The Planned Proposal

The Planned Proposal

Weddings. I’m obsessed with it all. Let’s be honest. From beginning to end. Proposals though. Next to wedding cake and super sparkly things, proposals are literally a few of my favorite things. Cue Kenny Rogers singing “My favorite things.” The only thing that can make that song better is Dolly Parton or Julie Andrews.
I have to give a shout out to KR because he is one of my favorite things. I know I know, next to glitter and wine and valentine’s day and sunrises but I did say ONE OF. He is my celebrity crush/excuse. You know the game “if you could cheat with one celebrity and it wouldn’t count”?
Yup. Mine is KR. But 1980’s KR. Not nipped and tucked and lifted KR. Although my beau did take me to his concert a few weeks ago. Literally been on the bucket list. And I gotta tell you, that man is quite the entertainer, so much so that I almost reneged on the 1980’s part. I’ve actually had that convo with the beau. Recently. You might think mine is weird but his is Rachel Ray. Talk about the way to a man’s heart is his stomach. rachaelI immediately began working on my culinary skills. Mind you, I didn’t say “perfecting” my culinary skills. This girl has a long way to go. What can I say, I like to eat out. Thankfully he does too. But all kidding aside, let’s get back to the story. Proposals. They are how it all begins. Some are the super simple do it at home. I want to build a life with you right here, where we became us and where we are comfortable
And then there are the “I know you are going to propose so just do it already” proposals. They seem demanding to the lay person, but to me, I still think it’s precious. I mean he obviously knows what he is getting into in the first place right? And it’s part of why he loves you. Soooo I have never been engaged. But let’s be honest: that poor sap that commits to the lover of love, the one who squeals, tears up and gets goosebump at every little moment, has really got a lot coming to him. I can’t say I know what it feels like, looks like, etc. But to me, it’s a huge deal. What does it look like when someone says: “Hey, I want you for my whole life for the rest of my life. You and only you. I want to wake up to your face and go to bed to your face. I want to reach over and feel you in the middle of the night, every night. I want to laugh with you and cry with you and fight with you over nothing and everything forever. I want to have adventures with you. I want to have children with you. I want to burn your frozen pizza and make you runny eggs (not the good kind) and watch you try to eat them until we decide that you are the better cook and order take out. I want to be your everything.” In the words of Keith Urban from the best most poignant wedding song of 2000. Listen to the words, seriously they are perfect.
Gosh, I feel like I just proposed to someone…. Hand me a tissue. So that to me, that moment, that decision, that YES, is bigger and better than any wedding in my mind. It’s a defining part of someone’s life to say: You are it. You are the one. {Now let’s celebrate. Cue your Signed Sealed Delivered Events wedding planner here.} For someone to love you that deeply, that fiercely, with all that they have. And for you to love them back with just as much… it’s freaking incredible.  It’s Mary Poppins magical.
Thank you Rachael – I heart this series of pics of your 4th of July proposal xox
I clearly love that moment. But you know what else I love? I love knowing about that moment. The pre-planning. The anticipation. The nerves.
My absolute favorite engagement photo of all time. I met her. Saw the pic. And had to plan the wedding. The red jacket. The way her hair lays. The embrace. The surprise. Pure delicious emotion. And I am still bragging about it Val! xoxo
I’ve had folks talk to me about their proposals to get my thoughts, ideas, opinions… sometimes I give them unsolicited. And I always always always always recommend having a photographer there. Professional photographer. And if anything, have SOMEONE snapping the moment. Someone who knows in advance. Not a stranger with an iphone. And this is why.
Green Wall Studio capturing Nick and Ashlie’s winter proposal last December. We tromped around in the snow for what seemed like hours waiting for them to get to this moment. So worth it. xoxo
As a girl, here’s where I start telling you that I have been planning my dream wedding since I was five… but not so fast I was actually going to tell you this:  I have DREAMED about the day I get proposed to. And here is what I imagined it would look like.
And that bad boy would be captured via professional camera and printed real big and hung on my wall because for someone to choose me as their forever and ever amen… {I love that song by Randy Travis as a cake cutting song or first dance… adorable} …that is a moment worth capturing, worth remembering, worth seeing every single day.
And that bad boy would be captured via professional camera and printed real big and hung on my wall because for someone to choose me as their forever and ever amen… {I love that song by Randy Travis as a cake cutting song or first dance… adorable} …that is a moment worth capturing, worth remembering, worth seeing every single day. When my brother in law (numero uno) asked my parents’ permission to marry my sissy, my nosey ass was already planning the perfect costume for my sissy that I would have conveniently hanging in the closet when she asks: hey, what do I wear to this “fancy steak house”?
Drew and Brent (numero uno) – married 5 years this September xoxo
When my future brother in law (numero dos) told me he was proposing, my nosey ass asked: who what where when how? And most importantly, how can I help make this even more special. I can’t say that either one of them totally appreciated my complimentary opinions, but I can say that I hope that just a tiny bit of enthusiasm and heart that I put into those conversations made a morsel of the moment more precious to the loves of my life (not wine and chocolate clowns, I am talking about my sissies).
That’s my sis and D Lew (bro-in-law nueroon their engagement weekend xoxo
Which leads me to this, yes nowadays, it is becoming more and more popular for folks to seek help in planning their proposal, as in hire a planner. And yes, yes, I can do that. I would love to do that. To be a part of that. To be a part of helping you show the one you want to spend the rest of eternity with, just how much they truly love you during that moment we call the proposal.
Kyle and Allison Martin at the beach proposal in April 2012 They just had their year anniversary in June this year. Love these two. xoxo
It’s Been One Year

