Real Bride Blogger Jessica: Say Yes to the Dress!

To my surprise, finding “The Dress” has been one of the easier tasks in the wedding planning process so far. If I’m being honest,  I’ve always known in the back of my mind what type of wedding dress I wanted and conversely, the types of dresses I did not want to wear on the big day. It was finally a  part of the planning where not being flexible (I can sometimes be a little stubborn on things), paid off. It may have taken some serious hunting, but it was all over in a couple of short weeks!  See below for my likes and dislikes.


–  Lace

–  Very Fitted

-Sweetheart or cap-sleeves

Only after much Pintrest research, did I realize the Monique Lhullier Scarlet was the dress I had been coveting and had perfectly nailed all of the elements I was looking for in a dress.

{Scarlet Dress}


-Ball gown-style

-Too much embellishment- ie flowers, ruffles, etc

-Bright white

-Long train

To start off the dress hunt-my mom, sister, and I went to M Bride in La Jolla. The boutique was lovely, stocked with lots of fabulous jewelry and veils-pretty much what you would envision a dress shoppe to be like! Prior to going, I read such nice reviews of the boutique on yelp and saw online that they were having a sample sale, which was the type of thing I was looking for to score a dream dress within my budget.  Here’s what I learned though- sample sale means only the sample size is available, which is usually a size 8 and altering a size 8 to a size 0 can cost a lot of money. Thus, the sale really would not save me the ton of money I was hoping for. And unfortunately, I just wasn’t drawn to any of the sample dresses. I tried on about 5 dresses there and was smitten with a Modern Trousseau gown- it had a touch of lace and a gorgeous sweetheart neckline, but I wasn’t sold completely. I guess I was expecting a big “moment”. Michelle, the storeowner, said I could get a 15% discount if I bought the dress within 24 hours- which was very tempting…but ultimately I just could not make such a costly decision in that timeframe.

I just didn’t feel like I’d gotten the complete bridal experience yet (y’know trying on 20 dresses, maybe some crying!) so I wanted to see what else was out there. We headed over to The White Flower later that evening.  This boutique was a dream- luxurious and relaxing at the same time . Courtney, the owner, was so patient and sweet, even though we were the last appointment of the day at 7pm (she squeezed us in even).  Courtney made dress shopping fun and really listened to what I had to say. I tried on about 8 dresses this time, a couple I even tried on twice. I came really close to purchasing an Augusta Jones gown. It fit the bill- lace, sweet heart neckline, and fitted. However, I still just wasn’t sure. I kind of  thought that dress shopping was like finding the right guy- when you know, you just know. Since I didn’t have that feeling yet, I decided to wait.

After endless browsing, I ended up finding my dress online. It’s everything I was looking for. I’m bursting to share it with everyone but you’re going to have to wait until after the wedding to see it! But here are a couple of details to hold you over: it looks a lot like the Scarlett and it’s a Pnina Tornai creation.

I’m really glad I went dress shopping early, because it was eye-opening. Here are some things I learned:

1. Literally, there are millions of dresses out there. I feel like you always see the same ones online. I never would have known about certain designers without going into the boutiques.

2. Lace dresses are expensive.

3. Alterations are expensive too.

4. You may have to cut your budget in other places to get your dream dress.

Quick Tips from B & A:  If your budget dress shopping, it is a-okay to shop online. Try reliable sites like Oncewed and Preowned Wedding Dresses. Looking for a particular designer that no one local carries? Stay connected via facebook, twitter, and the web, to see when they are having a trunk show near you! October/November/December is the best time to shop for wedding dresses, because most brides are not thinking about dress shopping during the holidays, and boutique owners have to to make room for new spring dresses coming in, which equals bargaining and deals for you! Whether you’re buying online or in store never be afraid to ask for a discount- you won’t get it unless you ask!

Real Bride Blogger Jessica: The Backyard or The Beach?

After determining the guest count, the next thing for us to do was choose a VENUE. I’ve never been one of those girls who grew up knowing just  where I wanted to have my wedding. Plus, I’ve moved around a bit- so as much as I may have liked a certain spot in Texas or LA it just didn’t make sense for the wedding now.

