Wednesday, December 23, 2009

L.A. Marriage License Fee Hike

This is my public service announcement to Los Angeles couples getting married in the next few months: you may want to get your marriage license now.  As of January 21, marriage license fees are going up in Los Angeles County from $70 to $90.  Licenses are good for 90 days, so save yourself $20 and get it before January 21.  Also, I strongly recommend picking up your license at the Beverly Hills courthouse because it's a whole lot prettier than the Norwalk, Van Nuys, LAX or the Downtown courthouses.  Not that prettiness is everything, but if you perhaps wanted a photo or two, the Beverly Hills courthouse is hands down your best regional option. On the conveneice/ease of use factor, they also get high marks for friendliness and efficiency at Beverly Hills. And now, I'm off to update by own budget spreadsheet...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blogging Break

It's that time of year when work, family, holiday madness and vacation planning have taken over, leaving me without much time for me and my quiet time pursuits, such as this blog. And without much me-time, I haven't been able to come up with much worth sharing.  So I've decided to pull back a bit from blogging so I can enjoy this time with visiting friends and family and still make space for myself as we move into this next year and reflect on this last one.  I may still pop in occasionally, as the mood strikes, but I'm mostly taking a two week blogging break to focus on blessedly non-wedding related moments of family, fun, and general merriment. 

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this image from Auburn & Ivory, because her Christmas palm tree reminds me of our non-denominational holiday ficus back in college, and thinking of the ficus and simple celebrations of ridiculous joy makes me smile.  So Merry Non-Denominational Holiday Time to you and yours. 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Awesome Commenters

Two of my favorite wedding blog ladies had their first encounters with inappropriately mean comments this week.   Sigh.  Even if we don't agree with them, can't we agree to be respectful about our disagreement?  Regarding the etiquette firebombing that went on over at Cupcake Wedding, can't we just accept that she's an adult who understands the consequences of her own decisions and, therefore, as adults we can agree to disagree and move on?  Sheesh.

So, in the spirit of celebrating awesome commenters on blogs instead of trolls and other insensitive folks, I decided to savor two great comments (from among the many and much appreciated) this week here at A Los Angeles Love. These comments made me choke on my coffee, in the best way possible, and that's the sort of moment we can all appreciate. 

"When do you have time to change? I mean, really? My wedding went by so freakin' fast, I barely had time to pee, much less change into another dress."
-The Thirty-Something Bride, discussing brides who wear multiple wedding dresses

"The point is, this is someone you love enough to put up with all their bad. And they put up with all your bad. And then you get to do crazy things, like be messy and gross in front of each other and still think the other is hot. It's an amazing thing."
-Cupcake Wedding, discussing marriage

Yeah.  I hope you all choked a bit on your coffee too.  Happy Friday, and here's to a weekend without trolls and that's full of awesomeness.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Forget About Prince Charming

Did you guys read Meg's post yesterday at A Practical Wedding about the harmful expectations the outside world states (and re-states) about the value of marriage and children?  It's the same conversation that's been infuriating me for a while.  Men seem to think it's okay to (semi) joke with Jason that he should run now because marriage is the old ball and chain.  Meanwhile, women gush with me about the wedding, even while they complain incessantly about marriage itself and give me dire warnings about the kids.  As usual, Meg managed to eloquently point out that these cultural expectations are neither funny nor okay, because what they end up doing is reinforcing caricatures of marriage and gender roles that can become self-fulfilling prophecies. 

As frustrating as these BS expectations are, the wedding has made me think a lot about where these expectations come from, and which grain of truth they are based in.  And my unscientific hypothesis is that much of the cultural disappointment in marriage is based  on the unrealistic hope that marriage will "save" us from the drudgery of everyday life.  In other words, there are a whole lot of women running around with Prince Charming fantasies who are holding on to ridiculous notions of happily ever after.  I also bet that many of these women are the ones who get so wrapped up in planning a fantastic wedding that they forget about planning the marriage.  And I also think there are a lot of men who haven't thought about why they want to get married, but just that it seems the next logical step.  Well, no wonder they, and their partners, are frustrated with the outcome. Because let's say it upfront - life is hard. Marriage is hard.  Kids are hard and they WILL do a number on your relationship and body.  And it's going to be a challenging adjustment (the kids more so than the marriage, I imagine).  But you know what else?  Marriage is going to be wonderful.  I am genuinely happy in this relationship, and we've managed a load of life-is-really-hard stuff together already.  I know we can manage this life thing and be better for it all.

