Monday, November 30, 2009
Wedding planning is mostly about picking your battles and deciding what is worth it, and where you can really let things go. Some people will tell you that it's your day and you shouldn't have to compromise. That is bull. Wedding planning is very similar to other aspects of life.
One battle I picked was long tables. I really really want long tables. I think they help keep things conversational, I think they help make things feel more intimate. It also feels more like Thanksgiving dinner than a corporate banquet. I go to enough corporate events, I don't want our wedding to feel like another charity fundraiser. When you go to a restaurant, you usually sit at long tables and it's fun and it's easy and it's a little different. On the list of things that mattered to me, this was up there.
Another reason to use them is because you can easily dress up plain white fabric with some fantastic table runners and because you can use small centerpieces (or tiny gourds!) spread out down the table and have as much impact as bigger centerpieces. I love the look of the burlap, because even if it's not one of our wedding colors, we could use cranberry thread to tie it in. We could also just do patterned fabric for some variety and fun with color. Or we could do plain colors.
However, life is not without some compromises, no matter what. To get long tables, I was willing to do whatever it took to make Mark more comfortable with the setup. He wanted to have shorter long tables, so they would only be 8 people long. He also wanted to have them more angled. But I'll let him talk about how he got on board with the setup, and the nifty engineering program he used to do it.
What battles have you picked? Did you win them?
Friday, November 27, 2009
Anyway, since Thanksgiving is continuing, and since today is Friday, I wanted to skip Charity Friday and write, instead, about why I'm thankful for the million nameless, faceless people that donate money to causes they believe in. Because I've worked for a lot of charities, and at the end of the day, we remain absolutely dependent on the kindness of strangers to open their wallets. It is the only way that we can continue to do incredibly powerful work that truly helps people in need.
I am thankful for the students at my school that donated over a thousand pounds of canned food to feed people in need this winter. I am thankful that there exist organizations like Team in Training which exist to encourage ordinary people to reach their goals in extraordinary ways. I am thankful that organizations like Goodwill exist, both because I have bagged up 3 bags of goodwill donations while I am here at home, and also because they serve a dual mission of helping people and providing low cost clothing and household goods. I am thankful for the Red Cross. I am thankful that organizations like UBSPI exist, which is an organization at my school which raises goods and services through an annual silent auction. I am thankful that every day, in every way, there are organizations dedicated to watching over our planet and the people on it.
I could not be more thankful for the people that keep these fantastic organizations going. Between the people that donate an extra dollar when they are at the grocery store and the cashier bugs them at checkout, to the people that donate used clothes to Goodwill, that donate new or used kitchen appliances, that give blood, that make a donation to their friend's Team in Training program and the people that simply open their wallets and write checks, we keep the world going. We make it a cleaner, greener, brighter, better, happier, more hopeful place.
So if you've given to charity lately, please know that on the other end of that donation of goods, services, food, blood, or money, please know that on the other end of that donation is somebody who is as thankful as I am.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I'm thankful to have a decent job (and that almost nobody I know has lost theirs), despite my company going through a pretty slow period this past year. I'm also thankful to have a job that many kids and young engineers dream of, and which makes such a great conversation-starter at parties.
As I pointed out at our first Thanksgiving dinner with Ellie's friends last weekend, I'm thankful that for the first time since 2001, I have gone for more than a year without moving, and I'm thankful that even with our complaints about draftiness, lack of storage space, and the parking scenario, we nevertheless have a good apartment in a great location - one where we're (fortunately) happy to be staying for more than a year.
I'm thankful that my family, both immediate and extended, have all been not only willing but enthusiastic to meet Ellie, to get to know her, and to treat her as part of the family (contrary to FOB's standard joke, in our family that doesn't mean 'like dirt'). My parents and sister (aka Bridesmaid L) are excited to be involved with the wedding, are supportive of our decisions, and all around happy for us.
I'm thankful that Ellie's family is equally accepting of me - particularly Margaret, who could have shown me the door before we had even really started to date but instead learned to live with her little sister showing up to hang out with our mutual friends.
I'm thankful that this blog seems to be going so well, and that it has put us in contact with so many other people who are willing to share their experiences - though that is probably helped by the volume of posts, which, again, I can't really take credit for.
