Wedding Venue – American Lake Conference Center

When we first started wedding planning, I was still overseas with my fiancé so my wonderful parents did some scouting for me. The two places we narrowed in on were the Thornewood Castle and the American Lake Conference Center. Both formidable options depending on your priority of wants and needs for your wedding.

Thornewood Castle (Runner Up)

I loved the Thornewood Castle instantly. I knew pretty immediately that I wanted a European themed wedding. The Thornewood Castle was designed to emulate a small European castle. It had old world charm and amazing grounds. I could see the photos that would come from this place. However, it was extremely expensive and offered little more than ambiance and a venue for the price. My priority for my wedding was for my fiancé and I to be able to pay for our wedding in cash. I didn’t want the bills from our wedding day to go any further than the actual day. After all we also had a marriage to plan for. It was an extremely difficult decision, but I passed on the Thornewood Castle. Rachel the proprietor was extremely sweet but shrewd business woman. We were originally considering a very short engagement. Even shorter than the six months that we eventually went with. Rachel really wanted to fill the one weekend she had available at the Castle. So she offered us an amazing deal and even a military discount on top of that. However, I would have 8 weeks to plan my wedding. That was probably the main reason I passed. I wanted to consider the Castle for our June date, but it felt like as soon as I passed on the winter date, Rachel was no longer interested. It was hard to get a hold of her. Later I wanted to spend our mini-honeymoon there, because it also serves as a bed and breakfast. However, we could never get a return call again and she was always too busy to answer. I felt pretty disappointed by this because I really liked Rachel and the Castle. However, for one day, nothing included it would have cost me a little more than $6000. I couldn’t justify that on a military bride budget. So we went with option two: the American Lake Conference Center.

Photo Credit:

American Lake Conference Center (Final Choice)

Photo credit: (I’ll put up better images once my professional photography is ready)

I was a little skeptical when my parents suggest the American Lake Conference Center. Military facilities aren’t always as nice as you’d want them. However, this newly remodeled venue was actually a pleasant surprise. The grounds were kept beautifully, its right on the water, right by the security gate, so guest could easily find it. An added bonus was that they had their own baker, caterer, and could help with civilian guest getting on the military base. Plus once you committed to a certain amount of catering about the amount to feed 60 people the building rental fee was waived. I am still pleased with my decision, but we did have some hiccups. I found the hard way, that when working with government workers there is a certain apathy among some people. So before I criticize I will say what went well: Ben the facility manager is a very nice young man. You can tell he really is trying to make his guest happy. However, I don’t know if he has the complete authority over his staff. Sometimes it seems like they just did their own thing. He promised us things, they did what they wanted. Also, the grounds at venue are gorgeous and well-kempt. They lend themselves to amazing pictures. The food was amazing and I am so glad, I made my bridal party fix me a plate to go so I could have seconds! LOL.

First, I called and confirmed that I would be at the venue early to set up and start decorations (I had a day of coordinator, but that’s a different review). The venue only allows you twelve hours to set up, host your event and take down. I couldn’t come the night before because they had another group. They didn’t want to allow me a rehearsal time, which I thought should have been included. It was only until the week of that I could confirm my rehearsal because the conference center staff made it clear they would bump me for another event.

For the wedding day, I confirmed the time twice. However, due to security glitches working with the base, I didn’t arrive until almost an hour and half after my scheduled time. They still were not ready for me to start setting up. There was bird feces all over the gazebo area where I was to hold my ceremony. There were still deflated balloons and decorations from the previous event. In the bridal suite the trash had not even been dumped from the night before and there was a dirty diaper in the garbage. My tables had not been set up yet and I had to give instructions to the custodial staff about what I needed for my self-station and other extras, such as mics and a communion table, we’d previously arranged at our final meeting with Ben. So I had to wait to even begin setting up and I still had to get dressed for my wedding pictures.

At the ceremony we were supposed to have mics provided for the officiate, and one for my husband and I to share and one for the musician. Only one mic was provided for everyone. So unfortunately a lot of people did not hear the ceremony. A podium was also to be provided where we could plug in speakers, again, it was not, but without the mics it didn’t matter.

After the wedding we had a receiving line in the glass covered hallway. The day was hot so it ended up being like a greenhouse in there. I remember asking at an earlier meeting about the room in hot weather. I was told on hot days the overhead shades were pulled to keep the room cool, they were not. It was extremely hot!

