Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thank You

As I head off this morning to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with J's family (and my future family) I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all of you.  Over the last three months, I've jumped into this blogging adventure and I couldn't have guessed back then how important this ritual of writing and sharing and conversing with all of you would become in my everyday life.  I'm thankful for this space, for the commenters and bloggers I'm meeting here, and for the daily inspiration, sass and humor I'm finding in the conversation.

And of course, I'm thankful to even be a part of this conversation.  I've talked recently about what are, ultimately, small potato problems; my biggest concern in the last few weeks has been how to grapple with possible budget creep from $15,000, and that's an incredibly privileged problem to be having.  I'm having these problems because we're in a financial position to make difficult choices and, even more importantly, we're in this position because we've found each other and want to spend our lives living and supporting each other. And for that, I'm feeling thankful indeed.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  See you in a few days.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Inspiration Boards and Inspiring Vendors

After my post last week about Sweet Emilia Jane's new event coordination and baking business venture, we got to emailing, and I'm excited to announce that J and I will be hiring Emilia Jane as our Day of Coordinator!  For us, we've prioritized focusing on the marriage and celebration and not on vendor tips and cake table set ups on our wedding day (and I don't feel comfortable asking a friend or family member).  And it's also important to us that we use our money in a way that matters, to support businesses, artists and people we believe in.  And so, we are thrilled to be working with Emilia, and every email with her further confirms that we made the right decision.

Our first order of business (oh, who am I kidding - it was fun all the way) was an inspiration board to rein in all my messy ideas about decor.  I was looking for sustainable, simple, inexpensive, colorful, textured and stylish (along with a ton of other things) and Emilia Jane really helped edit down my mishmash into two inspiration boards. Yeah, my mishmash was too awesome to be contained on just one board.  (Either that, or my thoughts weren't stylistically coherent enough, but I choose to believe in the awesome.)

So, without further ado, here are my two Southern-California, bold-color, sustainable-chic inspiration boards to help guide me on my thrift store adventures. J and I lovelovelove the color palette from the second board and will be liberally stealing elements from them both.

LAL #1

Credits: bethhelmstetterblog, style me pretty, Veiled Vows, A Backyard Wedding, stylemepretty, yes, please blog, designspongeonline

LAL #2

Credits: wedding whims (3), martha stewart, wordpress, Gemma Commas

For all you ladies who have unsuccessfully attempted the Martha pom poms (getting that signature poof is harder than you'd think. At least, that was my impression at Akbar's craft night.  Or perhaps that was just the cocktails talking...) how much do you LOVE these pinwheels?!  Easy, colorful, structured, travels well to the venue, did I mention easy, and DO YOU SEE THAT FIREPLACE?!  We have a fireplace too, so I am doubly thrilled.

For anyone interested in talking with Emilia Jane about making you a custom inspiration board too, check out more information here.  And for anyone interested in talking with Emilia Jane about your wedding planning or baking needs, go visit Sweet Emilia Jane.

Edit: I fixed the link to Sweet Emilia Jane's Inspiration Board info. It should be working now.

Pie for Breakfast

Usually I wait until the Friday after Thanksgiving to eat sugary deliciousness for breakfast.  But I don't usually have home-baked pie in the fridge either.  Clarification - home-baked pie made by yours truly.  This is my first pie ever, because the preciseness of baking has always been a little intimidating (I'm, um, a creative cook.)  But I made it, little leaves and apple decor included, and it is delicious.  And really, if we don't eat it this week it's just going to go bad by the time I get back from Texas on Sunday night. 

My only justification for pie-for-breakfast is that I walked 17 miles on Saturday and that it's delicious.  And that is good enough for me. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

More Engagement Ring Stress

I've lost a little weight recently*, and my engagement ring is now too big.  In fact, it's so big that instead of just being awkwardly loose it slipped into the range of entirely too big when it simply fell off last week at work.  So, all weekend, I wandered around engagement-ring free, not worrying at all about my ring's safety during the Great Los Angeles Walk or while making a my first apple pie ever at the Jennie Cooks Catering open house.  It was a relief.  It was one less worry during an already stressful time period (really, engagement rings are not important enough to be taking up this much brainspace) and I kind of enjoyed the confusion people expressed when I mentioned my wedding or my fiance and no one could see a ring.

Obviously, I'll have to make time to get this ring resized.  But, before that happens, I have tons of family occasions during which people are sure to grab my hand and coo over the size of my ring (at which point I'll inform them it's synthetic sapphire, because I'm not good with jewelery cooing.) In particular, I'm heading off to spend Thanksgiving with J's family in Texas, most of whom I haven't seen since the engagement, so cooing is almost a definite likelihood (if my family gatherings are any indication).  And cooing isn't bad, per se, it's just not very comfortable for me.  And I'd prefer to leave the ring safe at home until I find time to get it resized (maybe, oh, in mid-January) and make it safe for everyday wear.  But, I feel a strange obligation to wear the ring this Thanksgiving as a marker of our engagement and my upcoming joining with this family.   

It's strange conflicting stuff, and you know I'm already a bit conflicted about the ring altogether.  But, along with holiday and travel stress, the ring issues are the last thing I need.  And so, today, I kinda wish I had this ring, because I'm feeling a little rebellious and overwhelmed with all the holiday expectations - for gifts, for work, for family, and for what it means to be a teensy bit on display (even if I already adore the people I'll be visiting and on display with.) 

Okay, to be fair, I'm not really feeling completely "eff you" about the engagement ring (although that's an awesome ring, right?)  I just wish it wasn't an additional pressure at an already stressful time.  And I really wish I could magically transport myself to Texas instead of battling with LAX on Wednesday morning.  I'm trying to focus on family, love and pie right now and take a deep breath about the rest.  I think I may need to revisit Rachel's non-insane holiday guide over at Heart of Light again before the day is over. 

*I want to state, for the record, that I am NOT losing weight for the wedding.  Blech.  I am losing weight because I finally got back on the healthy-and-balanced Weight Watchers bandwagon after about six petulant months off.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Get Out: Weekend Fun for Nov 20-22

I'm stupid excited about my plans for this weekend.  For those of you in Los Angeles who have an entire Saturday to spare, you may want to consider joining me at the Great Los Angeles Walk, an annual event organized by the folks over at the excellent local blog Franklin Avenue. J and I will be joining approximately 150 other people to walk from Downtown(ish) to the beach, geeking out about LA history and culture along the way.  From the website:
In 2006, we hiked down Wilshire. In 2007, it was Pico. And in 2008, we started at Sunset before walking the entire length of Santa Monica Blvd.

