Let’s Get Personal: My Parents 35th Wedding Anniversary Surprise Party!

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Images: Lauren Kearns Photography

Back in 2013 my sister sent a group email to all my siblings explaining that although it’s a few years away, we should probably start planning something for our parents’ 35th wedding anniversary (and you guys thought I was a planner). Her reasoning was sound: by 2015 there could be grandbabies (a thought that seemed insane back in 2013) and perhaps my parents might have sold our 2nd childhood home and my mom would probably love a huge party in their honor.

So we started planning – TWO YEARS in the making. An epic, surprise anniversary party that was truly one of THE most magical days. There were indeed grandbabies by 2015 (3 to be exact!), and my parents HAD sold our home. But because we had planned so far in advance were able to get some pretty long-time friends of theirs to travel from Missouri, South Carolina, Boston, Vermont, AND MORE to show up to surprise my parents and celebrate their love and commitment of 35 years. So for today I wanted to share not only some pictures from the amazing surprise party (because OF COURSE there were DIY decorations led by yours truly), but some sage advice from my own parents on staying together for 35 years.

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We decided to hold the party at our family’s parish in NJ. My sister got married here, most of my siblings and I made sacraments here, and it just seemed like such an appropriate place to throw a party. It helped that we got an INSANELY nice July day.

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I went to town on the DIY projects (ah back when I had time before Evie arrived ;-p) And my siblings helped to make the beautiful teal & orange decor above and below.

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The cake featured my parents’ wedding picture and we even framed one for guests to sign!

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We hired a Pizza truck to come serve amazing wood fire pizza. The woman I talked to laughed at me when I told her our party date, when I inquired. She said 2 years was certainly the earliest reservation she’s ever received. But if you are in Northern NJ and need a pizza catering/truck – HIRE Pure & Simple … they were THE BEST to work with. And their pizza is incredible.

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Before my parents arrived, we sent them out on a drive to stop at 8 places from our family’s history (schools, parks, their first & 2nd homes in NJ). We got the text that they were pulling up to the church, so we brought everyone outside…. boy was the look on their faces PRICELESS.

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It was so emotional as we watched them begin to really see everyone that showed up. I am seriously getting teary at my laptop just thinking about it!

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CLICK INSIDE FOR THE REST OF OUR PARENTS 35TH ANNIVERSARY SURPRISE PARTY!

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Wedding Planning Advice: Trust Your Gut When it Comes to Initial Vendor Meetings

me at Joel and Christine's wedding

Image: Elizabeth Fogarty Photography

Haappy Hump Day Romancers! Today I thought I’d share some wedding planning advice for all you engaged readers out there (or maybe soon-to-be engaged! It is engagement season after all).

Now this one sort of seems like a no-brainer; it’s helpful in its simplicity. But I think it needs to be repeated, because I hear it from my friends and clients time and again – that feeling inside that the vendor they met with maybe isn’t the right fit, or says something strange, or feels a bit gimmicky, or perhaps sucks at responding.

So let me tell you once and for all – TRUST YOUR GUT. It’s probably the best thing you can do when it comes to booking your wedding vendors. If a vendor is flakey in the beginning via email, chances are they will be flakey throughout the planning process and even on your wedding day. If the vendor is crappy at responding to your questions, they will most likely continue that behavior as well.

Your gut is more valuable than you think when it comes to picking your wedding vendors, so trust it and you will be in a much better position with regards to your wedding planning.

Business Advice: Boosting Your Business Using Social Media – Tip #3

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We’re back with Tip #3 of Boosting Your Business Using Social Media ~ on ongoing, 5-part series that helps you small business owners out there that are look for easy & quick ways to make social media more effective for you! Be sure to read Tip 1 and Tip 2 if you missed them! Part 3, today’s post, focuses on the importance of diversifying the social media platforms you use. You really shouldn’t put all your eggs in 1 social media platform because the different platforms are most effective when used differently. Using multiple platforms will help you reach a wider and more varied audience which will help to boost your business/brand.