At the reception the salad was brought to the table before an announcement of food was made. They also continued to serve while we blessed the food, which I just thought was absolutely rude. We had a lot of people who came without RSVPing so we didn’t have enough salad. That wasn’t the venues fault. However when we asked to quickly have extra tables set up they made a big deal about it. They eventually did it, but not without complaint. Then staff members informed guests that we didn’t have enough food because we as the bridal party didn’t buy enough for the number of people there. I thought that was wholly unprofessional and rude, because they made my guest feel unwelcome.

Finally, the cherry on the cake, was the cake. I’d worked extensively with the previous baker who’d trained in Europe. She was a major reason why I signed with this venue. I love her. She promised me a cake shaped like an Eiffel Tower, I was so excited. The she PCSed. I didn’t even know civilian workers with the military could do that! So military brides beware! You could end up with a completely different staff than the one you started with. I did. The chef, the facility manager, and the baker all were new because my wedding occurred during PCS season. I was nervous when it happened but assured everything would be as promised. I even separately confirmed with the new baker, Nicole about my Eiffel Tower cake. She assured me over and over she could do it. On the day of the wedding, if I wasn’t in the middle of my reception I would have cried. I asked for a cake shaped like an Eiffel Tower, instead I received a rectangle cake with an Eiffel Tower cookie placed on top! I was furious and embarrassed. The worse part was Nicole was completely unapologetic and defensive. She said she’d take 50% off, which I found to be insulting (Ben later compensated the entire cake). I told her, I would have rather had a nice cake that looked completely different than the joke she presented. It was ugly. She didn’t even attempt the color scheme of the wedding, it was grey. Who orders a grey cake! Not only that it was disgusting. The cake was supposed to be a real red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Nope… it was a white cake died red and no cream cheese. It didn’t even taste good and only the top was red velvet, the rest seemed like just a white cake they had left over. I eventually walked away from Nicole with my mouth agape because she was so blatantly rude. They didn’t make enough of the European pastries I wanted because one in particular, the Dutch butter cake, she didn’t have recipe for. She was supposed to increase the number of the scones and macroons and confirm the number. She never called again and I had so much on my plate I forgot to call her. Even for the number we confirmed we didn’t have enough pastries. Nicole’s response at the reception was to shrug her shoulders, stating, quote, “I made my one phone call.” Meaning when she called me back after I reached out to her. She had no desire or care to do her job well. If I hadn’t asked to speak to her she would have never made contact. The first baker I dealt with was very involved and wanted me to have just what I wanted on my day. She offered suggestions and asked questions. She promised to do a trial run on the cake and let me know if things didn’t work out. It looked like Nicole slapped together my cake in a hurry. It was utterly disappointing and insulting. She was so rude and disrespectful that the other staff went out of their way to cater to me. They knew I was devastated and I even had a couple apologize to me after the wedding. They knew it was not my dream day, in part because of so many missteps by the venue.

This is what I was promised, complete with my new surname in the banner and glitter to resemble the Eiffel Tower at night:

Eiffel Tower cake

This is what I was given, complete with Nicole’s bitchy attitude:

Eiffel Tower cake at wedding (I don’t have many pictures of the cake because I thought it was hideous)

I will say, many of their failures could have been corrected had I had a good day of coordinator, who knew what was supposed to be happening, but that is another review… (I have to go cry now, after reminiscing about Nicole’s attitude)


Well after debating for far too long, I decided that no one was supplying what I wanted in invitations for a price that fit my budget. I may have been over thinking things but to me the invitation is the first introduction to your wedding. Based on the invitation people will be able to determine the type of wedding event they are in store for. I wanted an invitation that would reflect the European, spring tea feel that I wanted for my wedding. Eventually after looking at literally hundreds of invitations and nearly ordering about 5 different sets, I decided to make my own invitations. I drew inspiration from this video:

and this video:

I will say with both I just gathered inspiration because my invitation didn’t look anything like them, but mine did have the same concept as far as the envelopes. The inserts for the invitations were original ideas. I decided to write an old fashioned letter as the invitation from my parents (the traditional hosts) to all of our friends and family.

Here’s How I Did My Invitations:

Some things I learned that could have saved me time and money:

1. Don’t Embellish Too Much – Don’t put the cute pearl button on if postage matters. Because of the button alone I paid $.70 per envelope.

