Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hey look, it's my dream wedding.

I love teal. I do. And green. I think I would swap the flowers out for a different color, because my sister had yellow flowers and also because we're getting married in the fall. I think this would look stunning with Gerbera daisies!

The House Party

I've been thinking about this for a little while - at the moment, I have two bridesmaids - but I have a lot of VIP women in my life. There are my college roommates, my hockey teammates, and my law school friends, and a couple kids from high school. I wanted to ask my two college roommates to come to the dress fittings and do other wedding related stuff, even though I haven't asked them to be bridesmaids. I liked Meg's approach of asking people to be non-bridesmaids, but there were some people I wanted to be more than non-bridesmaids. (I do have one person who I plan to ask to be a non-bridesmaid.) So I went ahead and asked my college roommates to be on "Team Bride". My MOH hates the term "Team Bride", but I like it. It turns out my members of Team Bride are also not fans of the name. Team Bride is basically just my wedding-related-support-network, which is important - going through this alone kind of stinks.
I found out today that there is another name for Team Bride - the House Party. While not the perfect term either, it makes some sense - instead of being in the Wedding Party, which is in charge of making sure the bride makes it down the aisle, you are in the House party, which means that you are in charge of making the wedding fun.
Some of the possible tasks for the house party include picking up the alcohol if we are doing BYOB, helping craft stuff, performing DOC tasks like making sure the cake shows up, ushering, decorating the car, setting up centerpieces, reminding people to sign the guest list and starting the conga line, electric slide, and awesome dance moves. Other tasks of the house party will probably be helping out with shower and bachelorette party stuff. I figure our house party will kind of get formed along the way, as soon as we know what we would really need them to do. A house party is a great idea because you can have a lot of people on it without having to worry about them all picking out the same colored dress.
I feel like I should feel guilty about asking my friends to be a part of my slave labor team for our wedding, but I don't, for a number of reasons including: I've done it for them, or I will do it for them. When it comes to weddings, people are generally willing to help out, so I'm not going to worry about feeling guilty. As long as all of the tasks that we give them are out of the way before the actual fun part of the wedding, and don't require them to do anything they are uncomfortable doing, I don't see why I should feel guilty, or like it's tacky to ask people for a favor. Additionally, they are grownups and can say no. But the bottom line is that I would rather give a lot of people a single small job than dump every single job on my bridesmaids.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I hate night class!

I keep having night class during all this fun stuff. If you live in Baltimore, you MUST go check out the AVAM's Bridal Happy Hour! It looks amazing!
We have been thrilled so far with what we have seen from the Baltimore crafting community, and we will definitely be using as many local & handmade products as possible.
Cutting and pasting this directly from the website:

Why go handmade for your wedding?? There are many reasons!
-Have custom jewelry, paper goods and spa gifts created that are as a special as your wedding.
-Support local and woman owned businesses.
-Many BEST artists use sustainable and green materials in their work.
-Give your wedding a handmade touch that is unique.
-Show your bridal party and family your appreciation with gifts that are created just for them!

I want to go so badly but of COURSE it's a Thursday night...and I have class Thursday nights. From 3-7:30. If you live in the area, go and have fun!!!

Details about Running of The Brides in Rockville

My future cousin-in-law, second cousin, sister, cousin, mom, and self are going to this on Friday morning - will you be there? 
This is an email from Pat, who is super helpful (and who assured me that the escalators will be turned off, which is a relief!): 
Hi Ellie – Here is more info about the Running of the Brides this week in Rockville, plus some last minute tips that might be helpful (those are attached):

·        There will be over 1400 gowns to choose from (sizes 2-26)—we will only sell a fraction of them.

·        If you want to be part of the 'rush to the racks,' then you should get to Filene's Basement at around 6am.

·        If that's not your idea of fun, plan on arriving later. Even though the line to get in at 8:00am looks long, you have to remember, most of those people are helpers, not brides-to-be.

·        By late morning, the early brides will have either made or narrowed down their selections and most of the gowns are back on the racks.

·        Definitely go later in the day if you don't like crowds and chaos or if you are shopping alone or with just one helper.

·        The quietest time is mid-afternoon.

·        If you can't shop until after work, no problem. A couple of weeks ago at the event in NYC, over 50 brides found their dream dresses between 7pm and 10pm.

·        Specialists in wedding gown cleaning and alterations will be on-site to advise you about what can or cannot be altered or cleaned and they can give you an idea of what it would cost.


"Having a wedding on a Sunday is just cheap."

These were famous last words uttered by me a year and a half ago. It is true, unless you are an orthodox Jew, or unless you are getting married on a holiday weekend. I was extremely bitter about having to attend a Sunday wedding "in the middle of nowhere". (I was in my first year of Law School and had a test the following week.) Now that we are thinking of a Sunday wedding, I find myself going back on these words. This is for a number of reasons.
1.) I really enjoyed that wedding. It started at like, 3pm, we then had cocktails, ate, drank, danced our little hearts out, and then went home around 9pm, which was fine, because it was like, an hour and a half away.
2.) Even if it's "just cheap", it's cheaper enough to make a big dent in the budget. We are trying to keep the food/venue around 10k, and hopefully by having the wedding on a Sunday at a more popular venue, we can do this. I think, on average, I have noticed that the difference around here is $2000, which will let us hire a better photographer or have more flowers or a DJ or whatever.
3.) It is nice to have the Saturday. When I have been in Sunday weddings, it is good to have the day before because you can get a lot more done - if you are going to DIY a lot, it is good to have the Saturday. I wouldn't want to request that any of my bridesmaids take the day off work on Friday to help me with stuff, so this will result in extra hands. You can also do the rehearsal during the day, go get manicures/pedicures, and feel generally more relaxed.
4.) Sunday weddings are a little bit lower key. Because we would have it earlier in the day, it might get to feel more like a fabulous garden party/afternoon tea/early Sunday supper which is more the vibe that I want than a glamorous night event. (I realize I say "I want" or "my wedding" a lot, but that is because I am unwilling to speak for Mark on this aspect and he has the power to chime in.)
The Sunday we are looking at is 10/10/10. This date has some obvious pros and less obvious cons, most of which only apply if we get married in the Baltimore area.
Pros:
1.) It is a fun date.
2.) It is the Sunday of Columbus day weekend. Half my family works for the federal government (and the other half is retired) so this will feel like a Sunday wedding of a 3-day weekend for them.
3.) It will probably mean that it is the day after the Baltimore Marathon. I have run in this festival 2 years in a row and I love it. The festival is great - it features a full marathon, a half marathon, a 4-person relay, and a 5k. I think wanting to do a full or half marathon the day before our wedding is ambitious - but the 4-person relay (which features distances from 6-7.3 miles) would be an option, possibly with members of my bridal party or just my usual running team, or I could gather up a group to do the 5k out of people coming to the wedding. This might cut into the rehearsal a little, but we'll see.
4.) Since the city will be impossible to drive in, we can encourage people who want to come in to the city to take the light rail from BWI, resulting in a public-transit wedding (something important to Mark.)
5.) The museums and attractions will probably be pretty empty because everybody will be running the race.
6.) Very few of our guests will still be in school at this point, so a Sunday wedding will be less inconvenient, except for the teachers.
7.) It might cut down on out-of-town guests who we don't really want to come. (I have a couple cousins who spring to mind.)
8.) It is sensitive to our orthodox Jewish guests. (Unless its a Jewish holiday. I checked the major ones but please clue me in.)
Cons:
1.) It will probably mean that it is the day after the Baltimore Marathon. This means that Baltimore city will be extremely crowded, and people will be unable to come into the city to go to the museums and stuff, unless they take the light rail in from the airport. Which takes forever.
2.) We will have to come up with some kind of "guide to circumventing the marathon"
3.) It will mean that some people can't go to church on Sunday, since they will stay, so we might have to put together a guide to local services.
4.) We might look cheap. (I'm not really worried about this, but I am worried about guests feeling like we exchanged their convenience for money.)
5.) It is insensitive to our guests who have kids in school or who don't want to stay the night.

