Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ceremony Signs

So since we have a place, my mind has now turned to details to make our wedding day our own (because the fact that two individuals are marrying each other is somehow never enough.)
To avoid having our guests go in the front door of the nature center, and instead directing them straight to the ceremony site, I think some signage is in order. Maybe something like this?
There is the shabby-chic option:
There are ones shaped like arrows:
But then I started thinking - the bathrooms are in one direction, the tent is in another, the cocktails in another, and the ceremony in yet many signs will we need? And how can we keep them from getting overloaded?
I think I found the answer on Etsy:
Yeah, we could make one of these. But this one is $18 and man, that sounds cheaper than the cost of an afternoon of our labor. If we make one, it would be a little more rustic looking, like a signpost you would come across on a hike, and the signs would go in all different directions. (Possibly with appropriate symbols.) I think that it would be pretty helpful, and it would be fun. I think this is going to be one of those projects that is more-Mark-than-me, which is good, because I think the rest of our DIY projects will be mostly me.
How are you telling people where to go?

We have a winner....

Friday, May 29, 2009

Slashing the Budget

You may have guessed by now by the fact that I left for Michigan, and our goal was to select a venue by then, that we have selected one. There will be more details on that later, and how we came to a final decision. The venue that we picked though, is practically perfect in every way. It is the Mary Poppins of venues.
Practically perfect in every way implies that it is imperfect in one. I bet you've guessed by now - the budget. The cost of rental is about $1,000 higher than we were hoping for. And then we have to use one of five caterers - all of whom are a little higher than we were hoping for.
The problem is, once you find the perfect place, you'll do almost anything to get it. So yesterday, I reworked our budget.
Originally, I had awarded generous amounts for things - amounts I hoped we would never reach, but that I wanted the money there for anyway. Mark watched me do this, making comments like, "whoa that is a lot for photography." (I had put down $3,000.) I put down $500 for the cake and the invites. I put down $1000 for the flowers, because I knew that was probably what a florist would charge for 4 bridesmaids bouquets, 1 bride bouquet, 10 bouts, and 4 corsages. I put down $1000 for a DJ, even though we were kind of planning to just iPod it up anyway. I wanted those options.
Yesterday, I rethought these numbers. Of course I did this in the middle of a training session so I had to wait until I got home to share the details with Mark, but we came to some conclusions and took a giant meat cleaver/axe/razorblade to the budget. Our photo budget dropped to $1,000. All we're going to be looking for is about 6 hours of shooting time, plus after-edits of some/most of the images, so I don't think this number is too ridiculous. As I've said before, if you can find an up-and-coming photographer, particularly somebody really trying to get their name out there, you can usually get a pretty good rate. I think in additon to this, we will ask our friends with dSLRs to take shots of key moments or fun stuff happening - often, guests can take great pictures of the reception - I don't want to count on it, but I'm willing to use our friends as second shooters, especially if they know in advance that we will want their shots.
The DJ budget got a bit axed as well - hopefully we have a friendor or two who will run the iPod for a reasonable price, although I'm not really sure how we're going to get speakers and whatnot.
The flowers got cut down as well. We were planning to DIY the flowers (well, DIT/DIFMIL) anyway, and now its looking like we will have to to stay on budget.
I probably slashed unnecessarily, and some of these numbers will get added to when we start to really book stuff or put plans into motion. I know that we will end up over budget. For right now, I'm okay with that because we get our "practically perfect" venue and can continue to believe, for now, that we can still have a reasonable wedding on a reasonable budget.

Charity Idea: Equality Center

So California upheld Prop 8 and the conservatives are setting their sights on New York as the next Mecca of Bigotry. (I normally don't go around calling people that oppose gay marriage bigots, because I do understand their perspective. Everybody is different and different people believe different things. But this is America, and everyone here is equal under the constitution and under the law. And when you stage an entire ad campaign based around how horrible it will be to have to accept people even though they are different than you, I think it is bigoted. You do have to accept people who are different than you - and you have to accept that gay people exist, whether they can get married or not, whether you like it or not. Also, teaching kids about homosexuality in schools in not a bad thing. If we can give our children a more tolerant world than we ourselves had, I think that is a step in the right direction.)
Anyway, if you are starting to feel discouraged and are wondering about how to use your wedding to show your support for gay rights or for same sex marriage (oh, and you wouldn't mind having a fabulous venue in the middle of downtown Washington?), look no further. The Equality Center is the place for you! The space can fit up to 100 people for a seated reception and up to 150 for a cocktail reception. (Although according to Gathering Guide, its 150 seated/300 standing.)
I think that part of the original idea behind the Equality Center (I remember reading this a long time ago) was to create a space where same-sex couples could get married without having to worry about whether or not the venue would accept them. I always thought that was a great idea, and even with more and more venues ready, willing, and able to perform same-sex marriages, there still exist some that aren't.
You could also add a note in your programs a la A Practical Wedding that talks about your commitment to same-sex marriage and the fact that you would like to see marriage equality for everyone, regardless of their gender, sometime in the future.

If you know of charity or charitable activity or idea that you would like to see featured as part of the charity Friday post, please comment or email the name of the charity and any information you have about them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Save the Date

So these bad boys have been making their way around the blog-o-sphere today and why not? They are adorable!
The thing is though - when I think about The Giving Tree, its everything I don't want our relationship to be. The storyline (from Wikipedia): The Giving Tree story is a short tale about a relationship between a young boy and a tree in a forest. The tree always provides the boy with what he wants: branches on which to swing, shade in which to sit, apples to eat, branches with which to build a home. As the boy grows older he requires more and more of the tree. The tree loves the boy very much and gives him anything he asks for. In the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, the tree lets the boy cut her down so the boy can build a boat in which he can sail. The boy leaves the tree, now a stump. Many years later, the boy, now an old man, returns and the tree says, "I have nothing left to give you." The boy replies that all he needs is a quiet place to sit and rest. The tree happily obliges.
The relationship between the boy and the tree is completely one sided, with one side giving everything they have and the other demanding more and more, until finally the tree has nothing left to give. Nobody's marriage should be like that (although some people's are). I once heard about a girl who broke up with a guy by giving him this book and then telling him that he was the boy and she was the tree. And while really, ultimately, this story is one of love, I'm not sure that I would want to use these STDs, save for the fact that they are so frikkin' adorable!
What do you all think? Adorable, or a little too reminiscent of a sad story?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Close to home

Ellie and I were discussing locations with her mom recently, and as we found ourselves disagreeing on some of the details of the wedding weekend extravaganza, logic brought us to several conclusions that hadn't been explicitly stated previously. I kind of wish I knew logic notation right now so I could be cool enough to state this formally...

  • We will have a rehearsal dinner for the bridal party, close family, and out-of-town guests
  • We will have a post-dinner bar event that we can invite more of our friends to.
  • 95% of our friends live in or near either Baltimore or DC, or somewhere in between
  • Probability of people attending any given event increases proportionally to their proximity to it
  • DC is sufficiently close to Baltimore that they can be considered the same region (our DC-area friends mostly live on the north / Baltimore-ward side of town. I can only think of two people who may be coming from northern Virginia)
  • Out-of-town guests will be staying somewhere reasonably close to the wedding location
  • Bride and groom will spend the night somewhere reasonably close to the wedding location
  • The rehearsal dinner needs to be close to the out-of-town-guests, meaning close to the wedding location
  • The bar event needs to be close to our friends, meaning close to DC/Baltimore
  • The bar event needs to be close to where the bride and groom are staying, preferably within stumbling distance of the hotel
  • The rehearsal dinner, bar event, and wedding location all need to be close to DC/Baltimore. We won't be getting married here, or here, or here. On the plus side, it may still be feasible to have our bar event here if we get married somewhere more or less in the city. You may have noticed this trend in the more recent location posts - less Havre de Grace, more Baltimore and close-in suburbs.
Alternative conclusion:
  • We have a destination wedding, all the events take place in one location, and we only have 50 people show up.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Whirlwind weekend

