Friday, April 30, 2010

TTD Inspiration.

I must have this picture, except with us, poster sized, on the wall in every home we ever live in.  I will love it more than all of our wedding pictures, I think.
Although I think we may need tanks.  

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Inspiration table

Um, how do I get these vases?
Mostly the wooden log vases, but I also love the plain glass jars.  What fall flowers would look good in those?  I'm thinking just greenery, and then do small bud vases with dahlias.

Let's brainstorm - how does one drill out part of a small log?  Other than just using a really wide drill bit and a steady hand, smartass.  Where does one who lives in the city get a small log?  Most importantly, how do I convince my finace that he must have these vases and therefore should pile this project on top of all of the other construction projects I've given him*?

P.S. this wedding was beautiful but can we please stop saying things like "and we made homemade jam as favors for our friends" like it was just the easiest thing in the entire world?  Because let me remind you of this scene from Little Women which would befall myself if I chose to make my own jam favors.  "In the kitchen reigned confusion and despair. One edition of jelly was trickled from pot to pot, another lay upon the floor, and a third was burning gaily on the stove. Lotty, with Teutonic phlegm, was calmly eating bread and currant wine, for the jelly was still in a hopelessly liquid state, while Mrs. Brooke, with her apron over her head, sat sobbing dismally."  

*He stole because they're the cool projects. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vain much?

I recently purchased a dress that I might potentially use for a TTD session.  (disclamer: it was $20 and if it works and I don't ruin it, I will donate it to BABC)  Mark said, "I don't get it." I said, "I don't expect you to.  It's a silly, nacissistic thing that I can do because I'm getting married."

I read a somewhat disturbing board post on Weddingbee recently where a girl posted that she was talking about how she wanted to buy a cheap dress for a TTD session, and her fiance didn't understand.  Then he added some choice words, including, "you're not a model so stop acting like one!" Although the fiance's reaction might have been unnecessarily harsh, I would have received a similar reaction if I had um, asked first before deciding to do one.

Some people really like having their picture taken.  But because we are told that this is narcissistic and vain, we don't admit it.  Instead, we talk about wanting great photography to "remember the day" and "capture the moments" and while that is often true, we never say, "I will be in the best shape of my life and have spent a small fortune on hair and makeup and I want those pictures so I can make a giant poster of us to hang over our fireplace."

Why do I want to do a TTD session?  I dunno, really.  I love photography, and very early on, I had this dream of ding a TTD session with me in a canoe at the reservoir near Mark's parent's house.  It just seems, like engagement pictures, like an opportunity to get creative.  We get an engagement session with our photographer, and since Mark doesn't really want to use it (although he reluctantly agreed) I though, hmm, well, maybe I could do bridal portraits or TTD session.  Then, once I had the idea, I couldn't let it go.

Some people don't like having their picture taken.  I'm not one of them, especially not lately.  A huge factor in that is that I used to be heavier, and pictures made me feel embarrassed and made me feel badly about my body.  Since losing weight, lifting more, and running, I feel so much stronger and more powerful now and even though I don't always take a good picture, I really do like to have my picture taken now.  I love looking at pictures and thinking, "I look GREAT!"  Yes, this is totally vanity, but it's vanity I worked really hard to be able to have about how I look.  It also involved no small amount of learning to dress myself properly and to change how I felt about certain aspects of my body.  (For example, I have large thighs.  Large thighs that carried me through a half marathon over the weekend, so who cares if a mermaid dress wasn't in the cards for me.)

How do you feel about TTD sessions? Are you doing one? Why or why not?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

'Scuse me, you from around here?

Originally, I really wanted to do nice OOT bags in cute gable boxes and have things like Old Bay and Berger Cookies and those weird caramel candies that are kinda good and really just...different (Ghects? I dunno.) But like everything with weddings, it has evolved.  And by evolved, I mean, "been downsized to something I can afford."

Why not skip them all together?  Well, Baltimore City water is pretty terrible, so I refuse to leave our guests without water bottles that they can take into the city with them.  A lot of our guests are coming from the UK, so I worry that they will be off because of the time difference and wake up at 4am starving.  I always come back from weddings hungry and thirsty.  So I believe in the OOT bag.

However, I no longer believe in the work that goes into the OOT bag.  If you're not staying at the main hotel, you don't get one.  That way, no running around town making deliveries.  No individually packaging things that come in giant bags from Costco into cute little glassine packages sealed with a stamp.  No fancy labels with an excessive amount of ribbon.  No painstakingly printed labels.

The new recipe for the OOT bag is this:
water bottles + trail mix + granola bars + local takeout menus + whatever we want to steal from the visitor bureau + paper bag (with handles, cuz we're classy) + cute tag = OOT bag

Lazy and cheap way out?  Yes, yes it is.  I estimate the total cost to be $50 (if I can buy bags in smaller quantities than 250 to a case) and the total effort to be dependent on whether I get fancy with the tag or just write "Welcome!" in sharpie.  Will it look half assed?  Only to people that read wedding blogs.  Everyone else will either say, "oh, how nice and delicious" or "I hope the maids like trail mix."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Craft It Forward (and NWR updates)

Posting is light today because I spent the weekend recovering from this and because I am in the throes of this and I'm busily trying to get my Craft it Forward items out (if you are a craft it forward recipient, please leave a comment here with your name and address - I've turned on comment moderation for now, so your address won't be published, and I will delete the comments.)

