Woah, Momma! Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of 3 in the “how this chunk entered the world” saga! If you’re just joining us…. here’s part one. If you’re not into pregnancy/labor/birth stories I suggest you stay tuned for future blog posts and skip over this one and the next. Cool? Cool.


September 8 2018

I had no idea then what I know now… that this baby wasn’t just a boy but the most precious little man I’ve ever seen. We left the ultrasound excited and relieved. We had a healthy baby boy growing steadily and strong in mamma’s belly.

We had only told close friends and family about the baby until 22 weeks when we announced him publicly. I know a lot of people rush to share the good news out of excitement but we were so happy to soak up our own private bliss. As soon as you tell the world you are pregnant the questions and comments come streaming in without stop until your baby turns into a toddler and then a teenager, I’m sure.

The questions and comments of pregnancy deserve their own reflection- the range of appropriateness, sweetness, and thoughtlessness knows no bounds.

I got comments ranging from “”oh my gosh your bump is so cute!” And “you are the cutest pregnant lady ever!” To the classic “any day now?” and “wow you are so big/small/high/low/all belly/etc.”. The most ridiculous comment of the whole pregnancy has to be the time I was walking towards the grocery store entryway when an old man stopped to let me walk in front of him, he then said (my back turned to him) “looks like you and your husband are on good terms”. What. The. Fuck.

Over the summer my belly grew and grew. We continued our normal adventures- going camping at the state park where we were married, trying* to tube down the Otter Tail river (this ended up being a hilarious endeavor), and a taking walks around our local apple orchard. As we neared the third trimester and the final stretch I turned 30, we made a trip to Minneapolis and I started to realize just how swollen my hands and feet were getting – it was a hot summer but I had been so focused on being grateful that I could throw on one piece of clothing (dresses all day every day) that I forgot about what heat and fluid retention can do to your body.

Swimming while pregnant is amazing. It immediately relieves pressure from your joints AND you basically become a human submarine!

Shoes and rings were no longer useful to me. I went up a half shoe size, started living in Crocs, and had to switch out my wedding and engagement ring for a silicone band.

Please note my feet literally spilling out of these Crocs. No big deal.

Exactly one month before my due date we traveled back to my hometown for our baby shower. It was a perfect celebration and I was so amazed by and grateful for the support we had been shown. Baby boy was already loved so much before he even got here.

The drive was long and honestly one of the hardest parts of my pregnancy (my feet were very swollen afterwards and never really went down) but it was worth it to see and celebrate with so many friends and family I hadn’t seen in years.

In the final month (what was actually only about 3 weeks!) we did a lot of nesting around the house. Putting the finishing touches on the nursery, unpacking all of our shower gifts, setting up our little “baby stations”, washing little tiny baby clothes, and keeping ourselves busy as we waited his arrival. My nesting instinct manifested itself in getting organized. I put together the perfect little diaper changing station, a little caddy with all of my breastfeeding supplies, all of the drawers and the closet in his room were more in order than anything in my life ever had been. Seth worked on bigger projects. He focused on some big-picture house stuff that he knew he wouldn’t get to for a while once the babe arrived.

Aside from all the nest prepping we also took our baby classes and read some great baby books in the final months of pregnancy. The most transformative book I read was by far Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth. Seth really got into The Birth partner by Penny Simkin. We talked a lot about what we wanted our labor to look like. I was determined to have a natural birth with as little intervention as possible. Luckily the midwife I had been seeing throughout my pregnancy fully supported this decision and held the same view that our bodies know what they are doing.

Seth and I talked a lot about labor. We shared the belief that women were strong, capable creatures and that medical interventions – though sometimes life-saving and absolutely necessary – shouldn’t be the norm. I knew that I had his full support and that we were completely on the same page.

We did develop a code word for pain relief if I decided during the real deal that the pain was too much to handle which I highly suggest! That way you can allow yourself to express frustration or pain without having the medical staff jump in and offer drugs. Honestly I didn’t even think of pain relief during the entire labor and never came close to asking for it but everyone labors differently. I’ll talk more about the power of positive thinking and speaking during labor later.

Our plan had been that when the day came we would labor at home as long as possible, heading into the hospital only when I felt like it was nearly time to push. I was excited to labor with him in our new home that we had spent so much time preparing for baby. I envisioned us snacking, playing connect 4, walking around our neighborhood during early labor, laboring in bed, in the shower, and around the house as contractions built and then hopping in the car and making the short drive to the hospital where in just a few series of pushes I would pop this baby out of me and we’d go home the next day.

That is not, in fact, how it all happened.

Woah, Momma!

Well it sure has been some time, huh? My last post was made just a few days before our son was born a little over 6 months ago and boy does it resonate now. I am so glad I got to savor the last few moments of pregnancy because it really was so sweet and sacred and over before I knew it.

So here I am 6 months into motherhood and I have to say that it is equally as beautiful- both everything I was hoping for and also so much more than what I was expecting.

But before I dive into where I am now- wrestling a squirmy, silly, smart little chunk while I try to multi-task nursing and writing a blog post- I want to turn back the clock a bit and share how this little guy got here.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sharing my birth story with a mama-to-be. She is hoping for a natural birth and wanted to hear a positive natural birth story since there’s a lot of negative stuff out there surrounding labor and most people think you’re nuts if you decline drugs.