What day are you getting married on?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dress shopping

We went dress shopping today. I was a little surprised by a couple things:
1.) It was totally painless.
2.) I look fierce in a veil.
3.) I look pretty good in dropped waist dresses.
4.) I really don't want beading.

I will preface this by saying that I am lucky - sizewise, I sit squarely in the 8-10 range, so I'm pretty much sample sized and did not need to be clipped into every dress. I tried on 8 dresses and it only took an hour, because I just had to step in and then out of each dress. The dresses did make me feel small chested, which, at a 34D, I'm not, and short, which, at 5'4", I am, in wedding world. I've been trying to keep my dress budget pretty low, because I know that I will be paying around $400 in alterations, because I am short, and I'm also short waisted. (When I make dresses, I cut a full inch and a half out of the waist, although sometimes its as much as 3 inches.)
I tried on this one gorgeous Two by Rosa Clara dress which was a little out of my price range but would only need to be hemmed. My favorite was actually a different dress, that looked pretty much like my dress had in my head. It looked a lot like this one, right down to the color and sash. I wasn't actually wild about the sash, so I would get one in a different color (maybe a nice bright green to match the bridesmaids?)
I'm going to try to figure out how to do cuts in blogger so that I can put up pictures but Mark doesn't have to see them. Also, I think we will take pictures at Running of the Brides next Friday, so that will be exciting.

Wedding Equipment

Okay - so I'm trying not to let the wedding be my excuse for buying things - like the cuttlebug I desperately want but have no room for. But I have been thinking a little bit about wedding "equipment", much of which is swooned about by the Indie-DIY-WIC.
I have no desire to own a Gocco - sure, they make pretty stuff, but I'm seriously gonna use that for the wedding and then never again. We have a very limited amount of space, and I am a slob. Like, seriously, need professional help, slob. I'm sitting here surrounded by the ever-present threat of an avalanche. So any craft related stuff I buy for the wedding must be accompanied by me throwing away craft related stuff that I don't use.
Really, anything I buy for the wedding should be accompanied by me throwing away stuff. Really, every day should start with me throwing away stuff.
The crafting appliances that others seem to find really helpful are xyron machines, color printers, goccos, heat embossers, and sewing machines.
Of these, I own a heat embosser and a sewing machine. They were the cheapest, as the heat embosser was $12 with a coupon and the sewing machine was free because I stole it. (From my mom, and she got the good one, but I still feel a bit guilty sometimes.)
I want to do craft projects for the wedding, but I want to do them with equipment I already own and don't get to use. I don't want to use the wedding as an "excuse" to do anything except go cake tasting. If I buy a piece of crafting equipment, it has to be something that will actually be useful for other stuff (like a die-cut machine would be).
I want to come up with sewing projects that will let me finally sew more than halloween costumes. I'm considering consulting some books and craft magazines for ideas of things I can make (200 chair cushions? no thanks. table runners? yes please - I'll get the serger out of storage!).
Did you buy any equipment for your wedding? And do you use it for anything else?

Custom ring design

I haven't done much wedding-related stuff since we got back from England, which is why I haven't been posting.  We're going to two locations this weekend, so by the end of that I should have enough information to start wrapping my head around the budget stuff, so I'm sure I'll have something to say about that eventually.  Anyway, when I proposed this joint blogging idea, this is a post that Ellie specifically requested, so I give you - the ring.

As such a modern couple, we had already discussed marriage, knew it was where we were headed, even knew a vague timeline, but because I cling to tradition perhaps a little more than Ellie would like, getting a ring and proposing was something I wanted to hold onto.  In October, we asked her cousin to ask her mother (E's aunt) for the diamond she'd promised Ellie, and it was handed over to me in a somewhat subtle fashion at the family Christmas party.  So, from that point the pressure was on - I had to find a suitable way to attach the stone to her finger.  I had said previously that I wanted to get something custom, since I wasn't going to be spending money on a center stone, and as an engineer I really wanted to have a lot of control over it.  

Ellie had been "helpfully" sending me links to rings she liked so I had some ideas about the style I was going for - light and open - but sturdy enough to handle daily abuse.  I wanted to create something that highlighted both Ellie and our relationship.  Part of Ellie's family is Irish, and the Celtic symbols are something she's always been a little into, so I liked the idea of making something Celtic-inspired without being too boring and standard.  I flipped through a few different sites and came across the triple spiral, which represents various aspects of womanhood; that seemed appropriate, and the spirals had interesting possibilities, so I started sketching: (sorry, I took photos of my sketches because the computer with the scanner is temporarily out of commission...)

Some basic shapes, before I really had any kind of concept in mind.

The triple spiral, simply embedded in an open band on either side of a stone.

Ellie came home around this point, so I put the sketching on hold there.  When I picked it back up a day or two later, I thought to gain a little more distance from the original symbol by splitting the arms and repositioning them in a line.  I liked this idea because I could make the center pair of spirals interwoven a little - how very symbolic!

The triple spiral, with the arms broken away from their shared center.

I looked back at some of the existing ring designs and realized that one style I really liked was the kind where instead of a continuous band with a stone set in or on top, the band is open and supports the stone from either side...

Initial concepts for an open band

More detailed...note that the arms are the "wrong" way.  Spirals are confusing.

It usually takes me a few tries when I sketch something to get the proportions to where I'm satisfied.  Also in this case I was playing with the spirals; I found it much more pleasing to my eye to have the center spiral at the "bottom" of the fern-like structure than at the top.  This was the last of three more tries not shown.

At this point I had a concept I was really pleased with, so I went to build a model of it; I use this modeling software, Solidworks, on a daily basis at work.  This was way more complex than anything I do at work, so it was a fun challenge to figure out how to model it.  I stayed up several hours after Ellie on at least two occasions because I was enjoying myself too much to quit.

One half of the flat spiral pattern, ready to be wrapped around a band.

Views of the completed model; it's hard to tell, but on the advice of a co-conspirator, the interior surface of the band is actually elliptical to allow for an optimal "comfort fit".  Since I hadn't even spoken with a jeweler at this point, I hadn't had a chance to become familiar with such terms.

Now, as much as Ellie trusts me, she wasn't willing to let me go ahead and spend a lot of money to get a ring that she might or might not like.  We couldn't go to a jeweler to pick out a design, plus I wanted to actually propose for real.  What to do?  Fortunately, the aforementioned co-conspirator had recently acquired a 3d printer at work, and the small volume of material required for something like this meant that the expense involved in creating a prototype were almost negligible.  Less fortunately, the delicate features of the ring were below the resolution of the printer, and the first article fell apart upon removal from the tray.  The only option was clearly to scale up the ring, and find a larger woman to propose to.  

Ellie with a 2x sized prototype; it's not clear whether she's happy at being proposed to or amused by the enormous ring...

In the end, it turned out that Ellie's lack of confidence in me was unneccessary.  She loved the design, and was eager to get it made without changing a thing.  After a little searching (to be detailed in a later post), we chose a jeweler around the corner in Federal Hill, Morstein's, to make the ring, and six weeks after I proposed we picked up the final product that Ellie has already shown.  


