Archive for August, 2009

We have some very good news! It’s official! We have a venue and a date!

Brandon and I visited Cedars of Lebanon State Park this morning and were extremely pleased with the assembly hall which has an awesome fireplace, a stage, and plenty of space for an awesome reception all within the financial means as outlined previously. Originally we had thought about having the wedding outside in the park somewhere and then having the reception there but when we saw the Cedar Forest Lodge we fell in love and decided we needed to try and have the wedding there. After getting back to the park office and working out some of the details the only date available for both was a Sunday. However, it was a pretty cool Sunday.

Keeping in mind that our goals and wishes we weighed our options and ultimately went for it. Our wedding date is 10-10-10. That is Sunday, October 10, 2010. If that isn’t awesome, I don’t know what is.

This fireplace will be so pretty in the reception hall.

This fireplace will be so pretty in the reception hall.

The stage on which people can make toasts etc!

The stage on which people can make toasts etc!

The Wedding will be held out back somewhere around here!

The Wedding will be held out back somewhere around here!

The Front of this Beautiful Lodge

The Front of this Beautiful Lodge


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Where oh where will our wedding take place?

Repeatedly everyone has told me that the most important and hardest decision to make is the location of both the wedding ceremony and the reception. Having already written about our fairly small budget this task was one that has been even more complicated for me and Brandon.

Shortly after getting engaged (within days) Brandon and I made began the incredibly complicated task of picking a location. We had already discussed the type of ceremony and some of the general details of the things we wanted. We both agreed on an outdoor ceremony and hoped for an indoor reception based on the fact that we wanted a fun, celebratory atmosphere. We also preferred an evening (sunset) ceremony with the reception following so that alcohol and food could be served without hesitation. Also, due to this factor, Friday or Saturday is preferred.
There was one issue Brandon and I briefly disagreed on. I wanted more of an intimate cocktail party feeling. Brandon was thinking of more a traditional, large room kind of reception. However, knowing what we both want we have been able to mesh those two goals together.

The day following our engagement Brandon and I visited Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. http://www.cheekwood.org We had wanted to visit for several months as neither of us had ever been to this incredible Nashville attraction. We also had ulterior motives.
We wanted to scope it as a possible ceremony location. It was so beautiful! I was amazed. The ceremony would perhaps have been affordable but a reception was completely out of the question. I can’t wait to visit again but not for the purposes of planning a wedding.

Brandon and I dedicated the weekend of August 22nd to the venue search. In two days we visited the Timothy Demonbreun House on Benton Avenue. http://www.tdhouse.com/index.html I was most impressed by the owner’s hospitality.
It was my personal favorite location. Although the owner was incredibly friendly and willing to work with us we just weren’t sure that this location could fit into our tight budget. I felt decorations would be minimal based on the environment. Based on our experience, I would highly recommend this location to others.

Other places visited included the Traveler’s Rest Plantation (Brandon’s Favorite), Shadowbrook in Joelton, TN and The Buchannon House in Donelson.

Traveler’s Rest was a beautiful option being it had a gorgeous mansion and wonderful kitchen facility. http://www.travellersrestplantation.org The reception hall was much more traditional. Staff seemed knowledgeable and friendly. My greatest concern was the price which did not include decorations in which the reception hall would have definitely needed.

Shadowbrook came recommended by and acquaintance and although it was a once again, a beautiful location it was not what Brandon and I were looking for. (They do not have a website.)

The Buchannon House is a sweet and fun location and extremely affordable. http://www.buchananloghouse.com This location is not completely off of our radar based on the price and the hospitality the volunteer board member provided. It would also look beautiful in the fall because it is so rustic. I also loved that it was so close to where Brandon grew up.

After the first few locations we were a little frustrated. It seemed it would be really hard to find a location that would allow us to stay within our budget. After some initial pouting on my part I thought long and hard about how important it was for us to stay on task and not overspend in the initial phases.

That’s when I got to work. I scoured websites for tips and hints on affordable locations in Nashville.

1) Ms. Cheap of the Tennessean came through for me in a big way.


2) I also found some awesome blogs from women all of the United States who were planning weddings on the cheap.

3) Lastly, I found this cool website of a coordinator in Nashville who listed locations
she had decorated and her own personal reviews.