And of course, most of all I'm grateful that I have found a woman who puts up with my occasional ranting, is willing to take on an unfair share of the cooking, and is taking on a slightly more than equal share of the wedding planning and doing an amazing job. She makes me happy to come to her every day and to wake up next to her every morning, and I'm thankful that I have a lot more mornings with her to look forward to.
has been my family and my best friend, she has always been there for
me, the only one who can make me laugh when I cry, the person I turn
to when I'm in trouble, the person who cheers me on in everything I
do. I have tried to be the same for her. I am so proud to call her
my sister. She is kind, caring, smart, thoughtful, funny, and
incredibly special. She makes the best mashed potatoes in the entire
When Margaret first met somebody who loved her and worshiped her more
than I did, I was upset. I thought I might lose the person who
mattered the most to me. I secretly thought that J. was to be
waited out. Eventually I realized that J. wasn't going anywhere.
Over the past eight years I have come to know J., and I am
genuinely happy to stand up here today and hand over the job of loving
and worshipping my sister to the one person who does it even better
than I do. I know that he will be the one to cheer her up when she is
sad, he will make her feel like she is worth the world to him, because
she is, he will be her family and her best friend, he will support her
in everything she does, he will be everything she wants and everything
she needs, he will stand up to her and he will stand up for her, and
she will do the same for him, and I know that they will do that for
the rest of their lives.
If you would please raise your glasses to my big sister and my brother-in-law."
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
My parents, who have been beyond supportive of me, of my decisions, of my life and career choices, and my relationship. My parents, who love Mark and embrace him as a member of the family. My parents, who have generously offered to fund this festive event, and who have done so without inquiry, without strings, without nagging, and without reminders that since I am spending their money, they should have a say. My parents, who have supported me financially and emotionally as I fought my way through high school and college and law school. My parents, who always treated me as if I was worthy of finding somebody that would love me like Mark did, even when I wasn't, and even when I didn't think that highly of myself. My parents can be crazy, and can drive me crazy, but at the end of the day, they mean well and they love us. All families and relationships take communication, respect, and the desire to work hard at maintaining relationships. We often talk about how hard marriage is, but maintaining family ties often takes as much, or more, work, and the parties are usually less willing to work on it. It is a struggle for any family, even a close-knit one, to strike the right balance between being too needy or too critical or too crazy or too pushy or too guilt-trippy. I am thankful that my parents work very hard to make our relationship work, and we strive to do the same.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
In the recent past, individual bishops, bishops’ conferences and the Vatican have assumed a tone of such violence and abusiveness toward these sons and daughters of the Church, we can no longer remain silent. Has any other group of people within the Body of Christ been so assaulted and violated by such mean-spirited language? Examples from the most recent Vatican document show all too clearly the demonization of these children of God, referring to homosexuality as a “troubling moral and social phenomenon,” “a serious depravity,” “the spread of the phenomenon,” “approval or legalization of evil,” “grave detriment to the common good,” “harmful to the proper development of human society,” “intrinsically disordered.” Does anyone consider this vile and toxic language invitational?"
Monday, November 23, 2009
If we make wedding beer, I think we'll do it pretty early - four weeks is the minimum for the beer to be ready , but we'd probably want to have it finished earlier to leave time to focus on other things, even though the only time where it actually needs attention will be the first day and two weeks later. A typical batch is 5 gallons, which makes 48 bottles; so, for our planning number of 130 guests, we'd need three batches (okay, probably just two since not everyone drinks beer, but I wanted some extra for myself anyway). Fortunately, among my friends, I think we already own three fermenting buckets, so we could have all the beer going at the same time - but it would be a much longer brew day than our typical 3-4 hours.
The expense isn't too bad either, since my batches so far have worked out close to $1/bottle for ingredients; I don't imagine we'd brew something that involves any particularly pricey or exotic ingredients. We would need to buy more bottles for the wedding ($0.60 each). They'd also need labels, which Ellie is excited about designing, but they do add to the cost - $1 apiece if we order them from www.myownlabels.com, the first site I found in my Googling. So, aside from the goodwill of the friends who I'd be asking to provide equipment and to help with the brewing, bottling, and labeling, we're looking at $2.60 per bottle, about $400 for 150. If we just use large square labels that Ellie has in stock, they drop to $1.75/bottle (adding a few cents for ink, without going through the exercise of calculating the cost of a cartrige) or $260 for the batch.
