Hairspray, Bridal Showers & Alterations

I’m currently sitting on my couch with my DSC_0229SOON-to-be husband, watching the Bachelor finale, and nursing what I’m praying is just a 24-hour bug. In the midst of my multitasking, I’m now looking back at this fabulous weekend, and can’t help but feel so loved.

To kick off this weekend of wedding fun, my mom drove down to North Carolina to join me for my second dress appointment. And what a wonderful appointment it was! In case you didn’t get the chance to read my previous post, I’ve learned the hard way that letting the bridal salon order your dress 2 sizes too big is a huge mistake. When I put my dress on during the first appointment, I was horrified to look about 20 pounds heavier (this was especially frustrating after working my butt off in the gym for months), but now after our seamstress worked her magic, the dress is almost perfect! The best part? My mom and I got to share a special moment of tearing up thinking about me marrying Brian in the most beautiful dress I’ll ever put on.

Day two was full of crossing things off my wedding to-do list, including my DIY table numbers, which look AMAZING if I may say so myself. I won’t share any pictures (hey, there has to be some surprise for our guests), but I’ll give you a hint… it involved lots of gold spray paint! The day ended with me practicing my wedding make up and then getting my hair trial. I may not have had a seamless hair trial, but I definitely got some great ideas and think I’ve nailed down my makeup for the day too! For those of you who may not have tried them yet, let me just say, Urban Decay and Bare Minerals can do no wrong!

Sunday was my first bridal shower, and it was incredible. Actually, that’s an understatement… it was perfect. Two of my sweet bridesmaids, Ellen and Megan, teamed up to throw me a shower with all of my closest Raleigh friends. It was pink, girlie, and everything I could have dreamed of for my first shower. Did I mention they even got me a beautiful corsage?!

My ladies also planned two cute activities to make the shower even more fun! One was a date jar, where all of my friends wrote out date ideas and put them on a jar for Brian and I to read together later. We had SO much fun reading through them and are going to make a point of doing all of them within our first year. The second was a question game, where Ellen had asked Brian questions about me beforehand, which I then had to answer for myself at the shower and compare answers. Fortunately, he knows me well, and got just about every question right. My favorite questions? What is the one thing I can’t live without and my most prized possession? Without hesitation from both myself and Brian, the answers were: coffee and my dog, Gunner. Though, let’s be honest, Gunner is more of a child than a possession.

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I hope and pray that all of you will have times like this, when you feel incredibly showered with love and blessed beyond measure by your loved ones. I can’t possibly thank everyone enough for making this weekend such a special one! Less than 55 days to go!


Lessons Learned

Y’all… I get married in TWO MONTHS! Maybe this doesn’t seem that exciting, but when it’s been almost a year since Brian popped the question, you better believe I’m eager as can be to become his wife!

Those who know me, know that I’m a type-a organizer (all jokes aside, I cannot survive without my Lilly Pulitzer planner). Despite my “expert” planning, this 13-month engagement has come with its fair share of ups and downs as we prepare for both an incredible wedding, and an even more amazing marriage. For the love of all things bridal, I’ve decided to share a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Don’t let them order your dress THAT big
Wedding dress shopping can be one of the best experiences of your engagement, especially if you’ve brought your loved ones and they are committed to supporting you and making sure you enjoy it. That being said, purchasing the most expensive and important dress you’ll ever wear can be stressful.
bad wedding dress
When I said “yes” to my dress, I was so excited, and then overwhelmed when coming to terms with the price tag, that everything at the end of my appointment was a bit of a blur. The consultant took my measurements, let me know what they were, and then recommended getting a dress at least two sizes up so that they could “size everything down together.” At the time I thought to myself that these ladies obviously knew what they were doing and the dress would be perfect when it came in. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. After my first dress appointment, the bill for alterations was nearly half the price of my dress because it was ordered so large!

I can already tell what you’re thinking… “Of course it was too big! Why didn’t you demand they order the right size?!” Well, you’re right! Apparently this ordering up happens frequently because bridal salons can make even more money on alterations. With that in mind, don’t be naive like I was – make sure the size ordered is the closest to what you actually need!

