Announcing…

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What’s this all about?

We are adding a section to our blog where we share our traveling experiences with you! One of the goals we established for our family this year was to travel more. By adding this section to our blog, it will allow us to invite you on the journey as we achieve that goal!

So where are the Lillys headed next?

It’s a surprise for Melinda’s birthday so you’ll have to wait and see until next week. But what I can say is that we’re going to two different places and it’s not Puerto Rico again. She’s in for a big surprise and we’re taking you with us!

Vendor Spotlight: Your Custom Catering & Events

Contact Person: Nate Turner

Email: info@yourcustomcatering.com

Services Provided: Catering and Event Management

Website: www.yourcustomcatering.com

 

How we met Nate and Chad

Okay, we’ll admit that food was ranked pretty high on our “Must not be an epic fail” list. So what did that mean? We stalked caterers for months. Yes, stalked. We checked Facebook pages, website photo galleries, Facebook page reviews, everything! Melinda’s stance was, “They need to prepare food that I cannot make at home.” My stance was, “If I’m going to pay for everyone to eat, it has to be food so good that it makes me want to slap Jazzy (just kidding PETA).”

We were like this… minus the pipe 

 

In one of Melinda’s searches, she came across Your Custom Catering and Events and sent me the link to their website. Their website was user-friendly, informative and professionally-designed (this matters). Next, we went to their Facebook page. We needed to see photos. However, the cardinal mistake we made was, we didn’t eat before perusing their photo galleries. The most appropriate and cute way to explain what resulted from that mistake is this…

 

 

After wiping the drool from our mouths, we submitted an online inquiry to schedule our initial consultation.

 

The Initial Consultation

For this consultation, we brought out the clipboard and a list of questions that could have been converted to a novel. But Chad answered each question with detail and ease. He and Nate were professionals. They knew their business and weren’t caught off guard by any of our questions.

 

We liked that.

We discussed every element of our vision- the food, the aesthetics, the venue, plating, etc. Outside of just catering-related information, Chad gave us suggestions and tips that we (well maybe just me) didn’t think about. Like, I knew we would need tables, and Melinda convinced me that table linens were a must-have, but who would have thought about how the table linens would lay on the tables? Glass or plastic wine glasses, yeah I totally didn’t think about that. But Your Custom Catering did and explained the pros and cons of each option.

 

The Food.

In all of our conversations with other caterers, the food options were limited but costly. We were getting a little nervous, because the trend was that one chicken entree, two vegetables, a garden salad and a cup of lemonade equaled $45,524 (okay, maybe not THAT much, but close enough). But things were different with Your Custom Catering. We were able to select menu items that were unique, elegant and fairly priced. And did we mention that they have a Krispy Kreme bread pudding made with… Krispy Kreme doughnuts?

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In case you couldn’t tell Ciara loves donuts, folks. 

The Food Tasting.

So the moment we all have been waiting for has finally arrived. It’s time to taste the food! And I, Ciara, have to be honest; I was a little nervous. Melinda could make an old man’s boot taste like a signature dish from a five-star restaurant. This is why I lost my two-pack after the first year of our relationship, but I digress. My ultimate fear was that we would be paying a premium for food that Melinda could make at home. But that fear dissolved as soon as I tasted our first hors-d’oeuvre. This food was like slap yourself kind of good. Don’t believe me? Check out the expressions on their faces…

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And this is just the first hors-d’oeuvre! There were two more to follow!

Every single dish on our menu was fantastic. The challenge, however, was upholding the correct etiquette when you really wanted to lick the plates. Here’s an example of how good this food was- there was one dish that came over a bed of lettuce. Andreana, Melinda’s sister and Maid-of-Honor, and I were on to the next dish only to find Melinda raving about the lettuce and how well it paired with the sauce. The lettuce, folks. Melinda, the culinary master, was impressed with every part of that dish- even the lettuce! Who can make lettuce taste magical? Your Custom Catering, that’s who.

Drum Roll… 

This may not be an effective drum roll, but the baby is cute.

The Krispy Kreme bread pudding. Ya’ll. No words will do it justice. I’ve basically concluded that I had an out-of-body experience while eating it. It was incredible! It tasted just like a hot, glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut! So, so, so good!

 

In Conclusion.

After we completed the food tasting, we started discussing our linen and centerpiece selections. Oh, you thought Your Custom Catering was just a catering company? These guys do it all! They are truly a one-stop shop for most of your wedding needs. We decided to use many of their services because we were impressed with their attention to detail and their dedication to quality work. We appreciated how attentive they were during the food tasting and found them to be incredibly helpful when it came to visualizing our decor. It didn’t take long to realize that we were dealing with professionals that we could trust.