This year, we're heading south -- and once again diving into the history of Los Angeles. This year, we hit the ex-presidents: Washington and Adams.

The route will take us past some of L.A.'s most beautiful historic places -- such as the Automobile Club of Southern California headquarters, the Golden State Mutual Life headquarters, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Roman Catholic church and much more. There's even Ray Charles' old recording studio. And then there's the collection of historic homes along West Adams.
We'll be walking a mix of Adams and Washington -- until we get to Culver City, where we'll have lunch and then exclusively hike the rest of Washington Blvd. all the way to Venice Beach.
Interested?  The group will be meeting at the Shrine Auditorium tomorrow, November 21, ready to leave by 9:30 a.m.  We'll get lunch in the Mid-City area long the way and ending up in Venice at the Baja Cantina.  This is an LA nerd's dream: the opportunity to explore history, architecture and culture outside our typical local bars and restaurants.  I also have to admit to a ridiculous enjoyment of exploring new cities by foot (the first thing I do after arriving anywhere it hoof it for hours without any purpose in mind).  Find out more at the FAQ page here.

And on Sunday, I'm attending an event at Jennie Cooks Catering (she's an affordable sustainable local caterer I've heard great things about) with local brews, lunch and pie baking.  That's right, I'm going to attempt to bake my first pie. I'm thinking of apple. Interested?  Find out more here.

In between, I'll also manage some karaoke and some shopping for Thanksgiving decor, and we're preparing the house for our new rescue cat (more on that later.)

And how about you ladies, any exciting plans this weekend?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unexpected Moments of Perfection

Last night, J and I experienced a moment of perfection at the Swell Season concert. Perhaps you remember Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova from that beautiful little movie Once? Well, they were just as beautiful, genuine, sweet-without-being-saccharine, and perfectly harmonized in concert as they were in the film. Usually, when I go to concerts and don't know all the songs, I enjoy the experience a little bit less: not so, last night.  Every song featured beautiful harmonies, emotion, and great guitar.  Not to mention, the band was joined by the Frames onstage, a Czech family friend of Marketa's (to honor the Velvet Revolution) and a guest song by Jason Siegel.

But while it was definitely an amazing concert, it surpassed amazing into something more due to Glen, his honesty, and a story he told us that left me in tears.  I had to share, because it hit me last night and stayed with me this morning, and those are the sort of moments that matter most.

A few weeks ago, Glen was in Chicago for the tour.  As he came down the elevator in the morning, an older woman, perhaps 70, in a bright blue coat joined him. He described her face thusly: "You know how you have the face you were born with until you're 25, then from 25 to 40 you have the face that earn, and from 40 to death you have the face you deserve? Well, this woman was beautiful at 70, just one of the most beautiful faces, she definitely had one of those faces you earn."  And as he looked over at her, he felt the need to compliment her coat, and so he did.  And she got so excited and touched, responding, "Thank you for noticing my coat.  This coat means so much to me, thank you for noticing.  I bought this coat when I decided to live again.  I loved the color and wanted to live.  I didn't leave my apartment for two years, and when I did, when I decided to live, I bought this blue coat."  Glen was a little surprised and a little touched, and he helped her with her bag to the taxi.  As they got to the taxi, she started to tear up and the words started rushing out like when you've had a moment of kindness that unlocks all the emotions that have been sitting around for ages.  And she said, "My son died in that tower.  He quit on September 10 and went back the next day to pick up some last things.  I meant to call him and tell him not to bother going back, but I slept late.  And then I didn't leave my apartment for two years.  And then I finally decided to buy this coat and live, and you noticed it."

It wasn't exactly typical concert banter, but I don't think anyone in the audience minded.  He followed it up with this song, mixing his beautiful tonality with harsh yearning and incredible guitar, and it was perfection.

It was just a small moment in an elevator, but a small moment that mattered.  So go out and compliment someone today, go out and be purposely nice, and go out and remember to live.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Real Los Angeles Wedding Budgets

I was emailing with Ms. Awesome Weds, and she mentioned this budget moment all big city brides can probably relate to:
"I have to admit that when we first started planning our wedding my attitude was "why the hell did "fill in the blank with couple's name" have to spend so much d*mn money on a wedding? How ridiculous!  My first email back from Marvimon pretty much answered that question." 
Um, yes. And our budget shock is compounded by the contrast between reality and those stunning photos of the charming DIY cost-saving options at Marvimon and Smog Shoppe, mixed in with our sincere goal to hit that elusive $10,000 budget mark (she nearly made it, right? I can nearly make it too, right?) We throw out these arbitrary threshold numbers like $5,000 or $10,000 or $15,000, thinking it should be simple to stay within budget if we aim for a simple wedding, and feeling like spendthrift failures if we don't.

Eff that.  We should chose budgets because they're reasonable for our aims, our city, our guest list, and our pocketbooks.  And we should decide on our budgets based on real research and real prioritizing. And we should stop judging each other for the money we do or don't spend on these events. You know what would also be nice?  Cold hard numbers. Real numbers, not BS outright lie pie-in-the-sky numbers that make us feel like failures and give us unrealistic expectations.

Now, I know budgets and money are a tricky subject. It's culturally uncouth to talk about money, and I feel almost naked trying to attempt it.  It was hard for me to put myself out there last week and talk about our $15,000 goal and the looming $25,000 possibility.  But you know what, I want to know more about real budgets, real struggles and real choices and so I put myself out there too.  I want it to be okay to talk about real weddings and to expose the $10,000 wedding photographer fantasies up front so I can smile at the pretty and put them aside.  I want to find weddings with my budget level so I have a sense of a reasonable starting point and reasonable compromises you have to make in those situations.  I want to find descriptions of sites online that don't say it costs $, $$. $$$. or $$$ but say upfront that it will cost you $7,000 for an empty room so I can research and move on. 

