Wednesday, July 29, 2015

the narwhal numbers

We haven't really talked about our guest list before, and how we landed on the people that we ended up inviting to our wedding.

I think Mr. Narwhal and I had a pretty typical guest list compilation experience. We wanted to keep our numbers low, but at the end of the day have a lot of great people in our lives that we wanted to include and share our day with.

When it came to putting our list together we went by the following criteria:

Do they have an active role in our lives? If the answer here was yes, they definitely made the list.

When is the last time we saw them? Sometime friends trickle in and out of your life, this question was helpful for people that we were on the fence about.

Have we both met them? Joel isn't from Muskoka, so there is was a number of potential guests on his side that I haven't met. As a gage, we considered whether we both had met the potential guest. Sometimes we were still wishy washy about whether to invite them, which led to...

Did they play a significant role in our life before? We recognized that some guests may not be actively in our lives now, but played a huge role in our lives before. Some guests stayed on the list for this reason, even though they are not actively in our current lives.

At the end of the day we ended up inviting 158 people to our wedding. This number does not include us, children or vendors. Since we are having a cocktail style reception, we left it up to parents whether they wanted to bring their children, and we have about 15 children coming for a portion of the evening as a result. So, for the oh so fun (nerd alert) nitty gritty of our numbers, these numbers only include our adult guests.

The Overall RSVP Rate
Overall we generally stuck to the 80% rule. We have a total of 130 adults attending, with three guests that are still unknown*. At one point it really did seem like we were going to have about 90% attendance; however as I'm sure many experienced, once the deadline hit, many people were unable to make it for a variety of reasons.

I thought it would be interesting to note that the reasons guests are unable to make it include: conflicting weddings/events, budgetary reasons (guests that require a flight), having a baby, work, personal reasons and changes in relationship status.

The Guest List Anatomy
As you can see, Mr. Narwhal and I put a priority on our friendships for our guest list, with them making up the largest portion of our guests. 

I have a rather large family, which extends to second and third cousins that I'm close with, this is reflected in the skew between Mr. Narwhal and I's family. Mr. Narwhal has met every single person from my side of the family that is attending, and I personally will be meeting four of his family members at the wedding!  

How Location Plays a Factor
I find it interesting to note that when we consider location, we actually have about a 90% acceptance rate for most of our guests, but when you add flights into the mix (flying within Canada is very expensive), those guests only have a 53% acceptance rate. We certainly didn't expect any of our flying guests to make the journey; and while many of them tried to make it work, these were many of our last minute no responses. 

The Method of Response
I think that mail-in RSVPs are quickly becoming a method of the past. Most are choosing to have a website response since postage is getting so dang expensive. I thought it would be interesting to share how our guests chose to respond since we gave both a mail-in and online option. A very small portion of guests used our online option, with the majority choosing to mail in their RSVPs. That verbal response rate, closely followed (read: mostly bride and groom hunting down guests for responses). 

How did the numbers play out for your guest list? Did you fall into the 80% average? 

*The three guests are relatives that are not in the best health right now (including Mr. Narwhal's granddad) and will be making their decision closer to the date.

Monday, July 20, 2015

More Than a Day

While I have been feeling a general sense of being over our wedding, and just being ready for the next chapter of our life, one sense that has themed the last few months of our lives, is that this whole wedding planning thing is about so much more than one day.

The support we have received and the amount of help from our wedding party, friends and family along the way has just continued to fill my heart with love and gratitude throughout this season of our lives. From the Stag and Doe, my shower and to people showing up to help us work on the property, I'm continually amazed by how much has been done for us.

This past weekend BM Mel planned something incredible. With the help of GM Coach, GM D, GM T and her boyfriend GM JB they arranged a day with a tractor and six hockey players to take our wedding spot from a lot left to not much left. It was so great for some of kids GM Coach and Mr. Narwhal coached last year come and surprise Mr. Narwhal with their help.

All photos personal.

The end is finally in sight up there. What's left is one more load of sand,* a day with a machine and some prettying up.

So what's it looking like after Sunday afternoon?

Ceremony Spot
Looking out from the cabin, the ceremony spot is ready to be packed down and have benches set up (which we're still building).

The Trail
The trail is cleaned up, we have two fire pits created and a wood stack photo spot.

