cream of the crop: AZ WEDDING VENUES!

I want to note that I am not a professional wedding planner or expert on weddings in any way.
I am simply an enthusiastic upcoming bride with a lot of time to plan and research weddings and find the best possible Arizona venue for my fiance and me.
I have realized that a lot of the venues are overpriced, not charming or historical/big business types, without the customer service or attention to detail or special day that I require as someone who really takes spending thousands of dollars on a Love Celebration seriously.
I have found a lot of inspiration on Offbeat Bride and Rustic Arizona Bride but in the end, most of the best sites I found were on my own, by persistent and mixed up Google Searches.

The following is a carefully compiled lists of OUR favorite and what WE consider to be the most reasonable and exquisite vendors. I am not getting paid or encouraged to promote these venues in any way, I am simply doing it to create another shortcut for AZ Brides on a Budget in the same situation as myself.
Any pricing mentioned are to give you a general idea and keep in mind that they do NOT include photography, florist and cake (opting out of completely), and the bar packages we are considering are BYOB with mixers provided.
Without further ado... 

1. Bella Rose Estates, Chandler AZ price range with inclusive package $7500++++ (lowest during the week or on a Friday)
 *source  A beautiful 2 acre estate home with a super luxe ballroom for the reception. Full access to entire property including a groom's room with a poker table for the boys and a bridal room with an absolutely massive mirror for the ladies!
*source The outside is beautiful and complete with included twinkle lights, gardens seasonally chosen and tended to, a mountain view in the distance, and a charming old fashioned gazebo as well as a more traditional garden wire arch for photography and lovely southwestern tiles throughout the villa.

Postive: Really stunning, picture perfect dream location, with utmost privacy and attentions to customers. Owners are really sweet and easy to talk to husband and wife that are happy to work with your budget and VERY FLEXIBLE WITH VENDORS which is extremely rare!
They also offer a Sunday Brunch inclusive option that is significantly reduced, but since we are having so many out of state guests, we are currently looking at a possible Friday Night wedding here!
It is in our top 2 places.
There is also a hotel that is literally ACROSS THE STREET for mega convenience.

Negative: Saturday night weddings are impossible to book for less than 10K. They are one of the types of vendors that only does rentals during the week and you need to do a package deal of some sort to have a weekend wedding. Also, they are in Chandler which isn't exactly the best town in AZ (very industrial/up and coming vibe, or closest to the airport but that is easy to overlook because it really feels like you are in California once you walk through the gates!

2. The Views at Superstition, Gold Canyon AZ inclusive package $8500+++

This is of course (it's in the name), a venue with VIEWS. The majestic, mystical, and mysterious Superstition mountain range is all around you in this small patio (60 max occupant)-containing ballroom. The inside is kind of simple and not too bad, not too wow-factor, kind of average (I think I'm still annoyed that they charge for china and silverware) but it is a good blank canvas! The outside is what really blows you away. It is stunning and an easy set up for the convenient, walking distance ceremony site on the green (2nd photo) at the separately-owned Superstition Golf Resort.

Positives: Absolutely stunning, budget friendly, competitive pricing (they are willing to haggle and eager to please), flexible with DIY decor and liquor but NOT with caterers. Those mountains though. Sweet heavens, are they something.

Negatives: Patio is too small for our wedding, wish it was bigger! Kind of awkward that the golf course isn't owned by the venue so you have to be really flexible with dates since you are dealing with two different venues. It is very far from Phoenix and the city, which has it's pluses but it could be a bit of a schlep for guests. The china and silverware is not included. The arch is not included.
Overall, it has some bad things but the views and photo-potential are so stunning it would really be a helluva place to host our wedding and capture some special and beautiful memories at!