We're one of those couples that was obviously right for each other from the beginning.  Even so, we were both cautious about jumping into the relationship and then about deciding to get married, even though everyone around us knew it was a forgone conclusion from early on.  I think we were both particularly careful about deciding to get married because we both understand exactly what marriage means and that it's often times hard.  Neither of our set of parents have had sugarcoated lives, but they have had each other.  Their marriages aren't perfect, but their commitment and the richness the commitment adds to their lives, is. So neither Jason nor I have any expectation this will be easy, even though we seem to have an easy relationship and a lot going for us upfront.

We know what love is and isn't.  In part, it's making a lot of gooey eyes at each other, but in much larger part it's the decision to stick by your partner even when things were harder than you could have possibly imagined and finding ways to laugh about it anyhow. It's finding ways to work through the complications instead of running.  We have a close family member who's in a wheelchair, and her husband has not only stuck by her but risen to the occasion and they are frankly inspirational in their ongoing love, affection, and laughter.  No one pretends it isn't hard, but the real essence of Prince Charming is in those uncomplaining late night hospital visits and quiet hand holding, and not just in the romance of it all. The little things - the way that someone leaves their clothes on the floor or they can't cook anything that doesn't end up burnt are ultimately unimportant in the context of a life together.  I wonder if the people making "run now" jokes to Jason really understood that before they jumped into marriage, or whether they were hit with a brick of disappointment when life actually happened and they hadn't worked on the foundation of how to get through it together. 

So maybe, once we drop the Prince Charming nonsense and look at what we really have and recognize that every day is effort - worthwhile effort, but effort nonetheless - then maybe we're going to be alright with this marriage thing.  Because my eyes are wide open here, and that's precisely why I'm so excited, grateful, and completely head over heels for this partnership.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Winter Wedding Elopment Dress

Oh man.  If I were eloping in the winter time, I think I'd need to wear this outfit.

image courtesy of Burberry, found via Amanda Archer

Yeah, it's Burberry, which isn't exactly where my designer fashion sensibilities lay, but that lace + edginess is exquisite.  And yes Mom, I'd (probably) wear a cami underneath.

Up in the Air

Perhaps you were thinking of going to the movies this weekend.  Perhaps someone's trying to drag you to Avatar and you have no real interest in blue alien things.  Then, might I humbly reccommend Up in the Air instead?  (I promise this has a wedding tie in, so please bear with me.)

I know a recession movie isn't an easy sell, even when it stars George Clooney.  And if Jason hadn't found a job last month, then I don't know if we could have sat through a film in which the main character plays a layoff specialist (many of the layoff scenes feature real people who have recently been laid off, not actors).  But although the film provides a stark look at our current economic situation, it was a delicate work of art and balance that managed to not be about layoffs or the recession at all.  It didn't offer any easy answers or resolutions, but it wasn't a bleak assessment that left me depressed or drained.  Instead, it was an honest examination of modern life, detachment, and transitions that never relied on cliches.  And I think that last sentence explains why it resonated so much: it wasn't a highly stylized, cliched, or sanitized look at life, it simply decided to respect us as moviegoers (which is, unfortunately, rare in big studio films.) 

As part of the honest examination, I really appreciated how Up in the Air approached its wedding scene. (I promise this isn't a spoiler issue. The wedding doesn't involve a central plot point or central character.)  The wedding took place in a hokey banquet hall with a working class Midwestern couple.  Let's just say, it wasn't a wedding for the blogs.  But even though the bridesmaids dresses weren't great and even though the banquet hall had plastic chairs (oh, the horror) the movie didn't condescend, either in big-city derision for the perceived tackiness or in elevating the presumably wholesome-but-kooky Midwestern values.  It was a fine line for the film to walk, because the event was tacky* and because the characters had a hint of Midwestern kookiness and definite family-oriented values.  But somehow, the director Jason Rietman manages to capture it as just a wedding.  Nothing more, nothing less.  And in the middle of all this thinking about stylish and personal and meaningful weddings, it was a nice moment of stepping back and thinking yes, it's just a wedding, nothing more and nothing less.

