My Big Fat Zimbabwean Rehearsal Dinner

my big fat zimbabwean rehearsal dinner

Friday Morning

The best part about coming from a big American family and marrying into a big African family is the people. There are people everywhere! The number of people at our rehearsal dinner was paramount to a small wedding. We had between 75-100 people at our rehearsal dinner alone.

Friday morning, I woke up early and met my soon-to-be husband at Panera bread for breakfast. Somehow we managed to see each other throughout the week in snippets, but we had hardly been alone the week leading up to the wedding, and I needed some one on one time to process the weekend. We sipped our coffee, gazed in each other’s eyes adoringly, and prayed together. To top the morning off, we had the first snow flurry of the season and I was ecstatic.

We separated before the rehearsal, me running last minute errands.

Always have your rehearsal lunch at Chickfila

Someone had rented our venue the night before our wedding for a rehearsal dinner, so we had to have our rehearsal at 3 in the afternoon. Before we went to the rehearsal, several of us met up at Chickfila for lunch. I kid you not, almost the entire dining room of Chickfila was practically filled with our bridal party and my family. The rehearsal went as smoothly as you could expect when there’s 36 people in the wedding party, and I only had a secret freak out in the bathroom once.

We had some time to kill before the rehearsal dinner, so a few bridesmaids, one husband of a bridesmaid and I went to one of my favorite coffee shops. Because what cures the wedding jitters more than extra adrenaline and caffeine?

Before the rehearsal dinner started, the rest of the bridal party met up at the church and Pai and I taught the bridal party a traditional Zimbabwean entrance dance, coreographed by his sister and his mom. At the reception, when we were introduced, we came out dancing to a Zimbabwean song. It was hilarious to see all these white guys trying to keep up with these white girls who knew how to dance. I’m sure it was mortifying for some, but every one was a good sport and it was a huge hit at the reception.

Rehearsal Dinner – Zim Style

The rehearsal dinner had a few more Zim traditions that we couldn’t squeeze into the wedding day itself. Pai’s mother gifted us with a traditional matching outfit which was adorable. Several of my bridesmaids had been to different parts of Africa, so they wore dresses they had bought in Africa. My mother in law also lent a few of my other bridesmaids some dresses she had.

my big fat zimbabwean rehearsal dinner

The night consisted of Zimbabwean food and speeches upon speeches upon speeches. Friends and family stood up to share their well-wishes. One of my favorite moments was when an uncle on Pai’s side gave us wedding advice and ended with a song. We originally wanted him to sing at our wedding, but due to health complications he wasn’t able. So when he surprised us with a song at the rehearsal dinner, I was so touched.

my big fat zimbabwean rehearsal dinner

I looked over at my dad throughout the night, who had been as any typical dad giving away his first daughter would be, and could see the glee on his face that I was marrying into a family whose values and relationships were steadfast.

In Zimbabwe, when the woman marries the husband, she marries into his family. As a thank you for a new daughter in law, it is typical custom for the husband’s family to give the brides parents a gift. Rather than the parents hand the gift off to the parents, though, they have intercessors. The uncles on the husband’s side give the gift to the bride’s father’s sister on the bride’s side and the aunt then presents the gift to the parents. It is a way to thank the parents for trusting the family with their daughter, and it brings the families together. Pai’s parents and family are so intentional and mindful of establishing a relationship with my family.  Both sets of my grandparents are best friends with each other, and I always wanted that for my parents and in-laws as well.

my big fat zimbabwean rehearsal dinner

 

After the rehearsal dinner, Pai and I gave each other one last kiss before the big day. My dad loves to take us kids out one on one to get hot chocolate from McDonalds, so I asked him if we could go for a hot chocolate with my mom before they took me home.

When mom and I got home to a house full of bridesmaids, it was like Slumber Party 2.0. We played more games that Abigail hadn’t had time to play during the bachelorette party. We stayed up till midnight giggling and then I tried to go to sleep. Try being the operative word here. . .

