It’s no surprise that weddings are expensive, and any way to reduce spending is well appreciated by everyone. (Well, everyone except perhaps this bride.) To protect my inbox (and my sanity,) when I started planning, I set up a dedicated inbox to use for communicating with vendors or people involved in planning to keep everything better organized and all in one place. I highly recommend doing this! Whether you have a domain-based email for your wedding website, or just create a new, free Gmail address, it cuts down the disorganization and crazy-making promotional emails in your main inbox.
Especially with Black Friday/Cyber Monday coming up, it’s a good time to set that inbox up and subscribe to any stores or vendors you’ve been eyeing products from. You never know if they’ll choose this month to deeply discount your perfect wedding band or aisle rugs!
Be sure to sign up for eBates as well to earn cash back on all your online shopping!
Bing Bang (I have a set of earrings and necklace from Bing Bang – I love their quality and customer service. So much so that when I lost one of my signature lightning bolt earrings, I didn’t think twice about ordering the same exact ones as a replacement!)
Surprise – I’m getting married! I’ve been (sort of?) quietly dating my partner for two years, and over the summer, we got engaged. The wedding industry is toxic and wild – but that’s probably a rant for a different day. Rather than authoring another thinkpiece about it, I wanted to compile some posts I wish I’d been able to find as I started planning this out. It’s hard to find affordable dresses, plus size dresses that aren’t just cupcake-y and chiffon, and very much advice or ideas on how to plan a non-traditional wedding.
Of course David’s Bridal is always a good source of dresses for plus and straight sizes, but I found a lot of them to be pricier than I anticipated they’d be. As I continue to research and plan my wedding, I keep stumbling upon disparate lists of great plus size bridal gown choices, so I thought I’d organize some together and share them here today!
Florave is an online startup that thinks carefully about their designs and details, and finds inspiration in fashionable celebrities. Their full-price dresses tend to be between $1500 and $3000, but there are some in a more budget-friendly range, like the K. Switzer. If you like a more classic silhouette, check them out for some affordable plus size wedding dress options!
Before I started wedding dress shopping, I imagined BHLDN to be wildly overpriced, like their sister store, Anthropologie. A few months into shopping and I now know they’re actually some of the more affordable options out there! In addition to their affordability, they’re also pretty size-inclusive, which also shocked me. They have gorgeous options, a range of designers, and sizes from 00 to 30. I did two store visits (with wildly different experiences each time,) but they’re definitely worth a look – right now, their sale section has pages of gorgeous options for under $500!
I wish I had done more research on Amazon before buying my dress – I love it, but there are so many gorgeous options on Amazon for crazy, inexpensive prices. Many gowns are made up to size 26W and almost all sellers I’ve seen also offer custom size options. Purchasing a gown on Amazon and then getting any necessary alterations is almost certainly more inexpensive than many of the more popular plus size wedding dress lines!
Show Me Your Mumu is one of my favorite stores, and their wedding lines are just as boho, California-casual as the rest of their line. With options for brides, maids, and guests up to size 3X, even their most expensive gown is under $400.
Nordstrom does have a dedicated wedding dress shop, but with some creativity, you can also find some “regular” dresses that fit the bill. Setting the filters to “white” or “ivory” in a dress search opens up lots of options in both straight and plus sizes – and since they aren’t classified as “wedding” dresses, you’ll automatically see some lower prices.
With sizes up to 5X, Unique Vintage was my biggest regret as far as not finding them in advance of buying my dress. Their styles range from Hepburn-inspired, ’20’s flappers, and 50’s rockabilly, to brides wanting more modern lace and fitted mermaid gown looks. Their sale section has many dresses under $100, and they often team up with other brands like Barbie for even more unique styles!
Torrid only recently started breaking into “special occasion” dresses for plus size women, growing their already stellar lineup of clothes. With price points below $200 and frequent discount codes, they’re a must-look for plus brides in search of a more casual wedding dress.
Chicago is the greatest place in the world, and I’m not the only person who thinks so!
There’s something to do 24 hours a day here, which makes it the perfect city for a three-day weekend vacation. You’ll get a lot of bang for your buck with its easy accessibility (two airports, an Amtrak and Greyhound station, and plenty of city-wide public transportation to get you where you want to go), things to do in any weather or season, and relatively central location.
Spending your first evening downtown is great, because you can knock out a lot of city “must do”‘s in one location. Grant Park, Chicago’s front lawn, is home to the Bean, Buckingham Fountain, and many other public artworks. Take a selfie at the cloud, grab a Divvy bike and admire Lake Michigan from the Lakefront Trail, and in the winter months, skate on the ice rink!
