MATERNITY FAVORITES FOR EXPECTANT MOMS

Tomorrow marks 36 weeks of pregnancy! Kent and I found out that we were expecting on New Year's Day, so 2018 has quite literally been the year of maternity life. Though learning that we were expecting Baby Bray was the single most special moment of my life, we've experienced a lot of the normal ups and downs of morning sickness, exhaustion, and worry. The first trimester of pregnancy happened to coincide with my busiest wedding season ever, and during weeks 8-16, I spent every non-working moment laying on the couch, snoozing. :) By the second trimester, I felt much better, but between buying our first home and moving studio spaces in the same month, my best intentions of sharing more about our pregnancy journey fell by the wayside. Now that we're settled in our new home, our nursery is largely complete and the majority of my pre-maternity leave projects are wrapping up, I'm excited to spend the next month (fingers crossed!) of nesting sharing more about what I've learned over the last seven months to help other expectant families. 

Photo by Holly Felts Photography

Photo by Holly Felts Photography

Throughout my pregnancy, I've gathered so many helpful tips from fellow mamas. Between building our registry, preparing for the postpartum stage, and developing a vision for birth, I've relied on other women who have come before me. For that reason, I wanted to share some of the products and resources that have been helpful in our journey preparing for parenthood. Please note that this is not a sponsored post; I'm simply a fan of everything I share below and want to spread the word! There are so many products that one can buy specifically for the maternity season, and I found that it simply wasn't necessary to go overboard. 

1. Lululemon Wunder Under Crops 

All the praise hands for stretchy pants that fit all the way through pregnancy! Typically, I'm a bargain shopper, but with staples like yoga pants, I'd much rather opt for quality over quantity. While I did find a few lower-cost maternity yoga pants and leggings, I found them to be way less comfortable than the Wunder Under Crops that I had in my wardrobe pre-pregnancy. The pair that I have happens to be a size larger than my normal size in Lululemon, but at 36 weeks, the waist still comfortably stretches around my bump and I find myself washing these many times a week so I can wear them all the time. I will note that my other go-to "All the Right Places" yoga pants from Lululemon stopped fitting comfortably the second I started showing a teeny bit (right around 10-11 weeks). However, I will look forward to wearing the All the Right Places pants that have WAY more compression as I adjust to post-partum life. Or once they fit again. :) 

2. Stainless Water Bottle with Plastic Straw

Hydration is key for pregnancy; most sources will recommend up to 100 ounces of water per day. I found it necessary to make sure that I always had a cup with a straw with me. This helped me stay accountable to getting enough water in. Though we had a lot of straw-type water bottles in our kitchen, none of them fit in my car cup holders and ended up spilling water and rolling around in my car. The one I've linked above is 24 oz (so easy to remember 4 of these per day!), and while it doesn't keep ice solid for any length of time like a more expensive Yeti would, it does keep water COLD. It fits perfectly in my cup holder and I was pleased to find that it fits in my stroller cup holder as well. For me, the easier it is to tote my water bottle around on the go, the more likely I am to get my water in! I found this one at Target for $10 and I may get the next size up for the nursing stage. 

3. Maternity Hand-Me Downs from the Gap

Oh, maternity clothes. For awhile, it's such a gamble trying to figure out what will continue to fit as your belly grows. I was fortunate that many of my flow-y tops, dresses, and rompers fit well into my second trimester, but at a certain point, I really ran out of options. My friend Katie was such a blessing to us with a HUGE stash of hand-me-downs, mostly from Gap maternity. This eliminated the need for me to buy large quantities of maternity clothes. I loved the Gap options. I found their stretchy tank tops, maternity maxi skirts, and pants to be super comfortable all-around. Before you invest a ton of money into maternity clothes (even if you have future babies, you may be pregnant in a totally different season!), ask around and see if anyone has any gently-used maternity clothes they could sell or loan you. (Side note: If you live in an area with a Rhea Lana consignment sale, look there! I volunteered for a local Rhea Lana's sale and there were racks and racks of maternity clothes at good prices.)

4.  New Undies - If Needed!

Early in pregnancy, my chest was so sore that stretchy sports bras were the only thing that I could comfortably wear. While I don't advocate for buying a million maternity things, I highly recommend investing in new bras or sports bras when needed.  I also bought stretchy nursing bras from Amazon way ahead of time; they were comfortable when I removed the nursing pads and used them more as sleep bras. Now I have a few on hand for the hospital before committing to a certain style or size once nursing kicks off in earnest. As far as undies, I found Hanky Panky stretchy lace underwear and Honeydew Intimates from my pre-pregnancy stash to be the BEST. Hanky Panky undies are a splurge for certain but are well worth it. I find both at my local Nordstrom Rack. 

