Saturday, April 21, 2018

Our Wedding, Part Four || How I Chose My Bridesmaids

Today I'm here to share about how I chose my fourteen bridesmaids! I'm sure everyone is partial to their bride tribe, but I have to say that I am quite sure that I had the sweetest fourteen ladies that ever did stand beside a bride. I hope that you'll finish reading this post and have a new perspective on friendships and possibility a different viewpoint of how you might want to pick your bridesmaids, if you are a gal planning a wedding or hoping to be married someday.

I chose my bridesmaids literally the night we got engaged. John + I discussed our bridal party at our fancy dinner overlooking the river in Iowa City. I remember twirling my new ring on my ring finger and thinking "I AM PICKING MY BRIDESMAIDS, WHAAAT?!?!" We both knew basically right away who we wanted. (him with the guys and me with the girls) We also knew that our bridal party lineup wasn't going to be very normal in any way, and we couldn't have cared less!
(we have a lot of freedom in our non-traditional-ness, haha!) 

So read on if you want to hear how about the process!

I went about choosing my bridesmaids in a rather unconventional way. I am very social and have friends all over the place, but I've also watched tons of friends get married before me (pros of getting married older =)) and have observed a lot about the process of picking bridesmaids!

And my group of ladies ended up being very unique, in a number of ways!
The age range of my bridesmaids from the youngest to the eldest was over thirty years.
Some of the girls  I'd known forever.
Some I'd just met not that long ago. 
Some I'd known for 5-6 years.
Some of them were single, some of them were married, some of them were expecting!
They were all different personalities, had different backgrounds, and they were all sweet as can be!

With all that diversity in mind, here are four of the common ground factors that helped me in selecting the girls I wanted to stand up with me on my wedding day.

First of all, I chose to have women who I knew were kindred spirits. All of my bridesmaids were girls with whom I could laugh, chat, and simply enjoy life. I had various similarities and connections with each of them, and I loved that. They were diverse, energetic, and joyful ladies who were honestly just a very positive influence + blessing in my life!

Secondly, I chose to have women who followed Jesus and sought to make Him number one in their lives. I wanted to have girls that had and would build me up in the Lord and have a positive impact on my life.

Thirdly, I chose to include family. Family is so important to me! My sisters + sisters-in-law are going to be just that---sisters and sisters-in-law----til basically the end of time! There's a whole lot of family reunions + holidays + birthday parties + a multitude of other events that are gonna go down over a lifetime of Bontragers + Maxwells! =)  Even though I didn't know all of my bridesmaids very well (specifically some of my sisters-in-law whom I hadn't spent much time with) still I knew that they would be a very big + active part of my future life, and choosing them as my bridesmaids was to me one of the biggest ways to communicate to them that I fully intended to become close friends + invest much time into our relationships. I knew we'd be spending lots of time together over the coming years. And I firmly believe that just as love is a choice, so also friendships + growing/maintaining them is a choice as well, and I knew that I would become close with each of my new sisters-in-law as I lived near them + intentionally invested in our relationships, after I was married.

Finally, I've seen, with observing others, how friendships often change and shift with marriage/moves/etc. As much as possible, I wanted the women in my bridal party to be women who are still in my life in fifty years. I chose girls who I knew I would stick with me through anything, and who I knew had been and would be, loyal and true-hearted friends.

sisters-in-love Anna Marie, Melanie, + Elissa
 sisters-in-love Carolina, Bryn, + Cassidy
friend Charity + cousin Marissa
 sisters-in-love Anna, Sarah, + Mary
 sisters Allison, Rebecca, + Elizabeth
(In case you missed the last post, you can order the bridesmaid dresses here!)

I am SO THANKFUL for these girls and all of the spice + color they add to my life! I wouldn't be the person I am without their investment + friendship, and I am so honored to have such incredible sisters + friends. (for more about each of my bridesmaids, you can read these bios I wrote for them)

Today I encourage YOU, friend, whether you are planning your bridal party or simply seeking to build friendships, to never forget that the best friendships + relationships don't just happen, but rather, they are fostered, built, + grown!