What I will say for now is this though - I have never missed having my partner around so much as I did this weekend, when I spent most of my time sitting on the couch, pretty much unable to move.  Oh, how nice it would have been to have somebody exchange my ice packs for me and bring me snacks and to put DVDs in the DVD player so I didn't have to bend down and put DVDs in myself and play Wii with me.  Mark has been away on business for several weeks now, returning for two weekends in there, but hopefully he will be back for good soon (at least, before I run the next half, which trust me, I'm not going to do for a long time!)  Fortunately, I had my big sister/neighbor around to get me takeout and feed me cookies, so it wasn't so bad.  And I can mostly walk again, so yay.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Caterer: Check!

That's right, we finally crossed off the item on the list that haunted us for the last six months (Has it really been that long?). As soon as Ellie got back from her summer job, we started in on the short list of five caterers who met the venue's standards for sustainable food service. It only took two months for Ellie to give up and put me in charge of catering, when we found out that the list had grown from five to nine.

We winnowed the numbers down. The kosher and vegan caterers were out because we'd be paying extra for things we didn't need. Another became gradually less responsive as we discussed our low budget with them, until eventually we gave up on them. One changed management, dropped off the radar for a while, came back but we'd already moved on. We were down to one from the original list, and set up a tasting; everything was great, and very much in line with what we were imagining serving our guests. We were all set to go with her but then - we got four additions to the list.

All of a sudden we were back where we started - worse, because we didn't have those easy cuts. We couldn't ignore them and go ahead - that wouldn't be doing our due diligence in the catering search. We contacted all of them. We crossed one off quickly because it felt like their contact form was asking us to do all the planning. We met with three, and had extensive phone conversations with the fourth (we had previously tasted their food at another wedding). Eventually we narrowed it down to one additional contender. We met with her - not for a full tasting, as this was in February and those pesky snowstorms were limiting their ability to receive deliveries. Nevertheless, what they were able to serve us was delicious, and we were impressed with the transparency in their costs (which did not include a mandatory gratuity). Oh yeah, and there was the fabulous, local goat cheese. So, after a week or so of stalling, reluctant to say no to either caterer, we stepped up and signed a contract with Bon Appetit Catering. We haven't finalized the menu yet but we're looking forward to doing a full tasting to pin that long as there's more goat cheese!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Armani also does not make Polyester

So, the evolution of the tux-purchasing decision was this:
1) We got engaged.
2) I decided the guys should wear suits because I think rental tuxes are a scratchy polyester racket.
3) I bought a ridiculous dress and realized Mark's good suit I got him for his birthday two years ago wouldn't really look right, so he would have to buy a new suit.  He has a black suit, but I wanted him to have a really nice suit.  (I like fabric.)
4) Mark got asked to be a groomsman in 2 other weddings.  I pointed out he might have to wear a tux for those two other weddings, and therefore might be better off buying one.
5) We discussed wedding plans with Mark's parents.  Mark's dad voted that Mark wears a tux.  This being absolutely the only thing at all that Mark's dad has expressed any kind of opinion on the wedding (to me) about, I gave it a lot of thought.
6) Mark discussed with the other grooms in his life their tux plans.  They were planning to rent or buy tuxes, so purchasing made sense, especially with the Men's Warehouse buy-one-suit-get-one-for-$100.
7) Mark and his friends made plans to go tux shopping.  Then Mark kept getting sent away for work, so we had one free weekend to go shopping before his friend's wedding in mid-May that he will be in.
8) We hit Syms, on Rockville Pike* and were encountered by a grumpy salesman who seemed annoyed that Mark is such a common size they were out of tuxes that fit him, and seemed determined to keep us from appraising the tuxes.  He would literally put Mark in a jacket, then have him take it off.  Mark wasn't able to check it out in the mirror, and I couldn't see it either.
9) We had lunch at Urban Barbecue, which while good, is no Slow's BBQ.**
10) We hit Men's Warehouse.  We realize we were fools to come tux shopping on a weekend during Prom and Wedding Season.  Finally, somebody helps us find the tuxes, where they are cleverly disguised amongst the regular suit section.
11) The wonderful man helping us measures Mark, then finds him a really nice tux.  Sadly, it's a Regular and he needs a Long.  Also, the material is so nice I'm afraid it's the $700 tux I saw online.
12) Salesman leads us to the rack of 41Long tuxes and hands Mark a few options.  I ask about the one we saw in the Regular section and the salesman doesn't see it.
13) Mark tries on a Calvin Klein tux that is $499.  I shrug and say my dress was $500, and he will get more use out of this.  It's pretty good, but pretty good for a lot of money.
14) Mark hunts through the racks again while the salesman helps somebody check in their rental tux.  He finds the original tux, with it's soft luxurious fabric and satiny lapels.
15) He tries it on and choirs of angels start singing.  The hunt is over, victory is ours for only $225, and I am extremely sad when he has to take it off.

