Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Big Day

photot by Michele Sisson
First Dance as Mr. and Mrs. LaFond (photo by Michele Sisson)
I've tried to write this post several times, but I know my words can never do justice to the magic that was my daughter's wedding day. After all the meticulous planning, she truly enjoyed every minute of her day. She had planned everything down to the last detail, but she told me two days before, that whatever happened, on the day of the wedding, she wasn't going to worry about anything and was just going to enjoy her day. And that she did.

Every detail of the wedding was designed to have special meaning to the couple. The decorations, cake, and flowers all portrayed their mutual love of books. The boutonnieres, bouquets, and centerpieces were hand made by the bride (and a few friends) out of book pages and colored paper. The table assignment cards were in an old card catalog-the notations on each card carefully chosen by the bride to suit the guests assigned to the table.  Lace and buttons from her grandmother's dress were used to create a wrap for the bride's bouquet. She wore her cousin's cape and muff. The invitations and programs were designed and created by the bride and groom themselves. The favors were designed and created by the bride's Auntie Kim. And of course the bride's dress was made by me-with some final hour hand-stitching help from Auntie Cyndi, Aunt Holly, brother Max and her dad. One of their best friends, Val, officiated over one of the most personalized and touching wedding ceremonies I have ever attended. The couple gave as many people as possible a special role in their day--especially the younger cousins and nephew. The day was a celebration of the family and friends who love them.

I have never seen such a stunning bride. She glowed the whole day--especially when she looked into the eyes of her dashing groom. They were engaging hosts-enjoying every minute of the day-taking the time to make sure everyone was taken care of and enjoying themselves. But my favorite moment was the last song of the reception. The bride and groom sang every word of the song to each other, complete with exaggerated facial expressions and hand gestures, while looking straight into each other's eyes, and I could tell that to them there was no one else in the room. A beautiful way to start their life together.

The Bride and her Dad 
You may kiss the bride!

Husband and wife!

Happily Ever After

Let's get this party started!

Groomsmen's boutonnieres

Bridesmaid's bouquets


My son escorting me down the aisle

My daughter and I

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Bridal Shower

     After weeks of planning, today was my daughter's bridal shower. I think the most amazing part the planning is finding out the number of people who are truly invested in my daughter and her fiance. So many
people helped out, and everyone seemed genuinely happy to do so. The bridesmaids and my sister spent an entire evening at my house helping to make 80 invitations. The groom's mother and sister cut, pasted, and put together 60 cupcake wrappers made out of book pages. My SIL make the most delicious cupcakes. My sister and the Maid of Honor spent most of a Saturday making bookmarks for the favors and the Maid of Honor created games and brought beautiful orchids as prizes. The love and commitment of my daughter and her fiance's family and friends was clearly evident throughout the planning of a beautiful event.

   I have explained the details for how we created the decorations for
anyone who is planning their own literary themed affair. If you're not interested in the particulars, you may want to skip down to the last paragraph.

      The wedding has a literary theme, so the invitations feature a wedding dress on a dress form cut from book pages. The pages are from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire-the same book Ryan proposed with (though not the actual copy). My copy was falling apart, so I didn't feel too guilty cutting them up. We cut the pages into the shape of a wedding dress and mounted it onto antique-looking card stock (The Old World Stack) in various shades of purple (the wedding color). Then we added a purple ribbon and a self-stick pearl to finish the dress (see a framed copy in the picture above).

     To decorate the white cupcakes, we created wrappers out of more book pages glued onto ivory card stock. Then we added tags stamped with, "Happily Ever After" and tied on a purple ribbon. We thread the tags onto toothpicks and placed one onto each cupcake. To display the cupcakes, we placed some on a store bought cupcake tower in the middle of the cake table. The rest were displayed onto stacked hard-covered books that had been covered with purple or white paper and tied with ribbon.

     The centerpieces were made of wrapped books tied with ribbons. A purple tag with the bride and groom's names and the date of the wedding printed onto book page hearts was tied onto each stack.
     Then a romantic quote in a white frame was leaned against each stack of books. The quotes were printed onto card stock from the Once Upon a Time Stack.  Each was also accented with a heart die-cut from book pages. *Note: The cards needed to sit a while for the ink to dry before putting in the frames.