Getting a custom ring definitely wasn't a simple process; it took longer than I anticipated, but then, I don't think I went about it in the most direct way.  Building a computer model of it was a lot of fun and a great challenge of my modeling skills, and it did work out well with the way I ended up proposing, but it really wasn't worth the effort otherwise.  The jeweler's source for the casting work wasn't even able to read the 3D file, and wound up making the model based on my three-view image above.  I would have saved at least a week of sending various file formats back and forth and additional time in various other related pursuits if I'd just taken my sketches in and let them fill in the details.  But then we wouldn't have this giant plastic ring and a drawn-out proposal story which I think is unique to us.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The WIC

"The entire wedding industry feeds on our fear of regret." Ms. Cheese is so darn articulate, I'm envious. In this post, she's talking about the fact that we spend extra money when it comes to weddings because we are afraid that we will look back on the pictures and hate them or that we spend more on a photographer or something else because we are afraid that we will regret not spending that extra money.
Case in point? My latest issue of Brides magazine - which is, by the way, the May-June issue - includes a "Wedding do-over" section where brides list their regrets. It's actually a pretty realistic list. The most realistic? Don't get your upper lip waxed two days before the wedding. (I take at least a week to recover.) Other regrets include not hiring a crappy videographer, buying the right makeup, and my personal favorite, "I would have included my husband more in the planning and not delegated it to other people. My cousin and stepmother-in-law knew more about the wedding than he did." While I agree that this is a realistic regret, and is often a regret for both people in this kind of situation, it made me feel both sad and relieved. Sad for the person whose husband didn't want to be or wasn't allowed to be included in the planning, and relieved that Mark not being involved will probably be the least of my problems - although right now he has the problem where he wants to be involved and I keep forgetting to catch him up to speed with everything I've been thinking about.
Other regrets include not hiring a day-of-coordinator (how you can salve your regret with money) and not...flying to Paris for your gown. Really? Really?
Another section talks about backyard weddings and how you do have to rent a tent, because it might rain and you would regret it if you didn't and it did. I'm not saying that you shouldn't rent a tent. I'm saying that this is yet another example of the WIC preying on our fears of regret, especially because my god, tent rentals are expensive!
So I think in the future I am going to try to look at the decisions we have to make and say, "are we spending this money because we want to? or are we spending this money because we are afraid we will regret it if we don't?" With the economy the way it is, I wonder if we'll regret more the extra $3,000 we spent on a venue that we didn't need when that will be 2.5 months rent it is possible we can't pay.
I think we all know people who have hated their weddings. I certainly do. But I don't feel that sorry for them, because in the scheme of things, its one day, and over the course of your life, you get a lot of days. So I will stop letting my fear of regret paralyze the venue search, and I will not let it drive the budget. Even if our wedding is a disaster, everyone we're inviting loves us enough to know that it wouldn't be intentional.

Now that we're engaged, I don't have to worry about this.

In doing research today, I came across this:  http://www.unmarried.org/unmarried-introductions.html
On a personal level, I prefer partner like the British use it, but I never used it because I didn't want to confuse people as to my sexual orientation.  It sounds more committed than boyfriend though. 
I find it interesting that #6 on the list is "husband/wife". 
 

MOB duties

I have mixed feelings when I read other blogs where the mom is really involved in the wedding (and that is certainly today's theme). I love my mother, and she's fabulous, but I can assure you she will not be doing any of the following:
1.) Baking cupcakes for anything
2.) Planning a party
3.) Helping me buy the perfect shoes
4.) Giving me fashion advice
5.) Reading wedding magazines and telling me what she found
6.) Caring about the details like invites, placecards, stds, etc.
7.) Picking an appropriate MOB dress
8.) Offering to cater the wedding herself
9.) Demanding I invite all of her friends to the wedding
 
I know most of this because of my experience with my mother from my sister's wedding.  My dad was the one who went out and started reading wedding blogs.  This is not to say that my mom won't be involved, she just won't necessarily take the typical mom route.  For example, she will be:
1.) Offering to take care of things so that I can focus on schoolwork or passing the bar. 
2.) Digging through her old jewelry to find my something borrowed (even though I will tell her I want to wear the same something borrowed my sister did, she will still say "let me dig around")
3.) Suggesting that we do not need alcohol at our wedding
4.) Shopping around for a new digital camera and videocamera for the wedding
5.) Asking me whether I have a job for after law school
6.) Looking at MOB dresses that look like they would have been worn by women in their 80s in the 1900s. 
7.) Coming dress shopping and commenting on how if I wear a strapless dress, it will fall down.  (My parents had a friend whose dress did this, but her dress was backless and strapless and actually cracked in half.)
8.) Listening to me whine
9.) Helping stuff favors, set up things, and generally doing anything my sister or I ask her to, unless that thing is put down the camea and walk down the aisle. 
10.) Letting me try on her dress and saying optimistic things like, "you're not too fat for it!" (She was a size 3 when she got married. I know this because I found her going-away outfit.  She insists it was "tight".)
11.) Helping me sew stuff, if I decide to make anything. 
12.) Footing the occasional (or frequent) bill. 
 
I'm grateful to have my mom, and I love her very much, but I know she's not going to be a part of the planning the way a lot of moms are.  I'm not really sad about this, because my mom is a pretty low-maintenance person when it comes to weddings.  I think she might very well be satisfied if I hand her a dress, a pair of shoes, and tell her where to show up.  Well, I think she'll want to come to the bridal shower.  The bright side of having low expectations of my mom's involvement is she never fails to surprise me - and sometimes she has an idea, wants to be involved, or solves a problem, and it's great when that happened.  She even helped ice the cupcake's for my sister's bridal shower, which I totally wasn't expecting, but she did a nice job of. 
 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wedding burnout

Okay. So I'm experiencing wedding burnout. This is okay, because I have a 30 page paper to draft in the next week.
How did I get to wedding burnout this quickly? I think its probably pretty typical for anyone in our situation - we have a long time to plan, but we are starting early because I won't be around this summer and I'm glad we started early because it turns out that you can't necessarily just schedule venue visits and go check out 10 places in one weekend. The venue hunt is exhausting for the same reason that considering different options for anything is exhausting - there are a lot of options, and none of them are perfect. Then, after the venue hunt is the hunt for everything else. And the end seems so far away. To get to our wedding, I have to graduate from law school, then study for and take the bar.
We have two visits scheduled for this weekend - the Elkridge Furnace Inn, and Historic Oakland. We're going to go check them out, but I feel like I have shut down on the venue hunt. I'm not sure if its childish on my part, like "I can't have my perfect wedding so I don't want one at all" or if it is my usual response to anything that is stressful for me, where I just don't want to talk about it or acknowledge its existence until it somehow becomes something that I can process. (I am currently doing this with law school. I am mostly ignoring it.)
Seriously. We could just book our wedding here, decide to screw over all of our friends and family who don't have money and who don't scuba dive, and ignore the fact that October is still hurricane season.
I know that I'll come around, and enjoy planning again at some point, but today is not that day.
How often do you experience wedding burnout?

Chain Weddings

One of our biggest questions right now is what is the best way to cater a wedding? Mark really likes the stations idea, which I do too, because there is a variety of food. But I also like the idea of ordering a lot of cheaper food so that we can invite more people. One of our possible venues is my childhood church where we would be responsible for all of the catering, etc.
I originally wanted California Tortilla, but some people really don't like the idea. The only person I care about liking it is really Mark (which he doesn't seem to). I think a Cal-Tor wedding with dos equis and coronas and margaritas and sangria would be fantastic. Originally I focused a little much on the "what you should know about a party catered by Cal Tor" section - there will be plenty of food, and everything will be delicious. I've been to Cal Tor parties and they are delicious. Plus, Cal Tor is actually a local chain to Bethesda and I like them.
Some of the other chain stores are options as well - Qdoba, Lebanese Taverna, Mama Lucia's, etc. The biggest con that I can see is that the catering doesn't necessarily include service. Another con is that aluminum foil pans on chafing dishes isn't exactly classy, so I might want to rent nicer chafing dishes. We would also have to rent linens and plates and cups and barware separately if we wanted to have something that wasn't plastic. (And even I don't want to use plasticware at my wedding. It's not environmentally sound and it's just a little cheap.)
I've never been to a wedding that has done this - I've been to one buffet wedding, and they had nice chafing dishes. Everything else I have been to is a sit-down dinner, so I really don't know whether people will think the foil chafing dishes are cheap or if they really won't notice, because really, who cares as long as it tastes good?
Another problem is that we will have a lot of older people who maybe do not like tacos at the wedding - would it be wise to have some kind of alternative option? Serving salmon and roasted potatoes seems safer, but less delicious and fun. Going with a pasta place (I hear pizza hut now delivers pasta) seems like a better idea, but I've had to eat so much mediocre pasta at catered events that I don't trust it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I knew it was out there somewhere!