We have not actually purchased said tuxedo yet, because we are waiting for his best man to hightail it over to MW to try on tuxes and get one as part of the BOGO sale they have going on.  MW is being great about letting us hold the tux for a week, and overall I was thrilled with the level of service we got there.  They were helpful but not pushy, and very very good about asking Mark if he liked the suit, not asking me if I liked it.

The only problem is now I will be on the hunt for black-tie occasions for Mark to wear his super-handsome tuxedo to.

*to which I drove his stick shift car from Bethesda all the way up the Pike and only stalled once.
**Heather, sometimes I hate you for taking me there because nowhere else is remotely as good!!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bar vs. Wedding

You know how we talk about the insane expense of a wedding, and the fear that everything will go wrong?  The greatest quote I ever heard applied to wedding planning was Mrs. Cheese, who said, "the entire wedding industry feeds on our fear of regret."  Yes, yes they do.  But you know who is worse?
The Bar.
I mean "the bar" in the lawyer sense, not the alcoholic sense (not to deride that 25% of lawyers are alcoholics).  I'm alllllllllllmost done with the bar application.  I just paid my deposits for bar review.  Yes, deposits.  Because I'm taking two courses.  Because one is a supplemental focused exclusively on the multistate, aka multiple choice questions, and if I don't do well enough on the multistate, I can't waive into DC.  Why am I doing all of this?

Because I don't want to fail the bar.

I have been told by people that it's not that bad, and that I will probably pass it.  In fact, I have an 88% chance of passing it.  But that 12% is enough to make me fork over well over $3,000 for review courses.  Plus $525 just for the privilege of taking the exam.

I want to believe that if I throw enough money at the bar, I will pass it and never think about it again.  So I got to wondering - do I believe the same about the wedding?  If we spend enough on the wedding, will we ever do it again? But truthfully, I don't think that is the fear that Mrs. Cheese was talking about.  I think the fear she is talking about is the fear that somehow, making the "wrong" choice at your wedding will lead to unhappy guests, or something going wrong, or not being able to enjoy the day.  Then, for a lifetime, people will always remember that your wedding wasn't that fun.  (Or worse - I went to a wedding that went down as The Wedding From Hell.)  My fear isn't that in 30 years, I'll look back on my bridesmaids dresses as unfashionable.  My fear is that, to save a few dollars, our guests will go hungry.  My fear is that there won't be enough alcohol for them to enjoy.  My fear is that they will not be able to read their invitations and won't come to the wedding.  My fear is that the iPod will malfunction or our playlist will be sad and nobody will dance.

The thing to do, when these fears grab you and won't let go, is to breathe and relax.  Because if your guests go hungry, they'll order a pizza when they get home and blame the fact that they didn't eat a big enough lunch. If the bar runs out, the bar runs out.  People aren't going to have less fun because they're not drunk.*  If they can't read their invites, they'll call my mother and ask where the wedding is.**  If the iPod malfunctions, we will have a backup. If people don't dance cuz there is no DJ, they'll see me dancing alone, and feel sorry for me, and come dance with me.

There are problems you should throw money at, and there are problems that are WIC-created fears.  For example, any DIY project that is going to take up a large portion of your wedding weekend, isn't outrageous to pay somebody else to do, and you don't want to do, throw money at.  (Florist, decor, setup.)  And if you can't throw money at the problem because well, you don't have it, then just breathe and remember - it doesn't have to be perfect.  You won't regret it if it isn't.  You will regret that you spent so much time stressing over everything being perfect that you didn't have any fun.  You will regret not spending enough time with your friends and family because you were trying to get everything finished.  So bring your loved ones into your DIY projects, and don't be afraid to ask for help.  But most importantly, don't be afraid to let things go.  Every party I've thrown, there is always something that gets forgotten, and usually, it's a pretty good time without that thing.  Just don't tell everyone at the wedding, "well, it would be so much better if I'd finished the bathroom baskets."

What are your fears?

*Remember those "you don't need alcohol to have fun" posters? They are right.
**Or go to the wedding website - but we sent out the STDs a year in advance and I still have people asking me where the wedding is. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Wedding Buddy

My wedding buddy has been with us since very early on - in fact, since before either of us had a venue!  It happens that we wound up with the same venue, and like I said before, Mariko has been wonderful about tipping us off to local resources and vendors, and she checks in just to make sure I'm still sane.
Anyway, she's getting married tomorrow and I'm so excited for her and Jeff!

Do you have a wedding buddy?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What does your calendar look like?

