Julia’s Engagement Story

IMG_7337 IMG_7336 IMG_7338 IMG_7274inked by Julia

Now that you’ve been warmed up by a whole week of wedding planning tips, I’ll fill you in on the beginnings of another Neal wedding.

Out of all of the Neal family members, I’m the hardest to surprise. Every year at Christmas we do a secret santa exchange for the “sisters” (and brothers-in-law) and I always end up figuring out who has who. I pick up on little hints and can plan to the day when something is supposed to happen. Lucky for me, I have a super sleuth of a fiancé, and he caught me when I least expected it.

About a week before the big day, two of my lovely roommates whispered to me and said, “Let’s go out to eat just the three of us. We could use a break from the rest of our roomies.”  So I said yes of course, and we made a plan to go to my favorite place, Dewey’s Pizza in Dayton.

Thursday night, my friends had a “nail party” which never happens, and of course I refused because I had just painted my nails a lovely shade of orange the day before.

Friday came, I slapped on some makeup, let my hair dry naturally, and put on a sweatshirt and jeans. I turned around to see my roommate glaring at my gross outfit. The rest of the day, my friends would ask me about my outfit with subtle hints, and by the end of my classes, I had decided I would change and do my hair (thank goodness), still unknowing of my impending engagement.

We finally headed out to dinner. My roommate is from Long Island, so she uses her phone GPS everywhere she goes in Ohio. Once we passed our exit, I started giving her helpful bossy tips on how to get to Deweys. We ended up driving fifteen miles in the wrong direction, and I was furious. It helped that my other friend in the front seat was texting me about how Courtney wasn’t listening to my directions and how annoying it was. ;) We pulled into Cox Arboretum to “turn around” and to break tension in the car, I exclaimed, “Well guys, this is my favorite place in Miamisburg!” Still clueless.

We parked the car, and the next thing I knew, Michael was opening my car door. Right then I realized what was happening. We walked around the arboretum for a few minutes until he found the perfect spot to pop the question

Luckily, there was a photographer at Cox to snap a few shots of our fun day. We finished the evening with a surprise engagement party at my parents’ house, and in true Neal form, checked out a possible wedding venue the next morning. On to wedding planning!

 

Mother of the Bride Series: The Dress

em-dresses1 linds-dress1inked by Holly

I do love dress shopping! All of my girls have such different taste, and it’s so fun to see what they choose and how it reflects their sense of style.

Here are my dress shopping tips:
*Don’t be afraid to buy off the sample rack. We bought Emily’s ceremony dress for such an amazing price, and we ended up with room in the budget to also buy a fun reception dress. We were so excited to score two dresses for the budget of one, but something I didn’t take into consideration was the cost of alterations.  Buying off the rack means you probably aren’t buying the correct size. You’ll be told by the sales assistants shop that you can alter it to fit, and you can… but it’s gonna cost you. Also, altering a dress that’s a few sizes too big will affect the finished dress so keep this in mind. This is also true when you order a dress–be prepared that the dress may not look exactly like you thought it would when it was initially tried on in a different size.

*Who knew you can machine wash some wedding dresses?! I threw Emily’s ceremony dress in the washing machine on gentle and line dried. It looked perfect! Obviously, that wouldn’t work for her reception dress with feathers which leads to next tip…

*Shop around for dry cleaners. I took the reception dress to the dry cleaner in our neighborhood and gasped at the price. I called around and found another cleaner who did a beautiful job for half the price.

*Bright white isn’t the only option. Lindsay chose a champagne dress and Emily chose an ivory dress. Bright white shades washed them out, and the slightly darker shades were much more flattering.

*Buy what you love, because you only wear it once. But don’t go bankrupt or blow the whole wedding budget on the dress, because you only wear it once.

Any other tips for dress shopping? Any favorite bridal salons?

Mother of the Bride Series: Guest List

IMG_5605Photo by Pink with Envy Events

inked by Holly

Weddings and wedding planning are wonderful times of celebration for a mother and daughter. But if you’re like me, it’s also scary, intimidating, and overwhelming. Emily married the man of her dreams in July and the very next morning, I jotted down some notes. I’ve been the mother of the bride twice but I still have two daughters to go, one of which will be walking down the aisle next summer. For me, wedding planning is a lot like child birth. Once it’s over, you really only remember the wonderful and quickly forget the difficult parts. Until you do it again.