I finally found the short hair roundup that offbeat bride did - unfortunately for me, a lot of these brides have either a lot more sass or a lot less hair than I do. 
I am developing an affection for birdcage veils, so I think I'll look into that some more and maybe try one or two on this weekend.  Plus, I am (finally) getting a haircut tomorrow, and I think my stylist might have some good ideas. 
Or...wig? No? 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bridesmaid Proposals

I don't know if you've noticed, but over on the left-hand side of the blog next to the link to "About Us" is the link to the CafePress site that I used to create my bridesmaid proposals.
So far, we've only picked two members of the wedding party - my sister, and Mark's sister. I never had any question as to who my maid-of-honor would be - it's my older sister, Margaret. She's married, but we've decided that Matron of Honor sounds dumb. The British term is Chief Bridesmaid, which I like a lot, and may start using, depending on what she thinks. So here they are right after I asked them:
(MOH Margaret on the Left; Mark's sister Lynsey on the right)
And what is that they are holding?
It's the bridesmaid bear!
I don't know how I came up with the idea of a bridesmaid bear - but I know when I got asked to be Margaret's MOH, I didn't really get asked. I assumed I would be a bridesmaid, and so did she, and then eventually somebody asked Margaret who her maid of honor was and she pointed to me. Then that person made her ask me officially, and that was that. And that is certainly a fine way to do it, but I wanted to do something a little more fun, and slightly more "official". I looked around at CustomInk and some other sites before I found CafePress. CafePress was good for this because I did not need 600 bears and the minimum order from Custom Ink was pretty large.
I started my own CafePress store based off the idea because the bears got a great response from the people who saw them (even Mark thought they were cute) and I hadn't seen anybody else do it yet. I've seen cards and jewelery and other stuff, but I hadn't seen teddy bears. When I opened the shop, they gave me the option of putting the text on other stuff too, so I put it on the items I thought people might use - although I don't really expect anybody to buy them. I thought that other people out there might want a bridesmaid bear or two, but didn't want to spend the time playing with the templates, etc. to get the font big enough.
The bears are wonderfully fluffy and cute, and the text came out larger on the t-shirt than I thought it would (I was afraid it would be tiny) so overall I am extremely pleased with them. They also shipped very fast - they came in a week or less. This was the first time I'd used CafePress and I was very happy with them.
How did you ask your bridesmaids?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hair accessories

So would this headband be totally cute if it was done in white felt flowers or would it be a little too cute?
Maybe with some birdcage netting?

Vegetarian Wedding

This is cross-posted from my cooking blog (barefootandinthekitchen.blogspot.com), but I don't think too many of my readers from there read this, or vice versa.
Okay, so I contacted a vegetarian caterer in Bethesda to gauge how much food costs if you have it catered to a place like my church. (Also to see what kind of vegetarian food they suggest. I can't serve tofu at our wedding, I just can't.)
This was the food they/I suggested (I told them it would be fall, which is why there is so much pumpkin on the menu...and does pumpkin lasagna sound fantastic or weird?)

Appetizers
Veggie Platter with Hummus
Warm Artichoke Spinach Dip with Melba & Crusty Baguette Spears
Filo Triangles Stuffed with Pumpkin or your choice
ON THE BUFFET
Roasted Veggie or Pumpkin Lasagna
Ratatouille and Grilled Polenta Moons OR Veggie Chili
Romaine or Spinach Salad with Vinaigrette (chef's suggestion)
Artisan Bread & Butter
Coffee/Tea Service
Cranberry Punch

Does this sound like food that carnivores would eat? I think it sounds amazing. Particularly pumpkin lasagna. Or roasted vegetable lasagna. Does veggie chili or ratatouille sound like something I would spill all over my dress?
The cost breakdown that we were quoted comes out to about $60-70 per person, including delivery and labor, which is well in line with a lot of places that we have looked at - but doesn't include the usual 3-4k rental cost of the facility, or some of the other charges, like chairs/tables, etc. which usually drive the cost up - but we haven't figured out yet what the church would provide as far as chairs and tables, so that may drive up the per-person cost as well.
This caterer is a local vegetarian caterer who uses fresh, seasonal, local organic ingredients whenever possible. This is someplace that would be a good place to put our money where our mouth is, and "spend smart".
My only problem with this place is that everything is not only vegetarian, it's vegan. Which means - no brie and cranberry in phyllo pastries as appetizers...and I have no idea what will be in their spinach dip. I'm kind of wondering if we can get the appetizers from somewhere else - that way we could serve something with meat or dairy or whatever. We can bring the cake from somewhere else, so why not the appetizers?

About Us

So I thought it was high time we introduced ourselves properly.
Ellie:
I am currently 23, 24 in June, and a law student at the University of Baltimore. We are getting married after I've graduated and taken the bar. I am Maryland born and raised (technically born in DC, but really, does not count.) I grew up in Adelphi, then Bethesda, then moved back to College Park to go to the University of Maryland, where I majored in English and history. My concentrations were creative writing and women's history. I also minored in Public Health. I played ice hockey in college and continue to play on a local in-house women's league at Laurel. Other hobbies include running, reading, cooking (check out my cooking blog), sewing, knitting, and being a strident feminist. I ultimately want to work in women's issues litigation - I'm not sure yet if that means DV work or suing Wal-Mart. 

Mark:
I just turned 26 and work for a roller coaster company just outside Baltimore; we're one of the few US-based companies in the field, and we do a lot of custom / niche jobs.  Rides you might know include the former Italian Job coasters (now known as Backlot Stunt Coaster), the Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios, and Flight of Fear (the first LIM launched coaster).  It's a fun job.  
I was born in Manchester, England, and moved to NJ when I was 4 (with my family, of course).  After high school, I studied mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, where I met Ellie.  Shortly thereafter I left for a semester back in Manchester, then returned to start research for a 5-year BS-MS program.  I started working for a biotech when I graduated in 2006, then was laid off and wound up where I am now.  

After college, we moved in together in Columbia (a suburb between Baltimore and DC), and after a year made the move up to Federal Hill, where we live between M&T Bank Stadium and the Inner Harbor. Ellie loves living in Baltimore, although she hears practicing in the courts here is exhausting and demanding because the system is so strapped, so she's tempted to practice in another county. Mark looks forward to his office's upcoming move to a building just outside the inner harbor, which would allow him to stop commuting by car (it's been anticipated for over a year now, so he's not holding his breath), but in the meantime he's a big fan of being able to walk other places.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Backyard Weddings

Okay, so I'm starting to get a little resentful of the self-righteousness of the backyard/diy brides who are all, "our DIY wedding was all about our family and friends and we only wanted the most important people in our lives to be with us" or whatever. I know I'm really just jealous, but still - you can brag about your wedding without being condescending! I don't think my wedding, which will absolutely not be held in my parents backyard because their backyard is a giant slope, so nobody would be able to eat, plus its in the middle of Bethesda and really, really obnoxious to the neighbors (who are about 10 feet away) and my parents are hoarders and I have no desire to have them confront their behavior over the next year in order to clean out our house enough. Plus there would have to be a rain date - there couldn't be a rainy day alternative.
That rant aside, just because we're not getting married in our parents backyard doesn't mean our wedding won't be about our family and friends. Just because I have no interest in hand-making parasols for all of our guests (I don't think anybody actually does this) doesn't mean I don't love them!
Big weddings do not equal impersonal weddings. Weddings at restaurants, churches, zoos, historic mansions, or even hotels, are not weddings by people who want their day to be all about glitz and glamor. Some of them are. But some of them are weddings by people who have big hearts and big families and too many friends (which is not a bad problem to have).
Yes, I wish we could have a fabulous backyard wedding. And while can't is a four letter word in the indie-fuck-the-WIC-wedding planning world, we can't have a backyard wedding. But we can still have a wedding that is about family and fun. And for aforementioned reasons, I want all of the people who have supported us and who will continue to support us to be able to be there, and I can't imagine shutting them out. I know that some people have very different ideas about what a wedding should be - I know one girl who got married in her dining room, with only her fiance and parents present. I know people who have gotten married at a rented beach house with 30 people. I know people who have eloped. I know a couple that seriously grabbed two friends from work and went to the courthouse at noon on a Tuesday, and then went back to work. There is no wrong way to have a wedding (there are wrong reasons, but we can talk about that later). So why do I feel so judged? Am I just defensive because I want to have a big party? Or do I really feel like somebody is telling me that just because I'm able or willing to spend more money on my wedding, it won't be about family and friends?
I know I'm overreacting. But I just wanted to remind all of the other couples out there who, for whatever reason, can't have a fabulous backyard affair, your wedding will still be about your family, your friends, about fun, about whatever you want it to be. You can still have a low-key DIY wedding, even if you have it at someplace that is less low-key.

