Monday, August 20, 2018

Baby on the Way!

What a gift, what a joy, what a BLESSING it is for me today to share with y'all our BIG news that our little family is growing! We could not be more excited about this little life of eighteen precious weeks!
Motherhood has been modeled to me as such a glorious calling. It was one that I definitely did not take for granted that I would experience, but one that I certainly desired if God chose to give it to me!
And now here we are, already almost halfway through the waiting to meet our little one! Some days it still seems a little surreal! We are SO SO thrilled.
We told our families in July, and that day was one of our favorite ones! 
In answer to the questions I know y'all are going to ask...=)
1) We are due January 23rd, right in between our two January birthdays, and almost a month after our first anniversary!
2) I have had hardly any morning sickness, and other than needing more sleep, pregnancy hasn't felt too different from normal life.
Well, other than the growing tummy and the sudden need to eat ALL THE FOOD, that is. =) 
3) We are finding out the gender, but we aren't going to announce it. Gotta keep an element of surprise going..
4) We do not have names chosen, but are having lots of fun brainstorming!
5) We are planning for a home birth with a midwife.
Many thanks go to my bro-in-law Chris for taking these portraits for us the other evening!
"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is His reward."
Psalm 127:3

So fun to now have the secret officially be OUT! 
-from the new mama-to-be

Saturday, July 14, 2018

My Red Dress

Many of you readers have asked about where I got the dress that I'm wearing on my blog header picture. I meant to post the link for it loooong ago and completely forgot, and just recently remembered that I never did that! So here it is for you today!
 This dress is a JenClothing brand dress. A friend of mine gave me a gift card to their company and this was the dress I ended up selecting. I absolutely love it. It is a deep rich red color. (although perhaps not quite as bright as these pictures depict) The bodice is fully lined lace with fully lined chiffon at the sleeves and neck. The skirt is several layers of chiffon over a very comfortable stretchy underskirt. The dress has a side zipper and a very flattering fit. I am 5'6" and it hits right at my knee. I normally wear size 6-8 and this dress is an XS.
Added later note on the sizing: I could be a little off on the size info because my body type is unusual and I typically have to alter dresses when I buy them (any other wide shoulders, small bust, and similar size hips/waist girls out there?!) 
So I just wanted to add that because if you normally wear a 6-8 dress, you'd probably be better off getting a size small of this dress. The XS fits me because I'm smaller in some areas.

A little tip for those of you wanting to save a little money---Amazon sells the very same dress (same line, same brand) for significantly cheaper! I bought mine from Jen simply because I had the gift card there, but if I was to buy one of their dresses again I definitely would get it from Amazon because it is a way better deal!

They also have multiple other colors!

  My favorite way to accessorize this dress is with brown/gold tones in jewelry + shoes.

  Happy Weekend!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Our Wedding, Part Ten || Things I Did That I'd Do Again

Today is the last post in the wedding series! I've compiled a few random thoughts of things that I LOVE that we did for our wedding. I'm posting these in hopes that they could help a future bride along the way! 

Have family in your bridal party, and have special moments for asking each one.
It took us a few weeks to finalize + ask everyone. Other than a few things that evening we got engaged, we waited to discuss any details until after the weekend, which was the weddings of my three brothers. We didn't want to take away in any way from their special days, so we more or less put everything on hold and just enjoyed knowing we were engaged and could celebrate my brothers + their weddings, and plan for ours later. =) It was also important to me to ask each of my bridesmaids in person, which took awhile, as my new sisters-in-law (on the Bontrager side) were all on their honeymoons after that! (and I had to wait until my next visit to Kansas to ask my sisters-in-law-to-be, there) But there was no rush, and it was so special to be able to ask each one in person. 
These people are gonna be with us as long as we live and we loved having them up there with us as we covenanted in marriage!
Relax and have fun!
Don't stress. Just roll with what happens. It's okay if everything doesn't go according to plan. Laugh a lot! Smile a lot! This is a party, not a funeral, and there's nothing that can kill the wedding atmosphere like a stressed-out bride/groom. This is YOUR DAY! Celebrate it and have fun! Create an atmosphere that invites JOY!

