Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Out of Town Bags Part Two

Wow!! So many great ideas for local flair in the out of town bags!

Keep the comments coming and I'll do another post on cool local treats for VA, MD, and DC, as well as ideas for OOT bag "essentials."

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Monday, April 27, 2009

The Out of Town Bag Wiki

The Out of Town Bag: To do or not to do? I hadn't initially planned to put together out of town bags, but after talking with my Future Mother-in-Law I came out with a new stance on the issue. I'm not going to stress over them, and they won't be super fancy, but I'm going to do them.

FMIL has had the opportunity to travel to a number of weddings in the past couple years, friends of the family in New England, nieces and nephews in far off islands and New Jersey. With all the traveling to distant and not-so-distant lands, she said that she and FFIL, were always grateful for a little note from the bride and groom, and at the very least, a couple of restaurant suggestions where they can grab a bite or get some coffee.

Whenever I travel someplace, I go to town with the Google maps. If you've never used the "My Maps" function you should check it out stat. I'll wait.

Pretty cool, no? But I realize not everyone is like me, mapping out everything and researching before they travel somewhere. Hence, there will be out-of-town bags for our out-of-town guests!

I've already got a short list of places I'll recommend to guests and we've started composing our welcome note, but what else should we put in? We don't have much budgeted for this, but I want to include one unique item. Preferably something local that says, "You're in Virginia!"

I checked out WeddingBee's wiki section to see what they had to say. They have a great wiki on OOT bags, with ideas for special items for specific cities...but NOTHING FOR VIRGINIA, DC or MARYLAND! What?!

So come on, let's get the ball rolling! Leave me your ideas for unique out of town bag items in the comments! Let me know what state or region (i.e. "Virginia," "the Eastern Shore," They Northern Neck," "DC," etc.), and what item you would suggest (and why! if you want to). Also, what do you consider a great essential? Bottled water? Granola bars? Local map? Leave it in the comments! Can't wait to see what great ideas we come up with!!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Don't Forget!

Don't forget about the upcoming postage increase on May 11, 2009! The price for regular ol' stamps will rise to 44 cents. If you're sending out your invitations soon and your response date is after May 11, be sure you've got the right amount of postage on your response envelopes.

Forever Stamps can be purchased NOW for the current postage rate of 42 cents and will be good...forever! Maybe it's not the prettiest stamp on the block (sorry Liberty Bell) but I know for me it would be worth the piece of mind to know I had the right amount of postage no matter what!

Even though our invitations don't go out until August, and we'll be free and clear of the increase rate, I plan to purchase enough Forever stamps before the increase to use on our response envelopes. Hey, it might only save me 3cents per envelope, but with 58 response envelopes, that's $11 I can spend on something else!

Have you thought about your postage situation? What's your plan?

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'm Not Usually a Big Cake Person, But...

...I have to make an exception for Victoria's Cakery!

One of my dear friends (who has also volunteered to be our "DOC"!) brought me the most delicious slice of cake heaven the other day. It's a tradition in her family that on each birthday you get a cake from Victoria's Cakery. DOC's sister had a birthday last week, so she brought me a piece of cake to try and blog about!

Victoria's Cakery is a family-owned business located on Main Street in Fairfax. They have a pretty basic menu, and do simple cakes, and the taste is simply out of this world. I had a slice of the white chocolate cake with raspberry jam between the layers and iced with vanilla buttercream. Let me just say OMG. It was awesome!

The prices also seem VERY reasonable. The website quotes $2.25-$4.50 per slice and many of the reviews on Wedding Wire commented on the great prices. The design choices are limited. They offer tiers in several sizes (and actually list the number of people each feeds!), and they only ice with buttercream, no fondant here. If you are in the market for a very tasty cake that is simple, you might want to check them out.

I know that when we were looking for a cake vendor, the difficulty was finding someone who could do a really simple cake. Our cake aesthetic tastes run towards the very traditional layer cake without a lot of frills. Many of cake companies are able to do such amazing specialty designs that if you want a simple cake, I feel like you still end up paying for their skill even if you don't use it. I have a hard time getting on board with a vanilla buttercream three-tier cake for $8 a slice, you know? I mean, you wouldn't call up Duff Goldman if you want a two-layer cake with "Happy Birthday" on it, right? Nah, you call him when you need a cake that spews fire!