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Before we get started, let’s get the #1 thing I hear out of the way. “I don’t have time for all these social media platforms.” Yes, social media marketing is TIME CONSUMING. But it’s also FREE marketing. And though it takes time, there can be a method to the madness – thus the Condescending Wonka meme. You DO need a strategy for using the platforms effectively so you aren’t wasting your time.

So first, decide which platforms you want to use, and then start using them in their different ways. Different people might have different opinions on the platforms, but personally I have found the following:

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I could probably talk to you guys in depth about how to use each one of these platforms but really the point of this slide isn’t to do that, it’s to say that you do need to have SOME sort of strategy when you think about the social media apps you use and how you are using them. This goes hand in hand with the “I don’t have time” comments. That is fine (and true AND understbandable) so I would advise you to think about which platforms might give you the biggest returns and then select just a few to use strategically, instead of trying to half-ass all of them.

I’ve also personally found that using the platforms the same can be ineffective. If you post the same content across ALL the platforms, chances are you are not using each social media app to its fullest potential.  So for me personally, I use these platforms:

Twitter: I get MINIMAL clicks to the blog on Twitter when I post my blog posts (even with pictures!). There is just TOO MUCH in a Twitter feed and most people don’t click away from Twitter (as often as they do on Facebook). So I have found Twitter to be more effective in networking and finding answers to my questions, instead of getting people to the blog.

Facebook: sharing IMAGES and links to blog posts. You will note that engaging posts with images get far more views than text only posts on Facebook. You will also note that re-sharing the same post over and over will not get you very many views. I’ll talk more next time about my love/hate with Facebook (and how I get success there).

Instagram: sharing IMAGES (Facebook owns Instagram, you know that right? So you see the correlation here? Images!). Again, not a lot of clicking going on here (thanks to Instagram not really allowing URLs within posts or on images) but Instagram is a great place to share your brand and use HASHTAGS to boost your business. Try to post a few times a day and try to make sure the image is clear and explains what you are sharing.

Pinterest: this is my NUMBER ONE source of traffic. I pin most images from my blog posts and I keep SEARCH in mind. I (yes this is insanely time consuming) re-write every pin to have the text explain what the image is because people use Pinterest to SEARCH. So if they want to find “DC weddings at Josephine Butler Parks Center”, I need to make sure my images have that text as my image description!! This one takes the most time, but also shows me the best returns.

Youtube: I am new to this one! But here is where you can setup a channel and start pushing your video content

In sum, as I said before, you don’t have to use them all, but as the great Ron Swanson once said, don’t half ass two things, whole ass one thing – and what that really means is don’t try to be on every single social media platform just to say you are. It will be much more beneficial to your brand/business if you pick 2 or 3 and use them strategically.

Mary Olive & Eric’s Sweet DC Winter Engagements Pictures at Eastern Market

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Images: Meghan Rose Photography

Guys this weather is killing me. Also this cold that Evie has (and subsequently now I do too), but that’s another story… I realllllly cannot stand this warm weather in December! It’s so not right, and it’s really keeping me from getting in the holiday spirit! Please tell me I am not alone here!! So to help, I am sharing Mary & Eric’s super sweet DC engagement pictures from earlier this year, you know, when winter actually meant cold temps and SNOW. I miss my boots, sweaters, and scarves guys. Really I do. Happy Monday.

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From their photographer:

They were natural, relaxed….most importantly, they were happy. I loved that they weren’t afraid to be silly with each other in front of me, that I could just give them suggestions that they would then take and make their own. They fell into poses comfortably and, despite the frigid temperatures, made it look cozy and inviting. They are the type of people you just want to be around!

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How We Met (in Mary Olive’s words):

We were both working as AmeriCorps members with DC Habitat for Humanity and living in a house with 4 other coworkers. Half-way through our year of service, we started spending more and more time together. After working side-by-side 5 days a week, we would casually find ourselves spending weekends together as well. We never left the house at the same time, but somehow always ended up in the same spot. One spring night we found ourselves out at a bar talking with some Australian paratroopers. Neither one of us is exactly sure how it happened, but we spent the whole night holding hands across the table.