I'd love to hear your thoughts! If you're married, how did YOU chose your bridesmaids?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Our Wedding, Part Three || Bridal Party Outfits

As you can imagine, clothing a tribe of this size was no small feat! Besides the obvious fact of there just being lots of people, we had little ones (bell ringers + flower girls) ranging in size from 12month to 16, and bridesmaids/groomsmen ranging in size from children's all the way up to adult! Even the adult sizing was unusual, as three of my bridesmaids were seven months pregnant at the time of our wedding. It was such a fun hunt to find something that worked for everyone! We wouldn't have had our bridal party any other way or size, and I'm excited to share with you today how we came up with the perfect outfits for them to wear on our wedding day. The colors + accents turned out so beautifully!

I'll start with the guys first! The vests they wore had been the same ones the groomsmen had for my brothers' double wedding, back in September. I loved the cut and fit of those vests and knew it would simplify the purchasing since all of my brothers at least would already have half of their outfits. John's was the same except that I bought him the coat that went with the same set, so that his outfit would be a little different from all of the rest.
Groomsmen vests, these JF J Ferrar ones from JCPenny.
Groomsmen pants, these JF J Ferrar ones, matching, from JCPenny.
John's coat, this JF J Ferrar one, matching, from JCPenny.
The store was actually discontinuing this line, plus there was a storewide online promotion going on, so with the combined discounts the pants ended up being about $21 per pair and the vests were around $25. Can't beat those prices!
John's tie, this one.
Groomsmen ties, these teal blue ties. I was so thrilled with the groomsmen's ties. I had heard of the Cheap Necktie company through my church, who would order ties in bulk from there for special events. Then Mitch + Bryn also ordered their groomsmen ties from there. The price can't be beat and they were really nice looking ties.
Hudson's pants + vest had to be different, since he is in children's sizes. He already had grey pants/vest but they were more of a shiny silver and really didn't coordinate well with the groomsmen's. So I went on a search to find him matching, and ended up with this set from Amazon. He normally wears 12-14 size so I got him size 14 and it was a good fit! It looked so similar to the other guys'  sets and I feel like most people wouldn't even know the difference.

The ladies outfits were the fun ones! I started searching for these dresses in October and I did not solidify what dress we were going to go with, until Thanksgiving weekend. (hashtag procrastinator yours truly =)) By the time everything was said and done, I had tried eleven different styles from Amazon, and also ordered other dresses from three different boutiques. I really wasn't super picky; I just needed this certain shade of teal blue, with a decent neckline, and stretchy material, and a high waist, and three quarter/long sleeves, in a long length, and in multiple sizes.

Okay, I was picky. =)

I sent out an SOS on instragram. Everyone was super helpful but also most of the sites I got referred to were the long, gorgeous, non-stretch styles that were perfect if one wanted to spend $150 per dress but not perfect for what I was wanting. And the boutiques were hard because they didn't offer free shipping for sizing returns. I was back to the Amazon drawing board!

**For those who are interested, though, below is a list of the website recommendations I got from people on instagram. (I told some of you ladies that I would share them later!) I wanted to list these because I realized that they could be a big help to another bride reading this who might need ideas! Even though none of them worked for what I was looking for, they might work for you, and are some excellent companies.
Klassy Girl Boutique
BH Gate
JJ House
Wren and Ivory
Latter Day Bride
Jennifers Couture
Pink Blush Maternity
Ivy City
David's Bridal
For Him and Her
Formal Fashions Inc

At the end of the day, the dress I chose for my bridesmaids was this Beachcoco dress in teal blue. I was a little worried about how it would look to have a cami underneath-I really was not interested in a frumpy look and I was pretty concerned about that. I realized that a white cami was not an option-it would stick out to much and just look weird. However, I realized that if I had grey/silver necklaces that had a lot of detail around the neckline, it would layer well on the cami and the necklace would be the focal point, not the camisole neckline underneath. I found grey camisoles at Walmart for $1.64 each! I sewed up the straps a little bit on them and they were good to go. The necklaces I used for my bridesmaids were also the same kind that my sisters and I wore at the double wedding and they were from Walmart as well.