If you have a long engagement, double triple check addresses
Tracking down address changes and updating our guest list was probably my least favorite part of preparing for the wedding. Chances are, especially if you’re in your 20’s, if your engagement is for over a year, several of your friends’ addresses will have changed between the time you send your Save the Dates and the formal invitations. Trying to keep track of who moved, where they moved, and then hunting down new street addresses is quite the pain, especially because accuracy is so important!

One tip would be requesting that your friends let you know of their new addresses as soon as they finalize a move. Yes, this may seem a bit overbearing, but anticipating these changes and having that information ahead of time can save you a lot of frustration, and wasted envelopes with incorrect addresses. Don’t be afraid of speaking up and triple checking if need be. It might be annoying to your friends in the moment, but I guarantee they’d rather you pester them than not get an invitation to the big day.

Organize your swatches and see everything in person
Oh the disaster of your bridesmaid dresses arriving in the wrong colors. How would I know this tragedy? Well, it happened to me about two months ago. All I can say is “Praise the Lord for refunds, free returns, and the very patient sales consultant who helped me pick new dresses.”

Mismatched Dresses 2I thought I had done everything right. I ordered fabric swatches for the bridesmaid dresses, brought them to all of my appointments and thought my plan was foolproof. The only issue? I didn’t see the dresses in person before ordering and the swatches were incredibly deceiving. The worst part? We will have different hues of pastels for the bridesmaid dresses, which with the first round of dresses looked like a confused rainbow. Fortunately, the company through which we ordered the unfortunate dresses really stepped up and made sure all of my girls had free returns and received full refunds. The Lord really had his hand over this situation, because the consultant I ended up working with at a local salon couldn’t have been more perfect and helpful in making sure I had exactly what I had envisioned and any concerns were alleviated.

So what’s the lesson here? Do as I did when it comes to keeping your swatches with you for every wedding planning appointment with your vendors. Coming to those meetings prepared with your colors in hand will ensure everything meshes well. BUT, make sure you see more than just swatches before pulling the trigger. Especially if fabrics are layered, colors can turn out drastically different in person as compared with the swatches you plan for.

Don’t skimp on your trials
My advice? Do a run-through of everything that you can: hair, makeup, menu, etc. Whether you already have it planned out in your mind or have no clue what you want, go to these vendor meetings prepared (with swatches of course!), but with an open mind. These are your opportunities to explore all of the possibilities, preview important parts of you wedding and communicate clearly to ensure things run smoothly during planning and on the big day.

Here’s a great example… Brian and I had done a lot of research about caterers within the first few months of our engagement. It was important to us that every aspect of the wedding mesh well, even the food. We really wanted to give our guests a taste of all that we love about the South, without showering them with fried okra and including “Southern-isms” in our vows. When we were fairly certain we’d found the caterer we wanted, we were thrilled to see that they had chicken and waffles as hors d’oeuvres. Fortunately, we attended a tasting right away and discovered that these were “classy” chicken and waffles… with goat cheese. You may disagree, but we both believe that under no circumstances should goat cheese ever be affiliated with chicken and waffles. Despite our disappointment, we loved some other options at the tasting and couldn’t be more excited about our menu. All thanks to trial and error!

Space out your expenses
Whether every piece of your wedding is being paid for by someone else or you’re having to budget your own money, space out big expenses as much as you can. If you’re both forgetful and visual, like me, something as simple as making sticky notes in your planner can help keep those expenses top of mind. This is especially important in the last few months, when you are finalizing all the little details and purchasing things you may not have accounted for in your original budget.

A side note to this lesson learned… talk with a few newlyweds about last-minute, unexpected expenses they had to deal with. Then, make a list of all those things. This will help you to prepare and make sure all of your bases are covered, so that you stay right on track with your overall budget from your first dress appointment to the day you say “I do.”


