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Special Post: Re-Living The Wedding Of Our Dreams

It’s not often that I delve too deep into my personal life on my blog, but as many of you may recall I’ve shared several key moments of my engagement and wedding that both took place in 2012. The profound impact these milestones have had on my life was simply too big not to share with you in some way. And so I want to now share with you the full story of my happy ending. The story of how I met Scott, his creative engagement and our fairytale wedding were all beautifully captured by the talented Dream Weddings TV crew and aired live on our NBC affiliate on Sunday, February 10, 2013. Words alone can’t express how grateful we are to our vendors and generous family and friends who all shared a role in making this possible for us. And as for all the creative details and special touches, I’ll let the video tell the story!

Whether you’re also planning a wedding or are just looking for some creative inspiration, please check out these wonderful businesses and individuals who helped to create our beautiful day!

Baldy Beard Brew – Signature beer creation, “The Dirty Shirley”

This nano-brewery is the next big thing to hit beer! Not only do they create a delicious product, they deliver it with a big dose of personality and humor. We had a great time getting to know the Baldy Beard guys as we brewed our own beer for our wedding. And now I’d love to help them reach their dream of opening their own brewery in York, PA–consider supporting their Kick Starter Campaign here! #DrinkWithFriends

CARMINA-CRISTINA Professional Makeup – Bridal makeup

A fabulous friend and an even more fabulous professional makeup artist! Carmina created a wedding look for me that I could have only dreamed of. And with the rain–her expert products and techniques were a day-saver. Her international background and training really shines through her work. I still use her products and techniques almost daily.

Dennis Baker Photography – Engagement and wedding photography

The day’s rain made no easy task of capturing the stunning wedding photos that Dennis did. It takes a truly talented professional to work under such extreme circumstances, organize a wedding party of almost 20 people and keep posed photos to just an hour. Not more than a day after we said “I do” our wedding photos were already uploaded and ready for viewing!

Dream Weddings – Filming and TV production

We feel truly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the Dream Weddings TV crew. They were just as excited about our love story and our wedding plans as we were and their enthusiasm helped to make the whole planning experience that much more special. Be sure to check out their site where you can watch episodes from all their seasons! Also–a big shout out goes to host Martine Cajas who also runs House of Clarendon, the premiere cakery based in Lancaster, PA

Flowers by JDK – Wedding flowers

The professionals at JDK rose to the challenge of a tight floral budget and a big wedding! All we gave them was a color scheme and described the feel of our wedding and they did the rest to be sure our bouquets, centerpieces and accents were anything but expected or ordinary!

Hess Tent Rentals – Tent and dance floor rentals

When you’re planning an outdoor August wedding, you have to plan for heat and rain (and we experienced both in extremes). This is why we were so lucky to have a huge tent big enough to accommodate “Plan B” and the professionals of Hess Tent Rentals to work with us up to the last minute to see that we were covered–literally.

JoS A. Bank – Groomsmen suits

Among the most common groomsman complaint for a wedding is spending a good amount of money on renting a tux that you’ll never see or get to use again. With the help of a very generous contact at the JoS A. Bank store in State College, PA, we were able to get our groomsmen (and almost every man in our families) a top of the line suit for under the price of a tux rental. It’s worth thinking outside the box here! Though I may not get to wear my wedding dress at any upcoming occasion I can think of, Scott has gotten a ton of use out of his wedding suit in just the past 6 months.

Lavon Films – Wedding videography

Derek and his crew put some major hours into our wedding filming and editing. The pressure of capturing every intimate moment from a wedding is a lot to manage, but they made it look like it’s what they were born to do (and maybe because it is)! Thrown into the midst of tears, rain and last minute changes in plans – they somehow turned this footage into only peaceful and happy memories on film!