5. Teva Foam Flip Flops

I live in Oklahoma, and it feels like it's been upwards of 100 degrees for months now. Socks and shoes are just no longer a thing in my life. I looked around one of my baby classes and noticed that one hundred percent of the expectant moms had flip flops on. By week 30 or so, it was no longer comfortable for me to put on sandals with a strap without the help of my husband. Even on my daily walks, sneakers were a big no. I happened to have a pair of foam Teva flip flops from a camping trip that I took several years ago, and these have been a God-send. They are supportive enough for 30+ minute walks on gravel and super easy to get on. They also seem to last forever. I wore them on our 10 mile trek around Boston at 32 weeks and not once did my feet hurt. Fashionable? Maybe not so much, but comfort is key at the moment. :) My other go-to flip flops, by the way, are Havianas, but they have far less support. 

6. Tank Dress for Under $10

We don't have a Walmart close to us so I rarely shop there, but I happened to make a trip for a specific errand and found this gem of a $9 tank dress. This one is not exactly the same as the one I purchased (a light grey stripe), but it seems to be the same shape and material, a thick knit. It's not a maternity dress, but I bought a size medium at around 30 weeks and it still fits my bump now that I'm in the ninth month. It washes well and is cut high. Such a steal! 

7. C-Shaped Pillow

If you are newly pregnant for the first time, you may not know about the magic of the C-shaped pillow. It's a game-changer for a lot of people. This one is the one we purchased on Amazon when I was about 15-16 weeks. While I didn't have a very big bump at the time, I slept far more comfortably when my hips were supported, and after using this pillow for one night, I got WAY better sleep. I will say that now that I am at 36 weeks, the pillow is less comfortable for me, as it's hard to get in a comfortable position in general. However, it does help you stay in the recommended side-sleeping position. If you are going to get one, I recommend getting one earlier than you think you'll need it! (Side note: My husband despises it. It takes up a ridiculous amount of room, but it's become a running joke. My sister said that her husband burned hers after their baby was born, and I'm still not sure if that was a joke! Haha!)

8. Isabel Maternity Line at Target

As I mentioned above, I didn't make a TON of maternity-specific clothing purchases, but I did buy a few items from the Isabel Maternity line. I had some favorites--specifically, these jeans and these tanks. I actually outgrew some of the maternity tops that I bought from Target early in pregnancy; the Gap maternity clothes seem to have way more stretch. However, I found a few really great dress options in the Isabel line as well that continue to fit at 36 weeks. 

9. Rainbow Light Food-Based Prenatal Vitamins

I'm leery of even mentioning this here because prenatal vitamins can be such a touchy subject. Of course, the best route is to ask your care provider for his/her recommendation. However, I found these vitamins to be highly rated online and food-based, which is important to me. While I know that some people love shopping online, I appreciate when I can get products locally and easily at the Target down the street, and these are $16 for a 50 day supply at Target. I actually started taking them before we got pregnant and I will continue to take them postpartum. I do recommend eating breakfast before taking them to avoid nausea. 

10. FitBit Charge 2 

I got my FitBit a little over a year ago, and it has been such a huge motivator in helping me stay active. (Note: I do not have an Apple Watch, and if I did, I wouldn't have gotten a FitBit.) While there are many kinds of FitBits, some at lower price points, this one reads your heart rate, which is super interesting to monitor during pregnancy. Before I was pregnant, I ran fairly regularly and monitored my heart fitness on the app. Once I was pregnant, I would start to jog and would get extremely out of breath; my heart rate would skyrocket unless I was just fast-walking. The monitor has helped me stay in a safe zone. The FitBit also tracks sleep, and of course, steps. While I once had a 10k step goal per day, I found this harder to maintain during pregnancy for obvious reasons. Instead, at the suggestion of my OB, I now focus on getting my "active minutes," periods of time when my heart rate is elevated, with a goal of 30 minutes or more per day.  I can also use the FitBit app to track my weight gain through pregnancy, which was especially important for me because we had an umbilical cord complication and for that reason, watch weight gain carefully. While there are surely other pregnancy apps that track weight gain, I found it easier to use the one that I already referenced daily.

