  It was a lot bigger than any of the bridal stores I had previously been to, so I was a bit overwhelmed upon walking in.  We were assigned a sales associate, and she asked me to identify five dresses I wanted to try on.  I had brought my print out of dresses I saved on the site, so I was prepared!  I went back to a dressing room, where they had me put on a bra/corset type thing along with a big underskirt.  I probably looked pretty ridiculous.

A note about Christine, our sales associate:  after observing the level of service the other ladies in the store were receiving, I really feel as if we lucked out and got the best person to help us out!  She stuck with us, providing her opinion when needed and working with us until we were comfortable with our choices!

At first, we were striking out again. Most of the dresses I had chosen initially were a satin-y fabric, and although I loved the color elements and some of the details, it was still all wrong for me.  The second dress was actually very nice.  It had the lace overlay that I loved, and the pop of color was a definite bonus.  The sleeves were detachable, and I definitely preferred the dress without the sleeves.

After we tried on the initial five, Christine offered to go get three more of her own choosing.  I decided to let her do that, since I really hadn’t found too much that I loved.  The first dress I tried was very princessy, but the skirt fabric pleated in the back, making my butt look big. 😉  The next dress I tried on looked interesting on the hanger.  I remember standing there thinking, ok, we’ll definitely be going back to Chrissy O’s, maybe Kelly can call right now and make an afternoon appointment.  I put on the dress anyway, and walked out.

I think I knew this was the one when I saw the reactions of my mom and sister. Kelly started to cry a little, and my mom’s expression changed from the one she had for the other dresses. When I looked in the mirror, I could really see myself getting married in this particular dress.  Also, this is going to sound weird, but I promise you it’s all true.  When I walked out of the dressing room, the whole store stopped to look at me.  A ton of people were oohing and aahing and remarking over how great the dress looked.  Christine and Maribeth, another sales associate, put me in their favorite veil and smiled as we walked around the store, admiring the dress in different lights.

So, I bought it right then and there, right?  Not so simple.  By this point, I was overwhelmed.  I loved the dress, but I couldn’t picture it with any other elements of the wedding.  It was so different than the vision I had in my head, that I politely took it off and said we’d be in touch with them the next week.  My mom, sister and I went to our car, where I proceeded to call David’s Bridal to cancel my appointment.  I wasn’t thrilled about going there to begin with, and I didn’t need more stress of trying on other dresses.  As my sister drove us to lunch, I sat in the backseat with my head spinning.  What was I going to do?  This dress was great, but the others were fine too.  How would I fit the style and make of this dress to the bridesmaids?  What would other people think of it?

I lost it when we got out of the car.  I started crying, because the pressure was just too much.  I was letting all these voices into my head saying various things:  “That dress doesn’t fit your body well.”  “Wow, Val, what an interesting choice.”  “Those bridesmaids dresses don’t really go well with that dress at all, do they?”  “Odd choice given your color scheme.”  “I’m shocked you picked something in that price range.”  “I can’t believe you picked a dress so quickly.”

It was time to stop.  My sister, my wonderful MOH, finally suggested we go back to see it with some bridesmaids dresses that Christine could recommend.  My sister was really just dying to try on dresses 😉 but I agreed anyway.  The sales associates were overjoyed to see us again, lol.  Christine was happy to start pulling dresses for my sister, and soon, we were back in our dresses.  Standing together, it all became clear in my mind.  This is the dress, these are the bridesmaids dresses, this is what I want, and I will stop letting what other people might think influence my decisions.  My mom, sister, Christine, Maribeth and I all started to cry.  This was THE DRESS.

So, yes, we bought the dress, the veil and another hair accessory.  What does the dress look like?  Well, I guess you’ll have to wait until May 22, 2010 to find out. 😉

Thanks to my mom and sister for supporting me through this process!  I couldn’t have had better people along to help me.  Also, thanks to the lovely women at Alfred Angelo’s who knew what I needed and how to get me what fit me best.  🙂  It was a pleasure working with you!!

