Monday, August 30, 2010

The time has come to talk of other things.

Eventually, I will have to think about where we want this blog to go.  Right now, my plan is to start a new blog and keep this blog about weddings (similar to how $2000 wedding has gone).  I probably won't post as regularly, but I like to think it will stand as a good resource for other people.
So what will I write about with a new blog? Hopefully not the boring "married people" stuff that I see on nesting blogs (I do not "nest", I "mess").  I can't really talk about lawyering, because 1) I don't right now and 2) confidentiality and professionalism is an issue.  But I can definitely see writing about fun and interesting things we do.  Speaking of which, want to hear about my weekend?
I did this:

On Sunday morning, I participated in the SheRox Asbury Park Tri, a journey that has been a year in the making.  Last year, I was signed up for a race but had to drop out at the last minute because of a broken finger (and also because I did not train well enough, but that's besides the point).  This year, my crew captain (Mark) and I got up at 4:45a.m. to drive to Asbury Park from his parent's house in NJ.  Mark helped me load and unload my bike and then waited on the boardwalk for an hour while we got ready to go in the water.  Then he dutifully took pictures, yelled encouraging things, and waved at me while I went through the course.  When I crossed at the finish line, he bounced over to me, more excited than I've ever seen him after a race, telling me how totally awesome I was.  He's never really crewed for me like that before, since I usually run races with my friends, and it was really cool to get to feel like he was rooting for me the whole time and I knew when I came into transition, I could find him in the crowd.  That made the whole race seem a bit easier.

So yeah, if getting this wedding out of the way means we get more weekends like this one? I think I'm okay with that.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Guest Book

I had to go buy index cards for the campaign today and that reminded me that I never told you about our guest book.
The idea came from Mark's little sister, who just got engaged herself (woo!) and I'm sure is sorry she gave me the idea because I bet she wants it for herself.  Cuz it's awesome.
We were talking about table numbers and debating whether to do places or what, and she said that she had been to a friend's wedding in which they had numbers on sticks, but at each table, a pile of cards and had guests write the bride and groom a note to be read on that anniversary (so at table number 5, the cards get read on the 5th anniversary).
I loved this idea so much it sold me on just having table numbers.  It's a guest book and awesome anniversary gift every year in one, plus it will give us an excuse to relive our wedding every year.
The best part of this "guest book"? It requires no work on my part.  I could make cute cards for people to write on, or I could finally have a reason to use up my index cards from bar review.  I've picked the second, because it fits in with our theme of eco-friendly, cheap, and easy.
The only thing is that the cards will need to go into some kind of envelope, and will require some kind of instructions.  I suppose the instructions can be typed up, taped to the envelope, and then put in the middle of the table with the cards.
The only question I have is this - will index cards last 15 years (we only have 15 tables)?  My mom has some recipes from her mother and the cards are still intact, as is the writing, but I'm sort-of concerned about this.  Not concerned enough to do much more than buy archival pens and MAYBE archival cardstock that only goes in the tables that are 10+.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Evolution of a Honeymoon

I know that there are a lot of people out there who think their honeymoon is their chance for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure; that it is a great excuse to spend a ton of money on a trip to Austrailia or Africa or Europe.  They want their honeymoon to be memorable and special.  I don't fault them for that, but it's not really how we roll.

We knew when we signed up for a wedding three months after the bar that it would be difficult to plan an elaborate honeymoon based on not knowing what my job status would be.  So we tried to plan a trip that was as open as possible and didn't have to be booked six months in advance or use frequent flyer miles.  I also really wanted to do a domestic trip - because when we travel with our friends or family, we tend to do the more exotic trips.  A domestic trip appealed to both of us because it meant that we weren't spending $2,000 on airfare and could stay in nicer places.  It also meant not having to worry about the exchange rate, about any kind of shots/medications, any iffy food/water requirements, or crazy packing restrictions.

The original plan involved very little flying - we wanted to do a cross country train trip, starting in Chicago, heading out to the Pacific Coast, down California, and over to New Orleans.  This appealed to us because while both of us are well traveled internationally, we are not well traveled domestically.  I've never been to New Orleans or San Francisco (this is the part where my Dad pipes up and comments that "we took you to SF when you were two!" Um. Doesn't count.) and ever since I was 10 years old, I've wanted to see the Redwoods.

The plan got further revised when I didn't have a job yet and my vacation status was still up in the air.  We also revised the plan based on our train trip to NJ over Christmas - for only 3 hours, we spent the time reading and ignoring each other, and we both decided that our honeymoon should be spent doing things, instead of sitting.

Eventually the honeymoon became California.  It's a trip that will be fairly easy to plan closer to the day that we leave.  It will allow us to sit on the beach, then go adventuring.  We planned to hit two destinations, one on Mark's to-go list and one on mine - San Diego and San Francisco.  We hoped to camp out at Big Sur and go see the Redwoods.

Then we looked at doing either just San Diego or just San Francisco.  Both had merit, and San Francisco had Redwoods.  (I'm serious about the Redwoods, guys.)

Mark suggested going on a bike trip - we go to San Francisco, rent bikes, and then bike down to Half Moon Bay where we would spend three days gallivanting around.  We were both pretty excited and were ready to book.

When we went to book though, a funny thing happened.  The only direct flight out was through San Diego.  So we changed our minds and scrapped the bike trip aspect (in all fairness, my friend had told me to look up Devil's slide before I agreed to bike from SF to HMB, which I did...) and decided to go to San Diego for three days instead.