I loved this bridesmaid dress because, first of all, it was super flattering on all of the different body types + sizes. Secondly, it actually was a maternity dress, but it worked out great for all of the bridesmaids. It was one of those styles that could easily be maternity or non-maternity. It was even nursing-friendly for the two nursing mama bridesmaids! Thirdly, I loved how practical it was---it isn't a typical formal and so it isn't limited to only formal events-it was perfect for a number of occasions. And it was SO comfortable! (I know this, because I even got an extra one for myself, to wear later, and I love it)

The little one's outfits were super hard to find. Again, I was searching for a longgggg time, and taking full advantage of my amazon prime! I knew I wanted tulle something for the little girls, but could not come up with the right thing. For the longest time I was really leaning towards something burgundy (either tulle dresses or skirts got the girls, and then suspenders/bowties for the boys, all in burgundy) but everything I tried didn't work, for some reason or another. I didn't actually find the actual dresses until December but as soon as they arrived I knew I had a winner! I had already decided I wanted the girls to wear either long sleeved white tops or else white cardigans, since it was a winter wedding and I wanted them to be as warm as possible. Some of them already had white cardigans and I bought the ones linked below, for the others. Below are the links for their outfits. They also wore white shirts + black shoes (boys) and white tights + white shoes.(girls) 
Grey Tulle Dresses
White Cardigans
Grey Dress Pants (the two littlest guys were in size 12mon and I could not seem to find those online. I finally located them at Burlington Coat Factory. They were a little darker than the older boys' pants but blended just fine!)
Bowtie/Suspender Sets
And that's the lowdown on the bridal party outfits.
Stay tuned for the next post about how we chose each person in our bridal party!
**please read my affiliate disclosure here

Monday, April 9, 2018

Our Wedding, Part Two || The First Look

Photographers will tell you, brides will tell you, I will tell a first look. on your wedding day!  Unless you don't want to, of course! (ha!) But if you're on the fence about it anyways, I'd have to say that I definitely recommend it. I loved having these couple of minutes with my man right at the start of our day. It was a very precious moment, when we saw each other for the first time the morning of our wedding. 
This is one of my favorites---I was seriously just SO EXCITED and it was such a beautiful moment.
He gave me a rose...
We'd read the Psalms together, counting backwards, during our engagement. We got the idea from several other engaged couples who had done it and I loved the fun way of counting down + seeing the days get "smaller", while spending time in the Word together! 
This was the last one, Psalms 1, at our first look to start out our wedding day!

Have a blessed Monday!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Our Wedding, Part One || Morning Preparations

Welcome to Part One of our wedding posts! Not sure how many posts I'll end up doing in this series, but I'm planning to walk y'all through our wedding day, as well as share everything from how we planned our wedding on a budget, to how we picked our bridal party. Hope y'all enjoy these peaks into our day of all days!


Our wedding day dawned bright and clear and FREEZING. Negative six degrees, to be exact, with five inches of snow on the ground!! Only the bravest of souls came out to our wedding, haha!
But really, it was the perfect winter wonderland and more gorgeous than anything we could've imagined. For a winter wedding, it was pretty marvelous!

