Monday, October 29, 2012

5 Days...

In 5 days (from this very second) I will be walking down the aisle to the man of my dreams and my best friend in the whole world - Aaron Kiva Mertz.

In 5 days I will be promising to love him for the rest of my life and stand beside him forever.

In 5 days I will be his wife. I will be his partner. I will care more about someone else than I will myself.

In 5 days I will embark on the crazy adventure of marriage. I know it will be challenging, difficult, amazing, joyful, filled with excitement and hope and wonder. And I will be doing it all with the most amazing man I have ever met and will ever meet.

In 5 days I will dance with at our reception. The moment I have always dreamed about! We will be surrounded by family and friends and loved ones who will continue to support us throughout our entire marriage.

In 5 days I will leave my wedding, with my HUSBAND! We will run through a line of sparklers to our get away car. We will drive to one of the most beautiful resort hotels I have ever known and take a big sign of relief that the wedding planning is over and the rest of our lives have begun.

In 5 days I will move into Phoenix to live with the person I will always live with for forever!

In 5 days I will be Mrs. Mertz!

Can you tell I'm excited?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bridal Showers!!!

Oh my gosh!!! It is actually happening!! The official wedding festivities have begun and therefore, it is getting more and more real and more and more exciting!!

I will admit the wedding planning has grown stale and become an obligation more than anything to get excited about. Having 4 stores to stop at on my way home from work, only to not accomplish a single thing at any of the stores is more frustrating than I could handle there for a week or two. I never actually reached the point in every brides wedding planning process where you contemplate the merits of an elopement, but I did feel heavy feelings of regret for not spending the money (which I don't even have) to have someone do all the wedding planning for me. However, just as everything was becoming stressful and bleak, the bridal showers began!!!!

I was the girl that dreams about details of her wedding - from the centerpieces to the shoes to the music playing as I danced with my father to the first kiss with my new husband! But, I was NOT the girl who really thought about my bridal shower! I love bridal showers as much as the next wedding-obsessed girl, but I knew that the bridal shower was for someone else to plan, and I had too much mental space dedicated to floral bouquets. So when it came time to planning my bridal showers, I was so incredibly thankful for my amazing bridesmaids, beautiful mother-in-law, and spectacular mom who happily offered to throw showers for me!!! I trusted these women so much and was so thankful that they had a vision for those beautiful parties celebrating Aaron and I. I was also so thankful that I was free from having to think one minute about a bridal shower and focus all my attention on my DIY wedding :)

I am one incredibly blessed and honored woman!!!

First up was my large bridal shower! I invited mostly woman near my own age - married, single, and from all groups in my life. It was so much fun having those women all around me! Each of them I love and cherish so much! It was held at SunUp Brewery in Phoenix. I know what you are thinking - a bridal shower in a bar?? How classy of you Miranda... But seriously this place is so cool! They have a private banquet room with red brick walls, no neon beer signs, and big windows with just a really cool urban vibe. I loved it! My guests had delicious desserts to eat and were able to order ciders, beer, and wine if they wanted.

I have been to literally hundreds of bridal showers! Not even kidding :) So when I walked into mine, it was this overwhelming realization that after all the waiting, it was finally my turn! It was finally my shower!! One of my good friend's asked me if it was hard for me to believe that it was really my shower, and I just wanted to cry at how excited I was!

My beautiful, wonderful, uniquely gifted, and precious bridesmaids did all the planning and worked together to create a lovely evening.
My beautiful bridesmaids!! (Left to right: Nicole, Elisabeth, Jeannette, Me, Kendra, and Ashley)

There was no strict agenda, which was awesome because it gave everyone an opportunity to hang out and spend time talking with each other. It also gave me the chance to make my way around the room and talk to as many people as I could.
Me and the moms! (Aaron's mom Laurie, Me, My mom Linda)
I get to do life with these amazing group of women! (Left to Right: Jeannette, Heidi, Nicole, Me, Tara, Meredith, Kelsie, and Jessica)
The whole night was free of agenda and a chance for me to mingle with my friends and open gifts! These women were so generous with helping Aaron and I supply our home and marriage with such fun things :)
Such a daze of excitement, overwhelming love, and celebration!

The next bridal shower was just for family! Laurie (Aaron's mom) was so amazing at planning a beautiful brunch shower in her home. I was so honored to have a group of women around me who had so greatly affected Aaron and my life.
Delicious food!
 Each guest brought a recipe to share with me and my mom gave me the precious recipe box to hold them all in that she opened at her bridal shower 33 years ago.
Nicole made me a shadow box for Aaron and I to drop the tokens of our first year into. Shawn (my brother) drilled a slit at the top for easy access to drop in movie ticket stubs, plane ticket stubs, Disneyland ticket stubs, and other articles from our first year as husband and wife! Such an amazing gift :)
I was given an array of heirloom gifts of glassware, blankets, and a handmade afgan from my Mamaw. Laurie gave me a family cookbook spanning generations of Aaron's family.