Nope, we just need a simple little thing. Here are a few of my favorite cake designs. What are you considering for your cake? Have you been to a tasting yet?

This isn't a Victoria's Cakery cake, but is one of my favorite cakes of all time! I love the simple design, the white icing, and the cake stand.*

This is another favorite I've been saving for when it's time to talk cake. The two little layers and the texture in the buttercream remind me of an old-fashioned birthday cake.

Have I made it clear yet that I love little cakes on cake stands? The one on the far left is my favorite in this photo.

What I want our cake table to look like! I really like the idea of cake and pie (or in this case a few other desserts as well). Mr. Fairfax loves pie. And look at all the cake stands! Love it!!

*I've been saving these pictures for a LONG time and am not sure where I picked them up! Please let me know if I can credit them to you!


Friday, April 17, 2009

Craigslist to the Rescue

When I needed to furnish my first apartment after college, who did I turn to? Craigslist. When I needed to buy a new car? Criagslist (ok, ultimately went with CarMax, but I tried CL). When I need to be entertained by people’s rants, raves and musing on a slow Friday at work? Yes, friends, Craigslist.

When I need someone to bring my “monogram” idea for our Save the Dates, I went to Craigslist in search of a graphic designer.

Since I was looking for a small job, I thought Craigslist would be a good place to find a free lance graphic artist who would be interested in such a small project. I click on over to Craigslist DC and then clicked on the “Services” heading and typed “graphic designer” in the search bar. How did I pick someone? Don’t laugh, but I looked at the websites of a number designers and picked the company whose website I liked the best. Yep, maybe not the most scientific way to go about it, but it worked out ok.

I contacted Rori Bean Designs via e-mail and explained what I wanted. I also attached a mock-up of what I was looking for that I had created in Paint. It’s pretty sad. Ali at Rory Bean quoted me a price, drew up a contract, I signed it and she got started. Start to finish we probably exchanged about 10 e-mails and went through two drafts of the design. We didn’t even have to meet in person. The whole process was very simple.

I will admit that since we are on a tight budget this was definitely a splurge for us. We went in with the intent of purchasing a single graphic and then loved two of the designs so much I had to have both! When I do my break-down of process and costs on the STDs you’ll see what I’m talking about, it drove up the total cost of the Save the Dates a bit. It was important to me though, so we planned for it in our budget and I’m very happy with the finished product.

Our design was custom, what with the hand-drawn logo and our initials being incorporated. If you are looking for something a bit more basic, I would highly recommend visiting shops like Paper Source and The Dandelion Patch. Both stores have their own line of invitations and their own sets of motifs (think things like pretty flourishes, sail boats, trees…can’t think of any others) that could be used to create something similar to what our final save the date looked like.


Nearlyweds, I got the greatest wedding gift of all last night. I had suspected it was coming before now but last night we got the definite.

Mr. GP's parents are paying for 5 nights (and his brother is paying for the 6th) for our honeymoon in San Juan, PR.


I was/am beyond floored. Earlier this weekend they had emailed us two hotels to look into - we checked out reviews for both, they're nearly right next to each other.

The Corner suite....not necessarily ours...but still. Pretty!

The pool....ohhh la laaaaaa.

We'll be staying at the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino. I am so very excited, the amenities are thorough, the reviews of the other Marriott had mentioned construction, so instead of risk it we went with the one that had stellar, consistent reviews. It's right on the beach, about five miles from Old San Juan, and has lots of places to eat around it, did I mention there's a casino??

I am still beyond floored. I need to be sure to write thank you notes to my future in-laws, because really, I know what it's like to be on the opposite side of having parents who adore you. I know what it's like to feel like you're not good enough for the man you're dating and this? Is an incredibly, amazing change of pace. I am a lucky, lucky gal and honored to be "marrying into" such a wonderful, generous family.

Did you get any amazing gifts from your parents or your fiance's parents??

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kindly Save the Date!