As we were driving home from the food tasting, Melinda and I both took a sigh of relief. We knew, without a doubt, that we had made the right decision with Your Custom Catering. We were in good hands.

Hope this Helps! – Invitations Pt. 4

Design Styles

If you’re engaged to a person who has totally different design preferences than you and you’d like to test the strength of your love for one another…just wait until you have to pick out invitations! It is a great test of compromise and budgeting skills! As I mentioned before in part 1, a lot of invitation companies sell each piece individually. That means you not only have to negotiate with your partner on the design of the invitation but on which and how many pieces are really needed for your wedding. Now, given an unlimited budget, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to find something you BOTH like. But here’s OUR problem.

 

Ciara’s style is like this:

Vintage Fanfare

Regal, Sophisticated and Vintage

 

By Vintage, do you mean old? 

 

While my style is more like this:

Modern, Quirky, Fresh

Modern, Quirky, Fresh

 

 

I get vintage, but you get fresh? My design preferences are vintagely-fresh. 

EXACT. OPPOSITES.

 

So how did we do it? After literally 3 months, we got so frustrated that Ciara gave up and let me pick whatever I wanted. (And this, my friends, is a lesson in and of itself. Don’t go back-and-forth on something as simple as an invitation. Just do what will make your spouse happy.)  🙂 BUT being the good future wife that I am *brushes shoulders off*, I refrained from choosing my favorite design and picked one that we both liked.

 

I should mention that it isn’t that we couldn’t find ANYTHING we both liked. It’s just that some of the really good designs just didn’t fit in our budget or took too long to print up.  I mean, imagine paying $4.00 for the invitation ONLY (not including RSVP cards, etc). If you need to send them out to 100 people, you’re already looking at nearly $500 on invitations! It isn’t impossible, but I just really couldn’t see US spending that much on invitations. (Nope! There was NO way that we were going to pay $500+ for invitations. I could draw our wedding invitations for $8.92.)

 

Some things that might make your invitation search easier are:

  1. Having a theme – I know it sounds cheesy but if you have a set theme like “Paris” or “Travel”, it is easier to search websites for those keywords and only browse a few options rather than a couple thousand!
  2. Knowing your colors ahead of time – you can also search many websites by color or special features like glitter and foil.
  3. Ordering catalogues and samples early on – many companies send out a catalogue or samples at no cost so you can see what colors look like. Minted.com sent us a GREAT kit that had all their paper types,  printing types, colors and popular designs in it FOR FREE. It was high quality stuff. David’s Bridal sent us free samples in the colors we were debating on so that we could be sure about the printing before we ordered. (There are approximately 2,947,493.4 shades of purple, y’all)
  4. Know your personal style as a couple. We couldn’t find many designs we liked on certain sites because they just catered to a different style. Some were very muted tones and others were very lacey and traditional.
  5. Talk about the value of the invitation. For some couples, the invitation is the first glimpse you get of the wedding style itself. And if you have a theme it will be important to carry that into your invites. But for others, it isn’t that big of a deal. Either way is OK. Having a conversation about this early on will help you set a realistic budget and stick to it.

So, basically, if you are EVER planning on needing wedding invitations, do yourself a favor and start a Pinterest board NOW. Like RIGHT now. Stop what you are doing, ask your boss for a 15- minute break and make that Pinterest board! And then add me, we’ll pin together. 🙂

 

Hope this helps!

XOXO,

~Mel

Vendor Spotlight: Carolina Cake Artistry

Contact Person: Dayna and Tim

Email: dayna@carolinacakeartistry.com

Services Provided: Baking goods, specifically cakes and cupcakes

Website: http://www.carolinacakeartistry.com/

 

How we met Dayna and Tim

We were first introduced to Carolina Cake Artistry at the Carolina Bridal Fair in Concord, NC. There were many bakeries represented at this fair, but few left a lasting impression. Carolina Cake Artistry was different. As we approached their booth, Dayna greeted us with a smile and took a genuine interest in learning more about our wedding cake vision.

