Wedding Crawl, Revisited

Last weekend, RoanokeWeddingNetwork.com held their annual Wedding Crawl. Each year five downtown venues, working with local wedding professionals, pull out all the stops to create mock weddings in each space, featuring ceremony and/or reception set-ups complete with food, flowers, photographers and photo booths, music, lighting, and models dressed as brides, grooms, and wedding party. It’s rare opportunity to see the spaces fully decked out and filled with people, as they would be during an actual celebration. And it always benefits a good cause: this year, the Roanoke Valley SPCA.

Hubby Steve and I decided to revisit the Crawl this year. We’d attended the 2015 Crawl as then-prospective bride and groom and had so much fun: dancing in the Corinthian Ballroom, tasting cake at the Taubman. I even caught the bouquet in a prize-giveaway toss at Center in the Square. Even though we already had most of our vendors sewn up by then, the Crawl gave us a chance to see examples of their fully realized visions, which made us look forward to their creations for our own wedding day all the more.

This time was not about looking forward, but looking back. At our first stop, Charter Hall, Steve and I picked up the most recent copy of bridebook, which features our wedding story. At the Taubman, our next venue, we lingered in the ethereal ceremony space (created by Lighting Ninja and Gloriosa) as an RSO harpist began to play. Steve smiled and took my hand: it was Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” the music I’d walked in to at our ceremony.

At the Patrick Henry Hotel Ballroom, our photographer Noah Magnifico had some of our photos in his display, and we admired the lush elegance of the bouquets and centerpieces crafted by Mark Frye of Creative Occasions, who’d done such a beautiful job with our flowers.

We saved the Center in Square Rooftop, where we got married, for last. It was hopping. Creative Entertainment had fashioned a Vegas theme, complete with game tables, a bride who doubled as a mobile hors d’oeuvres table, showgirls, and Elvis. We picked up information on honeymoon travel–we still hope to take a romantic trip somewhere tropical–from Rose of the Winds Travels, and said hello to my stylist, the awesome Brandy Moorman of Bliss Studio. After tasting brunch menu samplings from Chanticleer Catering and delicious mini-cupcakes from For the Lsove of Sweets, we headed outside.

The view from the roof, as always, was breathtaking. It was sunny, if a little windy, with the clear, bright blue skies I’d hoped for on our big day. We attempted a selfie in the same spot on the upper deck where Noah had taken our wedding pictures, but we couldn’t stop squinting—maybe those dramatic rolling clouds had been a blessing in disguise? We walked down the staircase to the spot where we’d said our “I do’s.” We held hands and shared a happy kiss. Operation Newlywed Nostalgia was complete.

We missed the last featured venue, the White Room at Blue 5, where we’d been told a real wedding would take place as part of the crawl. Sadly, that meant we also missed the opportunity to taste delectations from our favorite baker, Evie’s Wildflour Wedding Cakes. Coconut cupcakes with dark chocolate ganache… mmmmm.

The Wedding Crawl felt different this year, minus the anticipation of our own nuptials and all the excitement (and anxiety!) that comes with waiting and wondering. But we were more than satisfied. It was a lovely day filled with beautiful sights and bountiful treats, and we’d already celebrated the real wedding that mattered most: ours.

My amazing vendors!

With two of our wonderful vendors, Noah Magnifico and Mark Frye, and our -bridebook- feature!

Nothing else, a lack of chocolate ganache notwithstanding, will ever compare.

Snow Day Like Today

“Work is good. No one seriously doubts this truth…. But work is not the only good thing in the world; it is not a fetish to be adored; neither is it to be judged, like a sum in addition, by its outward and immediate results. The god of labor does not abide exclusively in the rolling-mill, the law courts, or the corn field. He has a twin sister whose name is leisure, and in her society he lingers now and then to the lasting gain of both.”

–Agnes Repplier, “Leisure”

Snowy park laneIt probably goes without saying that we folk in Southwest Virginia are snowed in. The white stuff rolled in early yesterday morning, a good inch already on the ground when Steve and I got up around eight. Friday’s classes had been called off for both of us by late Thursday afternoon, so we could enjoy a leisurely morning, lingering over a shared breakfast, sipping our respective cups of tea and coffee, watching the white flakes outside pile higher and higher while we remained snug inside, cats and dog cuddled close, the day stretching out before us. What to do with this unexpected gift of unscheduled time?

Both of us soon agreed—admitted to?—our morning plans: catching up on emails and work.

