Friday, July 27, 2012

A Newlywed Move: 9 rules for moving in without trauma and tears

Combining idea that sounded so fun when it was many months in the future, then slowly clouded as it approached.  Nobody likes to move.  It sucks.  But sharing a home with your brand new husband?  Fabulous!  So here are some tips and tricks for making the transition as painless as possible so you can get back to basking in newlywed joy.

1. Make a realistic timeline

I started packing about a week before the big move.  I'd like to have started earlier, but other events (ahem, wedding!) got in the way of that.  A week worked out well though.  I could pack about 20 boxes a night before hating life, and it wasn't horribly overwhelming.


Also, plan to be out of your old place well before the lease is up.  That way, you can get settled in to your new place, then go back and clean your old place, without being rushed and stressed.

2. Buy boxes that are uniform size

When I was in college, I would collect up liquor store boxes for a few weeks before my move.  It was always a huge challenge to pack them in the truck efficiently, and stack them up later in storage.

This time, I had three sizes of boxes: small, medium, and heavy duty plastic crates.  The truck got packed more efficiently, because we could make entire columns of like-size boxes.  Same thing with our storage space.  No teetering stacks of mismatched boxes!  The uniform ones stack sturdier and save on space.

I bought 75 boxes at Home Depot ($0.78 for small, $1.12 for medium), and borrowed the plastic crates from Tommy's work.   It was sooo worth it.

Also, pack like things together.  There's nothing worse than opening a box labeled dishes and finding the TV remote!  Don't forget to label really well.  Having a list of ten things on the side of the box is far superior to saving 30 seconds by skipping this step.

3. Use proper packing material

I bought real packing paper.  I suppose you could use newspaper, but the clean, fresh, sheets really seem to make a difference.  Plus then you don't feel like you have to wash everything when you unwrap it.  Five boxes at $3.50 each made all of our belongings safe and sound.

I also rented blankets from Uhaul for $10 for 12.  I wrapped them around our nice wood furniture, and sealed it up with plastic wrap (also cheap).  During the move, I wasn't at all concerned with my furniture getting bumped and scratched, and none of the drawers were falling out.  Stress Saver!

Just do it.  Spend the cash.  You won't regret it, and it'll save you loads of money in the long run because you won't have to fix or replace furniture, plates, wine glasses, etc that were broken in the move.

awesome helpers pictured with padded and wrapped furniture and uniform boxes

4. Get a bigger truck than you think you need

I initially got some flack for renting the biggest truck imaginable.  My counter argument was that it cost the same and we wouldn't have to be as careful about how we packed.  Well, we packed it tight and it still didn't all quite fit.

Here's some quick math: It costs $0 - $10 to upgrade to the next size truck.  Every mile you drive the truck costs $1.  If you have to make an extra trip, it's probably already more than $10 just in mileage (unless you're moving like a block away).   So suck it up and get the bigger truck.  You won't regret it.

5. Ask for help (or hire it)

It sucks way less, and goes way faster, when you have helpers.  It probably also forces you and your newlywed spouse to be nicer to each other since you have company.  I was so thankful for all our helpers during the move!

Have awesome helpers
keep your helpers happy ( = pizza and beer)

6. Focus on key areas first

Yes, I wanted to set up my project space first.  But it was causing a lot more stress to have a wreck of a kitchen and a bathroom where I couldn't find anything.  We started by getting our most-used areas put together first, so our lives wouldn't continue to be so interrupted by the move.

Keeping priorities in mind helped us stayed focused.  We'd keep seeing other projects (painting the front door, removing wallpaper) that were calling to us.  But those wouldn't immediately boost our quality of life as much as, say, finding the socks, so we put them on hold for the time being.  It's been hard, but in the long run, better.

7. Schedule a date (or three!)

We really wanted to work hard and just finish the move.  However, we found some time for a few little dates, like a long bike ride, a dance class, and a stroll to a new restaurant.  Those dates were so much  more special because it felt like stolen time.  They left us relaxed, rejuvenated, and remembering why we're doing this in the first place.