Walking towards the reception area with two fire pits on either side of the path.

Firepit #1 - thanks to GM JB and GM T

Firepit #2 - thanks to GM Coach

A wood stack photo spot - Note: This is morning light creating a shadow

Reception Area
The clearing for the reception area is nearly ready (with one more load of sand, packing down and a big big bonfire left). We're also planning (in the non-rain plan) to set our band up on the corner there outside of the tent.

The band spot and reception area

Looking up to the trail/band spot on the left and reception area. 
This whole thing is really coming together and happening very soon.

Did you take on a big landscape job in your wedding planning journey? No? Just us? 

*We have decided to have packed sand for a surface after months of landscaping. It suits the space, as grass wouldn't likely grow well in the area without access to water, and it leaves us a blank slate to work with after the wedding. 

Conflicted Planner

As we get closer and closer (and closer) to our big day, I have been experiencing this weird dichotomy of feelings. Not only am I crazy stupid excited, grateful and full hearted over the whole thing, I'm also crazy stupid stressed, resentful and tired.

While I'm doing my best to let the positive win out, I figured it was worthy of a post, because I think it's a common almost there feeling for brides and grooms.

You see, Mr. Narwhal and I planned to do this entire thing at our home because we didn't want our wedding to become this big whole thing. We didn't want it to be some money sucking crazy bigger than us event. Lots of people get married, and we just wanted to throw an awesome party on our property with all our closest friends and family members to celebrate our love and get married while we're at it. We wanted to find balance between the parts of weddings we love and do things that we felt connected to. It's always been about feeling connected to everything we do. This day will literally a result of our love, sweat and tears.

The problem with doing things yourself and creating a day to represent you from scratch? It's still expensive, and every dollar you save, a minute you spend.*

Our wedding has become our summer.

All photos personal

Mr. Narwhal, Nelson and my dad (not shown) working hard a few weeks ago

The to do list runs long, and while the light at the end of this planning tunnel is finally visible (that's tomorrow's post), we still have so much to do!

Creating your own venue in your own backyard (forest) is a lot of work. Mr. Narwhal and I are feeling the drag of missing out on normal summer festivities and I haven't even been swimming yet this year. I live in the land of lakes people, this is unacceptable!

A couple weeks ago, we played hookie for our weekly baseball game, and went for a long canoe ride together and decided we needed to make time for us and our summer. We decided to make it a weekly priority (which was sadly rained out last week!), so we could reconnect, destress and just forget everything but the water and beauty surrounding us.

We know that this time sucking event we're creating is going to be beautiful and lovely and the best day of our lives. As I walk through our little forest my soul is instantly at peace, and I know what we're doing is worthwhile, and worth the summer of crazy nonstop wedding preparations.

It doesn't get better than this

Did you experience some resentment towards your wedding as you got closer? What did you do to refocus?

*Obviously not an accurate conversion ;)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

planning for marriage: the vows

Mr. Narwhal and I have been debating back and forth for awhile about how we were going to go about our vows. We knew we didn't want to do the standard repeat after the officiant vow structure because there were some different things that we both wanted to include.

I was team write separately, and Mr. Narwhal was team write together.

Team Write Separately 
I really wanted to write them separately because I liked the idea of the surprise behind the vows and that we both could carefully write what our marriage meant to each of us and make promises to each other in front of our loved ones. I had also written most of my vows already and was kind of attached to what I had written.

Team Write Together
Mr. Narwhal loved the idea of us writing our vows and the promises together as a couple. He felt that we could decide what our marriage meant to us and say it together during our ceremony. He felt that not knowing what each other would write (even with the rough guidelines I suggested) wasn't the point.

In the end, I really couldn't argue with him. As much as I was attached to what I had already written*, I was more in love with the idea of working on our vows together.

Image from Green Wedding Shoes / Image by Sarah Maren

This past weekend we were in the Ottawa area for MOH L's amazing wedding and had a long drive home on Sunday afternoon (4 hours). It was the perfect opportunity to discuss our vows and how we would share them during our ceremony. We're both incredibly happy with what we came up with, and I love that we each shared our thoughts and contributed to the flow of the vows.

The vows we make to one another on our wedding day will set the tone for our marriage and writing them together just felt right. We talked about how we want to treat one another, how we will support each other, and stand together through the good times and bad.