And the best part was…

Everything we sampled was SO good! You just couldn’t try one thing, you had to try it all. Well, at least that’s what Ciara did. She tried every single sample and raved for weeks about how good it was. When she wasn’t raving about the cake bites, she was trying to convince me that we could have a pumpkin cake for a July wedding (Ciara here- Let it be known that a Thanksgiving-themed wedding in July would have been unique and… well… memorable)

Fast forward a few months…

And our close friend, Mara, mentions a local bakery that she’s worked with before. Guess who it was? Yep, Carolina Cake Artistry! Mara connects us with Dayna and immediately we remember meeting them at the Carolina Bridal Fair. After exchanging a few emails, we scheduled our cake tasting.

 

The Cake Tasting

We wrote about our cake tasting experience a few posts ago, as a refresher, check it out here.

Vendor Spotlight: Your Wellness Coach

Contact Person: Maureen Carlomagno

Email: maureen@your-wellness-coach.com

Services Provided: Health and Wellness Coaching

Website: http://www.your-wellness-coach.com

 

How we met Maureen

After reading about us in Creative Loafing, Maureen sent us an email to introduce herself and her company. She explained that she had recently developed a coaching package especially for couples who were planning their wedding and that she would love to work with us and extend her new service to us for free!

Yes, our favorite word, FREE!

I don’t think five minutes passed before we were responding to her email for more details. Throughout the day, we exchanged a few more emails and scheduled our first meeting.

 

Our First Meeting

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Melinda’s smile says it all. Our first meeting with Maureen was great! There are so many things we could appreciate about Maureen. But here are a few that really resonated with us: she was kind, very knowledgeable, attentive and genuine. She listened and we could tell that she sincerely cared to learn more about us. And as you would expect from any coach, she was organized, direct and very thorough.

How thorough?

So thorough that Melinda didn’t have any questions after we wrapped up our meeting!

And that never happens.

 

The Coaching Package- The Intuitive Bride

Some couples seek pre-marital counseling to prepare them for marriage while others just jump the broom with their fingers crossed. Melinda and I are taking a different approach. For 8-weeks, we will work one-on-one with Maureen to address different topics like: Health History, Personality and Life Values Assessments, Goal Setting and Health Action Plan, Health Risks and Personal Biometric Information, Nutrition and Healthy Eating, Exercise, Objective Self-Review, Time Management, Stress Management, Social Support, Staying Motivated, and Positive Mindset.

This coaching package will equip us with tools and resources that we can use throughout our marriage. It will give Melinda and I an opportunity to grow in our knowledge of each other, because it’s true, you can be with someone for many years and still learn something new about them every day.

During one of our most recent coaching sessions with Maureen, we learned about our personality types. And although our personality types were quite similar, there were a few differences that we were able to identify. We both walked away with a better understanding of how we can communicate more effectively with each other. Now we have new knowledge that we will be able to apply in our everyday interaction.

But What If You’re Not Getting Married Right Now?

You can still use Maureen’s services! She offers both individual and group coaching packages that you can read more about here. She also conducts various health and wellness seminars in and around Charlotte. In fact, if you’re in the Charlotte area this weekend, Maureen will be hosting a free “How To” Online Shopping Class at Harris Teeter. We’ve included the details below:

Seminar: Harris Teeter “How To” Online Shopping Class: Learn how to shop faster, smarter and healthier

Date: Saturday, February 28, 2015

Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Location: Davidson Harris Teeter, 431 Peninsula Drive, Davidson, NC 28036

Topics Covered In The Class: Learn how to shop from the comfort of your home or office, shop online in under 30 minutes, then pick up your order in 10 minutes or less, learn tips to stick to your grocery budget, save valuable time in your busy schedule, unlimited shopping available, convenient pick-up times, new tips and tricks on the Harris Teeter app and website and how to make eating healthier easier.

Register Here: http://goo.gl/forms/rhihP2lxSi

 

To Have Your Cake and Eat It Too- Ciara & Melinda’s Cake Tasting Adventure

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Ciara here, can I be honest with you all? I counted down for our special day. Now before you all say, “Awww, isn’t she sweet,” I must confess that I’m not talking about the wedding day (although I am counting down for that too). I had an official cake tasting countdown. See, for me, cake is a serious matter. Almost as serious as coffee. And I wanted to be sure that our guests experienced the best wedding cake possible at our wedding. So weeks prior to the cake tasting, I increased the intensity of my workouts to make up for the gluttony that would follow. One could say, “Ciara, how could eating bite-sized cake pieces equal gluttonous behavior?”