I learned a lot going through this process.  Though they are things I should have grasped all along, I’m glad I finally got it and am able to tune out the voices of other people.  But that’s a post for another day. 😉

Our saga continues in the beautiful town of Newton, where I grew up.  For those of you who have had the pleasure of driving through Spring Street in Newton, you undoubtedly have noticed Chrissy O’ Designs.  You really can’t miss the pink awnings!  When I was little and used to walk to Spring Street with my parents or grandparents (back in its heyday) my sister and I would always ooh and ahh over the dresses found in the window.

Spring Street has really taken a beating over the past few years, as all small town Main Streets have in the wake of WalMart.  When I first started thinking about appointments, I almost did not put Chrissy O’s on the list.  However, after some reasearch, I found that they had the Maggie Sottero line of dresses as well as Alfred Angelo.  So, on Friday at 2 p.m., my mom, grandma and I descended onto beautiful Spring Street.  🙂

Of all the dress stores that we visited, the atmosphere of Chrissy O’s was by far the best.  Kathleen took us back to a showroom with TONS of dresses and showed me into a little canopy room that was to be the changing room.  It was a large dome-type structure with a few mirrors, a couch, and plenty of room.  I wish I could do the room justice, as it really was very beautiful and set the right tone, but I can’t do it justice at all!  It really made me feel as if I was a true princess in waiting!

Kathleen showed me where the dresses were and told me to pick out as many as I wanted to try on.  This was a bit overwhelming for me.  I kind of liked having someone bring me dresses they thought would work for me.  But, I was able to pick out a few that caught my eye.  Kathleen offered to let me put them on myself, and then she would come in, but I’m not really that modest.  I wanted help!  She was very easy to talk to and I felt completely comfortable with her helping me out.

Maggie Sottero’s style was a lot different from the Mon Cheri dresses I had tried on the day before.  The lace-up backs and corset style were very flattering (though time-consuming to put on!).  Once again, we were having trouble picking ones we really liked!  We were able to take pictures in the store, and were starting, yet again, to fall in love with everything.

There were a few we were able to rule out right off the bat.  I had my eye on an Alfred Angelo halter-style dress I had seen in various magazines.  While I enjoy halter tops during the summer for my regular clothing, the wedding dresses with this style top were not flattering at all.  They made me look very un-feminine.  I also tried on a few styles with a dropped waist, and found that those made me look short and stocky, hehe.  Easy to rule out!

There was one Maggie Sottero dress that I absolutely fell in love with.  It had, once again, a detailed bodice, and the skirt was an organza overlay that lay really nicely on top of the satin. The dress moved with me, and, in the mirror looked really great.  There was another dress I tried on that was fancy on the top and bottom, but plain in between that I really loved.  Although you could see the corset through the fabric, the pictures of the dress on me were very flattering.

When we left Chrissy O’s, I had, yet again, a lot to think about.  The one dress with the beautiful flowy fabric seemed perfect.  However, the pictures of me in the dress were not very flattering.  I know I shouldn’t have been letting this take too much weight, but let’s face it:  the photographers are going to take almost 1,000 pictures-I darn well better like how I look on camera, since those will be the only things that last!!  My sister came into town, and Kathleen let us come back so she could see the dress which was really sweet.  However, I just had that nagging feeling in my mind that something wasn’t quite right about it.

Going into the dress shopping, I was positive that Alfred Angelo was going to be the designer I chose.  On Friday night, I wasn’t sure at all that I should even go to Alfred Angelo.  However, my mom and sister convinced me to keep that appointment, so I went to bed that night trying to picture myself in the dresses from that day.  Kathleen had said whatever dress you dream about yourself wearing is the one….

I would recommend Chrissy O’s to anyone in the Sussex County area looking for a lovely bridal gown experience.  Thanks so much to Kathleen for her help and understanding.

Did we return to Chrissy O’s for the dress that moved with me?  Find out tomorrow in our final installment!!  🙂

I think one of the first questions people asked me when they asked about our wedding plans was whether I knew what kind of dress I wanted.  Of course, I had no idea.  As previously mentioned, I’m not the kind of girl that sat around dreaming about her wedding.  So, I really had no vision for the dress.  I did my homework by looking online and clipping pictures, but I still hadn’t really found a style that I knew was “the one”.  Hence why I set up appointments at a few bridal stores to get a feel for what I liked and find the perfect dress!