The quotes I used are:
  • “I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you, not only for what you have made of yourself but for what you are making of me.” Roy Croft
  • "Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering." The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
  • “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” By Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
  • “For the two of us, home isn’t a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.”ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS  By Stephanie Perkins
  •  “A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.” Lorrie Moore
  •  “I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of eternity alone.” The Fellowship of the Ring 
     My daughter's lovely Maid of Honor created 3 games for the festivities. Everyone received a blank Bingo card. They had to write in gifts they thought my daughter would receive. The first person to get five in a row won an orchid plant. Next, she placed pictures of handsome hunks under each chair. She pasted faces of famous actors onto a picture of a tuxedo jacket. The person who had a picture of the groom received a prize. Finally, people had to match the love quotes with the correct author. The person who knew the most was the winner. 

      Finally, the favors were homemade bookmarks. They were made from a 6" x 8" length of card stock from the Once Upon a Time Stack, then folded in half to be two-sided.  We cut rectangles from the book pages that were about 2 1/2" by 7". We used a heart hole punch to make a heart at the bottom of the book page. Next we pasted the book page onto the card stock. On some we placed a picture of the bride and groom behind the book page so their picture showed in the heart cut-out. On some, the color in the picture clashed with the color of the card stock, so we left the picture out. They actually looked very pretty with the colored card stock showing through. If I were to do it again, I would print the photos in black and white. It
would have added to the old world feel of the bookmarks and the color wouldn't clash with the card stock. Then we glued a diagonal piece of card stock with the quote from Lord of the Rings across the upper part of the bookmark. Finally, we tied an ivory ribbon at the top of each one. The bookmarks were placed at each place setting.

 As the host, you try  to make sure everyone is taken care of, that the decorations are just so, and the food meets the needs of everyone there.  Overall, you just want everyone to enjoy themselves. You also want to make sure everyone feels like an important part of the celebration-to feel genuinely appreciated for their participation. I know I appreciated all of the love and support that was shown for my daughter and her fiance. The fact that so many people genuinely care about their happiness made me very proud of the woman my daughter has become and the choices she has made. I know she has touched each of these people in special ways for them to want to be an integral part of this moment in her life. I hope they all know how much their kindness was appreciated in return.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

And so it begins...

I took December off from both writing and working on Emily's wedding dress. A week-long trip to Germany to watch my son compete in the World Show Dance Championships put all the wedding planning on hold. Between that and Christmas, December was a bust. But now that Emily has booked a venue and set a definite date (December 27, 2014), the planning has begun in earnest.

So, to begin this journey, I have been reading everything I can find about dress construction. I haven't spent much time sewing in the last couple of years, so I need to brush up on my skills...and this project is going to require that I develop new skills as well. Here are two that I purchased which have been very helpful. I also visited my local library and found many books explaining construction and couture techniques which should come in very handy.

I have also looked everywhere for patterns that even remotely resemble the dress of my daughter's dreams. So far, it can not be found. After trying on several dresses and looking through many, many bridal magazines, Emily came up with this sketch.

So now it is up to me to figure out how to make it. Most wedding dress patterns you can buy have fairly simple lines. Several were two pieces, a bodice or corset and a skirt. As you can see in the sketch above, Emily does not want two separate pieces. The patterns I found with boning tend to have the boning attached to the outer layer or the lining, instead of using a separate corselette, which I am not sure will provide enough support for the many layers of dress Emily wants to have.

I did look at the Marfy catalog. This is a pattern book from Italy. It had the widest selection of anyone, including patterns for petticoats, undergarments, and coats. But again, many of them were two pieces--a corset and a skirt, or had a definite seam at the waistline (which Emily does not want). The Marfy patterns are a little pricey, but I would gladly pay the cost if they had one that closely matched my daughter's dream dress.

So for now I am torn between finding and buying several patterns and trying to figure out how to put them together, or creating my own pattern from scratch. I think I'll do a little more reading while I focus on converting the extra bedroom into a sewing room. Next up, adventures with dress forms!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Choosing the Venue: Including the Parents

Independence Harbor

My daughter invited us to join her, her fiance, and her future in-laws to brunch at one of the places they are  considering for their reception.

