Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rain on your wedding day.

I sometimes think I want crummy weather on our wedding day so we can have shots like this:
(Photo by Punam Bean over on Weddingbee Pro.)
(Or these.)

Oops. I did it again.

This is the fourth time in a week that I have left my ring sitting innocently at home. Since I've been working from home so much with exams, and I don't tend to put it on when I'm at home, or because I'll start doing the dishes and take it off, I keep forgetting it. It's safe - I have one of these guys by the sink:
and an eyeglass holder that doubles as a ring holder by my bed. So I know my ring is safe...but its two miles away!
Do other people do this? I know some people sleep in their rings, but I'm afraid it will fall off. I also don't wear it to do dishes because it is a little on the loose side and I'm terrified it will slip down the drain (I really hate reaching into the garbage disposal.) Any ideas on how I can be sure to remember my ring? Before I pull out of my parking space and see that it is not innocently sparkling on my hand?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Polling

The winner of today's poll:
Getting married at a venue that does not support gay marriage is like getting married at a Jim Crow venue.
The runner up is "I wouldn't really care" and the next top choice is our readers who don't support gay marriage.

There was a reason for this - we found a venue that looks awesome and costs less than $500. My problem is that it is owned by a church who does not have any info about marriage equality or whether they are a welcoming congregation on their website. If we go visit it, I will of course ask the guy that runs the place - because just because it is owned by the church doesn't mean that they don't let gay couples get married there - I know I'm making a lot of assumptions. The bigger downer for me is the giant cross on the property. Anyway, I think of it as a Jim Crow venue, but if it was perfect in every other aspect (other than the giant cross), would we go with it? I really don't know.

So there is a new poll up for the next week. Enjoy!

Feminist Proposals

When I tell people I'm engaged, and they say congratulations, I know I should just say, "thank you." But because congratulations feels awkward, I usually joke around and say one of the following instead, "Thanks - I finally bagged me a man!" or "Thanks - I'm not gonna die alone!" (Although with Mark being 2 years older than me and women's life expectancy being 2 years longer, it is highly likely that I will.)
I don't know why I do this, except that is what congratulations sounds like to me. It sounds like:
It sounds like, "Hey, now we know you're not gay" or "you are so lucky that anyone is willing to marry you." I know it's my own insecurities, and that they are just congratulating me on...well, what, exactly, are you congratulating the woman on?
You congratulate the man on finally manning up and making an honest woman out of the girl, of finally getting over his fear of commitment, on dropping a large amount of money on a rock, on finally capitulating to the woman's harpish desire to get married, you congratulate him on getting sex for the rest of his life, even when he's bald and in his sixties. Ultimately, you are congratulating him on choosing to get married.
Because of the sexist nature of the proposal, women don't really choose to get married. Yes, they have that moment where they say yes or no - but usually men string the process out for so long that they are sure she will say yes. (I know I'm generalizing. But every guy I know has done this. Okay, except one.) Often couples have talked about it beforehand - but equitable decisionmaking has no place in the "real" proposal! (My ideal proposal was to go out to dinner on New Year's Eve and resolve to spend the rest of our lives together. I thought it was the perfect way to make proposing romantic, special, and mutual. Didn't happen.)
So when you congratulate the girl, you are congratulating her on getting "picked". It's like being drafted into the team of marriage. Suddenly she is special - all because somebody asked her. She had no power or autonomy in being asked (and if she tried to have any, man was she a nagging ring-hungry b*tch.)
I realize that most people think that they are congratulating people on deciding to get married, on growing up, on committing to each other for the rest of their lives, but they're not. The reason that I know they're not is because....well, because of what happened to me when I tried to propose. I came up with a plan and I really wanted to ask Mark, because well, I love him and I want to spend the rest of my life with him.
What did people tell me? I got one response: You can't do that.
The most horrifying reason? "The guy gets so little in relationships - you have to just give him this." "This is the one decision that the guy gets to make."
Excuse me? Maybe you have so little power in your relationship that you felt like you had to seize it by holding out on your girlfriend and torturing her with the promise of a proposal around every corner (I had friends who deliberately tried to throw their girlfriends "off the scent" by "faking them out.") I like to believe that we have a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding, and that neither of us have more power than the other. I don't run Mark's life, I don't prevent him from going out with his friends and having fun, and I certainly don't think that I have all of the power. When it comes to wedding planning, I am willing to go with the place he likes instead of the place that I like - because at the end of the day, we get to be married to each other and if he is a little happier than I am about where we did it, who cares? He is going to get to pick his own clothes and his own groomsmen and the music and I am going to pick my own clothes and my bridesmaids and every other decision we will make together. (I have terrible taste in music. I'm uncomfortable making those decisions for our guests.)
Anyway, ultimately I let him propose, for a number of reasons - but I still couldn't handle the congratulations, and I know that people mean well. I congratulate people on getting engaged. And I'm not sure if I mean, "congratulations on making a decision to marry and spend your lives together" or "congratulations on landing the white whale of relationships."
Does anybody else experience the problem of not knowing how to thank people for their well wishes?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What would you wear to get married at City Hall?

So if we were to elope, and I had to go with something I already own, I would rock this dress. But if I was buying a new dress? I would go with this.
Do you also play the "what would you wear to get married at city hall?" game? Why does it seem like more fun then dress shopping? Because you get more color & style options? Because you get to think about being chic but still able to ride the metro to City Hall?

On Location: The Cloisters

We had an appointment to see Maryvale Castle in Lutherville, MD last week, but the caterer got confused and thought we had made the appointment for Saturday (we hadn't).  Since I'd forged a route through rush hour traffic to get there on time-ish (Baltimore's traffic doesn't hold a candle to DC), and they were having an open house that evening anyway, we headed not even a mile down the road to the Cloisters.

The Cloisters is a big castle-like house built by a couple who needed a place to display all the art they'd collected while they traveled around Europe.  From the front it mostly looks like a large house but it does have some castle-like qualities, like the suits of armor on display in the entry hallway, the turret holding a spiral staircase that ascends through four floors, and the windmill in the back...?  Despite the slight oddness of the whole thing, it really is quite a lovely place.  The amphitheatre off the parking lot wouldn't work for us as it isn't particularly handicap-accessible, but the "cloistered" back garden (my understanding from context is that this refers to the covered walkway surrounding it; I'm too lazy to check) would work really well, and is really picturesque.  It's also conveniently located, a few yards from where Falls Rd and 83 hit 695.  There's a lot of space in the house, but most of it is just...space.  There are four floors; the basement is the management offices; the ground floor has the kitchen and various spaces that are actually used for the reception; second floor has the getting-ready rooms (the groom's room has a back staircase to where the bar would typically be set up - awesome); third floor has... a bunch of empty rooms.  There are a couple of couches around but that's about it.
Unfortunately, even with all that space, the area we would use for a reception is a bit awkward for our group size.  We'd be split between two rooms, and while there's plenty of communication between them, it would still just be awkward.  They're also at the upper end of the price range we've encountered for a venue that isn't all-inclusive; they do include table and chairs in their price, but it's looking like that's pretty common.  This is partly offset by the fact that they only book one group per day, so you're getting ten hours for your money rather than the standard four.  They allow you to bring your own alcohol, so there's some savings potential there too, but as with the table and chairs, that may be more common than I'd realized.  

One side benefit, though, that came from attending the open house there is that I got to speak for a little while with Chef Daniel from "The Pantry Catering."  Choosing a caterer is still pretty far down the list for us, so we haven't met with any yet, which may have influenced me somewhat, but I thought he was awesome.  He was very enthusiastic about meeting with us to come up with a custom menu for us, and when I brought up a couple of the things Ellie and I had discussed (vegetarian / seafood, casual like grilled cheese) he seemed to understand what we wanted and just took off, coming up with various neat ways to implement our suggestions.  Suffice to say, if we wind up someplace where we don't have to arrange our own catering, I'll be a little disappointed.  Has anybody dealt with The Pantry before?

Monday, April 27, 2009

In case you are also consumed with the desire to make fabric flowers...

Check out this tutorial - http://www.trystancraft.com/costume/articles/fabricroses.html
I'm not sure yet how one attaches them to a stem - my gut reaction is "pipe cleaner?" But that seems "tacky".
I can't wait to be done with this paper so I can try this!

