Thursday, December 30, 2010

Photobooks

Christmas is over and our parents have received their photobooks, so I can write a quick review.  We used Snapfish and I'm very very pleased with the results.  We got a honeymoon book made with Blurb, but the price is high and the quality isn't better than Snapfish's.  I looked around at some of the other places prices, but they seemed pretty high, or didn't have many layout choices, or their upload process was obnoxious.  So we went with Snapfish.  A huge advantage turned out to be that they got to us on time - we got them in about 4 days, four and two weeks before Christmas.  I ordered my parent's album first, to make sure we liked it, and in case we made any mistakes, and then Mark's parents was ordered two weeks later.

We got the 12" Signature Leather Albums.  I worked up cases for them for our parents out of the burlap that our chair covers came in - this was a super easy project and a fun way to make the albums a little more special.  Oh, and it got rid of the leftover burlap.
I made holiday tags this year by using a 1 1/2 inch punch, writing names, and then safety pinning them to the bags.  It worked really well and I highly recommend it.
Snapfish also sent the albums in a pretty cardstock case.
The first page has a vellum overlay, and then the first actual page.  
The paper is not terribly thick (it doesn't feel cheap, but it also doesn't feel impressive) and the book isn't lay-flat.  
Another thing to keep in mind - with a paper-page photobook, 20 pages is not enough.  It doesn't feel impressive.  It looks pretty sad.  We did grandparent albums and they were 20 pages each.  The covers were thicker than the pages!  So for these, we learned from that and doubled the number of pages.  The albums were both over 40 pages long - which is the minimum I would say you should have if you want an "impressive" feeling album.  

I feel like the full page spreads are really nice, especially in the 9x11 books, but with the 12x12 books, the full page spreads were a bit overwhelming.  My favorite layout wound up being one with a large picture and then three small pictures on top or underneath.  I love that with the 12x12 book, even the small pictures aren't very small.  

Cons include the shinyness of the pictures.  On a scale of 1-10, I would put the quality of the printing around a 6-7.  The shininess, and graininess, of the photos is the contributing factor there.  

Also, when you go to the snapfish website and make a 12x12 book, the layouts they give you are all short - they are meant for the smaller books.  You can instead pick a 1-photo layout, and then add the images directly to the page.  This will force the software to add additional images and format them.  It actually did a really nice job formatting and taking into account how an image was oriented.  

I combined 3 different "sets" of Snapfish backgrounds, which I didn't know you could do (and I didn't do for our grandparent albums.)  I used a wedding one with borders, a navy one, and a "naturals" set.

Last page of one album

Last page of the other.  I felt like the text was actually redundant, since we had put the date and our names on the front as well, but my mom likes photos to be labeled.  

The leather cover is a bit padded, which is nice.  

There's a doofy glossy page and snapfish logo at the very back.  I wish they had just put in another sheet of vellum.  

You can usually get 25-35% off and free shipping deals with Snapfish - plus, our grandparent albums were buy-one-get-two-free, so those were very reasonable.  Would I make this as our wedding album that we will keep for years and years?  Probably not - the quality isn't high enough, and Mark really wants a flush mount.  But if your budget for an album for yourself is $50, I'd say these albums are a pretty good way to go.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Aftermath

I expected to have pretty severe post-wedding depression, and I did, but it wasn't at all what I thought it would be.

I expected to miss the planning.  I expected to feel let down.  I expected to feel like the best day of my life was behind me and now I had nothing to look forward to.  Instead, I felt relieved.  I looked forward to Sunday mornings at the farmer's market and going back to church and riding my bike with my husband.  I looked forward to winter races and the possibility of a spring vacation.

My husband got up at 6:30 on Christmas to come to the reservoir at sunrise with me. Marriage is awesome.  
Mostly because his parents now let us share a bed.

Did I do a large amount of rehashing the wedding in my head?  Yes, because this is what I do for a living, to some extent - I plan events for work or for student groups, and then we talk through them afterwards and decide what will work better next year.  It was a lot of adjustment to remember that there would be no next time.  But that's okay - I have all of you to boss around and tell what to do and what to care about.  