Until next week, when we finally talk about the wedding day!

my big fat zimbabwean rehearsal dinner

OK but before you go, look at how cute our little flower girl was <3  She is always mesmerized by Pai . . .must be the dark chocolate skin. 😉

 

The I Do Crew

Hello! I’ve been MIA this week thanks to a nasty sinus infection. You know how there are all those wonderful ladies who are strong and fight through illness? I’m not one of them. I’m whiny and spend the majority of my time on the couch. Last time I had a sinus infection this bad was my senior year of high school around Valentine’s Day. To add onto the sinus infection, I developed a double ear infection in one ear. I would like to never experience that again please.

But I’m not here today to whine about a sinus infection. I am so excited to share with you all about my wonderful bridesmaids.

The I Do Crew

One’s Company, Two’s a Crowd, Twelve’s a Party

When we sat down to talk about bridesmaids and groomsman, I knew it would be a big group. Pai had so many influential people in his life. He’s really a relationships guy, so it was hard for him to not want to include every single person in his life. I’m honestly surprised he didn’t have 30 people. He did try to settle on 15, though. I wanted to be encouraging and let him do his thang, but 15 people was a whole ton and I think I would have to hire a few friends for me to have an even number. So we settled on 12. Thankfully, it wasn’t hard for me to think of 12 people I loved.

Since I have two sisters and a sister-in-law, I wanted to do something special for each of them. I always knew that the sister that was closest in my age would be my maid of honor. But I also had my youngest sister and my sister-in-law who I wanted to honor. They are both in their early teens, though, so I knew they wouldn’t want to handle the full responsibilities of maid of honor. I got to thinking. . . if we could have junior bridesmaids, why couldn’t I have junior maids of honor? Forget tradition.

Popping the Question

I browsed and perused Pinterest for quirky and fun ideas to ask my bridesmaids that didn’t break the bank. Some of my favorites included fun gift boxes with confetti and important memorabilia, but I knew I would want to get them a thoughtful and useful bridesmaids gift, and I had twelve. . . so these bridesmaids proposals had to be a little more low key than Pinterest was offering.

So I thought. . what is something that I would want?

My mind immediately turned to coffee. And mugs. Of course. So I perused the local thrift shops in the area for white mugs. Since my sweet fiance at the time worked at an organization that has a thrift store, he was able to score me identical white mugs. I used a Sharpie paint pen to write “bridesmaid,” “maid of honor,” and “junior maid of honor.” I then baked the mugs for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

To add a little oomph to the mug, I picked a yummy flavor of coffee beans, wrapped them up in tissue paper, and set it all cute style in the mug.

Before I gave the mugs to my friends, I wrote them each a letter riddled with coffee puns and asked them to be my bridesmaids. Luckily, they all said yes.

DIY Bridesmaid Proposal

Saying Yes to the Dress Bridesmaids 

I looked long and hard for a gorgeous dress that would flatter each of my ladies and not break the bank. I had images of floor length burgundy dresses in mind. Since I had 12 ladies standing next to me, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get everyone together to go dress shopping, so I found a weekend in July to bring together as many ladies as I could to try on dresses at David’s Bridal. Unfortunately my sister and maid of honor wasn’t able to be there that day, so she came in on another day and went to David’s Bridal. She ultimately helped me choose out of 3 dresses the other ladies had tried on. We decided to go with the Versa in Apple Red and it was perfect. Each of the girls could choose to fashion their sleeves any way they wanted. My only request was no strapless, although it was so lovely as a strapless dress too!

The ladies at David’s Bridal this time around were SO helpful in making sure I had a smooth and easy purchasing process. Because I had 12, we had to order from all different stores and warehouses and such. Rather than having the bridesmaids order their dresses, I ordered the dresses for them since they were on sale. Because my dad served in the military, they also gave me a military discount to lower the cost even more, which in turn gave my ladies a little budget break.

I know every bride says this, but my bridesmaids dresses were absolutely gorgeous. I kinda wanted one for myself. . .

Finding the Perfect Gift

I knew exactly what I wanted to get my ladies. I wanted matching robes for each of us to get ready, and I wanted a little something extra for them to wear at the wedding itself. Because we were getting married in December and I knew it could likely be 30 degrees outside (it was), I got them shawls to go over their arms in case it was chilly.