A Jewnitarian Wedding

So I'm not Jewish, and neither is Mark - but I have a lot of family members who are Jewish, and I have been to a lot of Jewish weddings. We will be following a number of Jewish traditions, because we plan our wedding ceremonies based on what we know, and I know the seven blessings and the drinking of the wine and the smashing of the glass. Ever since I saw my cousin Jon being walked down the aisle by both his parents, I knew that I wanted to do that - leaving my mom out just doesn't feel right. (And unlike my sister, my parents did not have the foresight to give me a godfather so I'm not sure who would walk her down. Maybe my BIL?) We may have a chuppah, partly because I would like to avoid sunburn, and mostly because I like what it symbolizes - the house the couple will have together. And I don't even need to start on how much I want to do the horah. Every place we go, I'm like, "this dance floor is not sufficiently large enough for a horah."
Fortunately, since the most religious the ceremony will get is Unitarian, I know we will be able to incorporate these elements into our wedding. What I find myself considering as I procrastinate on my paper is the Ketubah.
I went to ketubah.com this morning just to see what was out there.
I love this one, but this is how I came to realize that Ketubahs are expensive. I knew they were, somewhat, but still. And when you don't have to buy one, it seems like an unnecessary expense. That being said, I love the Ketubah because of the historical meaning of it - it originated really as a Jewish pre-nup. It is a document that describes the rights and duties of the couple in marriage, and if they ever were to get a divorce (called a "get", sometimes spelled "ghet", where the origin of the word ghetto comes from, and the Judaism is the first religion to have a concept of divorce), the husband had to give the wife the things promised to her in the Ketubah. From a historical and equality perspective, I love this, because it is a way of guaranteeing to provide for the wife. Is it necessary now that divorce is common? No. But I like the sentiment, because marriage as a tradition builds on traditional marriages of the days of old - and the Ketubah is a much nicer tradition to remember than families who sold their daughters like cheese into sexual and maternal slavery (I'm not saying that Jewish families didn't do this). I also like the idea of having in our home a reminder of our wedding day that is not just a photograph of us or the framed invitation. I like the idea of seeing the promises we made to each other and being reminded of them. The problem is, I don't know whether this is something that is offensive to people who are Jewish. I don't think it is quite as bad as like, taking communion when you aren't catholic - but since our ceremony will be hippie and interfaithy already, it isn't going to be weird when we have our Jewish friends read the variation on the seven blessings that I'm planning to steal from my sister; it won't be that weird to have both my parents walk me down the aisle, and if we choose to incorporate handfasting or some other elements from other religions, so be it. I think our hippie Ketubah with the Secular Humanist 2 language (which is all in English and does not mention God) would be fine. But I don't know.
So to my Jewish readers, I ask: can we have a ketubah even though we're not Jewish? Or is this something else I have to let go?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Four Weddings and a Funeral

It's on right now on the CW. You know you're watching it too.
Did people have shorter hair in the nineties? Both Andie McDowell and Duckface get married with short hair - nobody telling them to grow their hair out. Duckface wears a flowered headpiece and Carrie wears a juliet cap. Andie McDowell wears a shortish dress and Duckface looks totally like a meringue (I came into the movie two weddings in.)
Also, the differences between American weddings now and English weddings then were astounding. Hats abound in this film - the entire first meeting between Hugh and Carrie is about her hat. Everyone wears hats.
One of my favorite characters is Scarlett who says, after Hugh Grant leaves Duckface at the weding, "it was a lovely dress. I'm sure she'll find it useful for parties."
So here are the lessons I have learned from 4W and a F:
1.) If you are engaged, and sleep with somebody else before the wedding, the marriage probably won't work out.
2.) If you are getting married to the wrong girl, it is better to not call the wedding off when you are actually at the alter - it is substantially less humiliating to be beaten up by your fiance outside the church or in a back room.
3.) If you are the best man, do not say how happy you are that Bernard wound up with Lydia because all of his ex-girlfriends were so ugly, yet you are so glad so many of them could make it to the wedding.
4.) Do not sit a serial monogamist with 5 of his ex-girlfriends at one table. "Oh, you're vomiting Veronica?"
5.) If you are the best man, do not forget the rings. In fact, bring spare rings.
6.) Set several alarms. Don't get your car booted. Don't be late. If you're always late, go to the church the night before and camp out.
7.) Try not to die during a reception - it's a bit of a downer.
8.) Don't give up on true love - its out there.
9.) You do not want to look like a meringue.
10.) Do not ask a woman to list her sexual conquests. She will do so, and it will be very awkward for everyone involved, especially those of you watching with your parents.
Did I miss any?

This Month's Modern Bride

So yesterday my new MB came and I was reading it - there is an interesting piece, which I've been wondering lately - Page 110 talks about how to cope if a vendor goes out of business. This is something I have been very concerned with because we have been planning so far in advance.
The news isn't good folks! Apparently companies who go bankrupt don't have to refund your deposit. I was suspecting this after last week's bankruptcy lectures in commercial law.
MB recommends purchasing wedding insurance. I recommend also considering writing some kind of liquidated damages into your contract, if you can. And if the vendor is also the owner, you might consider having them personally guarantee the contract. They probably won't, but you can ask. Stay on top of your vendors and make sure that you know if they are going to go out of business. Be careful with your deposits as well - don't pay for anything in full up front, and try to haggle with your vendors about the amount of the deposit. Explain that since the economy is so questionable, and they will be able to keep your deposit if they go bankrupt, you would like to minimize the deposit and perhaps increase it closer to the event. For example, if they want a 25% deposit, offer to give 10% a year in advance and 15% closer to the date. This is how many venues work anyway.
These are the only things I can think of, but I don't know if they will work. Has anybody had this kind of problem before? How will you deal if your venue goes out of business? Do you have "wedding insurance"?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The case for e-mail thank you notes and invites

Okay. So I know thank you note / invitation emails are totally tacky. But have you guys seen the price of airmail stamps? It's $0.94 - and this is before the postal rate hikes that are coming in May! It's actually more than twice the rate of a standard stamp, which is annoying - when I was younger, you could just put 2 $0.29 stamps on something and that covered the airmail rate (which I believe was $0.44, the new stamp rate). And there is no value on the forever stamps, so you seemingly are unable to simply put two forever stamps on an envelope and hope it gets there.
I would say that there will be at least 20 invitations going out overseas to Mark's family and our good family friends who are scattered 'round the globe - and while an extra dollar an invite won't be that much, it adds up! Which makes me wonder if maybe exploring some kind of really nice email invitation wouldn't be worth it for some folks...
There's evite, and I know that some of the wedding websites will let you send out email invitations with the same design scheme as your wedding website. We might actually use that option for anybody who is nomadic and constantly changing their address or lives someplace where they don't get mail. (You laugh, but the Egyptian mail service leaves a lot to be desired.) One friend mentioned yesterday the number of bounceback invites they've dealt with and that made me think it might be nice to send out an e-vitation from our wedding website about 3 weeks after our invites go out, which at the very least will serve as an RSVP reminder.
There is also www.mypunchbowl.com, which seems so far to have a nice interface, although I've never actually used it.
Invitations I can get on board with doing electronically for our overseas guests (who can use the internet.) However, thank you notes? That just seems like a huge no-no! Also, financially speaking, I make my own thank you notes - and have a fairly large supply of cardstock - so it would not cost me additional money to send them. I can also use up older stamps - I have a number of $.032 stamps around somewhere, and the number of "added value" stamps I would have to add to those would be ridiculous. Plus a lot of them are christmassy. I used 3 snowflake $0.39 stamps to mail our thank you notes to England. At the same time, it would be great if there was some way to send a lovely and thoughtful thank you note (not an e-card with flashing dancingy ponies or whatever). Maybe Someecards has the answer....

Friday, April 24, 2009

Charity Registry: Southern Maryland Beagle Rescue

My dream dog is a beagle. When I see one on the street, I just stare at it and whoever I'm talking to has to wait for it to pass.
So naturally, I spend a lot of time on the Southern Maryland Beagle Rescue website. They have tons of great beagles there, all so cute, and most of them in pretty good shape for rescue dogs (don't have huge emotional issues, etc.) Sometimes they have a lot of dogs undergoing heartworm treatment or needing operations, and they mostly set dogs up with foster homes.
An animal shelter is a good way to encourage people to be aware that shelters are out there and that they should get a pet from a shelter instead of a puppy mill.
For a registry, just point people to the donations section of the website.
As a favor, you could make up little treat bags with melted chocolate dog bones or just dog bone candy (which I had no idea existed). You could print "A donation has been made in your name/honor" on cardstock, fold it over cellophane bags filled with the candy, and then staple. Voila!

If you are actively involved in a local or national charity and would like to be featured in the Charity Registry post, please leave a comment and a link to the charity!