8. Discuss your ground rules

We've never lived together before.  We have spent a LOT of time together over the past few years, but living together is different because for the first time both of you feel like it's your space.  We took some time to talk about our expectations for our new home, so we can get started with a common vision.

We want our home to be welcoming, relaxing, and fun.  As we transition into our new home, these goals may translate in a variety of ways.  We'll choose comfortable furniture, and keep plenty of space for guests.  We'll keep the house clean.  We'll have a nice guest room.  We'll create spaces for groups to gather.

We also discussed things like clutter on the kitchen counters (none, please), dog hair (kept at a reasonable minimum by Tommy), and laundry (my job, done when I feel like it).  It was quick, easy, and painless to talk these things over early, and it'll save hours of expectations and arguments later.

9. Love each other!

In the midst of hard and dirty work, take a few seconds for a quick kiss or a nice strong hug (or an unexpected dance to your first song).  Compliment each other on what a great job they're doing.  You're both exhausted, dirty, tired of this chore, but you're in it together, and you're creating your home!  Congratulations!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Photo Guest Book

I love the idea of a guest book - a way you can look back and remember all the wonderful people who helped you celebrate your marriage.  However, I hear again and again how people just pack them away and never look at them again.  My own Mom said the first time she has ever looked at hers was several weeks ago when she was searching for the sixpence for my shoe!

Given that, I decided that our guest book should be something that draws us to open it up and pore over the pages.  We loved our engagement photos (taken on our family farm by Whitney Huynh) so much, that we decided to make a coffee table guest book out of them.

Engagement photos by Whitney Huynh

I often see Groupons and the like featuring deals on DIY photo albums.  I happened across one from Mixbook, and snatched it up!

I'm not sponsored by anybody, and all opinions following are mine!

I've used Snapfish before, and my book turned out OK, but I really loved working with Mixbook!  They offer so many more options for designing your own pages, and the quality of our book blew me away.   I noticed that in the time since I ordered our book, they even created a template for guest books.

Here's the cover and first page of our guest book.

guest book cover

guest book cover page

I also like that they have a feature where you can digitally flip through your book to make sure it flows nicely.

Here's what I did:
  1. Start with a totally blank 14"x11" coffee table photobook.  
  2. Add 1-3 photos to each page, making sure to leave lots white space so guests can write messages.  There are also pages in the front and back covers to write on in case space is limited.  
  3. Double check the flow of the book.  Revise images.  Rinse and repeat until perfect!
  4. Provide a super-fine-point Sharpie for the messages to prevent smudging and smearing.  
  5. Display the book in an obvious place, and have bridal party sign it first as an example for others.

I really liked that I could put images anywhere on the pages.  It was also easy to resize images, make them transparent (like in the cover page below), or make them black and white (like in the cover page above).  You can also change the contrast, hues, etc.  The program was very simple to use.

I was so excited when the books arrived!  They were very high quality, and looked completely professional.

We read all the messages the day after the wedding, and they were so special!  We loved this addition to our wedding, and the lasting memory it will provide.

We also made copies of the book for our parents and grandparents, but we changed up a few photos for their individual interests.  For instance, we changed the cover and cover page to farm photos for my grandmother who lives on our farm.

Guest book with farm cover

Guest book cover page with farm photo

They were so surprised by the gift, and I think they were a big hit!

I'll admit that this project took far longer than I ever anticipated - maybe 12 hours total!  If you're not such a perfectionist, I bet you could finish one in an hour or two.

That said, I think it came out fabulous, and I'm so glad I took on the project.  The guest book cost about $55 total (the 45-page book, plus shipping was originally about $110).  So maybe not a project for everyone, but if you have the time and $$, I think you'll love the results.  Mixbook also has great sales all the time, so if you're not in a rush, it might be worthwhile to wait a few weeks and see what comes up.