Emolyn was my special helper! I was so glad to have her there :)
My niece Emolyn was able to come and she was so excited to be at a real ladies shower! She also made a friend in Aaron's cousin Katie's daughter Tessa. They played princesses together on the floor while I opened all my gifts.
My Aunt Etna came to represent her family :) We missed Anya and Myra for sure!

Me and Mamaw with my dad. I was SO grateful Mamaw got to come.

My sister-in-law Nicole, Emolyn, and I
It was so much fun to have family around me celebrating Aaron and I during this time!! I can't believe how blessed I am by my family and future family!

One more shower to go, which will be held a week before the wedding and has been organized by my mom to be a prayer shower. I am so excited for this shower and to have the week before my wedding start off with prayer and affirmation from some wonderful older women and friends! This last month before the wedding will be such a time of celebration!

Just 3 more weeks to go!!!!!

P.S. My bachelorette party is this weekend and it is entirely a surprise! I have no idea what is planned, but I know I have amazing woman planning all the fun and festivities, so I have NO DOUBT it'll be a blast! I will post on that soon :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

44 days!

I found this on a wedding blog I follow and thought it would be fun to post it on here :)

1. What are your middle names? Rachael & Kiva
2. How long have you been together? It was one year on September 2nd :)
3. How long did you know each other before you started dating? haha! My first memory of him was a month after I turned 12 years old (nearly 16 years ago, now). We met during the church Christmas musical production. We grew up in the same youth group and were in the same group of friends through high school.
4. Who asked who out? He asked me :)
5. Whose siblings do you see the most? His probably... but with Aaron being best friends with my older brother, he actually might see my siblings more than I do. ha!
6. Do you want children? We are excited to have some someday... but hopefully a day several years in the future :) We are just excited to be married and get to live life the two of us for a little while!
7. What about pets? No pets... We are dog people though. However, we agree our lives are too busy for a pet. Maybe when we have kiddos :)
8. Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple? He's a quick processor and I am slow processor, but we are learning to meet in the middle.
9. Did you go to the same school? We never went to the same school, but we were in the same youth group. He was two years ahead of me.
10. Are you from the same home town? yes... sort of. I grew up on Tempe, Arizona and he grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. We lived 30 minutes away from each other, but I spent so much time in Phoenix, I feel like it's apart of my hometown. 
11. Who is the smartest? Aaron for sure! He was Validictorian in High school and went to Grad School and everything. He is also just generally wiser than I am. I mean I hold my own, but he is definitely the smart one :)
12. Where do you eat out most as a couple? He has been introducing me to a lot of great Phoenix Restaurants. I don't know if we have eaten the same place twice! Except Mr. Sushi's on Northern and the I-17 and The Vig. Food is definitely and interesting thing in our relationship, we have very different tastes in food sometimes... I am mac and cheese... he is tofu and hummus. But it helps that I am willing to try new things a lot and he has no real problems with a good cheeseburgers and french fries :)
13. Who has the craziest ex? that is a complicated question... it is a tie, but neither situation was an official relationship and therefore neither was considered an official "ex".
14. Who has the worst temper? I really don't think either of our tempers are particularly bad, maybe a tie, but a good tie.
15. Who does the cooking? Aaron! I don't feel fully capable as a cook, so he does a lot of it... or we eat out (see question #12).
16. Who is more social? both of us are home bodies and introverts. But I think we are equal in our socializing. We both care very deeply for the friendships we have.
17. Who is the neat-freak? I am a deep cleaner, which means I wait until it is really messy and then clean every inch of everything... which will probably mean he will be more neat than I am overall. ha
18. Who is the more stubborn? depends on what we are being stubborn about. I think both of us are able to concede and serve the other person... at least right now/ Ask me again after a couple years of marriage. ha!
19. Who hogs the bed? In 44 days we will know for sure, but knowing how I normally sleep and how he normally sleeps... the poor man won't stand a chance. I sleep diagonal across my double bed with my arms and legs in all directions. He says he sleeps in the fetal position. hm...
20. Who wakes up earlier? He does for sure!!! I am NOT a morning person... but our work schedules will mean that I will have to wake up about 30 minutes before he needs to... but I guarantee you, he will still be awake long before I am most of the time.
21. Where was your first date? Well we went to Liberty Market in Gilbert for dinner the night he asked me out, but it was supposed to be just friends and we each paid for ourselves. A week later he took me out to Culinary Dropout in Scottdale and then we saw The Guard at the Camelview theaters. I remember it feeling so strange to hold him hand and for him to put his arm around me. The thought still makes me giddy.
22. Who has the bigger family? I do! I have big families from both my mom and dad. Aaron's mom's family is pretty small, but his dad's family is big.
23. Do you get flowers often? I definitely get them more often than I use to! I like the irregularity of his flower giving, it is a surprise every time!
24. How do you spend the holidays? Good question!! With the wedding being at the beginning of November and all our focus being on that, we have yet to discuss what we are going to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I stresses me out when I think about it... so I choose not to think about it at all.
25. How long did it take to get serious? I tell people it feels like Aaron and I started dating on the 9th month of our relationship. After knowing each other for 15 years, we didn't have to learn a ton about each other's family or past or like and dislikes... so we dove into the serious stuff right away. We also are both in a place in life, where we didn't want to waste time. So we said I love you about 2 months in and started having talks about marriage 4 months in. He proposed just short of 8 months.
26. Who eats more? Me! Haha... I also eat WAY less healthy than he does. 
27. Who does/did the laundry? Ladies laundry is way more complicated than guys laundry, so I'll probably take over and do it... or we'll do it together. 
28. Who’s better with the computer? We have never really tested it... but I would say me... or maybe its because I have a newer and nicer computer. ha 
29. Who drives when you are together? He drives more. It is a 45 minute drive from my house to his (which is where we usually meet up), so since I drive so far to get out there, he does the driving when we are together.
30. What are you most looking forward to as a couple? I think right now I am just looking forward to the blissful calm of finally being married. No more wedding planning taking away mental space, no more having to say goodnight by my car and having to drive 45 minutes before getting to sleep, no more scheduling time to see each other because we are busy and live so far away from each other. I am also looking forward to decorating our home... making it ours. I am looking forward to the holidays as a married couple. I am looking forward to Disneyland and Mexico for our honeymoons! I am also looking forward to the vacations we have planned in our heads before we decide to start a family - Thailand, Europe, New Zealand... hopefully we can do at least two out of the three in the next few years. I am looking forward to always being associated with Aaron and being Aaron's wife. I look forward to the day when no one remembers a time he and I weren't together. I love that man and am so proud to belong to him and that he belongs to me :)

