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Day 33-35: Chicago, IL (9/6-9/8)


After Glacier NP, we drove to Jackson, WY to park our car and fly to Chicago. Katharine’s good friends from Kenyon, Kathryn & Joe, were getting married and we couldn’t miss the wedding!

We arrived on Friday morning and got to spend the day with Katharine’s friend from study abroad in Munich, Melissa. We had a great time just hanging out in the city, eating excellent sushi, and enjoying some delicious wine that Melissa selected. We also appreciated having a friend’s place to stay Friday night after the Rehearsal dinner!


The wedding was on Saturday in a beautiful chapel in downtown Chicago. Then we headed to the Ravenswood district to the Architectural Artifacts for the reception. The Architectural Artifacts was a really great venue with tons of interesting items for sale, most out of our price range, but it was such a cool collection. We had a lot of fun exploring while the wedding party took photos during cocktail hour.


Great guestbook idea






The reception was really fun with lots of dancing and a chance to catch up with some old friends from Kenyon.


It was great to see old friends and well worth the side trip!


Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 35
  • Number of airplanes used on our road trip: 2


Besides Nathan’s super manly day, his trip to Iowa, and our camping trip, we’ve pretty much spent the Fall busy finishing up our Masters degrees. (Which we did finish! Yay!) So we were really excited when our photographer sent us the rest of our wedding photos, giving us a chance to think back on the day and procrastinate writing our theses. We’ll post some of the wedding photos later, but for now we wanted to share how we designed our own invitations.

One of the parts of the wedding that we wanted to keep personal and do ourselves was the invitations. We had already designed our own Save the Date postcards, which featured a silhouette of the two of us sitting under a huge tree. The silhouette was adapted from one of our favorite photos from a hike in the Santa Monica Mountains in 2009.


For the invitations we wanted something pretty simple but still personal and adapted from our own photographs. After sifting through a bunch of invitations online, we decided to make a series of three different designs, one for each of our colors (blue, green, yellow). We decided to go with a national park theme, so we selected three photographs that we thought were distinctive and which would fit nicely at the bottom of a page.

Once the photos were selected, Nathan modified the images to be more like a graphic/sketch. First they were transferred to grayscale, then posterized, then further simplified so that only a few shades of color were needed.

Yosemite New Years 2011 – used for the RSVP card

We decided that the designs would be printed on pastel paper in blue, green, or yellow so we selected the colors of the design to be darker, but match the tone and hue of the paper.

Final touch was writing the text and selecting fonts!

Grand Tetons (where we got engaged) for the invitation

We used one design for the invitation, one for the RSVP card, and one for the Family Dinner invitation. We also used the same designs for the wedding day – as menus, place cards, and table numbers.

Grand Canyon for the Family Dinner Menu (Photo by Tom Alphin)


Table Numbers – Photos by Phoebe Joy

We doubt that many people knew that the designs were derived from our own photos, but we were just glad to remember a few of our favorite trips on our wedding day.

My bridesmaid Melissa, who lives in Chicago, actually had 3 weddings to attend in SoCal this summer… So while she was out for one in June, she also visited me to help with some wedding tasks and, of course, throw us a party! (Remember how I said people like to use our wedding as an excuse to party?)
We had a great night with family and friends just hanging out. Melissa even adapted Jenga to be a great “embarrass the couple a little bit” game. It was a great way to forget the wedding stress!

Also, I should mention how much wedding stuff got done while she was here: we got all the invitations put together, addressed, and mailed out; I had my hair and makeup trial; we searched hard for shoes (unsuccessfully, but she never let me give up hope!); and I ordered my hair accessories. It was super productive… There’s no way to understand Melissa’s awesome energy and attitude except by meeting her, but I’ll just say that both Nathan and I appreciated her fresh energy and help with all the wedding chores!
Thanks Mel, we love you!

Melissa and I


Well the wedding is over and we’re back from our honeymoon with tons of photos and stories to share, but first we would like to post about some of the pre-wedding parties that were lost in the whirlwind of activity right before the wedding.