I had a pretty wedding heavy weekend - bachelorette party on Saturday and wedding on Sunday. Both were excellent in their own way. I am now in the process of moving cross country (why in the process? because I'm writing this post ON the Michigan Flyer shuttle bus...they have wireless!) So it's been a crazy weekend and many a post will be generated about it.
I was on a plane with about 100 cranky travelers (and some of moderate temperment) many of whom seemed to be families returning from weddings. After spending three days together, all of them kept snapping at each other. I was seated between the stereotype of a Jewish/Italian/Nosybusybody Mother and Daughter (daughter was probably 50s) and a bickering family, one of whom had lost something on a bus and all of whom were busily blaming another member of the family for losing it. They also carried their Out of Town Basket (complete with Berger cookies!) onto the plane, which led me to conclude that tote bags or some kind of flexible/disposable bags are absolutely necessary and that under no circumstances will we be putting plastic flowers in the basket, it just looks silly and gives people something else to carry around.
The Mother/Daughter team (whose conversations all were along the lines of discussing their children and other people's children and what mistakes said children were all making with their lives) got to talking about the wedding they were at and I found their conversation interesting. They were comparing various weddings they had been to - specifically on the issue of band versus D.J. One woman was complaining about how at one wedding the couple had an awful DJ (instead of a classy band, beacuse that is what the young people do these days), and that he played "that awful jump song" right at the beginnning "and all the young people were on the dance floor but the rest of us couldn't go out there".
Since the wedding I was at last night had a DJ who bordered on Cheesy - he made us play games, which just got weird, but more on that later - I could sympathize - especially because as the night wore on, the dance floor emptied and most of the people older than 30 didn't dare venture back out. The DJ even took requests at the beginning of the night - but didn't play any of them. I think that requests might be key to making sure you get music that makes everyone feel welcome on the dance floor.
Any other ideas for how to get everybody to feel like they can get down and jiggy with it? (Even if they don't know what that means?)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Out of Town Bag

Okay, so I've only been to one wedding where we stayed at a hotel - and we got a huge out of town gift basket. It was a wedding that was 2 days after Christmas, so it had some Christmassy stuff for hanging on your door and whatnot, plus some food that I didn't like/eat because I was 13 and weird food was weird.
But I liked getting the basket. I like free stuff, and so do most people. I like the idea of OOT bags (out-of-town-bags), even if all they have in them is a couple of bottles of water, a list of local places to go/eat at/shop. When you go to a conference, you usually get a welcome packet or folder, which often even includes a free magazine, so I don't even think that this is totally a WIC thing. I think it's more of a hospitality thing.
We will be having a lot of out-of-town guests, so I think we will be making OOT bags for them. I like the idea of including candy, some of which is distinctively American and some of which is distinctively English, as well as some maps, info on public transit and taxicab rental companies, things to do nearby, etc. If the weekend we get married is the weekend of the marathon, we will probably include a detailed guide on getting around the city with the race going on.
I saw a suggestion somewhere to include scratch-off lottery tickets - this is a cute idea, but only makes sense if there is a lotto redemption place close by. I think we could add something very Maryland-y, like a "Don't bother me, I'm crabby" sticker or a Berger cookie. (A very very Baltimore thing that I had never heard of until I was actually working in Baltimore. They are delicious and the icing is amazing - and I'm not an icing person.) I also had the fabulous idea recently to include a little container or packet of Old Bay seasoning - something quintessentially Baltimore that most people have never heard of or tried.
Other free options would include a couple crossword or sudoku puzzles and maybe a free magazine and a copy of the CityPaper so they know what's happening. We'll probably raid the tourism office before the wedding and get a supply of local info to put in. I'm not really sure what magazine would be good, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Great Plate Debate

Note: You will notice that Mark is not involved in this post at all. We've talked about this before, but have yet to reach a conclusion together. Like with much of wedding planning, what I want and what he wants will eventually merge into what we want, but we aren't there yet.
I see a lot of debate on blogs about registering for China. Ultimately, some do, some don't. Some register for nicer everyday dishes, some people get fancy china, casual china, and everyday ware. Chine has really become a to each their own type of thing. My own family's sense of china is probably something that would strike fear into the hearts of registry assistants everywhere.
My side of the family comes with 3+ sets of china, all boxed up and ready whenever you "want to come and get them - is tomorrow good?" My mother has a full set of china that uh, I don't really like. My grandmother gave it to her therefore I should love it but I don't. I just don't. It's got flowers on it, and I just...don't want it. The set that I might want is this set, which is apparently one of the best selling casual tableware patterns of its day.
It is the Franciscan "Dessert Rose" pattern, although I'd been hoping to fill in whatever gaps (my mom has something like half a set) might be in the family set with the Franciscan Ivy pattern -
I saw them once in the store and side by side, they actually looked the same - like they would stack together. Technically, no, they would not match - but let me explain to you how I grew up.
My mother never broke out her fancy china. Daily, we ate off of Corelle, and often used it for dinner parties - mostly because no matter how big my mom's set is, there is no way it's big enough for my Dad's family - until we started to go to Egypt. When we started to go to Egypt, my mom loved the patterns on their dishware - and we started to go around all of the stores in the bazaar and buy all of their 10-inch souvenir dinner plates, until we had a set full enough for the 25ish people that come to Christmas dinner every year.
Every single plate in the set is different, and I love it for exactly that reason. You know which one is yours - and we like to get up and move around and if you go to the bathroom, somebody takes your seat. This way you remember which plate is yours. Plus, everybody has a favorite plate and hunts for it and my dad's siblings all fight over the naked lady plate, which has Greek statues around the side. (We're a classy family.) Since there is an uneven number anyway, if any of them break, its not like you break the bank trying to equal out the set. Bonus: none of them required the purchasing of teacups - which I hate - because nobody uses those!
Mark and I also currently have a set of China for 8, and by china, I mean causal dinnerware that is too big to fit in the normal cabinet so we don't use it every day. We got one set for four as a housewarming gift, and then bought the other set. If we had bigger cabinets, we might use it for every day use, but the plates are much heavier than Corelle, so I am happy to keep using them as our "fine" dinnerware. Corelle is awesome cuz its lightweight and bounces, and we will probably register for a full set of open stock Corelle (or Mikasa - their stuff is so nice!) plates, bowls, salad plates, soup bowls, etc., because I DON'T WANT MORE MUGS. NO. JUST NO. Sorry.
I think though, we will register for really nice dessert plates (we have people over for dessert a lot in our family). Nice dessert plates can make you feel fancy, and you can get 3 or 4 sets of them, so if people come to stay with you for a weekend, you can break out different dessert dishes each night. You can also get flatter ones for cake and more bowl-like ones for ice cream, etc. (Or you could get those awesome retro ice cream dishes, but those take up space.) Like my mom's set, the dessert plates might be significantly easier to replace than a broken plate, and it also would seem like less of a big deal to have a not totally matched set.
How are you dealing with china? Did you figure out a way to register for dishes without getting 16 mugs?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Charity Friday: Brides Against Breast Cancer

Today's charity is Brides Against Breast Cancer. I would have loved to buy my dress from their sale - it sounds similar to Running of the Brides, in that they have a bunch of dresses and you find one you like without pushy salespeople, etc., and the gowns are all discounted - but the money goes to support a nonprofit. (Not that Filene's isn't a charity case right now with their Chapter 11 status...)
Brides Against Breast Cancer is part of the Making Memories Foundation and they collect donated wedding dresses and sells them, and the profit goes to the Making Memories foundation which sounds a lot like the Make a Wish foundation for adults with metastatic breast cancer. Ever since my friend's mom died of breast cancer, I've looked at it differently. My friends mom left behind four children, three of whom were still very young (I think under 12). The idea that there is a foundation out there to help people who are terminally ill be able to spend a few special days with their family is amazing, because usually those days towards the end where you could set aside the disease and just spend time together are the ones you wouldn't trade for anything.
The concept behind this sale is great for a number of reasons:
1.) Selling previously owned dresses is greaner because a new dress doesn't have to be made.
2.) It helps people who might not be able to otherwise afford a great dress get their dream dress.
3.) It creates a camraderie in the wedding business between volunteers and fellow brides all working together for this cause - when people talk about BABC, they sound so excited and happy to have participated.
4.) The sale, unlike Running of the Brides, starts at 4PM and goes into the evening hours so people with jobs can still shop.
The sale is a traveling sale, and is coming to the DC Area on Friday, June 19th. For $20, you can go in from 12-4 and preview dresses, and otherwise you just go in from 4-8. It's at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Tyson's Corner, which is a trek for Baltimore Brides but might be totally worth it. You can register here.