The severe depression that hit me was more because I was completely emotionally bankrupt.  I do not recommend working on a political campaign and planning a wedding at the same time.  Working on the campaign required me to call in favors, return favors, and generally feel exhausted all the time.  I was also living with my parents, which takes its own toll.  After the wedding, I packed back up and moved back home for the last three weeks of the campaign.  My grandmother got very very sick around this time, and we knew the end was coming and I knew I wouldn't make it out to see her.  I was also getting bar results right after the campaign was over.  Plus, once the campaign ended, I was out of a job and there is something terrifying about knowing that unemployment is just around the corner, and the job market is totally dry.  I had put so much of myself into the wedding, the campaign, and trying to take care of my family that by the time election night rolled around, I begged out of the victory party early, went home, and cried.  

You might not be in exactly my circumstances, but like Mouse has talked about a lot, the post-wedding stress is very difficult, because you have put so much of your life on hold.  I managed to come out of my emotional bankruptcy with a restructuring plan, and am mostly okay these days, except that unemployment kind of sucks.   Anyway, here is what helped me:
1.) Don't plan anything.  Not having anything planned helped remind me what was so great about not being in the throes of wedding planning, but also what was so great about being unemployed.  Not having anything to do is one of the few advantages of unemployment.  I would say try not to plan anything for a full month after your wedding.  Schedule spur of the moment dinners with friends and make Velveeta mac & cheese rather than making a lot of effort.  
2.) Write thank you notes.  Nothing helps with emotional bankruptcy like writing heartfelt thank-you notes.  It's one of the few ways you can pay back everything you owe everyone after the wedding.  We also sorted out the thank-you gifts for most people, except our ushers, who we still haven't gotten anything for because nothing is good enough, especially my brother-in-law.  (Yeah, yeah, we know, we suck.)  Also, getting your thank-you notes out only a month after the wedding will make you feel REALLY good.  
3.) Get Sh*t Done.  Open your gifts, exchange the ones you aren't keeping, and recycle all of the packaging.  Freecycle/craigslist any leftover stuff - don't let it sit around for months "meaning" to sell it.  Return everything you borrowed, donate what you can't repurpose, and start repurposing what you do plan to use.  It's cathartic to not have the ghost of your wedding hanging around.  
4.) Design your album.  This will let you relive the wedding, but also be happy that it's over.  Don't dwell on things that make you angry or things that went wrong - yes, this gets much much easier with time.  Design books for your parents.  
5.) Use your gifts.  I bake a lot now, and yes, I gained ten pounds, but everytime I use our KitchenAid and every time I use our food processor and every time I break out the Le Creuset cast iron skillet or french oven, it feels like love.  And I remember that there are people that love us, every day, and they don't love us because they came to our wedding - they came to our wedding because they love us.  It makes the guilt about all that work and all that money for one day feel smaller.  
6.) Craft.  I made a lot of Christmas gifts this year and found it to be very cathartic.
7.) Focus on other people.  I don't mean doing volunteer work (although that helps too) - I mean hang out with the friends you've ignored while wedding planning, and go to events, and have a good time with people you like.  Chances are you have friends who are engaged or having kids or doing something else like that - check in with them.  Do things for other people, without thinking about how you would do it, or trying to vomit advice on them.  (It's hard.)

I hope this helps you, if you go through what I went through.  Don't be afraid to talk to people about how you're feeling - chances are, they will be understanding and not just say, "you're sad because the wedding is over and not everything is about YOU!"  Talking helps, and other people might have some good advice or words of wisdom.  

Happiness on the dotted line?

So last week on Twitter, Bunny booked her reception and then tweeted about being nervous about it and feel like she should feel happy.  We all told her that "should" has no place in wedding planning.

The first big wedding thing I plunked down money for?  My dress.  And as soon as I had put the card on the counter, all I felt was anxious that I would change my mind.
I bought a dress before we had a venue, before it fit me, before we really knew what kind of wedding we had.  And it made me happy, in a "yay I got a good deal and I love the skirt" kind of way, but over time, it made me nervous because it didn't look anything like the other dresses I had fallen in love with.  