Have a good wedding coordinator.
Don't just ask a friend for the sake of asking a friend. No. You need someone who knows how to plan, organize, execute, and be a boss. I'm serious!! I'm not saying you have to have a professional wedding planner but if yours isn't professional then at least make sure they've coordinated weddings before and at least know what they're doing. I've been at enough weddings where I was doing something else (either photography or music or something) and ended up basically being the wedding coordinator simply because I was the only one willing to tell people what to do! (its true) This one element can make or break your day. My aunt Wanda happens to be a professional and has coordinated more weddings than I know. More than that, though, she's just one of those people who can "take it and own it", as my dad would say. I knew that all I had to do was fully communicate and be organized, and I could fully trust her to make my day happen from there. She was perfect for the job and I fully believe that the reason our day went so smoothly was due in a large part to her! 
(thank you Wanda!)
Invest in a good photographer. 
I cannot recommend our photographer, Laura,  highly enough. She worked with us so well and I don't know of another photographer who could've kept up so efficiently with everything we had going on! We stayed right on track with our previously set photography schedule all throughout the morning and even after the ceremony. She was just amazing, and I knew I could trust her! Not only is it important that you love your photographers' work, but you have to love their style of interacting, and how they work under pressure, and who they are in person. Your photographer will play a big part in setting the tone for your day, specifically for your family + bridal party. Laura was perfect for our huge bridal party, our huge families, and our huge wedding. She was extremely organized + calm. We had several Skype calls in the months leading up to the wedding and multiple emails back and forth and so when it actually came to down to the wedding day there were no surprises for her or us. You can visit her on the web here
Choose your venue/s first thing, right after you get engaged. 
This is so key. I waited too long and almost couldn't find a place for our reception. Thankfully it all worked out but it did end up being a little stressful to find the right place and if I would've started right away we would've had more flexibility. 
Communicate communicate communicate!
Some things never change, from dating, to wedding planning, to marriage. =) This COMMUNICATE word is KEY! 
John and I had folders in our google documents and we wrote things down! I had letters I sent out ahead of time to the photographer, the personal attendants, the makeup/hair crew, the musicians, the bridal party, the family...YOU NAME IT. Any person who had any type of leadership role in our wedding received detailed information on where things were, what was expected, who to contact in case of emergency, etc. I also created a spreadsheet with important phone numbers/contacts (head usher, wedding coordinator, reception MC, etc etc) and sent that document to all "our people" as well. I was determined that if there was an emergency or some kind of unprepared-for event, we would at least be organized in how to deal with it! Our wedding help loved having everything written out so clearly and I heard from more than one of them how helpful it was to have all the details there in a letter form. I truly believe that it is due to this important element that we were able to stay completely on schedule all throughout the first look/bridal party/family portraits and to avoid complete chaos when various things fell through or didn't go as planned. Oh, and we also started the wedding right on time!
Get all of your planning done ahead of time so you can relax and BE WITH YOUR FAMILY the week prior to the wedding.
I've only been married 6 months but I've already given this bit of advice to multiple brides and it is one of the first things I will say if I'm asked. Be organized, plan ahead, and leave that last week to just soak in the moments with your family. John really encouraged me in this (getting the planning done two weeks ahead) and even though it didn't turn out quite perfectly that way, it was something to shoot for and I got close. I was able to spend most of the last week with my family and I wouldn't trade that week for the WORLD. If anything I would try to make it longer! I promise, you won't regret this! If you miss everything else in this post, just remember this point. 
This last week is your LAST time with your family as simply a daughter and sister, before you become a wife. Savor every minute of the season you are completing! (read this post if you want to hear a bit more about how I did this)
Have personal attendants. 
These two girls helped me out so so much. They had my phone and took calls the day of the wedding, they packed my bags in John's truck, they prepped lunch for the bridal party, they loaded last minute things after the reception, and they just were amazing in so many ways. Having close friends in this position to just be there and be "your girls" for you, is vital. 
Have your groom involved as much in the wedding planning as he wants to be.
This will totally vary from guy to guy; some guys honestly could care less! John has excellent taste and opinions and he wanted to be involved. We loved planning our wedding together. Yes, there were lots of decisions that I made on my own, and some that he made on his own, but overall we did a lot of the planning together and for us that was perfect. Figure out how you roll and what works best for you as a couple and then proceed with the planning with that in mind!
Have a good team of ushers.
Again, this is especially important if you have a big wedding and a lot of variables like we did. (very full venues, bad weather, etc) 
We didn't just pick friends for the sake of picking friends. We picked guys who we knew were good with people, good with handling all kinds of situations, and good with rolling with whatever happened, in general! They were fabulous!
Enjoy your preferences on your wedding day.
This is your special day. For example...if it is 6 degrees below and you want to go barefoot and everyone thinks you are crazy...YOU STILL GO BAREFOOT. (grin) You get to decide! Don't worry if some of your preferences are different or even what some might think "weird". You get married one time-make it unique to YOU! You want it fun + special for other people, yes, but when it comes to decisions on preferences, the only people you need to consult is each other. The more opinions you get mixed in there, the more complicated everything will be. John and I made some decisions for our day that weren't exactly conventional, and that could've been looked down on by some, but that really didn't matter! At the end of the day, it was our day, and we got to plan it!
Stay simple with decorations, but what you do, do well.
My experience is that it is best to do a few things and do them well. I choose to "major" on my florals and my food, and kept everything else extremely simple. I don't regret it at all. It has also been my experience that you don't always remember the decor after a wedding, but you'll remember how you felt and if you left with a full stomach. At least that's how I am. =)