So, let's stop tiptoeing around the numbers and talk about real Los Angeles budgets. And let's be nice about the woman who put herself out there with an honest assessment of her wedding expenses. Maybe you remember her beautiful wedding from Hazelnut Photography's photos and thought "I could do that."  Yes, you can, if you have about $36,000.  Because that's how much this sort of wedding costs in Los Angeles.  But you know what, the most important part is how she notes in her Weddingbee post that it was all worth it and she wouldn't change a thing.

That's the feeling we should be chasing as we grapple with budgets: that our choices are worth it to us. Of course pocketbook limitations help define our spending and constrain our wouldn't-it-be-nice visions, but couples of every budget can aim for the "yes, it was worth it" feeling.  Personally, I don't have $36,000 to spend on my wedding so it wouldn't be worth it to me, but it really helps to see that the weddings I've been lusting after are simply out of my price range. Period, end of story.  But you know what's great about the $36,000?  I can finally move on and figure out what does work for my price range without holding onto unrealistic hopes and expectations. And that's an incredibly freeing idea. We need more of this freeing budget info here in weddingland, for low, medium and high budget weddings, and I'm hoping to discover more honest assessments along the way.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Succulent Hair Flower, Succulent Florals, and Bundt Cake, Oh My!

Ok, I never do this, but WOW.  Did this Green Wedding Shoes-featured wedding just read my mind? 

Succulent hair flower?  Check.

Eclectic live succulent centerpieces (which I haven't discussed much yet but we are planning on)? Check.

Bundt cake? Check.

I am having far too much fun tossing tradition and figuring out my own personal awesome, and I love when other people do the same. Also, when I see well executed non-traditional weddings, I feel vindicated (and my mother gets just a little bit more on board with my wedding choices.) Again, we all know the decor is entirely unimportant, but I love the implied willingness to question this-is-how-it's-done traditions and select inexpensive chic options instead (or to nix them altogether, whatever works for you.) Because really, decor and so-called traditions aside, this is what's important:

Yes, please. 

Kiss My Bundt

Did you know that November 15 was National Bundt Day?  Well, I wouldn't have known either, except that a little local bakery named Kiss My Bundt was offering free bundt samples in honor of the, ahem, holiday.  And if there's one thing I like as much as quality baked goods, it's word play and punny references.  So, obviously, I had to stop by and try the bundts.

Why yes, these are mini red velvet bundt cakes

My reaction?  MMMMMMohmyfreakinggoodnessthisisyuuuuuuuuuuuuuumy. Moist, rich cake with perfect frosting, served in cupcake-sized servings. We tried the red velvet, 7-up, and lemon drop cakes, and all were mouth-wateringly delicious.  The 30+ flavor menu rotates daily, while always offering their bestselling "Daily 8," so you never know quite what you'll find when you arrive at the shop.  What you do know is that you'll have access to ample amounts of their southern-inspired confections.  Even if the red velvet doesn't look like the cakes you might have grown up with, the flavor would do a Southern baker proud. (um, have I mentioned that red velvet is my absolute favorite cake?  And that I'm having some at my wedding?  In other words, I know my red velvet, and this stuff was delicious.)  Vegans should note that Kiss My Bundt also makes 100% vegan red velvet bundts.

The bakery focuses on bundt cakes in three sizes: Mini Bundts at $2.50 each (about the size of a homemade cupcake), Baby Bundts at $4 each (about the size of a Sprinkles cupcake) and Big Ol' Bundts for $32 each (the size you might make in a bundt pan at home). They also offer other Southern-infused confections but really, I can't speak to those.  I ate the bundts.

So if you're on the "I hate cupcake" bandwagon (side note: I don't understand and I don't accept the cupcakes-are-a-played-out-trend silliness) but you're still loathe to pay $$$ for a slice of fancy wedding cake, this might offer a delicious cake alternative solution.  I promise that the Kiss My Bundt cupcake tree full of mini-bundts could easily rival any "trendy" cupcake wedding display, making mini-bundts a very viable non-cupcake, non-fondant, completely awesome wedding dessert option.

Kiss My Bundt
8104 West 3rd St (at Crescent Heights)
Los Angeles, CA 90048
*free parking available in the back*

Monday, November 16, 2009

Good Things Happening for Good People

It warmed my heart to pieces to see Erin Ever After's wedding photos hit the blogosphere today on a Once Wed triple feature. The wedding was beautiful, Corbin Grukin's photography was beautiful and, most importantly, the couple looked happy and joyful in their love.

Speaking of joy, this wedding also made me warm and fuzzy because the marvelous Emilia Jane (of the inimitable blogs Auburn & Ivory and Veiled Vows) finally stepped into the spotlight with her new event coordination and baking venture, Sweet Emilia Jane.  She baked all the cupcakes and was the day-of-coordinator for Erin and Chuck's wedding.

Cupcakes by Sweet Emilia Jane

SoCal (and other) brides take note: Emilia Jane has style and substance, and I love visiting her sites for inspiration and smiles (wedding and non-wedding related alike.)  She mixes her great aesthetic eye with the DIY/shoestring budget realities we're all dealing with and ends up with lovely finds like stylish keg cozies, vintage woodsy wedding charm, and unexpected venue options.

I'm all about practical Day-of-Coordinator assistance on my wedding day, cake alternatives, practical and budget-friendly choices, and supporting vendors I like and respect.  How great is it that Emilia Jane has all four aspects covered already (not to mention the Pretty, which she obviously excels at too.) Since she's just starting out on her own and just starting to get featured on Once Wed, and because she knows what it's like to be a lower-budget bride, my fingers are crossed that we'll be pleasantly surprised about her pricing.

I like it when good things happen for good people.  And I like great vendor options.  I just had to share. 

I Don't Believe in "The One"

The idea of "The One" has always rubbed me the wrong way.  Of the 6.7 billion people in the world, it's laughable to assume that only one partner would work for me.  After all, I genuinely believe that love is a decision, and we learn to make our peace with our partner's (perceived) failings and irritations because the great stuff is pretty darn great. 

But this post isn't about my wonderful partner.  It's about my wonderful dress.  Yes, THAT dress.  The wedding dress that I'll just magically know is "The One" for me once I put it on and twirl.