So Miss Guniea Pig's post on her and Mr. GP's google calendar made me laugh.  Then it made me go look at our calendar.  It's pretty funny, because Mark and I have calendars we use for all kinds of stuff.  I have a race/running calendar I share with my running buddies, my entire family shares calendars, and we have a household chores calendar and a wedding planning calendar. 
So here is our calendar for our wedding day:
The green calendar is Mark's calendar; the orange is my running buddy's race calendar, purple is my sister (who is clearly the most psyched for the big day), and yellow is my Dad.  The blue is obviously our "chores" calendar, and I can safely say those are getting skipped.  The wedding planning calendar is purple, and here's the thing.  Not only are the times wrong, my future husband is the one that put them on there.  That's right.  I have not penciled in my own wedding.  Oh dear. 

Better get on that.  And delete the chores. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"why don't you just...."

I could fund this entire wedding out of my piggy bank if I had a dollar for everytime somebody has said, "why don't you just...."  Like the answer is so simple, and they cannot believe that I haven't thought about it.

When we searched for the venue, we got asked, "why don't you just pick a place?" by a number of well-meaning almost-strangers, some of whom wondered why we were "being so picky".  Well, I'm sorry that I want my handicapped grandmother to come to my wedding!  Why don't I just stop wanting her there?

With the invites, when I obsessed over the wording, and was told, "why don't you just keep it simple?"  I'm sorry, what is simple?  Is simple "parents invite you to watch child marry other person at three thirty in the afternoon?"  Because um, meet my family and my parents and our crazy last names.  Meet the groom's parents are paying for part of the wedding.  There was no simple, so since it was going to be complicated, I only made it a little more complicated by adding more words until we found something we loved.

With the bridesmaids dresses, the "why don't you just"s won't stop coming!*  "Why don't you just have them all wear whatever they want?" Um, because that would cause a lot of stress for them, and then instead of having to pick one dress, I'm helping pick four.  "Why don't you just pick a line and a color and have them pick dresses?" Um, because the line that most of them picked doesn't have a lot of options.  When I was torn on color, "why don't you just alternate?" because I don't know if it'll look good!  Or if I like it!  When I was torn on styles, "why don't you just have them wear different styles?"  Because the line they picked has one dress that looks great, one that is pretty good, and two dresses that would make the skinniest person on earth look HUGE!  When I was told, "why don't you just do what you want?"  Because these are four of the most important people in the world to me, and I will not have them hating me!

When it came to catering, and I worried about people not liking vegetarian food, or not having enough variety, I got a really big "why don't you just."  "Why don't you just serve meat?"  Because, to me, there was no Just Serving Meat.  It wasn't a simple thing. It was a complicated thing, that invoked my personal beliefs about food, about the environment, and about vegetarianism in general.  It wasn't that it hadn't occurred to me to take the easy way out.  It was that every time I thought about it, and I thought about compromising my beliefs on this day which was about so much of what we believe, I felt a little sick.

Yes, we could "just" do things and make our wedding a million times easier.  But "just" doing things would involve steamrolling over people's feelings, making ourselves uncomfortable, and ultimately, we would be disappointed in ourselves.  It's okay to take the easy way out* sometimes, or throw money at problems, but I don't feel the need to act how I wouldn't normally (I'm a people-pleaser) just because it's "my" wedding.  If I want my bridesmaids to be happy, I'm going to stress about it.  Eventually I'll admit defeat and accept the fact that I can't please everyone and as long as I try, and act nice, my people love me and will forgive me for making tough calls.  But there isn't any "just" doing something for most of this stuff, so I'm just going to have to ignore it.  Life is complicated, and I'm not sure why we all expect wedding planning to be simple.  (Yes, we want it to be simple.  But it isn't.)

What are your big "why don't you just..."s?

*I'm not even getting into the "why don't you just go with J.Crew?" because $275 FOR A COTTON DRESS IS NOT A REASONABLY-PRICED OPTION!!!!!
*Can I tell you how well I've been sleeping since hiring a florist :-D?  

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

To those that worry that saying "buy a red dress" will look bad

I say, check this out:

(via Once Wed)
This was the kind of look I initially pictured for our bridesmaid dresses.* Casual, easygoing, fun. The thing is though, you have to have the right kind of bridesmaids - bridesmaids who don't really want to be bridesmaids.  My bridesmaids are so good at being bridesmaids that I think that I will hire them out as professional bridesmaids from now on.  They are sanity-saving, totally flexible, and genuinely thrilled to be in the wedding, and they want the full-on "bridesmaid experience" - the matching dresses, the fancy hairdos, the manicures.  I can't blame them - I also enjoy the full-on "bridesmaid experience".

Since my girls are all so busy and I was worried that we couldn't all get together, I thought about just saying, "buy a green dress."  At least six people told me that "you can only do 'just buy a dress in X color' if it's black" or "well, they have to be from the same line or fabric, or they just won't 'look right'".  Although I never really believed that, I'm pretty sure it would have caused way too much stress for my bridesmaids to deal with, and they would have been very concerned over whether the dresses looked right together, even if I wasn't.  Since the whole point of saying "buy a red dress" would have been to avoid the stress, it wouldn't have made sense.  But if you or your bridesmaids are the type to simply show up in a red dress, I say, go for it!

