Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How To Over-Complicate Decisions: Honeymoon Edition

I wrote a post about our thoughts on our honeymoon way back in September. Why is it that when you're planning a wedding, anything more than two weeks ago feels like it was way back when?

We were thinking Mardi Gras and we were thinking Hawaii. Well, after checking some prices online, we were re-thinking everything. Mardi Gras was do-able, but Hawaii was out. This being the one part of the wedding Mr. Kettle and I were footing the bill for, we couldn't spend up all our money or we'd be living off of wedding gift cards and love for a few months post-wedding.

I don't exactly remember how the idea started, but it was inspired by my idea to spend part of my honeymoon celebrating Mardi Gras. There are Carnival celebrations all around the globe at different points of the year.

What's Carnival you say? Glad you asked.

Image via Brazil Carnival

A dancer takes part in the samba school Estacao Primeira de Mangueira carnival parade entitled Mangueira e Musica do Brasil at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, early morning 16 February 2010.  EPA/ANTONIO LACERDA
Image via Monsters and Critics

Image via Encyclopedia Britannica Online

Image via Senyawa-Kimia Blog
Carnival, like Mardi Gras, is more about Jesus than the outfits and methods of celebration would suggest. Mardi Gras kicks off Lent literally the day before Ash Wednesday. Carnival kicks it off usually right before that, though some places don't celebrate until July or even August. Parades, costumes, and general merriment ensue.

I'm a Christian and a bit of a hedonist, so celebrating both Carnival and Mardi Gras before I observe Lent is right up my alley.

I did some research and it turns out there are a couple of places that hold their Carnival celebrations right smack in the middle of our honeymoon. The biggest and best celebration, in Rio de Janeiro, was also during this time.

A quick search revealed every hotel in the city is already sold out. Losing. Aruba is too expensive. On and on until we were almost out of options. Then my grandfather came to town to renew his driver's license and hear Mr. Kettle play his saxophone for one of his gigs. He mentioned Panama.

I did some research. Panama was relatively affordable. Panama was fun. Panama fit the idea of us on a beach being all romantic. It's not an island, but being this small country at the southern tip of Central America was pretty close.

So here's where it gets complicated. Trying to fly to Panama on the 13th, stay in a hotel there, fly to New Orleans on the 20th, stay in a hotel there, and fly back to Chicago on the 22nd is no small task. If we go through Expedia, it will be thousands of dollars. Thousands. No thank you.

Trying to book the trip through American Express is no easy option either. Being a cardholder means we get a much cheaper trip, but it also means we have to navigate their planning services. they don't have a way to book a trip that covers a multi-destination flight plus a hotel in each location.

But they do have travel agents. I found one in Chicago who specializes in Central America trips. I'm hoping to contact the office next week and pray they can help us. If we can book through American Express, we'll save around $1000. For us Kettles, that's no small drop in the bucket. That's pretty much the entirety of what it will cost us the next time we move. Or it's the cost to fully repair Mr. Kettle's saxophone. Basically, there's a lot we could do with that money.

Cross your fingers for me hive that this works out. Because we finally sorted out our dream honeymoon. We just have to untangle how to make the reservations work.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cake Tasting and Contract Signing

I love when a meeting with a vendor goes well. Our cake tasting with Creative Cakes went so well that we decided to sign the contract that day. Having that additional large, huge, big deal checked off the list lifted a weight from my shoulders I hadn't fully realized was there. Also, their cakes are really beautiful. Want to see some? Sure you do.

Image via WeddingBook

Image via Project Wedding
Image via Project Wedding

We arrived for our tasting promptly at 9:00 am. Apparently, the Kettle wedding party rolls large everywhere we go, cake tasting included. At each appointment, I let all the major players (Momma and Daddy Kettle, Mima and Poppa Kettle, etc.) know about it. They know they're welcome to come to anything since we're planning this big shindig all together. It ended up being 6 of us there.

Mr. Kettle and I along with both sets of parents make for an interesting time no matter where we are. There are always plenty of laughs, anecdotal stories, and fun. There's just not always a lot of listening or focusing on the task at hand. In fact, our baker's response to our spaciness (well, not mine, but most of our entourage) gave her beaucoup bonus points and let me know she'd be great with our group.