So that's where we are now.  Where we go next will evolve as well.  There are three things I want to do: The  Aquarium of the Bay, the Muir Woods Bike Tour, and the San Diego Zoo.  (Stingrays! Redwoods! Koalas!)  But all of you gave some very good advice that we should relax and not plan too much to do on our honeymoon, which we appreciate and are taking.

What we need from you now is some suggestions.  Not suggestions of "things you MUST do in SF/SD" but a suggestion of things we might like to check out, and a list of reliable and delicious places to eat.  I hate paying for meals that aren't spectacular, and I feel like I have heard a lot about restaurants in San Francisco, so bring on the suggestions!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The List

After leaving the Rockville Men's Warehouse*, Mark says to me: "Awesome! Another thing checked off the list."
Me: Actually, it's two things checked off the list.  Because we picked tux vests and I gave up on making your vest and tie, so check both those off!

And that, my friends, is how you make the "to do" craft pile dwindle.

*Can I say enough good things about them? I seriously love them. GREAT customer service, and really nice staff.  Not at all upset that we showed up at 8:40 on a Saturday night to order tuxes.  We were out of there in 20 minutes, btw.  Their selection of tuxes is online and you can scroll through it at your leisure and set up a group for your wedding party and everything.  All of this streamlines the process.  Oh, and you should order tuxes before 2 weeks before your wedding, because that is the deadline.  Not four months out like the Knot says.  

Invites: the RSVP page

Originally, I really wanted fun RSVPs.  The madlib style ones suggested in this post were amazing, and I even mocked up a design.  Ultimately, it would have cost us about $50 to do RSVP by card instead of phone/mail.  So we went with our online RSVP.
I still wanted some fun language, but we ultimately kept it simple:
We used Google Forms to set everything up. We linked it to our wedsite URL and then we were good to go.

In retrospect, I'm sad we didn't use RSVP cards, but since I just spent $200 on paper lanterns, I'm glad we saved that $50.  The RSVPs are just starting to come in, but so far nobody seems to have a problem with the form.  They are also using the response box to write notes to us, which is great, but I wish we had put in a separate optional box for notes.  So far, nobody has not written their name, but I'm waiting for that.

Diamond Dash

I'm disappointed that we already have a ring - and I imagine most of our readers do too, but I'm sure you know somebody else who'd be interested in a chance at a $20k diamond ring (in Baltimore and in Annapolis).  The setup seems to be a scavenger hunt: "In this high-tech treasure hunt, all of the clues and riddles will be delivered via text message right to your cell phone!"

The setup sounds similar to the Baltimore Challenge that Ellie and I took part in a couple of months back; it was a blast, and I'm guessing these events will be even more fun with clues arriving over the course of the race and a bigger prize.  On the other hand, there doesn't appear to be any limitation on how you get around, whereas we found running to be part of the fun of our race.  

Us at the challenge.  One of the items was a picture of us jumping in front of City Hall.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Forgive Yourself

Beth left a comment recently talking about how she spent more on her wedding dress than she wanted to, but that they budgeted for it so she forgives herself.  And that got me thinking about how hard we are on ourselves in this process.  We make ourselves little promises in the beginning of the planning, and then when we reneg on these promises, we are all far too hard on ourselves.

My wedding things I've had to "forgive myself" for?
-buying a dress that cost $500 (it's a lot of money, even if it's a wedding dress) that will cost more than $400 to alter
-hiring a florist instead of DIYing it
-hiring a DJ instead of just renting some speakers
-asking my bridesmaids to buy dresses that cost $200 that they will never wear again
-wanting to buy paper lanterns even though they are wasteful and I do not need them
-wanting a $150 headband.  (I knooooooooow.)
-not having a green-enough wedding (I know some of the rest of you agonize over this)

Look, there are two people who are going to judge you for the wedding decisions that you make:
1. People who haven't planned a wedding, or more specifically, people who haven't planned your wedding.*
2. You

People in the first group don't matter.  They don't know.  Yeah, they might think it's excessive to spend $2k on a wedding dress, but listen, if you pay cash for it and it's in your budget, and you love love love your wedding dress? Go for it.  Look, maybe other people think it's a stupid way to spend money, maybe they think it's a bad investment.**  But consider the number of people that would happily drop that much on a vacation.  Either way, all you get in the end is pictures and memories.

So in the end, the only person left to judge you is you. So take a deep breath and say, "I am not perfect. I made silly promises and set silly expectations too early on in this process.  I have learned that I cannot have everything that I want, and that is okay." And it is okay. It's okay to do what you need to do, even if it isn't what you originally had in mind.  Maybe it means using disposable glasses instead of renting fancy glassware.  Maybe it means using candles in your centerpieces.  Maybe it means spending a lot more to ease stress and worry.  But stop beating yourself up over it.

*Yeah, they're not all the same. Some of my friends got off easy in this whole planning process.  
**Also, screw them. These people don't matter.

The budget honeymoon

Whenever I pick up a bridal magazine, I read about hotels that are part of amazing spas and have wonderful restaurants and you have a personal charter boat at your beck and call at all times. And while normally I would say that the magazines are insane and no normal person would stay there (like how I think nobody would spend $300 on a white t-shirt that is in the Vogue fashion spread), when I read about normal people going on their honeymoons, it's usually on an amazing trip; for a longer time, something elaborate, something you wouldn't usually do.