It’s Been One Year

Always N Forever Photography
Happy anniversary to me. Today is exactly 365 days since I left my job of wedding and event planning at a hotel and biweekly paychecks so that I could plan weddings full time with Signed Sealed Delivered Events- the little wedding planning business I had dreamed about in private and joked about in public since college. One year later, this is what it looks like. It is a rainy Thursday morning and I am writing from my dining room table while drinking chai tea. A regular occurance actually since we decided to adopt a puppy during wedding season (who’s the smartest b*tch in this place) so to spare the carpet and Holly’s sanity, I work from this spot many a mornings before I head to the office for appointments or tastings or tours or venues or networking events. I am not fluffing this blog up with pretty pics although you know I love pictures so much. My every day is documented by the iphone and then updated to all the social media sites so I can share how much I love these people I work with.  But today it’s just me and the computer and a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that I want to share. Raw. No filter. No pretty. Yes I am still in my jammies and glasses and a side pony because I am bringing the 80’s back. I also want to add that it’s a reheated chai tea from the Bucks from yesterday. Told you it’s not pretty and I am being honest. So here we go: musings from the love aficionado I am blessed beyond words. I am a super spoiled rotten girl. I seriously cannot imagine being loved and supported by more people. It’s just rediculous. Every morning I list them off in my head. Attitude of gratitude. And then it happens and I meet some new wonderful person and I pinch myself. There truly are so many good people in this world. I just say goodness, we are going to be great friends and I already love you. I never slowed down before. Yes, my hours are crazy and I dream about weddings and I wake up to text an idea or reminder to a bride or sketch out some back drop and I type up timelines and to-do lists till 2 am. But before I was in fight or flight mode, racing here to there. Always in a hurry, most of the time late, trying to get that last call in, pleasing everyone in my path. Having the best of intentions to be present and enjoy the moment, to read that book, to have coffee on the deck or go visit that 6 month old baby I haven’t seen since she was born. Constantly on the go and promising myself that I would make a vision board and go to yoga and read The Secret and devote time to a relationship and go four wheeling with my dad. Now I slow down. I notice that I don’t need music when driving or to be checking my email every 2 minutes (not to say that I don’t but I don’t feel like I NEED to). I meditate when I catch myself getting overwhelmed. I read that darn Secret twice in the last month and practice affirmations. I see the beauty in a country road, the sky, a couple of kids on bikes in the park, a simple and kind interaction on the street. An opportunity to open the door and smile. I even introduced myself to a stranger when walking the dogs yesterday. I am actually listening when people are talking. I still get frazzled but smelling the roses is a must, it’s a “bring you back to Belleville” if you will, connecting with nature and people. I still haven’t gone four wheeling but hey, I’m not perfect and it gives me something to look forward to. Speaking of perfection, it does not exist. And we are about to get personal. I have always strived for this rediculous expectation I put on myself and guess what, it made me miserable. I will be happy and love mysefl after I look and feel a certain way or do that next half marathon. Finally at thirty something I can say hey, you know you really do have great curves, and yes you gain and lose the same 10 pounds and sometimes it happens twice in a year. #dontjudge It doesn’t change who you are. I used to look in a mirror and look for something wrong. Now I go, hmmm those jeans actually look better tighter. #yourwelcome and wow, you look pretty today. Self talk is very powerful and although it seems silly it can actually make or break your morning. So no more getting down on myself when I go to the cake