Ever since Alden was born and I got to experience birth firsthand I’ve been so passionate about sharing the positive, empowering parts of pregnancy, labor, and delivery because if birthing a baby taught me anything… it’s that women are powerful as hell – no matter what your labor looks like.

So let me rewind things a bit and share a little more about my pregnancy and birth story that I started writing shortly after Alden was born – I fully realize that not everyone wants to know this stuff… so no worries if you bypass this and the next blog post – I promise I’ll get back to other topics soon!


Sept 8th 2018

Our little blessing is finally here, all nuzzled up on my chest, nursing in his cozy little sling, leaving my hands free for the first time in a week since his arrival to reflect on how he entered this world. It’s hard to believe now, with this warm little bundle of love on the outside of my belly that I was ever pregnant to begin with- how has he not always been a part of my life?

My pregnancy was lovely.

There, I said it.

I am grateful for all of its loveliness because I know that not everyone is quite so lucky. There are enough horror stories out there that talk up the miseries of pregnancy but I want to focus on the mystery.

Being pregnant is at once the most human and most spiritual experience. In the earliest days it is a sweet secret between your baby and your body. I found out I was pregnant at about 6 weeks, from that point on it was news my husband and I didn’t share publicly for a while as we excitedly anticipated all that was to come.

The day before we got our “big fat positive” we were having breakfast at our favorite cafe in a small town an hour from our home. It was New Year’s Eve… the last day of 2017 and we had had a busy year full of growth in his business, our marriage, and more. As we reflected on what the year had brought we began to look ahead and “make plans” for 2018- what was it that we wanted to accomplish in our next orbit around the sun?

Over our eggs and toast and coffee we joked, “Buy a house. Make a baby”. It was the next morning that as I was using the bathroom I thought “What if?”and took a pregnancy test out of the bathroom drawer.

Every pregnancy test I’d ever taken had been under much different circumstances- fear, regret, anxiety. As I read through and followed the instructions I thought to myself “you know, I’d be a little sad if it was negative”. The thought and feeling shocked me – I knew that even if we weren’t pregnant this time,  (we hadn’t officially started trying but were leaving it up to fate) I was ready.

I sat and patiently waited as the test processed, Seth was in the kitchen cooking breakfast. When I saw the pink line I was both surprised and comforted. With my heart racing from excitement I went into the kitchen.””Seth” I said to him “”come here, I want to show you something”” he later told me he thought I had broken something in the bathroom. I walked him down the hall and into our tiny bathroom pointing at the test sitting on the counter. He looked down at it, looked up at me and said what we were both thinking, “No fucking way”.

The next weeks were full of excitement as we looked for a house. We found the perfect home quickly and closed by the end of February, moving in and making it our own in the late winter and early spring. We shared our plans and dreams for our baby and what we wanted his or her life to look like all while picking out paint colors and light fixtures and working on weekend projects- it sounds pretty cheesy because it kinda was.

My body was taking to pregnancy so beautifully that even I was shocked. I had never gotten sick and only struggled with extreme fatigue for a week or two in the first trimester. Early on I decided my mantra for this pregnancy would be “I trust my body”. I told myself this daily and believed it – how could I not trust my body? Here it was doing exactly what it was supposed to with little or no help from me. All I had to do was eat well, get my rest, get some light exercise and my body would build a whole new human. It was humbling to watch my belly grow as we approached the halfway mark.

At 22 weeks we had our “big” ultrasound, the one that can tell the sex of the baby and checks on important developments, measurements, and more. We were nervous, excited, and still hadn’t decided if we were going to find out if this babe was a boy or girl. I had already been feeling little flutters since early on and defined movements by week 18 but seeing the shape of this perfect little being in black and white on that screen changed everything.

As they checked for all of his parts and got all of his measurements the tech turned on 3D imaging and we were able to see the most beautiful photos of this baby’s face. The tech asked if we wanted to know the sex and we both looked at each other unsure until Seth finally said yes.

It’s a boy.

What’s In A Year (Besides Waiting)?

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One year ago I was days away from my wedding, giddy with anticipation and in disbelief that the “big day” was drawing near. Today I find myself less than two weeks away from my due date in the same position, awaiting another “big day”… although there’s no telling exactly when it will happen. I’m also equally sleepless… although this time it’s not from nerves and excitement and checklists but from a watermelon sized bump on my belly, pregnancy carpal tunnel, and having to pee every two hours. Fun times.

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Countdowns are a funny thing- they can keep us excited and focused or they can serve as a distraction from living fully in the present moment. We’re so accustomed to existing  somewhere in between “now” and the future that time tends to always feel as though it is passing too quickly. I notice that this happens most often when we find ourselves waiting… which we do often.

We wait for the workday to be over, wait for our kids to go back to school, wait for our next vacation. We keep calendars and schedules and to-do lists that always keep our minds tuned to what’s coming next instead of what is happening now.

Waiting on big life events like marriage or the birth of your first child are like feeding that tendency to think ahead extra strength steroids. There’s a beauty to the dreaming, the planning stages, the nesting… but all of that focus on what’s to come can definitely take away from experiencing the joys of the in-between moments.