Oh yeah, and picking a style? I'm already tired of making decisions for this wedding! I can't choose a beer (or even two, probably) that will be agreeable to the domestic macrobrew drinkers and the beer-lovers (who are admittedly in the minority, but whose tastes I am more interested in catering to)!
Alternatively, we could just serve the beer at the wedding. Then, we could reuse the bottles we already own, maybe buying one or two extra cases since some of our bottles have walked, and try to have the bartenders hold onto them; there wouldn't be much need to label them (maybe just one labeled bottle on the bar so people see what's on offer and Ellie gets to do the design). Now we're looking at close to $1/bottle, and we could make two or three batches and supplement with purchased beer.
I think for now the idea of favors is being retired, but if we did decide to do it, I'm at least comfortable that it wouldn't be prohibitively expensive or such a huge hassle that it couldn't be done. Serving our own beer, on the other hand, seems pretty straightforward as long as the caterers don't mind, and could be a lot of fun.
Friday, November 20, 2009
I found these via lifehacker this morning, and although we were planning to use fake moss, live moss would be great! (Fake moss is apparently kinda expensive.) I also love the way the rock looks in the glass jar on top of the moss. There is something so simple and so natural about it. I think we will be using one tall vase with a candle in it (and maybe some moss on the bottom), and then the shorter jars will have moss and rocks, and the tiny vases will have votive candles in them.
Minutes before my sister's wedding, she looked at me in horror.
"I haven't greased my finger!" She said. I knew what she meant - my sister has large knuckles and ridiculously tiny fingers. (Which are the same size as mine.) She was worried that her husband wouldn't be able to get her ring on. I immediately applied some body glide and then we were good to go.
Further, people get nervous at weddings. They sweat and get hot and their fingers swell. So even if the ring fit perfectly before, you might want to grease up. You can also use lotion or petroleum jelly, but those tend to stain and Bodyglide does not.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
The only thing I don't get is the last part about the cord of three stands. Is that reference to God? Other than not getting that, I like this passage. Especially the part about keeping warm, since in our 1825 apartment, we frequently get into bed and then cuddle up for warmth, all the while telling the other person to keep their freezing cold feet away. (I have bad circulation, okay?) I feel like adding in a bible passage will acknowledge both Mark's Christian upbringing and my Catholic/Protestant roots. And what are weddings, if not an opportunity to acknowledge our past and consider how it carries us forward?
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Right now there are a couple great promotions going on with photo companies. Kodak is doing a free $15 gift as part of their Million Thanks Giveaway, which I think can be used on anything. Snapfish, my usual go-to photography purchase site, is doing 100 free prints with any purchase today using code Free5. (I'm not sure whether the purchase has to be another item or what. But if you do need to purchase another item, consider doing a photobook to use as a guestbook, or little mini-flip books to serve as your table numbers. Or a mug. Because who doesn't want a mug with your face on it?)
Mark isn't down yet with sending the traditional photo-holiday card, but I make and mail my own cards at Christmas, so I just slip a print in with them. Sometimes I have to trim them down, because my envelopes are smaller than 4x6.
Another thing you could consider is just sending your save-the-dates out as part of your holiday cards - we all go so fancy on the DIY STD route, but you can really do this very simply. Start by downloading Inkscape. (You can use Gimp, but I find text editing in Gimp to be laborious.) Then open the picture you want to use. Click on the little A icon in the left hand toolbar and add a text box. Type whatever you want in the textbox, then go to Font and pick a font. Then pick a color (depending on the picture, white might work best.) Then click the arrow button and move the textbox around until it is somewhere you might like. You can also make the textbox bigger or smaller and the font size will adjust accordingly. If you want to center your text somewhere on the page, go to "Object" and "Align and Distribute". You can then make the text line up with itself, with the page, etc.
And then, five minutes later, you have your save the date!
Disclaimer: I've never tried to print anything that I've added text to. Does anyone know whether it would be a problem?
Monday, November 16, 2009
-Help a doctoral candidate;
-Increase the pool of scientific knowledge;
-Support research on marriage and families; and
-Spend some time thinking about your relationship!
