Friday, January 31, 2014

The Sweetest Gift

I found the nicest surprise while I was getting ready for work this morning. I was looking in my jewelry box to choose earrings for today, when I noticed a little white box on the dresser, open, with a pair of teardrop-amethyst earrings inside. I wondered if Shera had left them there, or maybe Jacob had gotten them for his girlfriend. Then I saw the note under the box.

I picked up the note and started reading, and soon tears were pouring down my face. I had to fix my makeup before I could leave for work!

You see, the other day I was concerned about a situation Jacob had chosen to be part of. Nothing terrible, but as a mom who envisions all the horrible things that might happen, I gave him the dreaded, guilt-provoking "It's your decision but..." lecture that makes all adult children cringe. "Oh, be wise, my son," I quoted. In the end, he decided to take himself out of the situation.

The next morning I felt like I'd come on a little too strong. I felt bad about it, so before I went to work I left Jacob a note. I told him that I love his good heart and his trusting spirit, and I am so proud of the man he is becoming. Then I reminded him that, as human beings, we all have weaknesses that will be tried if we place ourselves in situations Satan can use against us. I do trust you, I said, but I know personally how it feels to carry the burden of regret for most of a lifetime. I don't want that for my children. 

Jacob is not one who enjoys putting pen to paper, but this note was a full page, closely written, and every word touched my heart. I will share only the beginning here, but his entire message was deeply endearing.

After I read it, I went in and woke him up to give him a hug. I told him he doesn't need to give me presents, but I do love the earrings. I will treasure them always, but even more so I will cherish his letter forever. The earrings were a sweet gift. His message was even sweeter.

But the sweetest gift of all is the privilege of having three amazing children who call me "Mom." 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Frugal Wedding Planner

11 Jan 2014

As I explained in an earlier post, Ryan and Shera's wedding came on unexpectedly due to their sudden decision to be baptized, giving us a mere 18 days to pull it off. Time was not the only constraint. Our budget was extremely limited since the prospective bride and groom were both looking for jobs and I was myself divorce-lawyer-poor.

Thankfully, I had an idea how to proceed, since it had been only two and a half years since my daughter Sarah and I planned her wedding on a shoestring budget. Expecting perhaps 50 guests this time instead of 200+ also helped simplify things.

That old adage "Many hands make light work" also proved to be a huge blessing for us as we moved forward with our plans. We are so grateful for the family and friends who stepped in to make this special day wonderful.

The first thing we had to do was send out invitations. Shera found a free website with a design she liked, so we personalized it to their tastes and I printed them on my computer. Once the invitations were delivered, we turned our attention to the rest of the items on my very long list . . . 

One important item was reserving the church building. Another was arranging for our bishop, Trace Wengert, to officiate. Both were available, at no charge for either, of course. Too bad we couldn't say the same for the marriage license. The going rate in Navajo County is $76. Aargh!

Shera's new gown as a work in progress.

We began by searching for a wedding gown. Our search took us all over the mountain, looking at all sorts of white dresses, both long and short. In the end, at a thrift shop just a few blocks from home, we found a beautiful, old-fashioned, beaded wedding gown with a long train and a floor-length veil with a Capulet-style cap. We couldn't believe it when they offered it to us for just $40!

Shera didn't care for the sleeves and wondered if we could cut them off somehow. The very idea made me cringe! I told her there was only one person I'd trust to alter that lovely gown: our friend and neighbor, talented seamstress Barbara Badger. Barbara agreed and did an amazing job of not only altering the sleeves, but also the bodice and the bustle, adding beads from her own wedding gown. With only one week to work, she made that dress classy!

And, to top it off, Barbara made the garter, using the pink zebra-striped ribbon we used on the bouquets for the bridesmaids! It was adorable!

Shera and Tahna at the beauty salon before the wedding.

Shera also decided against the veil that came with the gown. She admired Sarah's veil and tiara in her wedding pictures, so Sarah happily loaned them to her. Sarah's veil is scattered with little pearls, making it a perfect match for the dress. Barbara loaned her a pair of pearl earrings and I loaned her my great-great grandmother's double-strand pearl necklace. Sarah's good friend (and former bridesmaid) Tahna Peterson offered to do Shera's hair at no cost, and she did a gorgeous job, with pearls scattered throughout Shera's curls.

As for the groom, there was no tuxedo in the budget. So we bought him a black shirt to go with his black church pants, a white tie borrowed from Dylan, and a black jacket borrowed from Jacob. He was very happy to find in my closet a pair of dress shoes that once belonged to his Grandpa Reynolds, whom Ryan never got to know since he last saw him when he was 3 years old.