But like marriage, weddings are a question of choosing to take what you do have over everything you could have.  My dress isn't everything I wanted it to be, and it isn't the last dress I'll ever wear.  

When we locked in our venue, we felt relieved, but I also felt incredibly, indescribably nervous.  Mark's parents hadn't even seen it yet; what if they hated it?  Also, there were only 5 caterers on the list and the 3 that I had talked to were pretty far out of our price range (and non-responsive).  This was not reassuring.  It was very very nerve-wracking, but we were secure knowing that we had considered as many options as we could reasonably consider, and that Irvine was as close as we would get to perfect.  


The only contracts I felt really happy after we signed were our florist and our room contract.  
Our florist because it was a relief to know we weren't doing it ourselves, and we were getting great quality for a minimal amount of money.  I was super excited to be using somebody I trusted and who I knew did really great work.

All this, and more, for under $400.  Call Judy today!
The room contract felt really good to get signed because it was overdue and some family members were freaking out that we hadn't had a contract.  Also, it was the only thing in wedding planning that was free, so it made us pretty happy.  

Also, it's no surprise that our florist contract made me happy - it was probably the lowest priced contract we signed.  Signing away $400 is nothing compared to signing away $10,000.  

Also, I would recommend, when you do sign contracts, put the dates that the next deposit is due in the calendar - your vendors are probably not going to be on top of this - we heard from Judy that our final deposit was due, and only then did we realize we were a month overdue on our venue contract and a few weeks overdue on our catering contract.  So try to stay on top of that - because it really will slip through the cracks, and the last thing you need is to think you paid up and find out you didn't on your wedding day.  

What contracts made you feel good, bad, or anxious?  

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bridesmaids and Groomsmen

Way back when we talked about what we wanted, we wanted a casual-feeling wedding in the woods that was somehow still classy.  I wanted short dresses for bridesmaids that didn't match.  I wanted the groomsmen and Mark to wear suits that they owned and hang it all if they didn't match.
How did that go?
By Prema Photographic

Yeah.  Bridesmaids kind of want to wear the same dresses.  It's a bit of a badge of honor, and it's part of what being a bridesmaid really means.  It means they love you enough to wear an overpriced ugly dress.  Depending on your bridesmaids.  Mine wanted to be Bridesmaids, with all the horror and expense it involved.  Each of the bridesmaids said something along the lines of, "you can't just tell us to wear the same navy blue dress. It won't look right."  So then it was trying to find a line of dresses that had an option that everybody liked.  That didn't really happen, so finally we went to Bella Bridesmaid and I said, "you're getting the blue one with the weird belt and I'm making you wear a sash."  
I was happy though, because I loved the way the dresses looked on everyone - and with my dress.  
The groomsmen wound up in tuxes because it was the only part of the whole wedding that Mark's dad felt strongly about.
The guys looked great, the green vests were fantastic, and Mark's tux fit him really really nicely.  
I had been concerned about the "level of formality" of our wedding, but in the end, I was pretty happy with the attire.  Did I feel like our wedding was overly formal?  Not at all.  Because even when you are dressed in black tie formalwear, you're still the same person underneath.
If you don't make the wedding itself super-formal, and your guests sit on picnic benches, it'll all be alright.  And even if it's not alright, it's still alright.  

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wedsites

Okay, so nobody really uses your wedding website to find out about the wedding, and they will ask you things in the week before like "what time is the wedding?" and "what is the hotel".  But nonetheless, it is nice to have a wedding wed-site, and I liked our google site because it made it easy to RSVP to the wedding, and it was free.  But really, we had a lot of other free options, and if I was doing it again, I would do our wed-site differently.

However, what I might have opted to do instead is create a Shutterfly Share Site.  Which I did on Christmas Eve to get 30 free prints.
It has a sleek layout and easy-to-use photo marquee.  

I thought I would just create the site and then leave it be and never touch it again because hey, I only did it for the free prints.  But it's really easy to use, you can post photo albums and blog-post type details, add a bunch of neat pages, add a calender, and do other stuff.  You can also create your own custom-ish URL which is way easier to remember than the Knot's free wedsite URLs.  The only con seems to be there is no way to do an RSVP site, but if you are not doing online RSVPs, then it's no problem.  