Hope you enjoyed a peek into our relationship! This weekend is my first bridal shower thrown by my amazing bridesmaids!!!!! I am so excited that the festivities have begun! From this time out we have a wedding event nearly every weekend until the wedding!!! YAY!

And in BIG exciting news! My friend Carla is coming for the wedding all the way from London, England!! I met her when I studied there and we instantly became amazingly close friends. We have stayed close through Skype, email, and facebook. She came and visited me a couple years ago for a week and I was able to do a ton of fun day trips and showing her around the city. I even had a welcome party for her where she got to meet Aaron (but at that time he was just a friend who came to the party). She is excited now to meet him as my fiance and then husband. I am so excited to have her at our wedding!! To have her there as my guest of honor for the week leading up to the big celebration! I am so thankful that our friendship has lasted nearly 4 years and an ocean away. Excited to get to share this moment with her :)
Me and Carla (AKA Chels and Tilly)!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Charity Shoes!

Many years ago my friend Laura and I went out to coffee together. I remember hearing her heart for giving money to charities and how she wished she could always do more. Then she said something that has literally played in my head over and over again ever since. She said "I don't have more money to give, but I figure, I need shoes, so why wouldn't I buy TOMs?" What an amazing idea! I immediately started looking at different charities out there and specifically looking at their stores that sell Tshirts, jewelry, shoes, and other accessories which give their proceeds to the organization. What I discovered was amazing!! There are countless places to buy one-for-one items or clothing that is for a good cause. Then you have the many many partner companies that will create a line of jewelry on Etsy just to donate the profits to a charity! You could nearly complete a wardrobe with the stuff that is out there and know you gave a bit of money to people who need it.
In addition you also get to tell people about charity you gave to. When people ask me where I got my favorite 31bits bracelet, I get to tell them about women in Uganda who make them and who get to have an education because of the money I spend. Or when people see my Charity:Water T-shirt, I get to tell them about how there are people who have never had a sip of clean water. Or when people comment on my Falling Whistle necklace (which Aaron and his sister Ashley gave me for my college graduation last year), I get to tell them how children in the Congo are kidnapped and forced into child armies.

Last Christmas I decided to give my families only gifts that were charity based because 1.) I thought they would love the stuff I found and 2.) I wanted them to hear the amazing stories I have heard! My family loved the gift ideas and I cried giving each one to them and telling the stories of the people their gifts were helping! Even for Elsie (who was barely 1 year old at the time), I donated money to World Vision to buy a family a goat in Africa and got a little stuffed goat in return! Elsie loved her stuffed goat! I even donated the remainder of my Christmas budget to World Vision to help other causes.
My family was so amazed by the gifts they got, so this Christmas we all decided to forgo getting each other regular gifts (movies, toys, etc) and instead give each other charity based gifts! I am so excited for my family to do this! I know for me the process of gift giving forever changed me!

So when it came to my wedding, I was wanting to do what I could to give back. First stop - my shoes!!!

This was actually a little selfish of me :) I had wanted Sseko shoes since I first heard about them from my roomie and friend Elisabeth! She went to college with the girl who started the organization. Click HERE to read the story.
They were so cute and after watching Elisabeth wear her's around Disneyland for a whole day, I was convinced they must be beyond comfy! (and I thought TOMs or Crocs were the only comfy enough shoes for Disneyland)

So without further delay - here are my shoes!! Champagne Pink straps :)

Pink Champagne Wedding Sandals

I love them!! I tried them on when I got my dress fitted and they are so comfortable. I am going to have fun styling the straps in different ways till I find the wrap I love :)

I will also be buying additional staps to wear them all the time afterwards!