If you know of a charity or nonprofit that you would like to see featured as part of this series, please send us an email or include their name in a comment so that it can be featured.

Oh WIC....why must you pull so hard?

Last night we went to a tasting put on by Atlantic Catering. Not only was the tasting fantastic, and the food was delicious, but the event itself was pretty cool. They had a number of different wedding vendors there with tables, but it wasn't at all overwhelming. I've been to a bridal showcase before, which was this massive conference room at some inner harbor hotel that was packed with vendors putting so much pressure on people to buy their products that! day! This was much lower key.
Atlantic and whoever else was in charge of arranging this tasting did a really nice job - it was a room filled with tables and chairs, and each table set up was a little different - and they also had "sample" tables set that were ridiculously elaborate, set up by the event decor company that had a table there. It gave us a chance to kind of talk through what elements of the tables we liked and didn't like, in detail, and was much better than looking at some picture in a magazine. Some of these tables were gorgeous, and of course they had everything - fancy china, chargers, nice napkins, menus, three types of water/wine/champagne glassses, all in different colors, tablecloths and overlays, elaborate centerpieces - the works. Yes, in some cases they looked busy, but in most cases they were just darn nice.
They had an invitation company - Preston's Stationery - who does absolutely beautiful work. The invites they had out were all custom work, and they had albums of their custom work. They had pocketfolds but they also had simple single page invitations - like every wedding blogger out there, I love pretty paper. I'm a stationery person, always have been. They let us play with the color swatches so I could show Mark some of the color combos I had been playing with it my head, and they were happy to talk to us without pressuring us to buy. Somehow, I was afraid to ask them about pricing. Maybe its because we're so far out and even though I told myself I wouldn't, I still want to design our own invitations. Maybe it is because I was afraid that they would laugh at me when I said, "we want to do a single page invitaiton, and have people RSVP online, and we want to do it all for about $1 an invite." I don't know if this would have been a totally unreasonable thing to ask. I don't know if it would border on insulting.
There was a videographer there, who was really nice, and managed to walk the thin line between enthusiastic and pushy. He was talking about how important videography was because it gives you something from the day to keep. I'm not sure if I buy his argument. I know that somebody will be filming our wedding and it will not be my mother, but it may be a friend. I'm just not sure if video is in the budget.
They also had a chocolate fountain and candy bar by Oh! My chocolate. They also provided an apple pie caramel apple at everyone's place - Mark doesn't like apples, so ours is all mine, although I don't know when I'll be hungry again. Their caramel apples are favors that they do, which are delicious looking, and would be nice to have at a fall wedding - I'm not sure if we would do them as favors, because not everybody likes caramel apples, but you could have a dessert buffet or candy bar and use them.
The thing is though, to have a wedding that had everything that they had at the event last night would completely break our budget. The caramel apples were nearly $4 apiece - which is an awful lot to spend on favors. For 130 people, that's $520. That's more than my dress. So although we got some good inpsiration, and some good ideas from the event, I don't think that we will be using most of the vendors there, and I don't think we will be implementing most of what we saw.
But as far as the WIC goes, I found myself wondering whether it's really so bad. As long as nobody tells us that we have to have something - and nobody told us that - is it really so bad that some people do want fancy tables with "the works" and a chocolate fountain and pocketfold invitations? As long as you are an adult and you aren't going into debt for your wedding, and you know where the WIC ends and you as a couple begin, is it really so wrong to look at a beautiful table with colored water glasses and elaborate centerpieces and say, "yes! this is what I want!"? I feel like in the indie/blogging community, we often make fun of brides that want the elaborate fairy tale wedding, but when I see a gorgeous wedding and beautiful invitations, I don't think that they are so wrong. However, when I read posts like this, I get a little freaked out by the WIC and their desire to convince brides that they can't possibly DIY their event.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Hobbies I used to Have"

One of my requirements when we moved in together was that I wanted a sewing area and craft corner. Mark obliged, and thanks to my Elfa shelving from college and an ikea computer desk generously donated by my sister, I had my own little sewing area and craft supply spot.
It is currently overflowing, and competes with my desk in the "messiest area in the apartment" olympics. Right now it's got the silver while my desk has the gold, but this may change in the next two days.
As a creative type with encouraging parents, I was always allowed to partake in new hobbies as long as I didn't leave them out for my dad to step on/in. I dabbled as a child in polymer clay (although my sister was really good, and I was really terrible), in painting, in collages, in scrapbooking, in rubber stamping, in calligraphy, in knitting, in wall stenciling, and in sewing. The only ones I ever really got good enough to use were sewing and knitting. I loved sewing so much that I toyed with the idea of making it into a career. I ruled the costume room in my high school drama department with a fair and just hand, accomplishing such feats as sewing 27 ruffle sleeved renaissance shirts in a single weekend (and then burning the pattern.)
I don't sew as much anymore, but I don't have that much time anymore. My sister's friend got her into rubber stamping, and because somehow, even though I'm 23, anything my sister does is instantly cool and I want to do it too, so just like in 4th grade, I started copying her. She's been willing to indulge me (because it means we can share supplies :-p) and so I've been making some of my own cards for a little while now (about a year). Cards take less time than an entire sewing project, so its an easier hobby to have in law school.
I have a shoebox in my craft corner of "hobbies I used to have". In the box are my water color and oil paints, my wall stencil supplies, and my calligraphy pens. I've been seeing more and more calligraphy stuff online lately - and calligraphy is something I never intended to care about - and I've been thinking of pulling the pens back out. So today I did. I actually cleaned them up fairly recently because one of them had exploded. I have three pens that are still intact in the box - two calligraphy, one fountain. The calligraphy ones are the "cheap" kind that any real calligrapher would scoff at where the ink comes in cartridges. I've tried bottle ink. It was a disaster.
I'm now toying with the idea of breaking back into calligraphy. There are a few problems with it - mostly, I don't need another hobby. Also, it's expensive, and its messy. I'm going to get ink everywhere. But, it would look nicer without us having to spend money. I also don't care that much that all of the envelopes look the same, so I don't think I would be that nuts about it. But there is potential for mistakes, and also...oh yeah, studying for the bar!
But the two weddings we are going to in the next week both sent us hand-addressed envelopes. And it just felt nice. It felt really great to get a hand addressed envelope (that did not say to Mark and Guest because our friends think my last name is too long) and if it's at all possible, and feasible, to do it without my hand breaking, my carpal tunnel returning, or me ripping my hair out, I would like to give it a shot.
Have you tried to re-purpose any old hobbies or supplies for the wedding?

Did you just get your eyebrows waxed or did a volcano errupt on your face?

