Sunday, October 27, 2013

Humorous Housewarming Gift

I was in the card aisle at Target (my favorite place on Earth) the other day.  I had to buy 3 cards for 3 different friends hitting really exciting milestones.  I bought an engagement card, a wedding card and a new home card.  It got me to thinking about how genuinely excited I am for all my friends and the exciting things happening for them. 

So, of course, I had to get them gifts along with their cards.

I had the perfect gift for the "new home" in my back pocket from Pinterest.  I had seen it a while ago and it actually made me laugh out loud.  I've been waiting and waiting for someone to buy a house specifically so I could make this humorous housewarming gift

I became fast friends with our wedding photographer, Kiersten, during the wedding planning process.  She's one of those people who practically glows from the inside out.  She just has this incredibly warm disposition that made even my camera-shy husband feel instantly comfortable around her.  Kiersten has an exciting career as a wedding photographer, splitting her time between shooting destination weddings in Mexico in the fall and winter and shooting Jersey Shore weddings, her home-base, in the spring and summer. 

She is the definition of a "snow bird" and I told her repeatedly how jealous I was that she pretty much never had to be cold (my dream come true).  But Kiersten looked at it a bit differently.  While she recognized her sheer luck of location, she also longed to set down some roots and stop living out of suitcases.  What she really wanted was to have a place she could actually call HOME.  She and I share the same love affair with the Jersey Shore - we were both born and raised here.  In fact, she loves the Atlantic Ocean so much, I'm convinced she's part mermaid. 

I was over the moon when Kiersten told Brian and I that she not only purchased her first home, but she bought a condo in the same exact condo complex where Brian and I lived during the first 3 years we dated.  In a strange coincidence, we even figured out that she had looked at our actual condo when it was on the market.  I can't tell you how many fond memories I have from our first place.  We probably walked the two miles to the beach with our dog about a thousand times while we lived there.  I can't think of a better place for Kiersten, an avid surfer and beach bum, to finally call HOME.

Here is the super easy and affordable gift I gave Kiersten to congratulate on her new home:
  • 4 wine glasses ($1 each at The Dollar Tree)
  • I added chalkboard labels to each wine glass (left-over from our wedding favors)
  • 1 bottle of white wine (I highly recommend Trader Joe's for cheap but tasty wine)
  • 1 hammer ($9 at Lowe's)
  • 1 piece of chalk (because people always forget to include chalk when a gift has a chalkboard!)





Onto the next gift....

Monday, October 21, 2013

Well, this is awkward...

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I asked my six most favorite girls to be my bridesmaids.  I gave them irresistible sugar cookies, wrote a catchy poem and showered them with compliments.  They gleefully accepted.  I acted like a typical bride-to-be: I sent them links to bridesmaid dresses, begged them not to make my shower a surprise and begged them even more not to have strippers at my bachelorette party.  They were the perfect bridal party - accommodating, fun and excited.  I was one lucky girl.

So, why, on my wedding day, did I only have my sister standing beside me at the alter?  What happened to the other five girls who were supposed to complete my day?

Hurricane Sandy happened, that's what. 

When Brian and I originally created our guest list, it had about 170 people.  It was immediate family, extended family, childhood friends, work friends, college friends, sports friends and our parents' friends.  Our venue could hold up to 200 people so our guest list seemed completely reasonable at the time. 

Then Hurricane Sandy swept in, devastated the Jersey Shore and damaged our wedding venue beyond repair.  I'll get to that whole story another time but the most important thing you need to know is that we had to re-plan and relocate our entire wedding and we didn't have a whole lot of time to do it.  Our "Plan B Wedding" would be in my the backyard of my childhood home.  My wonderful parents were more than happy to host but they made it perfectly clear that their yard (and septic system) simply could not handle more than 85 people. 

Brian and I were faced with an unthinkable task -- to cut our wedding guest list in half.  Actually, we cut it more than in half.  We mutilated it.  My heart felt heavier and heavier with each guest's name we crossed off.   I mean, we had a big guest list for a reason.  We loved and cherished all 170 people on that original list. How do you pick and choose who gets invited and who gets cut? We really didn't have a choice but I was terrified of hurting feelings, burning bridges and creating some all around bad juju.

