Best Homemade Pizza Recipe (No, really!)

Pizza night is somewhat of an institution in my life. Every week, without fail, we have a predetermined pizza night to either celebrate a good week or eat away the pain of a bad one. We have also been known to eat pizza more than once a week should an unexpected triumph or obstacle occur. Suffice it to say that we have eaten a LOT of pizza while house-hunting.

But while I am fully in support of the greasy deliciousness of various pizza chains, we couldn’t afford to stuff our faces with as much take-out pizza as we’d like and definitely don’t have the calories in our MyFitnessPal apps for that. So we make our own.

If you know me, you’ll know that cooking is NOT my thing. I will do almost anything to avoid it. However, pizza night is an exception, as I am an all-star pizza maker (or maybe Guy just says this so I’ll continue to make it every week).

Now, for the first time, I’m releasing this recipe for you to make at home. What a lucky day!

Continue Reading

Can a Bride Give a Speech on Her Wedding Day?

can-a-bride-give-a-speech-on-her-wedding-day

If you couldn’t gather from my post on taking your husband’s last name, I have no real attachment to tradition or ‘rules’ when it comes to weddings and marriage. That being said, judging by the amount of Google hits “Can a bride give a speech on her wedding day?” comes up with, not everyone is the same.

So first let me make it clear that YES, you can absolutely 100% give a speech on your wedding day as the bride, and if anyone has any problems with it, they can kindly drop their present off and get out of your life. In fact, as long as your partner is on board (or is willing to compromise) and you are not hurting anyone or bossing people around on your wedding day like a tyrant, you can do whatever it is you please. Want to show up in a hula skirt and coconuts? Do it. Pizza at the reception. DO. IT.

Continue Reading

Q & A: Exploring Documentary Wedding Photography with Shaun Carr

Choosing a wedding photographer is hard work. There are so many things to consider, and there is an unbelievable amount of stress to pick someone who is going to basically be in charge of capturing every single memory from your (hopefully) once in a lifetime day. If you go with a traditional photographer who loves posed photos, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with them, so they’d also better be able to double as a best friend/wedding coordinator who tells you that you do NOT look fat and it’s going to be GREAT!

Some couples, though, are looking for a stellar photographer who is also going to stay out of their way and not spend any time corralling your weird uncle Joe into a family picture. The term usually used is ‘documentary photography,’ but it basically means that you’re getting to get a whole lot of awesome candids and very few posed photos. You will definitely not spend hours feeling like you’re in front of the camera while the rest of the world is enjoying your reception. It’s a growing trend in the wedding industry, and once you see some of the photos below from photographer Shaun Carr, you’re going to understand why.

I first came across Shaun’s work while searching for our photographer, and he was nice enough to answer some of my questions about documentary wedding photography. He’s based out of Buckinghamshire in the UK, and you can (and should) get in touch with him at Shaun Carr Photo to see if he’s available to cover your day. While Shaun is just beginning to grow his business, he’s already won an international wedding photography award for one of his photos (second below) and would be happy to speak to you about how he can help you with your day (this isn’t an ad, for the record, I just think his work is great).

Continue Reading

5 Ways to Save Money on your Wedding Reception Venue

After actually deciding to marry someone, finding the reception venue is the next biggest step in wedding planning. Many people plan their wedding date around when the ‘perfect venue’ is available, and it’s going to show up in the background of your pictures for years to come so there is a ton of pressure to choose wisely.

If money weren’t an object, we’d all probably holding our weddings in a giant castle overlooking the sea (or your own personal idea of extravagance), but that’s usually not the way it works. Here’s how to keep costs down when finding the wedding reception venue of your dreams, and 5 ways to save money on your wedding reception venue.

1. Look for a venue that…isn’t a venue!

Okay, stay with me here. The more well known a building/location is as a ‘wedding venue,’ the more expensive it will be. Attach the word “wedding” to anything and the price multiples by 5. But if you can keep your mind open, maybe explore some places that aren’t your stereotypical wedding venue, you might be able to grab yourself a great location at a fraction of the price simply because hundreds of other brides haven’t gotten married there before.

2. Consider an outdoor marquee

If you live in a climate where you can generally trust the weather at certain times of year, consider using the great outdoors! Putting up a gazebo in a park can be a budget-friendly option, and your pictures will be just as Pinterest-worthy. This also means that the “cost per head” can be kept low, as you don’t have a venue charging you ridiculous food or service prices. That old oak tree over there isn’t going to bill you extra if you end up going a few people over your limit.

3. Pick a day that isn’t a Saturday, and consider the time of year

When is wedding season in your area? For England, it’s a Saturday from May to September. Venues will charge peak prices during these periods because they know they can and still have people waiting in the wings and hoping that annoying couple’s engagement falls through so they can steal the venue out from under them. In many places, you’ll get a better rate on a Sunday, especially. You can also consider ‘off months.’ Why not have a winter wedding on a Friday in December? Unique AND cheap!