A lot of people have miserable pregnancies and can’t wait for them to be over, or they are so excited to meet their babies that they are constantly counting down the days. I’ve been lucky to have a wonderful pregnancy and have enjoyed 99% of it (minus the carpal tunnel which just showed up a week or two ago- what the heck hands?!?!) and while I am definitely eager to meet our little one I am also trying to soak up the last few days/weeks of being pregnant.

Call me crazy but I will miss having our son so close, miss the days when taking care of him and keeping him safe are as easy as eating well and taking care of myself. I’ll miss feeling his little kicks and rolls and squirms and knowing that he is growing and thriving. I’ll most certainly miss the quietness of him being in the womb – no crying or fussing or tantrums which I know are to come.

So as excited as I am to see his little face and hold him and cuddle him and for all that comes next I am trying to savor every last second of this current state, days or maybe a week or two away from meeting him. I’m trying not to let this time be one of waiting for the “big day” but a time of enjoying every second of each day. I know for a fact that another year will pass, probably quicker than I’d like it to, and that it will be filled with plenty of milestones that I want to be fully present and not just waiting for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Grandma Sally’s Borscht + Bonus Chilled Cucumber Soup

I love beets. My husband love beets. Every time we eat beets we wonder to ourselves, “Why don’t we eat more beets?”. It’s that rich, earthy, dirt flavor that drives us crazy I guess. Hot, cold, pickled, roasted, raw. Ugh, just shut up and give me some beets already!

We also love soup. I take great pride in my soup making abilities and boast the title (bestowed upon me by Seth) of The Soup Ninja. I can literally make soup out of anything but can’t write a recipe for soup to save my damn life. Because really, how the hell do you even write a recipe for soup?! Just keep adding stuff in random quantities until it tastes good… that’s my motto (which should get you really excited about the soup recipes I am sharing today)!

So between our love of beets and our love of soup, of course one of our favorite ways to eat beets is in borscht! Seth (being lactose intolerant… sad face) prefers clear borscht served hot and I’m a fan of cold, dairy borscht with a big fat dollop of sour cream on top.

Summer Borscht

Last fall I got to dig through my Great Grandma Sally’s recipes and found a recipe for borscht amongst the many other Eastern European/Lithuanian/Probably Jewish dishes she made regularly.

Sally's Borscht Recipe.jpeg

So I find this borscht recipe and I get all excited and then I actually read the thing and can’t help but laugh because it is EXACTLY how I would write a soup recipe. No quantities, vague directions, random additions that may or may not be necessary, and a clear lack of some very important elements… namely, a shit ton of fresh dill.

Unintimidated (and having made borscht, or some hodgepodge version of it before), I set off to re-create Great Gram’s Beet Borscht.

Borscht

Here’s what I did/an example of how bad I am at writing soup recipes:

  • 3 Large Beets w/ stems + greens
  • 1/4 Cup Red Onion cut into large chunks
  • 1 Fat Clove of Fresh Garlic cut into large chunks
  • 1-2 tbsp(ish) Knorr’s “Caldo (Con Sabor) De Pollo” seasoning
  • A shit ton of Fresh Dill
  • Buttermilk to taste (lol)
  • Sour Cream to taste + to serve (lol)

Remove the stems + greens from the beets and wash thoroughly. Cut up.

Wash beets and cut in half or quarters.

Cut red onion into large 1″-2″ chunks + Cut garlic clove into 1/2″ chunks.

Add the beets + stems + greens + onion +garlic to a pot of water and bring to a boil. The water should cover all of the beety goodness by about 2″ it might end up being about 8 cups but I can’t be sure because I paid no attention. You’re basically making the base for a broth while also cooking down the beets.

Boil the beety goodness until the beets are tender (check with a fork). Remove the beets, set aside and peel (the skins should just peel right off). Add a tablespoon or two of chicken or vegetable stock to the pot with the stems, greens, onions, and garlic… this just kicks up the flavor and adds some saltiness. I put “Caldo de Pollo” in every soup I ever make because I am a really good vegetarian.

Stir + strain the broth, reserving all the liquid and discarding the mushy stuff. Bust out your Ninja Blender and add the broth (6-7 cups). Chop up some fresh dill (I swear I use like 1/2 cup of dill… add as much or as little as you want) and add to blender.

Now you get to decide how much buttermilk and sour cream to add. I add probably a cup of buttermilk and 3/4 cup sour cream and mostly go by color which I feel is a good way to feel it out. Start off with smaller quantities of dairy and add more to your liking.

Once you have skinned/peeled the beets, Cut up 2 of the beets into small 1/2″ chunks and set aside. Take the remaining beet and cut up into manageable chunks to throw in the blender. Rev that Ninja up and blend until smooth. Remove the liquid beet goodness from blender, add beet chunks and chill to serve.

Borscht Soup Cold Dairy Borscht.jpg

I like to store my borscht in mason jars for easy access so I ration out the 1/2″ chopped beets amongst 4 regular sized mason jars and then top them off with the blender mix.

When it is time to serve I either just drink right from the jar (no joke) or pour into a bowl like a civilized lady and top with sour cream and more dill.