My florists were AMAZING. Not only did they get a lot of business with my big bridal party, but with four couples dating at the same time, in the Bontrager family, there were a lot of Valentines, Christmas, birthday, and "just because" bouquets ordered from Petals during that year and a half from 2016-2017! =) For our wedding, I debated ordering in bulk from somewhere like Costco, and having friends arrange them, but in the long run I am SO glad that we ordered everything from a florist. There were enough other details that we were doing ourselves-this was one thing that was wonderful to have prepped and totally ready by someone else! My aunt (who was my wedding coordinator) picked up everything the morning of the wedding. I had never seen the bouquets before but had given the main florist at Petals, my color scheme + pictures of bouquets I liked, and they turned out perfectly.
Lastly, a special thank-you to my parents:
I would be completely remiss if I posted these ten posts about our wedding and said nothing about this two people who, really, made it all happen. I was the first daughter to get married in my family, so I don't really know what is typical for parents of a bride, but my parents were SO sweet and supportive of everything John and I did! Right after we got engaged, they met with the two of us. My dad handed me an extremely generous check to pay for our wedding. He also told us that he thought that the simplest thing would be to give us the check and then we could budget it out and spend it in whatever ways were most important to us. He never said anything had to be a certain way or even asked to make sure we were choosing certain things. He knew John and I could plan a beautiful wedding and he was happy to support in whatever ways we needed. It was so wonderful have my parents fully supporting and backing whatever decisions we made! Their prayers, love and complete blessing was honestly the greatest part of our wedding being perfect for us. 
Thank-you, Dad + Mom!

And that's a wrap! Hope y'all enjoyed this series! It has been so much fun reliving my wedding day and sharing these details with y'all. I especially hope that some of you future brides found something or another helpful in your journey to plan YOUR dream day!
I'd also love for any married ladies to chime in and add your two cents on something you would pass on to other couples planning their weddings!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Our Wedding, Part Nine || Sewing My Dress

I loved sewing my dress. I've always loved to sew and used to say that if I had more time, I would totally be up for sewing my entire wardrobe. There's just something about being able to make an item of clothing just like one wants it! 