While I won't share them until after the big day, I am going to reach out to the hive for some advice on how to present them during our ceremony.

Image from Green Wedding Shoes / Image by Dylan and Sara Photography

The structure of our vows are in "We promise" statements. For example, "We promise to love one another and continue to choose each other every day."

Typically, each person will repeat "I promise to..." but we both liked the idea of making we statements, and sharing them with our loved ones for the first time together. We don't think it's necessary to read through them twice.

Image from Green Wedding Shoes / Image by Heather Hawkins Photography

I just don't know how we should share them. We definitely are not coordinated enough to say them at the same time. So we have been thinking that we could say each statement in pieces together.

For example:
Mr. Narwhal: We promise to (part one of statement)
Miss Narwhal: and (part two of statement). We promise to (part one of next statement)
Mr. Narwhal: and (part two of next statement). We promise to....

Do we face each other? Or read outwardly to our friends and family?

Has anyone written their vows together before?
How do you think we should share our vows?

*Mr. Narwhal and I wrote each other letters the day we got engaged to read on our wedding day. The plan is to write new letters on our wedding day for our first anniversary, and so on. I've decided to save what I've written to include in parts of my letter.

Previous Planning for Marriage Posts:
Pre-marital Talks
Combining Finances
The Name Changer

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Writing the Ceremony

There are a plethora of resources out there for crafting your ceremony, especially on the Bee. I've frequented posts from Mrs. Jet Setter, Mrs. Border Collie, Mrs. Cherry Pie, Miss Hammerhead, Mrs. Buttons and Mrs. Elk.

I've briefly touched on our ceremony in the past, and how the ceremony is one of the most important parts of the day for us. As someone with words of affirmation as one of my love languages, I'm pretty certain the ceremony is going to be the one of the best moments of my entire life. All the feels.

While we both want our ceremony to be personal and intimate feeling, we also want to keep it short and sweet. To me, ceremonies are like speeches, you can say a lot in a short amount of time and the longer it drags on the less meaningful it becomes.

We also don't really want to reinvent the wheel here. Many people before us have had non-religious ceremonies that shared beautiful and meaningful words. We're picking and choosing segments that suit our life and the marriage we are creating, and are basically copy, pasting and tweaking it together into our version of the ceremony.

When it comes to picking and choosing, something that has shocked many people is the fact that we will not be doing a ring ceremony. Mr. Narwhal has made it clear for a long time that a ring did not fit his every day lifestyle.  While he has since decided he does want a ring for special occasions, we are still forgoing the ring ceremony. It just didn't feel right for us to put the symbolism of our marriage on a ring that he wouldn't wear everyday. Our plan is to privately exchange them during our first look. I know this might seem a bit odd that we are still planning on having rings, but I think of it as a symbol for society versus a symbol for our marriage. Plus, pretty rings. No shame here.

While we are still selecting and drafting a few of the details, we have our basic outline ready at this point.

Welcome and Gathering Words
Our officiant will introduce himself and welcome everyone setting the tone for the ceremony. He will acknowledge our family and friends and what their presence means to us and talk about marriage.

The Border Collie Ceremony / Image by Phil Steingard Studios

We have chosen to share one reading during the ceremony, which will be presented by my aunt.

Blessing for a Marriage 
by James Dillet Freeman

May your marriage bring you all the exquisite excitements a marriage should bring, and may life grant you also patience, tolerance, and understanding.

May you always need one another - not so much to fill your emptiness as to help you to know your fullness. A mountain needs a valley to be complete; the valley does not make the mountain less, but more; and the valley is more a valley because it has a mountain towering over it. So let it be with you and you.

May you need one another, but not out of weakness.
May you want one another, but not out of lack.
May you entice one another, but not compel one another.
May you embrace one another, but not out encircle one another.
May you succeed in all important ways with one another, and not fail in the little graces.
May you look for things to praise, often say, "I love you!" and take no notice of small faults.

If you have quarrels that push you apart, may both of you hope to have good sense enough to take the first step back.

May you enter into the mystery which is the awareness of one another's presence - no more physical than spiritual, warm and near when you are side by side, and warm and near when you are in separate rooms or even distant cities.
May you have happiness, and may you find it making one another happy.
May you have love, and may you find it loving one another.