Nathan’s mom organized a kitchen shower at her home in San Diego. The women enjoyed a nice afternoon together with lunch, games, and kitchen gifts while the guys went shooting.

The Wong side of the family was well represented at the shower, and Alex came down to celebrate too. I think we all had a great time, plus I learned some new cooking tips while playing something like pin the dress on the bride, which Linda did all the artwork for! On top of all that, I got some really nice kitchen accessories! Linda also worked really hard to put together a binder of recipes from her side of the family and including the recipes that I got during the shower in December in PA. I know it will be a great reference and source of inspiration for me- now I just need some more time to cook and try out all these recipes!

Special thanks to Linda for organizing the shower and to everyone who shared it with me!

Last week our awesome florist Tweeny of the Flower Lab did a trial centerpiece for us and it looked beautiful, just what we had described to her!

We won’t show the whole arrangement so wedding guests reading this won’t know exactly what they will look like, but here is a tease…


Footnote: I was just browsing through Tweeny’s blog and I discovered that she actually has done wedding flowers for Hollywood stars! Well, at least she did the flowers for to Senta Moses. Don’t judge me for recognizing Senta from the ABC Family show “Greek”. She was also in Home Alone. So yeah, our florist is actually a florist for the stars!!!

We spent part of the July 4th weekend finishing up working on wedding planning.  We decided to go to our local park for a change of scenery as we wrote our wedding ceremony.


I am easily distracted and start taking photos of Katharine working

This is the face I get when she realizes she’s doing all the work


By Katharine

One thing I have learned while planning my wedding, which is hopefully the biggest party I’ll ever have to throw, is that other people also like to use our wedding as an excuse to throw parties. How else can I explain all the parties thrown in my honor?? By the time Nathan and I get married, there will have been 5 parties thrown for me/us!

But the subject of this post is an amazing weekend getaway with my three closest friends from work back in May. They had been very secretive about the plans so I had no clue what we’d be doing. On Saturday morning (late morning, they know I like to sleep in) we drove up to Santa Barbara and started with a nice lunch by the ocean. We then took a walk up State street and stopped for an impromptu wine tasting. We walked a ways up State Street, doing some window shopping and we also took advantage of Old Navy’s $1 flip flop sale.

The flip flops were not a coincidence, because as one friend let slip (cough, Anu, cough), we had an afternoon appointment at a spa for pedicures. But they still managed to surprise me because they treated me to a massage too! It felt amazing 🙂

Then we headed back to the hotel and while Aidan and I went to 7-11 to grab some drinks, Megan and Anu sneakily decorated the room with streamers and banners. It was pretty amazing how fast they hung it all up. When I returned, it was time to get ready and get me dressed up – in style!

Not everyone can rock a tiara, feather boa, sash, and button all at once!

Oh, and there was extra bling too!!

That evening we headed out to a great Tapas place for dinner. I don’t remember everything we ordered but there was plenty of mojitos, cheesy dishes, and bacon wrapped everything. Yum!

Anu, Megan, and remnants of a delicious dinner

Chocolate cake shots before heading to the bars

Then we went out on State Street and stayed until the bar shut down and kicked us out. We had such a great time and finally got a chance to catch up with each other.

The four of us enjoying drinks early on

The night ended with lots of laughing… as all good nights should!


The next day we got a bit of a slow start, but we rallied in Camarillo for some outlet shopping and I think everyone found something worth buying. At that point we all decided to make the weekend last a bit longer instead of going home right away – so we went to a theater to see the movie Bridesmaids, which was hilarious and a perfect way to end the weekend.

Thanks girls for an amazing weekend!

By Katharine

Recently we’ve been posting a lot about our Zion trip, but one of the reasons the posts have been rather infrequent is that we’ve actually been doing a lot of work for the wedding. Now that there are officially less than 3 months left, we have to wonder: (1) where did the time go? and (2) how can we get it all done??