I've started to think the honeymoon industry takes a lot of our wedding attitudes over to our honeymoon - it has to be a fantastic, out of this world, once-in-a-lifetime trip. It has to be the perfect romantic place. First of all, you must leave the country. You must stay in an all-inclusive resort or go on a cruise that is romantic and relaxing. You should go on tours that other people plan for you, so you don't have to do any work. You should go out to eat all the time - you are on vacation!

I have a problem with this attitude, because I think it makes people feel like their honeymoon should be a certain way. I think you should do whatever works for you and your partner for your honeymoon. Mark and I are not going on a "typical honeymoon", for a few reasons.

One reason is the simple fact that we travel a lot. We go on dive trips, family trips, spur-of-the-moment trips, camping vacations, etc. Since we have been engaged, we have gone to Chicago, England, the beach, Toronto, Bonaire, Long Island, and Hershey Park (it was my post-bar trip and it was awesome). We are unbelivably fortunate to be able to travel (both in that we are in good health, and that we can sort-of afford it.) We also travel pretty cheap - hostels, priceline hotels, cooking our own meals, budget dining, splitting meals, signing up for a discount card at a grocery store because it got us 2-for-1 admission to the aquarium.

The way I see it, because we're not going to stop traveling, we should spend not-a-lot on our honeymoon and then be able to spend more on other trips later. We could spend $5,000 on our honeymoon, or we could spread that out over 3-5 trips. And since for our honeymoon, we can't possibly hit Spain, Egypt, Hawaii, and Australia, saving some money to be able to spend that on additional trips makes sense.

I also like our style of traveling. There is no better way to get to know a culture/place than to head down to the local grocery store, buy food, and prepare it. It's usually still exotic and different, but it's cheaper and cooking togther in a strange place is a great bonding experience. I like taking public transit and staying in hostels where there are other people to hang out with. I like doing laundry on trips so we don't have to pay to check bags. I like walking everywhere. I like getting discount tickets to attractions. I like taking a picnic lunch with us instead of stopping at a restaurant to eat. I am lucky that Mark likes our style of traveling too, and we have found a way that works for us. (I am aware that a lot of people do not want to figure out what the Italian word for baking soda is.  There are also people who do not want to travel a lot, and that's totally up to them.)

In the high-dollar world of honeymoon traveling, our style seems foreign. There is a lot of pressure to not travel in a budget or culture friendly kind of way. Arguments are plentiful as to why an exception should be made - it's stressful to try to stick to a budget, to travel as cheaply as possible; for some people it is their first trip together so they don't know how they travel together; it's your honeymoon, you shouldn't have to worry about stuff; the wedding is so stressful you will just want to relax; and my personal favorite - you only get one honeymoon.

The only difference so far with our honeymoon is that we thought we could use it as a reason to take a longer than usual trip. That wound up not being the case, and we're taking a week.  We've set a low budget, we used a free Southwest coupon for half our airfare, and you can bet we'll be figuring out the cheapest way to get into all the museums and aquariums.

Another reason we're being a little more budget minded about our honeymoon is that we can be - although some people might get a little judgy, we don't really care. For our wedding, if we try to get cheaper food and it doesn't taste good, or our refusal to rent nicer chairs results in one of our guests breaking a folding chair, it will hurt our guests. If for one night of our honeymoon we wind up staying at a crummy hotel somewhere because we didn't want to spend a lot of money, the only people it really bothers is us.

When I hear my parents, or people of their generation, talk about their honeymoons, they all seem so much simpler. My parents went out to the Southwest and traveled around, camping and staying in $6 a night hotels next to train tracks. I know at least one of my aunts went to a cabin in West Virginia. I have some friends who have gone on simpler honeymoons as well - honeymoons within driving distance, etc. The only disadvantage I see of these is that you are not out of cell phone range. I think the answer is to leave the cell phone at home. Some people might call a short trip somewhere local a "minimoon", because if you can drive to it, it can't possibly be a honeymoon.  I don't like that term.

Are you treating your honeymoon like a regular trip or like a special, no-holds-barred exercise in luxury traveling?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Never say never

One thing I've learned in wedding planning is that there are no absolutes.  What you know in the beginning, you don't know in the end.  Don't say, "I'm not going to do X" or "We will totally do Y." It may not happen and you shouldn't set yourself up for failure and more importantly, don't set people up to criticize.

Let me tell you people just starting out a little something about us know-it-alls who are about to get married.  We know more than you do.  I know. You're thinking I'm full of crap and you're well within your rights to walk away.  I have friends look at me like I'm crazy when I advise them to wait at least a few days before calling people to announce their engagement.  One of my friends tried to tell me how hard wedding planning will be for her because of her crazy family, and I tried to tell her that she needs to plan the wedding on her terms. She told me that wouldn't be possible.  But people will surprise you

You should especially listen to your know-it-all siblings when they tell you what problems you will encounter.  They are dealing with the same family.  If your mother made them feel guilty or anxious, they will make you feel guilty or anxious.  If your father's disinterest hurt their feelings (obviously not a problem for me), it will probably hurt yours.  As we say in contracts class, past practice indicates future performance. Learn from their mistakes and successes.  Their triumphs will be yours as well; their problems will be yours as well.  But really, sit down, listen, and respect them. Don't close your mind because you think you know better. You don't. My sister hasn't been wrong yet in this planning process, and I have struggled to take her advice even when a part of me was yelling, "but she's wrong! I won't stress out!"