The first time I went to get my eyebrows (and upper lip, but somehow it is not ladylike to talk about that) waxed, the eyebrow lady sat me down and attached strips of cloth to my face with wax. She then yanked them off. After about 10 minutes of this, she finally stopped, and then she went to put the after-wax gel on me. She stared at me.
"You don't...uh...have to go anywhere today, do you?" She asked, before she handed me the mirror.
"Oh no, just home to do homework." I reassured her, as I took the mirror from her. As soon as I saw my face, I understood why she asked. My entire forehead and upper lip, plus the sides of my nose where she had grabbed a few strays, was beet red. My face also felt like it was a combination of numb and on fire. I was not particularly surprised by this reaction, because I have very sensitive skin that swells easily (I've had a positive TB test entirely because of this) and whenever I had tried at home waxing or plucking my eyebrows (if you are clumsy and have no sense of what your eyebrows should look like, leave this to the pros), my skin would flare up.
What I was not expecting was that the reaction did not go away. After a few hours and the addition of some more post-wax oil, some aloe, and a cold compress, the swelling did go down. But then, over the next two days, several zits appeared where my hair had been - something I credited to the fact that several layers of my skin had been removed, and that my pores were exposed and vulnerable to anything I might have put on or touched to my face that would clog them.
So whenever I went to get my eyebrows waxed from then on, I knew I needed a week recovery time - a full day for the swelling to go down, and then a week because I knew my face would break out. Needless to say, this was quite the hassle and I got my eyebrows waxed infrequently. I was planning to do it last week while I didn't have to see people, but I kept putting it off. Then suddenly it was Wednesday and I was wondering what to do, because I want to look nice at these weddings coming up and at my new job...but I didn't have a week to recover!
Then I remembered reading about eyebrow threading. Eyebrow threading is a technique where they lay a thread on your eyebrows or wherever and then twist it, pulling up all the hair that was there. It is more similar to plucking, except its really really fast and does pull the hair all the way out at the root. I don't know if you need to get it done more often than waxing. Supposedly threading results in significantly less pain and inflammation though, which for me, was enough to get me to one of my two local threading salons.
I contacted two places - Usha Salon and Studio 921. 921 was very nice looking, a little more expensive, and recommended an appointment. Usha did not require an appointment, so I figured I would go in what little spare time I had left for Michigan. I headed down there this morning, got last, found it, walked in, and requested a quick thread.
My first, and only major, mistake was not talking with the girl first about what I wanted in my eyebrows. Mostly all I want is for my eyebrows to be the same size (they aren't naturally), and for them to be a little neater. She just started threading away - and it was pretty painful. Not as bad as waxing, but it takes longer. As she kept threading away and I wondered if I had any eyebrow left, I thought about saying something, but I figured it was too late, and how bad, really, could it be? Worst case, I would have to draw my own eyebrows on. I had an 8th grade science teacher who did that, but people still thought she was hot.
When she finally finished, I checked it and it looked a little like this:
I'm a girl, so it looks less weird. I'm not unhappy, but next time I will definitely ask for a little less shaping. It should be less painful and take less time. She also trimmed my eyebrows with scissors once she was done.
On to the important part - my face did not look like a volcano, and so far, even though there is a little redness around the eyebrows, it seems to be going down pretty quickly and it only feels a little numb. I don't know how I will do on the breakout front, but I hope okay!
If you have sensitive skin, but a moderate pain tolerance (I did find myself thinking of England and hoping it would be over), I recommend threading instead of waxing. You can probably even do it a day or two before your wedding (which you can't necessarily with waxing), although I wouldn't recommend it if you've never gotten it done before. I liked Usha and it cost $17 total for eyebrows and upper lip (and if I bring my receipt back next time, I get $1 off the eyebrows.) I went to their Fort Ave. location, but they also have a spa in Towson. Studio 921 is a little more expensive - $30 for both, and is also down on Fort.
Has anybody else tried threading or wanted to?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Catering: Atlantic Caterers

Back before we'd really gotten into our exhaustive venue search, I heard about Westminster Hall from a friend of my mom. Ellie was out of the apartment at the time - I think on a trip, probably for her moot court competition - so, noticing that it was only about a ten minute walk from home, and wanting to impress her with my proactive fiance ways, I decided to wander over and check it out. When I eventually found it - trickily, it's on the opposite side of the block from its listed address, which in fact takes you to the University of Maryland Law School - there was a wedding / reception in progress, so I traipsed up and down the block a couple of times, snapped what I hoped were a few subtle photos of the exterior, then headed home.

The one thing I learned from my non-visit, besides that the building looks nice from outside, was that Atlantic Caterers provided their services there. I looked them up when I got back and got in touch with them, mentioning Westminster and Chase Court as possible venues. I got a response from sales rep Kristin the next day, asking pertinent followup questions, pointing out a potential space limitation with Chase Court for our estimated guest count, and responding to my questions about local sourcing (produce: as much as possible; wine: just tell them which; beer: Clipper City is available). Lots of warm fuzzy feelings were had.

Eventually we were invited to a tasting, which it looks like they run several times a year at the Boumi (Shriner) Temple (which, by the way, seems a very nice facility). Atlantic organizes it, but there are a whole bunch of other vendors there, as Ellie alluded to previously. They provided several tables of hors d'oeuvres, a pasta station, carving station, mashed potato bar, and a small buffet; in addition, other vendors were offering cake, candy, and other sweets.

The hors d'oeuvres tables (if you suspected I was overusing the term because I finally remembered how to spell it without double-checking, you're correct) were a mixture of the cheese and fruit you'd normally see at a cold station and various chafing dishes with the type of hors d'oeuvres (okay, now i'm overdoing it) you'd normally see butlered. Some of it was standard fare (mini crab cakes, chicken satay, mini-calzones); some was new and delicious (blue cheese and caramelized onion tartlets, sweet potato puffs); and some was new and not quite as good (salmon and goat cheese purses, sesame tuna skewers - definitely suffered from being kept warm, I'm sure they're much better fresh).

The live pasta station was cool, and reinforced my interest in having stations; there were two or three pastas, three sauces, and about five kinds of meat and other toppings you could add; portions were small enough to allow multiple samplings and to keep the "live" cooking time, and hence the line, short. There were also a handful of self-serve sides at the station to keep people occupied. The carving station was of course a little simpler...there was a guy and some meat; he cut it and served it. Actually there were also rolls and mustard, etc., but who's counting? The one disappointment here was that the invite promised a "steamship of pork". A steamship is basically the entire leg, and I didn't see anything like this on his station...

The mashed potato bar is something I'd heard about from a friend in the restaurant business (hi Donna!) but never experienced myself. It's pretty much what it sounds like, nothing to write home about but kind of a fun concept - personally I'd find it a little more appealing with a couple more varieties of cheese and some crispier, less fatty bacon.

Overall I was really impressed with Atlantic from a personality / service perspective. We aren't really working hard on details at this point, being more preoccupied with a venue, but from first impressions their prices were reasonably close to our target. Plus as a slightly larger operation with more history I feel like there's more reason to trust them than some of the newer and smaller operations. Oh yeah, and the food was all pretty delicious. So all around, pretty good feelings here...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How much food is too much food?

I talked to two caterers today and basically concluded with both of them that where we would prefer to put our money is the actual dinner portion of the evening, instead of the cocktail hour. Ultimately, I really wonder if passed hors d'oeuvres are necessary. I think that we could get away with stationed displays, as long as they are sort of scattered so that people don't have to line up to get food. I think maybe some kind of fruit and cheese display and then some kind of warm dip over on another table...but I feel like there should be something else. Maybe some kind of stuffed mushroom or mini quiche or something else that can be set out on a table and sereve at room temperature?
The ceremony will be around 3pm, cocktail hour will run about 3:45-4:45; and dinner will start around 5pm. I don't think people will be starving hungry by cocktail hour, so I don't feel that having a lot of food for the cocktail hour is necessary. Another option might actually be to do a "soft open" with the food stations for dinner, and have people start going into the tent and getting food around 4:30 or 4:45 - that way, people will have gotten to eat dinner and we can get to the dancing faster. But will people really want to eat dinner at 4:45?
Has anybody tried not doing passed hors d'oeuvres for cocktail hour? Was it actually a money-saver? Does it seem cheap? Or does it just seem like we think you are capable of feeding yourself, so have some food? Any ideas for good stationary hors d'oeuvres? If we did a soft open with food stations, will people feel uncomfortable starting to eat dinner before the bridal party has come back into the tent from taking pictures?

DIY: Runaway Bride Hat

So let's say you are a runner. A really, really hardcore runner. A runs-marathons-to-train-for-ultra-marathons runner. A considers-a-ten-miler-a-walk-in-the-park runner. I'm not talking about myself (I'm the "13.1 sounds kind of far" type.) However, one of my good friends and running buddies (who I can keep up with when she's injured and going slow for my sake) is getting married in two weeks. On her wedding day, we are running a 5k in Howard County. We are super excited, and I think it will be a great way for us to get to spend a little time together before she gets all stressed out, because I don't know how much we'll really see her at her wedding. I have talked before about my desire to run a race our wedding weekend, and hopefully we can pull it off. I'm planning to take a few cues from how well it goes for our friend (and I think we'll do one the day before, instead of the day of, because we are looking at a 3pm ceremony instead of 5pm.)
For her bridal shower, which was the same day as the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, I made her a running hat-veil. If you have a friend who is planning to race in a wedding day 5k or, like I saw last summer, run a race as part of her bachelorette party (I haven't ruled out this possibility either), you should consider making a hat-veil.
You will need:
A white running hat (or another color, but the white one was in the $6 bin at the race expo).
Some tulle - maybe 1/4-1/2 a yard (cut into a veil shape - this means it should be straight, with a bottom cut on a curve/rounded edges.)
Some white (or another light color) thread
A needle

1.) Start by threading the needle and gathering the tulle. This means that you will simply run a stitch through the straight top of the tulle (not the curved part). I find that it helps to either tie the thread into a knot around the tulle (if you knot the thread, it will pull right through) or to wrap the thread around a straight pin to keep the thread from pulling out as you gather. Just bunch the tulle onto the needle and pull the thread through so the tulle stays all bunchy.
2.) Once the tulle has been gathered, sew it onto the hat. In these pictures, I'm sewing it on to the bottom of the adjuster. I actually wound up taking it off and sewing it to the top of the pony-tail port, which I recommend. This doesn't have to be perfect - she's only wearing this once. I actually used light blue thread for this so that it would be easier to cut off later. You do want to try to keep the stitching on the underside of the veil so it looks a little neat.
3.) Make sure the tulle is firmly attached to the veil hat.
4.) Admire yourself in the mirror. (Yes, this is me as a model - and this was the point where I realized the veil was too low on the hat and not everybody has short hair.)