With these resources I felt more prepared and more confident that Brandon and I could have a beautiful ceremony without going into a huge amount of debt.

Right now, our top two possibilities are government owned. Those being 1) Cedars of Lebanon in Lebanon, TN and 2) The War Memorial Plaza in Downtown Nashville. We realize that both of those locations are incredibly different but think there both viable options that would fit different parts of our personality.

We are off to visit Cedars of Lebanon tomorrow. I am open to anyone who has ideas or helpful hints. I would be really interested in seeing photos of anyone who has had a ceremony at either location and what their thoughts and experience were.

We will surely keep you updated on whatever we decide!

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Since we decided to start blogging I have been researching weddings a lot online. There are some really fun blogs out there and so many wedding sites you can get overwhelmed. One of the many subjects that brides-to-be are writing about is the budget. I was a little hesitant to write in depth about Brandon and I’s budget being that some people believe money is an issue you should keep to yourself.
However, after reading the blogs of other couples facing the same issues and knowing that Brandon and I are both crazy, over-the-top, open, extroverts lets me know I am safe. 🙂
Here are four reasons why Brandon and I believe we can plan a beautiful wedding on a $5,000 budget!

1) We have known all along that the most important aspect of our wedding is the vows and promises we would make to each other. We are conscious of not getting caught in the frenzy of wedding planning that we forget what is most important. We both realize how lucky we are to have each other. We want to make our wedding unique, beautiful and personal. A meaningful ceremony and a day spent with family and friends is what is most important.

2) Brandon and I are also very lucky that we have wonderful and supportive friends and family willing to help get creative and get working. I have already been offered help more times than I can count. We only have to remember to be open to the people around us and the input they provide. I have had some amazing ideas so far!

3) Brandon and I are as budget savvy as anyone. I cut coupons. Brandon is best comparison shopper in the history of the world. I am not afraid to buy sales or clearance (in fact I will only shop then). Yard sales, consignment shops, and thrift stores have never scared us away. We pride ourselves on being able to get the best deal for our dollar. Both of us come by it naturally I think!

4) We are starting early. We do not have an exact date set yet but we really want to shoot for fall 2010. With 13 or 14 months to plan I have a lot of time to wait for sales, get venues, and plan for lots of possible budget mishaps.

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If I could use one word to describe the proposal it would be “proud”. Let me explain why.

Friends and family have known for several months that we had been talking marriage.  In fact, each of us had developed a-go to response.

“We were talking about it but we weren’t in the financial position to the begin planning.”

Brandon played along pretty well.  Always telling me he had no idea when he could afford a ring.  Mind you, it was a very believable scenario being with economy the way it is and pizza delivering not the most prestigious position.  For months, I hashed is out with each one of my best friends impatiently waiting until they day I could yell from the rooftops, “I’m engaged!”

Make no mistake though; plans were blossoming in my head.  I am a planner at heart after all.  I was thinking and scheming in generalities, but refusing to make any real decisions until it was “official.”  It was so important to both of us that Brandon follow tradition and surprise me when he popped the question.

But as the months passed I was less and less convinced that it could happen any time soon.  It seemed like several milestones passed and there was no ring.  Brandon was a wonderful actor and there was no indication that anything was in the works.

So when the time finally came I was totally and completely shocked.

My trip to AZ had been tons of fun.  I reconnected with my best friends, reminisced about my college days, and got some much needed rest.  The trip though was definitely a time for me to think about the life I had chosen in TN.  Details are not needed, but suffice it to say that I came to terms with a lot of choices and paths taken.  I felt like new doors were opening.  Looking back I realized it could not have been a more beautiful precursor for what was to happen when I got off the plane.

I love airports.  There is something human and emotional and real about them.  Every time I walk through BNA the significance of the place is not lost on me and this time was no different, despite the total frustration I had with myself for leaving my phone on during the flight which consequently resulted in its deadness.

As I came down the escalator, I couldn’t help but smile.  Standing there, red rose in one hand, was Brandon.  He was smiling too.  Hugging him tightly I remember thinking it was so nice that my boyfriend would meet in the middle of the airport dressed up.  He is so romantico!  I also remember thinking how odd it was that there was a weird guy behind the pole taking pictures of us.

As Brandon starts with his speech I got to say I remained clueless for the initial part of it. Anyone who has seen the pictures can testify to that. But eventually I caught on and through my tears, hyperventilating, and the shakes I got out that very important, “Yes.”