We sent our Save the Dates out on April 1! Hooray!! After 15 months of being engaged, it was REALLY exciting to really DO something. I mean, yes, we've signed contracts, bought invitations, but this was the first big public announcement and part of our wedding that involved out guests. Hurrah!!

So I'm sure you're dying to see what it looks like, right?

So there it is! I worked with Rori Bean Graphic Design in Old Town, I blogged about them previously, to create the motif you see at the top. We'll use it in a few other places in the wedding too. I then created the full document you see above in Power Point. Then, I converted it into a pdf and uploaded it to Vista Print. I'll blog about using Vista Print in more detail later.

The main reason we sent a save the date is because our wedding is same weekend as the Marine Corps Marathon and I was worried the out-of-towners wouldn't be able to get a hotel room if we didn't give them heads up. We included both our wedding website and the gmail address we set up just for the wedding.

I originally wanted to send out the Save the Dates in Kraft Paper envelopes, but with the brown design and text on the STD being brown, I thought it might be too much brown. I picked out these bright red envelopes from Paper Source.

I made the labels using Word, the graphic is another design from Rori Bean. We opted to use the forever stamps since it was pretty much the same color scheme and hopefully saved a little money in the long run.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Stuffing Our Faces

Everyone says that doing your wedding tasting is the best part of planning the celebration.  And I have to say, they're totally right.

What you get to try depends on your wedding venue, I imagine, but at Clifton they let you pick four or six hors d'oeuvres to try out, two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts, and two flavors of wedding cake.  Then they let you try two red wines and two white wines to figure out what you want to serve.  The goal is to somehow pick between all of these to design your menu. 

We were unprepared for exactly how much food we were going to eat.  We thought there would be a bite of this and a pinch of that.  Oh no.  We ate full portions of just about everything.  And the food was freaking delicious.

Here are the hors d'oeuvres we tried.  Going clockwise, on the upper left there's a tempura pickle, then a chickpea pancake with aioli on top, then a proper Virginia ham biscuit, and then a crab salad sandwiched between two potato chips with ginger ketchup.  They were all awesome except the crab was just a little bit too big to eat neatly (but we can shrink it down).  I do worry we have too much fried stuff but it is summertime finger food, after all.

This is a chickpea pancake with goat cheese, smoked salmon, avocado salad, microgreens, and an olive-shallot dressing.  It was very good but a little complicated.

I forgot to take a picture of the appetizer we're probably going with, which was a duck prosciutto with cantaloupe and walnuts.  The chef initially served the duck as part of a salad, but we asked him to showcase it a bit more instead of burying it in arugula and he was completely flexible about it.  It was a real pleasure getting to know him and work with him.

Here are the two entrees, and they were both so unbelievably good I think we'll let guests choose between them.  In front you have halibut with grapefruit in a citrus butter sauce with parmesan risotto, and in the back you've got bison with oyster mushrooms and soy sauce with whipped potatoes.  

This is a Virginia apple crumb tartlet with red wine caramel sauce and caramel ice cream.  It was delicious (Virginia apples rock), but it was a little bit too heavy for summertime eating.  It would be perfect in October.

This is a lime-mascarpone mousse with a chilled berry soup.  We preferred this dessert because it was lighter and more refreshing after all the heavy food we just ate.  

These are the two cake flavors we tried--chocolate mint on the left and vanilla with passionfruit and strawberries on the left.  I fully expected to like the vanilla better but the prize had to go to the chocolate.  But as you can see, both are covered with a honking amount of buttercream.  I think we'll have the chocolate cake covered in ganache.  Nothing wrong with a brown wedding cake, right?

We decided to serve the dessert after dinner and then the cake as a pick-me-up after some dancing.

Good food is so important to me at a wedding.  It's an integral part of guests having a good time.  I loved the food we tasted and I know our guests will too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pretty pretty pearls

I bought myself my wedding gift that's supposed to be from Mr. GP. Whoops?

Really though, you see, it was just too good of a deal to pass up! I was in Boston a few weeks ago, as I aforementioned, to do wedding stuff with Mama GP, my Sister (MOH) and three other bridesmaids and I was exchanging a shirt in the Copley Mall JCrew that I had bought the night before for a different color (that they didn't have at the Cambridgeside JCrew) and strolled on into Iridesse. I love Iridesse, Mr. GP bought me my first strand of pearls ever from the store in Tyson's for our first Valentine's Day in 2007. I especially love that Iridesse was founded by Tiffanys! Talk about classic style.