On Location: Maryland Science Center

The Maryland Science Center, in the Inner Harbor, was one of those places we got pretty excited about when we realized it was an option.  First off, it's a seven or eight minute walk from our apartment, which can't possibly be a bad thing.  Second, it's not a historic house and it just seemed like something that would be different and fun.  Third, some of the spaces you can rent are pretty awesome.  It took us a while to get around to visiting, since they're one of those places where the events people work M-F 9-5, so I had to make some time at lunch last week.

First, there's the Harbor Lobby, which is where you walk in when you enter from the Harbor.  You don't get to use any of the exhibit spaces (for instance, the dinosaur exhibit right next to it), but there's a ton of light, a decent amount of space for your tables, and a dino skeleton watching over your shoulder.

Next, as the preferred ceremony space, there's the planetarium.  You get to pick which sky setting you want projected on the ceiling and you can use their audio system (or a DJ); there's an open space between the chairs, at the opposite side from the doors, where you stand - you're not in the center exactly, but everybody is more or less facing you.  Not outside, obviously, so that's a downer for us, but definitely has a lot of potential.

Finally, the other reception space there is the Harbor Terrace, on the building roof (!).  There's a tent, and a great view across the harbor.  The tent is L-shaped, which is a little odd, but you would have the bridal party or sweetheart table where the two legs meet.  

Unfortunately, the museum happens to be a somewhat public place, so the only space which can be used during opening hours is the roof.  That'd be fine if you were to do the ceremony elsewhere (a church, or, say, the lawn between the science center and the visitor center?  I don't know if or how you can rent it but it would be pretty cool), but if your heart is set on doing everything in one place, you couldn't get started until 6pm on a Sunday, and probably later on a Saturday.  The only way to get to the roof is via a fairly small (8 persons?) elevator - when everybody shows up at once after the ceremony, that's going to get old quickly (I'm sure there are stairs, but I imagine the roof door only opens from the other side).  Catering is all by Aramark; their menu options look fine but you obviously don't have the same freedom as when you choose your own caterer, or as you typically do with a smaller catering operation. 

There are probably a lot of people the science center would work for but we're disappointed to conclude that it's not the right place for us.  Looks like we'll have to find another way to incorporate dinosaurs into our wedding...

See photos from the Science Center here: .

Monday, May 18, 2009

Venue Photo Directory - first steps

I've set up a group on Flickr to make our venue photos available; you can find it at  Over the next few days, I'll be going back to our previous posts to link the photo appropriate photo sets (posted under Ellie's account, but also submitted to the group); you can find them all using the venue label.  

If you have photos of your own venue visits - wherever in Maryland they may be, not just the ones we've posted about - please, join the group and submit them!  I may not get to approving them right away - I'm trying to figure out how to get Flickr to notify me when there's a queue - so if you've submitted photos and they seem to be lingering, just shoot one of us a message or post a comment and we'll take care of it.

One thing we talked about setting up was a dummy account for anyone who doesn't have a Flickr account to use for posting.  If you want to use that, let us know and we'll hook you up with the login.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wine in the Woods

This weekend was Wine in the Woods at Merriweather down in Columbia. If you are from Maryland and you like wine, I highly recommend this event. If you are looking to "green" up your wedding a bit and throw in a couple local wines, this is a great way to get to sample them all in one place. Just uh, eat first.
A few key points:
1.) Bring cash. A lot of it. Entrance fees are $25 at the door and at some point you will buy a glass or a bottle or two of wine. Wines at the event ranged from $9-29 that I saw.
2.) Bring a picnic blanket and maybe some chairs. You can bring high backed chairs as long as you don't sit near the music area.
3.) Set up camp early and just leave your stuff while you go tasting.
4.) Learn "wine lingo". I'd never done tasting before or been to one of these festivals, so I was pretty happy to let our wine-expert friends take charge and "order". Basically, you can request to try a single wine or two, or you can ask to go "down the line" which means trying everything they have. You start with the dry whites and end on the sweet reds (or the sweet whites, depending).
5.) Bring water. Your throat will get extremely dry at some point, and the coolers run out. I would recommend a 32oz water bottle per person.
6.) Bring snacks. I wasn't sure what to bring, but again, our expert friends were well prepared. Pita chips and hummus and crackers and cheese are, I've decided, the ideal wine tasting snack. Maybe bring some fruit.
7.) Pace yourself. The event is 6 hours long, and there is a lot of wine out there. You aren't going to try every wine in one day. Prioritize. Pick vineyards you have never tried before, or ones where you like a particular one of their wines and would be interested in sampling more. Don't just start willy-nilly at the first tent you see.
8.) Go early. We got there at 12:30 and left around 6:00 when it ended. It got somewhat more crowded as the day went on, and getting there early allowed us to get a decent picnic spot.
9.) Bring a pen. Mark always has a pen, and I'm so happy, because there is no way I would remember which wines I did and didn't like, and now I have a list of wines I liked.
My list, btw:
Legends Vineyard - Chardonnay (this was well liked by all four of us); the Midnight Red (tastes like grape juice...); and Daylight White.
Sugarloaf Mountian Vineyard - 2008 Stomp
Basignani Winery - 2008 Monkton Moon Delight; Reisling; and possibly the Vidal.
Terrapin Station - classy wine in boxes - Cayuga White and Vidal Blanc
We also checked out Mt. Felix, Runnning Hare, and some others. At the end of it, I was actually really glad that we aren't getting married at a vineyard because we would have had to serve their wine, and we didn't like more than a few wines from any one vineyard. However, we are extremely excited about our next summer wine-tour project, which I'll let Mark talk about in detail later.

The Name Game

This isn't my last name again - it's my first. So we seem to have picked a venue (details coming soon!) and so I've been taking advantage of my break to teach myself to use Inkscape. So naturally, I started to play with the idea of invitations. (Is this really natural? I don't know. But it's fun.)
For the past 16 years, I have gone by the name Ellie. My full name is Eleanor, but nobody calls me that. My mom doesn't even call me that when she's angry. Don't get me wrong, Eleanor is a great name and all that - but I just don't use it. I thought I would start using it once I started working and stuff, because it is more professional - but I haven't yet been able to make the switch.
I know that invites are supposed to be all formal and stuff, but I can't help wondering if maybe I should just use Ellie. I'm also torn on whether we should use our middle names - but what do you have a middle name for if not to use it on your wedding invitation?
I know that our save the dates will say something along the lines of "Mark and Ellie are getting married!" (My favorite says, "the toaster we're getting married.") So why should our invitations be significantly more formal than the STDs?
Do any of you have names-you-go-by (not even nicknames) that you used instead of your full name? Did anybody else consider omitting the middle name?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

More Wedding Weightloss Propaganda

Alright. So I think I've established that nobody should be expected or encouraged to lose weight for their wedding (I am looking at you, Facebook!!!!). However, if you have a friend who, like me, bought their dress 2 sizes too small and you don't want to be the one who has to sew them into their dress when they bust the seams, you can always send them this lovely e-card from the CDC.
It links to this page, which includes helpful diet and exercise tips, as well as tips that are actually helpful. I appreciate the tips on smoke free venues, testing cosmetics, and being careful with hair dyes, plus that injury free footwear tip? Awesome! Also other very interesting tips that I'm sure that other people haven't thought of, so it was good to see the list. Unfortunately, the first two tips are diet and exercise, making it likely that whatever bride you send it to will:
1.) Be so offended that you think she's fat that she closes the window and never speaks to you again
2.) Think she's already read it because every wedding planning website includes diet and exercise tips.