Rainy day? Stay dry and see the city anyway on one of the many bus tours! From crime and mobster history to architecture and Chicago lore, there’s no lack of ways to
Afterward, hop on a Divvy Bike to burn off some of that carb-y energy and head over to the Riverwalk, where you can take your pick of a post-dinner treat while walking the trail. It’s also near the Magnificent Mile so you can scratch that shopping itch at souvenir shops, Water Tower Place, or other major retailers like Apple, Louis Vuitton, and more. (Like a Nutella Cafe. You’re welcome.)
Then, head over to Old Town and grab a table at The Whale or Farmhouse, depending on your party’s tastes. Stick around the neighborhood to hit another one of the city’s most “can’t miss” institutions, the Lincoln Park Zoo! They’re open 365 days a year and is always free of charge. (Concessions are surprisingly affordable, too.) Visit Alexander Camelton, check out some presentations by zookeepers and volunteers (I especially love learning about the polar bears and sea lions) and walk around another one of the city’s amazing parks. If your zoo day is rained out, the Chicago History Museum sits at the south end of the park.
Hop on the Blue Line to the Damen stop to spend the rest of the afternoon in trendy Wicker Park and Bucktown. Grab a tasty treat from Stan’s Donuts, stop in to bookstores Volumes, Myopic, and Quimby’s (all independent, all great for their own reasons,) and pop into Corbett vs. Dempsey, a free art and culture museum in the Dusty Groove building. Wicker Park is also a great spot to grab an Italian Beef, a classic meal – Jay’s Beef is easy to get to.
Rainy day? Try out an escape room – we have them all over the city. If you don’t like solving puzzles, try a more traditional arcade, like Headquarters Beercade or Emporium. My favorite is Ignite, a video game lounge in Skokie and Avondale – I could play Rock Band for hours and hours (and have on more than one occasion!)
For dinner, since you’re already in Wicker Park, make a beeline for Small Cheval. The little sister restaurant of Au Cheval, it’s more affordable and more relaxed, but still serves one of the city’s best burgers. Their shakes and fries aren’t anything to shake a stick at, either!
The Second City has been home to more successful comedians than you can count. They have several stages and several shows every night, so do yourself a favor and stop by to see the next big things.
Afterward, hop over to Humboldt Park and my favorite bar in the city for a nightcap – The California Clipper is a dimly lit former 1930’s movie theater with a speakeasy feel. Opening at 8, it can often be empty for the first few hours, which always makes me feel like I have some kind of secret gem in the city. That doesn’t last long, though – once the music starts and 10pm approaches, you’re lucky to grab a spot to stand, and the party keeps going until 3am. Grab a Pago Pago with old-fashioned shaved ice… so good.
Spend a low-key Sunday morning in the Andersonville neighborhood. Foursided, Woolly Mammoth, and Women and Children First are just a few of the funky specialty shops you’ll find here. When your feet are tired, your arm is weighed down by reusable shopping bags (Chicago has a bag tax, which will add up after a long weekend!), and your wallet is feeling light, grab one of the best brunches of your life at Big Jones.
On your way out of town, head south to Pilsen. This up-and-coming neighborhood is growing fast – in the span of a year there have been so many new businesses, restaurants, and events popping up that there’s always something new to do!
Grab dinner at the award-winning Dusek’s in the historic Thalia Hall building, or head downstairs to one of my favorite spots in the city, Punch House. With a cool 70’s vibe, boozy punch on tap, low lighting, board games and cozy booths, it’s a great spot to unwind and end your time in the city!
None of these activities sound like your speed? Don’t worry – the city of Chicago’s got your back. Request a Chicago Greeter to show you around and get a personalized offbeat experience!
Like years past, Dani and I are doing our annual reading challenge with new categories this year! Despite a super strong start to the year with books – maybe it was the gross weather that was driving me inside – I fell off a bit in March and April. This month, I did make a bit of a comeback.
I still love my Kindle – especially the feature that lets you check out library books – and Amazon’s Kindle First Reads have been really great lately too. (They offer six free books to choose from every month, so you can read them before release.)
Amazon also has another ebook hack I’ve found – I purchased a “Great on Kindle” book, which gives you about 75% of that purchase back for a future Kindle book purchase. I’ve been turning those credits for a bit and I’m pretty well stocked on my summer reads now!
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler: One of the recent Kindle First Reads picks, I started reading this while we were in Minneapolis, killing time while Evan was in panels and I was the “conference girlfriend.” It’s an okay book. The main character is a likable heroine, and her relationship with her daughter was great, but I felt like there were some strange plot choices. It was fine for a free read.
No Hard Feelings: A book by best friends about feelings and communication in the workplace, this was a book I DESPERATELY needed to read. The animations are adorable, and since it was a library book, I did what I often do with books I don’t own – I took pictures of relevant pages and passages I wanted to remember. With this book, though, I nearly photographed the entire thing. Pick this up for sure, but if you need more convincing, I did a full review of this book over on dev.to!