It just so happened that the Iridesse store in Copley was going out of business and the entire store was...get this....50% off. On top of that, the first item was an additional 10% off, the second 15% off and the third 20% off. I got three items.

I texted back and forth with Mr. GP making sure it was okay that I bought the items, as I knew he wanted to buy me pearls for my wedding gift. But the deal! The deal was so incredible!

So I found a triple strand necklace, a triple strand bracelet, and hanging earrings. The total cost for the three? Roughly $220 with taxes. Originally priced the three items would have been over $500!! The necklace alone was $250 originally!

The necklace I got is similar to this, but an exact image could not be found...

The clasp is a bit smaller, originally priced at $250 I paid $112 for it (again, not the exact necklace is shown).

[Bracelet, Iridesse $150]

[Earrings, Iridesse $85]

Take 50% off those prices and you've got some pretty amazing deals! There may be time to check out the Iridesse located at Tysons II. Rumor has it all the stores are going out of business, however the website doesn't indicate anything about the brand itself going out of business. I recommend checking out the Tysons II location for some great, great deals!

How did you find your wedding day jewelry? What are you wearing??

[Addendum] as of Sunday (my 26th birthday) there is now less than 5 months till we tie the knot!!!

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fun with Google!

Both Mr. Fairfax and I have pretty unique surnames, so I don't think I really needed to worry about someone stealing my new name gmail handle, but just 'cause I'm crazy like that I went ahead and set up gmail accounts in all possible new last name combos. I'm the proud owner of:


I figure that way I have options and I need never worry about not having just the right gmail address. ha!

I also set up a gmail account specifically for wedding guests, it's


I wanted to have a place that guests could reach us that both Mr. Fairfax and I had access too and where e-mails from guests would NOT get lost in the horrible clutter of our personal inboxes. I tried to stress on our wedding website that guests should feel free to contact us there, and we would love to hear from them. I know as a guest (where I've only know one or two other people attending) I've been hesitant to contact the bride or groom because I'm sure they're very busy!

So far just the Harris Teeter weekly sale updates* have been arriving in the in box, until today!
We sent our save the dates out last week and I received a message from a guest who won't be able to attend and wanted to let us know. Bummer, since it's an old dear friend of Mr. Fairfax's family, but this is exactly what I set the e-mail up for, so mission accomplished!

How have you communicated with guests before the wedding? Did you set up your married name gmail yet?

*Just wanted to make sure it works...plus looking at an empty inbox is sad. At least we're guaranteed one e-mail a week!

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

How I "Made" My Invitations

I'm not going to lie, I'm a pretty crafty lady. I made invitations for the Big Sister's baby shower (please see exhibit 1 below):

And I always knew I'd make the invitations. I had a couple ideas that I rolled around in my head and finally came up with "the one." Somewhere, in all the wedding blogs I stalk, I had come across a big oak tree at the top of invitation. It was less traditional because of the tree motif and the use of brown (versus black ink), but still felt traditional enough to convey formality and a nice sense of occasion. Also, we're using baskets of apples as our table centerpieces and the save the dates had a image that incorporated an apple tree and initials carved into a tree, so it all tied in nicely.

I found this online:

and ordered it along with a copper stamp pad, embossing tool, and embossing powder from Joanne's and started experimenting.

For all my craftiness, I had NEVER embossed anything before. It was a heck of a lot easier than it looks. And the image you create with this very simple process is actually quite stunning.

I think the two keys to embossing are 1) don't let the ink dry! get the powder on there right way! and 2) practice a couple times before you start on your project so you can get a good feel for how long the ink stays wet, how far away to hold the embossing tool from the paper.

Once I was confident in my ability to emboss, I still had some logistical issues to work out. Namely, how to get the dang return address on my outer envelopes and RSVP envelopes. I'm pretty sure Kinko's can assist with this, but I had a Scarlett O'Hara moment when this crossed my mind, and decided that I would think about it tomorrow.