I drove in to the church early with my sisters. We arrived in town at 7am, only to get a phone call, as we were pulling in, saying that the hair + makeup crew was locked out of the church. HELP! With everything else on my mind, I had totally forgotten about lining up anyone to unlock the church. I made a frantic phone call to a friend who lived in town and worked at the church, and he was over within five minutes to get us in.
This is my Cassie friend and she did an incredible job on my makeup. Love her so much! 
Our rings.
When I was selecting my bridal jewelry, I instantly knew I wanted to wear this necklace. It was one of John's first gifts to me, for Christmas 2016, right after we started dating. He bought it for me earlier that month when he was in South America on a business trip. The teal matched perfectly with the color of the bridesmaids dresses, and I loved having that little pop of color in my outfit, and close to my eyes.
I was barefoot for most of the day but did buy these flats (in gold) specifically for some pictures we were planning to be doing in a field. They were a great price + super comfortable and I still wear them all the time! I love how they can be super dressy or casual depending on what I pair them with.
I sewed my own dress and loved it! I love sewing my own clothes and really hardly gave it a second thought when it came to my wedding gown----I knew I wanted to make it.  I love to sew, I love mixing patterns, and I love making things exactly how I want them. With all that in mind, it was the most natural decision in the world for me to sew my own dress. 
(stay tuned for an upcoming post with pictures, pattern info, and all the details of what went into the making of my dress!)
Along with the five girls on the hair/makeup team, I also asked a friend to provide back rubs, and another girl to do nails. These were very fun little touches intended to pamper my bride tribe and make them feel special. It was definitely a success!
My sis and maid of honor, Allison, had a delicious breakfast of muffins, fruit, + kombucha.
Earlyyyyy morning smiles! 
Another thing I did for my bridesmaids was to schedule the single + newly married bridesmaids to come in first, to get ready, and then all the mama bridesmaids got to come in an hour later. With such a wide span of ages + life stages with my bridesmaids, I wanted to do everything I could to be considerate of each of them. The mamas really appreciate the extra hour!
I love having my makeup done for me but I ALWAYS do my own mascara. This day was no exception. I did a coat of my regular mascara (this one) then a very light coat of waterproof (this one) and ended with a final coat of regular. I didn't want to do purely waterproof since the consistency of that is a little different and I always feel like it makes my lashes go weird. However, I knew I was going to need a little bit of something waterproof to keep everything from running! =) My friend Cassie suggested this method of both and it worked perfectly-my lashes were normal since I mostly used my regular non-waterproof kind, but the light coat of waterproof held everything together and I didn't have any problem with makeup smearing, despite those happy tears!
I debated a little about having a floral wreath or not, since it was a winter wedding. Originally I wanted all of my bridesmaids to have floral wreaths, but I ended up scratching that idea because I felt that with the very colorful bouquets and dresses, wreaths for 14 bridesmaids would possibly be a little much. 
In the end, winter wedding or not, I knew I wanted one. Hey, after all, I went barefoot in six degrees below, didn't I? Yeah, I could throw a wreath in there with my oddness!
My sis Allison did her own hair; all the other bridesmaids had their styles done for them. They were all different but everyone specifically had a braid of some kind incorporated into their style, because I love braids. =)
You can't see it super well (and I don't have a full length pic) but I wore this teal blue robe for the wedding morning and I loved it. So fun to have something pretty + special for the wedding morning, and then still have it to wear later as part of my loungewear wardrobe. 
I'd jokingly told my friend Jess, years ago, that she would be the one to do my hair if I ever got married. She's done my hair for me multiple times over the years and I always love her style and skill with the curling irons. It was pretty grand to get to follow through with our little idea from long ago!
Liz with another one of my makeup crew ladies.
And then of course here are a few shots of my veryyyy handsome groom getting ready! His tie is this one and I loved the mixture of teals + greys in it. 
Seriously just the most dashing man I ever did see...*alllll the heart eyes*
Meanwhile...I was getting into my dress, with the help of my mother + sisters!
My perfume was Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue. I love this scent, and was especially thrilled because I got it at TJMaxx for a fraction of the regular price. It is actually the same perfume I wore when we got engaged, as well. 
One thing I would say to all future brides who are wearing a floral wreath, is to practice with your hairstyle/wreath ahead of time. It ended out turning out fine, but because we hadn't practiced with it earlier, it ended up being a little short and so the actual floral part didn't span the whole way around. It still looked great but we had a few stressful moments trying to get it to fit right.
One last look and check before heading out for our first look.
And our first look will be featured in the next post!

Happy Weekend, friends!