 

Another cold summer soup that I love is chilled cucumber soup. It’s like borscht’s cousin. I’ve been making this stuff for years but don’t have a recipe for it (of course) so I tried my best to make one to share with you but I’m not making any promises here, people.

Chilled Cucumber Soup.JPG

Cold Cucumber Soup

You’ll need:

  • 3.5 Cups Buttermilk
  • 1 Cup Sour cream
  • 1 Small/Medium Clove Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Dill
  • 3 Large Cucumbers
  • 1/2 Medium Sweet Onion (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Kosher Salt

Peel your cucumbers and cut into 2″ chunks (just to be more blender friendly). Cut up your onion and garlic into smaller chunks as well and mince your dill a bit.

Add your peeled cucumber, onion, garlic, and dill to a Ninja blender. Top with buttermilk and sour cream. Blend until smooth.

Add salt to taste and chill to serve.

Cucumber Soup.JPG


 

Summer soups are ideal with crusty bread to dip or nothing at all. I love being able to drink lunch on super hot days and both the borsht and cucumber soups are superbly refreshing ways to have a healthy lunch and not feel like you are going to explode.

If you have some fun summer soups to share I’d love to hear about them! I’ve never made gazpacho so I feel like that will be next on my list of summer soups to explore!

Our First Home

Apparently being pregnant, buying a house, running a business, and having a few side hustles means that it can go from January to June (umm… basically July) in the blink of an eye. I’d love to blame my lack of consistent content on the fact that I’ve been growing a human for the past 30 weeks but the truth is that I’ve just been plain busy.

Seth & I found out we had a little one on the way on New Year’s Day – which is pretty epic if you ask me. Literally the day before I took a pregnancy test we were out to breakfast at one of our favorite little cafes dreaming up a list of our goals for 2018:

  • Buy A House
  • Make A Baby
  • Spend More Time Outdoors

That was literally it.  Well… by the next morning we found out we were pregnant and by the next month we had put an offer in on our first house. No big deal, right?

Beyond Realty Sara Fargo

With a bun in the oven we knew that we couldn’t take on the type of “Fixer Upper” that we may have otherwise invested in. Our goal was to find something affordable that fit our needs for the short term – not our “forever home” that we still hope to one day build.

My list of hopes for our first house were about as straightforward as our 2018 goals. I was hoping to find 3 things:

  • A Wood Burning Fireplace
  • A Bathtub
  • Trees

By some miracle of fate we managed to find a house that has not one… but TWO wood burning fireplaces, a bathtub, and a ton of trees in a luscious backyard. The location, price point, and timing were perfect and we pulled the trigger the second we saw the inside of the house- there was just enough character to make it interesting and plenty of projects we could do to make it our own.

We really hit the ground running with our initial projects and got most of the big jobs done before we moved in but managed to leave enough unfinished that we still have plenty to keep us busy or plenty that will forever be left unfinished… who knows?

So – about 2 months after I had initially intended to share some sneak peeks of our house… here we are! There is still a lot to do (including an entire camp-themed nursery) and a lot of areas of the house that aren’t pictured but here are a few of my favorite transformations so far!

Living Room (Upstairs)

This room is the first room when you walk in the main door (which is a side door otherwise I’d refer to it as a front door like a normal person). Seth + I loved the sloped ceiling and the fireplace… it also features a “sunken” living room space which resulted in some fun problem solving on our part.

The previous owners had installed an IKEA cabinet in the entrance where a banister used to be but we knew we wanted to get rid of that. They also kept the original mantelpiece on the fireplace – WHICH HAD NEVER BEEN USED. That’s right folks, a freakin’ fireplace in Fargo, ND that had not been used in the nearly 30 years since it had been installed… who does that?! Needless to say Seth started a fire in that bad boy as soon as we got the keys.

Before Living Room FireplaceLiving Room House 3 My Actual Brand

We promptly removed the huge mantelpiece and covered that feature wall in shiplap – painted in my favorite shade of green on the planet. We put up a new, reclaimed mantel from Seth’s shop and started ripping up the carpet on the steps before we realized we wouldn’t actually be replacing the carpet for a while so… hi exposed plywood!

Seth used remnants of the shiplap around the “step” down into the sunken living room. For some ungodly reason this had been left carpeted when the previous owners replaced the flooring. We still have to put nosing around the seams where the different floors meet… hopefully at the very least before baby CarlDedinson starts crawling around.

You can also see a tiny peek of the railing in our “dining area” in the BEFORE photo above, we ripped that out and have yet to replace it with something less icky so dining at our house is basically like an extreme sport where you scale something of a considerable size and hope that you don’t fall off/backwards to your untimely death.

Before Living Room Entryway

Here you can see the carpeted step down into the living room. It was a choice that somebody made and we’re not here to judge people but… really? The walls in the main space were a creamy beige color so we cleaned everything up with bright white paint. We also replaced that funny little light fixture in the entryway which on the scale of “okay” to “why God why” wasn’t so bad compared to others in the house.

Living Room House My Actual BrandLiving Room 2 House My Actual Brand

This space is where we hang out with friends, chat, read books, eat our morning cereal, and do other old fashioned things that don’t involve staring at a TV. We used the couch from our apartment that we bought a few years ago and I made new pillows for it (which I will eventually make a tutorial for… key word: eventually).