I know that "guest list woes" are at the top of every bride's complaints about planning a wedding.  I was physically sick about our cut-down guest list.  And to make matters worse, we decided if we were going to have a small wedding, we might as well have a small wedding party.  It just didn't make sense to have 12 people in our wedding party (6 on his side, 6 on mine) when our entire wedding was only about 85 people.  I would naturally keep my sister as my Matron of Honor - not only because she is my true best friend but because I was her Maid of Honor and that's what sisters are for.  Brian would keep his friend, Matt, as his Best Man.  Matt was flying all the way in from Chile to be with on our special day so it was very important to Brian to make Matt feel appreciated.  So there it was - our bridal party shrank from 12 to 2.

I called each of my (now demoted) bridesmaid and began the conversation with, "Well, this is awkward..." and then I explained with all the good humor I could muster that I as much as I loved them and needed their support, my new, smaller wedding would not have a bridal party.

Their responses were equally humorous and heartfelt, without a single bad feeling to be detected.  They consisted of:
"Well I'm glad I already ate that cookie."
"Does this mean I get to wear any dress I want now?  Sweet!"
"It's okay friend.  I still love you and I will still plan a kick-ass bachelorette for you."
"Does your sister need any help with the shower?  I still want to help."

Like I said, I am one lucky girl. :)

Wedding planning is full of awkward moments.  "Demoting" my bridesmaids was not the first awkward encounter on my journey to the big day.  I did my very best to be genuine and gracious any time I thought one of my decisions might affect the feelings of someone else involved in my wedding.  I truly believe that if you're honest, and you're intentions are good, people will understand.  All my people did.

 Me with my original bridal party on my wedding day.  The best friends a girl could ask for. 

 Our actual "wedding party" - just an MOH and a Best Man.

 
 
Did you experience some super awkward moments while planning your wedding?  Share your story in the comments below!

 
 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Will You Be My Bridesmaid?" Poem + Cookie

When I was planning my first wedding (and yes, thanks to Hurricane Sandy I basically planned two weddings), I was going to have 6 bridesmaids.  On my actual wedding day, because our guest list was so small, I actually only had my sister as my M-O-H and Brian only had a Best Man. 

Anyway, I originally wanted my sister plus my 5 closest girlfriends to be my bridesmaids.  There are some really cute and clever ways to ask your friends to be your bridesmaids.  Personally, I wanted to get them each a small gift that would match the color scheme I had chosen for my wedding.  I also wanted to ask them to be my bridal party by writing a poem.  There is no greater pleasure in life for me than writing bridal poems.  Yes, I'm serious.  Yes, I know that makes me a giant dork.

I reached out to my friend who makes really yummy and really beautiful baked goods.  I wanted her to make giant sugar cookies in the shapes of bridesmaid dresses (in yellow - the color they would wear).  She went above and beyond and not only made dress cookies but she also made matching dress clutches and wrote each girl's name at the bottom of the cookie.

Adorable, right?  And she even made a bride's dress for me.  :)


She wrapped them individually in clear wrap and attached this poem that I wrote, to the packaging:

Will you “shower” me with a pretty lil’ party?

Will you hurry me along when I’m sure to be tardy?

Will you throw me a bachelorette that will go down in the books?

Will you please call me a Bridezilla if I give a dirty look?

Will you get a mani/pedi with me before the big day?

Will you make me smile when things don’t go my way?

Will you wipe my tears when I’m a weeping bride-to-be?

Will you hold my dress up when I have to pee?

Will you take too many pics and dance the night away?

Will you be my bridesmaid on my wedding day?

 
I think this pic of my friends, Daria & Lauren, shows just how much my bridesmaids loved their gift.  They all said "YES!" 
 