Uncertain of what this meant, each sought the advice of friends. Anne, Eric’s friend since age 2, told him that it meant MO was into him and he should make a move. Sarah Rodriguez, MO’s friend from high school, told her, “You’re not in middle school, grow up and kiss him!” After each pondered the advice of friends, we finally kissed at a Memorial Day barbecue in 2009. Six years later – and two years after Eric proposed – we decided to get married in the city where our relationship began.

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Here is our proposal story (in Eric’s words):

After four years of dating, three apartments, and two cities together, Eric decided it was (finally) time to propose. He was spending the summer in Washington, DC, where the couple met, while Mary Olive continued nursing school in North Carolina. She was planning a trip up to visit for their anniversary on Memorial Day weekend and Eric knew this was the perfect opportunity to pop the question. After a quick call to his future mother-in-law, Eric discovered that there was a family ring that he could use to propose. The ring was originally Mary Olive’s great-great-grandmothers. After the ring was taken in to be cleaned, it was put in the mail to Washington, DC. Dinner reservations were made. Eric thought he was good to go.

Unfortunately, the postal service had other plans. Rather than make it out for delivery before the holiday weekend, the ring never left the sorting room of the Watergate building post office. (Because something always goes wrong at the Watergate…) Eric panicked. After talking to Mary Olive’s mother, who was concerned about her ability to keep the proposal a secret any longer, he decided he still needed to propose that night. As a nod to their history working for Habitat for Humanity, he went to the hardware store for metal nut. If you squinted, it sort of looked like a ring, right? That night, after dinner, Eric proposed at Mary Olive’s favorite spot in the city – along the National Mall, between the illuminated Capitol building and Washington Monument. Mary Olive was so surprised and overwhelmed, that she did not even need to squint to see the engagement ring in the nut.

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Let’s Get Personal: Changes Ahead! How I Plan to Reach Those Lofty Biz Goals

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Image: This Rad Love

A couple weeks ago I took the plunge and put my (rather lofty) business goals for 2016 out there into the internets. The response was awesome and super uplifting and I am excited to see how it all pans out. We already knocked a big one off the list with the Capitol Romance Wedding Planner coming to life (and now on sale) and the launch of the online Capitol Romance Shop.

But there’s still SO MUCH MORE to do and so I must admit to you all, that in order to reach these goals, things will have to change. I will have to let go of somethings that I started and I will have to start to lean on others more (something I must admit, as a Type A control freak, I have a hard time doing). So here’s some of the changes coming our way:

1. I am saying goodbye to the Capitol Romance DIY Workshops

Now before you shed a tear, I am happy to tell you that the workshops won’t be ending, they are just going to be under new direction with the ladies over at District Bliss. And I will be helping to promote the workshops (dates/topics coming soon!) so you will still get to do your DIY thang, and meet awesome local vendors, and hang out with other rad couples in DC, they just won’t be fully run by yours truly any more.

This, I must admit, has been WAY harder for me to let go of than I initially thought. I always thought the workshops were a great idea (I still do!) and I feel like they were just starting to gain some steam, however, I just could not put myself into them 100% and that’s not fair to me OR you guys. I know the ladies at DB are going to take good care of them, and I cannot wait to hopefully attend a few and hear how you like them all. They’ve already got some GREAT topics & vendors in mind. So more to come there.

2. I am bringing on more people to the Capitol Romance Team

You guys already know my right-hand woman, Alesha, on the wedding coordination side of things. She is a total rockstar and there is just NO WAY I could have continued the wedding coordination biz without her this year dealing with pregnancy and Evie’s arrival. I feel lucky EVERY day that I found Alesha and that she wanted to join the CapRo Team. So in order to keep doing big things, I am really excited to announce that there will be MORE people joining the team. I am in process of bringing on another coordinator (more to come there), someone to help with the Capitol Romance Shop & product designs, AND a marketing intern for next spring.