tasting or order a real calzone WITH gluten and WITH cheese because jeez, life is short and it tastes so good. Just may have to spend a little more time on those hill workouts is all. Miss Independent (aka me) wanted to know everything and do everything herself. My ma says I came out of the womb in heels and knowing more that everyone else and when I didn’t know it, I would stomp my feet. That is true, the stomping part. I used to get so upset when someone asked me to do something I didn’t already know how to do. Now I look at this as an opportunity to grow and learn and that I should always be growing and learning. Occasionally my blood pressure rises when I have to figure out something new and make mistakes and try again. But it’s ok and it’s always ok and I will eventually figure it out. And if you have to pour a glass of wine on your third try, that’s ok too. And it is ok to ask for help. This year my amazing ma didn’t make me ask, she just swooped in with answers and suggestions and support and very fierce loyalty. Sometimes it was just to be there to pour the wine while I figured it out. The point is I now know I don’t have to know how and I don’t have to do it alone. Following your intuition. Oprah talks about this A-ha moment. I love Oprah. I know I mention her often, but I can’t help it. Sometimes I even introduce people in her voice. #mygoodfriendjohntravolta For years I have been asking where this magical intuition is. The answer was: it was there but if you refuse to listen and base your decisions on the reactions of others, then of course you are never going to experience the A-ha. This year my sweet little intuition worked super hard for months to talk to me and at points, screaming at me. Now, I couldn’t necessarily understand what in the hell she was saying let alone defend my decisions to clients, family, friends, colleagues- but bottom line is I finally let that girl shout it from the rooftop and I just followed with unwavering trust. Lets be honest, it wasn’t totally unwavering. But she’s there now, shouting A-ha. We are a team and there are lots of high five’s. And damn it feels really good to say hey, I made that decision and that’s that and I trust myself (because the little voice in my head told me to). I love weddings soooooo much. It almost doesn’t make sense to me. I got teary eyed at a floral design meeting last week because the flowers were more perfect for the bridal bouquet than I could’ve imagined. I scan through engagement and wedding proofs and I am in awe. I can walk into a venue under construction that is merely a structure and a pile of bricks and I can see the space completed in my head and get goosebumps. I get so much joy from being with my couples and helping them pick out their first dance song or invitations or cake- you name it, it fills my heart with so much happiness to see the culmination of their love and their relationship come together and represented in this beautiful day that I find it unbearable sometimes. Someone once said Ashlee, you love love more than anyone I have ever met. And it’s true. My house and office are decorated like it’s Valentine’s day all year round. I used to avoid Valentine’s day. Perhaps a little saddened that I didn’t have a signif other or that I listened to the on and off banter of “he didn’t get me a gift” “it’s singles awareness day” “I don’t need to show you how much I love you just one day a year” But now I can’t get enough red, pink, gold, heart shaped jazz. And I tell people how much I love them everyday. And you best believe that on Valentine’s day I am going to go all out to make sure they know. Speaking of love, I had the idea for years that it had to look a certain way. It doesn’t. I have found love in the completely and utterly unexpected and that is quite possibly one of the coolest things I discovered this year. And that is how I know that I am in the right place. That I am living the once little dream that now has a family of the awesomest couples and coolest projects ever and the most incredible team of wedding professionals and support staff I could have never imagined. Happy anniversary to me. Can’t wait to see what the next year brings. xooxoxoxooxoxooxoo, Ashlee
Great things always happen at coffee shops