But people writing blogs like this one are like honest older sisters.  Okay, I'm not an older sister. I have all of the classic symptoms of being a younger sister, from the spoiled-ness to the fear of being overshadowed by my totally perfect older sister. But by this point, I know more about this than those of you just getting engaged. Learn from my mistakes. 

You are reading my blog and you are reading Souris Mariage and you are probably thinking, "well, they just weren't on top of their to-do lists. I'll do it differently." You are wrong. No matter what, your to-do list will drown you. We had a year and a half to plan, we did it slowly, we booked vendors we loved and were picky about everything and I don't regret any of that.  But it's panic time. It's slash and burn time. It's make a damn decision time.  It's hand-address the invites we haven't mailed yet because they need to go out today and I don't have time to run a mail-merge time.  It's "I don't care what it costs, just order it" time.  At the two month mark, there is no overthinking, just doing.

So my point is really just this: never say never.  In the planning process, you will be wrong more than you are right. You will say you don't/won't register, and the next thing you know you are standing in Crate & Barrel with a gun.  You will be psyched for registering, and the next thing you know, you just feel icky and greedy looking at the long list of things you want but don't need.  You will say that you will/can make XYZ yourself, but then you will feel your crafting skills are inadequate and you are letting everybody down by buying it.  You will say, "oh, I would NEVER have roses, I hate them" and then realize they are cheap and pretty and easy.  All saying "never" does is opens you up to knowing glances from people who got married and "I told you sos" when you are wrong.  That will make you feel worse, so don't open yourself up to it.

The other important thing is not to promise anything.  If you promise an open bar and then realize it makes no sense and you should just serve keg beer and cheap wine, you will feel bad because you promised something.  Don't promise anyone an invite until you know for sure that they can come.  Don't say, "we're going to DIY everything!"  Mark encouraged me early on to keep wedding details in the dark, and eventually I realized he's right, not because I want people to be surprised, but because I don't want them to be disappointed.  Realizing that nobody ever expected handmade cookies in their OOT bags makes me feel less guilty about not making them.  (This was never a plan but it is an example.)

Look, the only person to judge you for not having the wedding you originally expected is the person that you used to be.  So let it go, never say never, and you'll be just fine.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm not stopping just cause it's starting to get ugly

Many thanks to Mouse for the title.  Like I said, things are happening fast around here.  The posts that you will be seeing over the next two months will be a combination of fresh posts, and slow posts that were written sometime in the last year but have recently been edited.  (It bothers Mark that we have 200 drafted posts, so he's urging me to put some of them up.)

What have we done lately?
-We got our marriage license.  Woo...
-We talked to somebody about wedding rings.  We have to get mine custom made and we're cutting the timeline close.  What will I do if I can't get one custom made?  (Or even if I do, for knock-around purposes - I'll get one of these rings, although it bums me out that I have to pay an extra $20 for my tiny fingers and that the smallest size I can get is a 5.)
-We mailed the invitations.  We rounded up the last of the addresses, and now I can finally write the invitations post! Stay tuned....
-We cleaned our apartment top-to-bottom.  I know this doesn't sound important, but trust me, keeping the apartment clean keeps fighting to a minimum, resulting in us remembering why we want to get married in the first place.
-I went to the dressmaker.  She is letting out all of the seams in my dress that doesn't fit and putting in a sweetheart neckline.  A note, to those of you having second thoughts about your dress.  Do not try you dress on in your cramped childhood bedroom with a crappy mirror and decide it looks terrible.  The problem is lighting and the mirror, all of which sunlight can solve.  For those of you needing a ballpark on how much alterations will cost if you buy a dress at ROTB that doesn't fit right? $450 including pressing.  I spent $500 on the dress, so I'm under my original budget of $1000 for a dress and I'm happy.  P.S. Do not forget to include the cost of pressing the dress.  P.P.S. I'm told cleaning it costs way more.  How do we feel about dry-eling a wedding dress?
-I panicked about our exploding guest list, and then I triaged the situation.  I crunched numbers on reception costs, rethought layout, and decided if we needed to do round centerpieces, I have enough vases left from my cousin's wedding to rig something up.
-I made quiche.

So as you can see, we are quite busy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What I wanted

Last week we realized our guest list had exploded.  Not just beyond-long-tables exploded, but beyond-seated-capacity-for-the-tent exploded.  I looked at the list again, and I thought about it, and there are maybe 20 people out of the 163 people that I'm not absolutely thrilled to be inviting.  Those people are either people I don't know (who are limited, and I do not mind inviting) or people I do know, but who don't seem to be very interested in making much of an effort to keep in touch with me.  (As in, I constantly invite them to things and they just can't be bothered to show up.)  So there are maybe four or five of those people, but I did not feel like I could not invite them. (Stupid. Just say no.)

Regardless, I thought of our friends whose parents invited so many people to their wedding that they couldn't invite more than ten of their friends.  I thought of people for whom an exploding guest list would be a disaster.  I thought of people I know who invited people without dates.  And I thought about that feeling I got two weeks ago, when the invitations went out.  That glowing, happy feeling I got, as I flipped through the invites thinking, "yes, I am glad this person will be here to witness our wedding."  That, "oh! I can't wait to see her and I can't believe she's coming all this way!"

And I remember the wedding I tried to plan originally.  The cheap, simple wedding in my church hall that would be catered by California Tortilla or Mama Lucia's so we didn't have to worry about cutting the guest list off at a certain point and we could invite people we genuinely care about and want there.*  That wedding is whispering over my shoulder as I uncomfortably wonder how to deal if my cousin in fact decides to fly in or a friend needs to bring a date.  It is whispering, "now you can have the wedding you wanted!!!!"