Hopefully some of these tips will help you avoid the difficult, or at least make the planning a little less difficult.

Today we’re talking about the guest list. Oh, it still gives me a panicky feeling! This is one of the most difficult tasks for me. Steve and I know and love so many people and we want them all to share the joyous day with us, but unfortunately there are limits to the seating in venues and limits to the budget. And, I have to remind myself that it’s not my day, it’s the bride and groom’s.

Here are my tips as you work on narrowing your guest list:
*Never invite more than your venue seats. It’s very unlikely that every guest on your list will be able to attend, but you’d rather be safe than sorry.

*Invite those who will be investing in the couple’s future, not just those from their past.

*However, those friends from the past are very special, so make room and compromise when possible.

*One of the toughest decisions we’ve made is whether or not to invite children. For both of the Neal weddings, we made the difficult decision to not include children due to venue size and budget. We also wanted our adult guests to be able to enjoy the celebration. This is a sensitive topic and different for each bride and MOB.

Any other tips you’d add?

Mother of the Bride Series

father-of-the-bride-steve-martin

Is it just us, or do the fathers of the brides get all the attention? We do love the movies, but other than writing the checks and giving the daughter away, the MOB’s (mother of the bride for you wedding planning newbs) are the ones doing the hard labor. The planning. The prioritizing. The delegating. The choosing. And a lot of the crying.

With two weddings under her belt and another in the works for next summer, Holly, our MOB extraordinaire, had the fabulous idea of creating a blog series with tips for future MOB’s. Everyday this week, we’ll be sharing tips on creating the guest list, picking the perfect dress, finding the right venue, creating a day-of checklist, emergency kit must-haves, and even how to keep your emotions in line.

Check back with us tomorrow for the first post in the series. We’ll be keeping them short and sweet and chalk-full of advice from a wedding planning veteran. And, if you’ve planned weddings a time or two, be sure to chime in with your tips. It takes a village, right? ;)

An Adoption Story

inked by Lindsay

It’d be a little narcissistic to think that anyone missed our blogging, so I’m not going to apologize for the hiatus, but I will explain why we haven’t posted in a few months. It’s a good reason, I promise. :)

Two months ago, Chris and I were contacted out of the blue about an opportunity to adopt a baby girl. We were initially shocked, but we knew this was orchestrated by God and we wanted to at least explore the opportunity. Long story short, we worked with an agency to start and finish our home study in a little over two weeks, and then we waited for the birth. When we got the call, we went to the hospital and met our precious baby and waited a little more. We brought her home on a Thursday afternoon and became her parents on the following Friday afternoon. We are completely and totally in love with her!

We laugh when we think about how little we knew and understood about adoption two months ago as compared to our understanding today. We had NO idea what we were getting into and the emotional rollercoaster that the following months would bring. I won’t go into many details about our sweet girl’s birth or time at the hospital, but I will say that it was the most exhilarating and life-changing week of my life. We never could have fully prepared for it, and we are still recovering from it.

Even though I didn’t give birth to our sweet baby, I feel like I gave birth, just without the physical ramifications. Our social worker said this is normal, and referred to it as an “emotional labor.” I really can’t describe it any better than that. The tirade of emotions we felt at the hospital and bringing our baby home have subsided, and now we’re processing the joy (and sleeplessness) of being new parents.

And let me tell you, this is what we were made for. As I rock our bright-eyed newborn in the wee hours of the morning, I am so overwhelmed with love and contentment. She is the absolute love of our lives.

I’ll back up a little further and tell you about how the adoption came about. Chris and I have dealt with infertility for the last year and a half. We started fertility treatments last summer, and after a failed attempt we were emotionally drained and frustrated. Our official diagnosis is unexplained infertility. I was downright angry. Angry at God, angry at my body, angry at every pregnant woman I saw, angry at the world. I felt overlooked and completely abandoned by God.

But oh my goodness, friends, our God is good. Only He could take the ugliness and deep pain of infertility and transform it into the most beautiful, redemptive story. Only He could took my angry, bitter heart and fill it with love, contentment, and joy.