Oh, and for that bridesmaid you think has syphillis? There's a card for that too.
(Check out Jezebel for some more commentary. Other CDC e-cards (so you can tell your friend to start washing her hands more) available here.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Loving this board...

So much teal! Plus I love the long tables and the lantern.

Charity Registry: Planned Parenthood of Maryland

Sure, there are some people who might have a problem with your registering with Planned Parenthood of Maryland and donating money to provide health services to women in need, especially in desperate economic times. But if you are like me, and are the type of person that openly and fully supports the mission of Planned Parenthood (I spent 1.5 years at NARAL and have started to volunteer for PPMD since moving to Baltimore), you might choose to forego other people's opinions.
To suggest donations to PPMD, you could put a link to their website - or you could add suggested donation amounts, to make it clear that Planned Parenthood does more than just abortion. For example: "$25 will distribute 100 condoms this year" or "$50 will provide a woman in need with a PAP smear" or "$100 will help vaccinate a teenager with no insurance against cervical cancer".
I can't come up with cute favor ideas relating to this, except condoms if you're having an adults only reception, and even I will hesitate to donate in my guest's honor to PPMD - because I believe in choice, and I believe in choosing not to support service providers if you don't want to. I would be extremely upset if I attended a wedding that chose to give money to a Crisis Pregnancy Center or to an anti-choice organization on my behalf. If you do choose to give a donation-as-favors, you could consider making two donations - one to PP and one to a less controversial charity, and making two piles of cards and letting your guests "choose" which card is the donation they want made on their behalf.

If you have a local or national charity which you would like for me to mention in this series, please leave a comment and a link to tell me more about it!

On Location: Port Annapolis Marina

After the Blue Heron Room, I trekked over to Port Annapolis Marina. I got a little lost, mostly because the Pavilion is hidden by this:
Yeah. It's a boatyard. You drive through the boatyard on a gravel road and you have to be kind of careful to not rear end any yachts or sailboats.
So then you get to the pavilion. It's basically just a really nice picnic pavilion with sides. If you are looking for a casual wedding location, this is a nice one.
I had thought I wanted a fun, casual picnic wedding and it wasn't until I was standing in the picnic pavilion that I was like, "this isn't really what I want." We want our wedding to be fun, but a picnic wedding won't really suit us. Especially not here. However, if you were looking for a nice space to have a pavilion picnic wedding, this is probably as nice as it gets - and since there aren't picnic tables already, you don't have to move them.
There are a couple of issues that I had with the setting - its in the boatyard, and so its loud - I can imagine there being a lot of people taking their boats in and out on the weekend. It is also mostly surrounded by parking lot on three sides. The fourth side is the noisy air conditioner/generator/something. I don't know if that would run on weekends, but it would be something to consider. There also isn't a great ceremony space. This is the gazebo next to the pavilion.
I wasn't sure if the grass was level enough or the space was large enough to fit 130 people next to the gazebo. If possible, it would be nice, but I would prefer for the ceremony space to be a little less close to the pavilion, etc. I feel like if you have the pavilion right there, people are watching the caterers set up instead of watching your ceremony. Some people would do the wedding in the pavilion itself, and that could be very nice although it rushes the caterers during cocktail hour. There also isn't a ton of space to have cocktail hour.
If it rains, there are going to be some problems - for example, the bathroom is pretty close to the pavilion, but you would still have to leave it to go to the bathroom.
Ultimately, the pavilion isn't right for us - but that's not to say that it would be wrong for everyone. You get a lot of freedom with it - can use any caterer you want, with appropriate insurance, can bring in your own alcohol with appropriate insurance. You have to rent your own chairs and tables, which gives a nice amount of freedom. This would be a great place for two people who are really into boats to get married, because you can walk around the boat yard and take awesome boat pictures (or bring your own boat!). It's not really appropriate if you're looking for a fabulous beachfront location - it's a marina - meaning a boat parking lot. You could have some fun nautical touches with the reception, etc.
The handicapped access was also disappointing - the parking lot is not paved, and there is no reserved spaces near the ramp to the pavilion. There is a handicapped bathroom. There are also 3 other co-ed bathrooms. Another issue is that there is no place for anybody to get ready here, and that would be frustrating for us.
So while finding the perfect venue is difficult, it is easy to know when a place isn't right, and this definitely was one of them.

Barbie has been jilted a lot.

As a child, I never understood why Barbie had so many wedding dresses and yet Ken remained her "boyfriend". Maybe it's because she hadn't found "the one" dress yet.....
Barbie and Ken did break up a few years ago, so I'm not sure who Barbie is marrying this time. So I'm going with the words of Scarlett from Four Weddings and a Funeral, "It's a really lovely dress - I'm sure she'll find it useful for parties and such..." I love that dress. Even though I look nothing like Barbie, I think I would look pretty good in it...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

On Location: Quiet Waters Park

One venue I found out about a while ago that I filed away in my "when he finally asks" folder was Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis with the Blue Heron Room. At around $1400 for a rental, the Blue Heron Room is one of the most reasonably priced venues in Annapolis. It also had the flexibility with catering that we were looking for, and would give us plenty of woodsy and natural areas to take pictures in. I drove down today to meet with Mary so she could show me the room, and it was by far one of the shortest venue visits I had done - which I appreciated, because I had a dentist appointment to get to.
The park itself is beautiful, and fairly peaceful, and would be a really fun place to go for a picnic with family members.

The Blue Heron Center itself is really nice - its a fairly basic space, but would allow for a lot of decoration. And the outdoor ceremony spot is pretty.

The ceremony location was outside on the patio. You can either rearrange the benches to face the bride and groom and seat the elderly and handicapped, or you can bring in chairs (but you have to rent them yourself.) If you have 75 people or fewer, you can have the ceremony at the South River Overlook or the Gazebo (the first picture above). This requires an additional $175 rental for two hours and you have to pay that even if you only want to use the Gazebo/Bridge/Overlook for pictures (which I would recommend - they are really nice spots). I actually didn't go over to the Overlook because I got lost leaving - it would actually involve a separate drive or fairly long walk.
The room could be really beautiful with flower garlands over the windows (there are hooks already built in) and candlelight centerpieces. I was turned off by the fact that the lighting isn't really as bright as I would like. It fits 150 people and comes with tables and chairs included in the rental.
I liked that the center was in a quiet park and surrounded by greenery. I like that they are flexible about whatever caterer you would like to use, and kind of leave you to your own devices for your wedding - so you can do whatever you want without some coordinator being like, "well, you should really do it this way instead." I thought the ceremony space was a little small and I didn't like the lighting. I also liked that the dance floor was built in. There is no space for the bride to get ready on site, which is a disadvantage.
The entire space is extremely handicapped accessible - there is handicapped parking right out front and a ramp. There is also a large parking lot right there.
I think if you are deciding between the BH center and a local community center hall or hotel ballroom, the BH center is a much nicer option. I didn't like it better than most of the other indoor spaces we looked at, but as a budget option it is definitely a good one.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pre-marital self-counseling

I was talking to a friend this morning who is going in to take his FOCCUS test with his fiance, and he was saying he was surprised to find that 10-25% of couples who take it end up ending their engagement. So I got to thinking about pre-marital counseling. Some states will discount your marriage license if you go through the counseling - and if it prevents even 1 in 10 divorces, I'm sure it saves the state enough money to be worth it. I wouldn't mind doing some kind of pre-marital counseling, even though I feel like we're pretty solid, just to have a grip on what will be coming down the road. So then the question is where to go?
Even if we get married with an officiant from my church, we will probably not have to do pre-marital counseling. Unitarians don't go for that "organized religion" stuff - I think it is easy to say that we Unitarians are the least organized religion. I think so at least. I like that. But because we won't "have" to do premarital counseling, I'm looking around at our various "self-help" options, as well as consider some outside options. (Here is a place in Baltimore, and bonus - they do weekend and evening appointments!)
Unfortunately, a lot of the pre-marital counseling books out there seem to be a little biblical. I'm not interested in having strong Christian foundations for our marriage.
So I hunted around on the UU Bookstore website - and came upon The Bridge Called Respect - which has a short description, "Facilitates fresh and communicative discussion about gender issues. Addresses all contexts in which women and men work together - romantic and platonic relationships, religious communities and the workplace. Includes writing exercises, activities, ground rules and readings."
I'm not sure if its marital or not, but it looks interesting - and it is avalible for $1.00 used off Amazon (or $12 at the UU bookstore online.) Considering how great the UU church was growing up about how to deal with dating and relationships in high school, I am somewhat disappointed that there is not more out there in terms of premarital counseling (I'm sure it is an option, but I can't find it.)
This one looks fairly secular, and if you want to buy into it all the way, you can buy the separate women's and men's workbooks.
Has anybody tried any non-religious pre-marital counseling, either book or live?