Since we found bridesmaids' dresses in a single day that only had a minor amount of tension (between me and the shopgirl, not between any of my girls), the point is moo. Regardless, print out this picture and show it to people that tell you that "it will look bad" if you really do want to do "just buy a red dress."  Or better yet, employ my "lie" strategy and tell them that you've picked dresses and you want them to be a surprise. Then, won't they be surprised when it doesn't look bad?

*Of course, then I bought a princess cupcake dress which upped the ante on our whole wedding and now the bridesmaids are wearing long dresses and the groom is going to be wearing a tux. I feel like such a sell-out.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What a wedding could really cost you (other than your sanity)

Before all the hoopla, A Los Angeles Love wrote an incredibly smart post about why this article, which spurred this article at Jezebel and ensuing  controversy, was a terrible article to begin with.  Specifically, the post focused on why the article was sexist and focused on attacking specifically the brides about the cost of their $2000 dress.

Becca is right.  There is always something that somebody could spend money on that doesn't accumulate more money and costs you in the long run (specifically cars, but also TVs, playstations, computers).  What bothers me about this controversy is that although I think Becca's (A Los Angeles Love) focus on the comments is genuinely valid, we're not really focusing that what is wrong with the fact that Jezebel didn't pick up on the initial sexism in the article - that there are lots of ways to save money, but the guy focuses on a wedding in particular and not buying a $5 sandwich for lunch every day. 

What bothered me the most, I think, about the original article, is the advice that the biggest cost saver is to invite fewer people.  Because even though we should remember, "Every dollar you save will be make you richer by $5, $10 or even more down the road", happiness comes from experience and relationships, not how much money you have.  And if not inviting somebody to my wedding makes me $500 richer in 40 years, but means I have fewer valuable people in my life, I don't really see that being worth it.  But this analysis is missing.

It also bothered me that nobody here is trashing the honeymoon, or other expensive trips which don't "net" you any gain.  Every $100 less you spend on your honeymoon could also make you richer by another $500 or $1000 down the road, but that advice isn't even suggested.  In fact, I haven't seen that suggestion anywhere among the supposed "budget" suggestions that are put forth in these articles.  But people tend to spend a LOT of money on their honeymoons, money they would never spend on their normal trips, on the excuse that it's their honeymoon, and it has to be special.  Yet nobody mocks dropping a lot of money on the honeymoon (or I have yet to seen it), possibly because the honeymoon is not viewed as a "chick thing" the way weddings are. 

How do you feel about the idea of "every dollar saved gets you more over a lifetime?"  Do you also think it's bupkus?  And if you wrote the blog post I'm thinking of, please let me know!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A few of my favorite 'Bees

So, confession time.  I've been reading Weddingbee since 2007.  I discovered it while I was temping at a law firm as a secretary and had a lot of downtime, and I was helping my sister plan her wedding.  I stopped for a little bit shortly after my sister got married, but by then, I knew that we were going to get married soon, and I also wanted to stick around for the recaps of some of my favorite Bees.
Since a lot of you are more newly engaged, I wanted to do a roundup of some of my favorite weddings from Weddingbee. All of these have been mostly or entirely finished.

Mrs. Tiramisu, an Annapolis Bee, got married in Maine, complete with tent, beautiful details, and a rainstorm/power outage story that is the story I return to when I need to be reminded of what really matters.
Mrs. Onion, who convinced me that you could be a short-dress bride without going all sorts of indie.  They had a destination wedding in Burlington, VT, and it's just totally adorable.  There is a parade through the town and everything!
Mrs. Magnolia inspired me to run a wedding day 5k!
Mrs. Lemon was just finishing up her recaps around the time I started reading, and they had similar colors to my sister's scheme, so I took extra special notes. 
Mrs. Pineapple, whose dress I just loved.  I also thought that her clay flowers were really neat, and her "wedding in a week" series was really cute and sweet.
Mrs. Lovebug, who left when Weddingbee was sold to e-harmony, had a lot of sass in her writing, even though I didn't find many of her wedding details to be my style, I liked her sense of humor.
Mrs. Peony had the dress I originally wanted, and her wedding, with the red roses stood out to me as classic elegance. 
Mrs. Cherry Pie. If I could just carbon copy her wedding, I would.

A big part of me wishes that Weddingbee would organize the married Bees by "completed recaps" and "incomplete recaps", just because in going back through some of these weddings, I remembered how much I liked certain brides planning, but they never followed up. At the same time, I understand that after the wedding, wedding burnout hits, or your life gets busy again, or your wedding left a bad taste in your mouth and you don't want to relive it.  Some are concerned about "shaking off the glitter" of the day.  And you can't know how you feel about wedding recaps until you have gone through your wedding.  So although it seems like it would be cruel to call out certain bloggers for never finishing their recaps, it would make the archives much easier for new readers. 