In the days following I could do nothing but smile. I was so happy. The proposal, the ring, the surprise… was everything I could have ever asked for. It meant the world to me that he loved me enough to go through all of this. I will remain forever thankful for this beautiful time in both of lives.

I was so proud. Proud that he had picked out the perfect ring without my input. Proud that he surprised me with such a heartfelt and meaningful proposal. Proud that this thoughtful and loving man was my fiancé and would one day become my husband.

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So Shannon decided that our first two blogs should be about the proposal itself, from each of our perspectives.  I thought this was a cute idea and decided to get the ball rolling while I lie in bed.

First of all, the location.  I proposed to Shannon at the airport.  The reason?  The airport holds a lot of significance to us and to our relationship.  Obviously, since our relationship started off long distance, the airport was really our only means of seeing each other.  The first place I saw Shannon with my own eyes was at the airport.  BNA, to be exact.  Which is the place I proposed to her.

Now, how did I hatch this scheme?  Well, in part I have Brooke Boncher to thank for that.  Brooke was a senior swimmer at the University of Tennessee when I was working as team manager.  We began talking quite a bit on bus trips because while everyone else was goofing off we were usually doing homework.  We considered ourselves the elders of the group (Brooke had missed a couple years swimming due to an injury, so she was older than all the other swimmers).  We talked a lot about Shannon and I.  She herself had a boyfriend waiting for her, back in Massachusetts.  Therefore, we had something in common.  One day, she was asking me if I thought Shannon was the one.  With all Shannon and I had been through at this point, I couldn’t help but think that she was.  So, my response was, “Yes, I believe so.”

“How are you going to propose?”

Well, I had never thought about it extensively to that point.  Up until then, I had always had a specific spot in Nashville I wanted to propose – but I felt something else was needed for Shannon.  The idea came to me like a bolt of lightning.  “At the airport, of course.”

This was in March of 2008.

So that brings us to the second part of the proposal: The Ring.  After proposing, one of the first questions Shannon asked me was, “How did you find this ring?”  My response was the truest response I could think of: “Well, it sort of found me.”

Explanation?  You see, my sister-in-law’s father is a jeweler and has been for sometime.  So, when I decided to confide in my brother and sister-in-law that Shannon was the one, Sara immediately asked, “Do you want my dad to keep an eye out for a ring for you?”  Of course I said yes, not thinking he would find a ring that really suited myself or Shannon.

Several times Sara brought a ring to me that, although beautiful, simply didn’t fit what I had envisioned for Shannon.  Then, in October of 2008 she brought one to me that I absolutely loved.  I told her – tell your dad he’s got a buyer.

Unfortunately at this time, I was working a full-time internship for the Nashville Sports Council.  I say unfortunately because the internship was unpaid.  A couple weeks after committing to buy the ring, I told my brother I’d simply have to pass on it because I didn’t have any money and didn’t know when I’d even be able to start paying for the ring.  Sadly, I let it go – not knowing how I was going to find a ring anytime in the near future.

Then, in early 2009, my brother called me.  “Hey, I don’t know if you’d be interested or not, but Al (Sara’s father) got that ring back from the guy who had originally purchased it.”

I was all over it.  From that point forward I began making payments on the ring.  In early summer, I got a date for the proposal: August 12th.  Why August 12th?  Because Shannon was going to be returning from Phoenix on that particular day.  About a month or so away from August 12th, I ran into a problem.  I wasn’t satisfied with the ring.  I loved the design and I loved the layout, but the center diamond left something to be desired.  It was nice enough, but wasn’t exquisite.  So I called Sara and Thomas and talked to them about it.  She told me she’d ask her dad to keep an eye out for a nicer diamond to put in the ring.

On a day off, I made a trip to Genesis Diamonds to price a loose stone for Shannon’s ring.  They showed me one that was beautiful, albeit a little out of my price range, but I committed to buying it.  I put a down payment on the diamond and had two weeks to decide whether or not I wanted the stone.

A little off topic here.  It was at this point that I phoned Danyella (Shannon’s best friend) and asked for her blessing to marry Shannon.  She said yes and reassured me that Shannon was completely oblivious to the me proposing to her.  In fact, as Danyella put it, “I think she’s given up any hope of that happening in the near future.”