♥ ♥ ♥

One of the benefits of being an academic: when an epic blizzard comes through, you usually get (unlike, say, nurses, or police officers, or those who work for the power company) a snow day. One of the drawbacks: like your students, you perpetually have homework. There’s always something you could be doing–planning for upcoming classes, reading up on research, grading papers. A “day off” is a relative concept, as are “free” evenings and weekends (not to mention those famously “free” summers). You have to choose to be “free.” You have to claim your time, decide you will, on this day, for this hour, prioritize family or fun, love or leisure.

As a rule, I’d say we’re pretty bad at it. Continue reading

Steve Speaks: Looking forward

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magnifico photography

Every so often my fiancé Steve shares his thoughts. Here’s his last pre-wedding post.


It’s just around the corner. The 10-day weather forecast now extends to the wedding (partly sunny, highs in the upper 70’s…). I keep getting asked, “Are you excited?” “Are you nervous?” “Are you ready?” Yes, no, yes and no.

More and more I’ve found myself saying (and hearing) “…after the wedding.” As in, I know we need to do X, and maybe we can get to that after the wedding. When will we find and unpack the rest of our dishes, pots, and pans? After the wedding. When will I get caught up at work? After the wedding. When will we have friends over for dinner? (You know the refrain).

I look forward to life after the wedding, because so many things have been on hold while we’ve been merging households and making preparations. The top five things I’m looking forward to leaving behind:

5. Dates as planning meetings. You go to dinner with a beautiful woman, sit down across from her over a candlelit table, order a bottle of wine, and… each pull out your calendars and to-do lists. I look forward to leaving the notebooks behind.

image4. The craft room fiancée. Sandee and her mom are making lots of lovely decorations for the wedding, some of which I’ve even been allowed to see! But she’s labored some long hours over a hot glue gun. On good days, I hear her singing upstairs. On other days, I hear the occasional growl. I won’t miss the time and stress involved in so much high-pressure D-I-Y.

3. Middle-of-the-night financial questions, like waking at 2:00 AM, trying to remember if I actually wrote a check for X or just dreamt that I did. What account was I going to use for Y? Did we over-extend when we decided on Z? I prefer my pondering take place after coffee. In daylight.

2. Life lived out of a suitcase or cardboard box. For two years, I saw Sandee mostly on weekends, packing a suitcase and driving an hour each way. For two months, we’ve lived in cardboard box limbo, our earthly possessions stowed in unlikely places. Unpacking has been sporadic and scarce as work and wedding preparations have taken priority. I’m ready for us to be home, together.

1. Wedding-related decisions. I’m OK with decisions; I can be very decisive. I create decision-support models and software. But I’m weary of all the difficult trade-offs. How many of our friends can we actually invite? Where’s the balance between being tight-fisted and responsible about wedding expenses? When is it OK not to care about some décor detail that’s so important to my bride? I look forward to those days after the wedding when the toughest decision is whether to drink red or white wine with dinner.

Still, I don’t want to be so focused on “after the wedding” that I don’t embrace and thoroughly enjoy every moment of the wedding itself. Here are the top five things about the wedding I want to hold on to and savor like a 12-year old scotch:

5. Seeing my bride. That precise moment when Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” bursts out with full strings and she rounds a corner, coming into view in a dress she has so carefully chosen, eyes shining, reveling in the day she’s dreamed about. I just hope I’ll be able to see her clearly, and not through blurry, watery eyes.

Steveboys4. Friends and family. I’ll have wonderful friends and family members at the wedding to share my joy. Some of them I haven’t seen in too many years. Some of them will be standing with me as Sandee approaches. Some of them will meet her for the first time that day. These friends have stood beside me in some tough times in my life; I’m eager for them to be beside me on one of the best days.

3. Sharing the day with my sons. How many grooms get to share their wedding day with their adult sons? It’s not entirely rare, but it feels very special. Tucker and Dusty have observed (with different levels of involvement and comment) my years of dating. They have cheered me on, sometimes questioned my choices (or tactics), but never begrudged me the search. It will be an honor and joy to have them participating in the ceremony.

NYpierdancing2. A perfect evening. I know things may not go exactly as planned. The sunset may not be spectacular, I might stumble in the “first dance,” and it’s entirely possible I’ll spill something—hopefully not on Sandee’s gown. But we’ll be dancing to music we selected, eating food we chose, drinking wine from vineyards we’ve visited, and be surrounded by people we love. How could that not be perfect?

1. The ring. Strange? I’ve never worn much jewelry, but I really like the idea of having a ring on my finger again. I picked it out, and I’ll like the cool feel of it when my bride slides it on my finger, and I will absolutely mean the words I speak over it. And eventually, I’ll grow so used to the reassuring weight of it on my hand that I’ll feel naked without it.