Monday, October 14, 2013

For the Couple Relocating - DIY Moving Mugs

So my friend Giulia decided to drop two big bombs on me last week:
1.) She is ENGAGED!!!  (Huge yay)
2.) She is MOVING TO LONDON with her new fiancĂ©.  (Huge yay for her but boo for me)

I once saw these adorable state-to-state "moving mugs" on Etsy and then again on Pinterest.  They are pinned on my "Perfect Gift" board and boy are they coming in handy.
 

Giulia and I worked together in NYC and went on many, many coffee runs together so I knew as soon as she told me about her happy news that her engagement/relocation gift would have something to do with coffee.  Giulia was born in Italy so she has an appreciation (more like obsession) of coffee like no one I've ever met.

Since I'm on a budget (who isn't) and one of the purposes of this blog is to see how many DIY projects I can get myself into, I decided to try and replicate these mugs for Giulia and Marco (her fiancé), with my own twist of course.

So here it is, step-by-step instructions (including some tips I learned along the way). 
  1. Purchase 2 plain white mugs.  (The Dollar Tree - I bought 4 just in case I messed up.  I'm glad I bought 4).
  2. Get your supplies ready - all you need is a pencil, a fine point black Sharpie, a regular black Sharpie, a regular red Sharpie, print-outs of the cities (or states or countries) you want to draw on the mugs.
  3. The hard part - Draw on the mugs.  I decided to draw the NYC skyline and the London skyline because I'm pretty artistic.  But if you're lacking in those skills, you can always draw a simple outline of the state or country.  I used pencil first.  Don't worry if you mess up using the pencil or even the Sharpie.  **TIP - Don't use a regular pencil eraser on the mugs.  If you want to "erase" you pencil, simply use a damp tissue.  If you want to "erase" you Sharpie, take a Q-tip and dip it in alcohol.


  4. "Bake" the mugs in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  This ensures that your beautiful artwork will remain permanent and dishwasher safe.
  5. Remove the mugs from the oven (with an oven mitt!) and allow them to cool.  YOU DID IT!

Here's a couple quick videos of the mugs so you can have a 360 view:
video
video

I'll let you know how Giulia likes her home-made gifts.  I have a feeling the message, "Home is where the heart coffee is", will make her smile.  And isn't that what gift-giving is all about?

As always, if you'd like me to make these for you, I can customize it to any country, state, city, town... email me at backyardbridenj@gmail.com.  I'm planning on opening up an Etsy shop soon so stay tuned for that!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Personalized Bride Survival Kit with Poem

I coordinated a wedding this past weekend for a friend of a friend, who quickly became a friend of my own.  The bride, Jenn, was such a pleasure to work with that I wanted to surprise her with a gift on the day of her wedding.

I decided to make her a "Bride Survival Kit."  From Etsy, I ordered a large cosmetic bag and had her (NEW) monogram embroidered on it.  I made sure the cosmetic bag and monogram matched her wedding colors - pink and black. 



If you're looking for a super personalized gift to give to a new bride, add her monogram with her new, married name initials to it.  One of my best friends made me a silver monogram bracelet to wear on my wedding day and it remains one of my very favorite wedding gifts because it was so thoughtful and personal.

I stuffed the cosmetic bag with everything I could possibly think of that she might need on her big day.  I bought everything from either the mini toiletry section at Target or The Dollar Tree.  I included:
  • Hairspray
  • Baby Powder
  • Deodorant
  • Altoids
  • Gum
  • Floss
  • Bobby Pins
  • Stain Remover
  • Q-tips
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Concealer
  • Clear Nail Polish
  • First Aid Kit
  • Compact Mirror
  • Tissues
  • Pain Reliever
  • Allergy Pills
  • TUMS
  • Sewing Kit
  • Manicure Kit


Throughout the day, she used almost every single item in her survival kit.  She was beyond grateful for it and the best part is that she can reuse the make-up bag for years to come - starting with her honeymoon! 

The day after the wedding, I was thinking about the gift and how happy I was with how it came out.  The only thing that might've made it even more convenient would have been an itemized list of everything inside (just like the list above) so that Jenn and her bridesmaids didn't have to rummage through it to see what kind of goodies were inside.  And what better way to do that than with a cute poem?  I live for writing cheesy poems! 