11. And one more... PROMPTLY JOURNAL

My friend Brittany Viklund gifted us the Promptly Journal at the very beginning of our pregnancy and I have LOVED it. As an alternative to a traditional baby book, it's considered a childhood "record,"  with prompts for all three trimesters of pregnancy, prompts throughout the first year, and then prompts yearly until age 18. I love that there's plenty of space for notes and stories, but not so much to fill in that it's overwhelming. Of course, the fact that it includes 18 years worth of journaling space makes it an extra special keepsake that we will continue to use for years and years. 

There you have it: eleven of my favorites for this incredibly exciting and ever-changing season of pregnancy. I'd love to hear additional ideas in the comments below--as well as any questions you may have! I'm here to help! And if you're newly expecting, congrats and welcome to the adventure!

SIMPLE GUIDE TO WEDDING INVITATION WORDING

While selecting a wedding stationery design can be one of the most exciting experiences of wedding planning, there’s one task that tends to stump even the savviest of my clients: nailing down the wedding invitation wording. It doesn’t need to be challenging, however! Here is a simple guide to help couples decide how to approach their wedding invitation wording.

Why is it so challenging? 

Wedding invitations are a well-loved carryover of our society’s previous mail-centric culture. While it was once customary for average people to know the etiquette surrounding all types of social mail, many of us our now left scratching our heads. Some couples may know the general guidelines (or where to find them) but are stuck between formal and informal language. To add a layer of complication, a wedding invitation once to came to guests from the hosts directly--traditionally, the parents of the bride. In our current culture, wedding budgets are often built by a variety of contributing parties. Even if one partner's family foots the entire bill, the couple may want to honor both sets of parents (or blended families, even!).

Photo: Amanda Hedgepeth

Photo: Amanda Hedgepeth

GENERAL RULES OF THUMB:

Basics

  • It’s important to note that invitation is typically comprised of the following pieces: a formal invitation card, and RSVP card and envelope, and usually at least one smaller enclosure card for details. Before wedding websites, it was common for there to be an enclosure card PER topic: one for the reception, one for the directions, one for the accommodations, and so on. While that tradition still lingers a bit, it’s much more common for couples to condense the majority of details to one main details card (or more, if needed). 

How formal do you want to be?

  • The couple should make the decision that best fits the spirit and feel of the wedding. While some couples want to err on the side of tradition, others do not—and that’s perfectly okay. 
  • If you’re having an intimate beach wedding with 30 guests, an informal invitation makes sense for your day. If you’re having a sit-down dinner at a fancy hotel, a more formal invitation makes more sense. The invitation should help set the tone for the day and help your guests understand what to expect (which leads to their comfort once there!). 

Who is hosting?

  • In introductory lines, the phrase “<Host> requests the honour of your presence” is used for a wedding that takes place in a house of worship, while “<Host> requests the pleasure of your company” for a ceremony that takes place in any place other than a house of worship.
  • On that note, the British spelling of “honour” is typically used in the most formal invitation wordings—but if that doesn’t feel resonant for your wedding, use “honor.”
  • If there are many contributors to the wedding budget, or if the couple is hosting the wedding themselves, it’s appropriate to use “Together with their families, Jane Anne Smith and Michael John Tyler invite you to the celebration of their marriage…” instead.

Logistical Details

  • Typically, the invitation includes the date, time, and location for the ceremony only. If the reception will take place at the same location as the ceremony, we simply add “Reception to follow” at the bottom of the card. If there’s a separate reception location, it’s almost always helpful to note this on a separate reception or details card so that there’s plenty of space for the full address and any relevant info that pertains to the reception only (parking, etc.) 
  • Do you really need to have an RSVP card? While each couple should make the decision that works best for them, most stationers recommend leaving any RSVP or website information off the formal invitation itself and including a separate RSVP card with the information listed. Whether your guests are replying by mail or by website, this separate card draws your guests’ attention to the action item that you expect them to take.
  • Other information that may appear on a details card: Parking, shuttles, transportation, welcome or send-off events that apply to the entire body of invited guests, hotel block info, website URL, etc.
  • Most etiquette guidance discourages mentioning registry information anywhere on the invitation. These days, it’s helpful to include a website with links to a registry and let the information spread via word-of-mouth for your less than tech-savvy guests. If you choose to include registry information on the invitation itself, a separate enclosure card should be used.
Photo: Monica Burgess

Photo: Monica Burgess

SAMPLE WORDING 

Below, you’ll find a variety of sample wedding wordings to support you. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list by any means, and special thanks to the Emily Post Advice resources for some of these example formats. 