Our coffee table in this room was made from a live edge oak slab and some bent steel legs. We inherited the dining room set that belonged to my Great Grandma and use the top of her buffet as our little bookshelf. The wall to the left in the above photos was covered in reclaimed wood but has yet to be adorned with decor… I figure it will probably be taken over by photos of the baby once he gets here so why waste my time?

Reclaimed Wood Wall My Actual Brand

I love our little geometric light fixtures! The small pendant fixture here matches the larger one above our dining room table which replaced the “why god why” fixture that was previously hanging in that area. It is a really small dining area (especially for a family that loves to eat) so we had to get creative with our small space.

Dining Area

Before Dining

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Our solution was installing a bench along the length of the wall on one side of our dining table. Once we get our new railing up we should be able to seat 7 comfortably at the table without anyone having to worry about falling backwards and busting their noggins open.

Above you can see a peek of our cabinets (which we painted) and countertops (which we replaced). The kitchen is a pretty small space and the cabinets made it feel like cave so we removed one set of upper cabinets and opted for open shelving instead. Note below that the light fixtures in the kitchen were far past the “why god why” end of the spectrum and into “what the actual hell” territory.

Kitchen

Before Kitchen

Kitchen Open Shelving My Actual Brand

Our cabinets were painted the same color as our shiplap and the countertops, shelves, and our dining bench all match as well. We actually took each door off of the cabinets and brought them into Seth’s spray booth which made a BIG different in the finished product. Simple black hardware kept the light fixtures and other accents all tied together.

Family Room

Before Yellow Living Room

Downstairs (which is sort of our basement but we don’t call it that since we have another basement which we refer to as our actual basement or as the “down-downstairs”) was painted an unholy yellow.

Downstairs Living Room 2 My Actual brandDownstairs Living Room My Actual Brand

We promptly painted the walls in “alpaca” and replaced the light fixtures as well. This room still has a LONG way to go before it feels finished + cozy but it gets the job done for now. The big L couch is the only piece of furniture we bought for the new house!

Our master bath upstairs is what I call a “hotel” bathroom where there are two separate rooms… one with just the sink and the other with the toilet and bath/shower.

Master Bath

Before Bathroom

It was pretty “blah” before and the cabinet / mirror / light fixture were definitely original to the house because they were so outdated it was almost comical. We initially planned to do a “floating” vanity with a live edge slab but ended up just painting the cabinets white and adding a reclaimed countertop. We replaced the hardware, mirror, and light fixture too along with painting the walls “alpaca” in this main space.

Upstairs Bathroom Sink House My Actual BrandUpstairs bathroom 2 rooms my actual brandUpstairs Bathroom My Actual Brand

In the shower/toilet room we added an accent wall of a deep charcoal/navy color (the same shade we used in our bedroom) and installed some floating shelves that match the countertop for storage.

The bathroom still needs some major touches of decor because it definitely feels like a hotel bathroom. I think some artwork in the sink room and some cute stuff on the top shelf in the toilet/shower room are all that is really needed so maybe when the whole “nesting” phase hits me I’ll get on that.

Overall we made the new house feel like “home” pretty quickly. Between getting our stuff moved in and making a few cosmetic changes it really feels like an entirely new house. We have a little bit of time before the babe gets here to prioritize some projects so I’m hoping that by the end of the summer I can share even more!

10 Tips for DIY Wedding Flowers + Real Life Costs

Bulk Wedding Flowers

Figuring out the flowers for our wedding was a little intimidating at first. We knew we had a budget and wouldn’t be able to afford to hire a florist but I also had totally unrealistic Pinterest-inspired #goals for what I wanted our arrangements to look like (along with zero experience arranging flowers, of course). Luckily everything came together and I was able to save money and achieve exactly the look I was going for!

I spent a bit of time researching before placing my big bulk wedding flower order and learned quite a bit in the process. To save you some time (hopefully) and help relieve a little stress, here are my top 10 tips for going the DIY route when it comes to wedding flowers. Keep reading for more insight into my experience both with costs, challenges, and pics of the finished product!

My Top 10 Tips

  1. Set a Budget! 

    It’s easy to get carried away thinking you are saving money just by ordering flowers in bulk but the costs still add up! Decide what your budget is and stick to it. One thing that can be helpful is to get quotes from local florists to get an idea of what your dream flowers would cost if you hired them out. Knowing that number will help you decide if it’s worth doing the work yourself or if you’d rather put your DIY resources elsewhere. If you’re not planning on elaborate centerpieces or other venue decor you might be better off hiring a professional for you and your bridesmaids bouquets! You can save a lot of money by keeping your design simple. Think single flower designs instead of crazy boho mixes that require many more types of flowers and filler.

  2. Develop a plan / flower “recipe”. 

    Pinterest is full of floral “recipes” that break down the main, secondary, and filler flowers needed to achieve a balanced arrangement. Browse your color scheme for recipes that fit your theme and research the costs involved – keeping in mind potential substitutions for pricier flowers. Carnations are a great swap-out for fancier flowers and can save you a ton. Most of the major bulk wedding floral websites will also offer recipes or pre-designed mixes. Use these “recipes” more as inspiration than as a roadmap and you can find unique combinations at any price point.