I am so pumped, but obviously apprehensive too – as I’ve never led so many people before! Capitol Romance has been a 1-woman show for so long, it’s going to be such a learning experience with bringing other people on in different ways. More to come here too!

3. I am shifting blog content away from just a wedding focus

Yes I have already started this shift, and yes I have been saying this for a while now, but this time I mean it (and you might have already even noticed) that the content here on this blog is going to change and shift away from just wedding related inspiration & resources. For one, my life has changed in the past few years and for two, I know I have readers out there that are long since married, and for three, I am VERY very interested in peoples’ lives past the wedding day. I want to hear stories from couples in DC that are at ALL DIFFERENT points in their relationships. The wedding scene (IMO) has become too focused on just the one “big day” and has forgotten the point of that day – the life you are promising to create, nurture, and grow, TOGETHER.

I feel it’s important to share stories of struggle, of happiness, of anniversaries, of challenges, of milestones, of singledom, and all kinds of other things related to human relationships. And honestly this was always in the back of my mind when I started this blog, and a big factor in why I chose the word “romance” over weddings or brides or something so wedding-centric. I knew my life would move beyond my wedding day and I wanted to have the option to move the blog there too.

I am sure I might lose some readers because of this, but that’s ok. Thanks to the internet, there’s literally A MILLION places to find wedding inspiration, ideas, and resources. There aren’t, however, a million places to share stories of REAL couples in the DC area and how they are living their lives.

…. so there it is. The changes are coming and I am equal parts excited and terrified about it. But I am 110% confident that these are the right things to do, right now. And I always take comfort in the fact that the best part about being a small business owner is that I am (mostly) in control. If these things don’t work, or don’t pan out like I thought, I can oh-so-simply change my mind or direction again and try something else.

That’s the beauty of it all for me. So here we go!

DIY Tutorial: How to Make a DIY Bridal Hair Comb for Your Wedding

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Image: Mathy Shoots People

Today we have a super awesome (& easy!) DIY tutorial brought to you by a recent Capitol Romance bride (and super crafter). Kara & Justin’s DC wedding was one of my FAVORITES because it was just so them. Kara was suffering a bit of the post-wedding planning blues and decided to remedy it with re-making some of her DIY wedding crafts to share as tutorials on the blog! Up first, her DIY Lace Hair Comb.

DIY Lace Hair Comb | By: Kara Britanik

When I first started thinking about and planning my wedding, I knew I wanted as many personal touches as possible. Last summer when I was helping my parents move out of my childhood home, we came across my mom’s wedding dress. It was a satin and lace number that had been nicely preserved after all these years. I’m a few inches taller than my mom, so wearing her dress wasn’t an option. But since the lace was in great condition, I decided to repurpose it to make a hair comb for myself, and to wrap around my and my bridesmaids’ bouquets. For the next couple weeks, when I was watching tv, I multi-tasked and took the lace off her dress at the same time. I was left with quite a bit of lace, but it allowed me to pick and choose the designs I wanted to use for the hair comb.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Lace
  • Plastic hair comb (I found mine at Michael’s, but any craft store should have them)
  • Thread (the same color as your lace)
  • Needle
  • Glue (make sure it will dry clear)
  • Wax Paper
  • Small piece of cardboard or foam
  • Straight pins or safety pins

Whether you’re repurposing some old lace, or you just picked some up from the fabric store, the first thing you’ll need to do is cut out the different shapes or patterns you want. The lace from my mom’s dress had flowers and leaves in all different shapes and sizes, leaving me several options to choose from.

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Once you have your pieces of lace, you’ll need to stiffen it. If you look online, you’ll find a few different methods such as using starch or mod podge. The technique I used (and what I’ll share in this post) involved watering down some glue. In a plastic container, mix equal parts glue and water. Be sure to mix it together really well so it is the same consistency throughout. You’ll also want to set up a little drying station by putting a piece of wax paper on top of a piece of form or cardboard.