  • Bride’s parents are hosting
  • Wedding is happening in a place of worship
  • Reception is offsite; details found on a different card

Mr. and Mrs. John Smith 

request the honour of your presence

at the wedding of their daughter

Anne Marie Smith 

to 

Mark Andrew Jones

Saturday, the first of March 

two thousand eighteen

at six o’clock

Saint Stephen’s Presbyterian Church

Wilmington, Delaware

(Reception note excluded, as reception is offsite)

 

  • Bride’s parents are hosting; married but share different last names.
  • Wedding is happening in a place of worship
  • Reception is offsite; details found on a different card

Mr. John Smith and Ms. Theresa Walker 

request the honour of your presence

at the wedding of their daughter

Anne Marie Smith 

to 

Mark Andrew Jones

Saturday, the first of March 

two thousand eighteen

at six o’clock

Saint Stephen’s Presbyterian Church

Wilmington, Delaware

(Reception note excluded, as reception is offsite)

  • Bride’s parents are hosting
  • Wedding is not happening at a place of worship
  • Reception is in the same location

Mr. and Mrs. John Smith 

request the pleasure of your company

at the wedding of their daughter

Anne Marie Smith 

to 

Mark Andrew Jones

Saturday, the first of March 

two thousand eighteen

at six o’clock

The Wilmington Garden Inn

Wilmington, Delaware

Dinner and dancing to follow

  • Couple's parents are hosting together
  • Wedding is not happening at a place of worship
  • Reception is in the same location

Mr. and Mrs. John Smith and

Mr. and Mrs. Steven Jones

request the pleasure of your company 

at the wedding of their children

Anne Marie 

and

Mark Andrew

Saturday, the first of March 

two thousand eighteen

at six o’clock

The Wilmington Garden Inn

Wilmington, Delaware

Dinner and dancing to follow

  • Couple and their parents are hosting
  • Wedding is not happening at a place of worship
  • Reception is in the same location

Together with their families

Anne Marie Smith 

and

Mark Andrew Jones

request the pleasure of your company at the celebration of their marriage

Saturday, the first of March 

two thousand eighteen

at six o’clock 

The Wilmington Garden Inn 

Wilmington, North Carolina

  • Bride’s parents, who are divorced and remarried, host the wedding together
  • Wedding is at a house of worship

Mr. and Mrs. John Carter and

Mr. and Mrs. Michael Owens

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter

Susanna Jane Carter

and

Doctor Adam Edward Lee

Saturday, the twenty-second of March

two thousand eighteen

at six o’clock

Temple Beth Israel

Tulsa, Oklahoma

  • Bride’s parents, who are divorced and not remarried, host the wedding together
  • Wedding is at a house of worship

Mr. Steven Watson and 

Ms. Julia Gonzalez

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter

Adriana Cate Watson

to

Taylor Wakefield

Saturday, the twenty-second of March

two thousand eighteen

at six o’clock

The Church of the Nazarene

Brentwood, Tennessee

  • Bride’s parents hosts and groom’s parents are mentioned
  • Wedding is at a house of worship

Mr. and Mrs. Brian Moore

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter

Theresa June

to

Mr. Brian Mitchell Wagner

son of

Captain and Mrs. Joseph Dell Wagner

Saturday, the twenty-fifth of March

two thousand nineteen

at four o’clock

Bentonville Community Church

Bentonville, Arkansas

  • Informal wedding invitation wording, couple hosts, with mention of families
  • Wedding does not take place in a house of worship

Together with their families

Amy Lachner

and

Taylor Jones 

invite you to share

the joy of their wedding day

Saturday, the tenth of July

at half after four o’clock

The Winston House

Richmond, Virginia

  • Informal wedding invitation wording, hosts ambiguous:
  • Wedding does not take place in a house of worship

Stephanie Anne Smith and

Tanner Alan Caldwell

invite you to celebrate

their marriage

Saturday, October 2, 2019

at three o’clock

The Mitchell Barn

Weston, Virginia

Reception to follow

 

 

RECAP OF MY FIRST HOLIDAY CARD SWAP

When you put something out into the universe, even if it's wholehearted, you never know what the result is going to be. I'll admit that when I announced my first-ever mail swap, after the first few days, I found myself peeking into an empty mailbox and wondering if anyone was going to participate. Mail started trickling in, and I was overjoyed. And then one day, I got to the mailbox and it was FULL of beautiful envelopes of every color. It made my heart leap. 