  3. Start shopping early.

    Most bulk floral websites recommend placing your order 3-6 weeks in advance or up to 60 days before the day of delivery. This is obviously a shorter window of time needed than if you were planning to use a traditional florist but the earlier you start shopping around for the lowest prices and confirming availability, the easier it will be synchronize your deliveries! Some flowers you might be thinking of using may not even be in season for your wedding so be sure to check before you get too attached to a certain style.

  4. Look for coupons! 

    I am a coupon maniac when it comes to large purchases. Every website I shopped at offered a “first time order” coupon or other promotion. Take advantage of any savings you can get your hands on. If your supplier offers a free floral care kit- take it! If you can get 10% off by signing up for emails, go for it! I saved about $25 total on my wedding flowers with easy coupons… it’s not a ton of money but why spend the extra $25 when it is so easy to save?! I also got a free floral supply kit for ordering a certain dollar amount which really came in handy!

  5. Ask for help.

    Whether you are in the planning stages, ready for flower care, or actually making the arrangements, always ask for help! When you order bulk flowers they typically arrive 2-3 days before your wedding and require some love to make them camera ready. The few days before your wedding can be stressful tying together all of the loose ends so put someone in charge of caring for the flowers if you don’t feel up to it! When it comes to designing your arrangements, chances are somebody in your circle of friends or family has some experience working with flowers. I was super lucky to have a cousin, my mother-in-law, and my bridesmaids help out on our big day- all of whom had experience in floral arrangements. Ask around to see if perhaps Aunt Sharon worked at a floral shop or if your cousin took a floral class once in college. If you don’t have anyone with hands-on experience assign somebody to binge watch the zillions of Youtube videos that can help you make gorgeous bouquets and centerpieces.

  6. Make sure you have basic floral supplies.

    You’ll need some supplies for initial care as well as for arranging. Be sure to have plenty of buckets on hand for when the flowers arrive. We ran out of floral wire (and maybe tape?) while working on our arrangements which could have been a disaster if we weren’t so close to a big box store. Be sure to have all of the supplies you’ll need to achieve your desired results. Most websites will sell kits with the basics- flower food, floral scissors, wire, wire cutters, and floral tape. It’s SO easy to overlook these necessities so assign one of your bridesmaids to the task. Remember that your supplies will include things like vases, containers, wooden skewers for any non-flower items, ribbon, foam, pins for boutonnieres etc. Get a little more wire than you think you need because chances are you’ll use it up (or it will get tangled into a disastrous mess that is impossible to untangle).

  7. Don’t forget filler flowers. 

    So you’ve spent a ton of time deciding on your main and secondary flowers, you’re ready to click that “Proceed to Checkout” button.. BUT WAIT! Do you have greenery in your cart? Filler flowers? I can’t stress enough how important these elements are. Having these extra stems will help your flowers go from looking totally handmade to much more professional. Most websites sell mixed greenery packs but you can get away with one choice of greenery and one filler flower. I ended up foraging some wildflowers for my bridesmaids bouquets on the day before the wedding because Blackeyed Susans were in perfect bloom in our shop yard.

  8. Think outside the box.

    When I was planning out our flowers I kept falling in love with ranunculus and peonies but they were definitely not in my budget. I found a wood flower company that makes gorgeous wood flowers that ended up being perfect for the whole vibe of our wedding. You can order your wood flowers pre-dyed or dye them yourself. I loved that these flowers were eco-friendly and would last a lifetime so I had fun incorporating them into my bouquet, crown, and other floral decor. My biggest tip for working with wood flowers is to order samples or to dye them yourself if you are super picky about the color tone. My main flowers ending up much more red than I imagined but were still lovely. If you are going for a very specific shade, consider ordering some samples in advance or dyeing them yourself and be sure to save them after the wedding!

  9. Read the FAQs! 

    Pretty straightforward advice, but you’d be surprised! Almost any specific question you could ever dream of has already been asked and answered by someone else. Take some time to read the FAQ section of the website you are planning to order from before panicking. Take advantage of the Customer Support both before and during the process to make things go as smoothly as possible.

  10. Have realistic expectations. 

    When it comes to DIY flowers it’s important to keep your expectations in check. Professional florists have years of experience and training and when you work with one you are paying for that expertise. If you or your loved ones have ZERO experience arranging flowers, chances are you won’t end up with the insanely intricate ten foot table runner you saw on a wedding blog. Keep your design simple and your expectations in line with your skill and budget. I know for a fact that the best part of our DIY wedding flowers was the time spent in the kitchen chatting with family in friends while putting the whole thing together.

 

My  Real-life Costs & Experience

Our wedding was a camp themed, outdoor affair at a local state park. I loved the look of loose, casual wildflower bouquets with lots of color and I knew that I wanted to wear a flower crown. We kept the table arrangements super simple with just a few stems in recycled brown bottles.

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I ordered my flowers from Blooms By The Box and had them delivered to my husband’s woodshop. My brother-in-law was in charge of care since he has experience with plant care and was way calmer than I was at this point. For some reason I was feeling the stress at this stage and thankfully brother Craig stepped in, kept me calm, and saved the day.

How To DIY Wedding Flowers

Brother Craig kept the flowers looking fresh from the time they arrived and when we got to the venue we put them all in large stand up fridges. All flowers are different so be sure to follow the instructions that come with your order.