2. Keep it Simple with Addresses – Don’t get fancy with the addresses. Even though the typical way of addressing envelopes is abbreviations of real words (i.e. ln = lane, ave = avenue), we are in a technology abundant world. Which means the computers mostly recognize the abbreviations. Unless there are postal workers who actually check the machine’s rejections (like there is supposed to be) then your envelopes can be rejected if you spell out the addresses directions in the old fashioned manner. For example: 123 N. 5th Ave. could get rejected if it is done in the 19th century manner of: 123 North Fifth Avenue. I had nice postal workers who resent my envelopes when that happened but it wasted time and sometimes money.

2b. Double Check Addresses – On that not check the addresses provided by family and friends. You’d think that people would know their own addresses but again because of the computer age, I had envelopes returned because the zip codes were wrong when everything else was right. I spoke to the postal workers at my neighborhood post office and I was told that the old way of doing it was just to look up the zip code if everything else was correct. However, the computer looks up the address by the zip code first. If that is incorrect, the postal workers are instructed to immediately reject the mail. My neighborhood postal workers told me that the veteran workers will still look up the address but the new workers won’t because this is a new way of earning revenue for the post office. This is just what I’ve been told, so don’t take my word for it, but from my experience this seems correct. I had quite a few that were returned because of simple mistakes like zip codes.

3. Don’t Buy Specialty Paper – I did a lot of research on my invitations, right down to the thickness of the paper I should use. It took me forever to find metallic silver paper card stock. When I did, I had to drive an hour out of my way before work to get the paper in time to do a weekend of invitation making.  It was only later that I found out that Office Depot had metallic paper. When I called the local Office Depot said they didn’t have what I needed. Well they had a thinner paper but it would have worked just as well without the hassle. I talked the Kelly Paper store clerk into a military discount so the difference in price wasn’t that different if you don’t count gas (which I do). Plus, I bough too much paper and didn’t feel like making the trek to return it. Thus, I guess I’ll have to try to sell the extra reams online.

4. Don’t Print Directly on Your Envelopes – I bought specialty envelopes along with specialty paper for my invitations. We had a major printing error occur that was discover until one entire, very expensive, package was wasted. In hindsight I should have bought the clear labels and printed the addresses on them. I ended up doing that but it was an expensive lesson as I had to drive the distance for more envelopes.

5. Don’t Personalize the Invitations – Others have said it and I will say again. DO NOT personalize your invitations. I had others helping me. No one is going to take the time with your wedding that you will. After awhile making invitations gets monotonous. So I ended up with people receiving invitations with the wrong names. Also, invitations that were returned and that I never did get a good address for, I couldn’t use anymore. So if there was any major waste with the invitations it was personalizing the invitations. Keep it general. Personalize the Thank You notes.

The total cost of the invitations with doilies, paper, printing, embellishments, envelopes, and stamps was: $2.18/each


The invitation that I liked the best but knew I could not afford was: $5.16/ ea

Lace Laser Cut Wedding Invitations Bridal Shower Invite Floral Customized Printable Design with Grey Ribbon - Pack of 50

So I rarely talk about age, I am after all raised by southern parents. But I am entering a milestone birthday. I know everyone does resolutions when they are approaching milestones. This is less about having the “best year ever” or being in the “best shape of my life.” But I feel like I am getting in better shape everyday and I want to keep the momentum going. So on that note, I have some goals I’d like to accomplish every month. Something new to look forward to as I continue on my fitness journey.

1. 30 Miles a Month –  First, I’d like to run/ walk at least 30 miles each month of the year. This should be a foundational goal for me. Lately, I’ve been able to run on average 35-40miles a month so this shouldn’t be too hard, I just need to maintain the status quo.

2. 30 Day Challenges – Each month I will try a new 30 day challenge to try and keep my activities fresh. I found the website: I don’t know much about this blogger or her website, but I like the abundance of free challenges. Each month I will randomly pick a new challenge, that way I won’t cherry pick the exercises I like and avoid those that I don’t. Because we are already halfway through the month of June the first challenge will be 10 days, each afterwards will be 30 days, and the last in June 2016 will be 20 days, so everything evens out.