I'll definitely be using the same company to make a similar book of our wedding photos.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bridesmaid Gifts: Pink Robes with Rhinestone Initial

I wanted to give my bridesmaids something fun that theycould use both for the wedding and for years to come.  What better than cute robes!  We all wore them getting ready on the big day, and I hope they'll enjoy them once they're all back home (if they aren't sick of "Bonnie Pink" yet, that is!).

I found the robes early on in the planning experience, but knew right away they were perfect.  I had considered making them myself, but was actually able to say no to myself for once!  No extra wedding projects!!!  Anyways, if you're in the market, stores like Victoria's Secret, Kohl's, Target, etc., might have just what you're looking for.

Mom found the rhinstone initials at a bridal wholesaler while shopping for my wedding dress fabric, but they're available at your local craft store, too.

After deciding where to place the initial, I started with my robe just in case I screwed it up.  Some light googling returned decent instructions on how to apply them.

First peel off the backing.

Next, place the letter where you want it.

Then cover with a cloth you don't care about, and press with a medium-hot iron (no steam) for 15-20 seconds.  (I tried it without the cloth and got glue on my iron, so following instructions is important here.)

Then flip the fabric over, cover with the cloth, and press for another 15-20 seconds from the back, just to make sure the glue adhered well.

Wait for it to cool, then remove the sticky part!  Ta da!

bling bling!
Don't we look adorable???

personalized bridesmaids robes, photo by Whitney Huynh

Friday, July 13, 2012

Coral Bridesmaid Jewelry Sets

I know, I know.  I made earrings for my bridesmaids last fall to use as a color guide when selecting their dresses.  But it turns out that those earrings weren't quite what I had in mind!

While perusing etsy for my bridal jewelry, I was inspired by several of the items for sale.  I didn't really want to spend $50+ per set, so I decided to make my own!

I ordered chain online from Shipwreck Beads.  I got beads, earrings wires, initials, and lobster claws from Michael's.  Luckily, I already had the jump rings and head pins.

I started by putting all the beads onto individual head pins and making a loop at the top.  I initially tried one of each bead on the earrings, but it didn't look quite right.  Then I tried three coral beads.  Five coral beads turned out to be the magic number.  I also added some jump rings to the pearl so it would hang a little lower.

For the necklaces, I attached a lobster claw and clasp on the ends.  My chain was so fine that my jump rings wouldn't work, so I ended up making my own out of head pins.  Can you say P.I.T.A.?

Anyways, I attached the initial, pearl, and coral bead to a large jump ring, and threaded that onto the chain.  Voila!  Bridesmaid jewelry set!

personalized bridesmaid necklace and earrings

I also made a version of these for the flower girls, but used a flat coral colored pearl with a small round pearl.  I hope they love them!

bridesmaid and flower girl personalized jewelry

In all, I made six sets of bridesmaid jewelry and three flower girl necklaces for about $40 (less than one set had I bought them online!).  There was some serious time cost here though - they took me almost six hours to make!

Update #1: Jewelry making the debut at the wedding!

Update #2: I saw my new sister-in-law wearing hers last night, so looks like they were a hit  :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Silk Floral Bouquets, Boutonnieres, and Corsages

Here we are, the result of the bouquets on a budget, when you're making them for your own wedding.

I had a few restrictions on my wedding flowers:
  1. I refused to spend $700 - $1,000 on just bouquets and boutonnieres
  2. I didn't want to be crafting the day before my wedding
  3. There wasn't a good wholesale flower shop near my wedding
I was really at a loss for what to do about this!  I had considered several options, and none of them seemed great.  Then one day wandering around the craft store, I eyed some silk flowers.  Generally, I think silk flowers look really fake, and I've seen some terrible bouquets made from them.  But the white hydrangeas and peonies at Michael's actually look really realistic.

I bought a few and took them home to compare to my wedding gown fabric (wouldn't want to clash), as well as some snippets from my bridesmaids dresses.  They looked pretty darn good!

Using silk flowers, I could spend a fraction of what it would cost for real flowers, I could do them weeks before the wedding, they would hold up to hugs, humidity, heat, and dancing, and I'd be able to keep them in pristine condition long after the wedding was over!