You can also password protect your Share Site.  The really great thing though, is that you can let other people add photos and videos to your site, so it could be used after the wedding for uploading (I have no idea what the file limits are).  

The features that the Share site has that make it great for a free wed-site are:
1.) Easy album uploading.  It would have been nice to have a place to upload pictures directly to as we got them, especially pictures of things like our engagement shoots, etc.  It was annoying to upload those to our google site, so we didn't.  
2.) Easy blog-posting.  It might have been nice to have a family blog where we could post things like, "We just booked our honeymoon! We're going to San Francisco and San Diego!"
3.) Easy updating and editing.  Our google site was kind of a pain to update - I kept creating pages, and then updating them but not listing them in the right path so they wouldn't show up and every time I had to remember the right path.  It was kind of a pain.  
4.) Pretty templates
5.) Lets guests order prints directly from your album, so you can upload pro-pics and then they can order right from there.  
6.) You can transfer it easily to being not-wedding-y by changing the background and transitioning it into your family/grown-up site.  

So in review: Shutterfly Share = Easy and Pretty and lasts beyond the wedding.  Give it a chance - it's free and you can delete it if you hate it.  And you get 30 free prints, plus 50 just for signing up for a Shutterfly account.  

Shutterfly did not sponsor this post, I was just really impressed by the Share site and wanted to share it with you.  

Friday, December 24, 2010

A guide to splitting holidays

I had lunch with my bridesmaids last weekend and we talked splitting holidays.  One was saying that they didn't feel like actually splitting holidays (Thanksgiving with one family, Christmas with the other) was possible until they were engaged.  But the problem is, when you live together and you feel like a family, you try to spend holidays together.  But you can't leave one family for the other unless you are engaged and therefore really your own family making your own decisions.  I get that, because we tried to make it work many many ways before we came up with our final decision.  Which supposedly was to "spend one holiday with one family and spend the other holiday with the other family" but really hasn't wound up like that.

The conclusion we have come to is that nothing but Christmas Morning At His House will do to make Mark feel like his Christmas needs have been met.  (There is a bacon casserole involved.)  Nothing but Thanksgiving in Bethesda will make me feel like my Thanksgiving needs have been met.*  So we work everything else around those two constants.  This year, his family came to us for Thanksgiving, which was lovely.  After a nice Thanksgiving midday meal, they headed home and we drove down to my Grandma's.  For Christmas this year, we will go to his family for Christmas eve and Christmas morning, and then drive down to my Grandma's.  We will have my family Christmas on the morning of the 26th and then head to Christmas/Hannukah with my Dad's side of the family.  The midday Christmas drive is really not bad if you are not "missing out" on something - one year, we went to my Grandmother's before Christmas dinner to say "hi" and then hit the road as everybody was sitting down at the table - we missed out.  In fact, it's a nice way to talk together and reflect on the day.

There are many many ways to deal with the holidays.  Instead of telling you what to do, I will offer the following suggestions of Ways to deal with the holidays of Christmas and Thanksgiving**:

1.) Don't kill yourself to make everyone happy.  Unless you are with your parents for all of Christmas and you are 5 years old and love your new bike, the holidays aren't going to be Just Like When You Were a Kid.  So accept that things will be different, and figure out what you and your partner need, and honor that while still honoring your family.  Remember: your parents went through this process as well, so they will understand, at least a little bit.  They're just going to be sad, and you are too, and that's okay.  Just try not to cry in church.
2.) Don't make derisive comments about, for example, his family being "immigrants and therefore not real Americans and therefore do not need to celebrate Thanksgiving."
3.) Don't try asking the hostess about the guest list and then deciding where to spend holidays based on that.
4.) Don't use split holidays and travel during the day as an excuse not to bring food.  Stop somewhere and buy a f*cking pie.**
5.) DO communicate your plans to your families early enough that they might adjust their plans accordingly.
6.) Don't be married to tradition.  In fact, you are married to your partner, or will be.  Go read How the Grinch Stole Christmas and then remember that Christmas comes without packages and trimmings and strings, and even if you can't decorate the tree with your family on Christmas eve, Christmas will happen anyway.
7.) Don't suggest to your parents and siblings that once you are married, everything will change all at once because You Are Married and A Grownup And They Don't Matter.  If you want to say this, do it nicely. May I suggest, "we're so excited to start our own family and traditions."  
8.) Don't suggest that just because he doesn't have any family in this country and Thanksgiving dinner is just him/her and his parents and siblings, it is therefore not a Real Holiday.
9.) No unyielding bitchiness.  Compromise is key.  You will regret saying mean things and they will taint your holidays.
10.) DO thank your in-laws and your parents for being flexible and accepting your new baby family (even if you think they could do a better job).  I regularly remind my mother-in-law that it is lovely that they are so flexible with time of meals, so that we can make it to my (more rigid) Grandmother's dinner.  We also regularly thank my parents for being willing to celebrate Christmas in different places or different times or on different days.  Thanking people goes a long way towards making them feel like they did a good job of navigating the tricky waters of holiday sharing.