3. The Paseo, Apache Junction AZ $16,500++ Package Wedding, Rental Only (for whole event cer & rec) @ $6,000-$7,000

We haven't actually visited here yet, it hasn't even opened until last week but something tells me it could be quite a contender in the race to the wedding venue deposit. Their deposit is the only one that is FULLY refundable. They are also closer to the mountains, and literally right around the corner from Lost Dutchman National Park, which is one of our favorite to hike and connect with nature.
They have a staged shoot up on their website which is stunning and they are a pretty bare-bones place which is very appealing and attractive to the boho southwestern bride. They have vendor packages and bring a lot to the table (except for silverware and china) and it just seems like a really chill, really awesome option for something a bit off the beaten path, but still gorgeous!
There are three bathrooms and a catering tent (no formal kitchen) in case you were wondering (I was) and it is FAMILY OWNED which I really appreciate. If we chose the Paseo, we would need to do a rental and piece together the rest, which is a lot of work but it might be worth it if we fall in love with it!

So those are our top three choices at the moment!
These are some other venues we are still researching/considering in a pinch:

-Villa Tuscano, Mesa $6800 semi-inclusive
-Regency Gardens, Mesa $???
-Castle on Camelback, Scottsdale $???
-Castle on Main, Phoenix $8,000+++
-Portico, Mesa $8,000+++


-Wedgwood Palm Valley (good prices and nice but very traditional/by-the-books, not special to us)
-Boojum Tree (too expensive for a run down greenhouse in our opinion)
-Botanical Gardens (pricey and hard to work with caterers and get the whole thing together)
-Superstition Golf Course (the taxes were crazy high)
-Wikopah Resort (super expensive)
-Hotel Palomar (I loved it but he didn't like being in downtown phoenix or the idea of having a city wedding)
-The Grove (not for us)
-Noah's (like a gymnasium with a bad view/outdoor area)
-Wright House (too expensive but very cool)
-The Talking Stick (too pricey and casino is kind of overwhelming)
-The Ashley Castle (not authentically decorated for a castle, not for us, over priced and completely un-flexible)
-Whispering Tree Ranch (beautiful but too far for him and my family, GOOD price)
-Desert Foothills (adorable barn but in the middle of nowhere and the dirt floor is just completely unrealistic for our dancefloor/wedding, NOT flexible at all with caterers and transportation would be a mess with dirt roads and hard-to-find-location)
-Van Dickson Ranch (I love the idea but it's literally two hours away and in a ranch town far from society and hotels. One B&B seems a bit risky for a party of 80 with all out of towners)
-The Farm at South Mountain (extras really add up to high cost)
-Villa Sienna (too expensive)

I think that covers most of it for now, stay tuned for more updates and wedding excitement!
I am also going to throw in some other fun posts this Spring to break up the wedding planning madness :)

Any thoughts?


bold & cold: winter brides.

In my opinion, I didn't see very much winter bridal inspiration out there on the net. I'm one of few girls I know that is actually hoping and really excited to have a Winter Wedding.

 I do so love a good cape! This beaded one is gorgeous.
 an ice castle is a nice castle
 snowflake touches
 Pagan Snow Princesses

  Designer Icedreams
 I love the muff AND the castle door, such a sweet photo!
 Crochet Little Red Riding Hood capes for bridesmaids? Pagan Princess gear for the bride?
  Can this really be Utah?!?
Plus, it's the year of the movie 'Frozen' so why not Elsa it up a bit on your wedding day? Or go more old school vintage Snow Queen, a la C.S. Lewis?

I just think it's fun and cool and edgy and different and glacial all rolled up into one idea...the Snow Queen/Winter Princess Bride. Badass.

Of course this is just inspiration and eye candy, most of these ideas are too wild for me, but man, are they fun!


What do you guys think?
Good eyecandy?
Any other winter brides out there? Hollerrrr



work totes that totally rock!

 The little envelope is too precious. I love it! Oh, Marc Jacobs, you make some really pretty shit.