As we walk up the path we see a white-roofed gazebo in the middle of a manicured lawn, dotted with chrysanthemums of gold, bronze, and burgundy. The deck is lined with white rattan love seats overlooking the Assonet Bay. The place has country charm with an elegant feel.

Inside, the low ceilinged room feels cozy. To the left, the stone hearth glows with the warmth of a roaring fire, adding to the charm. White wooden columns line one side of the ballroom, creating a homey feel. The cushioned chairs are made of a warm wood which adds to the warm feeling. It's a lovely place to have a wedding.

“They usually seat the bride and groom along that side,” my daughter says as she points to a long row of windows that allow natural light to flood the room. “But we think we’ll have a sweetheart table just for us.” For just a moment, I had a vision of my daughter and her intended sitting at a table, gazing into each others eyes, while friends and relatives clink their glasses, expecting a kiss from the newly married couple. I turn quickly away to clear the vision and keep my composure.

"That room over there is for the bride and bridesmaids to wait for the ceremony to start." I picture the scene with Emily surrounded by her closest friends, anxiously primping and making sure every detail of her hair, dress and makeup are just right, while her dad and I look on--part of this moment, but decidedly on the outside, for though she is our baby girl, this is her moment, not ours.

As I turn back to the table I notice my husband’s face. Clearly he has had a vision of his own, imaging the reality of why we are here. All along he has taken his role as the manager of funds for the wedding seriously, but clearly he has just had a taste of reality. All of this talk of money and budgets belies the facts that this really is about planning the day our little girl will officially leave us and become his number one--the man of her dreams--her one and only. He will come first in her eyes always, as she has come first in ours since the day she was born.

Clearly it is bittersweet. We are very practical parents. We have done our duty well, to prepare our children to be independent-to make their own choices and live by their decisions and responsibilities. But this is one of those moments where the transference from being your child, your baby, to being an adult is so finite, unmistakable. She will of course always be our little girl, but she will be his first, and ours second. And while we have worked hard to make this day possible, it is with a mixture of joy, melancholy, and disbelief, that we watch our beautiful daughter, who we still see in our mind's eyes in pigtails and purple Osh Kosh B'gosh overalls, plan to become a wife.

If you are planning your wedding, be strong in your desire to make the day your own--make the decisions you feel are best and make the day whatever you want it to be. But be sure to be kind to your parents. Let them in on some of the planning, for they need this time to see you be in charge, and begin to put in perspective that their children are grown, and it is time for them to step back. Some may travel this road gracefully, others may go kicking and screaming. Just realize that this is a very emotional time for them, a big change in their lives as well as yours, and give them the benefit of the doubt when you can. And don’t forget to give them each their moment that day-that moment to remember their little one, hold onto that little girl or boy for the last time, and then they will be able to let you go, to make your own way into your adult life, with joy.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Say Yes to the Dress?

Even though the main event is over a year away, I have been eager to lead all wedding discussions back to the one I am most concerned about...the dress! If I am going to create this focal point of the entire day, I want it to be perfect. And by perfect I mean-I want my daughter to feel like the most beautiful bride ever while she is wearing it!

I know my daughter has been looking at wedding dresses for years, but now it's the real thing. As she pinned dresses she liked to her Pinterest page, we thought a pattern would emerge. We assumed it would be fairly easy to determine what style she was most interested in, giving us a place to start. That turned out not to be the case. The dresses she liked ranged from lacy, ivory gowns with traditional buttons up the back, to flouncy ball gowns that would fit in at Cinderella's Ball. There were modern white satin gowns with touches of bling that hugged the body and soft romantic gowns that spoke of innocence. Clearly she had no idea what she wanted.

So we made an appointment at our local discount bridal shop. We were on a quest to find out what exactly she wants in a bridal gown. There is no other moment like this--the best part of the wedding experience thus far!