*Mark's little sister and her husband have announced they want to host Thanksgiving next year.  My really bitchy response was something along the lines of, "That will be lovely. We're not coming."  In all fairness, since my friends are all Jewish, nobody comes home at Christmastime and Thanksgiving is my only chance to see people.  I also keep losing grandparents and I want to spend the holidays we have left with them.  Nonetheless, I should have been nicer.
**Jews have their own problems, but I don't have experience with how to split Sedars, so excuse the Christian overtones here.  
***Or help do the dishes.  My biggest pet peeve is people who don't cook and don't help.  

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Look for Light, not for Backgrounds"

I saw this piece of advice from Jenna Cole recently and felt like it applied really well to our group portraits, and the advice I now give people getting married - look for light, not for backgrounds.  Or more specifically, "eff obsessing over backgrounds."  Because the thing is, the backgrounds don't really matter as much as you think they do.  In fact, they barely matter.  They matter a bit for your individual pictures, but for group pictures? Not really.  You take group pictures so you can focus on the people in the pictures.

I know, I know, you're thinking, "that crazy girl, what does she know, she doesn't have my super perfect amazing venue with the fantastic places to take pictures."  Have you met our venue?  When I tally up my list of regrets a big one is how much time it took up to go back to the gazebo and the fields when we could have gotten some really beautiful shots at our ceremony site or thereabouts, without going all the way back to the gazebo.
We wanted to use the tree stumps for group pictures, but then we wound up not doing it because we prioritized being in the woods.  I think it would have looked great, and meant not going very far.  I think we could have saved 20+ minutes this way, which would have made a huge difference in reducing our stress and maybe let us enjoy more of the cocktail hour.
We took exactly three pictures in front of the gazebo before Kiersten told us, "now lets get out of these dark woods and into the light!"  Just look at the differences:
I do love these pictures, but I think we could have achieved them pretty well in the areas closer to the ceremony site.  This set though, was totally worth the extra walk for the pretty lighting and background.  But again, we could have gotten these without asking our bridal party to trek through the woods.  
We took our formal pictures closer to the ceremony site, and they came out fine (except we took them at the wrong angle on a hill and some people look shorter than others - again, this was because we wanted the woods as a backdrop instead of something "lame" like the ceremony site.)  
This one's not so bad, but in some of them the person on the right looks GIANT compared to the person on the left.  My mom just looks a normal height here, even though in reality she is two inches shorter than me.
My point is though, the woods don't look that different in any of the pictures, and in retrospect, I would rather have had the extra time and not felt quite so stressed.  
So what have we learned? 
1.) Eff the fancy backgrounds and go for "not in a parking lot" with formal portraits.  (Especially if your formal portrait plans involve your ceremony guests driving to a different location for portraits - formal portraits are like herding cats. You will lose so much time.)  I wish we had done these right after the ceremony, and not towards the end of the cocktail hour.
2.) Don't take group pictures on a hill, or if you do, put the short people at the top of the hill.  
3.) Pictures will take twice as long as you think they will.  Budget your time wisely, and don't impulsively decide to take pictures with any pretty thing that suits your fancy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Family pictures

Family pictures were important to us, but getting everybody together for them was like herding cats.  Mark's dad went to find his sisters and got lost somewhere in the nature center.  We felt anxious and stressed and were running behind.  I really wish we had taken care of these pictures right after the ceremony, when everybody was still by the ceremony site, and then gone into the woods.
Nonetheless, I'm glad we took them.  My favorite is actually the one of my Dad's side of the family - too big to line up, Kiersten took this picture off the balcony.
(by Prema Photographic)
I kind of wish we had done a shot of everybody from this vantage point, but that would have been huge and insane.  I also love the shots that some of our guests got while we were lining up from above

(Photos by a friend)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Recess!

