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 Day Of

LCCer034LCCer180 LCRec218 {Photos of Lindsay’s wedding are by Sandra Reed Photography} 10689469_824238180941729_4203671588859891564_n10649703_824239180941629_3764122146997661252_n 996152_824239230941624_5731227780688630533_n 10533398_824239710941576_2742844792554857722_n{Emily’s wedding photos are by Braun Photography}

Inked by Holly

Preparing for the Day Of

As you’re planning, prioritize the things you MUST do and the things that would be nice to do if time allows. Do the must do things first and save the optional items to do as time allows. For us, the optional items included programs, menu cards, bathroom baskets, and hotel guest bags. We ended up finding time to do them all, but we weren’t going to stress ourselves out if those things didn’t happen.  We had some big family celebrations in the weeks leading up to the wedding and worked VERY hard to get the must do’s finished a few weeks in advance so we could relax a little and enjoy the wedding week.

Here are some other tips:
*A random tip for MOB’s, brides, and really anyone in the wedding party: buy two pairs of shoes and switch out when needed. Trust me on this– I’ve been an MOB twice now and still haven’t found the perfect shoe that’s comfortable and looks fabulous in photos. It’s a long day, and your feet with thank you for the relief.

*Some things can be done months in advance, like bathroom baskets for the venue that include small items guests might need like gum, tide pen, sewing kit, etc. We also were able to make table numbers and create an emergency kit (see below) months out and as we found things on sale.

Here are a few items to include in your Wedding Emergency Kit:
Wisp (or small disposable toothbrushes)
Baby powder
Ban wipes
Sewing kit
Lint roller
Static guard
Contact solution
Hair spray
Eye drops
Feminine protection
Advil/allergy medication
Body tape
Snacks (lots and lots)
Water bottles
Extra shoes

Day Of Do’s and Don’ts

The big day is finally here! Everything is planned, every last detail. Know that things WILL go wrong, but you just have to roll with it. Keep the big picture in mind– the new marriage, not the perfect wedding.

The zipper may come apart from the wedding dress (yep, that happened to Lindsay) but it’s ok, it can be fixed. The big fun plan for special donuts as wedding favors fell apart because the donut shop, which is open 24/7, is unexpectedly closed for updates the week of the wedding (yep, that happened to Emily). It was ok, because it’s about the marriage, not the wedding

Here are my tips for the day of:
*Build in extra time in the schedule. Hair and make up could run behind, lunch delivery could get lost, a zipper could break, a groomsman could forget his shoes. You don’t want to be rushed and frantic, so allow lots of time. Start the day much earlier than you need to.

*Feed the people. All the people. A hungry bridal party is a cranky bridal party! Plan to have lunch delivered and plenty of snacks and water bottles on hand. Vendors also appreciate snacks.

*Biggest tip of all: slow down and take it all in. The wedding day goes by SO quickly. Have a friend remind you, if necessary, to stop a few times during the day to just look around and enjoy the moment!

Phew, that’s it! And to think that we’re doing this all over again as we plan Julia’s wedding next summer. :)

Do you have any other tips you’d add?

Mother of the Bride Series: Handling Your Emotions

LCCer105 LCCer103 LCCer027{Photos of Lindsay’s wedding are by Sandra Reed Photography} 10644857_824239197608294_2642743857463510121_n 10407049_824250927607121_3215972066937727527_n{Photos of Emily’s wedding are by Braun Photography}

inked by Holly

Wedding planning can get overwhelming, and at times, the planning can take the focus off the most important priority– preparing your daughter for marriage.

A wedding day is just that- it’s one day. Granted, it’s a very important day, but be careful not to let the planning overshadow the significance of the marriage. As we’ve parented daughters for the past 30 years, we’ve tried to keep in mind that we are raising someone’s wife. We’ve done our best to train and prepare along the way but wedding planning is a wonderful time to be discussing all that comes AFTER a wedding. Here are some books Steve and I have found helpful:
His Needs Her Needs
For Women Only
Love and Respect
Sheet Music
She Still Calls Me Daddy (for the FOB’s)

I never anticipated how emotional I and the rest of the family would be in the months and days leading up to the wedding (and even a few days after the wedding). My biggest tip is to prepare in advance and don’t let it freak you out. We Neals are a close family–crazy close. When there is a major life change for one of us, there are emotions for all of us. With wedding planning, we may not feel it during the initial phase but definitely during wedding week. You may have a scared and exhausted bride, an overwhelmed MOB, and a sad FOB. Remember that it’s going to be ok. Be prepared for a possible meltdown and reassure the bride (or her father) that this is perfectly normal.

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: The Venue

LCCer127 LCRec008inked by Holly

Like finding the right dress, finding the right venue requires some shopping and lots of budgeting. I have a strict rule on no outdoor weddings. Don’t get me wrong– they’re beautiful– but the risk of bad weather in on any given day is too high for me. My girls have to choose an indoor venue, which can make things interesting.

Here are my tips for working with a venue once you find the perfect spot:
*Ask if they have preferred vendors.  This can make things run more smoothly if they already have a working knowledge of the venue and relationship with the staff.

*Some venues have preferred vendors, and others have vendors that you must work with. These are often caterers. Request a tasting and get references before booking– you’d hate to land the perfect venue and need to settle on poor quality food.

*Be sure to ask what is and isn’t included in the rental fees. Are tables included? If so, what size? What about chairs? Are they pretty as is, or will you need to rent covers? Does the venue offer a sound system?

If you’re planning a wedding in the Dayton/Cincinnati area, here are some of our favorite vendors:

Wedding Coordinators
Aviva Events
Pink with Envy Events

Cake Diva

LifeTime Video

Braun Photography
Chloe Luka Photography

Schindler Banquet Center
Dayton Art Institute

Party Pleasers Cincinnati

Prime Time Party Rentals

The Flower Shoppe (Mark is so creative!)

Elite Catering

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


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? ;)