Luckily our school semester has finally ended, so that should reduce some stress and free up some more evenings and weekend time.  And we now have a list of all the must-do’s on a white board in our living room to make us feel guilty if we procrastinate too much.

But we really have made some progress. Over the past few months we checked a lot off the list:

– Reception food tasting (yum!)

– Rehearsal dinner location and menu is set

– Picked a hotel for out of town guests

– Designed and mailed save-the-dates

– Made a wedding website for guests

– Registered for a lot of items (which was actually more stressful than I thought it would be, and we still aren’t completely done!)

– Had engagement photos taken

– Flowers and decor research – still working with a florist

– Met with and selected a DJ

– Planned and booked the majority of our honeymoon in Alaska

– Nathan picked a tux and got fitted

– Designed our invitations and printed some proofs (more on that later)

– Selected a couple special songs for the reception

And for some of the above, we have family and friends to thank for their help and support.

But as you can imagine, there is still sooo much to do and so many decisions to be made. Everything seems to require research, discussion, more research, budget calculations, more discussion, and finally a decision.

But we’re learning about ourselves along the way and we know it will all be worth it in the end. Still, I’m very glad there is a final deadline for all of this because it truly could be a never-ending project!

Linda and I showing off our hard work – we did some centerpiece trials with Nathan’s parents

We celebrated Easter Sunday by heading to Charmlee Wilderness Park with our photographer, Phoebe of Phoebe Joy Photography, to take our engagement photos. I can’t believe it’s already been 3 weeks since then, and we haven’t managed to post them on our website!

The weather didn’t exactly cooperate so it was cloudy and really cold, but we (and Phoebe!) toughed it out and still had fun. We started with some camping/hiking themed photos.


Then we did some more formal ones in the meadow.


We ended the evening with a few artistic inspirations from Phoebe.


There are a few more photos on Phoebe’s blog, but we will also go through the raw photos at some point and try to post some more later.

We have to thank Phoebe for the beautiful photos – we can’t wait to see how she captures our wedding!

By Nathan

Last Sunday we decided to take a break from wedding planning and homework and head to a well known LA hike, The Grotto.  We had the usual LA traffic which delayed us from arriving until 3:00 but since it was a short hike we knew we could finish before sunset.  It was a little cold, windy, and the fog started to roll in as we started down the trail to the Grotto.


Not only did Katharine want to check it off her “hikes to do list” but we are also scouting for a site to take our engagement photos.  We liked the open grasses at the start of the hike where we could set-up a mock camp.


Soon we headed into a wooded area where we found a nice branch that was fun for photos.  Katharine climbed up the branch and then I set-up my tripod and set the 10 second timer.  The plan was to run 20 feet, jump, grab the branch, swing my body up and sit next to Katharine all in 10 seconds.  Well…I gave it my best shot.


As you can see from the photo I only made it to step 2 so I resorted to taking photos of Katharine alone.


The conditions weren’t the best for photography that day because of the late afternoon light and thick fog but I think with the right lighting it could look pretty cute for engagement photos.

After crossing the stream by jumping rock to rock we reached the Grotto.

The Grotto is an interesting location where the stream drops below some of the rocks creating waterfalls below the surface.  The small caves give an adventurous feel to the hike.


In some places I could see through a hole in the rocks showing Katharine exploring the caves below.  If I had a wider lens or full frame camera I think I could capture the scene pretty nicely.  I am not sure what the photo would look like though, maybe too much like were trapped in a dark pit.

I also found my favorite plant, poison oak,  lining the trail which always gives me phantom itching.  After a major episode requiring two steroid shots I can’t stress enough to stay on the trail and wear long pants.


When the fog rolled in knocking out the grand vistas I turned to macro shots of the rocks around me.

Canon 40D, 50 mm, f/1.8, 1/160, ISO 250

Different types of lichen gave the gray rocks some much needed color during our dark and cloudy hike.  We turned back as it started to get dark and drizzle, but we hope to return on a warmer day to explore the complete Grotto. Now that we’ve switched to daylight savings time, there’s extra time for hiking!

More Photos

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