The PWC

Okay, so if you are an avid Weddingbee reader, you'll find that most of the brides on there go through the "Post-Wedding Chop". This is when a woman has grown her hair out for her wedding, and then chops it all off shortly thereafter.
I actually go through this cycle fairly frequently - I grow my hair out, get annoyed, and chop it off.
I have actually done the PWC before - I bobbed my hair when I got to law school, then grew it out for my sister's wedding so they could put it in a nice updo (they didn't, but that is besides the point.) The next day, I went to the hairdresser and got it bobbed.
It went from this (it turns out when it was long, it was never down, so excuse the poor quality of this picture. Also the guy on my right is my friend Danny, not Mark.)
to this (with Mark, wearing my dress from my sister's wedding - bridesmaids dresses are totally rewearable!):
Later, in October, I finally found myself a proper stylist (Lynsey Hall, works at Geometrics in Baltimore, highly highly recommend), and she gave me this cut:
(Kindly ignore the goofy facial expression, I wanted a picture that would show the cut.)
After I got this haircut, I was set. I don't think I've ever had the same haircut for so long, but I love it. I love how easy it is to maintain, how fast it is to wash and blow dry, how much more grownup and professional I look, and how it doesn't need to be scraped back and headbanded to go running or to the gym. I just put in one of those little plastic headbands that 6 year olds wear and I'm good to go.)
I've thought about growing it back out to chin length for the wedding, but I don't really see myself going further than that. I was recently at a law school competition and I got complimented on how much more professional I looked than the other students there because of my hair, and when you're 23 and a law student, you need that.
I'm considering growing it out this summer because Lynsey is here and not in Michigan, and so I might have her just give me the bob from photo 2 again, which will grow out much better than my high-maintenance style (expensive, but worth it to cut every month). I may grow it back out into a bob for the wedding so it can be pulled back just a little, but I haven't decided. My hair grows at least .5 an inch a month, so I can wait until next spring to decide. I do know I have neither the patience or time to maintain growing my hair out long again, and I plan to have short hair in the future, so why would I want to look unlike myself? My mom has had the same haircut for 25 years, but in her wedding pictures its long and she looks so different.
So I'm looking into the options for hairdos and accessories for short-haired brides. I think I might do a veil attached to a cute ribbon wrapped headband or a birdcage veil, for the ceremony, and then maybe just some kind of cute hair flower or tiara for the reception.
Does anybody else have short hair? Any ideas in mind? I could have sworn that one of the wedding sites did a roundup of short haired brides and hairdos, but I can't find it - does somebody have the link?
We're planning to go dress shopping next weekend, so I'm gonna try on veils there and see if any of the styles work more or less with short hair (and will it stay in if there is no hair to keep it there?)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Yay! Rings!

So we got home from England and I could barely contain myself - I knew that both of our engagement rings would finally be here when we got home. I actually barely had time to return the mail that had accidentally been delivered before we hopped off to the jewelers, who were open and excited to see us. My ring looks exactly like the design that Mark came up with, and its actually a little bigger (wider) than we were expecting. It is so sparkly, which I kind of wasn't expecting. It also looks nothing like anybody else's ring, and while I don't really care if I show up at school wearing the same shirt or shoes as somebody else, for our rings, we both wanted something pretty unique. Mark's wooden ring, which has been resized, also arrived - pictures of that, and hopefully a blog post by somebody on designing an engagement ring, are to come.
But for now, I shall leave you with this:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Pre-Engagement Party Registry

So is registering for gifts before your engagement party so that you can get gifts at your engagement party resourceful or rude? Should anybody really expect a gift? Or a party? And if you are lucky enough to be thrown a party, shouldn't you just accept any gifts you get with grace and dignity and not say "but I really wanted this teapot in red."?
It seems fairly rude to me to register, especially if you are early on in the planning process. I will say that I wouldn't necessarily mind engagement gifts, but I'm not going to register for them! I also am not wild about people buying gifts off registries for bridal showers either, because I feel like that is not the point of the shower. However, the FMIL was saying tonight (she's here in the UK visiting her parents) that when she got married, you got a gift for your shower and then money for the wedding - although this was before people had really particular registries. Which does make sense in the traditional definition of a shower being "lets shower the couple with gifts to start their new lives."
Because of my animosity towards showers that are just a requirement to buy another thing off the registry, I like the idea of a themed shower. My sister's was honeymoon themed, my friend's is lingere themed, some people have book themed showers, etc. For my shower, I have been toying with the idea of something cooking related - possibly either a cooking class, or a potluck in which everybody brings a dish and a recipe for the dish and the gift is some (small) piece of cooking gear necessary to make the dish. I realize that I don't get to pick my shower, and I should appreciate any shower that is thrown for me, but since the MOH has already talked about my shower, I'm expecting one at this point. Anyway, my only hesitation on the cooking thing is that it will look like I want people to just buy things off the registry. So I guess we will see, and I will leave that up to my MOH.

Monday, March 16, 2009

First Glance/Look

I hope Mark posts about this a little too - because he's really the holdout, although I'm also holding out.
I don't really believe in first glances. Not because they're bad luck, but because they are poorly executed. Every time I see them, the bride walks up behind the groom and she taps him on the shoulder. Then he turns around and they get gooey.
The whole point of that giant aisle, besides being surrounded by people who love you and them all watching you walk to your beloved, is that anticipation where you get to stare at each other. No bride would walk down the aisle, tap the groom on the shoulder, and then have him turn around. At least not that I've ever seen.
I'm not ruling a first glance out, because the idea of getting the portraits out of the way and actually eating food at cocktail hour, I think, sounds darn tasty. But I want to come up with a better execution - something that captures that anticipation, and something that lets somebody get a picture of the look on Mark's face when he's really looking at me for the first time in my dress - and that should be a long enough time period for him to cry, not just a five second "oh, hello, girl that tapped me on the shoulder."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hello from across the pond!