Let me explain…

For starters, let’s discuss how we arrived at the cake tasting stage. Earlier this month, our close friend, Mara, referred us to a potential wedding cake vendor. And after visiting their website, I immediately remembered tasting a sample (“a” sample, Ciara?)  Okay, since Melinda wants to call me out, I remembered tasting all the samples; and being really impressed with them all. We exchanged a few emails with the vendor and scheduled a complimentary cake tasting for two weeks out.

The Day Arrives…

And I’m ready. I flossed and brushed really well. I even ate a light breakfast. Minutes into our consultation, we’re greeted with two plates of four different cakes. Then Dayna, one of the owners of the company, asks one of my favorite questions,  “Would anyone like coffee?” I knew then we had found our wedding cake vendor. Okay, maybe not at that exact moment, but they certainly scored major cool points. For the next few minutes, Melinda and I are tasting different cake and frosting options; but Melinda is chipping off baby pieces of cake. Here’s where the gluttony comes in…

8.5 minutes into the consultation and my cake is all gone…

But Melinda’s isn’t. She’s had enough to determine her favorites and I’m left with a tough life decision, do I eat her cake and just deal with the gluttony later or do I let the cake go to waste? I thought about all the people starving in the world and decided the least I could do in that moment was not be wasteful. I said…

And ate her cake too.

 

You know what? I didn’t really need all that cake anyway, babe. Jesus might have been lookin’ out because I’ve got to fit into a wedding dress in 6 months! But seriously, this was one of the easiest decisions to make for me. Probably because I was well aware that the cake was going to be Ciara’s “thing”. It was honestly kinda cute to see her enjoy her favorite part of this entire process and I’m really glad we got the cake that she wanted. I guess this is how she feels when she gets me the purse, make-up, blanket, smashburger, that I wanted. It is a good feeling. 🙂

All of their cakes are made from scratch using the freshest ingredients and you can tell. The cake was delicious. We decided on a custom-designed, three-tier wedding cake. We cannot wait for you to see the finished product!

 

Ciara & Melinda’s Feature Story on Black Lesbian Love Lab

Ciara gets down on bended knee in front of Melinda.

Photo Credit- S. Espinosa Photography

 

If you haven’t liked our Facebook page , chances are that you missed the feature story we did with  Black Lesbian Love Lab . We had such a great time doing this interview and wanted to be sure that all of our readers checked it out! So if you missed the feature story or if you have an interest in learning more about me and Melinda, definitely check this story out. Click here to read it.

Ciara & Melinda Make Creative Loafing Charlotte’s 15 People to Watch in 2015

Ciara Lilly, the mannequin, and Melinda Robinson

Photo Credit: Creative Loafing, Melissa Oyler

 

We are thrilled to announce that we have been recognized by Creative Loafing Charlotte as one of 15 people to watch in 2015.

It is an honor to share the list with some of Charlotte’s most amazing changemakers. If you’re in the Charlotte area, be sure to pick up your copy of Creative Loafing today. For our friends outside of Charlotte, you can check out our feature story online by clicking here.

 

 

Vendor Spotlight: Celebration Sounds Entertainment

 

 

Celebration Sounds

 

 

Contact Person: Rick Hyburg

Email: Rick@CelebrationSoundsNC.com

Services Provided: Wedding and Special Event DJ Services

Website: http://www.celebrationsoundsnc.com

How we met Rick

For months we sought a DJ for our wedding and just couldn’t find the right fit for us. This all changed when our good friend, Mara, introduced us to Rick at Celebration Sounds Entertainment. After a few Facebook exchanges and a quick browse of his website and Facebook page, we eagerly scheduled a consultation with him.

The Consultation

When we first started our wedding planning journey, we both identified what elements of the wedding were most important to us. The number one thing on Melinda’s list was the DJ. So you can imagine how excited she was during this consultation. We were prepared. We even had a list of interview questions, as seen below, that we printed from our wedding planning binder.

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What really resonated with us about Rick was that he had a sincere desire to learn more about us, first. Before we discussed his services, we spent time learning about one another. He shared his professional experience, explained how this whole process would work and even gave examples of various success stories that developed our confidence in his DJing abilities. He was professional, engaged, funny and didn’t mind answering the 150,498, 239, 398 (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) questions Melinda had.

We knew we had found the right DJ

cabbage patch

This is our celebratory cabbage patch dance

On our special day, Celebration Sounds Entertainment, will handle the ceremony and reception music. We cannot share too much, because we want our guests to be surprised, but we’ll say this much… This will not be your Grandmother’s wedding ceremony and reception. And Celebration Sounds Entertainment is making it possible!