I call BS.  I understand that many women have that YesYesYes moment.  Some of my readers have talked to me about it.  There's an entire tv show (and dress salon economy) built around it.  But I'm of the opinion that searching for "The One" dress can be just as damaging and elusive as holding out for Prince Charming. I even had a yesyesyes moment myself before I came to my senses and realized that the beautiful, perfectly fitting dress just didn't feel right for me. And that's because the beautiful dress didn't meet my real wedding dress criteria.  And furthermore, I know that there are numerous dresses that could meet my real wedding dress criteria and make me feel amazing.

My criteria:
  • I'm paying under $1000 for dress and alterations.  The less, the better, but $1000 is my splurge limit. (I am also very willing to re-sell it after the wedding, but I'm not including that cost assessment in my line-in-the-sand upfront budget.)
  • It must be comfortable.  I want to eat, dance, hug, sit and cavort in this thing all night long without feeling like it's painted on or like I'm trapped inside boning. Buhdoop put it well when she said "the dress needs to be able to fit inside a bathroom and easily handled by me. I'm sure my mom or my bridesmaids would be happy to help me go to the bathroom, I just don't want them to."
  • It has to fit the feel of the wedding.  I want something that suits our outdoor venue.  I want it to feel elegant but still appropriate for a casual-yet-fancy wedding.
  • It has to fit my personal style needs.  I want something that doesn't feel traditionally weddingy, because a lot of those dresses don't speak to my soul, however beautiful they are.  I love architectural modern lines and I like playing with shape, texture and color.  One of my favorite buildings in the world is the Bilbao Guggenheim museum and one of my most coveted items of jewelry is this ringThese things speak to my soul, and I am looking for a dress that does the same. 
  • Preferably, I am looking for an ivory, non-strapless dress.  White doesn't suit my coloring and v-necks are more flattering on my figure (and I don't want to worry about wardrobe malfunctions, uniboob or weird arm fat bulge issues that seem to happen to me with many strapless dresses) 
Even though I had a very specific, well thought-out list, it hasn't made this dress search process easy.  It wasn't difficult due to the cost as much as due to the self doubt, since I seemed to be approaching the dress search much more "sensibly and practically" than my girlfriends or mother would have liked.  I refused to even try high-end dresses, since I already knew they were out of the question.  Instead, I scoured vintage shops, Craigslist, department stores, second hand dress sites, sample dress shops, etsy, ebay  independent designers, and multiple non-bridal dress options.  But nothing was singing to my soul and I started to feel like maybe there's a reason people give up into Davids Bridal.

And then, I found it. A Nicole Miller dress I'd fallen in love with a year ago but mentally put aside due to the price tag ($1800) and fact that it never showed up on the resale sites or ebay.  I was catching up on wedding vendor resource blogs for ideas and saw the dress had been listed for sale on Wedding Chicks two weeks prior.

Yeah, it was THAT Nicole Miller dress that's no longer available in stores.  The ad promised me a $600 like-new sample from a salon that had gone out of business. I was shaking as I emailed the Wedding Chicks, hoping it was still available, wondering if it was anywhere nearby to try on.  The answer to both questions was yes.  It was available, and located about an hour from my house in Orange County.  It turns out that Amy Squires (co-owner of the Wedding Chicks) was selling several dresses on behalf of her friend and couldn't have made my dress shopping experience any more fun.  She got genuinely excited to help me try on all the dresses she was selling, lending me heels and a hair flower to flounce around in for the full bridal effect. (I'm pretty sure there was about an hour of flouncing, no joke.)
  • This dress was a no-go from the start (too simple)
  • This dress was freaking amazing.  It was also easily the heaviest dress I've ever tried on and suited none of my wedding needs.  But the flouncing was out of this world (and I've mentioned my out-of-character love for Pronovias) so trying it on was so much fun. 
  • This dress was a major temptation, especially at $600.  (I tried it on here and loved it then too.) 
As amazing as each of these dresses (and playing dress up) was, the even more amazing part was Amy herself.  Amy started the Wedding Chicks as an outlet for her extensive vendor knowledge due to being an excellent wedding photographer.  When I finally put on the dress I'd gasped about online, I gasped even more in person, and Amy took out her camera and started shooting.

Now, I've mentioned my fear of photography and general self confidence issues.  So when an accomplished professional photographer wanted to just have a great time shooting pictures of me in a pretty dress, I had a moment of panic. And then, I calmed the heck down and started to have a great time with Amy too. (She's so friendly and fun that it was hard NOT to calm the heck down.) We put on some makeup and fixed my messy Sunday morning hair. She decided we needed a better background than the closet door so I went and flounced a bit outdoors for nature shots.  It was a beautiful dress and a total blast.  Amy even touched up a few of the photos for me before handing me a CD full of high-res images from our impromptu shoot.  Here are two of my favorites (please excuse the need for alterations, particularly on my upper half, but you get the idea)

Of course, I bought the dress.  I couldn't have asked for a better dress shopping experience with a dress that met ALL my dress shopping criteria.

And yet... it's not "the One" and so I've been wracked with self doubt for the last several weeks. I flounced, I fell in love, I bought it for all the right reasons, and now out of nowhere, weeks later I'm suddenly conflicted. What if I want something sleeker and sexier?  What if I really want something short and vintage-inspired?  What if I've also fallen in love with independent designers like Holly Stalder, Elizabeth Dye, and Chrissy Wai Ching?  Those dresses are all off the table now which has led to second-guessing and panic about the dress I actually have.

It is absolutely absurd, and I keep looking back at my list and my photos to calm myself the eff down.  There is no "the One" in partners or dresses, only partners and dresses that work extremely well for each of our individual priorities. A dress is a dress, and I'm going to glow on my wedding day regardless, with the dress fading into the background against our joy.  This is all stuff I know, but today I'm looking for reinforcement.  I want to hear from the ladies who have been there, done that with wedding dress self-doubt and who have experienced the it-will-happen-regardless wedding day glow.  I need to hear that it's going to be okay, and I need to hear if you like this dress too, because weddings have been eating my brain lately and leaving me in a puddle of budgetary and planning self-doubt.  Eff you weddings - I choose J and I (probably) choose this dress, so there.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Contest Opportunities

I don't usually post about all the great contest opportunities for free wedding stuff that come across my path, because I have to really like/want something myself if I'm willing to mention it to my readers.  Well, this week I got pretty darn excited about two little options that I had to share: 

I think I've mentioned my love of travel before. Like, I'm dreaming now about the honeymoon and it (almost) makes me happier than the wedding.  But when I see all the cute-outfit planning for honeymoons it drives me batty, since all my spare money right now is going to the wedding and not to some amazing tropical getup.  Enter: the honeymoon giveaway.  InStyle Weddings and are teaming up to give one lucky couple a $1,000 honeymoon shopping spree on  All you need to do is email your best wedding shopping strategy to (and I know you budget savvy ladies have a few smart shopping ideas.) Go here for more information on rules and more information.  The contest ends December 4, so put your shopping tip thinking caps on now.