I am not normally a sentimental person. My husband is the hopeless romantic, the complete sap who cries at Hallmark commercials, movies, and any of life's tender moments. And at first, I was fine. When she stepped out in the first dress, she looked beautiful. She had this excited smile on her face-like she couldn't quite believe this was really happening--that it wasn't just a dream. She waited for a reaction from her best friend and I; we didn't disappoint. At first were speechless-both grinning from ear to ear. It is quite something to see your little girl, the one who always had to do the spin test whenever she bought a Christmas dress-to make sure the skirt got just the right amount of air, standing in front of you in a pure white satin gown. She had a look in her eye that I remember from when she was a little girl playing dress up. The one where she knew she was the most beautiful maid in the kingdom, and the prince only had eyes for her. And I was fine. Thrilled, proud, reminiscing, until the saleswoman walked over and put a veil on her. That was it. I felt hot tears welling into my eyes, spilling over onto my face. Nothing can prepare you for that moment. It was like reliving all of the most touching moments of your life all at once in that tiny second and you think you're going to burst. I wish I could put that feeling in a bottle and savor it forever.

But we were here on a mission. We all took a few deep breathes, got our composure, and got back to the business at hand. After she tried on a few, a pattern did start to emerge. With the excellent help of our consultant, Emily started to get an idea of what she did, and did not like. What we do know is this: Ruching looks great on Emily. A fitted bodice that hugs her curves flattered her body the best. The sweetheart neckline is perfect for accentuating her shape without calling too much attention to it. And she likes a significant amount of pouf in the skirt. The ones that hung straight down just weren't dramatic enough to give her that "I'm a princess" feel. She also found that a small amount of beading added to the drama, but too much just felt gaudy. We made a great deal of progress for one day. It was very successful.

But we still don't know exactly what she wants. There was one dress that put a wrench in making any hard and fast decisions. The Ball Gown. The Ball Gown is the quintessential princess dress. Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty all rolled into one. Putting on a ball gown makes you feel like royalty. You can't help but imagine yourself floating across the dance floor in the arms of your prince charming. She lingered in that dress a while. A long while. Everyone, Emily included, said that the fit and flare dresses all flattered her figure and made her look fabulous-with the appropriate ooohs and ahhhs whenever she modeled one for us. But when she wore the ball gown, there was a look in her eyes. It was the dress that every little girl who grew up imaging herself as a Disney princess pictured herself wearing in the wedding of her childhood dreams. That is a strong pull for a dress.

So while we do not have a definite decision, we had a wonderful experience, and Emily is going to have satin and lace-filled dreams tonight. Hopefully when she wakes, the perfect dress will have appeared to her in midnight slumber. Sweet dreams my love.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Proposal

Will You Marry Me?
My daughter is engaged to a true romantic! Almost two weeks before he proposed, my future son-in-law called to ask if he could come talk to us. Being that he has been dating my daughter for upwards of 7 years, we suspected the reason for his visit.

He was a nervous wreck-though we've known him since he was twelve-and proceeded to tell us how much he loves for our daughter and can't imagine his life without her. Then, very formally, asked for our blessing (we gladly said, "Yes.").

A little over a week later, he brought our daughter on a picnic by the ocean, said he had a present for her, and handed her one of her favorite books (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). She was a little confused since she already owns the book, but he prompted her to open it. Inside he has written, "Will You Marry Me?" and tied an engagement ring into the pages. She immediately burst into tears and sent me a picture of the ring on her finger. Then she called to tell us (though if I hadn't known what was going on I don't think I would have understood her). I was thoroughly impressed that he was able to surprise her (I haven't surprised her with a Christmas present since she was about 12).  And of course I am thrilled for them.

Now the planning begins. It's been 25 years since I planned my own wedding-and things have changed a lot since then. Though there is at least one tradition in my family that my daughter aims to continue. She wants me to sew her wedding dress. My mother made my sister's and my wedding dresses-and my oldest sister made her own. I enjoy sewing-and have made my children many Halloween and dance costumes over the years. But I admit I am nervous about making THE DRESS for THE DAY. The one she has dreamed about since she was a little girl. But I also think it may be one of the most rewarding, special experiences of my life-and I wouldn't want to miss it for the world.

I've decided to keep a blog to document this experience for three reasons. First, to reach out to others who have made a wedding dress for someone they love. Second, to give me a way to reflect on the experience and hopefully keep perspective throughout what I am sure will be both wondrous and extremely stressful. And most importantly, to create a keepsake of my part in the most important day of my daughter's life. If you've ever experienced the wonder and stress of creating something special for someone you love-feel free to join me on my journey!