 Nice ID badge-holder for those who need to keep ID out or for travelling:

 above is the color of my new work bag but is actually the model below:

 So, the above bag is my latest addition to my wardrobe.
My mom and Noah both have been telling me for months that my tried & true nylon Kelsi Dagger bag is a bit of hot mess. It is old and worn and aged horribly and it doesn't look sharp in the least. My mom said now that I have this one, I should burn my old bag. Not so sure about that, but it should probably go in the trash.

I always like leather best with handbags, the problem is simply that for a bag of this size, for a professional work bag (as a teacher, at least) it has to be BIG enough for gradebooks and iPads, and all sorts of books and whatnot.
When you get to a certain size though, the price reflects it and it starts to cost upwards of $300.

My last big leather bag was from Banana Republic in 2006 and I used it for 6 years loyally before it started to really show wear, tear, and look hopeless outdated in style.

I think my latest work bag, my Marc Jacobs tote (last picture) is pretty timeless and classic looking and I just adore it!

All of the above images are handbags by Marc Jacobs and I have to say, he has been my favorite handbag designer (with Kate Spade as a close second, and Coach and Dooney & Bourke bringing up 3rd) for so many years.

I'm really happy to be able forward his designer luxury as a nice accessory and fashion statement at work.
I still am true to myself though and never spend full retail--my mom and I found the tote at Nordstrom Rack, where we saved $300 retail due to the price markdown and her coupon!

What a score!
What kind of bag/tote/satchel/designer do you use at work for a professional and polished look?



ready for a new sensation.

I don't think I said anything about my new-ish job (it's been about two months) but it offers me a TON of down time.

While down-timing, I have managed to do months-worth of wedding planning in just a few weeks. I have lined up venues, worked on budgeting spread sheets, entered several bridal sweepstakes, ogled lots of pretty southwestern DIY pins on pinterest

and I even applied to nine jobs and scored one interview for the upcoming summer/fall school year!
More on that when I hear more. I'm really hoping to have my pick of the classrooms and schools based on my high level of education and varied experience--(I taught abroad for a year which makes me a bit of a standout).

I've been reading a lot of fabulous literature (more on that later), at least ten books since I started working.

I just feel like I'm kind of in an eye-crossing, neck-aching, iPad overuse state at work where I just want something varied but not boring, relaxing but not useless.

So after a lot of careful thought and research, I've decided that my next big/ambitious project is....CROCHET!

These were my original inspiration:
 I've never seen a crochet cactus in person, but since seeing them online I'm completely obsessed.

So I currently have the somewhat lofty goals and dreams of making at least 80 of these tiny-potted wool desert wonders for triple duty of name place card holders (just insert toothpick and card), thank-you wedding favors, and table ornamentation.
I'm also looking into bunting projects and other fun beginner things for crotchet.
I've officially committed this afternoon and bought 4 types of yarn, a complete set of crochet hooks and knitting needles in a neat little package, and I've printed out and youtube-favorited several tutorials and beginner basics.

I'm really hoping that this becomes another passion to add my list!
It really be a great personal hobby and DIY wedding wonder if I can accomplish what I'm hoping too...
I can see a future of making granny blankets and baby clothes in the years to come, and it's pretty exciting and gives me something to add to my bag of tricks.

How great will it be to finish a six-hour school day with a bundle of freshly knit and adorable cacti? I'm really hoping this goes according to plan, or even better, because there's so much I want to try once I get 'good'....

 Look at the crochet cake! And the crochet-over a re-wearable dress for a wedding (how creative and smart!)
all images from pinterest & google images

Wish me luck! I'm nervous.

I haven't tried a new crafty hobby in so many years and I don't really have a lot of crochet backup. It would be nice to have someone to teach me. I guess I can always call my grandma if I get really stuck!

Thank goodness for Youtube though, it really pushed me toward this even more and makes me think that I can easily attain homespun beauty and charm with some aluminum needles!

Do you knit/crochet?
How did you start?
Would you ever want to?
Anybody want to start with me?