4. Use a venue that lets you use your own vendors

One of the most expensive parts of a reception venue is not the rental of the space itself. Rather, it’s the fact that you must use their catering services or their approved list of vendors. This means you’ll have much less room to hunt for catering value, and you may be stuck with their $90 per person for a grilled cheese sandwich and some tater tots. If you can find a venue that allows you to bring in your own food and/or catering, you’ll have a much larger choice of what to serve to keep your guests and your wallet equally happy.

5. Have your reception and ceremony in the same place

Instead of hiring a completely separate reception venue, try and find a two-in-one location like a hotel that allows you to have the whole shebang in the same area. This will mean you won’t need to pay for transport in between the two locations, and you may find you get a better deal for doing an ‘all-in-one’ package rather than paying separately.

Continue Reading

9 Tips to Pick the Best Wedding Photographer for You

 

9 Tips for Picking the Perfect Wedding Photographer

 

My latest project has been to find a wedding photographer that is a)not astronomically expensive, b)is talented, and c)is available on our date. Luckily for me, this has been proving easier than I thought with all of the wedding photographers out there now, but now the choice is becoming too much!

After scouring through tons of amazing online galleries (and some absolutely frightening ones) and reading more “About Me’s” than I know what to do with, here are my 9 tips for picking the best wedding photographer for YOU!

Continue Reading

My Future Last Name is Not a Statement

With any engagement comes a whole host of decisions and traditions to navigate. From what kind of cake we’ll serve at the wedding (England says ‘fruitcake’ and America says ‘anything but!’) to how we’ll one day combine finances (or not) to how we’ll decide which family gets Christmas, I often feel like I’m stepping into a minefield of potentially disastrous moves.

One of the main assumptions I run into is that I’ll be taking his last name. With no disrespect intended to anyone who has done or will do so, I do not dream of becoming “Mrs. (Husband’s Last Name)” There are many things that we have yet to decide about our future, but that isn’t one of them. While I potentially may double-barrel the names, there is no way I will be fully transitioning from my current one to his.

When I explain this to people who ask, the response is often that I must be making some sort of statement with my choice. As if the decision to change my last name or not change my last name also correlates with my views on gender equality, global warming, and domestic terrorism. As if my desire to not change the name I was born with is a red sign above my head, blinking off and on with the words “DID YOU KNOW I’M UNTRADITIONAL? LET ME TELL YOU MORE.”

So, here’s the truth.

My last name is not a statement. It’s not an attempt to be edgy or “non-conforming” or “individualistic.” Whether or not a woman takes her husband’s last name is not a reflection on their relationship or her relationship with society.

I’m keeping my last name because, well, it’s mine. I have been given the freedom to choose if I change my name or if I keep it the same, and I’m celebrating that choice by keeping it. Other women celebrate that choice by changing it. The beauty of being equal to my future husband is that we are both equally allowed to alter our identities as we see fit.

Can you imagine asking a man why he chose to keep his last name? IMAGINE! “Wow, Joe, you’re keeping your name? You sure are a traditional fellow!”

Maybe it’s because I can’t be bothered with the paperwork. Maybe it’s because I don’t like how my first name and his last name sound together because it gets mixed up in your mouth and there are too many consonants. Maybe it’s because I miss my family and want to keep my name to be associated with them.

But my last name is not a statement, and it’s not a choice that needs an ‘explanation’ or anyone’s support or approval, just as you likely wouldn’t ask a woman who is changing her last name to explain why she’s waving the flag for traditionalists everywhere. My decision is not an invitation to an exclusive club nor a select group of female ‘castaways’ who use their choice to make others feel bad or somehow less feminist or in favor of equality.

It’s just a name.

If you don’t believe me, come to the wedding as I make vows to a person I will choose to be with in sickness and in health, in the good times and the bad, and regardless of whether I keep my last name or change it to match my favorite cartoon character’s.

That will be my statement.

 

 

Continue Reading

4 Genius Products for your Kitchen

I’m not sure if anyone else can relate to this, but my kitchen always looks like a scene from The Little Mermaid when Ariel is looking around at all of the gadgets and gizmos she has. We’ve got a masher over here, beloved bread maker over there, juicer in the corner, Tupperware spilling out of cabinets, and random kitchen tools we don’t even know how to use (if they’re even kitchen tools).

Some things, though, save my life over and over again. Here’s a quick rundown of 4 products you needed like, yesterday.

1. Ice cube tray with a lid
(Click here to buy on US amazon and here for UK amazon)

If you haven’t tried an ice cube tray with a lid, you’re really missing out. Our freezer is jam-packed with frozen meat that Guy gets on sale and then takes way too many months to eat, so we’re low on space. With the lid, we can put the tray in at any angle we want to and not have to worry about leakages. Simple, cheap, and necessary.

Continue Reading

How to Use myFitnessPal to Count Calories

There is nothing I really hate more than feeling like I am on a ‘diet.’ The concept of a ‘diet’ doesn’t really work because you’ll always go back to how you ate before. However, I can’t really get on board with the whole “intuitive eating” idea that you should listen to your body and it will tell you when you’ve had enough. Mostly I don’t trust my body to tell me when to stop because it usually says things like “PLEASE, EAT 6 MORE WAFFLES” and “YOU HAVE ALREADY HAD 3 SLICES OF PIZZA, JUST FINISH IT OFF.”