They also now have accessories!!! So as you wrap the shoes you can have a clip to accessorize and style up your sandals!

I love that a piece of my wedding attire will help these women in Uganda and bring awareness. When people ask me where I got my shoes, I will get to tell them these women's stories. Such a sweet reminder on my special day!

If you are looking for some fun charity gifts for the holidays or upcoming birthdays... or just for yourself, check out some of my favorite store below!

Sevenly (This place is amazing!! Every week there is a different Tshirt which gives money to a different charity! They are pretty stylish Tshirts too :) I have one for Mercy Ships and several times people have asked where I got my shirt or what it means, and I have raved about this organization and Mercy Ships alike!)
31Bits (These pieces of jewelry are SO affordable and fun!)
Given (This is a clothing line associated with World Vision)
    World Vision is an amazing organization where you can also sponsor a child for a monthly donation. You can also check out the charitable donation that can give families anything from clean water, to a goat. You can also give money toward their efforts to rescue woman and little girls from sex trafficing. Powerful stuff!)
Chains of Grace (associated with Love146)
Roozt (this actually links to several different companies)
To Write Love on Her Arms
Charity Water
Invisible Children
Falling Whistles
Compassion International (This is another organization that allows you to sponsor a child financially)

There are so many more, so please feel free to share any in the comments section!!!

Friday, August 24, 2012

To DJ or not to DJ??

... That is the question. Whether it is worth the money and an risky amount of trust in someone you don't know to create the perfect ambiance for your reception and in the mean time take A LOT of work off your plate, OR to brave the task of coming up with hours of music and perfected playlists of your own, ensuring you have the music you like and pick someone you know to take on the duties of being MC....

When I first began planning my wedding I was on a soap box about how necessary it was to have a DJ for the wedding. Aaron ask why it wasn't possible for us to turn on an iPod and run the reception ourselves remembering to cut the cake and have our first dance. I laughed at his suggestion and thought that we DEFINITELY needed a DJ. Afterall a DJ can make or break your reception!! You need someone who will carry the ambiance of the reception and make sure people are dance, have the reception flow from one event into another without a moment of your guests sitting around being bored. It is up to the DJ to announce the bridal party, announce when they are cutting the cake, when the bouquet will be tossed, and when the toasts will be happening. You also need to make sure that this DJ isn't awkward and doesn't hog the spotlight, or make off color jokes to pass the time, and isn't timid with speaking up and making sure things happen.
Will all of this said,  in the recent weeks I have asked myself just how important all of that actually is, and here are my questions and alternative solutions:

1. Risky trust!
With all of the above responsibilities resting on the shoulders of one man, it is really uneasy knowing that I will have met this person once or twice before the big day and have probably never seen him actually DJ a wedding!! This is a big risk for me to take! With a photographer you can look through picture after picture... with a videographer you can see their video footage to get the gist of their portfolio. But with a DJ, you might have a 5 minute clip from one of their weddings and that is entirely based on the taste of that particular bride and groom... so how to you know if this DJ will pronounce your best man's name right, or won't be annoying and talk too much, or won't pick awful songs to dance to and alienate a chunk of your guests cause he plays too much rap or too much Journey (note, I want to stop believe Steve Perry, I really really do).
With the way our wedding is shaping up, we have all of our friends involved in all the details. It is truly a community effort. From the photographer, videographer to the minister and caterer, they are all people we know and love! It is amazing how generous our friends and family have been. So with hiring a DJ, he would be the ONLY person there that we don't know, and we is the most vocal throughout the reception.

2. Music Selection
I am a big music person! I have the soundtrack of my wedding in my head and have specific songs I want to have playing during dinner, and during dancing, and before and after the wedding. I also have a do not play list so long I can't even begin to remember every song I hate hearing at weddings, so if I forget to put it on the "do not playlist" and then it starts playing, I'm going to be thinking in the middle of my reception - oh jeez, now people are going to associate My Endless Love with my wedding (note that is an awesomely bad cheesy song that I love, but will not have at my wedding - sorry if any of you had your first dance to this song). So with all these preferences, how realistic is it of me to expect me be able to give my DJ a playlist and say "play this and only this" and deny him the creativity of what he does. And with this desire to have more control over the music selection, wouldn't it just be more affordable to do it all myself from the get-go.

3. There's an app for that
Surprise!! The iPhone has an actual wedding app with allows you to control your wedding's music from start to finish!! You basically put music on your iPod/iPhone/iPad and assign the playlists to the different sections of the wedding - Pre Ceremony playlist, cocktail hour playlist, and dancing playlist. You also can assign specific songs to - Group Processional, Bride Processional, Recessional, Father/Daughter dance... etc. It even knows with certain special songs that it needs to pause afterward to give plenty of time for someone to turn the app off during your ceremony. Plus we have a friend who has a TON of sound equipment we can use from microphones, sound boards, to dance floor lighting.