We were lucky to have a fully stocked kitchen available for use at our venue so that became the flower station on the day of the wedding. My cousin Kelly worked on my bouquet and my NM momma Sue put together most of the other bouquets and larger arrangements (I think? I was pretty frazzled at this point because I was trying to make my own flower crown which was a mistake). My bridesmaid Jodi came to the rescue and took over flower crown making and my friend Emily helped with greenery crowns and wire untangling.

I feel like a lot happened behind the scenes that I didn’t completely catch but I was absolutely STUNNED by the finish products and so grateful to everyone involved in making my ideas come to life. When the bouquets and crowns got brought to the cabin where we were getting ready I was blown away.

DIY Wedding Flowers My Actual Brand Blooms By the Box

As a reference here is what I ordered and spent on the flowers for the following:

  • 1 Medium-Large Bridal Bouquet
  • 1 Bridal Flower Crown
  • 3 Medium Bridesmaid Bouquets
  • 3 Greenery Crowns
  • 3 Boutonnieres
  • 30-40 brown bottle table arrangements
  • 2 floral swags for signs
  • 3-4 Extra vase arrangements for gift and dessert tables

 

Blooms By Box Bulk Wedding Flowers

 

Sola Wood Wedding Flowers

All in all I easily spent less than $500 on a crapload of wedding flowers that I feel rivaled the pros. If you kept your style more simple and focused on the main elements (bridal bouquet, bridesmaid bouquets, and boutonnieres) you can easily keep your floral costs even lower. Ultimately you’ll remember how you felt on your wedding day and not what your flowers looked like so try not to get too stressed either way and know that a good photographer can make even the most simple or awkwardly arranged flowers look pretty darn good. Have fun with it and enjoy the time spent planning and arranging because the memories are ultimately priceless!

 

WHY I WORE A $200 WEDDING DRESS

Despite my interest in sewing and love for quirky fashion throughout my life, I honestly never thought much about my wedding dress before I got engaged. I know that some girls dream about their wedding gown from a young age (I’ll be honest I had like, five things pinned on my *secret* wedding Pinterest Board) but I just figured I’d find something that worked for me when the time came.

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Although I didn’t have a certain style in mind, I did have a few requirements for my wedding dress. I wanted to find either something vintage or something secondhand and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a piece of clothing I’d only wear for a few hours.

Most importantly, I wanted to feel 100% like myself in my wedding dress. I wanted to move like myself, sit like myself, dance like myself… I didn’t want to worry about spilling wine on my gown or walking through mud and I didn’t want to feel constrained in any way (“I can’t breathe!” “I can’t bend over!” “Ahhh everyone is stepping on my 20 foot train!).

I know that my thrifty/practical approach to finding my wedding dress is probably not right for everyone and although I was completely pleased with my modest budget I fully understand splurging on this once-in-a-lifetime ensemble. I had as much fun trying on fancy dresses as I did donning goofy gowns. And *spoiler alert* I truthfully considered the brand new shiny dress with a price tag of $2,000 for a hot minute because… well… it was just SO PRETTY. Ultimately I went with my gut and I am so glad I did!

Here’s how “the dress” came to be!

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Sometime in the fall before our wedding (October? Maybe November?) I hopped in the car with my bridesmaids and headed down to Minneapolis/St. Paul to go dress shopping. My mom (who lives back in the Chicago suburbs) drove up to meet us there for the weekend trip which we had planned to fill with a few trips to bridal consignment shops and new boutiques.

Even if you 100% know that you want to buy a brand new dress I highly suggest checking out some bridal consignment stores- it’s so much fun and takes all of the pressure off of dress shopping. You can try on the most ridiculous/out of style dresses and goof around and nobody will be uptight about you being silly in the changing rooms. Let your bridesmaids each pick out a dress for you – funny or for real and I promise you will not be let down! Here’s a fun one from the first shop we visited.

Wedding Dress Shopping Advice

I tiered… I mean… tried on everything from terrible 90’s dresses, a dusty Beetlejuice number, and a halter dress that I am 100% sure was for a quinceanera. Even though we were having a lot of fun, we didn’t find anything even close to a “maybe” at the first shop and got ready to head to the next store on our list.

As we were getting ready to leave I made one more pass through the aisles and found myself browsing in sizes that were completely out of my range when I spotted a fabric I fell in love with. It was a cute, ivory floral lace that reminded me of a summer picnic and was unlike any fabric I’d seen on a wedding dress before.

I pulled out the dress and was surprised by it’s simplicity. “That’s cute” I thought and went to hang the dress back up knowing it was about 5 sizes too big. My mom noticed me  and suggested I try it on anyways, “Why not?” she said. And so I did.

Saving Money on Wedding Dress

It took a few clips in the back to imagine the dress in my size but once I got it on I was completely surprised by how much I liked it. It wasn’t at all what I thought I was looking for but between the fabric, the neckline, and the simple silhouette I thought it definitely had potential.

The price tag was impressive too. At $199 dollars I was definitely intrigued by the thought of saving so much on this element of the wedding. We knew that we had other shops to browse so we asked the staff if we could put the dress on hold while we continued our shopping. (This was our very first stop after all!) Nope. The shop couldn’t place holds on dresses and wouldn’t be open the next two days – we would be long gone by the time they reopened.