You guys remember my little rant about floral invitation designs, right? And how I mentioned my love for affordable and gorgeous invitation designs from places like Printable Press, right (she offers great floral and non-floral options alike)? Well, Kimi of Printable Press is currently offering an amazing giveaway opportunity over at Souris Mariage. (side note: if you haven't visited Souris Mariage, you should really visit Mouse's whimsical site about planning her wedding and other general wedding loveliness.) Printable Press already offers incredible design options for couples on a tight budget, and now she's offering to design an entirely new invitation, based on your specific wedding look and feel, for one lucky winner. The winner's design will become part of the Printable Press catalog and the winner will receive a free invitation design.  How amazing is that?  What are you waiting for?  Head over to Souris Mariage for more information and to enter now!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flower? Veil? All-in-One?

UPDATE: The veil-flower is no longer listed at the Romantic Flowers Etsy Shop.  But maybe if you asked nicely or hit up alchemy, you could still pursue this look.

Can't decide between a flower or a veil?  Kinda like the huge flower style but want to hew to tradition a bit more?  Now you can have the best of both worlds.

Oh Etsy, you fulfill all the needs I didn't know I even had. The same store also sells bouquets made of sea shells and other sundry items.

Happy etsy browsing and happy weekend.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NWR: Help Me Shop for Winter Dresses

One of the issues with being a reformed wasteful spender is that I still have moments of wantwantwantmustbuyEVERYTHINGnow.  Today, one of those moments hit.  Fortunately, I am a reformed wasteful spender, so I'm trying to edit down my desires into something reasonable that meets my actual needs.  I "need/have been planning to buy" dresses for the following occasions:
  • Thanksgiving at J's family home in Houston.  It's not formal and it's not jeans, so I'd like a versatile nice-but-casual vibe.
  • Work-appropriate holiday party outfit.  This outfit will do double-duty at my family's holiday party too.  It needs to be festive but relatively demure and also have post-holiday utility. 
  • J and my holiday party.  This should be neither fancy nor demure.  I'm going for generally awesome and re-wearable. 
  • General winter wardrobe.  I prefer that my outfits do double duty for work and play, if at all possible.  I've been looking for sweater dresses/belted sweaters this year in brick-and-mortar stores without much luck. 
Unfortunately, I fell in love with far too many options at ModCloth and I need your editing assistance.  (At least I fell in love with something, since last weekend's mall shopping trip was a complete bust.) Let's also keep in mind that I'm still working on defining a reasonable personal style, so I very much appreciate outside opinions, especially from a blogosphere that's significantly more stylish than I am.  So help me, please, with selecting four outfits.  

This could be post-Thanksgiving appropriate, work appropriate and winter casual appropriate, right? I'm thinking I can style it with belts, tights, jeans, cute pumps or boots for full versatility. 

It's a skirt and a top (already versatile).  With a blazer and pumps I could absolutely wear this to work.  With cute flats this could be great for casual around-town.  Could it also work for Thanksgiving?  If so, how?

Work-appropriate, obviously.  It's not versatile at all, but it's definitely client-appropriate.  I'm trying to figure out what sort of blazer might match.

I'm thinking of this dress for the office holiday party and my parents' holiday party, worn with killer heels (possibly red.)  Can you guys give me any style tips to make this more versatile? 

I was thinking of this dress for my and J's holiday party with black tights, long beads, and colorful flats.  I really wish I had brown cowboy boots for this dress, but I don't.  I was also thinking this could work for Thanksgiving.  Thoughts?  I'm more insecure about compiling boho looks than I am about compiling work-appropriate looks.

Guys, I have no excuse for putting these dresses on the shopping list.  I just like them.  They are colorful and pretty and I apparently miss Spring.  I also think they'd make excellent engagement photo or engagement party dresses.  I am absurd, and need to be talked down. 

Thoughts?  Opinions on which four you'd buy?  Opinions on accessories?  Opinions on my (lack of) style?

Dress Shopping: Nicole Miller

As you may know, I'm not the biggest fan of salon wedding dresses.  I've figured out that, even apart from their price, they don't feel like me.  There are, however, a few exceptions to that rule, and Nicole Miller is one of them.  Something about the simplicity, the unfussy elegance, and the versatility of the bridal line (appropriate for the beach or the church) felt immediately yes-worthy.  I also loved the fabrics and creativity with metallics, texture, and general bridalness.  Once I saw the price range ($600-$1900), I decided I could afford a salon visit and I could even afford to possibly find my wedding dress here. And so, I visited the West Hollywood salon.

The Nicole Miller bridal line is ready-to-wear, which I found to be a very attractive selling point.  They have none of the made-to-order-but-you-still-need-alterations BS that plagues the wedding dress industry.  If you're a size 10, you order a size 10 and it arrives almost immediately (eloping and procrastinating brides take note!)  The dresses also come with a built in bustles (for the dresses with trains), which is a nice little extra touch/cost-saving measure.

At the West Hollywood salon, the bridal room is in the back of the standard ready-to-wear store, so it felt like a more organic shopping experience and not like they were prepping to rip me off.  All in all, it was a great morning.  The bridal consultant was knowledgeable, honest, excited without being gushy or patronizing, and didn't make me feel like a cow (even though she was a size 0 herself and the Nicole Miller clientele runs tiny.) And the dresses. Oh, the dresses. I fell a little bit in love with each of them and, for the first time, I felt genuinely excited about a white wedding dress (yay!).  Here were my favorite beauties from the excursion (with the official site images followed by my real-person modeling).  For reference, I was either an 8 or a 10 in all the dresses I tried and needed clips on most of them:

I loved this dress.  No two ways about it, I loved the color, the simple lines, the crinkle taffeta, the lightweight comfort and the elegance.  It's a little busty on me, but if I'd seen the styling from this Steep Street shoot (via August and After) before I went into the Nicole Miller shop, I might have bought the dress on the spot, price be damned.  The dress runs $1600, but I've seen it on various used dress sites for under $1000. 