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A love of happy mail is one of the reasons I have a business in the first place. During invitation consultations, I explain to my engaged couples why I love personalized mail: it makes people feel known--that someone thought of them, thought well of them, remembered them, saw them, deemed them worthy of time and delight. Now that our lives are inundated with screens, it's hard to watch snail mail go by the wayside. But the art of sending and receiving cards is not dead, friends! At the time of writing this, I received FORTY-NINE cards and letters as a part of this mail swap. It was magical. As I mentioned when I announced the swap, it was by no means a beauty contest, and that's why I wanted the prize winner to be random. 

No matter if it was messy chicken scratch or a fancy metallic calligraphy (or in some cases, wax seals and vintage stamps!), each envelope was a delight for me to open. If you participated, thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking part of this experiment in postal love. To recap, you:

  • Had your love of happy mail affirmed
  • Brightened my day when I received your adorable cards and envelopes
  • Made the season more joyful
  • Received some happy mail in return (or you will soon, all of the return mail is in the post!)

As promised, there IS a winner. The winner of this swap will receive my favorite cookbook from Minimalist Baker, two lettering journals, a few extra surprises from my shop, and since the marble mug I wanted to include shattered in my shop parking lot (insert eyeroll), you'll also get a $10 Starbucks card. I want you to see all of the beauty for yourself...so the winner is announced at the very end of this post. Keep scrolling!

In sum, this was one of my favorite parts of the season. Your adorable photo cards, your beautiful lettering, your gracious and kind words, your encouragement--each day they made my world better. THANK YOU. And YOU BETTER BELIEVE that I will be doing mail swap #2 come Valentine's Day--my other favorite mail holiday!

 

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Here is the first haul, in no particular order! There were many many photo cards inside these envelopes (I loved seeing your faces!) but if the photo card is showing, that's because it's a post card! :) Look how beautiful these are! Most days I received an average of 5-6 cards at a time, with two cards being the smallest amount and ten cards being the largest amount in a single day. 

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A little more than half of the cards were from people I had never met before, while a little less than half of the cards were from my former bridal clients, workshop guests, friends, and colleagues. 

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It was fun to receive a variety of envelope styles--the most common size was the 5x7 A7 envelope, with a few variations--long and skinny and teensy-tiny. I loved the smaller 4Bar RSVP-sized envelopes so much that I might just make my Christmas cards tiny next year. 

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The teal-colored square envelope was one of the first cards I received, and I loved Lauren's use of stickers! It makes me sad that I sold nearly all of my stickers and embellishments at my Dave Ramsey garage sale. :) 

I also wanted to recognize that there were many, many card entires that were made by fellow stationers, designers, and calligraphers, and as best as I can, I want to call those folks out because I know that a TON of work goes into crafting your own stationery, especially when it's your business and you have so many other people counting on you to do theirs. 

Here are some that I identified as handmade, and I'm super, super sorry if I missed you!

The cards above are from Aqua and Opal Studio, Kimberly Wong, and The Handletter Shop

The cards above were designed by Neon Moon Design, Honey Brush Design, and Bridgett Lynette

The cards above were from Marian Lovelace, Oh My Designs by Steph, and Bekah Wright Designs

The cards above were from Elisabeth Randall and Kelsey Logsdon

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There you have it! A big, beautiful pile of mail--a stack so tall that it crumbled into a waterfall almost immediately. If you participated in this swap, thank you from the bottom of my paper-loving heart for making me feel like I hit the lottery every single day for the last two weeks. It means the world that you would spend your time, talent, and energy swapping mail with me. And now that you have my mailing address, happy mail is always welcome!

And drumroll please...we have a winner. While the original plan was for my shop-mate Merritt to draw the winner, it's now 10:30pm the Friday before Christmas, so my husband got to be the one to randomly draw a winner. He closed his eyes and chose the beautiful red envelope from KATE EDWARDS from Little Rock, Arkansas. You, friend, and your adorable puppy Oscar and glorious double-thick photo card, are the winners. I'll pop your box of treats in the mail as soon as Christmas coziness is over!

Merry Christmas to the best community ever, and cheers to full mailboxes all over the world! 

Love, Alex