When we arrived, they were photographing cakes for a catalog or book or something. They looked so delicious. Cue mouth watering visions of cake slices dancing by. And it smelled so yummy in there. They brought us out several plates of cakes and cake mousses. They also told us anything else we want to try they'd bring out as well. We began digging in and all realized we loved their simple white cake.

I had just gotten off work, and in my defense, I work 12 hours and was really tired. So I forgot my camera, but I did take pictures on my BlackBerry!

Personal photo: Starting at the red velvet cake and going clockwise we have red velvet cake, strawberry mousse, chiffon cake, vanilla bean mousse, chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, white cake, white chocolate mousse. The white dollop on top of each cake is just the basic buttercream.

Personal photo: Just another cake photo to get a better view of the other side of the plate. Drooool.

Personal photo: You can clearly see which cake and which mousse we preferred. It was all about the white cake and the strawberry, chocolate, and white chocolate mousses.
After realizing we all liked the white cake more than the chocolate, and even more than the (gasp!) red velvet, we knew that it would be okay for us to go with just plain white cake for an entire wedding cake. That's how I know that cake was good, I wasn't even thinking about fun and exotic flavor mixes anymore.

Once we had a cake flavor it was time to think filling flavor. Based on how long our cake would be out before serving, we knew mousse was our best bet, plus it was a way for me to get more whipped cream into the cake. I thought the chocolate and white chocolate would go well together and they did. Winning! On a whim, I asked for the lemon mousse, which turned out to be really lemon-y. Almost too lemon-y. But I tried it with the strawberry mousse and it was heaven; it tasted like really good strawberry lemonade.

We decided to alternate layers between the two chocolates and the strawberry lemonade. Then we had to talk design We pulled up pics of my dress on the store's iPad and showed her the details. She came up with a great drawing where each 2 of the four tiers mimicked my dress. Divine!
Personal photo: sorry for the blackberry pic, but you get the idea, right?
I don't know if you saw the line that says 135 servings in that picture. But our baker says we don't want to end up serving way more cake than is needed, especially since we're doing the cake as part of the dessert bar. We can always order an extra sheet cake if need be, but this would be just fine four our venue.

The fact that she didn't try to sell us on some 6-tier 300 serving cake really pleased us. It pushed us over the top and Momma Kettle wrote her a check. I can't wait to see how it turns out. I'm definitely adding "close up of cake details" to my must-have shots list for the photographer. Speaking of photographers, I've got a great idea for a photo guest book, but that's another post.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Three Months And Counting

Ack! My wedding is less than three months away now. As I neared and passed the 100 day mark, it seems that things had really slowed down a bit. But almost as soon as I pressed publish on that post, they sped back up again.

I managed to find a way to make decisions again. With the help of Momma Kettle, who has gracefully stepped in here and there to push an indecisive bride toward what she really wanted, I've made some decisions.

We've picked our cake baker. the lovely Creative Cakes!!

Image via Creative Cakes
These people put together a great showing for our tasting, but that's a whole other post.

I've picked a day-of-coordinator. No surprise there, I picked the woman who had the best price and who really got me. I'm looking forward to working with her and I'm glad the rest of the family is on board with the decision.

I've seen some amazing wedding bands online and have plans with Mr. Kettle to go check out rings and hopefully order them.

We finally started our marriage counseling sessions. Mr. Kettle rocks for keeping track of my work schedule and making those appointments happen with both pastors in two different cities!

We're going to our venue this weekend to make the final orders for menu, table runner, chair ribbons, etc. I'm so excited to have finally made all those decisions. We're also having our two florist options make sample table arrangements to take with us out there and judge for ourselves which we would prefer.

Basically, by the end of this coming weekend, I'll have checked off every major to-do on my list, with the exception of booking the honeymoon, which is also another post itself.

As much as I wanted to (and kind of did) stick my head in the sand for the last month, I feel great now that things are moving forward.

Oh, did I mention the best part... Our invitations are finished!!!!! I just received the final sample in the mail and all 175 of them should be arriving next week. We'll have them assembled and sent out by this time next month. I can't wait to share them with you hive.