4. What type of wedding are we REALLY having?
As Aaron and I have been thinking through our reception and planning our wedding, we have realized we may not be having the traditional reception like everyone else. We are having a backyard style wedding, which means, we are having fire pits, lawn chairs, and the dance floor is under a covered patio in the corner of the yard. Also since Aaron and I have basically grown up together most of our friends and family already know each other... so this will very much feel like a huge hang out party in someone's backyard! And we like it like that :) We definitely want dancing, but more than that, we want people to feel comfortable and relaxed. A DJ constantly telling you to get on the floor won't lend to that atmosphere. Also the dance floor is off in the corner, so if no one is dancing, it is not like people will notice a huge void in the middle of the room.

5. But how are you gonna make sure that people DO keep dancing?
Good question, I'm glad you asked :) The secret is.... DON'T PLAY SLOW SONGS!! Here is what happens with slow songs... people either take the opportunity to leave the dance floor to get a beverage or go to the bathroom or end up leaving to talk to people. OR they are single and it is awkward as heck to be standing in the middle of the dance floor after just having had a blast rocking out to Michael Jackson, now watching all your friends pair off and oh yeah, you're reminded that you don't have anyone to slow dance with - WORST PART OF A WEDDING RECEPTION!!! Believe me, I have been that sad person. So either way when a slow song hits 50% of the dance floor makes a pilgrimage off the dance floor and so when the next fast song comes on, you have a hard time getting people back out there. The answer is to keep the tempo fast and fun! People will leave for sure when they need to, but more people will join in as soon as their "jam" comes on! My friend Kendra just did this at her reception and it worked like a charm! People were dancing the whole time!
The no slow song rule of course does not include the first dance, father/daughter dance, and mother/son dance... all of which will be slow, but will happen before the fun dancing starts!

 I don't think I need to offer anymore of a case for my decision... and please hear me when I say that a DJ is invaluable if you decide to go with one. My advice is to definitely take the time to research and give yourself enough time before your decision needs to be made in order to meet with a few different DJs to make sure it is the right fit. If you have even more time, see if you can crash a wedding the DJ is playing at and so you can see him in action. Also decide what atmosphere you want to have at your reception. Do you want a dance party? or do you want dancing to be an option, but not the focus? This will help you decide if a DJ is necessary.

Sorry for the no post... to make up for it... here are some pictures of my inspiration for Centerpieces: 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


As much as I love planning my wedding, after the rush of the first few weeks - booking a venue, minister, photographer, getting a dress, organizing our wedding party, and spending hours and hours pouring over google docs (the best invention man has ever seen) filled with budgets, wedding timelines, check lists, and guest lists... I was kind of spent.
Now don't get me wrong, I still thought all about my wedding and added ideas to pinterest and dreamed of bridesmaids dresses, wedding shoes, paper straws, mason jars, and table linens, but Aaron and I quickly turned our attention to THE HONEYMOON!!!

Seriously, a wedding is one day and it will be captured by tons of pictures and talked about for years and hopefully one day my daughter will sit on the floor in front of my TV and ask to watch the video where I am a princess and marry her daddy, but don't underestimate the power of a well planned honeymoon!
The honeymoon is where my husband and I, for the first time EVER, will spend a full 24 hours entirely together - just the two of us!!  As someone who loves travel (I mean I became a Travel Agent for a reason), I am super excited about our first travel adventure!!

Aaron and I had a few parameters to follow for our honeymoon planning (in no particular order)

1. We did not want to go on our honeymoon right away...
We have heard many stories of couples sleeping through their first several days having full on exhaustion from the marathon of wedding events right before their trip away. We wanted to give ourselves time to relax and enjoy the vacation and feel like we were able to take full advantage of our trip! Because our wedding is the beginning of November and soon after that we will have Thanksgiving, my birthday, my dad's annual Christmas concert, we decided to make our honeymoon from December 8th - 15th... a full month after our wedding.

2. We did not want to be jet lagged...
 I love traveling to far off places and new cultures and discover new things, but for my honeymoon, there was one thing I didn't want to experience - jet lag. This goes along with not wanting to sleep through our honeymoon. The other thing is Aaron has never been out of the country where we needs a passport, so we decided to start with something doable for both of us. We decided on the Maya Riveria! We will be staying at a beautiful condo in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico!! The beaches are beautiful, the water is clear Caribbean blue, the food is yummy :) Aaron found an INSANE deal on Trip Advisor for flights and a condo penthouse on the beach... seriously it was a steal!
The Maya Riviera Coast
view from our balcony - yes, that is a hot tub and private loungers... and what you don't see if a grill too!
3. We wanted the perfect combo of relaxation and the must see sites and activities...
Aaron and I both enjoy the idea of sitting on the beach or on our private condo balcony overlooking the ocean for hours and hours on end. We would interrupt this relaxation for the occasional nap, movie watching, and maybe napping while watching a movie. However, I refuse to miss out of the once in a lifetime experiences that the Maya Riviera has to offer! Just two hours away is the world famous wonder of the world Chichen Itza! Just 1 hour down the coast is the city of Tulum and their ocean side Mayan ruins! Just a short drive away is a perfect spot to snorkel with sea turtles! Also across the water, just a short ferry ride away is Cozumel.
One of the 7 ancient wonders of the world - Chichen Itza
The ocean ruins of Tulum
The Playa Del Carmen sea turtles! They're RED!
We actually planned our trip to Chichen Itza just 10 days before the Mayans predicted the end of the world! We'll be in the center of all the action :)