She is working with Dr. Charlotte J. Patterson, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia. This study has been approved by the University of Virginia Institutional Review Board #2009025800.
If you and/or your romantic partner are interested in participating or want further information, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will send you a link that you can use to access the study.
The more marriage research is out there, the more we will know and understand about marriage! This research benefits all of us, so go take the survey!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Chalkboards, it seems, are very difficult to find these days. Apparently everyone uses whiteboards and smartboards. So I figured I would do the next best thing - make a chalkboard, using chalkboard spray paint.
I went to Michaels (they had tiny "slate"-style chalkboards there, but I'm pretty sure they were meant for painting words on permanently, since they resisted chalk) and picked up a pretty shaped piece of wood (although plywood would have been fine too, I was just at Michaels) and a canister of chalkboard paint. I did end up sanding the edges of this piece of wood, just to avoid splinters.
So I put the piece of wood on a dropcloth, and just started spraying. I wound up doing about 4 coats, just because I was afraid the paint would get wiped off. It was a good size, and a very quick project. I would say aside from my trip to Michaels, I invested about 10 minutes in this project, and 5 of that was finding the sandpaper.
Total cost? $7 - the wood was very cheap, about $3, and the paint was about $7 but I had a 40% coupon so my total cost was $7.
I think it would be really fun to do shapes with pieces of wood, like in the shape of thought bubbles, and then paint them with the chalboard paint, but they also might be awkward to hold up.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Unfortunately, with Ellie's family here in Maryland and mine up in New Jersey, holidays aren't a simple thing to manage. She grew up close with her grandparents - on both sides - and her father's family has developed a great tradition: they celebrate with their in-laws (that is, her mother's family, in her case) on the holiday itself, and get together with each other on an alternate date - the Friday after Thanksgiving, or the weekend before Christmas. This works very well across one generation, but less well when there's a second generation with their own in-laws involved.
Two years ago, we spent Thanksgiving Day apart, but Thanksgiving Friday together. At Christmas, we spent Sunday evening with Ellie's father's family, drove up to NJ for Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day (Tuesday), then drove back down for Christmas dinner with her grandmother. This mostly worked out well (except that Ellie found herself missing her family, particularly during the church service, and we had to rush early dinner with my family to arrive late at dinner with her family).
Last year, we stayed in Maryland for Thanksgiving, but had my parents down for an early dinner at our apartment (which, all things considered, went rather well, I thought) and then sent them on their way and dashed over to dessert with Ellie's family, followed by Friday Thanksgiving with her other side. We spent Christmas Eve and morning with her family, swung by the family dinner for cooking and appetizers, and ate sandwiches on our way up to NJ for the remainder of the weekend. This might have worked if my mom hadn't been working the next morning and so couldn't just bump the entire Christmas festivities back by 24 hours.
So far, we've managed to miss half of nearly every holiday meal with Ellie's grandmother, but at least had a chance to see everyone on or close to each holiday. This year Ellie said she was determined to avoid "crippling" her dinners, so we're doing it divorce-style and splitting holidays. We're spending Thanksgiving in Maryland (possibly inviting my parents down at some point over the weekend) and Christmas in New Jersey. This actually makes a ton of sense, since we'll be seeing my family not too long before Thanksgiving anyway, and we had already planned to fly out of Newark the day after Christmas for our dive trip with E's family. We'll see how it works...maybe the third time really is the charm and this will be the model we use going forward. Of course, we'll have to hammer out a whole new solution if/when my sister gets married.
How do those of you with geographically diverse families handle holidays? Do you expect any changes once you're married, or is it only when you have kids that you really start to be able to call the shots? Or, if your families are close by, do you get them all together or do you party-hop?
Monday, November 9, 2009
Although, in all fairness, the penguin did try to bite me.
But it didn't hurt very much, and I was able to drown my sorrows in many kinds of delicious cheese.
Oh, and I can't forget the awesome March Hare or whatever it's real name was.