The Affirmation of Family and Friends
We want to address/face our family and friends, and ask for their support in our marriage. I'm really excited for this moment and the opportunity to pause and acknowledge our surroundings and everyone that came to celebrate our marriage.

The Cherry Pie Ceremony / Image by Piknik Studios

Sharing our Vows
I'm going to talk about our vows in my next post. They have been a topic of debate for both of us throughout our engagement, and we finally came to a decision together that we are both very excited about.

Hand Fasting Ceremony 
To replace the ring ceremony and affirmation of intent/consent portion of the ceremony, we will be doing a hand fasting ceremony. There are several versions on the interwebs; however we both really like this version from Vows of the Heart. Both Mr. Narwhal and I consider ourselves to be spiritual and love the connection to the land this ceremony invokes.

The Buttons Handfasting Ceremony / Image by Pilster Photography

Miss Narwhal and Mr. Narwhal, know now before you go further, that since your lives have crossed in this life, you have formed eternal and sacred bonds.

As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to make real the ideals that to you, give meaning this ceremony and to the institution of marriage.

With full awareness, know that within this circle you are not only declaring your intent to be hand fasted before your friends and family, but you speak that intent also to your creative higher powers.

The promises made today and the ties that are bound here greatly strengthen your union and will cross the years and lives of each soul’s growth.

Do you still seek to enter this ceremony? 

The Cowboy Boot Handfasting Ceremony / Photo by Tec Petaja

Invoking the Four Directions

In many cultures it is believed that the human soul shares characteristics with all things divine. It is this belief which assigned virtues to the four cardinal directions; East, South, West and North.

It is according to this belief that we align ourselves with these elements. Each of these blessings from the four cardinal directions emphasizes those things which will help you build a happy and successful union.

(Guests are invited to stand and face the four directions) 

Blessed be this union with the gifts of the East and the element of Air, for openness and breath, communication of the heart, and purity of the mind and body.
From the east you receive the gift of a new beginning with the rising of each Sun, and the understanding that each day is a new opportunity for growth. 

Blessed be this union with the gifts of the South and the element of fire for energy, passion, creativity and the warmth of a loving home.
From the fire within you generate light, which you will share with one another in even the darkest of times. 

Blessed be this union with the gifts of the West, the element of water for your capacity to feel emotion. 
In marriage you offer absolute trust to one another, and vow to keep your hearts open in sorrow as well as joy.

Blessed be this union with the gifts of the North, the element of earth, which provides sustenance, fertility and security.
The earth will feed and enrich you, and help you to build a stable home to which you may always return.

(Guests are seated)

The Elk Handfasting Ceremony / Photo by 

Binding of Hands
 Mr. Narwhal and Miss Narwhal, I bid you look into each others eyes. 

Will you honour and respect one another and seek to never break that honour?
We will.
(First wrapping around hands is made) 
And so the first binding is made.

Will you share each other's pain and seek to ease it?
We will. 
(Cord is draped over the hands again)
And so the binding is made. 

Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?
We will.
(Cord is wrapped again over hands)
And so the binding is made.

Will you share each other's laughter, and look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?
We will. 
(Cord is wrapped again over hands)
And so the binding is made.

Cords are tied together.

Miss Narwhal and Mr. Narwhal, as your hands are bound together now, so your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust.
Above you are the stars and below you is the earth.
Like the stars you love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.

The Jet Setter Ceremony / Image by James F. Reilly

Affirmation and Declaration of Marriage
Our officiant will declare us married, and we kiss!

Signing of the Register and Announcement 
After we sign our license, we will be announced and exit with our wedding party.

How did you go about writing your ceremony? 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wood Sign Hack

Our wedding requires a bit of signage to help point our guests in the right direction both on the road and in the forest. 

All photos personal.

You may remember my over the top diagram:

We needed to make a few signs to remind our guests (that choose to drive) to go past our regular driveway, and make their way up to wedding spot. The ceremony is also tucked away in the forest and requires some direction. 

We have an old shed on our property that is falling down, but has some really great old barnwood that we are repurposing as much as possible. We're using it on our tables, for signage and for some of the benches Mr. Narwhal is making for the ceremony area. 

I started working on the signs recently and decided to share a simple hack that allows you to cheat your way into beautiful lettering. They take no time at all, I made three signs in about an hour! 