Mark and I are in England, visiting his family and friends who live here (his family moved to the U.S. when he was 4). Hopefully most of them will be able to make the wedding, but we will see what the economy does. I was thinking today while we were out running that it is really fun for couples in multi-locality relationships like ours to integrate that into their wedding, and one thing that occured to me was to somehow use English chocolate. We both love some of the varities of candy bars here, and I was thinking that it would be so fun to have a candy buffet that featured some American candy and some English candy. So now I'm toying with the idea of a buffet filled with (fun size) Flake and Aero and Twirl bars and the Terry's Orange Chocolate Slices and maybe some Cadbury Creme Eggs. I do suspect this is a ploy on my part to get to have a ton of leftover chocolate.
If we don't do a buffet, we might do what my sister did - have candy as a centerpiece on the tables (although probably not name the tables after the candy, because that seemed to confuse some people), and try to make sure the more American tables got the English candy and the English tables got the American candy.
There is also the favors route - stick a thank you note on a bar of chocolate or box some candies up into a little plastic box with a note and put them at every table. If it was somehow cost
My only other way to incorporate it would be to put it in the out-of-town bags - everybody gets like, an Aero bar and a Cadbury egg and a Reese's peanut butter cup and some Hershey's kisses.
So what are you favorite candies that are distinctly English or American? And if we serve Cadbury Creme Eggs in October, will people think we've saved them from Easter? (They are available year round here! They would be fresh!)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What marriage means

Marriage means a lot. I could write a book about what marriage means legally - in fact, people have. Or what it means spiritually.
So supposedly, you boil this all down to a single meaning when you make vows. I love watching other bloggers come up with their own vows, or make the choice to simply say, "I do". (Anyone who watched the sobbing meltdown mess when I made my toast at my sister's wedding should understand if I choose to go with, "I do.")
But Mrs. Cheese wrote this as she was explaining her vows and I found myself agreeing.
"I want to feel the awesomeness of the moment as I pledge my life, my future, my love to one single person until I die. In that moment, I want to feel the losses as well as the gains. I want to be aware that I am choosing to never have another first kiss, to sleep with only one man, to be loyal and faithful to one person. I want to knowingly and willingly give up everything I could have for everything I do have. And then, I want to feel the joy of gaining someone else’s loyalty until he dies. I want to want to laugh and run and skip with happiness (happiness I’ve only ever felt with this man). I want to giggle because life’s just so good. And I want to feel the beginning of a new family, of a new life together, of being acknowledged and accepted and ready to move forward as a couple. Not too young, not too fake. Honest."
The two sentences here that stuck out to me were these - "In that moment, I want to feel the losses as well as the gains" and "I want to knowingly and willingly give up everything I could have for everything I do have."
The first one sticks out to me because it is a phrase we use frequently in law school - the loss as well as the gain, or as the lawyer in me says, "the benefits and burdens." Everything has a balance - everything has some gain and some loss, some benefit and some burden, some joy and some heartache. And I think that a wedding day is an important day to understand that you are choosing (and fortunate) to undertake the benefits and burdens of this institution. It is why the traditional vows say "for richer and for poorer" and "in sickness and in health."
The second phrase, I love, because I am young. I am 23. I will be 25 when we get married. I am fully aware that I could leave law school, join the peace corps, travel the world, write a book, and then find love and settle down. I could spend 10 years in a BigLaw firm, working 90 hour weeks and making more money than I will ever need, and then eventually retire to Tahiti (which I will purchase.) I could date more men, see what I am missing. I could date women, see what I'm missing. I could move to Africa and help AIDS victims. I could take a job clerking in Upper Marlboro and build myself a giant house on the Chesapeake bay. There are a lot of doors out there in life that are open to me - and to choose to get married is to "knowingly and willingly give up everything I could have for everything I do have." Yes, there are things I could have - but I am choosing to forego those options, because I am comfortably certain that what I do have is worth more than any of that.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Last Name Change Game

I think it may have been our third date when I said, "by the way, not changing my name."  I may have never needed to say it, because it's pretty obvious that I am not the type of person to do that (although...I've learned there is no "type").
Part of my reason for not changing my name is because it is a hassle.  I'm a busy person and do not feel like standing in line at Social Security, the MVA, or anywhere else.  Southwest won't change the name on your rapid rewards account unless you send them a certified copy of your marriage license.  Plus I go from the front of the alphabet to the back - not cool, especially if I need to put my name in a phone book for my legal practice.  Another reason is because I'm proud of who I am, of what I have accomplished as me, and some of that does disappear.  The last reason is because I do think its patriarchal.  Usually the name change is a shift from leaving your father's house to your husband's house.  I do want us to be a family - so I do kind of want to share a last name, but neither of us are willing to take the other's. 
I should say though - I do plan to change my name - just not to his. 
I suppose I should start at the beginning.  My mother didn't change her last name when she got married, and when they had children, my father suggested giving us my mom's name.  She was worried that people would think he had kidnapped us when he took us places.  So they hyphenated.  I have two last names.  When I say my last name, people think I'm joking.  (Now that I'm older, they think that I'm married.)  One of the names is 7 letters long, the other is 9.  There's a hyphen - it's not like I have two middle names, which people think sometimes.  My driver's license number starts with D, just like my first last name (they filed me under B originally and my mother threw a fit.) 
People ask me whether I'm married, which last name is my "new" last name, what my parents were smoking, what I'll do when I get married, what I'll do with my kids.  I love the people who are all "what are you going to do, add another hyphen?" 
Most people have a really hard time believing that my names have always been that way, that I have carried this mouthful my entire life.  It has been both a blessing and a curse - I know what a hyphen is, nobody ever asked either of my parents whether I was actually theirs, and I always had this sense of pride in where I came from and I feel solidly grounded in my heritage.  I get a little self-righteous when people talk about how they have to choose between their father's name and their husband's, therefore it's still the patriarchy.  Because that's not the choice I get to make.  My mother's name, even if it came from my grandfather, is a name my grandmother chose because she thought that if she and my grandfather were both going to be publishing in science, she wanted the name to be well known in the field, so she thought it would be best for them to both publish under that name.  I don't think of my name as steeped in patriarchy.  It was a decision made by my smart, sassy, Ph.D having-Grandma, who I never met, and I am proud to carry the name she chose. 
As I have gone through law school though, I am steeped in a desire for simplicity.  I get giddy as I dream about only having one name.  I also worry a little about being married and people thinking I'm divorced or thinking Mark's last name is my second name.  So about six months ago, I made a decision to change my name.  I am choosing to keep my mother's name, and to use that.  It's the shorter one, and it is the one all of my records (driver's license, passport) are filed under.  My father is fine with it, and my mother's reasons for hyphenating are no longer particularly valid, as I am old enough that nobody thinks my dad kidnapped me, and nobody thinks its weird when a man and his adult daughter do not share a last name.  I'm not sure whether I have to go through all the paperwork to change it legally to be able to use it in court - but I'll find out eventually.  I may wait until after the wedding, because we have discussed taking each other's last names as second-middle-names. 
As for the kids, I think we're gonna hyphenate - and just make their first names really short.  Maybe then they can fill out a form without wanting to die. I am reserving any decisions about our children's last names though, until I have them, because I have heard that most women feel like, "I don't need this child to carry my name for me to know that it is mine."  It is similar to my current feeling that I no longer need to carry my father's name to know where I come from.  But I did really like it at as a child.  So we'll see. 


 
 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wasn't saying "yes" enough?

Mark's birthday is next Sunday, and frankly, I've neglected it. Do I really have to get him a gift now that I've agreed to be his wife and stuff?
Maybe I'll just stalk him while we're in England (leaving tomorrow, going for a week, so posting will be light) and when he puts things down in souvenir shops, I'll sneak up behind him and buy them.
Or I suppose I could get him a real gift. He doesn't really need much though, cuz he has me.
How do you keep the magic of gift-giving though, after 6 years and once you share finances and buy the things you need together? I've already used his birthdays & Christmas to dress him better - new ties, shirts, a suit, and a watch. (This might sound horrible but I realize he hasn't introduced himself yet - he's an engineer. When we met, he would occasionally wear his shorts with a giant hole in the back to family lunches.) I've used it to buy him gifts that I secretly want for myself since we live together and I get to play with him.
I could make him something, but he has enough stuff and nicknacks and framed pictures of us.
I could take him out to dinner, but lets be real - I'm going to do that anyway.
So what do you buy the man you live with, share everything with, and have run out of gift ideas for?

I'm feeling inspired.

Look! See the casual woven outdoor chairs, the beer bottles and small plates on the tables. Notice! No centerpieces at all! See the balloons in the trees? It looks like a casual garden party! Except that its a wedding! It's casually elegant
If this was our wedding, we would let people eat for awhile - keep a station menu, so people can sit at whatever small table they want, and then eventually shrink the number of tables available, move things, and make space for some dancing! Just move the little square tables to the edges, so people can still sit and wander!
I have yet to find another picture that is so many things that I want in a wedding in one picture. Can't you just tell how much fun they are having? Can't you tell how relaxed they are? How delicious the beer is? See how there is a tree in the middle of the patio? See how those people in the bottom half of the picture have pulled the tables together and gathered all of their chairs together to eat?
Do you have a Wed-spiration picture that embodies everything you want in one picture?