The Girl He Used to Know: This book was being recommended everywhere, and with good reason. I was completely hooked from the beginning. Split in two different timelines, it’s the story of a woman who reconnects with her ex years later – an ex who was the only person to ever really understand her. If you’re looking for non-neurotypical heroines, put this on the top of your list.
The Stranger Beside Me: Finally, I gave in to the hype and listened to this audiobook on Hoopla. Ann Rule narrates it, and the production of the version I listened to wasn’t great, but it’s a really comprehensive story of all the missteps and near-misses on Bundy’s spree. As a true crime fan, this is one of the best books out there.
Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!
Sadie: HOLY COWWWWW I LOVED THIS. I put a hold on it last summer, and I was so pumped to finally get it. It was SO worth the wait. Another split timeline book, one timeline is told in podcast transcripts by a man who is trying to figure out what happened to Sadie. The other timeline is Sadie’s experience. The multimedia put into it is great (the publisher released the podcast parts of the audiobook as an actual podcast) and I’m still thinking about the end of the book, weeks after reading it. Without giving too many spoilers away, I truly hope that Sadie got vengeance.
The Happiness Project: This book was one of the first “want to read” books I added on Goodreads all the way back in 2012! I like to listen to non-fiction books while working (they’re like the original podcasts), and this was a really nice one to listen to, especially in the mornings. Another Hoopla book that’s worth a read, if your library offers it!
The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks: Rob Sheffield is the king of music journalism, and his love of Stevie Nicks might even surpass mine. This Audible original, narrated by him, is a nice, fast listen – if for no other reason than Rob’s voice is so soothing and his love for Stevie and the Mac really comes through. (I feel like I also need to disclose that I’m lucky enough to call Rob my friend – just one more thing The Hold Steady has given me!)
It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work: Written by the founders of Basecamp, I was hoping that this was going to be a book of tips on how to help implement “less craziness” in your current workplace. To a degree, that’s true, but parts of it just sounded like it was hyping Basecamp as the perfect company (which didn’t help my existing workplace envy!) It is a good, fast listen, though, and I’d recommend it.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Another super-hyped book, this one took me a LONG time to get into. I wasn’t really hooked until probably 70% of the way through the book, but I’m very glad that I kept on going. Usually I can see twists a mile away, but that wasn’t the case in this one. Another really great neuro-divergent character that’s worth a read.
Do you read non-fiction and career books? What have been your favorites lately?
Last weekend, Evan and I headed out on a quick two-night trip to the northeast. We were flying in to Newark, Lyfting to Jersey City, using the PATH train to head into NYC, then taking a bus from New York City to Boston the next day, and flying home from Logan. (I’m exhausted just recounting all that!) Originally, I was packing into my small (but roomy) packable tote, but since I knew we’d be walking around a lot and trekking through Boston on foot, I wanted something easier to manage, since my tote doesn’t have a shoulder strap or anything.
We bought a packable backpack last summer that we’ve gotten a lot of use from, so I decided to pick up one of my own without spending a ton of money on it. VenturePal’s Large Hiking backpack fit the bill at just under $13. Initially I thought I’d just throw it into my tote and deal with switching things over once we got to Jersey, but I ended up doing the opposite – packing into the backpack and throwing the packed tote in, just in case. The forecast for the weekend was shifty – rain expected, of course – so I packed in a way that I thought would be optimistic, just in case things were sunny instead.
On the plane, I wore jeans, a t-shirt, and a lightweight C9 track jacket. I really wanted to wear my favorite Crocs sandals, but since the weather forecast showed rain, I stuck with my trusty Sperrys.
What I Packed
Two pairs of socks (I packed these “just in case,” and didn’t use them since it didn’t rain)
Four pairs underwear (extra underwear is something I’m always going to tote.)
Two sports bras
One pair sleep shorts (I wouldn’t have brought sleep stuff, but we stayed with a friend in Boston and I think everyone appreciated that I wore clothes to bed)
Dramamine (I had some at home but didn’t pack it. I would probably have been fine, but wanted to ensure a nap on the bus, so I grabbed some from Target on the way)
Evan forgot hair stuff, so he picked up a small hair pomade thingy
The organization of the bag was perfect – I don’t like a lot of pockets, and this one only has three, including the main space. Even though 50 liters is more space than I really need, I was glad for it because I could easily throw in the few purchases I made on the trip (another set of Uniqlo drape pants and Relaco shorts, and two shirts from the shows.)
I will say that this bag doesn’t look super touristy so if security is one of your concerns, I think this bag would fit the bill quite well. It would also be a fine daypack, too, if you wanted to offload some things where you were staying and set out for the day. It’s definitely durable, but not waterproof, and it probably wouldn’t be my primary bag choice for a week+ trip. But for a weekend where I specifically wanted to feel well-organized and mobile, it was really great, and I’m so glad I’m learning how to pack less!
Are you a minimalist traveler, or a “just in case” packer? What must-haves do you always pack?