Great things always happen at coffee shops

Honestly, I do not think these pictures and this day could have been more magical. Except if the sun would have given off a bit more heat to warm our little Jessica’s arms and legs.
I was honored to be a part of such a A list team of wedding pro’s in this style shoot orchestrated by Amber Green Photography this spring.
Amber and I have worked together in the past and when she started with developing a new look, marketing plan which included some pretty clever style shoot ideas, she asked me to coffee.
The main question at hand: what in the world does a wedding planner do for a style shoot?
So I explained as I held her 3 month old pumpkin, Alivia, in between sips of Starbucks, I organize and recruit the players, set the scene, you shoot, I direct…
And so we began our journey of the Vintage Romance shoot.
Amber had a vision of a classic car, a dashing red haired beauty and a black dress…
From there we brainstormed how it would all come together.
And then I called a few of the folks which I too, had met in a coffee shop…
Sarah and Savanah are not only sister-in laws and BFF’s, but also owners of S&S Bridal Hair and Makeup. I discovered their biz card on a bulletin board at a coffee shop off Cherokee and after meeting for coffee in that same shop, we decided making magic in the near future was a must.
 Believe it or not, style shoots take some serious prep. Amber and I met up one afternoon to decide on timing and locate the perfect scenery as our couple prepared for their date to the country. Downtown Lebanon Illinois was the obvious choice, with it’s quaint and charming feel.
Notice all the super clever angles that Amber and Zach came up with!
These gorgeous blooms were created by the fabulous Dawn Ahner of Ahner Florist and Greenhouse
You can really see how incredibly stunning Jessica is in this shot.
The make up and hair is breathtaking.
What a gentleman right?
And after a 20 minute drive to the country…
 I think she is thrilled by what she sees…
Gorgeous jewels from Elliott Fine Jewelers. We met the Elliott family when we planned their daughter, Lauren’s wedding.
Show me Rachel McAdams in the Notebook!
I Love You a Bushel and a Peck

I Love You a Bushel and a Peck

Introducing Amy Snodgrass, up and coming photographer in the St. Louis Metro Area! I’ve known Amy since grade school and it’s been an honor to watch her following her dream and opening A Bushel and A Peck Photography You may recognize her work in Signed Sealed Delivered Events ‘s winter OUTDOOR style shoot where we withstood 15 degree weather for over 3 hours. I was slightly surprised when she agreed to join in as a second shooter without hesitation especially since her fingers and toes probably just defrosted from my last grand idea. But she agreed whole heartedly with enthusiasm and even brought her adorable daughter Brooke to model for us. It is important and ironic to note that we battled hail, thunderstorms, mud, huge gusts of wind and missed nap time for this outdoor shoot that took place at the new Lost Hill Lake Events. Perhaps Amy and I are bad luck for each other or perhaps we just know how to make magic happen no matter the circumstances. A few of my favorite images below.
Our team of magic makers PHOTOGRAPHERS: Amy Snodgrass with A Bushel and A Peck Photography . DESSERTS: Lindsay Zelasko with Sugarbelle Cakery and POPtions Popcorn BRIDAL GOWN: Simply Elegant FLOWER GIRL DRESS (1): Bella Bridesmaids, Chicago Location (Giant thank you to Jenna Ehret) BRIDAL HAIR AND MAKEUP: Carla Hall of The Mane Attraction HEADPIECES: Lauren Meadows of Branded by Beauty VINTAGE RENTALS: Michelle Lee of Vintage Mercantile and Lynn Erlinger of Next Door Finery STYLING AND INSPIRATION: Ashlee Erlinger, Signed Sealed Delivered Events This is one of 3 posts we will be featuring on the blog this month from the Lost Hill Lake shoot- stay tuned for more fun! xoxoxooxoxoxooxoxo
Bridezillas: Myth or Reality