4. We wanted to go to Disneyland!!!
Ok I know what you're thinking... there is no Disneyland in Playa Del Carmen... and you would be right, BUT we have a whole month before our big get away and in that time Aaron and I were keen to make it out to Disneyland!!! We planned it for the weekend after our wedding :) We will get married, go back to work the next week and then for the the Friday - Monday the next weekend, we will be in the happiest place on earth!!! I don't actually know which trip I am more excited about right now! Aaron and I both love Disneyland and are so excited to see the new Carsland, eat at the Blue Bayou for the first time, see the Christmas decorations that will be up at that time, and just be the two of us. Aaron particularly wants to go on the littler less popular rides we missed while we were there in February. We also are going to spring for annual passes so for our first year of marriage, we can take as many trips as we want!
Disneyland at Christmas is my favorite Disneyland
I even have my Bride Minnie ears ready! They were a gift from my sweet friend Katie!

So throughout all the stress, excitement, and overwhelming moments of wedding planning, I have two, count them TWO honeymoons to look forward to by the end of the year :)

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Engagement Photos by Pinkerton Photography

Have I told you how much fun planning my wedding has been? My favorite part is getting to do all this planning with my best friend! Seriously Aaron has been a champ throughout this whole process thus far. He constantly asks me what he can be doing to help or what planning elements he can take off my plate. He has opinions about certain things (which are for the most part the same as mine anyway), but he has allowed me to share my vision and dreams for our special day and then is instantly on board! I love that he cares, but also allows the little girl who has always dreamed of her wedding to come out and get excited about all the things I have always wanted to do. Because of this lovely balance we are creating such a wonderful day full of beauty, class, fun, and the laid back charm we are both envisioning.

All of this to say, I am incredibly thankful for my amazing fiance! Aaron is playful, kind, encouraging, thoughtful, funny, smart, witty, and makes me laugh all the time. I am so excited to be his wife and get to do life with him for forever. This last weekend, we have the joy of getting to capture some sweet moments during our engagement photo shoot!!

Now I have been friends with Kelsie Pinkerton for nearly 10 years! I knew her before she even fully considered using her amazing talent as a wedding photographer. She is literally one of the most talented wedding photographers I have every seen! But not only does she take amazing photos and capture amazing moments through the lens of her camera, she is also one of the kindest, sweetest people you will ever meet. All of the brides she works with can attest to her kind spirit and ability to instantly put a couple at ease! She is just so much fun!!

Please go check out her other amazing work on her website: and her blog

In the mean time, check out some of our beautiful engagement photos!!!

We woke up at the crack of dawn... actually we woke up earlier than that because we arrived Downtown Phoenix at the crack of dawn! Phoenix summers are unbearable to be outside, so we had to start at 5:30a (when the sun rises) to be able to be done by the time the temps rise. Even with that, we were still sweating like crazy by the end of the shoot.

I love old buildings and red brick and architecture! Aaron LOVES downtown Phoenix, so we decided it would make the perfect place for our pictures. Our wedding is going to be very country and backyard feeling, so an urban backdrop for engagement photos was really fun!

Thank you Kelsie!!! Check out our slide show (turn up the volume for the music)!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our Engagement!!

So I feel like I jumped the gun heading straight into talking about the venue without talking about the engagement!! So here is the scoop!

I was in the Bahamas over Aaron's birthday, so I had suggested we plan a full day of fun festivities to celebrate when I got back... it turned out due to my friend Kendra's wedding, we had to delay the day of celebration until June 23rd. We settled that we would head out of town and get away from the heat. Aaron decided we should rent a convertible for the day and we went up to Sedona! Our first stop was Sunset point outside of Phoenix, I had collected gifts for Aaron along the way and his first gift was a nerf gun :)

Then our next stop was a winery outside of Sedona called Page Spring Cellars. Such a cute spot! We did a wine tasting of Arizona wines and Aaron suggested we buy a bottle to drink later on a special occasion. We then sat out on the patio for a little bit overlooking the vineyard. It was absolutely gorgeous and such a fun spot. We then went inside and enjoyed a delicious lunch. Seriously suggest you all check this place out if you are looking for a little bit of class here in the desert!