This post was sparked by a recent incident where I had to figure out how much my luggage weighed. You know how you have to step onto the scale and then pick up the bag to subtract your weight from the total weight? Yeah, well, OH MY GOD, we have a crisis on our hands of cookie-dough cake sized proportions (that sounds amazing right now).

Between the stress of visas, wedding planning, job searching and being on vacation, I have been pretty impressively piling on the pounds slowly but surely. As many women do, I have three sizes of jeans because obviously you never know which ones you are going to fit into, and recently I’ve been needing the largest size.

Continue Reading

Say “Yes” to the Stress?

I have a confession to make. Up until a few weeks ago, I was furiously googling emotional phrases like “Is it too late to elope?” and “I hate wedding planning” and “Am I am horrible person for not being excited about wedding planning?”

It wasn’t a momentary freakout, but rather an ongoing feeling since getting engaged that wedding planning was all stress and no fun. People would attempt to talk about the wedding with me and I would more or less shut them down and change the conversation. My close friends got an earful on how stressful I found it, and my poor fiance was left wondering why someone who claimed she was excited to marry him was suddenly so against discussing our big day.

I didn’t really understand it myself. I was so thrilled to be marrying my best friend! How could I not be over-the-top enthused about choosing napkins for the reception?

It turns out that my ‘vision’ of wedding planning didn’t quite match reality, and I didn’t know what to do with that besides not talk about it. In the hopes that another super stressed out bride-to-be sees this, here are the three things I’ve learned about wedding planning:

1. Unrealistic expectations

I want to be clear here: I am more than grateful for the people in our lives who are helping us financially and otherwise to have the wedding. I am so excited about our day and how we’ve chosen to run it.

That being said, it is a harsh reality check when what you have seen in magazines and on television about weddings do not match up to what your budget and/or resources allow for. When I think of weddings, I think of Will & Kate, I think of Disney princess weddings, I think of the brides on “Say Yes to the Dress” who are like “Oh, yes, my budget is $100,000, let me try on a few.” You don’t spend your whole life dreaming about having arguments over guest lists so you don’t go over the limit or comparing catering costs per head.

I feel like that sounds incredibly spoiled, but I’m just being honest. Unless you are actually the future King of England, “wedding planning” is not like a Disney dream where you snap your fingers and it all comes together while you’re out at the ball. It’s a large-scale event that you have to plan with consideration to cost and time. There are no little birdies fluttering down around you while you try on your dress. There are, however, a lot of excel spreadsheets.

2. Social media pressure

I’m at the age where a lot of my friends and my fiance’s friends are getting married, which means I am exposed to plenty of brides-to-be gushing over Save the Date’s or ‘proposing’ to their bridesmaids with DIY tulle-covered boxes dripping with beads and bling and miles of ribbon. I see wedding rings on Instagram, entire forums dedicated to girls describing how they broke down in tears after finding the dress, and Facebook posts on how excited Sally is to get to spend the whole day cake-tasting with her mother.

I am genuinely happy for these people and am not taking away from their excitement. Trust me, I am always one to ‘like’ an update and comment telling them how beautiful their venue/dress/ring is.

But as a girl, I feel an immense societal pressure to do that too. Why was I not posting “Said yes to the dress” updates and happily Instagramming an afternoon spent shoe-shopping? Is there a quota for how much time I need to spend on Pinterest before I can go through with this whole thing?

The more I looked around me and saw people who seemed to be non-stop excited about wedding planning, the more I freaked out about why I wasn’t feeling the same. Why did I find it so stressful when everyone else seemed to be living in DIY bliss?

3. Some stages are harder than others

As with planning any big event, it has to be done in stages. The first ‘real’ stage for us was a lot to handle. We had to decide on a “type” of wedding (local or destination), choose a wedding date, choose a ceremony venue, choose a reception venue, and decide on a rough draft guest list all in the span of a few weeks. These are decisions that will completely shape your wedding day experience, but you can’t just say “Oh, well, we’ll pick a date and then a few weeks later pick a ceremony venue and then a few weeks later pick a reception venue.” They all have to work in tandem, and a problem with any one could really alter your plans.

As we’ve made those big decisions now, I find myself a lot more excited about the planning. I can take it in ‘chunks’ rather than feeling like I’m deluged with these decisions all day every day. The only major thing left we have to do is figure out our food situation, but the rest is all fun stuff and those little touches that are going to make it “ours.”

On that note, I just want to tell any other bride-to-be that whatever you feel is totally okay. We’re not all natural event planners and feeling stressed and overwhelmed about wedding planning is completely normal. For me, recognizing and accepting that I was feeling overwhelmed with wedding planning (and that I wasn’t a horrible person because of it) went a long ways towards helping me let those feelings go.

In the end, as long as you are genuinely happy about the marriage aspect, you’re all set. I’m not sure if I will ever be 100% sure of which tableware we should go with, but I am 100% sure that the guy standing up there next to me is the right one.

Continue Reading