Converted Southerner

Having moved up and down the East Coast during my childhood, I am always flattered when someone remarks that I seem especially Southern. For those of you who may have never have ventured south of the Mason Dixon Line, let me express my most sincere apologies for your bad luck. As someone who wasn’t raised purely in the South, I thank my lucky stars to now be a converted Southerner. Come sit a spell and read about some ways that my beloved North Carolina has shaped me into a Southern belle and just how to spot one of us!


Photo by Sarah Morrel Photography


  • We always prefer to sip our lemonade out of a mason jar. Maybe it’s the shape, the glass, the Ball logo? I haven’t figured this one out just yet, but whatever you’re
    drinking, you can be sure it’ll taste better out of a mason jar.
  • We love a well-placed monogram. This is a true testament to my Southern conversion. Until college at NC State, I never understood the need to have your initials on everything… did girls in the South have a special propensity for losing their property? Were they constantly forgetting their names? How naive I was. Monograms are simply a way of showing off your initials with pride, class, and some lovely script.
  • It’s always Bo time. If you weren’t aware, “Bo” is short for “Bojangles'”, which is short for “The Most Amazing Chicken and Biscuits You Can Buy In A Drive-thru.” When my family first moved to Carolina, I wasn’t too keen on the restaurant (blasphemy, I know), but it has since become the major cause of my high sodium levels and cravings for egg and cheese biscuits on a Saturday morning.
  • We believe cowboy boots and sundresses are the perfect combination for football games and country concerts. Let’s be honest… what’s not to love? The right pair of boots should fit your feet like a dream and show off some of your country pride. The perfect sundress should keep you cool and make you feel like a true Southern belle.
  • “Bless your heart” is a real thing. That being said, I don’t think it’s a phrase that should be used sarcastically. I believe it is the perfect response when someone shares something truly upsetting, which cannot be helped, for which nothing better can be said besides that you hope their heart is blessed! I confess, I have caught myself using this phrase far more often than I intend to after being here for over a decade.
  • We are fervent believers in Southern hospitality – whether that means baking a casserole for someone at church, acting as a welcoming host whenever you have company, or simply making sure those around you feel comfortable and accepted. If you visit my city, don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by countless smiles.
  • We bow down to Lilly Pulitzer… the queen of bright Southern fashion. Yes, I’ll admit, you CAN go overboard on Lilly, and this is coming from a girl with a matching phone case and planner. Let’s be clear, the goal is not to look like you’re wearing neon children’s curtains. But, a well styled Lilly dress just makes you shine a little brighter!

If you’re not from the South, I hope this gave you a little taste of our slice of heaven. If you are, I hope you could relate to at least some of this and it brought back a handful of good memories!



Meet the Girls: Megan

Have you ever met someone who radiates294300_10150360762885719_3894459_n goodness and a gentle spirit? Well, my sweet friend, Megan, is one of those people. She is selfless, fearless, and always ready to make her friends smile. Having known Megan since freshman year, I can attest to the fact that she provides an endless supply of both Christ-like grace and the cheesiest of jokes.

Megan is a new momma to Aiden Levi, the most precious baby boy you’ve ever met. As the first of my closest friends to get married and also the first to be a mother (an incredible one at that!), I have always been so inspired by her faith in God’s timing and trust in his provision. On a slightly different note, there’s also no doubt in my 1276783_10151847462676136_12551415_omind that she is going to be one of those healthy supermoms who makes everyone else wish they’d skipped the Bojangles for lunch and done a round of cardio instead. Don’t let her height fool you… she can outrun someone with a stride twice the length of hers!

When I think of the one thing that I admire most about Megan, my mind immediately goes to her eagerness to serve others, both in prayer and action. She is the best listener and always one to encourage with prayer and direction towards Christ. Megan is truly a friend who makes me a better woman of the Lord. She never hesitates to pray over me in a time of need and always helps me to remember that my identity is in God and not things of this world. One of the best things about Megan is that she both speaks truth and also always demonstrates through her actions what it looks like to walk with Christ.