Don't you know you can't compare yourself to somebody else?

I keep telling myself this. But I can't shake the feeling that we are being unusually picky about the venue hunt. Maybe this is because of our friends who all got engaged after us, we are the only ones still looking for a venue. When people ask them if we've found a place yet, and we say no, and they ask us where we've looked and we list the oh, six or seven places we have gone, they look horrified. At our cousin's engagement party, and at my end of finals party, and on venue visits, people were all wondering why we were looking at so many places. Some people asked what was taking so long, whether we were unusually picky. The implication being that we are the problem, not the venues that happen to be around here.
Right. It has to be us, not the fact that every place around here (that fits 130 people) fails at least one of the three of our criteria - being reasonably priced, handicapped accessible, and located close enough to 95 that nobody is driving more than 4 hours to the wedding.
Maybe we're picky because we want a space that feels right for us - for both of us. Part of the problem is that we are not the same person, so we react differently and feel differently in a space. Places like Chase Court suited Mark a lot more than me, the historic mansions suit me a lot more than Mark.
We also want a lot of control over the food, and there is a specific vibe we are going for, with the caterer and the venue people. We will be much more likely to go with a place where we like the person, and let me give you a few hints as to what makes me dislike a person:
1) Talking to me and ignoring Mark.
2.) Saying "this is how we do this" and acting pained when we ask if we could do something else, then saying, "I guess we could do that - but it really wouldn't work."
3.) Acting like we should be willing to sacrifice our guest's comfort or happiness.
4.) Not getting back to us when we follow up with you.
We also have more time to be picky. Nowhere is booked yet for our date except Cloisters, and we won't cry if we don't get the date (well, its more likely that we would now because Mark just found out an interesting factoid about 10/10/10), so there is a lot of flexibility.
I worry that our pickiness is a sign that the WIC has a hold of us, that we've been sucked into the idea of having a single perfect day together - when the truth is that we have a lot of perfect days - that we want the location that when we walk into it, angels start to sing and a spotlight comes down from heaven and we immediately start to cry and say, "yes! this is where we are getting married!"
I don't expect that. Really. And no place is actually going to be perfect - but most of them are decent - so what is our holdup! Why can't we just pick one? Why is this so hard!?! Are we ridiculous for holding out like this, or is the perfect venue really out there?

Monday, May 11, 2009

On Location: Historic Waverley Mansion

Next up on the seemingly endless list of historic houses with tents: Historic Waverley Mansion.  This one is about 20 minutes outside Baltimore on I-70 and has connections to the Dorseys and Howards whose names you see everywhere [interesting note from the guy who runs the place: John Eager Howard built most of Baltimore's downtown area, and named it after himself; after using up his actual name on John, Eager, and Howard Streets (John Street has been renamed, I can't remember what to), he started on battles he'd fought in: Camden, Lexington, Saratoga...]

The house is quite a bit smaller than some of the others we've seen; we're okay with that since we don't really plan on using any of the indoor space anyway.  There's a sitting room, a dining room that would be set up with hors d'oeuvres, and a back room where an overflow bar could be set up to handle the post-ceremony rush.  Upstairs there are staging areas for the bride and groom (separate staircases - handy).  That's pretty much it.  We liked that their rules and limitations were pretty reasonable - no red wine inside the house, but you can still serve it outside, and nobody's going to slap a guest around if they're still carrying it when they go inside to use the bathroom.  No artificial petals or confetti but stuff that will biodegrade is okay (presumably only outside).  They don't have a restrictive catering list, just a list of suggestions.  Handicapped accessibility is good - there's a brick path from the parking lot to the tent/patio, and easy access into the first floor of the house (where there's a handicapped bathroom).  The rest of the property is flat too; it'd be more difficult to wheel someone over the grass, but nothing that should require any extreme measures...

The tent is a pole tent, meaning there's no messy framework at the top, just two poles in the center of the tent (not that I've really noticed the frame anyplace else, but Walter pointed it out). It's on a large brick patio that can seat 150 (I think that may be without a dance floor, which you can rent separately by the SF), and has the standard sides that you can choose to use or not, along with a marquee connecting it to the house so you can seal everything off completely in case of bad weather.  As non-permanent tents go it's a fairly nice one.  If your outdoor ceremony runs into weather the backup is to use the tent with guests seated at their tables rather than resetting it all.  

The tent is an extra $600 on top of the listed rental rates - yeah, you can do a small event (100 people?) inside the mansion, but the tent's still going to be there so why not just lump the costs together?  There are various accessories you can add on - pole covers/curtains, a liner for the top (pretties up the canvas), etc.; the info packet includes a nice cost sheet for tallying that all up. 

The grounds are green and well maintained.  One thing we really like is that you have the entire property (and the whole day - 7 hours, 8 if you do a ceremony) so you can go wherever you want.  As we stood outside Walter started pointing and said "you can do a ceremony here at the back of the stone building...there under the cherry trees...there in front of the rusted plow...there in the other can have the bride come out of the woods along that path there, some people even set up a canopy and table and chairs so they can relax and stay cool...that's a clematis I just planted on the side of the stone house, I'm planting another next to it and they'll grow into an arch, so that'll be a nice spot too..."  Basically, there's a big flat lawn with a stone building kind of 2/3 of the way into one corner and surrounded by trees, so you just set up chairs in front of any spot you like.  I'm fairly partial to clematis as my mother had vines sprawling all along the porch of the house I grew up in that would burst into purple bloom in the summer, so I'm particularly interested in seeing how that looks by next year - though they may not be blooming by October.  

Once you add up the various "options" from the rental list, the cost is not quite as low as we'd been hoping (although I like seeing the cost breakdown, vs. getting an all-inclusive price and wondering whether we actually needed everything we were paying for).  Despite that, we really like the space and the flexibility, and being able to select a caterer and buy our own alcohol, so it's pretty high up on the list.  The next week is going to be a marathon of venue visits, hopefully followed by a final decision(!), so being fresh in our memories will probably give it an extra bump...

Free Wedding Resource: The Public Library

One of my all-time favorite wedding resources is the local public library. Wedding books are expensive and annoying. The ones I have I bought used, but when my sister and I needed ideas for flowers and the wedding magazines and blogs weren't cutting it, I couldn't bring myself to buy a bunch of books with pictures of flowers. They were so expensive, and I knew we just needed to look through them once or twice. So I scooted off to the East Columbia Branch of the Howard County Library and checked out 3-4 books of wedding flowers.
The books were great - if you need bouquet ideas, get a book, do not just rely on wedding magazines. Wedding magazines usually show you 3-4 of the latest trendy flowers, instead of grouping them by color, season, or cost, which the books did. I also had a lot of trouble finding good pictures of bouquets online, because the pictures were usually really arty, with only some flowers in focus. The books gave us a much better sense of flowers, and most of them showed a type of flower and then 5-6 bouquets that could be made with the flower. A lot of them also had pretty handy DIY instructions.
I was surprised to find that the Howard County Public Library system had a plethora of wedding books, all for the taking. (They also rent DVDs and CDs - HoCo PL is awesome.) And you can search the catalog online and have books sent to your local library to check out. Since we moved last summer, I'm still familiarizing myself with the Baltimore City system (meaning I went for the first time last week), and I haven't yet checked to see if my Howard County card works here (it says PowerCard on it, so I think its supposed to.) I have checked the catalog online and there are a number of books at our local branch, as well as others in the city.
The Montgomery County system is also excellent, although I have not used it since high school. But I think that public libraries get overlooked a lot these days, and I just wanted to remind those of you who don't want to spend the money on wedding books, but are in search of something a little more tangible than a blog (a big advantage of books is that you can take them to the florist, etc.) Plus, don't forget you can check out books for the honeymoon, CDs for the reception, and DVDs for date night with your sweetie.