So our recessional was awesome for a few reasons.  One, bubbles:
Two: Coming up the aisle, we got to see everybody we loved and really take in that they were all here, in one place, for us.
I don't remember what made me laugh here.
Three: Once we were actually fully recessed, Mark and I just said to each other, "so the trail is all the way over there and everyone is still watching us...what do we do???" "Run?" So we bolted.
I had an unladylike way of hiking my skirts up pretty high. By which I mean...still below where my suits fall, but somehow people thought I was quite scandalous. 
Four: The woods.
We got a headstart on the wedding party walking into the woods (which in retrospect was way longer than necessary) so as we wandered down the trail, we said things like, "so we're really married?" "yeah" "huh."  "So if I want to, I can be Mrs. Yourfirst Yourlast?" "I guess???" "I mean, it's really weird and I won't, but I could."  Then we talked about our days.  Mine was easy, his was hard.  




Sunday, December 19, 2010

DIY Week: Photobooth!

The largest and overall most labor-intensive DIY project we took on for the wedding was to build our own photobooth.  We looked into rentals initially, but felt they were too expensive for what you got, so Ellie told me I could build one myself.  [Ed. Note: I said "WE".  Then he said, "no, you don't know anything about construction. Stick to your girlie sewing stuff."  Or something that sounded less sexist.  But only a little less sexist.]
Photobooth, aka BoothZilla set up at the wedding.  Picture by Best Man C.
Boothzilla set up in our living room (for the New Years party we're having).

Of course, best man C and I took a little longer than we should have to get started, so that I wound up working on it in the basement every night for about three weeks leading up to the wedding weekend.  Ellie pinch-hit and took care of the painting and curtains [ed. note: the "girlie sewing stuff"].  There were a couple of features that fell by the wayside, and we didn't have the chance to do any extended testing - or we might have figured out before the reception that a laptop in an enclosed space will eventually overheat and shut off - but overall I would have to say it was pretty successful.  Check out the writeup on Instructables for details....

http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-collapsible-photobooth/

Ellie notes:  Are there a lot of easier ways to do a photobooth or a fauxtobooth? Sure - but we liked that it was pretty obvious to guests that this was a photobooth, we liked that it was self-manned (rather than done by a photographer or assistant), and we liked that it was designed to fit inside a reasonable sized car.  It was really cool to work on this together, and we drafted several other wedding party members for help along the way, so it became a fun team effort.  Oh yeah, and now we have a photobooth in our living room.  If you are crazy like us and going to undergo attempting your own true photobooth, I would offer the following tips:
1. Plywood is heavy.
2. A photobooth doesn't really need to fit 8 people all at once - Boothzilla is HUGE.  I really wish we had made it smaller.
3. Consider pointing a very large arrow towards the camera that says, "Look Here and SMILE!" - a lot of people didn't realize the webcam we used was up at the top of the booth.
4. Props probably aren't required, but they are awesome.
(photo by Best Man C.)
This may be my favorite picture.  By Prema Photographic.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DIY Week: Transport and Strike

The biggest issue when having a wedding where you bring stuff is the stuff.  How do you bring the stuff?  How do you get it home?  Who is going to strike the reception space after the wedding?

We used as many people and cars as we could to get stuff to the wedding - we loaded up my Mark's parent's Outback, my Dad's Vibe, our Corolla, and my FBIL's Ford F-150.  Somehow, coming home, we seemed to have MORE stuff, or just more people and less space.