Here is a survival kit for your wedding day
Just in case you hit some bumps along the way
A first aid kit for a blister or bruise
Allergy pills and aspirin if you choose
Hairspray and bobby pins so your hair is not an issue
For the happy tears, a handy pack of tissues
Before the big kiss, pop some mints or gum
If your tummy starts to rumble, chew some TUMS
For make-up faux pas use Q-tips and concealer
Take a good look at yourself with the compact mirror
Deodorant to help you smell like a rose
Clear nail polish to stop a run in your panty hose
A manicure kit for a hang nail or two
And just for good measure, a sewing kit too
No matter what happens, it's your day to shine
So laugh about the blunders and have the best time!

This is the perfect gift to give to the bride at her shower, bachelorette party or the morning of her wedding day. 

If you'd like me to make one of these for a special bride-to-be in your life, email me at backyardbridenj@gmail.com.  And if you think I've missed anything essential for the bride survival kit, please feel free to make suggestions in the comments!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Life Is Sweet" DIY Candy Bar

When a dear friend reached out to me for help planning a double birthday party for her two boys, I knew the most fitting theme would be "LIFE IS SWEET." 

The back story:
I started babysitting for Katie when I was 21 years old and trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life.  She was a good friend of my sister's and a new mom who just needed to get out of the house a few hours a week and have some "me" time.  Her little boy, Zachary, was only 7 months old and I fell head over heels in love with him.  I stayed with Zack until he was almost two.  I watched him learn to walk and talk and do all the miraculous things that human beings learn how to do.  And even after I decided to go back to school for my Master's and find a "big girl job," I stayed in touch with Katie. 

I was thrilled to learn a few years later that Katie was pregnant with another little boy!  Xander was a perfect, healthy, bouncing baby boy and Zachary's new BFF.  Then, when Xander was only a tiny toddler, this happy little family got thrown a curve ball no one could have predicted - Baby Xander was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare type of childhood cancer. 

Fast forward 5 years.  A thousand hospital visits, tears, sleepless nights and prayers later, Zachary just turned 8 and Xander, the little cancer warrior, just turned 5.  They are both September babies and love celebrating their birthdays together.  Each year since Xander has won his battle against cancer, Katie has thrown a "Celebration of Life" party honoring another year of survival, health and good fortune for both her boys.  It's part birthday party and part fundraiser for a deserving cancer charity - the Frances Foundation. 

Life is sweet, indeed.

DIY Candy Bar:
A candy bar is such a fun and festive addition to any event.  You can make it work for a kid's birthday party, a wedding, a bridal shower, a class reunion - pretty much any celebration.

A candy bar can also be used for take-home favors or a dessert spread and you don't have to spend a lot of money if you do it yourself.

Materials:
  • 7 half gallon mason wide-mouthed mason jars
  • 7 different types of candy
  • Scoops/Tongs (depending on the candy you choose)
  • Cardstock (chevron)
  • Black Sharpie
  • Ribbon
  • Hole punch
  • Paper sacks
  • 8 x 10 picture frame
  • Candy bar poem


 
 
DIY "Life Is Sweet" Banner:
A colorful banner with a sweet little saying is the extra touch to make any candy bar complete.  Banners are super easy to make, too.  I hand-cut the letters, glued them onto card stock and used mini clothespins to secure the letters to ribbon.  Voila!

Materials:
  • Cardstock (various colors and patterns)
  • Glue stick
  • Mini clothespins
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors

 


DIY Gumball Centerpieces:
In keeping with the "Life Is Sweet" theme, I also made gumball and pinwheel centerpieces for the tables at the party.  Centerpieces don't always have to be floral - you can get as funky and creative as the party theme allows.

Materials:
  • 5 half gallon wide-mouthed mason jars
  • Gumballs (3 containers of bulk gumballs from Walmart)
  • 15 pinwheels (The Dollar Tree - $1 a piece)