Bouquets for the bridesmaid, matron of honor, and bride.

Once we had the gown, we needed bouquets. After much debate and several mind-changes, Ryan and Shera finally agreed upon black, white, and hot pink for their colors. We scoured all the dollar stores in the area for cloth flowers in those colors. 

Initially, we thought there would be only 2 bouquets, one for the bride and one for Sarah, her bridesmaid. Shera selected some funky pink flowers and zebra-striped daisies, and I found some pink zebra-striped ribbon, and voila! We had to color the daisies' yellow-and-brown centers with a black marker to make it work, but in the end they were very cute.

Just days before the wedding, we learned that Shera's sister Christine was going to be able to drive all the way from Missouri for the wedding. We couldn't not include Shera's own sister in the wedding party! So the larger bridal bouquet became Christine's matron of honor bouquet and we went back to the dollar stores in search of more cloth flowers. This time Shera fell in love with more subtle sprays of white and pink flowers, heavy on the white, envisioning a slightly more traditional bouquet with white ribbon to go with her traditional wedding gown. I thought it turned out to be very elegant.

The issue of wedding rings was a tricky one. Both Ryan and Shera have a vision of the rings they want to exchange someday, but those will have to wait until they have jobs and settle into their own place someday. Meanwhile, I loaned Shera a diamond solitaire from my 10th anniversary with my first husband, Mark, and had it cut down to fit her smaller finger ($30) so she could use it as a temporary wedding ring. For Ryan we searched pawn shops for a ring he could use and finally settled on a very cool "Native American story ring," which has symbols carved into it ($40). We have no idea what they mean, but very cool!

Next, we had to plan a table to meet the guests as they arrived. I went through all the pictures I'd taken of Ryan and Shera in the 4 months since I'd met them and chose several to have printed. Only about $5.00 at Walmart for all of them. We put our favorites in $1 frames from Dollar Tree, and the rest went into a little photo album I gave them as my wedding gift, which they can now fill with their wedding pictures.

I had found a childhood picture of Ryan on Facebook, in which I estimate he is about 3 or 4 years old, and we thought it would be fun to have childhood pictures of both newlyweds in a double frame. So Shera called and asked her mom to email us some of her baby pictures, and we unanimously selected our favorite to display alongside Ryan's.

We struggled to come up with a way to have guests leave the newlyweds a message and signature as they entered, but it seemed silly to buy a big guest book for a small wedding, in which most of the pages would be left empty. Then we came across this picture matte with pen, on which the guests could scrawl notes to the happy couple all around their favorite photo. We loved it! Now all it needs is a frame.

The wedding cake was a half-sheetcake from Walmart for just $25. Our Relief Society from church stepped in and paid for the cake after Ryan and Shera ordered the design they liked. The original design featured a centerpiece of red roses, but they decided to go with the cute "Mr. and Mrs." topper instead. It was a very yummy marble cake under the buttercream frosting!

My sweet Sarah offered to pay for nearly all the reception decorations as a gift to the bride and groom. We were able to get the plastic tablecloths, napkins, cups, plates, and forks in black-and-white-and-pink from Walmart for only $1 each package. 

Sharla Gardner made cupcakes and we borrowed platters from the church kitchen to display them. Carissa Flitton loaned us two punch dispensers, and we served up pink lemonade and raspberry lemonade from them. The wine glasses, the pink vase, the cake knife/server, and the candy dishes for the cookies and nuts came from my cupboards. 

The guest tables were fun to do. Instead of vases, which we could have borrowed from the relief Society, Shera wanted a more rustic look. So we bought and drank a 6-pack of orange cream soda and used the cute little glass bottles to hold the flower arrangements made of more cloth flowers from--you guessed it--Dollar Tree. We found the pink-and-white glass gemstones to fill the bottoms of the bottles at Walmart. We did borrow the tablecloths from the relief Society.

Although I had a bunch of candy dishes left from Sarah's wedding, which we'd purchased at every thrift shop on the mountain in 2011, Shera found a bunch of mismatched Mason jars in the cupboard above my refrigerator and came up with her own vision of candy dishes. We bought some pink and black polka dot ribbons and a few more cloth flowers, and Sarah used my glue gun to decorate the Mason jars for the guest tables.

Into the dishes went pink, white, and red M&Ms, pink- and white-wrapped Hershey's Kisses, pink and white Good & Plentys, and Oreo cookies with pink berry frosting in the middle. Some pink confetti and black sequins scattered around the centerpieces finished off a pretty setting for the guests to enjoy.

Dylan and his music set-up

Finally, you can't have a wedding these days without music or a photographer. As the best man, Dylan volunteered to provide the music mix for both the wedding march and the dancing. With the exception of one small surprise at the end of the wedding march, the music was handled very nicely.