For all my obsessing about the invitation, I mean I'm only showing you one incarnation in a vast evolution of our invitations, I kind of left it there. I was defeated by return addresses. And our Save the Dates were tugging my attention away as well. Around the same time the embosser and stamps, etc. arrived, I had also just gotten the designs from Rori Bean, so I put my full attention on creating the Save the Dates.

When I got the finished product back from Vista Print, I was SO HAPPY, SO UNBELIEVABLEY DELIGHTED at how easy and efficient it had been, I started to re-evaluation if I really wanted to make the invitations. It's all about time and opportunity cost, friends.

I had the time (uh, this was back in February, invitations don't have to go out till August), but I was started to wondering if I had the mental resiliance to power through making 58 invites by hand. Between work gearing up and my realization that there is absolutely NO good place in our house for crafting, I decided no. So I went back to the "we're buying our invitations" drawing board.

The Honeymooners

For a while, since getting laid off from my job, I've been incredibly nervous about our honeymoon. Nightmares of what could have been with The Ex who promised me Fiji or Bora Bora if we had gotten married haunted me as I wondered - could we afford our dream honeymoon of Italy? Or Spain? Or Barbados? Or would I, *gasp*, be honeymoon-less??

The other night, as we lounged around with Mr. GP's brother and his brother's friend, we thought about all of our options - Italy, Barbados, Portugal, Mexico, Spain, France....and then Puerto Rico.

We thought more about it, and the friend sold us on it by telling us about all there is to do - culture, night life, beaches, and of course the jungle.

So we researched, and then it was done. 50,000 frequent flier miles later, Mr. GP had a first class round trip ticket, and $350 and 18,000 miles later, I had a first class one way, and a coach one way ticket with a gamble on whether I'll be able to pay for an upgrade or if I'll be sitting by my lonesome on the way to our honeymoon destination.

There's still research to be done - where we want to stay, what we'll do, but we're on a tight budget with me sans employment but this seemed like the best option that was both affordable, and a place outside of the US (kind of) that neither of us had ever been to.

But ladies, I have a honeymoon. I'm going on a 7 day, 6 night excursion to sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico!

[via Google Images]

If you have any advice about where to stay or what to do during our trip (we fly out Sunday afternoon after the post-wedding brunch, arrive around 1030p and leave Saturday afternoon to arrive back around 8p Saturday!) - let me know!

Where are you going for your honeymoon? How did you decide??

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Hmm...Maybe I should just send this?

Happy Tuesday!


Monday, April 06, 2009

A Little Taste

(Photo credit: The New York Times)

We're going to be designing our menu and doing our tasting later this week, because this is the last time I'll be able to get to Charlottesville before August, and by then it will be too late.  So it's slightly early to do a menu tasting, but that's okay.

Designing the tasting was full of delicious--and difficult--decisions.  Clifton, probably to help us narrow down our options and to keep us from eating them out of house and home, said we could try two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts, and two flavors of wedding cake.  How do we pick just two of each?  Well, we knew we wanted a choice of meat or fish entree, so basically we just decided what kind of ingredient we wanted and we'll let the chef figure out its preparation. 

I had wanted bison because there used to be a bison farm in Charlottesville.  That's gone out of business, unfortunately, but I still think it would be mighty cool to serve bison at our wedding. Not everybody likes meat, though, so we're having a fish option as well--halibut.

Last time I had dinner at Clifton, I had an amazing duck prosciutto, and they were kind enough to source it again for us for our appetizers.  

Desserts were easy.  I didn't want chocolate because I thought it would be too heavy, so we're trying two fruit-based desserts.

The chocolate is coming in the wedding cakes we're tasting--one's fruit based and the other is chocolate mint.

We've also got some vegan guests coming and the chef has promised to make special meals for them.  I have to admit I'm excited to see what he comes up with.  Vegan meals aren't easy, but he says he can do it.

Lastly, we get to pick out and taste hors d'oeuvres for our cocktail hour.  One of the options?  Deep fried pickles.

(photo credit: Lists Galore)

I don't think it gets much cooler than that.  