Three stores and 30 dresses later, I did find “the one.”  For those people that keep remarking how “quickly” I made my decision, I’ve decided to write a series of posts to help people get inside the mind of bridal gown shopping.  If my decision was quick, I’d hate to see how many dresses other brides try on…

Our story starts in Rockaway, NJ at Bella Sposa Bridal.  I found this store on TheKnot.com after realizing I liked the Mon Cheri line of dresses.  Bella Sposa is small, and honestly not a store I would have picked if I had seen it first.  Rockaway’s main street is not really a happening place anymore, and all of the storefronts looked sad.  So, when we arrived, I had reservations about finding “the dress” here.

My mom tagged along to help me get a feel for what I liked and what I didn’t like.  When we walked in, I was struck by how small the store was, and was once again not confident in their selection.  Renee, one of the store’s associates, was helping us, and we were actually the only people in the store.  She asked me what I liked and didn’t like and pulled several dresses for me to start trying on.  The dressing room was tiny, only big enough to fit me, Renee and the dresses, but that was alright with me.  The less room for anyone to see my body stripped down, the better!!

Renee made some excellent choices in dresses.  The first dress I tried on, I fell in love with.  I know, I know…cardinal rule of wedding dresses:  never buy the first dress you try on. However, this is a testament to Renee’s ability to read me and figure out what I liked and what would look best on me.  I fell in love with the details of the dresses as well as the beautiful backs.  I fell in love with the sparkles, and the big skirts, and of the “princess” vibe I felt when I had them on.  I also fell in love with veils.  I had pointed out a veil to my mom that had crystals around the edge when Renee was getting more dresses.  When I had on another dress later, she grabbed that same veil I liked and put it on me, not knowing I had pointed it out!  I LOVED how the scalloped edging on the veil framed my shoulders and how the crystals matched the details on the dresses. I also loved how all of the dresses I was trying on I hadn’t seen in a magazine, and although I wouldn’t have picked them out myself, they looked great and gave me new ideas.  I definitely think I did it the right way going in without an idea of what I wanted…it kept me open to styles that ended up being very lovely!

One thing I didn’t love about some dresses:  the fabric.  As most of you know, I’m not picky about a lot of things, but the satin-y fabric dresses bothered me.  I just didn’t fall in love with the way they looked on me.  Sure, they were ok and looked beautiful, but in the end, I knew I would not end up with a satin dress, since I really didn’t love it.  From a sizing perspective, I was very worried about trying on dresses in general.  I have curves and a real body. I’ve never tried to hide that. I was worried the sample sizes would have to be yanked onto my body and pulled in all different directions to get an accurate picture. Lucky for me, dress store owners happen to cater to my exact size, so I was able to get an accurate picture of how the dresses looked!  LOVE THAT!

The down-side of Bella Sposa is that you can’t take pictures in the store.  My mom and I had a hard time remembering after the fact what the 7-10 dresses I had tried on looked like, so it would have been very difficult for us to compare them alongside some of the others I tried on.  The rule with this is that some designers do not allow pictures of fittings since they are worried someone will go copy their dress and make it themselves. Sounds strange, but I guess it really does happen.  So, from a comparison and memory perspective, this really didn’t work for me.  But, the rules are the rules!

Renee was great, and I loved working with her. Her intution and ability to find dresses I might not have found myself made this a great experience.  I liked how she brought the dresses to me and I didn’t have to shuffle through racks to find them.  She helped us narrow down our choices and put some dresses into a top 3 list.  Without her honest opinions and gentle feedback, this would have been hard!  While I didn’t end up finding “the” dress on Day One, having such a positive experience at the first store made me very excited to keep looking and narrowing things down.  Thanks to Renee for making my first stop so pleasant!

Stay tuned for Parts 2 & 3 of the wedding dress hunt!

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