My dress was a bit of a project, admittedly! It took me multiple shopping trips to finally find the perfect fabric. I ended up locating it in Kansas City, of all weekend while I was down visiting John, I went into town and after an agonizing hour of trying to decide between two different gorgeous lace fabrics, I finally chose mine! I then carefully hid it away in the back of my car before going to meet up with him for a lunch date before heading home =)  Lace is extremely expensive and I was really wanting to save money on my dress--maybe it's just me, but I just couldn't quite bring myself to be okay with spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for a dress I was going to wear for one day! The lace fabric was $30 per yard and I needed about eight yards, but yay for coupons! I ended up sewing the whole thing (compete lining, lace overlay, notions, etc) for right at $160, with coupons. Without coupons I would've spent almost $300 just for the fabrics!
Ready to cut into that fabric! 
My mom is the best seamstress I know and she was happy to help when I needed a second opinion or just someone to "talk through" all of the pattern combining and extending together! (back when she was a teenager/mennonite she sewed her entire wardrobe of cape dresses, including her wedding dress! She also sewed matching Christmas + Easter dresses for Allison + I for years and years, when we were younger)
Cutting out the lining, and creating a new pattern for the skirt/train. (I added length to the train as well as taking in the various panels of the skirt for a different fit)
Cutting out the lace overlay!
I moved the dining room table out of the way and set up shop all across the living room and dining room, in order to cut that whole thing out!
I debated a little about whether to share the pattern details, since I know that to anyone who doesn't sew, the extra info might be considered a little boring. But, for those several of you who have asked, I thought I'd share the basics since I wrote it all down as I went anyhow!

On a visit to Kansas, back right after I got engaged, one of my new sisters-in-law to be mentioned that someone had given her a whole box of wedding dress patterns when she was engaged and considering sewing her own dress. She said I was welcome to look through them and borrow any I might want.

At that point, I still didn't know which pattern/s I'd use. (although I did know in my mind what I wanted the dress to look like) I had decided, however, that it was going to have a train, so I knew that I for sure would need to locate a wedding dress pattern somewhere to use as a base for that. I ended up going through her patterns and selecting a few that I liked for various aspects.

I ended up using her McCalls #2028 for the train/skirt and sleeves of my dress. I wanted a slightly longer train so I added 14" to the train length. I also added a couple inches to the sleeve length since I have uncommonly long arms, and I took the sleeves in quite a bit to make them more fitted.

The other three patterns I used were ones I already had in my collection!

For the sleeve top (fitting to the bodice) and bodice back, I used Simplicity #2549.

The belt of my dress was from Simplicity #3750, and the bodice front was Simplicity #4055.

I dropped the bodice a few inches so it wasn't so high (I wanted the gathers but not the ultra high regency look) and made a number of other adjustments to get everything just how I wanted it.
Sewing a mock bodice first was key for success!
It was so fun to start getting all the pieces finally sewn together and see the dress taking shape!
Trimming up a few loose ends along the hem..

And! The finished product, on the morning of my wedding!
For any of you considering sewing your own wedding dress, my advice is...go for it! If you've sewn other dresses you can sew this one! Just make sure you do a trial run on a cheap fabric first. =)

And I would also advice starting as soon as you get engaged so you can have it DONE and finished as soon as helps you and your mother rest easier! =)
 (I didn't start right away and while I still ended up finishing it a month before my wedding, it would've still been nice to have it hanging in the closet, finished, sooner!)

Any of the rest of you sew your wedding dress, or planning to? 
Or how/where did you find your dress, if you bought it? I'd love to hear your stories! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Our Wedding, Part Eight || The Reception

Our reception was simple, beautiful, and quite crowded! It was very possibly the most chaotic part of our wedding day but that was just mostly because our venue was undersized and our crowd was oversized. =) It was extremely hard to find a local venue that was large enough, but we settled finally on a church hall that is ten minutes from my family's home, and was about twenty-five minutes from the ceremony venue.

The food was amazing (my mom + sister spearheaded/made it all along with my aunt/uncle/cousins/friends) and everything really turned out incredibly in spite of my slightly disorganized systems! (or lack thereof!) It ended up being just what we wanted-a big fun party-and it was the perfect end to a beautiful day!

Immediately following the ceremony, my personal attendants took all of the bridesmaid bouquets over to the church and placed them in the empty vases there for some of the centerpieces. I loved the beautiful color they added to the wood/white/candles/lights we already had.

