Monday, October 25, 2010

Willamette Valley Wedding Planning Yays & Nays

We had the luxury of spending 18 months planning our August 2010 wedding. Nearly all the vendors and service providers we ended up using were great and I thought it would be worth passing along the Yea's (and a Nay) to others planning a wedding in the Willamette Valley.

First the Yea's!
I bought my first dress on a GREAT sale at Bridal Gallery in Salem. It's a nice shop, and the employees were friendly and helpful. Their big sale took place in November (the weekend prior to Thanksgiving?) and everything on the rack was 50% off. Sadly, I realized later that I'd purchased the wrong dress for me, but that had nothing to do with the service or experience at Bridal Gallery.

My second dress - THE dress - came from Charlotte's Weddings and More in Beaverton. This was a really nice shopping experience. You get your own large dressing room, furnished with a big mirror and comfy chairs for your crew. Take photos and ideas of what you like and let the Bridal Consultants pick dresses for you! SO much nicer than sifting through crowded racks of dresses in plastic bags. Ordering my dress was easy, and it came earlier than they'd predicted. It was also reasonably priced.

We got Jim some pretty rad unconventional tux shoes at Men's Wearhouse in Beaverton. These were a big hit, and are getting some play on his conducting gigs.

I used Specialty Sewing by Leslie in Corvallis. Leslie came highly recommended, and I can see why. She was friendly and easy to work with. Her cost was very reasonable considering the delicate work she was doing. The best part? She also steamed my dress for only $45! The cleaners would have charged at least $100.

We ordered fabric for bridesmaid dresses from Fashion Fabrics Club. Turned out great!

I made my own birdcage veil, and had a hard time finding the special Russian Netting required. I finally found it (in white, cream, and black) at the Mill End Store in Milwaukie. Later I discovered that I could have ordered it (in every color imaginable) on Etsy.

For over 30 years, Jim's family has been using Packouz Jewelers in Portland so there wasn't really a question about where he'd go for my ring. They helped him design a totally unique ring (all via email and phone because he was living in Minnesota at the time!) incorporating stones from both of our families. They also created an incredible necklace for me using a piece of costume jewelry that belonged to my grandmother. Jim's wedding ring actually belonged to his dad, and had seen a lot of wear and tear. Packouz cleaned it up to look like new! Our friends Mason & Greta tied the knot about three weeks before we did, and they are also sporting beautiful unique rings from Packouz.

Spa & Salon:
My girls and I spent the day before the wedding at Phiz Spa in Salem and had the best time! All our services (manicures, pedicures, waxing and airbrush tanning) were great, and the atmosphere made it such a fun place to spend the day. Online booking (through the website) is super convenient, and you receive a discount for multiple services.

Shelly Gritton at Salon Gorgeous has been my go-to gal since college so there wasn't a question who would do my hair for the big day. She did a wonderful job, and one of her colleagues did updo's for some of the girls. They basically let the six of us swoop in and take over the place - even using their mirrors and good lighting to do our makeup. They made it really fun for us!

When I saw the photos from Beth & Adam's wedding six years ago, I knew I wanted Eric John to be my wedding photographer! (Nevermind that I didn't even know who I'd be marrying...). We acted fast, and booked Eric over a year in advance. This is especially important if your wedding will take place during senior picture season (late summer/early fall) as he books up fast. His work is gorgeous, and I really liked the way he's able to capture moments and emotions with his photo-journalistic style. Though we were thrifty on most aspects of the wedding, this was our splurge. The only downside (if you can call it that) to hiring Eric is WAITING for the final product. We were told to expect a wait of 8-12 weeks. It's week 10. Still waiting...

Our rehearsal dinner was a casual BBQ at Rudy's at Salem Golf Club. Their outdoor BBQ area is a bit rustic, but they make it work really well. We were able to have a full bar as well as a catered menu. The best part was proximity to a really nice lawn where we played bocce ball and let the kiddos run around.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church was the venue for our ceremony. Since this is our home church we didn't shop around for other options. However, I think it's worth mentioning for anyone looking for a nice traditional church setting! The church provides a facilitator who met with us ahead of time, organized the delivery and set up of our flowers, and was on hand on the wedding day to help with all sorts of details. The organist is pretty awesome too =)

Willamette University's CAT Cavern was our reception venue. We got a nice discount as alums, but it's available for anyone to rent. We liked the fact that tables, chairs, dancefloor (and all the set up) were part of the package price. Using any of Willamette's facilities does obligate you to use their caterer, Bon Apetit. This wasn't a problem for us, but might be a deal-breaker if your heart was already set on a different caterer.

Because it is a favorite of my family (and perfect for the occasion!) we made a special effort to bring in Amity Vineyards' Wedding Dance Reisling. It's a wine that we love, and it's affordable too (especially when purchased in quantity directly from their winery in Amity).

Paper Goods & Printing:
We wanted to send save-the-date photo cards around the holidays and ended up ordering them through Costco. They have quite a few templates available, but we ended up designing our own and uploading it with their blank template. The cards were fairly large (5x7) and came with high quality envelopes. Total cost? 32 cents each!!

I knew I wanted pocketfolds for our invitations, but was horrifed to see the $2/each pricetag. Some searching produced Paper & More where I found the same pocketfolds for 79 cents each! In addition to the great price, their shipping cost was reasonable, and the product was very high quality.

For printing invitation components, we found Northwest Graphic Imaging in Corvallis. When the cute office beagle greeted me at the door, I knew it would be good. We were on a really tight timeline, and they did great color printing on the paper we provided. I know they would have done more (found special paper, cut the pieces to size) but they were also great about doing the basics to help us stay in our budget.

At the last minute I decided I HAD to have a sparkler send-off. We ordered 20" white sparklers from Sparklers Online. I knew I was taking a risk ordering 10 days before the wedding, but they made it with three days to spare. They were awesome! It was so fun for everyone and it made for some great photos too!

Thankfully, there is really only one NAY. It's nicer to focus on all the friendly, helpful, high-quality YAYs anyway.
Nay to Olson's Floral in Salem. We had quite an ordeal with them (an hour before photos started) and it was the only stress of the wedding day. To their credit, they eventually refunded our money for the ruined items, but that also required an ordeal. Just go somewhere else!

Happy Planning!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hello Fall

It really started feeling like fall around here today and we had an entire blissful Saturday with nothing on the schedule! Time to light the BIG candle and get cozy.

I baked Old Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies for a Pumpkin-Carving Party tomorrow.

These are DELISH. I recommend doubling the batch to use an entire 15 oz. can of pumpkin. Unless you have a good use for half a can of leftover pumpkin...

And for dinner, we had Southwest Chicken Soup ala Beth:

- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders cut into bite-size pieces
- 5-6 cups chicken broth
- 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 medium zuchhini, chunked
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. dried ground cumin
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 cups corn, frozen
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup fresh salsa
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1) In a large soup pot over medium heat, put in the oil and heat to sizzle. Add the onions and the garlic. Cook on medium heat to soften for 5-10 minutes.

2) Add chicken to onion mixture and cook until brown.

3)Add chicken broth, pepper, zucchini, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 10 minutes.

4) Add in corn, beans and salsa and simmer covered, until flavors are blended and chicken is fully cooked.

5) Stir in cilantro and remove from heat.

6) Serve with corn tortilla chips, sour cream (or plain yogurt), grated cheese, and lime wedges. NUM! It freezes well, too.