I was able to find a great deal on robes on Etsy. I was a little nervous ordering 13 robes, but I received them in such a timely fashion, and they were so cute!

I also ordered champagne pashmina shawls on Etsy and they were SO. ADORABLE. The hardest part about  buying my bridesmaids’ gifts was waiting 3 months to give it to them. I love gifting so much!

The I Do Crew

The I Do Crew

Why My Bridesmaids Were the Best

It was amazing that I have 12 amazing friends who were full of life, exciting, and we didn’t experience any drama once. I was so honored to have 6 of my college friends and roommates, a dear friend from church, my 3 sisters, my cousin, my best friend from childhood, and my Internet best friend come together and party with me Zim-American style.

I don’t take the sacrifice bridesmaids have to make lightly. Those girls give up their time, energy, and money to support a marriage and friendships. Relationships are incredibly valuable to me, so I deeply appreciated having each and every one of my bridesmaids standing beside Pai and me.

The I Do Crew

The I Do Crew

Now buying the groomsmen suits was crazy stressful and I don’t even think I’m ready to talk about it yet. . .

How did you propose to your bridesmaids?
If you’ve not been married yet, what is something you look forward to doing with your bridesmaids one day? 

 

Saying Yes to the Dress

Shopping for a wedding dress

When I started the dress shopping adventure last summer, I was armed with high expectations thanks to TLC. I wanted the Kleinfeld experience of East TN. I wanted strawberries, champagne, and tears. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted: open back, lace, corset or buttons, a sweetheart neckline, and sleeves preferred. I wanted something that was form fitting but also allowed me to dance the night away. I went to four different bridal shops, starting with David’s Bridal.

Dress #1

First of all, I had a ridiculously low budget. When I told the bridal attendants what I wanted for the price I had in mind, they looked at me like I was crazy. The one dress that I found below my low budget was slinky and showcased every little chip dimple (aka cellulite) my thighs had. A wedding dress shouldn’t do that! I honestly didn’t have the best experience at David’s Bridal. The attendant I had working with me had a few other brides she was working with, so she was pulling double duty going back and I felt like I was being rushed through the whole moment. Topped with the fact that I didn’t see any dresses that I fell in love with was proof that this place wasn’t the one for me. (Now, I had a completely different absolutely wonderful experience buying my bridesmaids dresses through them. . . but that’s a story for another day. :) ) It was still a fun first experience, though. My mom, sisters, and MIL and sister-in-law joined us for the first shopping trip.

Is this the one?

A few weeks later I visited a bridal shop in my hometown; my aunts and grandmothers joined us for this trip. This was the same place my mom’s sister found her wedding dress, so I was hoping to carry on the tradition and find my perfect dress. Again, there was nothing at the boutique that fit my low budget, so I had to reassess. I increased my budget mentally and was hoping to find a dress for under $500. Unfortunately the boutique didn’t have a lot of flattering dresses that screamed my name. However, my sister/maid of honor slipped me into this gorgeous satin A-line dress that had the lace up corset in the back. There were tears and I couldn’t stop looking at myself, so I was pretty sure this was the one. But this was a big deal, so I wanted to shop around a few more places so I could be positive that this was the dress for me.

3rd Time’s (not always) a Charm 

The third shop was one of the most fun places to dry on dresses. It was a little boutique inside the mall and we walked in 45 minutes before closing. Here I found a dress that was poofier than a princess and I thought I would try it on for funsies. I looked like Cinderella. It was sparkly in the tulle skirt and I could imagine myself walking down the aisle at Christmas time, whisking my husband-to-be’s breath away. But it wasn’t at all exactly what I thought I wanted, and my mom pointed this out. So we took pictures, stepped back a few days and thought through it. When I looked again I knew it was too puffy for my five foot frame. I also found a dress at this boutique that I loved. It had a long, lacy train, but it also had rhinestones on the sweetheart neckline, and I hated that. It was form fitting and a lower back, so it was 3/5 for the dream dress, but when I saw how form fitting it was in pictures, I hated it. I was going to need to be able to scarf down some cupcakes and still breathe on my wedding day.