As for pictures, I originally planned to do those myself. Thank goodness Eugene and Wyndie Prestwich offered to capably handle that responsibility for us, because I was pretty busy all night. We ended up with some awesome pictures, as well as video to send home with Christine so Shera's Missouri family could experience her wedding day.

While Sarah took Shera and Christine to Tahna's salon to have Shera's hair done, my sons Jacob, Dylan, and Ryan, along with Shera's cousin Sam and Jacob's girlfriend Danielle, provided the manpower to set up and decorate for the reception in plenty of time to go home and dress for the wedding.

I'm not exaggerating when I say we couldn't have done it without the many willing hands who helped make Ryan and Shera's day so special!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wedding Celebrants

11 Jan 2014

And what is a wedding without the wedding party? Here are some formal group photos of those who participated in the wedding, as well as some of the guests who came to celebrate with us.

Best Man Dylan; the Bride's cousin Sam (who walked her down the aisle and gave her away);
Groomsman Jacob; the Groom Ryan; the Bride Shera; Matron of Honor Christine 
(Shera's sister, who came all the way from Missouri with Sam); and Bridesmaid Sarah.

The wedding party looks on, aghast, while the Bride and Groom make sucky-face!

The ladies: Jacob's girlfriend Danielle (who caught the bouquet);
stepmother of the Groom, Mary; Bride Shera;
Matron of Honor Christine; and Bridesmaid Sarah.

The Groom Ryan with the ladies: Christine, Mary, Sarah, and Danielle.

The Bride and Groom with the guys: Dylan, Jacob, Sam, and Sarah's husband Chris.

Our whole family together: Jacob, Danielle, Dylan, Mary, Ryan, Shera,
Chris, and Sarah (that's left to right).

The Bride and Groom with Shera's family: her sister Christine and cousin Sam,
who were able to come to the wedding from Missouri.

Shera and her sister Christine

Shera and her new stepmother-in-law Mary

Mary, Ryan, and Shera with Mary's step-mom Kathy and Mary's dad Myron

The Bride and Groom with their sister missionaries: Sister Wallace (left) and Sister Knight.

Shera and Ryan with Bishop Trace Wengert, who performed the marriage ceremony.

The Bride with Barbara Badger, the talented seamstress (among many other talents)
 who took a $40 thrift shop wedding gown and turned it into something incredible!

Sarah, Chris, Danielle, Jacob, Dylan, Sam, and Christine 
relax after the festivities die down.

I'm sorry that I didn't get pictures of all the guests throughout the reception. As mother-of-the-groom, as well as the one who put on the wedding, I was busy all night and didn't take these shots until the very end of the evening, when most of the guests had left. However, the people in these pictures were our stalwart friends who stayed until the very end, helping us quickly clean up after the departure of the Bride and Groom. Our deepest gratitude to them!

Eugene and Wyndie Prestwich; Bridgette Blake; Robert and Susan Holden and their son Leevi.

My dad Myron Butler and his wife Kathy.

Our missionaries, Sister Wallace and Sister Knight.

Bishop Trace Wengert and his wife Jeanette, with Sharla Gardner.

Sharla and Dirk Gardner (our former bishop).

Jeanette Wengert, Sharla Gardner, and Jaydean Holden.

A special thanks to our friends Eugene and Wyndie, who volunteered to be our photographers throughout the evening. I had planned to do it myself, but I can see now that it just wouldn't have been possible.

Wyndie Prestwich sets up a shot during the dancing at the end.

Without the assistance of so many caring friends, this lovely wedding would have never happened as smoothly and as beautifully as it did. We love you all!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beautiful Bride

January 11, 2014: Bridesmaid Sarah zips the Bride into her wedding gown.

These are just a few of my favorite pictures of the glowing bride taken from her wedding day. Right before the wedding I caught her in the little room where she was getting dressed and took these first three photos.

Shera is a beautiful bride!

A lovely shot of the incredible hairdo by Tahna Peterson. Sarah loaned Shera the tiara and veil from her own wedding. The pearl earrings were borrowed from Barbara Badger. And the pearl necklace belonged to my great-great grandmother.

One last look before marching down the aisle.

The rest of these pictures were taken after the ceremony by either myself or Eugene or Wyndie Prestwich. The bride was so beautiful there was no way to get a bad shot!

This one is mine. I had to have a picture of that long train!

Eugene took this picture from the side while I was taking the last one from the back.

And, of course, there is no beautiful bride without a gorgeous groom. Here are some sweet shots of the happy couple, Ryan and Shera:

Made for each other!