I’ll be married. And I’m really looking forward to that.

BenBlanc2

The Countdown


initial S'sSoooo, you might have noticed I was absent from these parts last Friday. Things have gotten pretty overwhelming now that school’s back in session and we’re rapidly heading toward the “days away” mark, a situation not made easier by the fact that almost every other item one of us seeks requires a search through at least three as-yet-unpacked boxes.

This too shall pass.

And only too fast, I fear.

I don’t want these days to be so blurry and harried, though perhaps that’s inevitable. I’ve been frantically trying to put the finishing touches on a number of almost-there DIY projects, a process that includes deciding which ones just aren’t going to happen. We’re finalizing details with our vendors, going last-minute shoe-shopping, testing possible signature cocktail recipes (that last one wasn’t so bad…).

Projects in process

Projects in process

We’ve also been joking more and more frequently about the virtues of elopement.

A couple of nights ago, we tried to slow the momentum and enjoy the moment by practicing for our first dance. We’d thought at one time we’d take a dance lesson or two, but we just flat ran out of time. And a wise family friend who’s seen us dance together had actually cautioned against it, saying that we moved together so naturally, why complicate or even interfere with that ease? It’s a tricky balance, though, wanting to do something special, at least a little planned, but also not wanting to set ourselves up to be so concerned about getting steps “right” that we can’t be fully present. It’s not like either of us is a choreographer, either, so the only language we have to communicate with each other about dance is just, well, dancing.

We decided our bottom line is that we’d like to avoid falling.

malletsThe surprises and slip-ups—assuming they don’t result in bodily harm—are the stories that stick, of course. Everyone keeps reminding me of that, and even I, years ago, wrote a poem after my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding that recounted all the funny things that had not gone as planned, suggesting those were the most real, most memorable moments. I’m wondering now if there will be some karmic return on that observation. I mean, it’s not necessary for things to go wrong to have a wedding with great stories to tell, is it? It will still be wonderful and memorable even if everything goes off without a hitch, right? Universe? Please?

Stay tuned. After all, when things go awry, there’s writing material aplenty.

Stand On Ceremony…

ceremony planningLast Sunday Steve and I sat down to chat about the contents of our actual wedding ceremony (oh, that). We’d had the pleasure of meeting with our officiant, my former youth minister Paul, back in the spring. He’d given us some information about the traditional order of service and vows, and we’d chatted about some of our plans for readings and ceremony music then. But we’d had yet to sit down and look at his notes and our notes and really think about what we wanted to say to each other, word by word, other than “I do.”

Steve refilled his coffee, I my tea, and we sat across from one another at the dining room table, with a view of the park across the street from our new home. The sun shone through the window where a cat had taken up residence, and the dog lay on the floor between our feet. I was prepared for lots of mushy sentiments and maybe even some teariness. What could be more romantic than spending a Sunday morning planning your wedding ceremony with the love of your life?

Actually, it turned out to be kind of like writing a syllabus.

Those outside of academia may not relate to the comparison, so allow me to borrow from my father’s description (he taught chemistry for over 40 years): writing a syllabus is kind of like putting together a puzzle. You have goals for the course, and you have all these pieces that need to be part of the course to help students reach the goals (readings, papers, etc.). You have to figure out how to fit all those pieces together in a logical order that will engage students and “flow.”

Both Steve and I are equal parts traditional and unconventional, so we want our ceremony to reflect that balance, honoring tradition while also making things our own. We debated where it made the most sense to insert the unity flower ceremony—before or after the readings? Close to or far removed from the vows? As we discussed edits and possible orders of the readings we’ve selected, we realized we had to consider where people would stand and traffic patterns, too. We even drew a map to help us figure it out.mapping the ceremony

We’re not academics for nothing.

We did have some fun thinking about our music selections, though much of that was for the reception rather than the ceremony. Who knew you could Google “good cake-cutting songs” (well, who knew you needed one?) and actually get multiple top-20 lists? I wasn’t sure whether to be more amused or horrified that Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” was not only a popular choice for cake-cutting but also bouquet-tossing. Um, ouch?

I’d originally thought Steve and I might write our own vows, having recalled that my brother and sister-in-law had done so. I recalled one phrase from theirs I liked in particular: instead of claiming “until death do us part” (so morbid), they’d said “until the stars fall from the sky.” I offered that phrasing to Steve, but he wasn’t buying it.

“I can’t say that,” he said.

His outright rejection surprised me. “Why not? It’s so poetic.”