For those of you who already are fortunate enough to call Megan a friend, hold on tight and cherish every bit of time you get to spend with her! If you happen to be at the wedding on May 8th, make sure you keep a lookout for this girl having a blast on the dance floor or sitting with baby Aiden and her sweet husband, Nathan. Meg, thanks for always standing by my side and encouraging me and loving me so well as your sister in Christ!




Jess Does Dressember

One of my favorite things about the holiday season in North Carolina is that just when you thought Southerners couldn’t get any more charming and friendly, they do! With glowing Christmas trees already gracing the presence of my neighbors windows, it’s hard not to feel the holiday cheer. I’ve already noticed extra smiles in line at the grocery store and friends looking for special ways to bring a smile to the faces of their loved ones. With the holidays approaching, people are also looking for ways to give back. If you’re one of those seeking a worthy cause, I’d love to tell you about an incredibly important movement that has the potential to make a big impact!

 This season, I’m participating in Dressember. If you know me well, you know that one of my biggest passions is making an impact in the fight against human trafficking. With over 27 million individuals enslaved today, whether through bonded labor, forced labor, or the sex trade, we can’t afford to turn a blind eye as we dream of sugar plums and hang our stockings. Fortunately, making an impact can be as simple as financial giving, speaking out as an advocate, or wearing dresses throughout the month of December.

So, from December 1st through the 31st, I will be wearing a dress every day. The wearing of dresses is meant to embrace the freedom and femininity that is deserved by all women across the globe. I have a fundraising page set up through the Dressember movement where you can “sponsor” me. All proceeds go directly to International Justice Mission and A21, who are funding the rescue of women who are victims of modern day slavery and empowering those who have escaped.

Having worked both in the States and having joined several international trips to work with women impacted by trafficking and the sex trade, this is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. As a woman who is both free from earthly slavery and has been rescued from the bondage of sin, I feel called to use those blessings to then bless those in need.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
– Galations 5:1

I will be documenting my Dressember wardrobe each day via Instagram, and posting weekly recaps of my outfits, here. I’ll admit, this is both for accountability and because I’m super excited to figure out how to accessorize each of my dresses differently. With that being said, if my fiancé, Brian, can forgive the vanity that is to come in the following weeks, I trust that you can do the same.

If you’re interested in helping me meet my goal and create real, lasting change in the lives of women around the globe, please check out my fundraising page and read up a bit on Dressember’s partnering organizations. Every dollar counts, and the process is fast, easy, and secure.

Please feel free to message me with any questions you might have. This is an issue we can’t shy away from having conversations about- education is key and bold advocacy is crucial!



J&B-2It has been 218 days since Brian asked me to marry him. That’s 7 months and 4 days of planning, waiting, and counting down the moments until May 8, 2016.

We are now just over five months away from the big day and I couldn’t be more eager! That being said, this period of engagement has been quite the experience thus far. Through ups and downs and the woes of being an impatient bride, I am fortunate enough to have some incredibly patient bridesmaids, encouraging family, and a fiancé whose excitement matches mine.

Currently, Brian is sitting in a coffee shop somewhere, studying for law school exams, which means my day is being spent with the company of my dog, Gunner, binge watching HGTV and Say Yes To The Dress. Of course, the perfect combination of homemaking and wedding dresses is creating the ideal environment for daydreaming about our wedding and looking over the items that have been marked off my engagement checklist. With that in mind, I figured I would share some of my favorite and least enjoyable parts of planning for a wedding thus far.

Wedding Planning Favorites:

1. Wedding dress shopping: Lets be Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presethonest, is there anything more fun than trying on beautiful dresses with your closest friends and mom all cheering you on?! I’ll admit, it can be overwhelming and hard to choose between so many pretty gowns… but in my opinion, even the hardest of decisions isn’t going to take away from those wonderful once in a lifetime memories! Plus… there’s champagne… which automatically makes everything better.

2. Sweating for the wedding: Getting in shape for the wedding has been a huge motivator for hitting the gym every day. I’m one of those people who absolutely loves working out, but has trouble prioritizing a steady workout routine when life gets busy. The reality of it is, once I’m laced up and moving, I really enjoy it, and it’s a great stress reliever. Keeping in mind how I want to feel and look in my wedding dress is one of the best motivators I have found to actually make my workouts a top priority.