Wedding vs. Funeral

I've been thinking today about weddings versus funerals. Because really, the difference boils down to - you know a wedding is coming. Oh, and you want a photographer.
I helped my mother plan my grandfather's funeral. He died on a Monday night. Tuesday we started planning. (It was finals week, btw, but my professors were kind enough to move my exams.)
Tuesday we met with the funeral director. We picked a casket. My grandmother picked his clothes and sent them over. We picked a casket spray - funeral flowers are expensive, btw, - that had his favorite flowers. We put a death notice in the paper.
Wednesday we met with the minister. We put together the service. Afterwards, I asked my aunt if my 15 year old cousin had anything for the funeral - because I knew I didn't. She said no. I went to the mall and bought her clothes for the wake and the funeral.
Thursday, I returned the clothes that didn't fit my cousin and then focused on finding a place to have lunch after the funeral for the immediate family. My dad had arranged for cookies at the church, but we were going to go out to lunch. I found a number of restaurants with private or semi-private spaces, and my parents picked Bennigans. I still don't know why. Then I studied for my community health exam.
Friday, I took my exam and worked on the papers that had been extended. Then I went to the wake. That night, we put together the programs and my sister applied for Ph.D. programs.
Saturday morning, the day of the funeral, Mark and my BIL went to Staples to get the programs copied, and we all got ready to go to the church. We showed up at the church on time, mourned eulogized, sang songs, and then ate cookies.
We buried him the following Monday.
It occured to me at the time that you could plan a wedding on this time frame. Our church was able to squeeze us in - they offered us a couple of different times (he did die in the low wedding season though), and everything else could be taken care of in that time. Yes, it was stressful. Yes, my mother took the week off work. But you could do it.
I think if we had to plan a wedding in a week, we would do it in the church courtyard, because not enough people would be coming into town or able to make it that our numbers would probably drop to about 60-80 people. Then we would just have some chain catering place that delivers food as long as you order it 24 hours in advance deliver the food, and have paper tablecloths and no centerpieces. I could get my dress rush hemmed at the local cleaners (and just not eat all week) and Mark could wear his suit. We could get a cake from the grocery store. Our friends could take pictures. We just have to make sure to get the license 3 days in advance (or one of my professor/judges can waive the waiting period).
The key word in all this is we could. We could do it. You could do it. It is possible to have a wedding in a week and it doesn't have to mean a courthouse wedding. You don't get everything you want - I didn't mention dancing anywhere in there. But you get married, which is ultimately what this whole thing is about.
At the moment, we don't have a reason to rush - and we have eighteen thousand reasons not to (more on that later). But if it came up that we wanted or needed to get married quickly, we could. I like to keep it in the back of my head as an option, to remind myself not to go so nuts, because of the important events we plan, we do not usually spend a year and a half planning them.
Does anybody else think like this? Think "well, we could just do it"? Consider giving up on the dictate that a wedding takes a year to plan and just going for it the way you would plan a birthday party, a mother's day brunch, or yes, a funeral?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Popping in from my power point drafting to say...

I've seen the felt-and-button flowers that Princess Lasertron does over at Weddingbee Pro, but I'd never even heard of a fabric bouquet!!!!!!
Okay. I love this. I want this. I'm suddenly overwhelmed by the desire to make one for myself!!!! First of all, I own a crapload of fabric already, so it would be like recycling/reusing stuff I already have (lets not lie, it's also totally an excuse to go to g-street!!!). I'm now doing all kinds of math in my head, and I think that this would add up to be like, $50 or less. Especially if we reuse some of it. And we could make them way in advance.
Plus, after the wedding, we could dismantle the bouquet and make some kind of quilt or something out of the material.
What do you guys think? Amazing, or just weird?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Location: Chase Court

We got around to visiting Chase Court one evening last week.  It's one of the handful of places I was aware of before we actually got engaged, and I really liked it based on the photos; the back garden, in particular, reminds me of an English garden.  It was built as the parish house of the neighboring church, and now is now owned and run by a gentleman named David.  

We screwed up our first impressions by coming in through the back gate and heading straight into the garden.  The garden didn't look amazing but the trees were just starting to bud (you can, of course, see what it's like at its peak in their photos).  There's a vine-wrapped gazebo, with a stone patio on two sides and a pond in front.  It's obviously a beautiful place for a ceremony; afterwards, the cocktail party can straddle between a small room in the church and the patio.  The reception location is a large hall-type space.  There's a large fireplace, wrought iron chandeliers, and huge stained glass windows.  They talk on the web site about Renaissance weddings, and it's easy to imagine one in the space.  

Chase Court is the first place we've visited where you have to source your own catering, including tables and chairs.  The rental rate reflects that, of course.  Our guest list is at the upper end of their capacity, but it seems like we could do it, especially with cocktail seating, and there should be room for a dance floor.  Location is difficult; they're in Mt. Vernon, so close to home, and there are parking lots we can use,  which helps, but I still have some misgivings about being in the middle of the city.  Then, there's this comment, suggesting that the space is tighter than David suggests.  It's hard to judge without seeing the room set up.  We're in the process of getting quotes from a few caterers (so far: Cuisine, Atlantic, Azafran), so once we have those we'll get a better idea of price.  Overall though, Chase Court is looking to be low on the list.

Other places we're planning to check out in the next few weeks (this list grows faster than we can trim it): Cloisters, Maryvale, Grey Rock, MdSciCenter, Hebron House, Savage Mill (Great Room and Manor House)...we're going to be pretty busy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My favorite wedding ever.

It's the last week of classes, and finals start next week. Posting from me is gonna be pretty light - Mark is gonna fill in, and I'll be in and out. But for now I give you my favorite wedding ever!
This was shot by the fabulous Lara Swanson last September - and there is no element of this wedding that I do not love. I love the outdoorsy amphitheater, I love the rustic-ness of their venue...I love the giant hanging pomanders on the iron benches. Love the fact the bride walks herself down the aisle, with her parents behind her.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hand-Sewn Wedding

Some possible hand-sewn ideas I've thought of so far are a dress (even though I already have one, I might make one for a TTD or make a rehearsal dinner dress), some kind of cute shrug or jacket to go with my dress, ties for the groomsmen, ring bearer pillow, something cute for the flowergirls to carry, sashes, a veil or headpiece, wedding day purses, bridesmaid gifts, my own hemline and alterations, etc.
If you are thinking about learning to sew (and you should. It's great. And not unfeminist at all.) read on.
For anyone who is thinking seriously about getting into sewing, the first thing you have to get yourself is a good sewing machine. Skip the husquavarna-viking section of JoAnn's (huskies are great, but they can be pretty fancy). Skip the Bernina section at G-Street. Skip the Babylock section unless you're really serious. Pass over the Singers (I loved my singer but it lasted three years). Run past the Kenmores (don't get me started).
The best sewing machines out there for the beginning sewer are the mid-level Brother's. This is what I use, and mine is 20 years old. (It was a Christmas gift or Birthday gift to my mom when I was 3-4). I've used a Singer, an Elna, a Babylock, and a Bernina. Babylocks are great if you are doing high end sewing and want a machine that costs almost as much as an engagement ring. When my old singer died, my mom and I bought ourselves a Babylock because we did a lot of sewing at the time because I was running costume crew in my high school. I sewed my prom dress on the Babylock, and I love that machine.
Babylock bought Brother a number of years ago, and made some changes to the machines that make them really fantastic to work with. My FMIL has this model and it is really nice. When you can get a computerized machine for that little, its fairly worth it. Her's came from Wal-Mart, but I hate them, so I'm recommending Overstock. I think you can also get them from Target.
If I sew my dress, I think I'm going to get my grandmother's Bernina out of storage. Bernina's are great, but they are expensive. They are the mercedes of sewing machines. My grandmothers still work's perfectly and is older than I am. It's quiet too - my Brother isn't, and that's its only drawback. Well, that and for some reason the little storage compartment/foot has started to stick and now I can't use it, which makes me sad.
If you are just learning to sew, start with a class. If you are from the DC area, go to G-Street for one of their "getting to know your machine" classes. They will teach you to sew using your own machine. Or on a bernina, which they will then try to sell you.
Do you need a serger? Everyone needs a serger. I can't convince Mark of this though, which is why his mother still hasn't gotten one for Christmas. A serger will be great for projects like aisle runners, table runners, table linens, hems, etc. A serger creates an instant finished edge (sometimes by rolling it, which looks really nice on tableclothes, curtains, etc.) and never frays. If you plan to make your own linens or table runners, it may not be worth it to purchase a serger, but talk to your local sewing department at a craft store and see if you can somehow work out a "rental" agreement where you can use the serger for 2 hours for a set price. They might be amenable.
Or if you live in the area and need a little help, send me a comment. I have access to two sergers, four sewing machines, and a desire to spread love, peace, and joy through serging and sewing. (One of them is the Babylock air threader - yeah - now you want to be my friend.) I have two weeks in May where I am relatively available because I am done with exams and packing for Michigan. If you want to sit down and make some table runners, let me know. I've made 7 capes in 3 hours, I can handle it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My wedding alter ego

So somewhere out there is my wedding alter ego. She's the girl who gets a tattoo on her shoulder with her wedding date and rocks brightly colored high heels (Jimmy Choo, natch.) to go with this dress:
Which she had the ability to spend $3,600 on over at the Net-a-porter.com boutique. They have an awesome but offbeat wedding at the Visionary Arts Museum and serve everyone sushi and have a bar made entirely of ice. They get a cake from Charm City Cakes shaped like something fantastic. Everything is very upscale and eclectic. The bridesmaids all wear floor-length silk Vera Wang gowns which are in a color that can never be worn again. The groomsmen all wear pinstripe tuxes. The centerpieces are live tropical fishtanks with saltwater reef fish in them.