“I’m too much of a realist to say that. I don’t think I’ll still be around when the stars fall from the sky, so I can’t promise that.”

PerseidsI kind of hope our world doesn’t implode in my lifetime either, so I understood his reasoning—though I still love the metaphor. In retrospect, I suppose I could have reminded him that the stars (again, metaphorically speaking) just fell from the sky last week during the Perseids meteor shower. Then again, maybe an annual event isn’t the best image to evoke for a lifetime promise.

We hadn’t known, until we perused the materials from our officiant, that there were four or five sets of traditional vows from which to choose. Some didn’t suit us, but several had language we found appealing. Instead of composing our own vows from scratch, we’ve selected one of the traditional sets, with a minor tweak or two. We’re writing something ourselves for our unity ceremony (and lest you’re wondering, it does NOT include sand). We were also quite taken with something we saw at the wedding we attended a few weeks ago: the bride and groom each wrote a brief letter to one another prior to the wedding, and the rabbi read the statements aloud as part of the ceremony. We’re hoping to incorporate a similar ritual if possible, though the key to doing so will be having our officiant participate, because if I tried to read a letter myself, I’d dissolve into a blubbering mess.

Our morning meeting wasn’t absent romance altogether: we shared some sweet smiles and hand squeezes as we talked about what to say in our unity ceremony, and I did get a little teary as Steve and I read bits of the passages about love we’ve chosen aloud to one another. The truth is I choke up, some days, merely thinking about a moment in our ceremony—walking down the aisle with my dad, exchanging rings with Steve, saying our vows. I have no idea how I’m going to get through the day itself without multiple iterations of tears.

I’m headed out later today to do a trial run with my makeup artist. Guess I’d better ask her about that industrial-strength waterproof mascara.

We're licensed to wed!

We’re licensed to wed!

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Wedding Crawl 2015

When Steve told one of our friends we were spending Sunday afternoon at a Wedding Crawl, she replied that it sounded like what you did to get to the ceremony after you had a little too much fun at the rehearsal dinner the night before. There was plenty of fun at this year’s Crawl, and the temptations were many (red velvet cake pops!), but the biggest danger of overindulgence was in great wedding ideas.

This was the third year for the now annual Wedding Crawl, a festive event put on by teams of local wedding professionals in the Roanoke Wedding Network. Each team collaborates to create a mock wedding and reception at one of five prime downtown wedding locations. The venues featured were the Corinthian Ballroom, the Patrick Henry Hotel, Charter Hall in the Market Building, the Taubman Museum of Art, and (our personal favorite) the Center in the Square Rooftop. Each “wedding” showcased a ceremony and reception set-up complete with decorations, flowers, a planner, a caterer, a photographer, a photo booth, a DJ, a bakery and cake, and a bride, along with other vendors such as officiants, hair and makeup salons, lighting designers, and videographers. I was really impressed at the commitment and creativity of all of the teams, who clearly put in a lot of time and energy to make the event a success.

Photo credit William Mahone Photography

Photo, William Mahone Photography

After signing in at the Roanoke City Market, where I was given a “bride-to-be” sash and pinned a “fiancé” boutonniere on Steve, we were directed to start at the Corinthian Ballroom, an elegant space with great natural light. It was there we sampled the aforementioned cake pops, courtesy of Delish! Sweets and Treats, and goofed around in SwellBooth‘s vintage-look photo booth. Upstairs we indulged in Chanticleer Catering‘s yummy victuals, and I convinced Steve to do the Wobble, which William Mahone Photography captured on camera. (I’m behind the bride.)

Have I ever mentioned just what an incredibly good sport Steve is? Continue reading

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(Not Too) Much A-Do about Being

A few weeks ago on a quiet Sunday morning, fiancé Steve and I were seated across from each other at my dining table. Having shared a homemade omelet and fruit and still working on our respective cups of coffee and tea, Steve sat with his paper calendar in his lap, his laptop open to email, while I had called up my calendar on my phone and sat with the wedding notebook in front of me. As we compared notes, I made a to-do list on a legal pad: we needed to call X, send a follow up email to Y, compare quotes from Z and Q. We divvied up the duties and decided on a timetable, determining what had to be done before the holidays, what could wait until after.

Once we each had our assignments, I slid my reading glasses off my nose and snapped the frame closed, the muscle memory of the movement recalling something far removed from a leisurely morning lingering over breakfast with my love. I sat back in my chair in consternation.

“What?” Steve asked, closing his calendar.

I sighed. “I know planning a wedding is supposed to be fun, and it mostly is. But it feels like we just spent our morning in a business meeting.” Continue reading