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Once your watery glue is mixed, submerge each piece of lace in the mixture. Once they’re covered in the glue, fish them out, let the excess drip off, and then place them on a sheet of wax paper to dry. You can also use your fingers to get some of the excess glue off. Just pinch the lace between your fingers and pull the lace through the excess drips off. If you have some straight pins or safety pins, stick them through the lace and into the cardboard/foam. This will help your lace maintain its shape as it dries.

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After a few hours, your lace should be dry and stiff. Remove the pins and pull the lace off the wax paper. (last picture above)

Now you can play around with your design, and how you want to arrange it on your hair comb. Once you have a design worked out, you can start attaching it to your hair comb. One of the flowers was the same width as the comb, so I kept things simple and just used the one lace flower. I started by knotting the thread around the comb, and then just started wrapping the thread around the comb and through the lace with my needle and thread. There’s really no right or wrong way to do this. You just want to make sure that the lace is secured to the comb, along its entire length. Once you get to the other end of the comb, just tie a knot in your thread.

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I ended up making two different combs, and then also some bobby pins. Since I made these after I’d had my hair trial, I wasn’t sure which would look best with my hair style, so I gave myself options. I would recommend making a couple different combs to try with your wedding day hair style. You never know which design will look best until you try it!

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Amber & Obi’s Intimate, DIY Wedding at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

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Images: Lissa Ryan Photography

Suuuuuuper pumped for today’s real wedding. Amber & Obi’s Busboys & Poets engagement session was one of my recent favs. Amber’s style was just gorgeous (that yellow lace top & tulle skirt!) and I loved everything about their vibe & style in their DC engagement pictures. So when their photographer told me she had their intimate, DIY wedding for me, I was so excited to open the picture set! You won’t be disappointed. Though the wedding was small, it was not short on details – DIY gold glitter dipped vases, hand gathered wildflower arrangements, and long family-style dinner tables for the guests. You’re going to love this one.

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From the couple:

We chose to have an Intimate wedding with just our immediate family and closest friends. Our wedding day was such an important day that we wanted to keep the focus on our union and enjoy it with those closest to us.

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Colors included yellow, gold, cream and multi-color in the wildflowers. Our details allowed us to create an environment that was intimate, whimsical and reflected us as a couple. We chose Meadowlark Botanical Gardens because it was absolutely beautiful, required little to no decoration, made us feel like we were in nature, and the space allowed us to have the ceremony and reception in the same location so we could spend more time with our guests. Not to mention the lights on the indoor trees that gave that extra punch of whimsy.

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Our moms performed the only two readings during our ceremony. Our parents participated in a ring warming ceremony. We passed our rings around to each parent so they could put their best wishes, hopes and blessings for us on our wedding rings.

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My husband and I wrote our own wedding ceremony. We found a fantastic officiant that allowed us to browse through some of her previous ceremonies and incorporate some of our favorite elements with our personal ideas to create our own unique ceremony.

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—> CLICK INSIDE FOR THE REST OF OBI & AMBER’S GORGEOUS MEADOWLARK BOTANICAL GARDENS WEDDING <—

Brittany & Kevin’s Sunrise Morning Light Engagement Pictures in Baltimore, MD

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Images: Ashton Kelley Photography

This weekend Andy & I were going every single minute. I am WIPED to say the least this Monday morning but I don’t regret a second of it. There was SO much holiday fun. We got our tree! We had a blast at PARCEL Market, running our DIY Holiday Totes Workshop and shopping our little hearts out. Then yesterday we drove up for the day to Sesame Place to spend time with my family and got home last night to get ready for the week. I am exhausted again just typing it out ;) So apologies for the delay this morning in blogging, but there really wasn’t even a slice of time to get on my laptop over the weekend. But we got a GORGEOUS Maryland engagement session on the rooftop of the couples’ own apartment building for you, and as always, we are kicking off the week with LOVE. Happy Monday.