MixedUp Productions – Wedding ceremony and reception music

There’s no doubt that music can make or break the mood of any event – and for a wedding the stakes are even higher. Damian from MixedUp Productions rose to the occasion with a perfect blend of music to match our ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner and dancing late into the night. Owner, Mike Miller also made a guest appearance at the end to add a very personal touch!

Mountz Jewelers – Engagement and wedding rings

I won’t deny that when I get a particular vision for what I want, it’s hard to settle for anything else. Lucky for me (and especially Scott) we had the perfect hometown jeweler to meet our every request. From a custom built engagement ring where Scott got to hand-select the diamond, to a one-of-a-kind wedding band designed to perfectly match it’s unique shape–Mountz provided our sparkle.

Salon Evolve – Bridal hair

You can’t beat the convenience of a salon that’s located within walking distance from your front door. But more than location made this the perfect fit for our wedding party. Owner, Dana met our every (even last minute) request and his stylists quickly and beautifully styled our hair to exact specifications. There was no stress, no drama and more than enough time to even enjoy some wine before the ceremony!

7 Layer Designs – Custom created wedding invitations

Owner, Jess is one talented lady! She had no problem offering me a ton of options for custom-designed wedding invitations that were anything but “out of the box.” I wanted the invites to match our style, our wedding colors and to stay within a tight budget. Jess hand-stamped, cut and folded nearly 200 invites and helped me get them out well before the 6-week time frame (even with wax sealing involved)!

Tara’s Bridal – Wedding dress

My wedding dress buying experience would have been very different had I not been recommended to Tara’s Bridal shop in Camp Hill, PA. They only sell samples and there’s usually just one of each dress, so unique and couture is their specialty. But what really made my first dress stop also my last, was that the prices start as low as $300 – making high-quality wedding dresses extremely accessible for every bride and budget. I don’t want to think about what I would have paid elsewhere for a much lesser dress…

The Harrisburg Senators – Rehearsal dinner reception

As we mentioned in the Dream Wedding video, so much of our wedding was about relationships. Scott’s special relationship with the Harrisburg Senators baseball team allowed us a very unique rehearsal dinner where we rented a suite in the stadium. Guests enjoyed some upscale ballpark food, baseball, fireworks and Scott throwing out the first pitch!

Weddings by JDK – Food, rentals and event coordination

Amanda and Steve with JDK were our heaven-sent helpers who worked tirelessly to create our dream wedding while staying within our very real budget. It helps when your friends are also talented professionals who work for the premiere catering/wedding company in Harrisburg! JDK handled everything from design, event rentals, menu creation and flower coordination to day-of event set-up and all the clean-up afterward. Let’s just say it takes a dedicated army to pull off that type of work!

Weddings by Paul V – Engagement photography

Paul is an extremely talented photographer based in the Harrisburg, PA area. His work is found in a ton of trendy publications and he can also be found snapping shots of downtown night life on the weekends. We were so lucky to have Paul’s talent capture the exact setting of our engagement at 4 different locations along the riverfront of Harrisburg.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in Life

 

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WordPress, Why’d You Go And Change?

negative sad smiley emoticon keyboardThis past spring, WordPress.com made some critical changes to the organization of its website and I’m certain I can’t be the only one who has caught on. The changes most noticeable to us, the bloggers, are the ones which impact the content non-subscribers are able to view as well as how easily our blog can be found when browsing the site. Ultimately these changes have altered the interaction of the community WordPress.com is built upon and your comments and page views have likely taken a hit as a result. If you’re like me, you may have been wondering why you blog has been receiving substantially fewer visitors even with the same frequency of posts and quality of content. Well, it’s not you – It’s WordPress.

As a creature of habit, I’m slow to warm to unsolicited change and so I didn’t want to form an opinion without first giving myself some time to adjust. I didn’t know if the changes would be permanent or if their impact would be decidedly negative. Now, nearly 6 months later, I’m concluding both to be true.