Bridezillas: Myth or Reality

It turns out that weddings are a booming business. Especially for those in reality TV production. I have plenty of clients who refer to David Tutera and Kleinfeld’s within the first 10 minutes of our consultation. I never actually paid much attention to these shows because they don’t really showcase all the magic of a wedding to me. And other shows sensationalize the not-so-great parts of a wedding. Sure, that’s awesome for ratings because folks love a little drama, they love to see a girl fly off her handle, demanding the best of the best, having unrealistic expectations and then coin her bridezilla.
Wikictionary defines it as such:
bridezilla (plural bridezillas)
  1. (usually humorous) A woman who, in the course of planning her wedding, exercises or attempts to exercise a high degree of control over all or many minor details of the ceremony and reception.
And exactly what may I ask is wrong with someone who wants to control all of the details?
We live in a society that expects perfection. The perfect job. The perfect house. The perfect body. The perfect clothes. The perfect spouse. The perfect relationship. The list goes on and on and on.
Now of course, daughter of the Life Coach, I know perfection doesn’t exist.
And as a planner of 6 years, I tell every. single. one. of. my. brides. that it won’t go perfectly.
BUT we will put a team of professionals together that will create the best day for you no matter the circumstances.
AND that something little may happen that you can’t control, your mom can’t control, the venue can’t control and that the planner can’t control, etc, etc, etc
BUT this dream team will do their best, I will do my best, to make sure it gets taken care of.
Let go of the idea of perfect.
Once you do that, things will seem way easier.
And not everyone understands this.
And not everyone operates under this idea.
And not everyone understands what it is like to plan a wedding.
You have one day.
One shot. One opportunity. (thank you Eminem)
to create and execute something you have imagined for a long time.
Something that defines your relationship with the person you are marrying.
Something that will entertain your guests.
Something that is breathtaking and beautiful.
Something that will be a night to remember.
That you can look back on with no regrets.
That is A LOT of pressure.
These girls have nightmares about it.
They have opinions being thrown at them from every direction.
They have a budget- and the majority of the time- its hard to stick to and still get everything you want.
They have moms that want it a certain way.
And mommy in laws that want it a certain way.
They have a groom that wants to elope.
They have dads that don’t think the groom is good enough.
And bridesmaids who are jealous that they aren’t getting married first.
And cousins who are mad they aren’t bridesmaids.
And venues that only allow set up 3 hours before show time.
I could keep going….
Oh and by the way, they also have full time jobs- some with multiple jobs.
And kids.
And volunteer.
And take care of their elderly family members.
Oh and did I mention taking care of yourself because you have a gorgeous dress.
You want to look your best.
And you need your sleep while still tracking those hours for work, and making it to the gym at 5am and helping the kids with the homework and keeping up with the laundry or even having a social life.
And there are only 24 hours in a day.
You see, I understand that it is a lot.
Which is why I am in business.
My clients understand the need for someone to help them keep it organized, to stay on track, to offer suggestions, advice, to listen, and to be there every step of the way, especially for those just-in-case moments.
But not everyone works with me. Or is me. Or understands the pressures and struggles of planning while still being a good mom, a daughter, a boss, a co-worker, a partner…
We are human. And it’s normal to get a little anxious with all the added stress.
So yes, you may snap when you didn’t mean to.
And you may cry because you want everyone to be happy.
And you may say things that aren’t true.
I understand that.
And so should, in my opinion, anyone who chooses to work in the wedding industry.
We know what the pressures are, what our clients are trying to manage.
And we certainly shouldn’t judge you for a few slips.
And we won’t take it personally.
Because we are professionals who know that this is normal.
That you are dealing with a lot.
And you will NEVER catch me calling my brides a Bridezilla.
In fact, when folks find out I am a planner, or ask about my business, they 9 times of of 10 say: any bridezillas?
No way jose, because they do not exist in my world.
Only girls who want their day to be magical.
To live up to their expectations, and their parents’ and his parents’ and the bridal party and the guests…
Moral of the story:
Brideszillas are myth. Because we are human.
Just a little wedding cake for thought:
If you are a wedding professional, be that calm, collected individual who offers a shoulder perhaps.
Who lends some kind advice such as: you look amazing, your girls will look amazing and we can find something in your budget.
If you are a family member, friend, co-worker of a bride, don’t take any of it personally; she really doesn’t mean it and she certainly doesn’t hate you.
And if you are the bride, take a deep breath pumpkin, recognize that it won’t be perfect, but in the end you are marrying your best friend.
And if that still doesn’t work, call me, I am a great wedding planner and I happy to help!
Reflections on Joy