If you are a Weddingbee reader, who are your favorites?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In which I want to punch a shopgirl in the face

We went bridesmaid dress shopping back in mid-March. We went to two shops. One was Columbia Bridal Boutique, and one was Betsy Robinson's.

When we showed up at Columbia Bridal Boutique, the shop girl immediately began to pepper me with questions. Like "what style do you want?" "what are your colors?" "what length were you thinking?" Beginning with "what style do you want?" when I have already told you that this is our first stop on the Bridesmaid Express Train will get me wanting to punch you. I very tensely told the girl that I didn't know what style we wanted and that's why we were here and she should talk to my girls while I sat over in that chair. Bridal Shopgirl pushed me to go look at the dresses and pick out ones I liked. I dragged my girls along, feeling irritable. I'm not sure if this particular shopgirl is just very bad at her job, or what, but another girl whose appointment was late jumped in and helped us out as we stood there, surrounded by taffeta and looking clueless.

"How about I just pull some that are kind of universally flattering that everybody likes?" She suggested. I felt immediately relieved. This is how the conversation should have started when I said "I have no idea what we want." We then pulled some more, and once everybody had 4-5 dresses, they started trying on. The great thing about CBB is they let you take pictures, but out of respect for my unshowered friends who were willing to drive 2 hours to meet us at the bridal shop at 10:00am, I'm not going to show any of them.

It is not entirely the shopgirl's fault that I didn't know what I was doing as far as "how to speak bridesmaid dress shopping". It had been awhile since I'd gone on an intentional bridesmaid dress shopping trip (as opposed to playing with the bridesmaid dresses while we waited for my sister to try on dresses). So I present to you Ellie's Guide To Bridesmaid Dress Shopping:

1.) Have an idea of style in mind. Here, let me give you the key words, "I think we're looking for something long, preferably A-line, and not too formal, in navy or cranberry, preferably under or around $200."
2.) Pull a bunch of dresses. Anything that suits your fancy. You have no idea what will or won't look good, so just grab a lot.
3.) Once your girls have tried on dresses, and all tried on the same ones that look good, you need to know two more key phrases, "do you have the swatch-card for this dress?" and once you have found the color you like, ask if they have a full length dress in that color - swatches are very hard to tell what the dress will really look like.
4.) Once you have found a dress that works for some of your girls, ask the salespeople to pull other dresses from that same line that will come in the same material and color and have the other girls try them on.

I really thought we could go in there and I could say "I think I want them to wear all different dresses by the same designer in the same fabric." That so did not work. I tried to express that and the salesgirl just looked at me blankly, and it worked much better to find a dress that looked good on 1-2 girls and then look for dresses from that same line.

Did anybody else have the problem that bridesmaids shopgirls do not, apparently, read wedding blogs and understand that non-matching dresses are de rigeur these days?

[ed note: I went to Bella Bridesmaid in Federal Hill and had a much less overwhelming experience.  It was nice.  Highly recommend.]  

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Florist: check!

I mailed off our florist contract two weeks ago and felt a sigh of relief.  I was relieved for two reasons - that we have hired a wonderful professional to take care of our flowers, and that I don't have to worry about them anymore.  Checkity-check of the Knot list I check on a tri-monthly basis to see how I'm doing.*
We are working with Judy Overman of Flowers by Judy.  She did the flowers for my cousin's wedding, and they were fantastic (the boutonniere above is the groom's from the wedding).  I met with two florists.  The first one worked out of her house and when we met up, something didn't click.  And although I hadn't wanted to contact more vendors, I figured I would give Judy a shot, because I knew that A. had said she was very reasonable and really knew her stuff, and was able to source locally.  I thought even if she was a little out of our budget, it might be worth it. I also knew that B. she had done such a fantastic job with my cousin's wedding that I thought they had spent more on flowers than food.

Judy has been great to work with and was able to easily work with our $500 budget (this might seem like a lot, but when I have talked to other people who paid $150 for their bouquets and $75 for bridesmaids, so it was discouraging to try to figure out how to get flowers for under $500 for 4 maids, 7 menfolk, 2 moms, and The Bride.)  So if you are looking for a Baltimore area florist who can be flexible, honest, and work with a budget, I highly recommend checking Judy out. 

*And feel self-assured about how I'm not a crazy bridezilla.  You know you do it too.

Monday, April 5, 2010

In Defense of Big Weddings

There has been a lot of talk on the internet lately about the beauty, the simplicity, the to-the-core-ness of a small, intimate weddings.  And I love intimate weddings, they look lovely.  But all this praise being heaped on the small wedding makes some of us big-wedding girls feel a little self-conscious.  We feel guilty about our large budgets, about our beautiful dresses, our delicious, expansive, expensive food.

So I think it's time somebody went to the mat for big weddings.*  And I don't mean the "your parents made you invite 400 people" weddings.  I mean the weddings where you simply were so excited that you couldn't wait to share your joy and awesome party with everyone you know.  The weddings where your parents generously offered to foot the bill, because they could, and because they wanted to.  The weddings where you invited your whole damn neighborhood or office or family because well, it was the right thing to do. 