I'll let you know how the tasting goes and what the chef has in mind for us.  

Showering me!

Sorry for being MIA. With less than 50 days to go, you can imagine how much we have to do still! I had my bridal shower 2 weeks ago and was humbled my all the gifts and love I felt. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit, we had to take a break from the presents because there were so many! hee hee! I got almost everything on my registry. Below are some of my favorite pics. Enjoy!

I arrived and was immediately greeted by the host, a close family friend, Terri.

The guests begin to come! I am getting excited!! PRESENTS! hahaha (I am a brat and full ok with it)
The food was a typical Jewish brunch! Delicious!

Me, and my mom and my sister in law

Me and Mr. CP's mom and his brothers fiance, my soon-to-be sister in law!

My Matron of Honor spelled out words that were about me and Mr. CP on a scrabble board, like places we went on dates, where we got engaged, how we met, etc. I loved it! She is prego and couldn't be there, but I surely appreciated the thoughts she sent withher mom :)

these flip-flops leave the imprint of "Just Married" in the sand! perfect for our honeymoon in Mexico!
My "Mrs." Hoodie! I LOVED this so much. My sister in law, "S" gave it to me!

Terri made me a homemade ice cream cake for me! Rocky Road, my favorite!!!! This was easily my favorite part!

I had the best shower! Thanks to all who made it possible! So, how do I handle returning gifts and having the person over?

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Friday, April 03, 2009

The Day Of Dress

No, no, not THAT day of dress, I'm takling more along the lines of what I'll wear to the hairdressers that morning and to grab lunch before heading off to the ceremony site to get dressed! I certianly don't need to buy another dress, but I'm really itching to grab this in the J. Crew final sale:

It's an extra 30% off too with the coupon code EXTRA30 for a limited time. Hmm...I wonder if I can squeeze this into my April budget? The wrap style is great since I won't have to lift anything over my head. I also don't typically wear a whole lot of white and if you can't wear white on your wedding day, when can you? I could probably even get double-duty out of it and wear it to a shower...

Are you planning a special purchase or outfit for the day of?

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So Which Dresses are We Actually Getting?

Obviously you were all up last night wondering WHICH dresses the Fairfax bridesmaids will be wearing. The last post was such a cliffhanger I know! I knew from the beginning that I as most comfortable picking the company, fabric and color, and letting each person select the style she was most comfortable in. We're all built a little different, all have different styles and comfort levels, so I thought each woman would be most at ease in a dress she selected herself. It did briefly cross my mind to say, just get a brown dress! but a fellow bride advised against this. She tried to do it for her wedding (black bridesmaid dresses) and it ended up being more complicated than it seemed. They went with dresses from David's in the end and it was beautiful!

Have to protect their superhero identities! It was the height of summer down south and the black looked very elegant with the light green and yellow flowers.

I just e-mailed the order form to all the ladies this week. I'll be collecting them back in about a months time and we'll see what everyone decided on!

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Picking Out the Bridesmaids Dresses

So in a twenty-two month engagement, when do you start looking for the bridesmaids dresses? Oh, immediately. Bridesmaids dresses are one of the easiest things to look at online I think because almost every designer, from David's Bridal to Watters, shows the full bridesmaid collections online and while color isn't as easy to determine on a computer screen, the details tend to be less fussy, so I think it's easier to get a good feel for the look of the dress on the screen.

After hearing about a friends debacle with custom-made, nude, satin bridesmaids gowns, I knew I needed to make the whole process as easy on my lovely ladies as possible. After a little looking, I knew my top two priorities, fabric and price.

I love the look and feel of raw silk, aka shantung or dupioni. I also think the stiffness and characteristic body of the fabric makes it a little more forgiving wear. Since I was also concerned with price, I ended up selecting Aria Dress for the gowns as they offer the most options, best quality, for the best price as far as I could see. Unfortunately, I did much of my research over a year ago, so I can't site specific vendors, but I do recall that most silk dress were in the $250 to $300 range. Aria silk dresses start at $195 for knee-length styles.

I was still concerned about the price, so I spoke with each bridesmaid individually and asked for input on the fabric, price, and all. Everyone seemed pretty happy (hopefully they were telling the truth!), so I made an appointment at the Aria boutique in Dupont for the first round of try-ons.