My wedding alter ego isn't some dream wedding I'm afraid to have. It's just a great wedding if I was somebody else. Or if it was at all realistic (you can't put saltwater reef fish in a centerpiece, they would die.) It's just every once in awhile, I have the desire to plan somebody else's wedding. I want our wedding to reflect us - but sometimes I'll see something that I think is fantastic, and then have to eventually remind myself that it isn't me, or Mark, or something our guests would enjoy. (I think only half of our guests would be pleased with sushi. And only three of them would want a fish.) That dress though, is totally me. The not-me part is the spending $3,600 on a dress. This alter-ego's wedding is not particularly practical, it does not have an eye towards reusability, but that is why I have my eco-chic wedding alter ego as well (who gets married in a hemp dress at a park that used to be a landfill and serves everyone organic food that she grew in her container garden herself.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Invitations

Ms. Cheese's post on her invitations was hysterical to me. But my favorite part is this:
"Is it perfectly color-coordinated? Nah. Am I happy with the quality of the envelopes (they’ve haunted my dreams)? No. Are those even our “wedding colors” (even though I’m back to “green like the grass, blue like the sky, yellow like the sun, pink like flowers…” when anyone asks)? Nope. It’ll be okay. People will still come, and I can do an ice cream bar with the money saved on invites."
You gotta love a couple with priorities.
I find myself eyeing the DIY invite kits they have at Michael's and Staples and A.C. Moore. I think that Martha Stewart started coming out with them - they were really cute. Also, how adorable are these DIY Pocket Folds? Or there is the cheaper but still nice "elegant swirls" kit. I believe that a really nice invitation is a good way to give your guests a glimpse at your wedding - but a really plain one isn't going to make people RSVP "no". And if you can have an ice cream bar instead???

Friday, April 17, 2009

Charity Registry: Habitat for Humanity

This week's charity is Habitat for Humanity. I picked Habitat because Mark used to work with them in college, and because housing for low income people is an issue close to my heart, and because Habitat is one of those organizations that pretty much everybody is okay with.
Habitat is another organization where you can ask your bridal party or guests of your wedding to get involved in - consider organizing a build day for your guests.
You can also ask people to give time or money or building equipment and supplies to Habitat. This is the website for our local habitat, but just google your local chapter and you can make sure you make an impact on your local housing community.
If you are not considering a charity registry, consider charity favors - a card or trinket saying that a donation was made in your guests name/honor. With habitat, you can go any variety of customized products. My favorite is carpenter's pencils - and you wouldn't necessarily have to get enough for all of your guests - you could just put a pencil cup of them over by the guestbook or at each table. I think only half the guests take their favors anyway. You could either get them customized (although the minimum orders are huge - maybe you could make a deal with Habitat to buy them and then give them to people who make favor donations to them....), or just attach a thank you tag to them (or stamp thank you on them) and then have a card with the pencil cup explaining the donation. You could also do mini-tape measures - which I think are sold in the 50 cent impulse-buy bin at most hardware stores.
Or just get little business cards made up at VistaPrint for free (sign up for their emails!) and put one at each guests place setting.

Local notions

Since we moved to Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood and realized the convenience of actually being able to walk to things, we've also started to make an effort to support local businesses (largely because there are so many here, versus Columbia where you have every big box store and chain restaurant known to man).  Where possible, we're trying to continue this trend with our wedding.  Here's how we have so far or could supply our entire wedding with vendors within a five minute walk:
  • Proposal: On Federal Hill.  You can pretty much see the rest of these places from the top.
  • Ring: Morstein's Jewelers; I had actually contacted several jewelers further afield because they came up on a map search for custom jewelry.  When I dropped the word custom, Morstein's came up, and were in fact quite willing to do custom work (it even says so on the web site; hopefully by linking from this post I can slightly increase their linkiness with the word custom).  It's a family business that's been there over a century, and the proprietors are extremely friendly - exactly the sort of people we feel good giving our money to.  The owner is also active in local community business organizations.
  • Rentals: If we wind up at a location where we need to find our own rental company, we'll most likely wander down the street to ABC Rentals.  I haven't priced them against anybody else yet but their costs didn't seem unreasonable and they appear to be locally owned and all that.
  • Catering / Wedding Cake: there are a million restaurants and a thousand bakeries in Fed Hill, so it would be easy to find someone who'd be willing to cater and someone else willing to do a wedding cake.  We're also trying to find caterers who source things locally where possible, particularly produce and beer and wine.  I've been talking to one that serves Clipper City, which is awesome.  That side of things obviously won't be as ultra-local as the other vendors above - I don't think there are too many farms within walking distance.
  • Venue: there are a couple of places we've talked about that are pretty nearby, although nothing we've visited yet - Inner Harbor museums and restaurants, but there isn't a whole lot in Federal Hill itself - maybe a gym in one of the recreation centers, or the American Visionary Arts Museum.  Or one of our churches, I guess
  • Flowers: there's a shop in Cross Street Market that we could go to for these.
  • Invitations:  Tu Vida Jewelry and Design.  For some reason they do both jewelry and invitations here.  I don't get it either.
  • Attire: There isn't a wedding dress shop, but there are several vintage boutiques, a Goodwill store, and one of a kind shops that might be good for a bride seeking an "alternative" dress.  Google Maps isn't giving me a place to buy a (new) suit or rent a tux but I don't entirely believe it.  There's definitely a men's shoestore on Charles just north of Cross St though.
  • Beauty: ClipArt Hair Design on Fort Ave does wedding updos.  There are a handful of other salons and beauty parlors around too, and at least one barbershop (I tried to find a different one once and the address from Google was in the middle of a residential block so I'm a little skeptical that there's more than one).  
  • Dry cleaners and tailors: Ellie got a jacket altered at Young's and wasn't altogether satisfied with it but there are a bunch of others close by.
Now, we definitely won't be using all or possibly even most of these that we haven't used yet; Ellie already got her dress, and since her preferred stylist left ClipArt she's followed her to Fells Point.  I doubt we'd use the art museum as a location.  But the point is that we could source our entire wedding within walking distance of our apartment, and that's pretty darn cool to me.  It almost seems worth doing for its own sake.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

communications oops

I just sent an email to a venue to enquire about their facilities. First sentence?
"I am interesting in more information about events or perhaps scheduling a tour of your facilities."

If I got this email, I would reply to me with "I'm sorry, we do not rent to people who cannot master the difference betweed ing and ed."

Has anybody else done this?

Start-up photography

So there are a few of the Bees from Weddingbee who have, since getting married, started their own photography businesses or are toying with the idea.

Mrs. Avocado has recently started a business down in Texas and has extremely reasonable intro rates - and I love that her packages include both a high and low res CD - one for prints, one for sharing on the internet.

Mrs. Eggplant is toying with the idea of starting her own business, and I love that shot she has in the top of the frame.

Mrs. Raspberry did the same in the DC area - we have been in touch already, although no photographers are booking for our date yet.

I've seen a rise lately in my friends purchasing increasingly fancy cameras. (...and wanting one myself.) People who I thought didn't have any reason to buy a DSLR suddenly have a super fancy Nikon or Canon. Back when we all used film (I am so grateful now to my mother for letting me play with her film cameras back in elementary and high school, and to my parents for buying me my first camera, because I remember film, and I remember the benefits and drawbacks of using film, in a way that kids today probably can't), most people were happy with their point-and-shoots, and if they had an SLR it was because they developed the film themselves or had access to a darkroom, or were just really good.

I think photography is easier with digital cameras - if for no other reason, you have the LCD screen and instant upload gratification that the pictures you took today were good or bad. You also have the memory in the camera that tells you the settings you used - nothing was more annoying than having to keep a shot log for photography class. You can also edit the pictures with software, instead of having to play with an enlarger and developer when you go to make prints. You don't have to make a contact sheet. And uh, you never slice your hands open because the can opener didn't work on your canister of film and you went after it with scissors instead. You can also take more shots and never have to reload. The bottom line is that photography is more accessible now than it was ten years ago.

This got me thinking recently about the connection between blogging and photography. For awhile, photographers were starting blogs - but now it seems to go the other way around. Some of them had photography as a hobby, and then realized how "easy" it would be to turn their hobby into a profession.