Small weddings have a place.  But so do big ones.  There are small-wedding people and big wedding people, and I think the message that every indie blog out there is trying to send is simply, "you have to do what is right for you, and you have to respect that what is right for you might be wrong for someone else."  I don't think big weddings are better than small weddings, but I think that big weddings get derided in the BIC because people equate big wedding with magazine-worthy wedding, or brides who become so obsessed with the wedding that they forget about the marriage.

So why are we having a big wedding?  Because we are likeable people who like other people.  Because we both tend to stay in the same geographic areas.  Because we like our families.  Sure, some of my 14 cousins and their 10 spouses and 8 kids could have been cut from the list.  It is totally acceptable to cut family from your list if you aren't close or don't like them.  But we went to the beach for a week with my cousins.  And had a blast.  We have our own listserv.  We call each other just to chat.  So the cousins are in. As are their parents, aunts and uncles that I regularly chat with or send emails to.  Aunts and Uncles that have supported us in our relationship are on the list. Because we want them there.

So what about our friends?  Our friends is where we had to make the deep, painful cuts.  And we still wound up with 150 people on our guest list.  I have friends from high school, from college, from law school, that I still hang out with and keep in touch with and I cannot imagine celebrating our marriage without them.  If Maryland wasn't such a great state** our friends would stop settling down here after college and we would have fewer friends.  Our friends have been wonderfully supportive of us as we have struggled to figure out our relationship through college, through working, through law school, through this beginning of the rest of our lives.  They are who we will raise our children with and who we will call for help when we go to buy a house.  The long and the short of it is that these people matter to us, and we wanted to celebrate with them.  So we're having a big wedding.  It doesn't make us better than anybody, but it also doesn't make it less than people who choose to have a small wedding.  The fact that we are sharing this day with more than a hundred people does not make it any less meaningful.

We're trying to keep it simple, but the nature of a big wedding makes it more complicated.  So we do the best we can - we pick vendors we love, we skip the things we don't like or don't understand, and we spend as little or as much money on specific things as we are comfortable with.  Sometimes I wish we were having a small wedding, sometimes I wish we would just elope, but mostly, I'm very happy with this choice that we made and I know that a big wedding is right for us.*

Are you having a small wedding or a big wedding?  Do you wish you were having a smaller wedding or a bigger wedding?  Why or why not?

*I'm defining big wedding as 100+ people.
**Unless you're gay.
***This does not change the fact that I am very surprised that most of our guests are totally pysched to be coming to our wedding.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Being a True Bride

Recently, something happened that made me feel like A Bride. I don't mean I tried on a veil and cried and said "OMG I'm getting maaaaaaarrrrieeeeeeeeeeed!!!!!" I mean I did things that Brides do. I made decisions about our weddings without the input and consultation of the groom.

I decided to hire a florist. Mark, while not initially on board, got more on board after my disaster trial. He got even more on board once I got price quotes from two separate florists for personal flowers for under $400. In my urgency to get the florist-hiring done, I asked him if it was okay if I met with the florist while he was at work. He said it was fine. I asked him if he had any opinions about flowers. He said he did not, only that he cares that they are as local and as "green" as possible.

So I met with the florist. We emailed pictures back and forth and I emailed the most relevant ones to Mark.
I checked in with him about what he might like in his boutonniere. He said astrolomeria and hypernicum. The rest of the flowers and florist meetings were all me. I was the one who decided that the first florist I met with...rubbed me the wrong way, even though I didn't know why. I was the one who went to a second meeting to another florist because I was unsatisfied with the first one. I made the decision about who to hire.
(If you know where I got this picture please let me know. My bouquet will look sorta like this, minus the expensive orchids and plus berries and astrolomeria. This is the first time Mark has seen it.)
Everything was going fine until we got the final price quote and Mark looked at it. He turns to me and says, "burgundy hypernicum for my boutonniere?" I said, "I dunno - did you want green?" He goes, "I dunno, maybe if somebody showed me a picture of what the difference is..."* I told him to look it up himself.

Then he had some issue with the mason jar aisle decorations. I was relieved when Mark said, "Mason jars? Really?" I realized he was right. The florist and I had talked about mason jars on shepherds hooks. I love mason jars, but I was starting to worry that they were "inauthentic" for us because, well, we don't can things. We're not having a farm wedding. We're not rustic. Our wedding, while outdoors, will still have a "classy" feel to it.  
(Miss Cherry Pie, I am not)
So we decided to, for now, scrap the aisle decorations. Then we decided to use the wooden benches that Irvine has instead of chairs for our ceremony, and the shepherds hooks themselves started to feel a little out of place. So I asked the florist if we could scrap the aisle decor entirely, and she said sure. So now we're trying to figure out what to do for that - right now, I'm thinking short galvanized aluminum tubs with potted plants, sitting on the ground. Or nothing, because our venue is beautiful and doesn't need any extra garnishment.