Wedding vs. Car

My car has started to make funny noises again. It's 13 years old, has about 82,000 miles on it, and is going to take me to and from Michigan this summer (if I replace the tires.) It has two brand new headlights, thanks to a fiance who doesn't mind the possibility of electrocution when he disconnects the battery (a fear of mine that may very well be irrational). It gets terrible gas mileage (less than 20 miles to a gallon) for a compact car.
We live in Federal Hill, where people park like giant jerkfaces. The most common thing I see is the "half-spot". This occurs when somebody doesn't pull as far forward as they possibly can to park in a space. Its particularly annoying when the person hasn't pulled all the way forward to the area where parking starts (usually a sign or a curb.)
Which brings to mind the following solution:
So here's the problem (and how this relates to weddings.)
This car, which I have convinced myself is an irrational purchase (when really, it makes a lot of sense and will be ultimately more practical than the Vespa that I really want), will cost the same or less than dinner for 120 of our closest friends at our wedding. For the cost of the average wedding, Mark and I could each get our own Smart Car. We could even get the convertible version. The wedding will last for a single day, but the Smart Car will last for awhile. Probably 10 years.
But then I start thinking about the other sides of the coin - a smart car will only last for ten years, but our marriage will last for our entire lives and isn't celebrating that more important than sensible transit and not wanting to kill myself when I get home after 8pm on a Thursday? (I have spent, literally, an hour driving around the nighborhood looking for parking.)

All of the people we are inviting to the wedding will be people I would gladly take out to dinner to celebrate our marriage and thank them for being so supportive of me, or of Mark, or of both of us, to get us to this point in our life. Isn't a wedding just a really big way to say, "you've always been there for us and we really appreciate it?" At least, that's what I think it is. It is a way to thank my sister and my brother in law, who convinced me that living with Mark really was a good idea. It is a way to thank Mark's family, who took me in and accepted me as an important part of his life, no questions asked, when Mark came to visit and brought me with him. It is a way to thank my family, who has loved Mark since day one and have never hesitated to express to me how much they like him or how much they support our relationship. It is a way to thank our friends, who have listened and been supportive when we hit a rough patch with each other or with our lives. It is a way to thank the people who make us who we are so that we can be who we are together. I am eternally grateful to all of Mark's friends and family and even his ex-girlfriends who have made him a sensitive, compassionate, and hard-working person who I love very much and am excited to marry. And so for all that they have done for us in the past, and all they will do for us in the future, I would very much like to take all of these people to dinner, and that is not something I am willing to forego for a Smart Car.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thank goodness for feminist blogs.

Today in the Feminist Blogging World, Sadie reviews bridal magazines, and Jessica contemplates the Hyphen, and, less recently, Hortense takes on the reaction to engagement.

Interestingly, Hortense's idea of a fudgie-the-whale cake is apparently in this month's wedding mag, so chalk one up for creativity and also sea-creature shaped pastries at weddings.

Anyway, if you need a good feminist-wedding-planning-fixed, check these gals out.

Serious budget wedding

How's this for cutting down your wedding costs?  Share the celebration with 20 of your closest friends!
 
Even on a more reasonable scale, I'm not sure how well a joint wedding would work... unless you and your sibling are marrying another pair of siblings, you don't really wind up cutting out any family members, and, for us at least, that's the bulk of our guest list.  You have to find a larger location - though probably not twice as expensive - and I don't think that many other costs go away.
 
Even if you do manage to reduce the costs significantly, can it possibly be worth the added aggravation of trying to get four (or more!) people to agree on everything instead of two?  And do you all send the same invites or does each couple pick out invitations for their own guests?  Sounds stressful.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Vintage

Okay, so I'm gonna depart from the WEdding for a bit and talk about some wedding details that I'm pretty sure Mark won't really care about.
I don't know if vintage has always been "in" or if it's just been the last few years, but man, vintage is in. Truth is - I don't care for vintage wedding style. I do like vintage, in small doses. I have a few cool vintage necklaces that my grandmother gave me (they're vintage style, not actually hers.) I have some other vintage jewelry that is actually heirloom. I like to paw through my mom and grandma's old clothes.
But I don't really get the having a vintage style/theme wedding. I guess it is helpful to have a central concept to arrange your decor around. I like the idea of incorporating some vintage elements into the wedding. I keep thinking that a really cool wedding theme for us would be travel - and we could use an old world map as the base for our color palatte - light blue, dark green, and splashes of tan/light brown - and if we do that, it would be fun to use some vintage suitcases as possible photo props and as a card repository (I have a carpet bag that would be fantastic!). But I wonder if there isn't a point where the theme feels a bit too costume-y.
Also, I find that fabric doesn't age well, and gets stiff and itchy. Plus, vintage dresses tend to be clingy. I don't do clingy. I'm not judging anybody else for liking vintage - some people have gorgeous vintage weddings. I just feel like I might feel a little out of place as a guest.
I guess it is purely a question of personal preference, but I think I prefer a slightly more modern feel as far as decor, and a slightly more classical feeling when it comes to dresses.
(All of these statements will be retracted if we have a halloween wedding, because the point will be to be in costume.)

Registries

I wanted to touch on alternative registry ideas because my cousin's fiance mentioned charity registries in passing over the weekend and I thought I would post about it, because there is a lot of information out there about alternative registries - both charity registries and honeymoon registries. Honeymoon registries are a great idea until people call you a selfish jerk who is just asking for money. (Yet nobody who registers for the KitchenAid Stand Mixer gets called that.)
I'm gonna be outright and say that we plan to register. We both cook, and cooking is a huge part of our relationship. Plus, most of our pots have gotten warped, some of our appliances are showing wear, and most of our bakeware, flatware and dishware is hand-me-downs because we are in our early twenties. (I am. Mark's old.) When we do register, it will probably be through the I Do foundation - http://www.idofoundation.org/ - which means that by registering at certain stores, up to 10% of the profits will be given to the charity of your choice. Cooking.com gives 10% - and I like their website, because they have reviews, plus a broad spectrum, and often have flat rate or free shipping - plus, hopefully, we can force guests to ship the gifts directly to us, instead of bringing them to the wedding by going through an online-only store.
Thus, this is a good option for people like us that hope to purchase a house around the same time they get married, and are currently getting by with what they have. As selfish as this sounds, I'm also not particularly compelled to have a charity registry because my entire life is a charity (I work in women's interests non-profits, such as domestic violence organizations), and also because we will probably choose to donate some percentage of any financial gifts we receive to charity.
For the people that don't need stuff, you can also register directly to give to a charity.
Charity registries are tough, because you have to pick a charity that people won't mind giving to. I would love to ask people to give to Planned Parenthood, but I know I can't ask my guests to give to a charity they might be morally opposed to. There are a few other options though, for those looking for a direct charity registry or alternative registry:
I like the Alternative Gift Registry because you can just put links on there - so you can put on links for items you want, as well as charities you would like to support. This seems like the best way to register for fancy electronics, furniture, and items from Ikea or Costco. (Either from Costco.com or just enter a description and possibly product number of an item from the local Costco that you like.) Or if there is a store that has a few items that you like, but not enough, and you don't want a ton of things from there. For example, I would love this plate set from uncommongoods.com but I'm not sure whether I want enough other items from there to really make registering there worth it. (Although this and this and this....) I think the Alternative Gift Registry also allows you to describe an item that you would like, instead of picking a specific one - so you can say, "we would really love a set of flatware for 16 people" or "cheese grater" or "stand mixer" and they can pick one they think you would like. I would like to do this, because we know a lot of fun, creative people who are more than capable of picking out stuff. Plus sometimes people feel boxed in by registries - once, I wanted to buy a friend the teal version of the colander they had registered for, but they registered for the black one, and I didn't know if they liked the black one or if it was because
You can also ask people for favors - you could register for a friend to come over and weed your yard. You could even ask people to volunteer for a charity as their wedding gift to you. Or you can ask people to come help set up the centerpieces or do your makeup or play ceremony music or SPEND THE RECEPTION FIGHTING YOUR MOTHER FOR HER VIDEO CAMERA.
What are some other alternative registries out there?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Engagement Shoots