What you can't see in this dress is the absolutely lovely brocade-silk sheen on this material.  And I LOVE the neckline, the drape, and the great little puddle train.  The folds are actually built into the dress, and only look odd because the sample was a size too large.  This dress felt amazing on and for the price ($1320) and great outdoor-elegant style I was highly tempted to splurge and get it.

This was the most traditionally bridal of the bunch, but I loved it anyhow.  The silk shantung felt and looked amazing.  Also, what you can't see are the stunning architectural lines on this dress (try and look closely for the v-shaped overlays on the neckline.)  I admit, I nearly caved on this one.  This dress made my mother cry and insist on buying it (I ignored her on that point, but still, Mom tears are powerful things.) Unfortunately, the dress was far out of my price range at $1900 and the versions I've found online have all been altered for people much shorter than myself.

As for the other dresses I tried on, they either looked awful on me or I forgot to take iphone photos in the excitement.  Even though I forgot photos, I'd like to give honorable mentions to two incredibly reasonably priced dresses (~$600) that I also loved.  Both had the same cut in different materials.  Both are strapless, but the bridal consultant showed me how easy it would be to modify either into a sweetheart neckline.

Given how much I loved all these dresses and given the reasonableness of the pricing, I left the store feeling great, knowing that I had a definite wedding dress possibility I could love at Nicole Miller.  I pretty much decided that, if no other dress worked out in my search, I'd (very happily) get married in this last $600 white dress.  Just knowing I had a definite wedding dress option helped calm me the heck down about my wedding dress anxiety and reminded me that yes, everything will indeed be all right. 

Nicole Miller Store
8633 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 652-1629
Bridal by appointment only

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Budget Yeses

To counterbalance my budget freakout from yesterday, I thought I'd list out our moments of Yes.  Like some of my wise commenters pointed out, all of us have to make decisions about our Nos, but it's the Yeses that will stay with us from the wedding.  The moments of Yes already give me a glowy happy smile whenever I think about the marriage ceremony/celebration J and I are crafting together.  So, without further ado, these are the yeses I'm trying to hold onto when the budget numbers try to nudge me towards hyperventilating, crying, hurling, or a combination of all three.

YesYesYes Expenses
  • Venue - I lovelovelove our venue.  We found a beautiful, indoor/outdoor flexible non-profit venue and we couldn't be happier about it. Cost - $1000 (plus everything we'll need to bring in, but oh well. I'm cheering every budget victory I can here.)
  • Photography - We're both aesthetic snobs with very particular points of view. I'm probably slightly edgier than he is, but we're honing in on a shared wedding photography aesthetic.  We're willing to compromise on the full package to hire amazing artists, but we're not willing to go for the highest end photographers out there.  We just can't.  We also can't go for standard wedding blah (even if it's pretty wedding blah.)  It would make me cry.  I need art and I need a photographer who gets us, even if it's a 5 hour package instead of all day.  We also have tons of extremely talented friends and family whose photos will fill in the blanks around a more limited photography budget.
  • Catering - we're still working through this one, but I'm pushing for local, sustainable, high-quality fare. We try to eat farmer's market non-chemical laden food at home and I'd like the same for our wedding.
  • Eco-friendly decor - Our ceremony location is pretty enough to need nothing.  Our reception site is a bit of a rustic open book, so we're decorating with succulents, thrifted glass, collected jars, feathers, fabric & paper flowers, strings of lights, candles, paper lanterns, sparkles, and jewel tones. I like color, I like eclecticism, I refuse to spend money on things that will die/are ecologically wasteful, I have a vision, and I'm already collecting and thrifting.  I'll leave the succulent planting up to J and his green thumb.  
  • Jewish Wedding - we're having a progressive Rabbi marry us.  We're spending money on a work-of-art ketubah.  We want to take a pre-marital planning class through the American Jewish University.  I want to make a chuppah quilt (with help from our community).  These things cost a lot of money and time, but they are huge marriage priorities for us and we think the value is immeasurable. 
  • Alcohol - I like to party.  I like to drink when we party.  Our venue only allows beer and wine and we're planning to bring kegs of good beer and bottles of reasonable wine.  It won't be Bud Light and Two Buck Chuck but it won't be imported micro brews or $30 bottles of wine either.  I may splurge on sangria, if the budget allows, instead of a champagne toast.  I couldn't care less about champagne but I have an absurd love of sangria and memories of living in Spain.
  • Music - J is a musician so it's a priority for him that we have good music.  To him, this means a DJ.  This is a battleground topic for us because I already love his mad playlist skills and I would be just as happy with a friend MC/borrowing sound equipment. We're both treading carefully here and we'll see how it works out. At some point, I'll probably say eff it, the $1500 battle isn't worth fighting and he'll get his DJ. (even if I'm right, ahem.)
  • Attire - more on this later, but I scored on my dress. It was a splurge-for-me, but barely registers in the wedding world cost scheme and met my comfort/style/cost criteria.  I am happy. 
  • Accessories - I have an obscene love for jewelery-as-art.  I'm planning on special earrings for the dress, since I don't have anything that works in my current collection.  I'm also planning on a colored shrug (it will be coooold at night) and ballroom dance shoes or broken-in pretty shoes (I'm going to dancedancedance). I am excited about all of these things.  In fact, I am excited enough to buy them and use them now, and so I may not include them in the wedding budget. So there.  

We-Are-The-Luckiest-People-Ever Expenses:
  • Ceremony musicians - We have tons of talented friends.  In fact, J's former a capella group (yeah, that's right, he sang in an all-male a capella group) may make an appearance here.  Yay!
  • Invitation and paper design - we have several incredibly talented graphic designer friends too.  We already have a tentative offer for paper goods design help as our wedding present and we are over-the-moon excited. 
  • Dessert - We have amazing friends.  No, really, we have A-Ma-Zing friends.  Several of these friends are incredible bakers.  We are tentatively thinking of making a dessert buffet registry and seeing what the world brings us in joy and sugar and not giving a d*mn about traditional wedding cake.   