I'm not saying that I'm calling up Cal Tor.  We're sticking with our caterer; if we have to, we will modify the menu so that there are fewer hors d'oeuvres.  We can always buy cheaper wine (can anyone recommend a good cheap red?)  But we may choose to abandon reserved seating for anyone but family; we may have to abandon sit-down altogether.  We may go with more of a cocktail vibe, which Mark liked initially anyway.

It's also possible that more people won't be able to come than we thought, and that this won't be a problem at all.  But is people you liked showing up to a party ever really a problem?

*For the most part we're having that wedding anyway, we're just paying twice as much for it.  

Monday, August 16, 2010


Last week, I was working from home one day and found myself perusing a website.  Something on it made me realize "holy cr*p, we are going to need some kind of license to be married".  At which point I reminded Mark of this. It was not on our ever-growing wedding to-do list.  Since I didn't really want to ADD to the wedding to-do list, I did the thing that any rational person would do and drove up to Towson to pick up our marriage license.

Maryland is a state with a vested interest in Marriage.  They asked me for my name, his name, our SSNs, places of birth, and whether we were related by blood in any way.  They also asked if we had ever been married before.  In Maryland, you do not need an ID to get a marriage license, but you do need $35 in cash.

Yes, it's 2 months from the wedding, but the license is good for 6 months, so I figured it was best to get it taken care of.  So it's done.  No big smiling picture of us on the courthouse steps; just an envelope from the clerk's office.  Another thing about weddings that is as big a deal as you make it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Real Weddings: Mariko and Jeff Wrapup

Here's Mariko with one last guest post reviewing their vendors...

Irvine Nature Center

We decided to visit Irvine after we saw this post. How funny that over a year later, I’m now writing this post! As we were walking around Irvine before meeting with the events coordinator, we saw a little girl with her hands clasped gently together exclaiming, "I held a toad!!!" Minutes later, as the coordinator was showing us around, she put a tiny toad in my hands...and I reacted in the exact same way: "I held a toad!!!" (I love frogs and toads.)

It was important to us that we be married somewhere meaningful to us.  Neither of us are religious, so we explored options like the Maryland Science Center (we’re both researchers) and Irvine (we love to hike). Irvine “felt right” in many ways – the fact that we were able to support a non-profit and that it fit within our budget made it perfect.

I had the sense that Irvine hasn’t hosted that many wedding ceremonies. As a result, they’re not always the most organized, decisive people to work with (i.e. Will we have signs directing guests to the gazebo for cocktail hour? Umm…). On the flip side, however, they have a very small community feel, where everybody is willing to make accommodations to make you happy and to make things work in the end. Despite some small frustrations, ultimately, we were overjoyed to be married at Irvine.

We stumbled across Linwoods on a listing on the back of a wedding magazine before we found Irvine - we were lucky that they turned out to be less than 10 minutes apart.

I should first say that food was one of our utmost priorities in planning this wedding. We both love to eat, and so do most of our friends and family – it was important to us that we serve absolutely fantastic food at our wedding.

Linwoods not only made this possible; they made it astoundingly easy. Jeff is vegetarian, and so were quite a few of our guests. We asked for multiple, interesting vegetarian options that would also be enjoyed by meat-eaters. Done. We asked about organic meat. Done. We wanted people to have options, options, options. Done (about 4 or 5 main dishes). Our guests raved about the food!! Linwoods also allowed us to add a couple of local beers to their already fairly extensive beer list (we served Resurrection, a Baltimore favourite).

In addition to the phenomenal food, the service at Linwoods was impeccable. Their on-site catering coordinator, Rachel, was in constant contact with us from the very beginning until after the reception. Having her around made us feel comfortable and confident in our decisions, and she made sure everything ran smoothly during the actual reception. We honestly could not have asked for a better coordinator.

Oh, and I suppose I should also mention that Linwoods was one of the most affordable options we came across. While some catering companies wouldn’t give us the time of day when we disclosed our (graduate student) budget, Linwoods made it work for us. Part of the reason it was cheaper than on-site catering at Irvine was the rentals and fees – renting wine glasses and forks, an on-site oven, fuel charges – these all added up quickly! Having the reception at a restaurant cut down on many of these charges, and for us, worked very well.

If you are interested, here was our menu:
Passed Hors D’oeuvres:
            Assorted bite-size pizzas: pugliese, margherita, vegetable primavera
            Parmesan and rosemary shortbreads with roasted cherry tomatoes and feta cheese
            Carmaelized onion & gruyere puff pastry
            Mushroom sautéed wth shallots & cream, in a flaky pastry case
            Tenderloin bites with béarnaise sauce
            Charmoula shrimp
Station 1:
            Market salad, red wine vinaigrette
            Almond crusted organic chicken with mango salsa
            Fried green tomatoes with remoulade
            Mediterranean Israeli cous cous salad
Station 2:
            Baby spinach salad with berries and sugared pecans, light vinaigrette
            Spinach and ricotta cheese ravioli, browned butter and pine nuts
            Eggplant napoleon with goat cheese fondue
            Assorted bread: toasted garlic bread, walnut raisin bread, ciabatta, rosemary focaccia
Dessert Buffet:
            Petite tiramisu
            Miniature crème brûlée
            Fresh fresh and berries
Late Night Snack:
            Petits Fours and shot glasses of milk 