Say Yes to the Dress

& then I said Yes! 

July 1st hailed and it was a special day for me. Two years ago on July 1st my boyfriend told me that he loved me. He tried to whisper it in my ear, but I knew what he was getting ready to say, so I turned my head so he would say it to my face. When I told him I loved him too, I knew some serious ish was about to go down. It was this somber feeling of oh my gosh, this is it. In my post last week, I mentioned that I knew on our first date we were getting married, so when we said the L word, I was ecstatic. July 1st was also the day I said yes to the dress!

At this point, I had tried on at least 20 dresses so far. We were all tired and hopeful this would be the place to find the dress of my dreams. I told the bridal attendant my adjusted budget of $500. Once again, I was met with skeptic eyes and was guided towards the clearance rack. Most dresses were a little over $500, so I tried them anyway. I found a dress that had everything I wanted: sleeves, sweetheart neckline, buttons up the back with a keyhole back, and lace. But it was a size 20. For reference, I’m between a 2-4. But the bridal attendant put it on me and clipped it up to fit my short self. I slipped into heels, added a tiara and veil, and went to stand on the pedestal. I couldn’t stop staring at the dress. I twirled, I practiced walking down the aisle, arm in arm with my sister (who pretended to be my dad and made sure to fake sob and sling snot everywhere). I couldn’t stop smiling and I knew this was the one. The problem? It was definitely NOT my size. So the attendants called the shop’s seamstress to see if she could work her sewing magic. It was a discontinued dress, so I could get it special ordered in my size, or I could buy it for half price (which was under my budget) and have it altered. I went with the second route because it seemed to be the cheaper option in the long run. (Joke was on me, the alteration bill cost almost as much as the dress itself. I had almost 10 fittings to cut it down to size.)

After the fitting, we went to Starbucks to celebrate with iced coffees.

It was important to me to have a wedding dress that I could absolutely love. After I picked out the dress, I shopped the Internet for the additional pieces. I found my veil on Amazon for $23, my blue satin wedding shoes on Amazon, and my tiara/headband at Hobby Lobby for $15. The best part about the headband and wedding shoes? I could wear them again!

Say Yes to the Dress

What was your favorite part of wedding dress shopping/What do you most look forward to when shopping for a dress?!

#MyBigFatZimWedding: The Bridal Shower

Now that I have been married almost 5 months (!!), it’s about dang time I fill y’all in on all the happenings of wedding season 2016. Over the next 10 weeks we’ll be celebrating Friday Brideday and I’m SO excited because I’ve been planning these posts for months. Today’s first segment in My Big Fat Zim Wedding is the bridal shower recap. All in all, I had a total of 4 bridal showers. I was amazed, astounded, and overwhelmed with love from our dear friends and family who came together to support our new life together with pots and pans and gift cards. Oh the gift cards. You can keep those things forever (so long as they don’t expire!) and you’ll be set for whenever you get the urge to go to Target and buy some decor and your husband questions your judgment/budget and you say “But we have gift cards!”

We had four wedding showers – each a month apart right before the wedding. Because I wanted to wait until Pai moved in to truly unpack/move everything in, my dining room was overrun with stuff for weeks. And it still is. We just cleaned our office out from the actual wedding day and Christmas last week. While we removed all the wedding shower gifts from the dining room, it’s still overrun with wedding decor. I don’t think we’ll ever officially move into our house until we move out into another house. Can any other brides relate?!