If you’ve joined WordPress in the last 6 months – feel lucky, you’ll never know the difference. If you’re a veteran WordPress user and haven’t noticed these changes, your personal impact may have been too subtle to notice (Warning: You may become acutely aware of these changes after reading the rest of this post). But if you’re a fellow blogger working hard for every new subscriber you earn, you may feel just as confused and agitated as I do with the blogging platform you’ve loved and supported above any other. So what happened, WordPress – Why’d you go and change?

Isolation of Non-Subscribers – Before I was ever a blogger or even a registered user of WordPress, I enjoyed visiting WordPress.com to browse through the day’s blogs. I was in awe of the chosen few who were featured on the “Freshly Pressed” section of the homepage that immediately greeted you with big pictures and intriguing article titles. As a loyal WordPress blogger for more than a year and half, I only recently noticed the different welcome page non-subscribers are now being greeted with when my computer decided to log me out one morning. Without logging in I could only access limited pages that resembled more of a commercial for WordPress than a blogging community. I get it, WordPress – you want new subscribers just as much as I do! But you have to give people a preview of the incredible content this community shares everyday to make someone want to join in. What first brought me, and as a result many of my clients, to WordPress (over other blogging platforms) was the way it openly shared blogs, allowed for easy browsing and even showcased a select few with the honor of being “Freshly Pressed” adding incentive for quality content. Now a wall has been built around the outside world and though the entrance inside only comes at the cost of an email address, this is enough to deter those who aren’t yet ready for their own blog or who want to remain an anonymous (though loyal) blog browser for right now.

For logged-out users, the OLD WordPress.com homepage used to greet you with its Freshly Pressed articles of the day and the option to browse more blogs under those topics. Note: this is without needing to sign in.

Wordpress old homepage

Now logged-out users are only able to get as far as “Get Started.” They’re denied any interaction with the community until they agree to create an account.

Wordpress new homepage

Freshly UnimPressed – I still believe being chosen as Freshly Pressed by WordPress is one of the most exciting honors for a new blogger. I was chosen two months after starting my blog and received nearly 3,000 blog hits in a single day and a large residual of hits and subscribers for months after. Truly this experience alone can launch a blog to stardom! Since the changes, I’m no longer as impressed with the publicity of Freshly Pressed – and it breaks my heart to say this. This stems from two main reasons. First, Freshly Pressed articles used to be featured on the homepage of WordPress.com and this produced far greater traffic for the featured blogs. Now that it’s no longer the default landing, users have to actively select the Freshly Pressed tab to view the blogs. Though even a minor additional step, this still creates a substantial roadblock that users won’t take the effort to do. I know I’m guilty of not visiting the Freshly Pressed page every day, whereas it used to be my starting point when visiting WordPress.com. Second, only registered users/subscribers can view Freshly Pressed blogs. This option no longer appears on the homepage for users who aren’t logged in. This change alone blocks out a substantial portion of potential web traffic to these blogs.

Not-So-Hot Topics – Do you remember when there used to be an option to browse by “tags” from the WordPress.com homepage? I do and it drove a great deal of new and random visitors to my blog (the best kind!). You can track how people find your blog  by checking your stats under “referrers.” Don’t be surprised if you can’t find a recent referral from a tag used in your blog, because the new organization of the site has all but brought this perk to a halt. Again the culprit is that to browse by topics (aka tags) you must go through several different steps to get there. Each additional step decreases the number of people who actually make the effort to do so. Take a look here:

This is currently the homepage I’m greeted with when I’m logged into WordPress.com. I see a blog feed of only the blogs to which I am subscribed. While there’s a column of topics/tags on the left-hand side, I have to choose to see these topics and again they only appear as a slow-loading and single-listed news feed.