After the wine tasting we started our drive through Oak Creek Canyon between Sedona and Flagstaff. It is one of the most beautiful drives in the country and one of my favorite places in the state. A little ways into the canyon, Aaron suggested we stop by the creek and stick our feet in for a bit. As we sat with our feet in the water, in the shade of the trees and canyon walls, we took out a scrapbook he had made for me. I could hardly breath! I flipped through the pages of pictures of he and I from the time I was 13 years old until the week before at my friend's wedding. It was beautiful! Aaron says I raced through each page hardly paying attention... I had a pretty good idea of what was coming, so I was in a hurry to get to that part. As I turned to the last page, there it was. The most beautiful ring I had ever seen tied to the last page. Of course I started crying and then he asked me - "I've waited a long time, and I hope you won't make me wait any longer... will you marry me?" YES!!! We then slipped the ring on my finger and it was official. I get to be this man's wife! I get to spend the rest of my life with the man of my dreams. The man I prayed I would marry when I was 16 years old. I cannot believe how blessed I am!

The fun wasn't over though because waiting for me two hours away back in Phoenix was a huge party of our friends and family back at his parents' house. I had prepared myself for the endless phone calls and driving across town to my parents' house to tell them in person (even though Aaron had already asked my dad to marry me). But to my surprise I walked into his parents house to near 25 people cheering and celebrating!! Best day ever!!!

Check out my mom's blog about the party. Click here!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Sweet Journey down the aisle...

Oh my gosh... It has been a long time since I have posted on this thing. How am I supposed to bring you all up to speed with my life? Actually it might be pretty simple - I started dating the most amazing man in the world, I fell in love, he asked me to be his wife, and now I'm getting MARRIED!!!!!

As I have begun planning the day I have dreamed of from the time I was 5 years old and plan to marry the man I have dreamed of marrying since I was 16 years old, I would love to take you along for the journey... please excuse the moments where I gush about how awesome my future husband is, or how incredibly lucky I feel. Please excuse me if I go off on a tangent about floral arrangements or the crafting details of the centerpieces. I will try to keep things interesting and fun to read... and of course include what everyone wants to see anyways... pictures!

I also will try to ride the fine line between inviting you into my planning process, but also keeping some things a mystery for the day of! I want you to be surprised when you see things all come together either in pictures or in person :)

SO!!!!!! Here we go!!

FIRST OFF - (and excuse me, this is where I gush) I cannot believe how easily this is all coming together!!! Aaron and I keep looking at each other and knowing that the stressful moments will come soon enough, but we are determined to ride this easy streak until its done. We found our venue and settled on a date as well as locked in our minister and photographer all within a week of getting engaged!

We decided early on that we wanted a short engagement and I was a stickler on not having our wedding too close to my birthday, so we pretty much had to get married in October or the beginning of November. Unfortunately our pastor, who has been close to both Aaron and I for most of our lives, was only available two weekends. So we had to find a venue that was available either of those Saturdays. We scoured the web (luckily both our jobs are slow right now, so we had moments here and there to look stuff up online). We found venue after venue that was beautiful, but not available... or available, but not what we wanted. Poor Aaron is marrying a girl who thinks her wedding is a huge deal and so the venue had to be perfect... or at least close to perfect. I went to look at a couple places, but was starting to get really discouraged and had given up that we would have to settle for something less than my perfected vision, when my friend suggested I contact a couple at our church who's parents have a big house with a big backyard... I mean I wanted a backyard style wedding, but never thought a backyard would actually fit our spacial needs! I got in touch with the right people, got the information I needed and praise God it fit our guest list!! Then Aaron and I went to take a look at it and within about 10 seconds Aaron and I were ready to sign and lock it in! It literally was everything I dreamed! Strung in a million twinkle lights, overgrown trees, a large lawn, and a patio that would make a great dance floor! Since it was a backyard, it also was significantly more affordable than we were expecting for a venue! Aaron kept saying after we left that he was so certain that God had that place picked out all along...
So much of our wedding planning feels like we are just stumbling into God's plan for us! Like he has had this whole thing planned all along and we are slowly discovering all the many amazing gifts he has in store for us!

So venue - check, minister - check, my beautiful and talented friend Kelsie of Pinkerton Photography is doing my pictures, so photographer - check! Date locked in - November 3rd, 2012 - CHECK!! All within a week!!! amazing!

sneak peak of the venue:

Note: Also within a week of finding the venue I also found my dress... but those details will have to wait until November 3rd :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

3 weeks till 100!!!