At some point, long before the wedding, a tweet went out from somebody saying, "Your friends who sign up to help you with your wedding are signing up to help with setup, not cleanup."  So really, I expected it to be us and the caterers getting everything into the Fern room so that we could take it back to our apartment the next day.  What was amazing was that a number of cousins, friends, and other people also stayed to help strike.  Since the photobooth had become a massive undertaking by everybody, everybody was willing to help take it down.  In general, everybody took care of getting the centerpieces back into boxes, getting the beer back into the fern room, getting the table runners all in one place, gathering all of our things from the classroom where we got ready, etc.

What did I do? I tried to help.  Nobody would let me.  So I did what I'd been wanting to do for awhile: I went to the bathroom.  Unassisted.  And was fine.  Then I took a few pictures, but my camera died as I was trying to document the end of a wonderful evening.
Taking down the photobooth

Packing up all the centerpieces 

The caterers taking their stuff home
I also drank the last Strongbow, which Groomsman Mike brought me while he was running around helping clean up.  For the most part, I just chilled out (and felt lazy) watching everybody finish making our wedding happen.  I said goodbye to our wedding party as they left, confirmed after-party plans with the family, and eventually Mark was also ready to go.

We came back the next morning and loaded our cars back up. Mark's whole family (Aunts, uncles, cousins) was there to help load up all of the cars, which turned out to be a huge help because I doubt the four of us would have been able to make such quick work of everything that had to go back.  It was like having hostages, because they were driving back to NJ with Mark's family anyway, so they had no choice but to help us out.  Don't worry, we fed them lunch afterwards.  By which I mean, we said, "please help us eat all the food in the house so it doesn't go bad while we are on our honeymoon."

My sister had jokingly asked if we would be renting a U-Haul for the wedding, and we did discuss renting a minivan or other large vehicle - it would have been helpful to not have to use quite so many people's vehicles, and to guarantee that we had the same amount of space both going to the venue and coming from the venue.  We didn't *need* it, but it might have been helpful.

DIY Week: Our Ceremony

I've already talked about our ceremony some, from how I felt to what we said and did.   We borrowed a lot from A Cupcake Wedding's ceremony posts, because everything she wrote was how I felt and it was elegant and lovely.  At the bottom of this post, I'm going to cut and paste our ceremony so that you can use it if you would like.  Hardly any of it is written by us, and if you know where pieces of it come from, feel free to add credit in the comments and I'll try to give credit where credit is due.

Our readings were - Ruth 1:16, read by our Moms.  I wanted this reading, because I thought having something from the Bible is a good way to honor our Christian heritage and Mark's Christian upbringing, and I also really love this passage.  We used the text from Singing the Living Tradition, the Unitarian hymnal (available for reference at the Enoch Pratt Library here in Baltimore).  We also picked this passage because the idea of "your people will be my people" holds great meaning for us.
Entreat me not to leave you, for where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16
The next reading we had we asked our reverend to do. We decided on our readings so late that we didn't feel comfortable asking somebody at the last minute, so we just asked Rev. Fritts to do it. He did a great job, and if you have a minister, you might as well let them talk.
From the Irrational Season, by Madeline L'Engle -

But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.
To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take. If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.
Our third reading we had the bridal party do - we picked that piece by Kahlil Gibran that everybody reads at weddings - in Singing the Living Tradition, it had been broken up into 8 separate sentences and we had everybody in the bridal party read one line of it. Truthfully, this reading was, for me at least, more about including our bridal party than what the reading actually said, and we wrote our ceremony at the last minute (uh, don't do this. Go write it now, trust me, I'll be here when you get back.)
Once the ceremony was written, I emailed it to the minister and he added a few changes, like telling us to hold hands, etc. But the best part actually came during the ceremony itself, because as we said our vows (the usual, traditional vows) to each other, we got a little overwhelmed. We weren't supposed to kiss yet, so Rev. Fritts told us to go ahead and give each other a hug.



I'm just going to cut and paste our entire ceremony here, with the names removed (and replaced with the heteronormative "bride and groom" - sorry about that.)

Wedding Ceremony
Welcome, family and friends of [bride] and [groom] – I know that many of you have traveled great distances to be here today.  [Bride] and [Groom] have asked you here because you are important to them.  The support that you have given them over the years, both as individuals and as a couple, has shaped their relationship.  They are so pleased that you could all be here today to bear witness to their union.  