Hyatt Place Owings Mills
Tremont Plaza
            We booked 2 hotels for our out-of-town guests (about 70% of our guest list) – one was the Hyatt Place in Owings Mills, about a 5 minute drive from Irvine and Linwoods. The other was the Tremont Plaza, in Mt. Vernon. We wanted our guests to at least have the option of exploring Baltimore while they were in town. (I should say, in writing these reviews, that Jeff and I stayed at neither hotel – we stayed in our own apartment.)
            Guests were happy at both hotels, and I was happy with their service. The Hyatt Place offers a free shuttle service within a 5 mile radius, so we thoroughly took advantage of this and had our guests shuttled from the hotel to Irvine (2 trips, about 30 minutes apart), from Irvine to Linwoods (2 trips), and from Linwoods back to the hotel (2 trips, about 1 hour apart). Guests just need to sign up for a particular shuttle time when they checked in. (See Freedom Services below for how we provided shuttles for our guests staying at the Tremont). 

Studio Mathewes
            I’ve loved the community created through A Practical Wedding, so I jumped at the chance of being able to work with one of their sponsors. Jeff and I did meet with a couple of other photographers, but we loved Jocelyn’s work, and we loved her. Genuinely enthusiastic, Jocelyn infuses each moment with such joy, and it was great to have someone like her with us on our wedding day.  She made us comfortable in front of the camera and at the same time, managed to capture all of the small moments of the day we’ll remember fondly (e.g. my mom helping Jeff’s father with his boutonniere, my dad taking pictures of me and Jeff on his point and shoot even though there were 2 professional photographers around, me laughing as Jeff’s father made fun of my board game negotiating tactics during the ceremony, the crazy dancing). We couldn’t have been happier with Jocelyn and her work.

Local Color Flowers
I can’t remember where I heard about Locoflo (maybe through Jocelyn’s blog?). We didn’t meet with anybody else – we liked that they were a local business selling local things. Ellen only works with farmers that are nearby. While this means that you generally are a little restricted in your options, Jeff and I loved the idea behind Ellen’s business. We gave Ellen a general impression of what we were looking for, and she delivered beautiful, beautiful flowers and herbs for the wedding. We had potted herbs for centerpieces, and we requested white and green bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages.

Freedom Services
To whatever extent possible, we tried to make it easy for people to have fun at the wedding (good food, good music, open bar). For a lot of people, that also means not having to worry about driving home after the reception – so we provided shuttles for our out of town guests. The Hyatt Place took care of the guests staying with them, making multiple runs throughout the night, and Freedom Services took care of the wedding party and the guests staying at the Tremont (all in 14 person vans). They were professional and friendly, and surprisingly affordable, especially compared to a limo for the wedding party.

Ze Mean Bean Café
It took us a very long time to find a rehearsal dinner venue that would be able to host about 50 people and wouldn’t break the bank. It was only a month or so before the wedding when we finally found Ze Mean Bean Café, and everything worked out wonderfully! They have a space next to the restaurant where they set up a delicious buffet with lots of Polish food, alongside some beers and wines. At times, they were a little slow to get back to us, but on the night of the rehearsal dinner, the service was great.

Various “friendors”
We also depended on so many of our kind friends to help us out during the wedding day. People helped us with: setting up the speakers and microphones at the ceremony and reception sites; making tasty and fun wedding cakes and transporting them; making a few announcements during the reception (we used an ipod for music); picking up food for our Sunday brunch which we had back at our apartment and was open to everybody; making sure everybody had a ride from the ceremony to the reception, etc., etc…I’m sure that many others pitched in without us even being aware of it. We were extremely fortunate to be surrounded by so many people who were willing to help.

A word about vendors / friendors
I believe that Jeff and I were lucky to have worked with so many vendors who were all professional and kind. Your wedding day is busy. Surround yourself with people you trust so you can let go and stop worrying – and that goes for vendors, too. We were able to relax and enjoy ourselves because we knew that our day was in good hands. How well you get along personally with potential vendors at the initial meetings may provide an indication of how comfortable you will be with them on the wedding day.

Thanks so much, Mariko and Jeff for sharing your beautiful wedding with us!!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Sorry about the photo snafu on this morning's post, everyone!  It's all straightened out now, so go check it out!

Real Weddings: Mariko and Jeff Part II

Part II of Mariko and Jeff's wedding! Again, all photos taken by Studio Mathewes.
Wedding Day, Part 2: The other stuff

Jeff grew up in Chicago, went to college in Michigan, and now lives in Baltimore. His family is from Detroit. I was born in Nara, a small city in Japan, then lived in Tokyo, Kuwait, Toronto, and Los Angeles before going to college in Connecticut, and ended up in Baltimore. All of my family lives in Japan. Needless to say, we had a lot of out-of-towners for our wedding, coming in from Tokyo, London (they were on the very last flight out of Heathrow when this happened), San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Chicago, Detroit, North Carolina, and Florida.

In the end, much of what we did was structured around two goals: we wanted to spend as much time as possible with our families and friends who had traveled from near and far, and we wanted them to be part of our wedding day, as much as they had been part of our lives so far.

Even though we had explicitly planned to spend a lot of time with our guests, it wasn’t really until the rehearsal dinner that I understood what it was like to be in a room filled with so many people you love. We’d spent the day running around town getting ready for the next day (pick up speakers! drop off speakers! check in with ceremony site and reception venue! rehearse!) that we hadn’t really had a moment to catch our breath yet. I was overwhelmed by everybody’s presence, and we felt extraordinarily lucky to have so many people who love us join us for the weekend.