Necessary-But-not-Thrilling Expenses:
  • Rentals - Our site has tables and reception chairs but, besides that, we're on our own for plates, silverware, linens, ceremony chairs etc.  I may have found a way to borrow silverware, I may seriously consider bamboo compostable dishes, and I'm more than okay with basic white linens, but this is still going to be a hefty sum.  Blerg. 
  • Guest Shuttle - if we were getting married in the city, it wouldn't be an issue.  But we're getting married at the top of a winding narrow canyon.  We don't want either the older folks or the drunken younger folks to drive.  Also, WE don't want to drive.  So we'll take the shuttle with everyone else.  I'm hoping for some late night singing.  Hear that, guests? You would totally make my wedding (and justify the shuttle cost 1000 times over) if you joined in for a tipsy late night bus ride hootenany.   

Possible Splurges:
  • Day-of-Coordinator - I might be able to hire an acquaintance from my event planning days at a discount, I might try and work out a bridal DOC trade (let me know if you're interested!) and I might cave and hire someone.  I know exactly how important it is to have a point person for events.  I will be this person until about noon the day of our wedding, and then I am handing off the reins.  I will be dunzo and I will (try to) wash my hands of caring.  Therefore, for my own sanity, I need a point person.  I'm not sure I'm willing to put this responsibility on a friend at the wedding, so I may need to suck it up and hire someone. 
  • Engagement photos - I'm going to preface this by saying I hate most engagement shoots. I find it odd that weddings have become a narcissistic photo shoot opportunity and I don't feel the need to participate in that. People get some stunning photos, but I'm not sure what they have to do with weddings.  In my case, however, I am not photogenic.  Like, maybe 1 in a 100 photos of me are reasonable (not even good, just reasonable.) I need help feeling comfortable in front of a camera (I had actual panic attacks in front of cameras as a child) so I'm strongly considering an engagement shoot with our photographer out of almost-practical considerations.
  • Hair and makeup - My hair is fine and sometimes straight/sometimes wavy and, whenever I try to style it, it generally wins.  I can do decent makeup, except when my skin freaks out (as it may, based on past history with stress).  I am lucky enough to have a long-time stylist who does wedding hair and makeup who I adore and I can book her at a discount compared to the going wedding rates (of $500 or so, for perspective.)  It's still not inexpensive, but it's a possibility.  It's either that, or DIY, since I don't have friends with hidden hairstyling talents. (Do I?  If you're reading and I'm wrong, please let me know!)  Since I don't have anyone to trust with my difficult hair, I may suck it up and splurge.  Yes, I am vain.

We're-Not-Counting-It Expenses
  • There's really only two things that aren't on our list - the honeymoon and the rehearsal barbecue party.  The honeymoon, because we save up for a big annual trip each year anyhow and the rehearsal barbecue party because it's my parents gift to us. Everything else is on our plate and is being counted. 
Whew.  I feel better now.  These yeses feel good.  These yeses feel right, which is why we don't want to cut them, despite the expense.  Even if we top out over $15,000 (which is likely, at this rate) it will be because we're crafting a meaningful event that matters to us.  Our budget will not kill us.  Our budget won't even put us into debt or derail our retirement planning (nevernevernever.)  We can (and will) certainly make some additional cuts as we ignore what doesn't matter for us, but I'm taking a deep breath now.  We're crafting a wedding that's in tune with our bank account and our values, and that's what's important to us in the end.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Budget Hyperventilation

I consider myself a sane and reasonable woman when it comes to finances and budgets. I've also done a fair bit of corporate event planning in Los Angeles, so I felt like I had a good handle on pricing for a 150 person wedding.  I was also very willing to nix significant amounts of wedding froufery as unimportant.  So when I decided on a wedding budget comfort zone of around $15,000, I felt like it was do-able.  Hard, but do-able.

Now, I know $15,000 isn't a lot in the Los Angeles wedding world (though it's certainly a lot to me!), and I know that $15,000 necessitates some hard choices. I'm learning to put aside my "wouldn't it be nice" desires that don't add to our core purpose for the wedding and keep myself focused on what's important: we're getting married. (Lalalalala I don't need floral centerpieces - I'm getting married.)  I made explicit choices about the look-and-feel of the day that were supposed to help with the budget: we want a casual vibe, DIY decor, laid-back Sunday morning set up, and ceremony+party focus instead an aesthetically-focused event.  We're trying to keep our guests' comfort in mind for every step of the planning, which has required a few splurges like providing shuttles to the Malibu canyon hilltop locale, catering the event, and possibly hiring a DOC.  We're trying to put money on the lasting memories/expenses like pre-marital counseling, our ketubah, photos, and good food/drink/music instead of throwaway favors.  In other words, I figured that because we're chasing an overall casual vibe without a lot of "stuff", $15,000ish felt attainable and reasonable.

And yet, somehow it's not nearly enough.  My pared down budget spreadsheet is looking a lot more like $25,000 right now, and it makes me want to bang my head against the wall and scream.  $25,000 is more than my eight-month emergency fund. $25,000 is enough to pay for my entire dreamed-about grad school tuition. $25,000 is more than my annual take home pay from my first out-of-college job. And most importantly, $25,000 is about $20,000 more than we currently have saved for our wedding fund.

I just spent a week at home with H1N1 which gave me enough time to obsess and freak the heck out about the budget, trying to shave $100 here and $100 there and still not making a dent.  I feel like I've compromised a ton already and like I'm saying NO all the time: no - it costs too much.  no - we can DIY and save $1000.  no - I know you think x is important but x would cost $500 we don't have.We already have an overwhelming list of nos:
  • No ceremony decor
  • No large wedding party (or outfits/accessories)
  • No ring bearer/flower girl
  • No fancy or convenient wedding location
  • No blow-out bachelorette or bachelor parties
  • No sit down plated meal
  • No wedding cake
  • No salon dress
  • No fancy shoes
  • No hard liquor
  • No floral centerpieces or floral bouquets
  • No boutonnieres
  • No new suit or tux 
  • No band
  • No ceremony musicians
  • No high-end photography package
  • No limo
  • No letterpress or invitation suite
  • No guestbook
  • No out of town bags
  • No favors
  • No diamond or platinum rings
  • no no no no no NO.