Step One: Find your wood
We took advantage of the rotted bottomed for signs that required an arrow. Mr. Narwhal cut them for me in a couple minutes with a chop saw.  

Step two: Print out your sign
Using one of our wedding fonts* I printed out the word 'ceremony' in a font size that would fit the sign and taped it down. 

Step Three: Trace your letters
Using a pencil, I went over all of the letters with a heavy hand to dig into the wood a guide. I find the mechanical pencil works best. 

Step four: Paint!
It really is that simple! I'm not really the best at free hand painting, and this little trick can fool anyone into thinking you're super talented.

Next on my to do list, I need to tackle the much bigger signage to replace programs with our wedding party names and wedding timeline. 

Do you have any sign tricks?

*This font is called Arsenale White

The Shoe Quest

There is something about wedding planning that has made my decision making skills get all out of whack. Making a decision about anything external to my look for the wedding has been relatively easy, and caused me little stress. The same cannot be said for anything to do with my bridal look. I struggled with my dress decision. I have waffled on my hair for months and months.

And... I nearly went crazy shoe shopping.

This is one of those situations that started off innocent enough, but when nothing felt right, I continued to search, and look and search and look and search. As time went on, I was getting nowhere closer to what I was looking for. So much time and energy had gone into such a simple task, that the amount of time spent looking had led to even more pressure to find the right shoe. After all of this time, I couldn't just settle on something just for the sake of finding something.

So let us back up and walk down shoe searching memory lane. I looked at every single shoe website I could think of, and did many laps around different malls looking for the perfect sandal for our wedding day.

I knew I wanted a pair of flat sandals. We're getting married outside in August, and the ground is not barefoot optional. I wanted something that suited my style, something I would wear again (and again) and something that was a step up from my every day look.

Apparently not an easy task.

I had considered Birkenstocks (something I would definitely wear again) and moccasins (same deal), but they just felt too everyday.

After months of searching I stumbled on Free People's website. I found a pair of sandals that felt close enough, and I was ready to throw in the towel settle. Somehow in the checkout process I got stuck in a weird loop of hitting the purchase button and my order wouldn't go through. I took it as a sign and decided to keep looking.

The sandals that almost were / Henley Beaded Sandal via Free People

More time passed and I ended up on Anthropologie's website. The heavens opened up and there they were. The perfect sandal. With no deliberation, I was just ready to hit the purchase button. Except... they were out of stock. I called Anthropologie and they told me they had no way of knowing if the sandals would ever be back in stock again and suggested I look for something else. Sad face.

The Cocobelle Arrow in Grey

I continued to look around the site, and found another pair of Cocobelle sandals that were the next best thing. I decided to just push the purchase button and be done with it. I was ready to be off of this ride.

The Cocobelle Coco Beadwork sandals in Ivory 

They finally arrived a couple weeks later (after $60 including shipping and duty)... and they didn't quite fit. As it turned out the website sizing was incorrectly labelled and the sandals were a half size too small for me. They didn't feel right on my feet, and after a few phone calls with Anthro, before I could just process a return, the lady on the phone had ordered a new pair for me in the correct size.

A week later my new pair arrived, and I'm sure you can imagine my disappointment when they were the same half size too small size again. I believe in signs from the universe, and at this point I knew these sandals were not meant to be. They were already slightly over my budget (after shipping/duty and the exchange rate I had spent over $200). I went on the Anthropologie site, and on a whim looked at the original sandals I wanted. And, wouldn't you know they had them back in my (new) size.

I called Anthropologie and explained that they had mistakenly sent me the wrong size again, and that I wanted to return the sandals in exchange for the ones I really wanted. The girl I talked to was incredibly nice and said she was going to try and allow me to keep the ones I had, and have the ones I wanted sent to me (to save on shipping back again). Anthro then emailed me and said I needed to return the sandals, and they would reimburse me up to 20% in shipping fees for their mistake.

While the mess of shipping is still waiting to be resolved, the new beauties arrived! They fit me perfectly and I am so relieved that my ridiculously long searching quest is finally over!

Please excuse my gross toes! I'm waiting to get a pedicure for MOH L's wedding next weekend!

Did you have a seemingly easy wedding task drive you crazy?