The first goal was achieved through several concrete decisions about having multiple events throughout the wedding weekend. We invited everybody from out of town who had already arrived to our rehearsal dinner on Friday night (~50 people). We hosted Sunday brunch at our apartment and had bagels and lox (and leftover food and cupcakes from the reception!). Everybody was invited to stop by if they could (~75 people did). We had a pre-ceremony cocktail hour, so we could see everybody and relax before the ceremony. In addition to maximizing the time we spent with our guests, this also allowed them to meet each other, a consequence we hadn’t really considered but ended up loving. I think our parents especially enjoyed meeting our friends, and gained some insight into our “grown-up” lives far from home. My father came up to me at some point and said that meeting Jeff’s friends really made him confident about what a great guy he was. Aww.

The second goal was a little less concrete, and I don’t think we ever really saw it as a specific goal during the planning. Things just happened to work out nicely. We wanted to involve our people (families, friends, communities that have shaped who we are today) in the wedding as much as possible. Looking back, a couple of things helped make this happen. First, we involved our family in the ceremony; Jeff’s father officiated, my mother did a reading, we didn’t process with our parents, but we hugged them instead at the very beginning. Jeff’s grandfather wrote us a piece of music that Jeff’s cousins played. The ceremony was packed with things that recognized our loving, supportive families.

Second, we did a ring warming during the ceremony, where we passed around our wedding rings around the entire group. We were worried that it would take too long to pass through 100 guests during our 20-minute ceremony, but it worked out great, and everybody could be a part of the wedding ceremony.

Third, we had a guestbook where everybody was all on one page, as one giant community – one of Jeff’s groomsmen made a print for us of a tree silhouette. (idea borrowed from here.)

People had a lot of fun with the guestbook, and it turned out beautifully – it’s a gorgeous visual reminder of the lives that surround us. Last, our seating card display involved lots of pictures from our past – many of the guests were featured in pictures from 5, 10, 20 years ago, and everybody had a hilarious time seeing themselves and other guests in the pictures. (Two days before the wedding, I almost scrapped this idea as my parents and I scrambled to put 70 seating cards and just as many pictures on ribbons. My parents flew in from Japan, and this was what I was doing with them? I’m so glad that we went through with it – my parents had fun laughing at pictures of me and Jeff as kids, recounting old stories about various trips and comparing pictures of our friends from 20 years ago and now. And everybody at the reception loved the display!)

(Editor's Note: The middle picture may be the cutest picture I've ever seen in my life.)
We also depended on so many people to make this day possible - as much as we strived to make everybody feel welcome and involved, our family and friends, in turn, made us feel loved and supported. My mother painted all of the pictures for our stationery: invitations, RSVP cards, programs, menus, thank you cards. Her teacher graciously printed everything for us. My mom also made lunch for us on the wedding day - when we all came back from getting our hair and make up done, I was absolutely ravenous and sat down to scarf down a delicious homemade meal with some of my favourite people in the world. Jeff's grandfather wrote a song that we could use during the ceremony (Mozart meets Klezmer), and his cousins played it beautifully for us, despite the horrendous winds. One of our professors designed and baked 3 perfect wedding cakes for us: a dinosaur cake for Jeff, a penguin cake for me (our respective favourite animals), and a small cake for the cake cutting. Oh, and she also made cupcakes in our favourite flavours, peanutbutter and carrot cake. She and a friend of ours transported it to our reception venue on the morning of the wedding. Our friends arrived early to set up speakers for the ceremony, then took them down and moved them to the reception and set them up there so we could use one set for both places. The chairs for the ceremony fell over, because of the wind - they fixed that for us, too. Our groomsmen pulled double duty and made a few announcements throughout the night, since we didn't have a DJ. Our bridesmaids stayed behind after the ceremony to make sure everybody had a ride to the reception. Someone picked up bagels and lox for us on Sunday morning for the brunch, so we could sleep in a little longer. Our family and friends all generously pitched in, and not only was this a huge financial help, it also emphasized, as we embarked on this new stage in our lives, how much we could depend on those around us.

Putting it this way makes it seem like we had an organized, grand master plan throughout the planning process, and everything was perfect - for the most part, we didn’t have a master plan (although we did have excel spreadsheets), and some (minor) things did go wrong. But we made decisions that made sense to us. Sometimes we didn’t agree with each other, even though underneath it all, I think we both wanted the same basic things. Sometimes we didn’t agree with our parents, despite the fact that they were understanding and supportive. And both of these things were rough, but it was okay. (I cried. A lot.) Something that I now feel was integral to the planning process and a successful weekend was trying to understand why particular decisions were important to each other. For example, my parents and I have essentially lived in two different cultures (they in Japan, me in Canada and America) – I’ve never been to a Japanese wedding, and they’ve never been to an American wedding. Our expectations of what a wedding should be, and what we wanted it to be, were completely different. Even more, we had misconceptions of what the other party expected or wanted! In the end, talking through these issues was a tough bonding experience. For the most part, the specific outcomes of the decisions (to do a procession? A father-daughter dance? Who gives the toast?) didn't matter as much as understanding why this particular issue was important to each of us, and how it reflected our own values and expectations.

Finally, one piece of advice, from someone who had a ridiculously fun time at her wedding: decide ahead of time when you’re going to stop planning, and at that point, let everything go. Whether it’s when the first guest from out of town arrives, or when you’re getting your nails done with your bridesmaids, or when you wake up on your wedding day – take a deep breath and just let it go. Everything will be beautiful, and everybody will enjoy themselves. All of the hard work you’ve put in so far is going to pay off.