I've been reading Jenna/Mrs. Avocado's blog for awhile, and I've watched her start up her photography business. I think if you are trying to get a good photographer on a small budget, you have to really catch somebody on the cusp - look around for somebody who is just starting out, but who is really internet-savvy. A lot of photographers now are realizing that their clients want a CD with prints on it, and that some clients don't think the wedding album is the Most Important Thing because they will be able to share their pictures with their friends and family on the internet anyway. I have found that newer photographers all include options for getting the images on a CD/DVD and/or with an online album - and some of the newest and least expensive will just give you the CD/DVD with images so you can make your own Flickr or Snapfish site with the images. (Hence why I like that Jenna's packages come with both a high and low res set of images.)


Muriel/Mrs. Raspberry assured me that her packages all included a high resolution DVD, and that she would be flexible about what else the package would include. Because we know we don't want to pay for an album right away (for those of you who don't know, a standard wedding album is about $900 out of your photography costs), and we want to keep the photography costs low, we want somebody who isn't going to charge us a flat rate of $4,000 for 8 hours of shooting (when we only want 4 hours of shooting).

Mrs. Joey on Weddingbee also wrote recently about how they found their photographer on Craigslist by putting up an ad asking for a certain number of hours of shooting, a set number of edited photographs, and a set number of unedited photographs. Then she set a price and found a great photographer. They were looking for either a student or new photographer, or a second shooter trying to branch out. I think that we will probably take this approach when we go to find a photographer. If we do this, we may ask a couple of our friends with DSLRs to serve as second shooters for certain parts of the evening, so that we know we will at least have some pictures, but they aren't working during our wedding. (I'm fine with using friends to make the cake and centerpieces and decor, or to serve as ceremony musicians or DJ part of the reception, but I'm uncomfortable asking somebody to actually photograph the whole thing.)

If you are looking for a start-up photographer, consider checking out Jenna's Fledgling Photographer blogroll - or Craigslist or the Weddingbee Classifieds.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Something Borrowed

So everyone knows you need something old, new, borrowed, blue, plus a sixpence in your shoe (we debated whether it was a two or six pence. I'm going with six.)

I have a pendant necklace that my aunt gave me that was my great-grandmother's, then my grandmother's, then my aunt's. I haven't seen it in awhile - my mom has been keeping it for me - but I always thought I would use it as my something old and something blue. My something borrowed was going to be my grandmother's engagement ring, which is amazingly beautiful and also what my sister wore as her something borrowed. It is also old. Even if it wasn't going to be my official "something borrowed", I want to wear it anyway because it is a way to carry both my grandmother and my grandfather with me on our wedding day. (My grandmother died before I was born, and we lost my grandpa back in 2006.)

The item in question though, is a veil that belongs to a friend of mine. But we're not like, super close. I'm not even sure if it will work - but her dress was similar in color to mine (some shade of not-quite-stark white), and her veil was gorgeous. I remember her telling me that it was more expensive than she ever thought she would spend, so she was going to wear it through the entire reception to make it worth it. She did. I want to ask her to borrow it, but I'm uncomfortable doing so because I feel like instead, I should offer to buy it or something. Also because I know that it was expensive and I'm terrified that I will ruin it and she won't be able to pass it on to her daughter. The other thing is I don't even know if it will work - so what I'm trying to do is figure out how to ask her if I can try it on - and then will she be offended if I don't want to wear it?

Is there a point where borrowing is just being cheap and mooching off of other people? I know that I generally feel really happy when something I spent a lot of money on gets another use. But other people might not feel that way! Plus, other people might feel like they spent a lot of money on something so if you also go out and spend money on the same thing, it normalizes the expense. (I will say flat out that I am not spending more than $10 on a veil.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Name Game (part II)

This isn't about last names, but about first names - or full names.
I call Mark's parents by their first names. I decided this because:
1.) I am an adult.
2.) I have coworkers their age who I call by their first names - the only people I still address by formal titles are professors, legislators, and complete strangers when I call them on the phone.
3.) It's easier.
I did have a lot of trouble in England - what do you call your fiance's grandparents? I can't call them Grandma and Granddad - that's just weird, but I'm not calling them Helen, Harry, and Margaret either! I avoided the subject. Maybe I could get away with calling them Aunt Margaret or something. I call Mark's Aunt Sheila Aunt Sheila (or Sheila) and its not weird, even though they're all the same age. And I don't call most people their age by their first names.
This is all brought up because there was a girl outside of the classroom tonight complaining about how she doesn't know what to call her boyfriend's parents.
For those of you who don't know the answer to this at the moment, I advise you to just get over it. Mentally prepare yourself to use their first names the next time you see them. Practice it outloud. It will help you feel ready. Then it will come easy.

A low-ante wedding

So here is one of my favorite betwixt and between weddings - Miss Tiramisu's wedding in Maine. She has a casual tent, long tables with small bud vase centerpieces, bridesmaids in short dresses (I think from Ann Taylor, because my sister used the same ones) and a fancy dress, but still a pretty low-key wedding. (That may have been partially caused by the storm and power outage that happened...)

Taking (over) the bar

One thing that Ellie's sister did at her wedding that really caught our attention was to invite all her (and her fiance's) friends and their younger family members out to a bar after the rehearsal dinner (hence, the night before the wedding). This is a great plan for several reasons:
  • You get to spend some quality time with more people the night before, so it's a little less pressure to make face time for everybody at the reception.
  • You get to relax and forget about all the things you've been stressing over for six months and will be going absolutely nuts over tomorrow.
  • Your friends will be less interested in drinking tomorrow. I don't seem to be able to do nested bullets so I'll use numbers instead.
  1. No need for an open bar
  2. No drunken best man speeches or general craziness
  3. The wedding can be on a Sunday and people won't be hung over for work Monday
And you read the title and thought this was going to be some boring post about law school...

Food

OMG. I just found a caterer that serves mini grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup shots!
You guys! That's like, my dream wedding.
It's a cocktail menu for a "Casual yet Swanky Affair" from Chef's Expressions caterers. Since it's looking more likely that we will go with a place that involves getting an outside caterer, we are trying to pull together quotes from a couple of local caterers so we have a ballpark for how much they cost.
So now I'm trying to come up with my dream "casual-swanky" wedding. I think I've already mentioned my desire for a gourmet fish & chips station (breaded salmon with sweet potato fries, panko breaded talapia with garlic-rosemary fries),maybe some kind of (neat) taco/burrito station, gourmet mac&cheese or a mac & cheese station, tapas...
And as far as my princess dress goes, if I can go to the liquor store in a ballgown, I think I'm certainly the kind of girl who can eat mac&cheese at her wedding.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Engagement Ring Budget

I heard about this exhibit this morning - its a series of pictures of engagement rings that people from different professions could buy. My first problem with this is that just because somebody makes a certain amount doesn't mean that they have that amount on hand - so if you work in a profession where you make ends meet, you don't have the ability to save 2 months salary, so this is probably pretty skewed in reality. Since it doesn't really have a sense of scale, I actually thought that the rings all sorta look the same. I guess the ones a fast food cook could buy are smaller than the ones the A-List Actor can buy...

If you look at the statement, the girl is showing off her 3/4 carat diamond engagement ring and people are telling her, "it says he tried his hardest, but that wasn't good enough." Somebody said, "its good, for a friendship ring." Since the total weight of my ring is only a bit larger than 3/4 of a carat, and the center stone is .35 carats, I think that those people are all completely ridiculous. Since Mark custom designed my ring, we decided to use the stone I already had from my aunt because that way we could put more money into the custom design - but we set a budget early on and it was nowhere near two months salary, even before we knew we would be using the stone we already had. There was simply a limit to how much money I was comfortable putting on my hand. (We actually saved money in three ways - by using a stone we already had, by choosing Palladium as the metal, and by getting it custom designed, which means we're not paying for pre-purchased inventory by the jeweler that is sold at a higher price to compensate for rings he/she can't sell.)
But the lady at the checkout at the Le Creuset Store complimented my ring and I don't think she thought it was a friendship ring.
(Totally gratuitous ring shot...I'm not bragging at all...about my awesome "budget" ring...)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Short hair bridespiration!


Loving her bob and birdcage veil!

[Edit: I found this picture this morning on Weddingbee Pro]
(I seem to have lost the link for the post - as you can tell by the flowers, it came from Megan @ Princess Lasertron. But I love the simple glossy bob, and btw, she's wearing a short dress.)
I also found this wedding when I was cleaning out my google reader - love the short, well styled hair and birdcage veil! (I look ridiculous in a birdcage veil though, so I think I'll be going for a different look.)

Upping the Ante

You know the scene in Sex and the City (the movie) where Carrie explains to Big that the dress "upped the ante" for their wedding and now they have to have a big fancy wedding to match the dress?

I'm worried about that. I went out and bought a dress, and yeah, I love it. It's gorgeous. It's pretty formal though - so now I feel like whatever venue has to suit the dress. Can we really get married on a campground in a state park when I'm wearing a ballgown fit for a princess? Suddenly our wedding is this big formal fancy affair and I'm wearing a bird on my head and my fiance is driving away in the limo because the wedding got so out of control.