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We met in high school at Atholton in Columbia, MD as freshmen. We have been together on and off for about a decade! I will admit we had some rocky times. We tried to make it work while I was at college in Georgia playing basketball and lacrosse at Berry College while Kevin was in New York playing football at Marist. It was hard on us. We finally found our way back to each other when we moved back to Columbia in 2012. We bought a house together in Baltimore in November of that year.

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On June 4th, 2015, I arrived home from work. I found a note from Kevin asking me to come up to our rooftop deck. Little did I know at the time we would be doing our engagement session in that very spot. I was pleasantly surprised to find Kevin with peach roses, champagne, and our favorite song playing.With “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran playing in the background, Kevin got on one knee, and the rest was history! We celebrated with our family and closest friends the following night at The White Oak Tavern and we’re planning our wedding at Belmont Manor in 2016.

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Groomsmen Gift Ideas with Groovy Groomsmen

*sponsored post*

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Happy Friday Romancers! We’re getting you to the weekend with a little vendor spotlight on a pretty cool company founded by two brothers that saw a need in the wedding market space to create non-tacky, personalized, and cool gifts for groomsmen. And so Groovy Groomsmen was born. I thought it might be cool to share more of an interview of the founders of the website, vice just pictures and descriptions for this spotlight. So the post will have some examples of their gifts (like the ones you see above) mixed in with some cool insight into why they started the company and how they source their products.

Take it away guys!

Groomsmen Gift Ideas with Groovygroomsmen.com

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Why did you start the company?

We generally started the company for a few reasons.  First off, Chris had already started an online business within the wedding space that has done really well, so we had a strong foundation and runway for understanding the overall wedding space.  With that, we reflected on some of the really tacky gifts we gave our groomsmen.  For instance, Mike gave one of his guys a personalized steak brander as a groomsmen gift.  While that sounds fun in theory, it tends not to be all that functional and usually ends up in a box somewhere, very quickly.  We then saw a market to help guys out, a place in the whole process that is fully devoted to the groom. One comprehensive place where they can feel good about seeing everything they need to make a really great groomsmen gift choice for their guys.

We’re also guys, and guys like tangible items.  We have a great time getting out there and scouring for the next cool groomsmen gift ideas. The reality is that often enough, the groomsmen gift part of the process usually comes on the back end of planning, when most are hung over on wedding details.

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We are very selective in ensuring that whatever groomsmen gift we bring aboard is vetted and adds value to what we offer.  That means quality products, well made, unique and with personality.  We also realize the importance of personalization, given the intent is to make your groomsmen feel special.  Guys love personalized stuff and 95% of what we offer is personalized.  Our thought process is that the gift giving ritual is one that should be personal and every gift gives some sense that the groom really went out of his way to personalize that token of appreciation.

Oh, and we are really competitive on pricing.  We do our best to make sure we are putting out as fair a tag as possible given we realize the groomsmen gifts can be pretty expensive to grooms who may be on a budget.

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Are your gifts unique?

Well, this is where we really pride ourselves.  Part of our personal Groovy mission statement is to always be looking for that next cool and unique groomsmen gift that we can add to our cache’.  We do a lot of research in continuously refreshing our selections and sourcing groomsmen gifts that ensure our gallery is comprehensive.  We love seeing how that groomsmen gift can add some personality to our assortment and offer some level of uniqueness to accommodate a groom that is really looking to personalize the groomsmen gifts for his party.  When we introduce a new gift to our site, it really feels like we’re scoring a cool new find to the Groovy collection.

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Can you put on initials or names or things onto the gifts?

Yes, just about every product on our website can be personalized with either your groomsmen names, initials, or whatever you want.  Some of our customers get really creative with nicknames and/or quotes for the personalization.  We also offer groomsmen gifts like the Group Caricature, Bobble Head Dolls, and the Mug on the Mug that take personalization to the next level because they are completely customized to each person.

*this is a sponsored post. this vendor paid to have this content shared on our blog, however, it was verified that this event was confirmed to meet our requirements and mission*

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