We gather at this hour to witness and to celebrate the marriage of [Bride] and [Groom].  Marriage is an institution founded in nature, guarded by the state, solemnized by the church, and made honorable by the faithful keeping of good men and women in all ages, a source of joy to those who enter it, and of greater good for our common life.  In marriage, two people turn to each other in search of a greater fulfillment than either can achieve alone. Marriage is a bold step into an unknown future. It is risking who we are for the sake of who we can be.  Your lives will change, your responsibilities will increase, but your joy, trust, and understanding will be multiplied if you are sincere and earnest in your vows to one another.  [Bride] and [Groom] come now to join in this special relationship.  

Reading 1
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16

Reading 2
From The Irrational Season – Madeleine L’Engle
But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take. If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.
Reading 3: 

Love one another, but make not a bond of love: 
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous. 
But let each one of you be alone, 
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together;
For the pillars of the temple stand apart.
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
Let there be spaces in your togetherness, 
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love.



Question of Intent:
[Bride] and [Groom], have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?  
Both: We have.
Do you pledge to nurture, trust and respect each other and to be open, honest, and loyal to one another?  
Both: I do. [note: we did not read the script closely beforehand, so for each of these, said either "yes" or "I do" or "we do" but never the same thing at the same time]
Do you promise to work together to build a harmonious relationship of equality, respecting each other’s uniqueness and helping one another grow to your fullest potential? 
Both: I do.
Do you promise to comfort each other through life’s sorrows and joys?
Both: I do.  

Wine and Chocolate Ritual: 
There will come in your life days of great sweetness, and days of bitter sorrow. There will be celebrations, and there will be tears. There will be triumphs, and there will be tragedies. Life holds indescribable happiness in store for you both - and unavoidable pain, as well. And so to symbolize your acceptance of this reality, today you will share the bitter and the sweet, just as you will share them in the years to come.  Take and eat this bitter, dark chocolate. 
[Both taste] Taste in it the dark days which will rock your marriage and test its strength. It represents disappointment, illness, grief. Know that these hard times will come, and with them, the opportunity to deepen your bond as husband and wife.
Now, take and drink this sweet red wine.
[Both drink] Taste in it the sweetness and light that will fill your marriage with joy. Savor the fruits of this wine, just as you will savor every happiness that your beloved brings you. It represents shared laughter, your child’s first steps, your golden anniversary. Delight in it, as you will delight in your husband, your wife.

Vows
[Bride] and [Groom], the symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “All those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed - I meant it all, every word.” Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another- acquaintance, friend, companion, boyfriend, girlfriend, fiance.  Now you will say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you will say to the world, this - is my husband, this - is my wife.  
I, [Groom], take you [Bride], to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part. 
I, [Bride], take you [Groom], to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part. 

Rings
[Bride] and [Groom], let these rings serve as a reminder of the feelings you have in your hearts at this very moment. There are times in life that we tend to focus on the things we have not yet accomplished, there will also be times of great loss. Yet as you look at these rings, remember the great gift that you have been given and all that you have in one another. Remember that you have someone to share this life with. Never again will you have to walk alone.
Now, Repeat after me: "With all that I am, with all that I will become, with this ring, I marry you."

Blessing
In joining your lives may God grant you both...Love... to afford each other a special quality of time together. Joy...in the accomplishments of one another. Understanding...that your interests and desires will not always be the same. Friendship...based on mutual trust. Courage...to speak of a misunderstanding and to work on a solution before the setting of the sun. Compassion...to comfort each other in pain and sorrow. Foresight...to realize rainbows follow rainy days. Imagination...to keep with you part of the child you used to be. Mirth...from your sense of humor. Awareness...to live each day with the knowledge that there is no promise of tomorrow. May you always be there for each other, and may your friends who have gathered to share this day be there for you as well, should you need them.  

Announcement:
In the presence of these witnesses and in keeping with our tradition, you have spoken the words and performed the rites that unite your lives.  [Bride] and [Groom], you are now husband and wife in the sight of God, this community, and all people.