My first challenge is a Lunge Challenge:

  • 30 Forward Lunges (alternating legs)
  • 20 Right Lunges
  • 20 Left Lunges
  • 30 Reverse Lunges (alternating legs)
  • As many jump/switch lunges as you can do for 30 secs! (increasing each time)

3. Run 30k in Races – I am finally to the point that I can run 3-5 miles non-stop. So now it’s time to put the training into action. I want to run at least 6 – 5k races between now and next June. Each time I will try to improve my time as well. This one I am particularly excited about because I keep putting off actually entering and competing in a 5k. Now I am giving myself no option.

I will probably try other activities, possibly: quilting, writing, cooking classes, etc. But those will have less pressure associated with them. By the way can you tell my new age based on my goals?! LOL.

If you read my first wedding planning post you know I had a lot on my plate. Well I survived, just barely, but I didn’t really log the journey. Surprise, surprise. Anyway, I did keep maticulous notes along the way. So rather than recreating my wedding planning process, I will add reviews of vendors for each step of the process. I think you can basically gather my sentiments for how the process went from that.

It was a very stressful season of life, but I am married to my love! And I am preparing for our next journey around the world as we speak. So everything worked out in the end!

{June 16, 2015}   Birthday Bash: All Week Long!

It’s my birthday ya’ll! What’s the best thing about a birthday? Presents! And why are presents amazing… because they’re free! Duh! Ok. So in keeping with the original theme of this blog (that I have never really stuck to) I thought I’d write about how I spend my birthday week. Since I am on a perpetual diet, I’m not going to lie, I eat my way through the week. Yep and I don’t feel bad. It’s my freebie, literally. See, I have become the queen of free birthday stuff. A good birthday year sees me receiving a free item everyday of the week leading up to my birthday. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite freebies with you. This is not a conclusive list, but an idea of my week so you can build your own based on the restaurants in your area. Also visit: to get your list started.  I already had most of these through trial an error, but they gave me some great ideas. Also, I should note that this does not include all of the shopping discounts I utilize.

My Birthday Bash Week-Long Food Dash

Sunday: IHOP – Free Rootie Tootie combo. I don’t like all of the syrupy fruit so my Ihop let me switch with their nut n’ grain pancakes and they allowed me to choose turkey bacon at no additional charge. *Make sure you still tip the waitress. 🙂

Monday: Red Robin – Free gourmet burger and bottemless fries. Talk about yummy! I went with the Prime Chophouse. Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum… It wasn’t free, but I also had the Khalua Jamaican Shake… Heaven! If you want to maximize your experience dine-in. You’ll get the bottom-less fries, plus a free sundae with singing. LOL.

Tuesday: Krispy Kreme – Free donut and coffee to start your day off right. The Gym! Then free scoop from Baskin Robins.

Wednesday: Buffalo Wild Wings – Free snack size order of wings. I have no problem eating alone, so their dine-in policy doesn’t bother me, all though I think its designed to force you to bring paying friends. Oops. LOL.

Thursday: Dairy Queen – BOGO on a medium blizzard. I don’t typically like any of the promotions where I have to pay, but you can freeze one blizzard or give it away so I don’t think its a total loss.

Friday: Johnny’s Seafood (local restaurant) – Free desert. I love Johnny’s and I love their happy hour. This is one of the few places I’m willing to pay. I have however, gone in and ordered my free desert and never felt the pressure to buy anything. I like them because the deserts are huge and definitely meant for sharing so you don’t have to eat alone. This year I’ve added Duke’s Chowder House (another local restaurant nearby) so I’ll have a free dinner there followed by desert at Johnny’s. Yay!

Saturday: Denny’s – Free Grand Slam – They only honor the free grand slam on your actual birthday, so bring ID!

Sunday: Pacific Grill (local restaurant) – $25 certificate – I like this place because the happy hour is all day. So I will do a Sunday brunch with my mom. The prices are reasonable enough that I can get away with paying for both of us, minus drinks with the certificate.

Monday: BONUS – I received a gift card to a swanky reservation only speak easy called Maxwell’s. They technically don’t offer anything free on your birthday but its free to me!

Note: I have added a few local restaurants. I find they offer the best deals and I encourage you to look into local restaurants or chains in your area. I have done this in Chicago and Columbus, OH and it has worked out marvelously. When I was in Ohio (which considers itself the restaurant capitol of the Midwest, some say the US) I was able to go a two-week period of time where I ate at least once a day for free, no BOGO’s.

et cetera