Over at a $2000 wedding, she talks about how they set a budget so that their wedding did not spiral out of control and that they picked an arbitrary low now number so they were forced to avoid the WIC and everything else. We have not, thus far, chosen to do this. Therefore, there is room for the dress to up the ante, room for us to say, well of course we have to have this.

Here's the thing about upping the ante. You can fold. You can say - okay, you upped the ante, but that's too much for me. We can say, this is too much. We can say that blackened salmon and crabcakes in a chipotle remoulade are too much. We can say that I can wear my fancy dress and the groomsmen can still just wear suits with matching ties and the bridesmaids can wear dresses of their own choosing. We can say that sure, we have the fancy food and the fancy dress but the cake is just going to be a plain cake with flowers on top and we're making the centerpieces ourselves.

So I've been looking for inspiration pictures of people who didn't let the dress up the ante. Who have the big fancy ballgown but the casual style wedding with the handmade centerpieces and fun receptions. Then I will make an inspiration board and look at it whenever I need reminding that the dress doesn't up the ante. That we don't have to let ourselves have the big-out-of-control-wedding.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Engagements: Telling people in person

This post is somewhat timely because we got an e-mail this morning from some friends who just got engaged - but it wasn't the first time we'd gotten that email. Lately, it seems like we keep getting that email. I have nothing against the email - we sent that email - but for me, since we were waiting so long to tell people (two weeks...my sister waited three years), and since we had been dating for so long, we took a page from my sister's book and tried to tell people in person.
My sister and BIL got their families together and told us in person, which was nice and we decided we wanted to do to. They also told their friends in person - they arranged a St. Patrick's day party and invited their friends over and told them at that. It was really nice to watch how excited their friends got about it, especially because they had been together for 7 years.
So we followed suit. We told my sister in person the night of, because she lives 9 blocks away and we were excited. Then we didn't tell anyone for two weeks, because we wanted to tell our parents in person. Even though it was hard to get everybody together, it was good to wait the two weeks.
Telling people in person was good because it gave us a chance to:
1) See the looks on their faces
2) Hug
3) Get all excited together
This might sound overrated, but the looks on people's faces were priceless. I strategically arranged my schedule so that after we had brunch with our families and told them, I would go to my hockey game where I could tell at least 3 of my teammates, and then to an Oscar party with my roommates from college so I could tell them. (I suggested the Oscar party for that night because I wanted to tell them, and since I knew 2 weeks in advance, we were able to all get together.) I arranged lunch with my best friends from law school because I wanted to tell them.
I had expected people to be happy for us, and excited, but it just felt so much better to feel that in person. The replies we got to our emails were nice, but it was nothing compared to jumping up and down and shrieking. (Or the way my law school friends looked with their jaws open and half a crab quesadilla hanging out.) It is just nice to feel people's happiness.
We eventually emailed the rest of our friends, but I called as many of them as possible to tell them because I didn't want them to find out via email just because they lived far away. It was an exhausting couple of days to get everybody told, but for the most part, it worked, and I'm so much happier that we did it that way instead of just emailing everybody right after it happened.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Marriage in Context

I am currently taking a class on Women's International Human Rights - and it has me thinking. In most communities, when a woman gets married, she is adopted into her husbands family, sometimes never to see her parents again. The woman moves into the husband's household, and is subordinate to her mother-in-law, and as we learn in most of our texts, is usually unhappy. Sons are considered the ultimate insurance, because they earn money, take care of their parents, and their wives will care for the family once the mother-in-law goes.
This is somewhat true in my father's family, in which the three sisters moved out of town and the three brothers do the bulk of the day-to-day or week-to-week caretaking (with my aunt flying in every 6 weeks or so to fix stuff my dad and his brothers messed up.)
When it comes to families with one brother and one sister, though, I have noticed it is much more common for the boy to leave town and get absorbed into his spouse's family than the other way around. I can almost guarantee that Mark and I will be in Maryland with my parents, instead of in NJ with his, as our parents enter their golden years.
One of the common reasons for sparring between the FMIL and the FDIL in wedding planning is because the mother feels that the son is going to leave her and the family and that the new FDIL will be the new woman in the husband's life, and they have trouble dealing with this. (This is true in cultures in which the wife comes to live with the family, which is why there is usually such a bad relationship between the daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law - because the MIL needs to show the DIL that she still controls her son, and the new DIL is only there to help procreate.) I don't know how true this is, but it is definitely at least half-and-half which child stays and which goes, whether they are boy or girl, and I think is usually more the girl, in the US, nowadays.
So I'm wondering - are girls less likely to leave home voluntarily? Or are they guilted into staying? Do they feel obligated to take on a caretaking role? In your relationship, do you think it is more likely you will end up with your parents, his parents, or leaving town entirely and leaving your siblings on both sides to do the caretaking?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Color Wheel

So ever since I bought my dress, I've been thinking about colors that go with it. Because its not stark white, and has some champagne coloring to parts of it (namely the matching hat...kidding honey.) it really lends itself to a jewel toned color palette. So I've been toying with the idea of dark green, eggplant, burgundy, and a champagne palette.
Starting from this board, from Style Me Pretty:
I think we would add some dark purple tones...bridesmaids in green dresses with purple flowers...and I saw potted ivy at the farmers market yesterday, which would make adorable centerpieces at banquet tables....

Charity of the Month: American Red Cross

Okay, so since we are definitely planning to in some way support a charity or two of our choice at some point during or with our wedding, I thought it might be a good idea to spotlight a charity that needs funding or help, to give readers an idea of what charities are out there that might be a good choice for the idofoundation or for an alternative gift registry. Since I gave blood yesterday, today's charity is the American Red Cross.
If we were to somehow register for the ARC, I would ask people through an Alternative Gift Registry to give a pint of blood, instead of money, because money can't buy clean blood. This is a cause that is extremely close to my heart. Blood supplies are critically low, especially during wartime, and giving blood costs you nothing but maybe an hour of time. And you get cookies.
Another idea is to get people together for a wedding-party-get-to-know-each-other down at the local donor center. It might be awkward to get my entire bridal/house party together to give blood, because I'm pretty sure that two of them are below the weight requirement, and one of the others is pretty close to anemic. Plus, Mark can't even give because he is British.
But I would love it if even one of our guests decided to donate a pint of blood as a wedding gift to us, and then found that giving blood is not terrifying, doesn't make them faint, and doesn't hurt. They might even appreciate the free t-shirt, lunchbox, starbucks coupon, or apron that they get out of it. And then maybe they'll go back. And each time, they will give another person out there another chance at life.
Can anyone else think of a way to work blood donation into their wedding? Or are these just two concepts that won't go together?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Estimate Guesstimate

So we got the estimate back from Elkridge Furnace Inn today - and its not so bad. It's definitely doable, its within the "range" of what we would be considering. The food is all amazing-looking - and we talked with Rob and they use local produce and seasonal vegetables, so that is nice, because I really cared about that. I feel like there will be a risk of additional costs being added on - but hopefully we'll be able to save money in other ways, by DIYing the flowers and using "friendors" as photographer and DJ, so maybe the added costs won't hurt so much. I don't feel like we are being overcharged for crappy food by what they estimated - so now there are a few questions:
1.) The food is pretty formal - but I was hoping the overall feel of the wedding would be a little more casual and fun - so can you have a fancy-food wedding that is still a good time? Or does serving anything over curly endive automatically up the ante?
2.) How many venues do you really need to look at before you decide one is perfect? When we stood on the edge of the ceremony location and I looked out at the creek and looked over at Mark and looked at where our friends and family would sit, it just felt...really right. But the WIC tells us that we have to exhaust all of the possible options before booking...and clearly that we need to go insane.
3.) Is wedding planning this early such a good idea? What if we change our minds in six months or a year? I can sell the dress I bought 18 months early, but we can't sell the venue!
We're going to visit a few more places, I think, before we make a decision, and there is a bridal showcase in two weeks so we can talk to some caterers and decide whether picking a place like Oakland where we can use our own caterer really will be a better choice. We have the estimate for a month, and I don't know how long they can keep us "penciled in" for.

New Layout!