We did have a few basic guidelines that helped us to narrow down the search:

– Ceremony site near the ocean (Nick is an avid surfer)

– Something casual and not too formal

– Nothing too pricey (rather have more food than space if you ask me!)

– Something with vendor options (definitely wanted flexibility to choose my own vendors)

This is really where having a planner helped me out. There are so many incredible venues out there; I never would have seen all the right ones for us without guidance. Kate and Ellen sent me a list of venues that matched the requirements we gave them, plus a couple extra venues they thought were worth looking at. My favorites were Condor’s Nest Ranch, Leo Carrillo Ranch Park,  The Thursday Club, Martin Johnson House, and my parents’ backyard.

{Condor’s Nest Ranch by Katie Neal}

To narrow down my choices, I started by making a list of pros and cons for each venue. Condor’s is a lovely scenic ranch, but ultimately is too far from the ocean for us. The Thursday Club in Point Loma is near the beach, but doesn’t let you have hard alochol. This may not be a deal breaker for some, but knowing our friends, we had to keep looking. Leo Carrillo Ranch is located fairly close to the ocean, full of charm, and is flexible with vendors. It was definitely a top contender

{Leo Carrillo by Tec Petaja}

Ultimately, it really came down to my parents’ house (ceremony at J Street look-out and reception in the backyard) and The Martin Johnson House. Both choices had the feel we wanted our wedding to exude. I really liked the idea of a causal backyard wedding and I figured it could save us some money that we could use elsewhere in our budget. Plus, I would be able to have the sparkler send-off that I always envisioned.

However, when we budgeted out the two options, they were more comparable than we thought. We really weren’t saving that much by holding the reception in the backyard, since we had to bring in more décor elements and all of the rentals. The final deciding factor: I really just disliked the idea of guests having to commute the distance from the ceremony site to the reception location. With Martin Johnson house it was all right there with a pretty ocean view bow on top!

{Lookout From Martin Johnson House}

After walking through the Martin Johnson a couple times with Kate and Ellen (this had been their number 1 all along) and looking through past weddings held there, we knew we had found the perfect venue for us. It was casual beachy, but still beautiful. Our ceremony will be held facing the Pacific Ocean. Black’s Beach (a favorite surf spot) is even visible from the ceremony site, a big plus for Nick. I love that the ceremony and reception can both be held in the same area.

The actual house has a homey feel and a huge deck overlooking the ocean that is perfect for dancing. There is ample room for lawn games, which I really want to incorporate into the cocktail hour. But what really sold us, is the amazing natural beauty found on the property, including huge trees, vibrant succulents, and the breath-taking views. The only bummer for me, is they don’t allow sparklers. So we’re brainstorming other options for my perfect send-off

{Ceremony at Martin Johnson House}

Finding a venue was a piece of cake compared to my next challenge…dress shoping! Boy was that a HUNT! Stay tuned to find out all the knitty gritty details on the dress!

From B & A: Jess covered a lot here so we don’t want to overload you with venue talk, but we would love to point out a few tips! Options… it’s always good to look at multiple locations even if you think you know exactly what you want. Jess didn’t seem too keen on the Martin Johnson House at first, since it was in La Jolla and they were originally thinking of a surf spot in Encinitas, however, we just knew it hit everything on their checklist.

Seeing a site in person makes all the difference. A site that looks gorgeous in one particular picture might not be so charming when you see the surrounding area in real life, and vice versa a lesser-known site could have lots of hidden potential!

Definitely do what Jess did and make a list of requirements from the start. Then weed places out through pros and cons. You should feel great about the venue you choose and really be able to envision YOUR wedding there!

Real Bride Blogger Jessica: Making the List & Checking it Twice

Woooo-hooo! I’m engaged. I honestly jumped up and down for over an hour. I could not sit still. I don’t think I even slept that night I was so happy. And the next day, all I could do was stare at my ring. I barely got any work done.