Reflections on Joy

What brings you joy? They say life is short, I think we can all agree with that. So why spend your life stressed, unhappy or in a place, job or relationship that is less than fulfilling; that doesn’t bring you true joy? And have you found your joy? What fills you up? I have spent the last few years pondering this question. Journaling almost daily, having an attitude of gratitude (thank you Oprah), reciting affirmations and studying countless courses and books on self discovery. And here is what I have found… only when I finally slowed down to really sit and think about it, it turned out it was way simpler than I thought. It wasn’t money. Although that does make things a wee bit easier and it allows you distraction from these simple, yet challenging questions. It wasn’t getting a promotion or working the extra hour, extra day, extra weekend. It wasn’t having the perfect body. It wasn’t having the newest, latest and greatest fashions. Although looking good is feeling good. It wasn’t and certainly isn’t winning awards and being recognized by my peers. Although that feels pretty spectacular. And it wasn’t being in a relationship. It was waaaaaayyyyyy easier than that.
It is rolling on the floor with my dogs.
Scratching their bellies while their tongues dangle outside their mouths.
Legs kicking the air.
It is holding a baby and watching him sleep soundly.
Patting his bottom.
Rocking back and forth.
Imagining all the little dreams he is dreaming.
It is going for a walk, breathing in the chilly winter air as I listen to my feet crunch through the snow.
It clears my head and heart.
The stillness is so incredibly calming.
And so full of possibility.
It is seeing the sunrise as the world awakens.
It is listening to my dad tell the silliest of jokes while my mom gives him a look of disapproval.
I love this the most.
It is enjoying a cup of coffee and people watching.
It is getting REAL mail in my mail box… bills do not count.
It is laughing so hard I cry.
It is catching up with an old friend.
At a baseball game.
The crowd. The energy. It’s magnetic.
And the beers aren’t bad either…
It is wrapping a gift in the prettiest of papers with the biggest of bows and watching someone open it.
I love giving gifts.
It is spending time with my sisters as they try to outwit each other in a game of Apples to Apples.
It is watching two people fall in love.
It is seeing someone gain their confidence.
To finally see the beauty in themselves.
The beauty that you already knew they had.
It is baking a pie.
From scratch.
All by myself
…. or with the supervision of a really good cook.
Thanks Dave.
Birthday parties.
Giving back.
Bundling up in the freezing cold to go to a Bears game with my college buds.
A little kid’s laugh.
It’s meeting new friends. It’s connection.
It’s becoming more and more like my best friend, my role model and my mom.
It’s climbing into my own bed
in my own house every night
and realizing that I love the life I have created.
It’s waking up each day with a clean slate.
With direction and purpose.
With enthusiasm and love.
With gratitude for my life, my family, my friends.
That’s what brings me joy.
That’s what fills my heart.