We're really lucky that we have a boutique here in DC. Karen, the Aria contact here in DC, is lovely and extremely helpful. We were able to try dresses on to our hearts desire, with just us in the salon, and take lots and lots of pictures. We also used the Aria try-on program. Aria's LA shop will mail you up to three dresses to try on if you aren't near a boutique. One of my bridesmaids is out of state and just did this last week. Downsides are that it's does cost $15 per dress, but hey, it's cheaper than flying the person to the shop right? You also receive dresses on Monday and they must be returned by Friday of the same week or you are charged a late fee. Boo. Nonetheless, it worked out and my bridesmaid found a dress she loved that she doesn't think will need to be altered at all.

So let me get to the good parts...here are a few photos from our Aria excursions.

On the first trip with bridesmaid K, we tried on A LOT of dresses, and took pictures so we could show the other girls.

Above is K in style 107 in slate. This was my very favorite dress. I love the sweetheart neckline and the shirring across the bust is really cute too. The skirt is A-line and overall the dress is very flattering. K is very petite in slim and I'm taller and a little more um, filled in and I thought it looked quite nice on both of us. Here I am in the same style in tangerine.

K's dress is in shantung, my dress is actually in satin. While the Aria Boutique is just PACKED with dresses, since they offer so many styles, fabrics, and colors, the options are limitless and they can't carry every combo in the shop. Typically, when you visit, Karen will pull all the styles you like and then pull one or two in the colors you like so you can see the color. Below is bridesmaid K in her brown dress.

You'll notice it looks quite large, I think it was 2 sizes to big, and she was clipped into it.

Here's bridesmaid A in one of Aria's newest styles, 191, with a keyhole neck and a tie at the back of the neck. K actually got to try this dress on when it was still in the experimental phase...we didn't take any pictures, though. We loved this dress on A because it was a little less bridesmaidy, and super fun. This dress also comes with three skirt options: shirred (above), box pleat (below, style 173), and A-line. Most of the other styles have A-line and column as the skirt options.

A's favorite style was the dress shown below:

This is style 185 with a box pleat skirt. We thought the shirred skirt was a little too much skirt and preferred the look of the box pleat and the A-line skirt. Below is bridesmaid K again. This was her favorite style, 106, in eucalyptus.

She's pinching it back just a little bit where it was a little too big. I really liked this dress a lot as well. The neckline was very flattering and the halter ties in the back and there is enough fabric in the back to tie a nice bow if you want. In fact, this was the favored dress by 2 out of 3 Fairfax bridesmaids! Bridesmaid E received this dress from LA and this was her favorite as well.

I'll share just a few more so you can see a couple more styles:

Me in Style 160 in Midnight. This is just a basic strapless, but it has a more defined waistline with the band of fabric rather than just a seam.

This is style 181 in magenta on K. This was very cute and the skirt has a nice swing to it.

Here's the last one. I think this is the only dress we weren't crazy about. There was just too much dress for K, it kind of looked like it might creep up over her neck and eat her! The color is pretty amazing though. The style is 183 in burnt orange. This is the orange that is offered in the shantung fabric, while the tangerine I'm wearing in the photo above is the orange in the satins.

So far I've been quite happy with Aria. I've interacted with Karen in the DC Boutique and made a couple appointments, called to ask questions etc. I've also spoken with the LA office to ask about the try-on program, actually order the try-on dresses and ask about sales tax. They've been great every time.

The dresses are custom-made upon order so Aria recommends ordering at least 4 months in advance of the wedding. My plan is to place our orders the first week in May, though I've been told we could order as late as June 1. Most of the reviews I've read online have noted that the orders came in about a month early.

As far as the need for alterations, I've seen mixed reviews. I've seen some reviews where the dresses were perfect on delivery, and others that said that the whole bridal party needed alterations! I'm pretty confident that we'll be good to go. All the girls seemed to feel the dresses fit quite well in the store.

If you have any questions about my Aria experience, please feel free to e-mail me at fairfaxmiss@gmail.com!

How was your dress selection process? Did you have a good experience with the company you chose?

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