Alright, so I have been lacking in my Arizona 100th Birthday MUST DOs... but then I remembered, I actually have a whole other year if I include the 100th year in my plan :) DONE!! Here is the updated list:
- Phoenix
- Glendale
- Mesa
- Chandler
- Tempe
- Gilbert
- Scotsdale
- Bisbee
- Tombstone
- Sedona
- Payson
- Prescott
Montezuma's Castle
National Parks:
- Grand Canyon
- Arizona Science Center
- Heritage Square
- South Mountain Park 

Northern Arizona
Jerome (NC)
Slot Canyon (NC)
 - Lake Powell
Oak Creek (NC)
Havasupai Indian Reservation (NW)
Lake Mead (NW)
Hoover Dam (NW)
Wupatki National Monument (NC)
Flagstaff (NC)
- Route 66
Sunset Crater (NE)
Meteor Crater (NE)
Petrified Forest National Park (NE)
Canyon de Chelly  (NE)
Monument Valley (NE)
Navajoland (NE)

Southern Arizona
- Arizona State Museum
- El Presidio Historic District
- Mission San Xavier del Bac
- Pima Air and Space Museum
- Saguaro National Park
- Tucson Mountain Park
- Kitt Peak National Observatory
Sabino Canyon
Mt Lemmon
Organ Pipe Cactus National Park (SW)
Tumacacori National Historical Park

Western Arizona - hopefully will complete this on my way to Disneyland next month!
Lake Havesu - London Bridge
Colorado River

- Desert Botanical Garden
- Heard Museum
- Pueblo Grande Museum
- Phoenix Art Museum

I have so much I need to do!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 17: Sydney (Day 3) - THE END

On my last full day in Sydney, I had done everything I wanted to do in the city! When planning my trip to Australia I planned my time in Sydney to go through a Sunday so I could go to Hillsong Church. I have listened and sung Hillsong music for years at church and in my car. I was so excited to go to the main church that produced some amazing worship music. It took me a bit of the morning to get to the bus station. The bus for Hillsong was super late, which made me anxious about whether I had actually missed it or not. Fortunately the delayed bus gave me the opportunity to meet Theresa and Brian! They are the sweetest couple who were also visiting Sydney and going to Hillsong for the first time. They have grandkids my age and were visiting them and their son in Sydney for a couple weeks.
Theresa and Brian were from New Zealand, but originally they came from Northern England, so we talked a lot about the places I had gone to and New Zealand, which I wanted to visit.

But back to Hillsong...
The church is a lot smaller than I expected, and sadly the main Hillsong band was touring the U.S. and the main pastor Brian Houston was visiting the campus in New York.
Hillsong United was leading worship however, and I love them!
It was such a powerful morning and I loved being there! It reminded me of going to Hillsong in London with my parents. The message was about seeking God and after the amazing adventure that I had had over the last couple of weeks, it was a timely message.
After church I met Brian and Theresa back on the shuttle back to the train station where we met. They invited me to join them for the rest of the afternoon. I was so thankful that I had finished wandering the city and had nothing on my agenda for the day, so I was more than happy to go where they were going. We went to lunch together at the Subway in the train station and then walked through the city to catch a ferry that would go through the Sydney Harbor back to Circular Quay.
We had amazing conversations, the three of us, as we walked through the city and then sat on the ferry back to the city. I had spent three days mostly alone and talking with God and I was so in need of a good talk. This couple was such a blessing. As we sat on the ferry Theresa told me how she and Brian had been married for nearly 40 years, but Brian had only become a believer 4 years ago. What an amazing testimony of prayer and trusting God. I was so blessed. They were so sweet and fun.

The Harbor, from the ferry windows, whizzed by and before we knew it we were floating beneath the Harbor Bridge.

It was a lovely afternoon and I was sad to part with them when we reached Circular Quay. After promising I would be visiting them in New Zealand soon, they headed back to their son's house, and I went to pick up my luggage from my hotel and switch to my new hotel.

My friend Chris had set me up with an amazing deal at the Four Points Sheraton in Darling Harbor. It is the largest hotel in Sydney and overlooks the harbor. I absolutely LOVE hotel rooms and was looking forward to the rest of the day relaxing in my nice hotel.
When I got into my hotel room I immediately did the normal thing and dove onto the fluffy, perfectly made bed and danced around the room to my heart content! I wanted nothing more than to take a bath and watch a movie and sleep, but I needed food before settling in for the night. I was willing to pay anything to make sure I didn't have to leave the hotel, so I splurged on the dinner buffet! So many delicious dishes! I sat alone, which was strange, but still delicious.
After dinner I got my relaxing bath and then watch Victoria & Albert on my lap top and edited the dance video Phoebe and I had made!!!
Then I slept in the fluffiest King sized bed!

My trip ended the following day in the morning when the shuttle came to pick me up for the airport. I have to admit, I was ready to go home, however I was still sad to leave Australia. I felt like I left having accomplished all I wanted to do in this amazing country, but there is still so much I would love to go back and do!

But my arrival back in phoenix was well worth the sleepless night! My parents and younger brother, Tyler, were there waiting at the gate for me! I was so happy to see them and then while we talked in the terminal, I heard little kid sandals smacking against the floor coming toward me and before I knew it, Emolyn was right in front of me! Shawn and Nicole surprised me by coming to meet me too!! So lovely to be home with family!

I will finish by saying that Australia was THE greatest and wildest adventure trip I had been on! From crocodile attacks to holding a koala; From jumping off a 164ft tall platform to swimming 30 feet deep into the ocean on the Great Barrier Reef; from walking through the streets of Sydney to walking through the Daintree Rainforest - I had the trip of a lifetime!