3. Planning the honeymoon: For two people who are have been bitten badly by the travel bug, making plans for the week or two after our wedding has been a blast! We’ve daydreamed about it all- from outlandish, extravagant safaris in Botswana all the way to a quiet weekend spent in Savannah. Although we have yet to nail down the details, talking about our first week of marriage spent tucked away somewhere unfamiliar is nothing short of wonderful.

Wedding Planning Woes:

1. Guest list: One of my favorite parts of attending a wedding is getting to catch up with people I’ve not seen in a long while, and seeing all of the people who have had an impact in the lives of the bride and groom. That being said, now that it’s my turn, I can attest that it’s nearly impossible to invite everyone you’d like. Unless we were renting out the largest wedding venue in the South, it wouldn’t exactly have been doable to invite all 500 friends and family that we would have liked. With that in mind, it can be pretty awful deciding how to cut down the guest list.

Tip: One thing that I would recommend to any couple with a long engagement is reserving 10 or so open spots to people you’ll want to invite down the road. With an engagement of over a year, we knew there would be a handful of new friends we’d definitely want at the big day.

2. Managing the budget: Confession time… I have found another love during the course of our engagement. My love grows with every major decision being made in the planning process and it has managed to somehow keep me sane as I juggle all of the expenses of our wedding. The object of my affection is a creature of my own invention, my Wedding Budget Tracker. With this beloved Excel file, I am able to tally all of our expenses and payments to date, automatically calculating how much has been spent and what we have left in the total budget. Even with my beloved tracker, managing that much money can definitely get stressful. One of the hardest things about having several vendors you really want is figuring out where you can afford to splurge or save, making sure you’re able to book them. I highly recommend a Wedding Budget Tracker to any bride… it’s the best way to make sure you’re right on track with how much you’ve planned to spend.

IMG_56543. Waiting: This one is obvious. I asked Brian what his least favorite part of our engagement has been and he had the same answer as me… waiting. We’re overjoyed as we look forward to our wedding day and making our commitment to one another in front of God, and our friends and family. But, even more than we’re eagerly awaiting May 8th, we are most looking forward to the decades to come after it.

Cheers to the next 5 months going by faster than expected!


Meet the Girls: Lauren

IMG_4526A little over a month ago, I had the incredible pleasure of celebrating this sweet friend of nine years also becoming a bride! Though we spent our fair share of time daydreaming about weddings in high school, we had no idea we’d have the blessing of actually sharing in our times of engagement. Lauren is the type of woman who is always looking for ways to give to others out of the beauty of her heart.

Having experienced so much together throughout high school and growing together into adulthood, I can say without hesitation that she always has the best interest of others in mind and is without a single unkind bone in her body. Although we were in different cities during college, Lauren’s selfless nature and devotion to her loved ones was always evident, stemming largely from her faith 198139_1004385185564_6151_nin Christ. This care for others is even obvious in how she speaks about her students and the girls she coaches in her free time (she is one of the brave souls who willingly works with middle school students every day).

In choosing bridesmaids, I wanted to make sure the girls standing beside me would always push me to pursue God first and seek to serve Brian. Lauren’s devotion to Christ and her desire to see others grow in their faith makes me confident that she will always be one to point me in the right direction and make me a better daughter to the Lord and wife to my husband.

Lauren is one whose faith never seems to waiver. Even during the incredible hardship of sickness within her family, she has remained steadfast in her faith and an 32105_433387645718_1152721_namazing witness to the goodness and sovereignty of God. I pray that when obstacles as insurmountable as that come into my life, I handle them with as much grace, patience, and faith as Lauren has.

I will always be so thankful for Lauren, for the fun, Chandler Bing-loving, Appalachian mountain-hiking, beautiful sister-in-Christ that she is. There are few people whose passion for the Lord I admire as much as hers. I pray that at least some of you have the privilege of meeting and befriending the soon-to-be Mrs. Key, because she’s the type of friend that so many pray for.