In September, you might recall that we took a family trip to the beach. On our last day there, Chris and I took a long walk and talked about our hopes and dreams for family and if they’d ever be realized. We cried together about our frustration towards the failed fertility treatments and decided to start praying about adopting. We had always been interested in adopting since we first starting dating, but never imagined pursuing adoption so soon in our marriage.

Chris didn’t know this at the time, but as we prayed for guidance in whether or not to pursue adoption, I prayed specifically that God would open a completely unexpected door to adopt. After trying to get pregnant, I wasn’t sure that I had the emotional stamina to wait years to adopt, and I was praying for a miracle.

And God provided. Just one month later we received the call about our sweet girl. Two months later we had her in our arms. Simply miraculous– I’ve never witnessed such a blatant answer to prayer.

Last year was the hardest of my life. Each month was another reminder of our failed attempts to conceive. Another reminder of a God who overlooked me.

But God had other plans. He blessed us with the most perfect gift, and through the adoption of our precious daughter, my faith has been completely transformed. Our adoption journey has taught me so much about my adoption in Christ. God views me as an heir to His kingdom– He loves me as much as His son. I never comprehended this– in fact, I doubted His love for me. Our daughter has opened my eyes to God’s love for me and best of all, His love for our daughter. We have been redeemed.

Although the holidays have come and gone, I know the celebrations and weeks to follow are a painful time for so many, and friends, I completely relate to those who dread the family gatherings and can only dread another year of loss. I pray that you will experience God’s redemption and His unending love for His children. Even in our frustration, pain, and unfulfilled expectations, His love and His promises are true. Praise God– He is the Father to the fatherless!

Please join us in welcoming our new bundle of joy to the family– our best gift ever. :)IMG_1454

An Engagement Story

em and daninked by Lindsay

If you follow any of us on social media, you saw that we have some very exciting news…

Emily and Danny are engaged!!!

Unbeknownst to Emmy, the family has been in on the proposal plan for weeks. In fact, Danny even invited Chris and me to help pick out the ring at our favorite jewelry store in Columbus over a month ago.

Danny was able to pull off a complete surprise despite Emily being suspicious of a proposal. :)  He drove to Cedarville from Cleveland on Friday morning and surprised Emily while she was having coffee with an accomplice friend. He then popped the question before a picnic in the park. Julia happened to be hiding in the bushes to catch a few photos. :) photo(9)Emmy and Danny spent the rest of the weekend in engaged bliss! We celebrated with her friends from school on Friday evening and then had a little engagement party with Danny’s mom, sisters, and friends on Saturday night. My mom even ordered a mini wedding cake thanks to a hacked photo from Emily’s Pinterest board. :)friends friends 2    cake   cake cutting  boys     the ring   venueschillero

We are so thrilled for these two. Their love for each other is evident in all of their interactions. They are two of the sweetest, most fun-loving people I’ve ever met, and when they walk into a room they bring joy and laughter with them.

Just so you all know, I’ll be wearing a matchmaker tiara at the wedding. It will be bedazzled and might even light up.

Speaking of which, wedding planning is in full swing! The couple has a tentative wedding date set for July 2014. Say a prayer for Dad and his checkbook.

Congratulations, Emmy and Danny!

Hip Hop, Bowties, and TGIF

inked by Lindsay

I wanted to title this post “It’s the Freakin’ Weekend,” but I didn’t think my mom would appreciate the R. Kelly reference. She doesn’t seem to have an affinity for hip hop like the rest of us.

Anyway, our sweet friend Tuttibella was kind enough to ask me to write a guest post on marriage advice for her adorable blog. Because, you know, now that I’ve been married for 3 years I’m a total expert, just ask Chris. ;) Along with our boy toys, Emily and I attended Tuttibella’s wedding in July and it was absolutely gorgeous. She was a beautiful bride and added so many fun touches to personalize her special day. For instance, she handmade bowties for all of her male guests to wear at the ceremony. photo(6)How cute is that?! She also served breakfast for dinner. I always knew I liked that girl.

You can read my guest post here.

Happy weekend! And for all you other hip hop lovers, baby I’m ’bouta have me some fun.