I’m about as type A as they get, so both Jeff and I were worried about whether I could really do this, even though I so badly wanted to. But in the end, everything came together, and knowing that we were surrounded by people who loved us made it all okay. Yes, there was some unexpected sadness (Jeff’s grandparents couldn’t make it to the wedding, at the very last minute). Yes, there were inconveniences (It was a windy, windy day, and I heard that there was some kind of chair dominos right before the ceremony started). Not everything went as planned (We had some issues with our ipod at the reception. Some people may have drunk a tad too much). When it comes down to it, you just can't control the actions of 100+ people, nor can you expect everything to go a certain way.

But in the end, everything worked out – people came, surrounded us with their love as we exchanged vows, they enjoyed their dinner, and they danced – danced!­ – the night away. And they took some crazy fun pictures at our photobooth (props lovingly supplied by one of Jeff’s friends). So take a deep breath, and go have some fun!!!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Real Weddings: Mariko and Jeff Part I

I'm so excited to share with you this week Mariko and Jeff's wedding!  They got married back in April at Irvine Nature Center and I'm so grateful to them for writing up this guest post so I can y'know, save the world and ignore the wedding.  It's pretty photo heavy, all thanks to Studio Mathewes, and totally worth any load delays.)
Part I: The Ceremony
Planning a wedding, we tend to focus so much energy and attention on the venue, the food, the guest list, the flowers, the dress – and not nearly as much on the ceremony itself.  I sometimes felt guilty for not spending more time thinking about the fact that we were going to be married, and not just celebrating with our family and friends.  Part of my hesitation in thinking about the ceremony came from the fact that we had no idea where to start.
 (Editor's note: This is where our ceremony will be too. Lucky much?)
Neither Jeff nor I are religious, and we didn’t want a religious ceremony. But what did a non-religious ceremony look like?  Sometimes it seemed impossibly daunting to construct a meaningful wedding ceremony practically from scratch – but in the end, things worked out really well.  We had Jeff’s father get ordained on the internet to officiate. We passed around our wedding rings for a ring warming (“a what?” people asked.). We didn’t have a procession. Jeff’s father said a few words about us, which included making fun of Jeff’s love of tofu and my board game negotiation tactics. We chose readings that spoke to us. Jeff's cousins played music for us, and his grandfather composed one of the pieces.

What we ended up with was short, funny, and very much representative of who we are. I’m glad that we chose to keep fighting some battles until we were satisfied. I was really uncomfortable with anything where the bride was featured more prominently than the groom, and I didn’t want people to stand up for only me during the procession – so we didn’t process (Jeff was okay with that). We couldn’t find readings we loved and I was ready to settle for “good enough,” but Jeff kept looking and found a wonderful one. I’m Japanese, but we didn’t incorporate any Japanese wedding traditions, because we couldn’t find any that were truly meaningful to us. Jeff is half Jewish, and we did have him step on a wine glass (or a lightbulb masquerading as a wine glass), because it was a tradition we both knew and liked.
I imagine that much of our lives will be spent figuring out what is important to us as we continue to grow and evolve as a family. Writing the ceremony together with Jeff, with some input from our parents, was an unexpectedly appropriate way to take our first step as a family. I’m sure we’ll sometimes want to just settle for “good enough” when we shouldn’t. I’m sure that we will come up with compromises that make sense to us, even if they defy traditions and expectations.  And I can now say that we have successfully navigated both of these situations, and more.  That’s not to say everything from here on out will be easy – but I feel better prepared.
If you are interested, here are the readings we used:
Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, from Goodridge vs. Department of Health
Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations…Without question, civil marriages enhances the “welfare of the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.” It is central to the way the Commonwealth identifies individuals, provides for the orderly distribution of property, ensures that children and adults are cared for and supported whenever possible from private rather than public funds, and tracks important epidemiological and demographic data…Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.
“Love,” by Shuntaro Tanikawa
(My mother read this in Japanese, and we printed an English translation in our programs.)
Love: easy to say out loud
Love: not hard to spell, either
Love: everybody knows how it feels
Love: to care for somebody so much it hurts
Love: to always want to be by their side
Love: to want them to live forever
Love: it's not just the word, “love”
Love: it's not just a feeling
Love: to always remember the distant past
Love: to believe in an invisible future
Love: to think, over and over again
Love: to live life to the fullest.

(As you can see from my mother's hair, it was a super windy day.)

Douglas Adams, from So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
They looked at each other for a moment.
The moment became a longer moment, and suddenly it was a very long moment, so long one could hardly tell where all the time was coming from.
For Arthur, who could usually contrive to feel self-conscious if left alone for long enough with a Swiss Cheese plant, the moment was one of sustained revelation. He felt on the sudden like a cramped and zoo-born animal who awakes one morning to find the door to his cage hanging quietly open and the savannah stretching grey and pink to the distant rising sun, while all around new sounds are waking.
He wondered what the new sounds were as he gazed at her openly wondering face and her eyes that smiled with a shared surprise.
He hadn't realized that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it, had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones till it now said something it had never said to him before, which was “Yes.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, from The Little Prince
“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world.”
The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”
And the roses were very much embarrassed.
“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you – the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.”
And he went back to meet the fox.
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important,” said the fox.
“It is the time I have wasted for my rose – ” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose...”
“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

Stay tuned for Parts II and III!!!