Okay - so originally I thought engagement shoots were the dumbest concept ever. Really - you spend two hours with a photographer and you stress out over your hair and makeup and then run around town and make out in public? Now, though, I think they are awesome, because who doesn't want some really good pictures of themselves instead of the usual off-centered self-taken shots with the arm out and the really bad red-eye? When we take pictures of ourselves, they come out so weird looking and the lighting is off and even though we finally have a tripod that we use (which we have had all along, Mark just never mentioned it until a month ago and we dug it out) which is about 4 inches long but really handy for self-timed shots, the pictures still aren't great.
Plus, you can use the engagement shoot pictures in stuff for the wedding, like a photo-guest book or anything else. And you get to have nice, professional pictures of you in a fun location - like the city where you live, or a park you really like, or even a vacation spot.
We have some friends who are into photography so they might be willing to follow us around for an afternoon with a camera - I think it would be fun to do a shoot in Federal Hill - go up to the hill where we got engaged, hit up the Book Escape, maybe Sam's Bagels, stop for Margarita's at Blue Agave. I really love this shoot by Lara Swanson, especially the pictures in Olsson's.

Location visit: Vandiver Inn

We had our first location visit this weekend.  After we talked about weddings at the Inner Harbor, my mind went to the views over the Susquehanna River that I've been seeing for the last eight years as I drive up and down 95 between NJ and MD.  I panned around on the map and noticed Susquehanna State Park, started doing some research on Rock Run Mansion and the Steppingstone Museum in the park, and, in the process, discovered the Vandiver Inn in Havre de Grace.  We stopped by on our way up to Philadelphia to check the place out.  
Vandiver Inn is a small, family-owned operation; there is a main house, built in 1876, and two smaller houses (presumably newer) which are adjacent.  Behind the main house is a huge pavilion, and between the two smaller houses is a grassy space with a small gazebo.  Typically the ceremony takes place at the gazebo, and the reception under the pavilion.  My general impression:
Pros:
  • John and Susan, the owners, seem to be incredibly willing to make adjustments to fit guests' needs - for instance, he discussed adjustments to the menu (Susan, a self-taught chef, makes all the food), and potential plans for the future to offer an all-local menu.
  • John was very honest.  We've been talking about a guest list of 175, but he said 160 was what they could comfortably handle.  While we were touring the gazebo area, he pointed out that our large numbers would stretch the seating area pretty much to the edge of the lawn, close to the street, so guests in the last few rows might notice cars going by - then again, it's a small street in a small town, so that probably wouldn't be much of a big deal.
  • Their web site has lots of details on the pavilion, but in brief - solid structure, wooden roof and brick floor (no mud if it rains beforehand),  lots of nice space outside for mingling, assuming good weather.
  • The mansion itself - the rooms and everything else looks pretty nice,
  • Location - close to 95, fairly convenient to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and NJ.  Oh, and two blocks from the river and five from the bay, so lots of great options for photos.
  • Decent amount of off-street parking.
  • Reasonable price, and, as implied above, includes catering (and a cake from a local bakery), etc.   No additional vendors to deal with for tables, linens, etc. Generally speaking, $70-90 per guest depending which options we go with.  We'd probably be in the middle of that range.
  • Decent number of rooms on-location for bridal party, parents, and a few other guests (which all include breakfast).
  • They like to end events by 9pm, which fits with our general inclination to not be exhausted as we kick people out at 11pm.
  • Somewhat handicapped-accessible.  Not fully ADA compliant (old building, grandfathered) but someone in a wheelchair can at least get around to where they'd need to be.
Cons:
  • At our current estimate, our size is right on the edge of what we can handle.  Ellie is concerned that with a full six chairs on each side in front of the gazebo, the aisle might be too tight to have both her parents walking her down, and as I mentioned, the seating would run most of the way back towards the street.  Full seating in the pavilion wouldn't leave much space for dancing and would potentially be cramped for larger guests at adjacent tables.  
So, if we revisit our guest list and decide that we're likely to find ourselves more in a 120-130 guest kind of place, this would probably get a big bump, but for now it looks like it would be tight.

One thing we discussed that I hadn't encountered before was the concept of having stations, instead of a sit-down meal or a buffet.  It seems like a nice compromise - a little bit more of an upscale feel than a buffet, but still a lot of variety for guests with different tastes.  They also set up differently, without 100% reserved seating, which leads to a bit more of a fluid, party-type atmosphere, which is what the weddings I've been to tend to turn into as people get tired of the company at their table and start drifting around to see other friends.  Plus, none of our friends have done stations yet so it would be a little bit of a break from the routine we've gotten into.

Invitations

The invites are the first thing I have to stop dreaming about. I love paper and graphic design - graphic designer being my secret second career that I will be dropping out of my stress and alcoholism inducing legal career to pursue sometime in my late forties or fifties. I want to learn to use Illustrator or some other vector design program, I want to get a grip on photoshop, and then I want to design our invitations. Then I want to print them, decorate them, and put them in envelopes. Mostly because I spent so long at non-profits doing mailings, I enjoy the occasional envelope stuffing session.
Invites are going to happen sometime between graduation and the bar. So I'm giving them up. I shall leave them to the talented professionals. What are you giving up without even having to learn the hard way that its a bad idea?
Which might not be so bad:
All by the fabulous, and fabulously affordable, Jean M. (These designs are all $119 for 100 invites.)

Put your money where your mouth is

So one thing I believe we have established here already is that Weddings Are Expensive.
I like to support small local businesses. When I bought my bicycle, one of the reasons I bought it from Wheaton Cycles was because it was a small, local business with a wonderful owner who was very friendly and personal. I like to support nice people who are trying to make a living.
In the summer, we hit the farmer's market to support local farmers so they don't have to ship their products across the country. Some of it is organic, some isn't, and I care more that it is local than it being organic. I don't really like to shop at Whole Foods because so much of their produce is imported from California.
I try to buy local Maryland wines - they tend to be sweeter, which I prefer anyway, but it is one thing that is much easier to just buy a local wine because its so much better environmentally. It also supports local businesses, which puts dollars in your local community.
My point here though, is that for a wedding, which will cost about 60x what my bike cost, we want that money to go, for lack of a better word, to a good cause. All this means for me at the moment is this - no hotels.
Bed and breakfast or small inns (like the venue we checked out yesterday, which I will let Mark write about) are acceptable. But the local Hyatt or Sheraton (which would be very convenient, and the Inner Harbor one is quite nice) is not going to put money into the local Baltimore community (something it desperately needs), in addition to the fact that the money does not "go to" anything but the hotel's profits.
So where does this put us? Most of the historical homes in the area are non-profits, run by historical societies or the counties they are in. Some of them are privately owned, but if they are historical buildings I would rather support them. Some of the places we are looking at are owned by the state park system or the department of natural resources. I'm not ruling out my church - which is a nonprofit and a place I like to support. The aquarium and Science Center gouge a little bit, but they are membership based organizations that are also funded by grants and fund nonprofit programs. The EPA building is run by a non-profit. These are the people who I want to receive the 2-4k we are putting down for the cost of the venue. It's not just about the place being cool, unique, or original - its about where the cost of the wedding ultimately goes, and its about who I want profiting off of our wedding - I'm fine with the vendors and services costing money - but I want to feel comfortable with where that money goes. The catering company that I've already emailed a week ago that has not responded at all? (Who has also not responded to my cousin who is wedding planning also.) I don't think I want them to get our money.