Cheap Wedding Resource: Corridor Wine and Spirits

If you are in the area and you are lucky enough to have a venue that lets you BYOB, you need to get yourself to Corridor Wine and Spirits, the Costco of liquor stores.
It is right off 295 in Laurel, and is an excellent place with a helpful and knowledgeable sales staff. Did I mention that everything there is incredibly cheap? Also, it's huge. They have everything. Cases of local microbrews, cases of cheap beer, expensive beer, the option to mix and match six packs, every kind of liquor imaginable, and then a wine section that is bigger than our entire liquor store here in fed hill.
You can also search their inventory online, to check their prices on wine (beer you have to call) and liquor. You can also fill your cart online and pick it up at the store, although I have not yet tried this feature.
We went over the weekend and picked up 2 cases (24bottles) of beer for $30 (so less than a dollar a bottle); plus I finally found Barefoot Vineyards Moscato in smaller bottles and I grabbed a bottle of their Mother's Day wine, Petals Riesling. It was pretty good, for a $7 bottle of wine (probably $10 anywhere else.)
Another idea that Mark suggested for stocking the bar was to go on vineyard tasting tours around Maryland and every time we find a wine we like, buy a case of it, and use that to stock the bar at the wedding. We're going to need backup on that one because I don't like reds, or dry wines. We will probably do that in the fall, but this Saturday is Wine in the Woods, for anybody looking for a good wine tasting experience.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Post : Mother of the Bride Dresses

Happy Mother's Day to everyone. In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I would talk a little about our dress shopping adventures with my sister's wedding to find a MOB dress for our mom.
Our mom is a petite lady and finding a dress for her was a challenge. Finding the right color to go with the blue and yellow color scheme when most of Mom's preferred colors are pink, purple or red is difficult. Also, while my mom is fine picking out clothes for work and stuff, she has trouble with events. So we were on a mission to find a long dress that didn't overwhelm her frame, was a good color (without being beige or taupe or ecru), and that she liked. Eventually we decided that 2 out of 3 wasn't bad. We tried going shopping with her, but my sister was in her first year of her Ph.D. program (my sister is super smart, btw), and I was in my first year of law school, so weekends where all three of us could go dress shopping were few and far between. Mom couldn't really wrap her mind around the concept of the MOB sample dresses at bridal shops so we tried mostly Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, and Neiman's. We found some candidates but were generally discouraged. Then my mom and my dad went shopping while they were in Maine and called us from the road to tell us they had found a dress and bought it.
Isn't it perfect?
Yeah. We didn't think so either. It didn't do justice to her frame, the belt around the waist is a shimmery woven plastic, and did I mention that those chiffon sleeves gather in at the wrist with elastic? Mom liked it, but the color was a royal blue and the bridesmaids dresses were a pacific blue and I never thought blue could clash but it did. It was 1 for 3.
At this point, my sister and I were exhausted and so I did what most people would term a bridezilla thing, but I was the maid of honor and I was doing this in the best interest of the bride. So I fired my mom from the dress search and placed an order through for the two dresses they had online that I thought were good candidates. We came over to the house and made Mom try them on. The dress we ultimately picked was a steely pewter color and only needed some slight alteration (if your mom is petite, she needs a good tailor). My mom eventually decided that she liked the dress, got it altered, and wore it.

I learned several things from this experience.
1.) is totally awesome - you can make returns in store, and they have free shipping, so it costs you nothing to place an order, try a dress on, and return it. They have a much larger selection online, and you can try the dress on at home with all your shoes and proper undergarments, etc.
2.) Sometimes, you just have to make a decision. I was sending my mother links for months, but she'd never really done online ordering with the expectation of returning some of the items, so she didn't really trust it. I often will order the same dress in 2 sizes online, keep the one that fits, and take the other back to the store. Piece of cake. (Not all online stores do in-store returns - I'm looking at you, JoAnn - so check before you order.)
3.) Some people will be unhappy with what you ask them to do or wear for the wedding. Be reasonable. I continued to look around for possible dresses for my mom, until I called her one day from the store to ask if she would like for me to pick up another candidate and she told me she would be wearing the pewter dress. I asked her if she was sure, and she was.
4.) Mom doesn't always know best. I love my mom and she has been right about my career, relationship, computer, camera, and general health care stuff, but fashion is not her strong suit and ultimately we decided to make the decision for her. This was a tough call and it sounds awful to write about. It is very hard to say to your mother that you basically do not care what she thinks.
5.) When it comes to weddings, we frequently make decisions for other people, and as long as you do your best to make sure to take their feelings into account, it is okay to make those decisions. My mom didn't want a strapless dress or anything with spaghetti straps, and nothing with a jacket, and she wanted a long dress. We decided that honoring her concerns about silhouette were more important than honoring her concerns about color.
I watched an episode of Bridezillas recently where the girl had picked out the MOB and MOG dresses without asking either of them what they wanted, and told them to shut up and wear the dresses. I'm not endorsing that. But in our case, it helped to be a bit proactive and simply try to take are of it without going to every store in the mall and spending 8 hours shopping.
This time around, I plan to do the same thing by ordering a bunch of stuff online and having her try it on. I'm hoping that since now she trusts the online ordering/return process a bit more, she will be more willing to join in the process of online shopping and ordering.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Charity Idea: Chesapeake Bay Foundation

So lets say you don't want to do a charity registry, but you still want to use your wedding as a cause for good. If you live in the area and are interested in a waterfront wedding on the bay, check out the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Philip Merrill Environmental Center. It's a good way to support the CBF and have a beautiful wedding. CBF is a little out of our budget (<$4,000), so we haven't looked at it, but if we were dead set on a waterfront wedding, this might be the way to go - you aren't locked in to your own caterer, the way you would be at Celebrations, Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, or Herrington. And the space and the view are absolutely beautiful. And to be as "green" as possible, you get to have the ceremony and reception in the same location - the rental includes the beautiful deck, as well as an indoor space that has a ton of windows.

(And in case you also find the PMC to be a bit cha-ching, but are donating in your guests honor to the CBF and are hoping for a cute favor donation card idea? Crab shaped candies in cellophane bags with a treat tag folded over the top. Or candles shaped like crabs.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Champagne Toasting Flutes

Are you really supposed to bring like, your own champagne glasses to your wedding venue just to toast with? I mean, seriously?
I will tell you that right off the bat, I think that this would be a massive hassle. You have to bring your own glasses and make sure that you take them home. But at the same get to keep your champagne glasses and forever have a reminder of your wedding and when you use them you can say, "we used these on our wedding day." Similar to bringing your own cake server. Which I think we are more likely to do.
I had written off this idea entirely, because we have 2 margarita glasses, 2 white wine glasses from Pier 1, 4 crappy Ikea wine glasses, 2 handblown glasses (left from a set of six...oops), a set of martini glasses...and that's it. No champagne glasses. We might register for them, but uh, I hate champagne.
Then I remembered that I have a set of champagne glasses. I think my grandmother bought them and when she died, my dad asked my grandfather if my sister and I could have them. For some reason, he loves them. My mom doesn't drink, and neither, really, did my grandfather, so I've never seen them used. They're that flatter vintage style and they are rose colored glass.
They are champagne glasses that would probably make anybody with a vintage themed wedding drool. We don't have a vintage themed wedding. As much as I would love the gesture of using a family heirloom to toast with, I also wouldn't want to risk not getting the glasses back, because they are important to my dad and therefore I feel like they should be important to me.

I have also seen fun hand-decorated toasting flutes. This is something I could get on board with - buy some Ikea wine glasses (if somebody would quit breaking ours, we'll just use those), buy some glass etching creme, and then you have toasting glasses. (I'll be toasting with wine - preferably some Barefoot Vineyards Moscatto.)

Does anybody understand the point of toasting glasses?