I was torn. I wasn’t ready to buy a dress at the first shop we visited without even trying on other gowns but I saw a lot of potential in the dress and didn’t want to miss the opportunity either. I changed back into my street clothes, mulling things over in my mind, it was only $200 after all and I could always do my own alterations and hem it to wear for my bridal shower or rehearsal dinner. Maybe I should just go for it?

By the time I made it out of the fitting rooms I noticed all of my bridesmaids were weirdly emotional and that my mom was missing. That’s when I realized that she had snuck off to buy the dress for me. Ugh. I was amazed. With most wedding gowns being thousands of dollars there was literally no situation where I imagined my mom buying my wedding dress for me. It was such a surprise and made it so special. Of course she had the same attitude as I did about the dress, “If it works, great! If not, who cares?”.

We left the first shop excited about having a strong contender to bring home but were all still excited about other possibilities. Our next stop was at another bridal consignment boutique and it was full of more silly dresses including this “super Catholic” look that my mom loved because it was traditional AF and also “white” (not ivory/champagne like I was looking for, haha).

Save on your Wedding Dress

Our last stop of the weekend was a fancy/traditional bridal boutique. It was spotless and perfectly lit and we all had to remove our shoes when we got there. I had an attendant help me into each gown and stuff weird pillows into the back of dresses that were too big – no more big ass binder clips!

I tried on a range of dresses knowing that this was all just for fun. From gorgeous mermaid style gowns to big poofy princess dresses – it was the stereotypical dress shopping experience I think every gal should have. I felt beautiful in every single dress (even this ridiculous blush gown with the removable skirt) but despite the glitz and glamour I knew I was getting married in a friggin’ State Park and there was no need for hand beaded lace overlays or ten pounds of tulle.

Save on Wedding Dress

Until I tried on this dress…

Ummm. What?! Look at that back! Look at that neckline! Look at how nice my boobs look! Oh, wait, it’s available in champagne with a light gold underlay? Well, shit. Take my money.

How to save on wedding dress

Yes, it’s true. Underneath the beautiful bridal boutique lighting with the delicate (and probably $250) veil perfectly in place I was seeing what I feel like women are conditioned to want for their wedding day – a polished, perfect looking dress that made me feel special. And my wedding was a special day after all, wasn’t it?

I was torn. The dress was about $2,000 (the most I told myself I’d EVER spend on a wedding dress) and was made to order so if I wanted it I’d have to order it soon. I got some information and we left before I fell completely under the spell of the mood lighting and general fanciness.

On the drive back to Fargo I talked it over with my ladies and I knew that the fancy dress was not for me. I wasn’t sure at that moment if the dress in the back of my Volkswagen was for me either but I was sure of one thing – I wasn’t going to wear a $2,000 wedding dress. Not because I felt like I didn’t deserve one or that there is anything wrong with spending as much money as you want on your wedding gown but because it just wasn’t who I am as a person.

I’m the girl that gets compliments on shirts that I find at the thrift store for $3. I’m the girl that tears apart clothes that are way too big to make them fit me because I like the fabric. The dress in the back of my car needed some work before it felt like my wedding dress but that’s what would make it my own and ultimately that’s what would make me the happiest.

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So with the help of the seamstress who owns the alterations shop next to my old store (yep, my necktie store was right next to a seamstress who specializes in prom & bridal) we shrunk the dress down to size, popped in some bra cups and hemmed it to height.

I wavered in my commitment to the dress over the summer and had one or two freak outs as the wedding got closer (because I am human and apparently like, 90% of all brides do this). But when it came time to put on the dress on my wedding day I knew that I made the right choice.

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It had rained the entire morning on the day of our wedding so the ground was wet and there were puddles and a bit of mud. My tiny little train dragged through wet leaves and ended up getting smushed into s’mores by the end of the evening but none of that mattered. The whole day and the whole night I felt completely like myself, I was able to dance freely, drink and eat freely, and best of all… brag to everyone when they complimented my dress that it only cost $200! (I am my mother’s daughter.)

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By the time we made it to our cute little honeymoon cabin I noticed that the hem of my dress was filthy and I couldn’t help but laugh. I slid it back into the dress bag knowing that, like most brides, I wouldn’t be taking out again for a long time and I smiled feeling satisfied that I squeezed every inch of life out of it.

It turns out that I did take my dress out of the bag to write this blog post and I cracked up when I looked at it. There is literally still a leaf hanging from the hem.

With our wedding a thing of thing of the past it is fun to look back on the whole process of planning our day. I spend a lot of time working with couples on small details of their weddings (making neckties + bow ties) and I know how little things can add so much meaning to a celebration.

Being on the other side of the planning process I also have realized that the most important and most meaningful thing you can do for your wedding is to stay true to yourself. Think about the big picture and who you are as a person, not just about what you want your wedding to look like or what you think your wedding should look like.

As much as you’ll remember those turquoise and coral bridesmaids dresses (mainly because there will be photographic evidence of them for all of time) you’ll mostly remember how you felt. As great as feeling beautiful or magical or “perfect” seems, nothing really beats feeling 100% like yourself.

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