Bridal Shower Recap

August

My Aunt Cassie threw a Pampered Chef shower for me at my mom’s house. It was a small get together where our good friend and Pampered Chef lady did a cooking show to display some of the new products at Pampered Chef. I had “circled some items” in the catalog that I could use/ were of interest to me. My favorite item was our bakeware. . .which I sadly cracked five months later when I turned the wrong burner on the stove. It was sitting on top. It was a crazy night and I texted our Pampered Chef lady several cry emojis.

bridal shower cards

September

Pai and I were blessed by our church family with a fun Jack & Jill shower. It was Pai’s first time really stepping into wedding world, and by the end of the afternoon he was overwhelmed and his face hurt from all the smiling. I said, “If you’re tired of smiling now, just wait until December!” Our church family shower was full of delicious treats and fun games. They played the “bride” game where you can’t say the word “bride.” I stink at any and all of those games, so I automatically resolved that I would never win. Instead one of the girls from our college ministry gathered around 7 or 8 rings. It was insane.

party games for bridal shower

October

Pai’s mom threw a wedding shower Zimbabwean style. It was really neat to see how the Zim women party it up when they’re getting ready to get married. She called on all her friends from church and women from the African community to come and shower us with love and toasters. But before we could get to the presents, there was a program to follow.

We each picked out a card when we came in that had a question about marriage. Everyone filled out a question whether it was “How can you express love to your husband if it is physical affection?” or “How do you prepare a budget?” <– A budget queen extraordinaire accidentally picked up this card. She had budgeted and saved so much that she had retired by her mid-40’s. #LivingTheDream. We went around the room, and each of the ladies shared their wisdom. I eventually got to keep all the index cards to file away for a rainy day.

For a typical Zimbabwean wedding shower, the focus is more on imparting wisdom and worshipping. Before we ate a late lunch and opened presents, a few ladies led in a few worship songs and then one of the pastors shared a sermon on marriage.

bridal shower sign

November

The ladies at my home church threw our final shower just a few weeks before the wedding. I went home for the weekend and found myself loved on by all the ladies who watched me start off as an awkward 10 year old. My sisters came up with some fun shower games including “Guess the Age” where there were several photos of me from baby until the not-so-cute bad hair middle school years. S/O to my childhood bestie for getting almost all of the ages right.

We played several more games (including mad libs which my bestie and I tried to make a liiiiittle dirty at our nice church shower) and ate delicious cake and more chips and salsa than my belly could bear. Evidently the Mexican restaurant I worked at a couple summers ago donated chips and salsa to my shower and gave us way more than we could handle. We ate jars of salsa and several bags of chips at our house for weeks afterwards until blisters formed on our tongues. It was so comforting to step back into my hometown to be showered upon by giggly, Southern Baptist women and be loved on by so many people in my home church.

wedding dress cupcake

Wedding showers were something I was looking forward to most in the wedding season – not because of all the gifts/attention, but because it served as a great reminder that there were so many people supporting our marriage, loving on us, and surrounding us with prayer and pots and pans.

bridal shower

bridal shower

*all photos courtesy of AK Wills Photography
**all photos are also from the same wedding shower because I couldn’t find any of my photos from all the other showers. Woops.

Celebrating Color

 

We need to see color. We need to celebrate color.

I didn’t grow up thinking white people were better than any other race, but I never grew up around anyone who wasn’t white. When I was in middle school, I discovered the Fresh Prince of Bel air and crushed hard on Will Smith. In high school I befriended the two black guys in my high school. One of whom reminded me of Will Smith. I knew they were black, but I didn’t think anything else of it. I’m sure the words, “I don’t see color” fell out of my mouth a few times.

It wasn’t until I was in college and started dating my now-husband that I realized how many things I had done in ignorance could be perceived as racist. When my husband, Pai, and I started dating, I had that safe place to ask the ignorant questions. I learned about systematic racism, I learned about the white savior complex. I learned that saying “I don’t see color” whitewashes the incredible experience and story each person of color carries.

 

I could feel the eyes. A couple of times I noticed (mostly from the older generation) people staring at us as we walked, hand in hand. And in my lack of graciousness, would look them dead in the eye as I held on tighter to my handsome chocolate man. Once, when we went home to see my family, I noticed someone staring at us as we were stopped next to each other at the stoplight. I turned to Pai and said, “Kiss me” and then made sure I kissed him passionately. He thought I was being sweet. I was being rebellious against the ill-conceived notions that races shouldn’t mix. . .

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Today I’m guest posting at Sage the Blog, by Cassie. She is a lifestyle blogger, grad student, and mama-to-be.