I decided to do a bouquet of peonies for me and hydrangeas for my bridesmaids.  The groomsmen and Moms would get boutonnieres and corsages from ranunculus.

Bridal Bouquet

I used ten peony stems for my bridal bouquet, priced at $6 each.  I had to go to three different Michael's to get them all, and used a 20% off coupon at two stores.  The stems at the third store had some stains on multiple petals of each stem, so I talked them manager into a 40% discount, and just snipped off the ugly petals when I got home.

real-touch peony

I arranged them just like any bouquet, securing everything with floral tape.  I wanted the handle to be thicker, so I used the excess from the stems and doubled up.

white peony bouquet

There were some shiny bits of metal showing at the bottom, and some were pretty sharp, so I used a file to dull the ends.  It also helped disguise the silver bits.

I finished off the stems with a coral satin ribbon.

White peony bouquet with coral ribbon

CORRECTION: The coral satin ribbon was too harsh against the dress.  Instead, we used fabric and lace leftover from making my wedding dress to wrap the handle.

silk peony bouquet with beaded lace wrap

Silk flowers are easily crushed and wrinkled, so I secured my bouquet in a box so it wouldn't get messed up.

Bridesmaid Bouquets

For the bridesmaids, I used two giant white hydrangeas (the $10 kind from Michael's).  They were much higher quality, and their large size allowed me to use fewer stems, so it was actually cheaper in the long run.  I also had my 20% off coupon.

I secured the two stems together with floral tape.  The stems were super long, so I cut them into thirds, and used the extra pieces to fatten up the handle, securing everything with more floral tape.

I considered hot gluing some of the leaves underneath the blooms, but they looked kind of fake so I decided against it.

I finished off the handles with coral pink satin ribbon.  The bouquets still seemed to be lacking something, so I added a bow.

White hydrangea bouquet with coral ribbon

I was really proud of my packing job for the bouquets!  They made the trip with no problem at all!

Safe packaging for bouquets


I used one large ranunculus bloom for each groomsmen boutonniere, and a large and small together for the groom and the Dads.  The ring bearer got a smaller set of blooms, which turned out pretty adorable.  One "stem" came with three large blooms, one small bloom, and one bud on it.  I bought four stems altogether, at $7 each from JoAnn's, but coupons made for a nice discount.

White ranunculus silk flowers

I used ivy leaves to finish off the boutonniere.  I initially tried securing them with floral tape, but the leaves were so unwieldy that I finally decided to just hot glue them on.

I wrapped the stem in coral pink satin ribbon, and hot glued the end in place.  I don't recommend super glue - the last time I tried it, it never dried!

White ranunculus boutonniere with coral pink ribbon

I've noticed at weddings that the guys always have a tough time pinning their boutonnieres in place.  To make it easy on them, I hot glued a pin to the back.

Then I added name labels to avoid confusion day-of.

Label boutonnieres to avoid confusion

I think silk flower boutonnieres are a fabulous idea, whether the bouquets are real or not.  Every wedding or prom I've been to, the boutonnieres are wrecked by the end of the night after the guys give a million hugs and have been on the dance floor for hours.  The silk flowers held up perfectly!


I used several sizes of ranunculus blooms for the corsages.  I found pearl stretch bracelets at JoAnn's for $2 (the same price as a junky wrist corsage base, but so much prettier and more comfortable!).

DIY wrist corsage

I hot glued all the blooms in place, then hot glued the entire arrangement onto the bracelets.

Ranunculus wrist corsage

Just like the boutonnieres, corsages always get ruined at weddings or proms.  These held up great though!

navy and coral wedding with white peony bouquet and white ranunculus boutonniere

I know everyone has opinions, generally poor, of using silk flowers at weddings.  I think these turned out well though, and at a grand total of $150, it's tough to complain!  I saved money and freed up time during my wedding week.  All the pieces held up fantastically through heat/humidity/hugs/dancing, and I have to say I'm kind of glad I'll be able to keep my flower girl will be able to keep my bouquet just like it was on my wedding night!