I'm tired of no.  I have nearly a year and a half left and I don't know how strong I can be with the Nos between now and then. I've been trying to focus on the yeses, on all the beautiful amazing YES moments and items and memories that I'm looking forward to, but it's hard.  And just when I thought I had some elusive perspective on this madness, the $25,000 figure popped up and made me want to hurl, both because it's huge and because it necessitates a whole new round of No.  And unfortunately, we're done with the easy cuts.  This next round of No starts to get emotionally messy.  He wants a DJ, but I'd be okay with an ipod.  I want hair and makeup help, but he'd say why bother.  He has an amazing Theory suit already, so my attire/accessory options are weighing a lot more heavily on the budget than his, which is a strange power dynamic.  He wants nicer chairs than our site provides but my aesthetic priorities lean towards paper lanterns, candles, and a pretty dessert table.  Neither of us are wrong  in our priorities, but I am not looking forward to our next round of budget negotiations as we both make some hard decisions and tiptoe around the emotions regarding our individual wedding priorities. I know other people navigate these issues with weddings every day, so how did you address the budget issues?  What were your biggest cost-cutting measures?  How did you balance everyone's priorities?  What were your most challenging compromises and where did you put your foot down?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Post Swine Flu Malaise

Hello my lovely readers.  Sorry I've been missing for the past week, but it turns out that swine flu is a pretty miserable thing.  To be fair, my doctor isn't 100% sure it was swine flu, but apparently seasonal flu hasn't really hit Southern California yet this year and, after dealing with 103 degree fever and breathing complications due to asthma, I don't really care which virus strain I caught.  It was hands down the worst flu I have ever experienced, and that's scary enough for me.  If you have any of the risk factors associated with swine flue compliations (pregnancy, asthma, heart issues) please please please get the vaccine this week.

So I apologize for my absense, but I was barely able to handle turning on the computer, let alone write wedding-related posts.  I'm still feeling a little unmotivated, so please bear with me as I start to catch up on my life and my writing.  I miss you fabulous ladies and I'm looking forward to easing back into these conversations.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Love is a Decision

At Rosh Hashana services this year, our Rabbi used a throwaway line in her sermon that really stuck with me: "Love is a decision." The quote was part of a sermon that discussed house and home and family and how our spiritual temple community fits with all those concepts, but it was this particular line that stayed with me weeks later.  The line is actually a central tenet of popular Christian marriage encounter weekends and marriage counseling, but it's a simple, non-denominational idea that firmly fits in with my philosophy of what this whole forever-love idea means to us and what it means to chose your partner and accept both their warts and wonderfulness. To paraphrase some of the quotes from around the internet,

"Love is not an emotion, love it not a feeling, love is not happen-stance. Love is a decision. Love is waking up every day committed to honoring your mate. Love is daily action."

The idea that love is daily action and commitment based in the decision to love feels right to me as I enter into marriage, which is the most monumental love-decision I have tackled.  I've had butterfly-in-the-stomach love and tortured unreciprocated love and love-him-despite/because-he's-wrong-for-me love, but with J, it's the first time I've every had comfortable, trusting, completely-right love. At first, it took me a while to recognize what I had with him, since I was so unused to healthy, supportive, balanced relationships. About six months into our relationship I knew this was different and deeper than anything I'd felt before, but it was so different from the tumultuous love of previous relationships that I didn't know how to define whether I was in love this time around. Being the giant nerd that I am, I started researching - yes, researching - love to figure out if that's what was happening between me and J.

What I discovered was that I defined love differently at 26 than I'd defined it at 20.  My priorities were less about the heady rush of emotions and more about whether I trusted my partner, whether he made me laugh, whether I felt comfortable to be my most honest self, whether he challenged me to improve myself, whether he was reliable and honest in his everyday interactions, and whether we shared the same core values about family, religion and life-goals. I sat and assessed each of these factors and came to the conclusion that I was in love with J.  The words "I love you" didn't happen in a moment of emotional joy - I decided to love my partner.      

These last few months have clarified that I made the right decision. We've had setback after setback, but the one constant has been having each other to come home to.  The morning after our engagement, we found out my mother was in a foreign hospital and my family is still managing the repercussions of that incident. Then my back went out, leaving me incapable of walking for several days and permanently changing how I approach exercise and health.  Several people in our family have recently been laid off due to the economy, including J (though we are extraordinarily lucky that he found a new job and starts next Monday).  And these last few days I have been sick with a horrific flu - sicker than I've been since my childhood, and J has been here for me the entire time, taking care of me despite the grossness and serious inconvenience for him. 

Although these last few months have been challenging, they've also been some of the most incredible months of my life. I know that I have a partner to strengthen me against all of life's grossness and inconvenience and downright awfulness. Being with J makes the good times amazing and the bad times bearable. We've decided to love each other, which is deeper and stronger than emotional happenstance, and which will fortify our commitment to each other even when life plays havoc with our notions of stability and success.

When we didn't live together, I never let J visit when I was sick.  Being sick was too personal, letting him see me in a weakened sickly state terrified me and I was insistent that I could take care of myself.  But now, having come out on the other side of these last few months and these last few days, I'm revising that earlier impulse to push him away. His emotional support and caretaking have shown me the man he is at his core, and prove that I am right to trust him so deeply. We've seen each other at our worst and fiercely continue to love each other anyhow because we're sticking with our decision to love each other.  Love is deeper than a feeling or emotion because it hits at the very core of where life's ugly and beautiful intersect. It makes me shiver with both joy and anticipation that I finally really understand what it means to commit to "for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, til death do us part."

J, I choose you.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Light Posting This Week

I have a ton of fun posts planned for the next few weeks, but I'm afraid they'll have to wait until this fever is gone and my brain is less addled.  At the moment, anything I try to write comes out more like "jkjbopdfsialkjgb" than anything coherent.  I'll see you back here in a few days and, until then, have a happy Monday and a happy week.