All in all, while I'm happy to have the florist contract signed and done with, and I know it would have been a waste of Mark's time to come to the florist meeting and talk about my bouquet, but at the same time, the whole experience made me extremely happy to not be one of those brides with an uninvolved groom.

*This is when it is, in fact, appropriate to send your partner to, but I think in Wedding Planning World, it would get me called a bridezilla.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tent Decorations

So we went out to Irvine a few weeks ago to check out a wedding they were setting up for, and to talk about some other stuff, like day-of logistics (for example, I was thrilled to find out there are 2 other potential rooms to get ready in, so we can use the one I was thinking to use for our hors d'oeuvres stations instead).

We stood in the tent and I looked at the roof of the tent and contemplated my vision. I could say "our" vision, but I really don't think Mark cares all that much. I debated how many paper lanterns we could possibly need running along the frame of the tent, and how we would get them up. Ladders. And people that aren't afraid of heights. On the day before, after the rehearsal, because we are the only wedding our wedding weekend currently booked at Irvine. (They have their big gala event on Friday night, so I don't think they will book anything on Saturday.)

So right now, the plan is as it has always been - paper lanterns. Some with LED lights in them, but probably not that many, since the tent has lighting around the edges that seems fine. The only things I don't know right now are how many lanterns we need, and how I can possibly justify spending $100 on paper lanterns when I won't spend that on, well, pretty much anything else.
I took this picture from the video on the Irvine Website, and you can clearly see the frames of the tent could use a little bit of decoration. The biggest question for me now is whether I should just go ahead and order the paper lanterns because I know I want them, or wait until August because 1) spring wedding brides will be selling theirs on Craigslist and 2) we don't have that much room to store them. I'm just starting to get really concerned about how much I'm leaving on the to-do list until August/September.

Although it occurs to me in writing this that we will probably move in July or August and I for one do not want to move 20 paper lanterns, even if they do fold flat. So I think that answers my question, although I may start stalking Craigslist for them in May.

Do you start stockpiling wedding stuff early, or are you waiting until the last minute (or at least closer to the time)?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sometimes, people want to know what to do

My bridesmaids are really great.  We recently picked dresses, and I decided what to do so far as hair and nails go, so I sent them a quick e-mail.  (All names have been changed.)

Hey Ladies!  
So I just ordered the dresses - they should come in around August, giving you plenty of time to get them altered. You each owe me $350, except Becky, who owes me $100 now and then $50 in installments because the dress was a little more than she could pay right now. I know the dresses are navy and Peggy is concerned that she might look pale, but please, please, please don't go tanning. Please also wear sunscreen all summer and avoid being outside in the sun, since I have to be inside stuck in school studying for the Bar.  I would really appreciate it if you all didn't look too much tanner than me. (And I'm so pale to begin with that most of you are at least a shade darker already!)  Since the dresses are strapless, it's also super-important to avoid tan lines. 

I found a stylist who will travel to the hotel and do all of our hair - her travel rates are a flat rate, which is great.  It's $800, so I'll pay $200 and you (plus moms) can each pay $100.  Does that sound fair?  Oh, and the trials are each $50, and if you want an updo, you have to do that and I'll come with you.  Maybe we can all go before my bachelorette party.  Please show me some pictures first so I can make sure that what you have in mind isn't going to be more elaborate than what I have in mind for myself, but otherwise, you have total free reign here to express yourself.  It's up to you guys, but for an extra $45 per person, Sienna will do our makeup.   

Since the dresses are navy, I think that you should all wear champagne wedges (I think champagne is the most rewearable color), except Peggy, who needs to wear flats so I don't look too short.  Please be careful not to confuse champagne with gold or bronze, and make sure I see the shoes with plenty of time for you to return them before the big day!  

Also, accessories.  I think a classic and rewearable necklace like this pearl one would be great with some pearl stud earrings.  I know that some of you already have pearl studs, so go ahead and where whatever you want there, as long as they are studs, and go with the necklace.  (Oh, and half inch or smaller, so they don't overwhelm you.)  No bracelets, rings, or other jewelry though - I want everything to be streamlined. 

There is a nail salon down the street from the hotel, where we can get french manicure-pedicure combos for only $55.  Since your hands and feet will be in pictures, it's important that they all look uniform, so I would appreciate it if you would all grow your nails out starting in September, so they are each 4 mm long past the nail bed - no tips please, they look so fake!  Anna, I hope this doesn't interfere with your piano playing.  Please also don't wear cheap toenail polish this summer - it will result in a yellowing of the nail, which just won't look right in the pictures.  

So the last part is the trickiest.  I know that Julia has been trying to lose some weight, and that Anna and Becky would also not mind dropping a few pounds.  To give you extra incentives, I ordered your dresses in a size smaller than you are right now, and we're gonna start doing weekly weigh-ins to achieve our goals!  

Thanks ladies!  I'll see you all soon!