My sweet brothers cut all the wood slabs (I told them I wanted "lots", in various sizes, so I don't even know how many we had!) and then we used those for the centerpieces and also for various other decor throughout the reception.
Everything was very simple and we made the most of every inch of space available!
John and I definitely knew we wanted a coffee bar! We got big bags of Kirklands coffee beans from Costco and used those. We also had cream and coffee syrups.
All of our syrups and paper supplies for the reception came from Webstaurant Store. I got the referral from my sisters-in-love aunt, who coordinated their double wedding and ordered their paper supplies etc from there. They had great service, a huge selection, and the best prices I was able to find.
I also reused all of the white tablecloths from my brothers' double wedding, and then afterwards they were washed and put away for my sister's future wedding. =)
A friend of mine painted a bunch of pallets white and then we used them for various signs/decor. 
This was our menu. (text written out by my sis-in-love Carolina)

For our menu...I am a HUGE lover of soups. Combine that factor with our cold December wedding date, and the food decision was pretty easy for me! I definitely wanted to have a full meal and my parents wanted that too. (one of the things about my mennonite/amish heritage that I LOVE and that is that one ALWAYS serves a full hot meal at their weddings, and that meal is often prepared by either the brides' family or by close friends!) Taco soup is one of my favorites and an easy "stand alone" soup because of all the toppings! (since there are so many toppings, it isn't as necessary to have bread/salad/etc as sides) 
So I decided to go simple on the main course, with just soup + toppings, and then add in the "flair of fancy" with the cheesecakes, cupcakes, + coffees. It was the perfect menu for such a cold day. 
The dessert area was probably my favorite. My sis-in-law Cassidy did all the decorations for the reception and she did an amazing job! I loved especially how she arranged all the details around the deserts! She used lots of lace (this kind), lights (these) and candles.

The white cupboard doors with the quotes written on them were done by a dear friend of mine who has such a beautiful script. I loved how they turned out and how Cass arranged them.

My sister Allison made the cheesecakes (all thirty-five of them! Blesssss her) 
Mocha (my favorite)

Salted Caramel (John's favorite)
Vanilla w/ Berry Sauce 
Some of my all time favorite quotes...
Cupcakes by my very gifted cousin!
One of the food lines
The kitchen was a beehive of activity! My aunt + uncle were in charge and then I had a group of friends I had asked to help with various things. Everyone worked so hard to make it all go well!

Open mic was definitely a highlight! John + I both have seemed to live lives that tend towards juicy open mic stories (oh dear!) so there was much hilarity as his siblings advised me in certain things to prepare for, and mine were just as eager to let him know about some of what he was in for!
So blessed to have so many of my Bontrager side cousins attend our wedding!
One of my very talented cousins did our cake and it was so lovely. Just what I wanted-simple and beautiful. She does incredible work and you can read more about her business here! (I highly recommend her!)
Time to cut the cake!
White cake for him, chocolate for me. =) 
Just one of our differences that keeps life fun + interesting! 
We spent several hours mingling with our guests and loving every minute. The hard thing about having such a big wedding is that it is simply impossible to talk to every single guest, but we made sure we had plenty of time at the reception (we didn't leave til after 8pm) and so we got to talk to as many as possible!
With my long-time friends, program attendants, and reception coordinators. Love these girls.
Departure time!
We came outside to the extreme cold (6 below and plummeting!) to find our highly decorated getaway vehicle...=)
One of the best things that we did all day, on our wedding day, was our special time of goodbyes with our families. We knew it would be next to impossible to be able to say goodbye to all 40ish of our family members before we left the reception, since we wanted to be flexible and not have a set, predetermined departure time. I thought it through and simply could not figure out how we would manage to not miss someone.
John saved the day and came up with a genius idea, one that I would definitely recommend especially to those of you who are planning your weddings and who have big families. His plan was that we would do a grand departure, per usual, and then return fifteen minutes later for family goodbyes. We arranged this so that nobody else knew about this "special goodbye", except for our families; we sent out an email to them about a week before the wedding, explaining which room (one at the back of the reception venue, by a back entrance) we would meet at, and that it would be exactly fifteen minutes after our big sendoff. 
It worked perfectly. Quite a few people left right after our sendoff, and those who stayed were mostly just hanging out and enjoying an extended party time, or helping take down chairs + tables. All of our family was waiting for us when we came back in fifteen minutes, and we were able to give hugs all around and have such a special few moments with them all.
There were a few tears...
I will never forget or regret this time; it was priceless, and the perfect ending to our reception.
Two more posts to come yet in this series! 

Happy Tuesday!