The bunny is on the left. My dad is on the right. It was a darn good time.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I could have avoided the drama and the issues. I could have just my sister and Mark's sister, who are both similar sizes and have some measure of financial security, and whose schedules I feel like I can be more controlling of, because they are family. But at the end of the day, I cannot imagine my life without these girls, and therefore I cannot imagine getting married without them there to help me and support me. I hope that I can remember that somewhere down the line when issues come up, and for right now, I'm just super-excited to have them by my side.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
We even got my grandmothers to take a swing!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Then I headed out, with a car full of set-up items, to meet my family and bridesmaids out at Brookeville Academy in Olney.
I had asked bridesmaid S. to come early and to bring balloons to mark the front door. She took it one step further and made us balloon centerpieces, which were too cute. The place looked amazing.
The one thing my sister had told me about having the party at a place like Brookeville and not at a restaurant was that she did NOT want to be the person going out to buy extra ice. I promised her 11 times she would not have to go buy ice. Then, when we placed the order with the catering company, I told my dad to make sure he ordered at least 8 bags of ice. The catering people promised to bring extra ice.
You can guess where this is going, right? We didn't have enough ice. My dad went out to buy more, because we had to fill this massive cooler:
Somewhere around here the wheels really started to come off the wagon for me. My mother was asking me what I wanted to do about fitting another table in the room. I didn't know. I didn't care. I had been told that somebody else would deal with this stuff. And they were asking me. Not Mark, me. Suddenly it all felt like a lot of responsibility to make sure this party happened. I started sniping at my mom and acting incredibly childish, just because I was so overwhelmed. My sister was busy setting up a surprise in the other room and she wouldn't let me see it. But my mom kept saying "what do you want to do with X" and I didn't know what X was so I would just snap at her that I wasn't allowed in the back.
Bridesmaid S. helped calm me down and keep me sane and was overall amazing. Eventually my sister was ready and hauled me into the back room to see this:
She had printed out pictures of us from the last 6 years and attached them to cardstock (in our wedding colors!) and set them up by our save-the-dates and "guestbook" (aka how we got everyone's addresses - sneaky!)
Oh, and did I mention these?
Yes, M&Ms with our faces on them. Which were delicious. And a little creepy. But still totally awesome. As soon as I saw these, my heart totally melted and I realized how bitchy and completely unreasonable I was being. I relaxed and smiled and hugged my sister and helped put the little dishes of m&ms on the tables by the balloon centerpieces. I also ate a lot of m&ms. Which helped too. Then we finished setting up. I made spiked lemonade to go in a big jar, and put out the wine for people to drink.
People started showing up - and they all showed up on time, and fast! Things got crazy pretty quickly, and I don't have pictures of most of the food or eating, which I'll talk about in a later post.
The setup for the party had a lot to do with my decision to hire a day-of-coordinator. I suppose I should say "our" but as I said yesterday, since I will be the person that the caterer, the parents, the friends, the musicians, the photographer, the dj, the officiant all come to to ask about the day, I feel comfortable making this call regardless of what Mark thinks. I do not want to be sniping at my sister before the ceremony. I don't want to be fielding questions on where the tables go. I want the good feelings - the loving the setup that other people have done the work on, the appreciating the small gestures of the people I love, without the bad feelings.
Monday, November 2, 2009
To me, the watermark is as simple as signing your work. You would sign any photograph you mat and frame and submit to an art exhibit, correct? So why wouldn't you sign your work online?
It's also a great way to spread buzz. This article discusses the watermark as a marketing tool. Early on, I actually watermarked all the images that we posted in our Flickr Gallery, so that people would see them and find their way to the blog to read our review of the venues.
So how do you make a watermark? There are tutorials available online - if you are a "real" photographer, I imagine you use Photoshop or Lightroom 2; but I am a student who can't justify the expense so I get by with the Gimp, which is a pretty great program. Watermarking in The Gimp or Photoshop can be extremely simple. You can also create a watermark in the Gimp or Photoshop and simply batch watermark an image using this program, which is also great for resizing photos for blogs or galleries. (Try using this tutorial to create a watermark with your logo.)
As a consumer, I never mind seeing photographs that have been watermarked, unless the watermark is enormous and over people's faces. Trust me, it only helps you and potentially protects you from intellectual property theft. The only downside to watermarking is the small amount of time it takes to do it.
It is also something that my fellow bloggers may want to consider. There are even online applications that will add a watermark for you, which is pretty cool, and very easy.
Does anyone have any recommendations for programs, etc. they use for watermarking?