New WordPress Homepage

Furthermore, WordPress.com seems to randomly generate the topics listed in the left-hand column by pulling from topics/tags I’ve used in my own posts. But what if I want to browse blogs on a new subject? I tried once to clean-up and customize my topic list only to have it reset the next time I logged in. I’ll still hoping to get that half-hour of my life back somehow…

Remeber when browsing by tags/topics was easy and attractive like this:

wordpress old topic browse

Now the only way I can figure out how to achieve this browsing capability on the new WordPress is to click “Explore Topics” and type in the topic I want to sift through. But instead of the attractively laid out format as above, the topics read more like a newsfeed and load at a terribly slow rate. Instead of simply clicking Homepage–>Tags, I now have to go to Homepage–>Reader–>Explore Topics–>Type in and Search Topic–>Wait for page to load and scroll through single-listed blog feed. To any less-motivated of a blogger, this process isn’t happening and it’s likely your blog hits from new or random visitors have declined as a result.

Wordpress topics

Segmenting a Community – The ostracizing of non-subscribers, devaluing the honor of being Freshly Pressed and creating yet one more roadblock for new visitors to reach your blog are all unfortunate results of the changes made to the new organization of WordPress.com over the past several months. But my biggest concern isn’t with any of these individually. Rather, it’s the concern that the WordPress community which I have blogged and bragged very openly about is at risk for disengagement. Together these changes produce a WordPress in which it’s harder for fellow bloggers and visitors to find your blog and for you to find theirs. If an interactive blogging community is indeed one of the major points of differentiation for WordPress.com – and I’ve always thought it to be – then it should be made a priority above all else (i.e. more subscribers and up-selling bloggers on customized domains and blog templates). I’m disheartened by what appears to be permanent changes, but it’s not just because of the decrease in blog hits, comments or subscribers. It’s because of the time and effort I put into learning and adapting to the WordPress community and interacting with new blogs daily. If future changes continue in this direction, I’m worried my single efforts to encourage engagement won’t be enough to preserve the WordPress community for what it once was.

If anyone has had a similar or different experience with the impact of WordPress.com’s recent changes, please share! I’m very aware it’s possible I could have overlooked a benefit of these changes and would gladly welcome knowing if they exist.

 
11 Comments

Posted by on October 15, 2012 in Freshly Pressed, Technology

 

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With This Ring

RingOn Saturday, January 14th my life changed forever. The man that has been my best friend, business advisor and better half, Scott Shirley, asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. And without a breath of hesitation, I said yes! Every day since then it’s felt like Christmas, waking up to the best present I could ask for—a lifetime with my soul mate. Because I openly share so much about my life with my blogging friends and followers each week, it’s only natural that I would also share the excitement of my engagement with you as well.

As I tend to do with every milestone in my life, I reflect deeply upon what this symbolizes. And this one is quite special. The ring on my left hand symbolizes a promise and a vow that I take very seriously. It’s a vow that will witness the passing of decades and the birth of new generations. As it sparkles and shines with barely a week of age, I’m brought back to the memory of my mother’s diamond ring. Her ring has been worn and tarnished by life’s most precious and beautiful moments. It’s a ring that I’ve known ever since I was a child and can’t possibly imagine her without. Close in age to my mother when she first received hers, I imagine what precious moments of my own life will be witnessed by this ring.

This ring will wrap around my father’s arm as he walks me down the aisle this August. It will take my husband’s hand for the first time as we say our vows and turn the key to our first house. This ring will rock babies to sleep and change countless diapers over the years. It will cook, clean, fold and work hard. It will fit perfectly into my husband’s hand as we walk and lay softly on his chest as we fall asleep. It will clap for joy in the happiest of moments and wipe away tears during the saddest.  It will witness graduations, marriages and grandchildren. And finally, when this ring outlives my own life, it will be passed on to my children to forever remember the beauty of our love and the life which it created.

It’s difficult to comprehend the amount of memories this ring will record. While its sparkle may never be able to show me my future or my past, it will always be there to serve as a reminder that life is precious and love is truly spectacular.

Engagement Photo

 
24 Comments

Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Life

 

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