Al to the rescue once again.  A week after putting a down payment on a diamond at Genesis, Sara called me and told me Al had acquired a beautiful Marquise cut diamond.  I excitedly went and checked the diamond out and was in love.  This was the diamond that was going to complete Shannon’s engagement ring.  I committed to that diamond, and the next day, went and got my money back from Genesis.

Which brings us pretty much up to the proposal, itself.  The day Shannon left for Phoenix, I went and picked up the ring from my brother and sister-in-law.  I was blown away by its beauty.  The new diamond looked amazing and the ring, at that point, was exactly what I wanted.  Now, I would just have to wait for the long week to go by.

The week did go by, very slowly.  Luckily, I worked at least one of my jobs every single day of the week.  Unfortunately, I had a lot of trouble sleeping that week.  Not due to nervousness, but due to excitement.  I was truly anxious for Shannon to get back so that my plan could finally unfold.

It was the day I was set to propose that I phoned Shannon’s sister and mother to ask for their blessing.  I didn’t trust them to keep the secret.  I didn’t think they’d blow it maliciously, mind you, but I felt certain that they would accidently let something slip beforehand (sorry to you both, if you are reading this).

The night before Shannon was supposed to return, I didn’t get to sleep until approximately 6:30 AM.  Again, not because of nervousness, but because of excitement.  I worked both jobs that day and before I knew it, it was 10:30 PM.  Shannon’s flight was due in at 12:30 AM.  After finishing my shift at Pizza Hut I sped home, took a shower, got dressed, got a rose from the store, and headed to the airport.

My best friend, Travis, was meeting me at the airport to photograph the whole thing.  We arrived at the airport at around midnight, and it was pretty dead.  I paced anxiously, constantly checking the arrival board for any updated on her flight’s status (partially because they had left Phoenix almost half an hour late).  While waiting, and pacing, Travis worked on his photography skills, trying to get a feel for the beast of a camera he was using to document this momentous occasion.

Shannon’s flight from Phoenix had three other flights that had connected to it, Las Vegas being one of them.  The only two flights due in at 12:30 were hers from Phoenix and one from Charlotte.  12:30 came and like clockwork people starting streaming down the escalator.  I turned to Travis and said, “I think this is it.”  After a few minutes and no sign of Shannon, I asked one of the passengers waiting on their luggage where they were coming from.  “Vegas,” he replied.

This had to be it.  I could feel myself starting to sweat.  This was the only point at which I was nervous.  A few more moments passed and after talking to the gentleman again, I realized this was not Shannon’s flight.  His flight from Vegas was a direct flight, and half an hour early.

So, approximately 15 more minutes passed (although, let me tell you, it felt like an hour).  Then, once again, people began streaming down the escalator.  I turned to Travis once more and said, “This has got to be it.  There’s no other flights coming in.”

So, finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I saw her coming down the escalator.  She saw me immediately and began to grin and I did the same.  She ran to me and we hugged for a moment and then I started my speech.

“You know, the airport has held a lot of significance in our relationship over the years.  In fact, it was almost in this exact spot that I was standing when I first laid eyes on you…”

I continued and Shannon seemed utterly confused.  She was giving me a look that said, “I’m tired.  What are you talking about?  Let’s go home.”  It wasn’t until I said the line, “So I called your mother and received her blessing,” that she knew what was happening.  At this point, she began choking back tears.  And of course, right on cue, when she started to choke up, so did I.  But I took a deep breath and said, “Shannon.  Breathe.  Don’t have an anxiety attack.”

Then, I finished my speech, got down on one knee, and asked her to marry me.  She said, “Yes!” through her tears.

From this point forward, I was so excited.  It had gone exactly as I had planned.  I could tell from her reaction that no one had spilled the beans – she was completely shocked.  We spent the next 15 minutes at the airport.  Laughing, crying, kissing, and checking out the goods.  We went home and ended up staying up well past 3 AM because we were both so amped up and so excited about it.   The news spread quickly, once again thanks to Facebook and text messaging.  It wasn’t long before we had well-wishes from so many of our friends and family – something that surprised us both (not that we had well-wishers, but the number that we had).

So, that’s the proposal, from my perspective.  Sorry it was so long.  There was a lot of backstory here.  Hers should be shorter.  🙂

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