And then it hit me- now I have to start planning one of the most important days of our lives together. Seriously, I recommend taking a week or two to just enjoy being engaged. Don’t make any decisions- just relax, because pretty soon all you are going to think about is your wedding and everyone is going to be asking you a million wedding questions. After giving myself time to simply bask in the newly engaged bliss, I decided to get down to business. Right off the bat, we both knew we wanted to tie the knot in October. October in Southern California is just beautiful- perfect weather and no crowds. It’s pretty much summer with no tourists.

Next came the hard part, deciding what kind of wedding we wanted. I poured over pictures on Pinterest and all the standard wedding blogs- SMP, GWS, Ruffled….However, looking at all the different wedding styles only confused me. One day I was sure I wanted a rustic barn wedding, but the next day my heart would be set on backyard soiree.

Luckily, Kate & Ellen gave me a solid little piece of advice– make your guest list and everything else will follow. Smart, but I still tried to avoid making the guest list right away because it seemed like a daunting task. Who wants to sit down and determine which friends and family  make the cut!?

I’m not going to lie, it was hectic and emotional narrowing down the people who matter most to us. We knew all along we wanted a smallish wedding with our close friends and family, but sitting down and selecting names was rough. Our conversations went something like this:

Me: If you invite so-and-so then you have to invite his girlfriend too, you know.

Him: What?! No, I don’t.

Me: Um, yes you do.

Him: We should invite what’s-his-name. He would be funny.

Me: You’d rather invite him than your <insert family member>.

Him: Well, he’s a good dancer.

Me: Um, don’t you think that would cause problems with your family. And how long has it been since you talked to him?

Him: Uhhh I don’t remember. A long time.

Frankly, there is no secret way to get the guest list done, except for sitting down and talking it out. We created a couple different lists and then asked ourselves these questions: Would we regret not inviting this person? Has this person played a role in our lives? Do we see them remaining close with us? After a few solid hours of work, we finally decided on seventy-five people we knew had to be part of our special day. Stay tuned for my venue selection post next week…

From B & A: It seems easy to blow off the guest list, but guest count really does play the central part in your budget. With additional guests- you have to budget more food, alcohol, tables- which then affects linens, centerpieces, chairs, etc. Likewise, the guest list can really help to determine the venue. Fifty people would look silly in most ballrooms and two hundred and fifty people are not going to fit at the cute little beach look-out.

As Jess mentioned, a ton of brides want to figure out every detail (favors, bridesmaid shoes, signature cocktail) of their wedding within the first couple weeks of being engaged. In order to stay sane and make sure the important things get tackled first we recommend strarting from a priority list and locking in important vendors before thinking about all the small things. And of course, first and foremost the guest list!

Meet our Real Bride Blogger: Jess & Nick

We always love hearing insight from real brides, whether it be looking back at their wedding or while they’re still going through the planning process. We thought it would be exciting to have a real bride guest post once a week about her planning experiences and adventures. My sister Jessica voluntered and we thought she would be the perfect candidate, because not only is she a great writer but she is hot off the presses engaged –Nov. 2 to be exact!

We’ve already checked off some big items in the planning department; locked in a venue, caterer, and the dress, but there is much more to be done! I can’t tell who is more excited she or I? Although it sounds like it’s came easy there has definitely been some lessons Jess has learned so far into her planning journey and we’re so excited for her to share them with you here! Since we don’t want to spoil any of Jess’s posts we’ll instead give you a little background on the couple.

{Far left middle row: Sunday Romance}

“When the moon hits your eye like a big-a pizza pie, that’s amore!” Not sure if it was love at first sight when Jess + Nick met at the Italian restaurant they both worked at, since they were seeing other people, but by New Year’s Eve they were officially an item. Six months later they were already traveling together-their first trip as a couple was to Austrailia! Nick planned on staying a couple months, but had a change of heart once Jess headed back to school. They moved in together shortly after she graduated and by Christmas they had their first kid- Murphy (a puggle). Although they had only been dating two years, it was clear to the family this was the real deal.

They put a couple surf trips to Nicaraugua under their belt, lots of friends’ weddings, 4 more years of dating, a move from LA to SD, and another addition to the family (Mack– a mini Aussie) before officially getting engaged. In true Jess and Nick fashion, Nick proposed on a perfect day at the beach! But that is all just the beginning; check back often to see how the wedding planning unfolds…