You may have noticed there are some changes to the blog. The new header is by one of my favorite artists, Kurt Halsey - just the drawing is his, I played around in MS paint to add the text and make the header itself (so please don't go ask him to custom design you a blog header, he's kinda too important for that).
He has a lot of cutesy coupley images that might be appropriate for stuff that you want to use - I think we may use the one above for STDs or for something else, because it is especially appropriate because we got engaged sitting on a bench.
I'm not totally sure of the IP laws on his work, so make sure to either get his permission or give credit to the artist. It is absolutely illegal to pass somebody else's work off as your own. To find images, check out the photobuckets made by his obsessive livejournal fangroup. This one is catalogued really nicely - check out the left hand bar. On his regular website is just a sampling of his work.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Return Address Stamp

So something I've been wanting ever since we sent out Christmas cards this year was a return address stamp. I thought about getting a really plain one with just our street address (we'll be here for at least another year and a half), but then I happened upon some of these:

They are cute, and functional, and not totally overpriced. We probably wouldn't use them that much in our day-to-day lives, but they'll be great for STDs, Christmas Cards, invites, and thank-you notes...which I think makes them totally justifiable.
My only problem is that if I go with anything I really like, with scrollwork or fun handwriting, it will be completely obvious that Mark had nothing to do with the whole buying-a-stamp thing, and that will make our friends gossip about how whipped he is and I find that uncool. So maybe I just should get one with my name - but what am I gonna use that for? I think its worse if our invites come from me than if they come from us with the stamp I obviously picked out.
Am I overthinking this? I mean, really, the best thing to do is sit down with Mark and pick a stamp out together...and recognize that compromise is a part of marriage and all that.

Sticking to Tradition

If you've been paying attention, you may have gleaned from hints in some of our previous posts that I have a tendency to be a little traditional.  Not in a patriarchal oppression kind of way (cf. name changes) and not in a superstitious way - I walk under ladders, spill salt, and smash mirrors constantly.  

I don't believe in blindly following tradition.  Things change; traditions don't always keep up. But that doesn't mean it should be discounted entirely, in my mind.  Traditions provide a connection to the past; there can be a certain comforting stability in being able to say, "look how much things have changed, but we're still doing this specific thing the same way that we have for hundreds of years."  

I don't believe it's necessarily bad luck to see my bride on the day of our wedding, but I do like that it's a tradition; there isn't any real downside to it, and I like the idea of the anticipation building over the course of the day.  There are plenty of traditions I'm happy to ditch or adapt: I don't feel any need to convince Ellie to change her name; I like her idea of adopting the Jewish tradition of being walked down the aisle by both parents.  But, there are a few we'll be sticking to: I know Ellie's planning to do the "something borrowed, something blue" thing; I'll stand on the right side; her dress will be white (more or less); when we get home for the first time I'll probably make an awkward attempt to carry her through the door and smack her head on something in the process, so that I can show my new wife I care about my roots enough to give her a mild concussion.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

On location: Ellie's church

We stayed with Ellie's parents last night, after celebrating a birthday with one of her high school friends (actually it's her sister's high school friend, who's also one of my former hallmates and a critical conduit in the path to us ever meeting, but that's another and less interesting story) because they were conveniently located to hop on the metro this morning and pick up race packets for the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler which Ellie will be running on Sunday.  The packet pickup was at the National Building Museum, which has a beautiful interior space that got us thinking, but we'd already tentatively ruled out a wedding downtown because of the parking and transportation difficulties.  Anyway, since we were in the neighborhood, we swung by her church (Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist) with her mom to see how it would work for us.  
The two main advantages are that it would be much more affordable - I think they just ask that you make "a donation" - and that we would be able to choose a caterer.  
Unfortunately, it just doesn't look like it would work out.  The outdoor spaces are smaller than Ellie remembered them being; we worked out how we could fit our guests on the "courtyard" lawn, but the landscaping and narrow paths would be problematic for a three-person aisle walk.  The larger lawn near the playground turned out to be a) very uneven, b) far enough over grass from the parking lot that some older guest would probably turn an ankle or get a heel stuck in the mud, and c) right next to the beltway.  There's a small chapel inside that we could use in case of rain, and the main hall is a large, naturally lit room that would be great for a reception space.  If we decided that we didn't want to spend a lot of money and we had to use the church, I think we would make it work and it would turn out really nicely, but it just isn't clicking for us.  At least that's one place we can actually have somewhat definite feelings about...

UPDATE: Photos from the church have been posted to the WeddingForTwo Flickr group.

What's luck got to do with it?

So I now have a dress. This means a number of things, one of them being I now know exactly what my dress looks like, and Mark doesn't. I am not to describe it, show it to him, show him pictures of it, etc.
I'm not sure if this is because he wants to be surprised, or if because, by superstition, its bad luck for the groom to see the bride, the dress, etc. I don't know where this comes from. But there is a level on which it bothers me, because really - are we, generally, as people getting married, so afraid of the possibility of "bad luck" that we are willing to sneakily hide our wedding dresses in our childhood closets behind three rows of Stor-All boxes of stuff? (Space is at a premium in my parents house. I had to goodwill two feet of stuff in the closet to make room for my dress.)
What is bad luck anyway? Is bad luck a bad marriage? Because honestly - is it really going to destroy my marriage if he sees me in my dress? Although to answer this, maybe I should reference Ross and Emily, who did see each other before the wedding....

This is going to be our friends in a year and a half.

Seriously. I'm pretty sure that this is how all of my single friends will feel (and I have a number) at our wedding. We're gonna be so. sick. of. weddings. so I want to make sure they don't sit there at the wedding and feel obligated to dance to crappy music and eat lousy food. Since we want the wedding to be fun instead of ritzy or glamorous, we can take a more casual approach to helping our friends not feel like our wedding is yet. another. wedding.
So what do we do about it?
1.) No singles table. Sit our friends with each other.
2.) Don't invite people we don't know. (I already lost this, but I'm hoping to know at least 90% of the attendees.)
3.) Don't make the bridesmaids wear the same dress that they hate.
4.) Don't assign seats? (We're on the fence on this.)
5.) Have something fun or interesting besides dancing for people to do. (I remember middle school dances where they had a game room with chess and checkers and connect four and other board games - both the venues we checked out yesterday had a room upstairs where people could go to just chill out - and I think this could be fun. And cheap to procure, cuz we own a lot of board games already.) I would love it if there was someplace that had like, a couple pool tables for people to chill out at.
6.) Have the DJ play fun dance songs, instead of slow dance waltzes. Music is Mark's department anyway.
7.) Lawn games - all three places we've looked at have some green space where we could set up croquet, badminton, beer hand nuke 'em, bocce ball, whatever - as long as people will play, we'll set it up. (Yes, people will be wearing nice clothes - but we get to dictate the dress code, which I think will be "afternoon tea".) Or we might rent a moon bounce for the kids (I saw this idea in the latest issue of Brides and it strikes me as fantastic.)
8.) Serve cake or have a dessert buffet. I am a big believer in the providing extra pieces of cake for people. I think we will cut the cake, pass out the pieces, and then leave the extra pieces on the cake table. At weddings, I am always trolling for cake. Or we could have a dessert buffet.
Any other ideas for how to have a fun wedding?

Friday, April 3, 2009

How NOT to act at a RoTB event:

There were definitely people this morning who bordered between rude and downright deserving of a punch in the face.
True to the description that Filene's sent out, within minutes, the racks were absolutely stripped. People grabbed everything. My sister headed off to grab whatever she could find that people weren't guarding. She handed me a pink dress with pickups, which I loved and wore around for about ten minutes. Eventually we began to acquire some dresses. In the Filene's basement world, any dress is collateral, because you can trade it. The trading was absolutely the most obnoxious part. From about 8:00-8:15, everybody was just sorting through the dresses they had grabbed. Then they all started to trade - but because there was a group of about 20 brides who had large teams and had amassed about 20-30 dresses apiece, and were still trying all of them on and wouldn't let any of them go, the rest of us who only had five or six dresses started to trade among ourselves, but what happened was that even if, like me, you were perfectly happy to let the dresses go without getting anything in return, nobody else was, so you felt like you had to trade.
So here are my rules for RoTB:
1.) If you have a dress, don't be too picky about what you trade it for. The people who had a dress that one of us really liked, but that didn't like what we had to offer, were some of the most annoying people in the store. If you are walking around with a size 10 dress, and looking for a six, and somebody wants to try the ten on, take the other ten that they are offering you. You have as good a chance of trading it as the one you are holding.
2.) Get the hell over yourself. I would say that about 40% of the dresses there had seen their share of Filene's RoTB events - and (see previous post) some of them were downright ugly. Don't treat people like crap just because the dress they are offering to trade you isn't a Vera Wang.
3.) Don't hoard. There were a limited number of dresses that were a size 16-20, and it was because this one girl had grabbed every single one she could get her hands on, and then was "considering" all of them. Then she would only trade for another dress that was a size 16-20 and we were kind of like, "we can't possibly trade you anything because you have all the dresses."
4.) Don't push or shove. When you push or shove somebody to get a dress, and then another person yells, "if you push me again, I'm going to call the police", the store security comes and neither of you get the dress.
5.) Don't bring your own security force. The most hated groups were the ones that managed to snag the racks that were next to the mirror, one of which brought her parents or fiance or something with her and the guy in their party was fairly large and tough looking and stood at the end of their racks with a scowl on, wouldn't let anybody pass, and would screen your trades. I tried to trade them a dress for a really nice one they had, and the guy just said, "oh, no, not that." Which frankly, hurt my feelings because I really liked that dress and it hadn't fit me right but it was gorgeous. At that point I got snotty and was like, "fine" and started stalking away and he could tell I was pissed and tried to be like, "no, we can trade" but I was just so annoyed that I took my dress back and waited for somebody that wanted it. At this point, by the way, most of the trading had ceased, because enough people had found dresses or released theirs that there were enough floating around and these jerks were still demanding a trade. Eventually, they decided to "just let the dresses go" so I went after the dress I had wanted to try on - and the guy then tried to joke about it with me, being like, "what are you going to trade for that?" and then was like "just messin' with you." If you were an asshole before, don't be surprised when you act like an ass and I don't think you're kidding.
6.) Don't keep more dresses than you can keep your hands on.
7.) Decide on 1-4 favorites, not 20. If you are that uncertain about what you like, give it up and go to a real bridal shop to get a better idea of what you're looking for.
8.) Have specific styles in mind. I was looking for pickups and no beading, but I wound up trying all 5 styles they had with pickups, and buying one of those.
9.) Try to make friends. Befriend another girl who has a similar sense of style but is a different size - pass her stuff that doesn't fit you and she'll do the same. I'm sure a lot of people approach this as a "I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to find my dream dress."
10.) Bring a notepad and a sharpie. The smartest group I saw had a rack of dresses, and they marked their "maybe" dresses by taking a piece of paper, writing maybe on it, and then slipping it through the neck of the hanger. Then they put the sizes on all of their for-trade ones, so you knew if they were in your range or not.
11.) Organize your tradeable dresses - we were a variety of sizes, and my sister organized our tradeable dresses in order by size so that people who were looking to trade for an 18 or a 10 knew which side to check on.
12.) Bring your own mirror - or steal one from the housewares section - and bring tape!. The people that were hoarding the 3 way mirror were the worst - but the people in front of the regular mirror were pretty bad. One group brought their own, and it slipped and fell. Bring one and either affix it to a hanger beforehand, or affix it to the rack.
13.) Bring at least one friend - maybe its just for those of us with carpal tunnel, but I couldn't zip those dresses alone.

Success!

Alright, so this will be the first of two posts on RoTB - the other one will be more generic about how NOT to act at a discount dress sale. (Some portions of this morning were a disheartening look at humanity.)
My future cousin-in-law and I both found dresses. I can't post pictures of them here, obviously, but I'm going to post pictures of some of my rejects. I was a little disappointed in their selection initially - nothing was like, drop dead gorgeous. There were some people who had somehow acquired all of the really nice, upscale dresses and were hoarding them (see the later post on why hoarding is bad). Eventually they came back out, but these are most of the first round of dresses.
BTW, my mom has a way of photographing me that just makes me look short.
This pink Watters dress was on my top ten list, and it was really pretty, even though it was fairly plain and I thought the pink wouldn't work for a fall wedding:
This one got dismissed pretty quickly.

Remember how I was all, "don't buy a dress that's too small?" Don't do it - because you'll look like this!And the Easter Bunny Dress.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

On Location: Historic Oakland House

Visit #2 of last weekend: Historic Oakland House, tucked away behind apartment buildings around the corner from the Columbia Mall.  Same old story - another historic house.  An interesting quirk of this one is that it's run by the Columbia Association, which means it's overpriced for most people and moderately expensive if you're a member.  Funny story - we live in Baltimore and are considering a wedding in Columbia, and Ellie's cousin lives in Columbia and is getting married here in the city.  Anyway, since we have a family connection in Columbia we may be able to get the good rate.  

Geographic location is odd - it's a little hard to find, the juxtaposition with newer development is jarring, and traffic can get busy at the weekends that close to the mall.  On the plus side, there are a handful of hotels in close proximity and the various lakes and things we could go to for photos or something.

The house is nice, nothing spectacular; maybe it's just that it's the third historic house we've seen and they're all starting to blend together (we really need to find a park or museum or somewhere to visit to break up the monotony). The ceremony would be on the lawn out back next to the tent; there's some trees and stuff nearby, but then if you turn one way you have apartment buildings, and if you turn the other you have the tent, which doesn't sound ideal to me.

Inside, the foyer has a piano, which could be fun to have for the cocktail hour and/or reception - we have a number of friends and family members who are musically inclined, so it would be easy to ask a couple of them to just take a short shift on there -  they wouldn't need to bring instruments, so that might make it a little more low-key for them.It might have a little too much of a twenties dinner party feel though - I have that classic image of a bunch of middle-aged people in tuxes and cocktail dresses gathered around a piano having a singalong.  Not quite what I was going for, so maybe that idea will have to go.

Their ballroom is on the small side (seats 135 reception-style), but opens up onto a veranda to accommodate larger groups (about 200 total); it would be a little odd to have that separation but there's enough communication between the two areas that people would get over it.  There's a reasonable sized tent out back which also holds 200 (or at least, a patio - they haven't set the tent up for this season yet) but it's a lot more expensive so I think we'd stick with the ballroom.  

The costs aren't so bad, since they don't include any of the food or drinks, but the list of various prices and add-ons, with its vague hints of unquantified setup costs, has me worried.  I think choosing our caterer will let us keep the costs low too, but there's the added hassle of choosing one and then coordinating them with the staff.  

At the moment I think this one ranks pretty low on our list, but there's a bridal showcase in a couple of weeks so I think at least Ellie will go back, and maybe with the tent set up and whatever extra decor and vendors they have there it'll make a better impression.

On location: Elkridge Furnace Inn

We visited two locations this past weekend; we started on Saturday with the Elkridge Furnace Inn, in Elkridge, MD.  It's an old historic house in Elkridge, MD, formerly a tavern, etc. etc. - you can read all those details on their web site.  It has a super-convenient location, just by 95 and 195; if you're not familiar with Maryland geography, that puts it about 10 minutes from the airport, and obviously near to 95 also.  

First impressions: compared to Vandiver, the restoration work at Elkridge has been a little more extensive and a little better done.  I imagine that's primarily because the building has historic status and gets state funding to help maintain it.  The grounds back onto the Patapsco River, and out to the side of the building, where brick-paved footpaths wind around the small kitchen building and slave quarters, there's a large patio with a small bumpout backing onto the river, where the ceremony would be held (none of the concerns of crowding or street noise that we had for Vandiver).  It didn't look amazing in late March, but it was easy to imagine how it would look once the leaves were out.  By the time we're planning to have the wedding they'll be turning, which should be pretty too.  

The interior of the house looked good too.  There are two floors that would be used for the cocktail hour, with small four person dining tables.  I wasn't a big fan of those - I'd rather have the tall cocktail-style tables.  The old kitchen (with an enormous fireplace) is set up as the bar.  

Out behind the house is the semi-permanent tent where the reception happens.  It has a brick floor, so no rain issues, and removable sides, so it can be warm or airy as the weather calls for.  Grassy space outside for the kids.  Plenty of space for the size of our party.  

Besides the geographic convenience of the location, they're down the street from a couple of the airport hotels, who can not only reserve room blocks at a good rate (I think they're pretty happy to have anyone actually reserve rooms with them before they wind up stuck at the airport), but will also shuttle guests to and from the site, and can keep their bar/lounge open for our guests to hang out afterwards.  This is great for many reasons: nobody from out of town needs to rent a car, but they can still get to DC and Baltimore if they're around for the whole weekend and want to tourist around.  That's key since, as Ellie mentioned, the Baltimore Running Festival is that weekend, so driving in Baltimore will be rough.  (Speaking of the public transit thing, I think she overstates my commitment to it slightly; I'm not trying to ram it down anybody's throat, and it's not a dealbreaker for me, but I really like the idea of making it available should our guests choose to use it.)  

The downsides?  They run a French restaurant in the tavern, so the food is fancy, and there isn't as much flexibility as the Vandiver had, or as we would have somewhere that we were bringing in our own caterer.  They don't want to make something that doesn't make them look classy and awesome, which gets away from Ellie's desire for a slightly more casual feel.  And, in a related development, it's expensive.  Probably really expensive.  We don't know, because they haven't sent us a formal proposal yet.  We futzed around with the menu a bit - I think we wound up asking him to put together his numbers with three stations - seafood, vegetarian (some sort of lo mein, I think?), and pasta.  The budget they suggest is a couple grand more than the Vandiver's estimate, and it doesn't include any rooms (the Vandiver has an 8-room block).  I think we might come in below their estimate with the options we chose, but  I can't really guess what it'll work out to.  It's #1 on Ellie's list so far, and pretty high on mine, but we may have to cut it when the numbers come in.