*I hate hate hate that word, and Ariel gave a perfect explanation of why at Offbeat Bride.  But it fits the context of what I'm trying to get at here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Forging New Family Traditions

A version of this article was cross-posted at the Fifty-Percenters, where I write about my experience with Judaism as the the child of an interfaith marriage.  This particular post examined holiday traditions in the context of my upcoming marriage, so I thought I'd bring the discussion over here too. 

Although Jason and I have spent the holidays together for the last several years, this is the first time we've been welcomed as family and not as the significant other.  It's a small but critical shift and, along with all the general holiday pressures and craziness that arises, it's made me really stop and think about the holiday traditions we're starting to build together, as we work through this process of marriage.   For us, the holidays are in some ways simple.  Although we're both Jewish, my mother was born Catholic. Therefore, we can do Christmas with my parents and Thanksgiving with his, eliminating any tension related to the whose-family-this-year issues.  But it's been difficult too, since I'm committing to building a Jewish life with Jason while also struggling to understand where my cultural history and rituals fit in our new family context. 

Christmas is, without doubt, the most important holiday in my family's Jewish home.  Since one mistaken attempt at dragging her whiny six- and eight-year-old children to Midnight Mass, my mother has never looked at Christmas as a religious occasion.  For her, it's been the last remaining cultural connection to her Scottish Catholic upbringing. Although we complain about the Christmas tree every year (shopping, stringing lights, and getting the ornament boxes out of the garage are a huge hassle) no one complains about the time we spend unwrapping ornaments together as we decorate. Every family member has a box of ornaments that trace the history of our lives, starting from my parents' first Christmas together in 1976.  As a kid, my annual ornament-gift was a lot less exciting than the toys under the tree but now, it's my favorite part of the holiday.  I look back at my Aladdin ornament - when Aladdin was my favorite Disney movie and I was constantly harassing my parents with solo renditions of "A Whole New World" - and at my angel handcrafted by female artisans in Kenya  - from my semester of study abroad in Kenya - and I can't help but cherish my family, our stories, and this annual ritual of sharing.

Like any good Jewish family, food rituals take center stage at our Christmas celebration. On Christmas eve, we eat spaghetti carbonara, a throwback my my mother's Italian Catholic grandfather and the rituals he brought with him to Scotland (yeah, my family was multicultural before multicultural was cool. And I haven't even started telling you about my Dad's side). On Christmas morning, we have eggs benedict, because it's my mother's favorite food and this is really her day.  And for Christmas dinner, we wear the paper crowns from our Christmas crackers (purchased at the Scottish import store) and have a uniquely American prime rib dinner with our close family friends. (The next day we all complain loudly about still feeling stuffed as we promise to keep various New Years weight loss resolutions.)

As my partner and I navigate what it means to build a Jewish marriage and life for our own home, we've been learning about each others' family rituals and traditions, both secular and religious. We know we don't want Christmas in our own Jewish home, but we truly love having Christmas with my parents. Thinking about a far-off future that doesn't include an annual reading of The Night Before Christmas or a tree that honors our ornaments and our lives pains me.  So I'm already thinking about how to incorporate my Christmas traditions in a way that honors the heart of that celebration - family and ritual - in our long-term Jewish home.  Instead of Chinese food and movies on Christmas eve, our Jewish home will have ornaments (perhaps even on a tree), Christmas crackers, and spaghetti carbonara made with turkey bacon.  I'll tell my children stories about Scotland and we'll read an as-yet-unknown alternative to The Night Before Christmas before they go to bed.  I want to build a home that values our unique histories, that ties us to our past, and that places us firmly in our chosen present and our chosen religion. And so, as we think about marriage and the new traditions we're forging, I'm choosing traditions that root me to my mother, to Scotland, and to the rituals that I love.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Trends I Don't Want to See

About two years ago, before we had really started talking about marriage, I remember watching Bridezillas (and the TLC/WE/Oxygen nightmare-bride equivalent shows) and feeling both smug and cynical about those screeching monster women.  These days, I'm feeling a lot less smug, because I get it.  Every day I encounter beautiful weddings I wish I could emulate, and every day I force myself to keep focused on the important stuff.  But it's precisely because I'm working so d*mn hard to keep perspective that I understand exactly why women can have bridal meltdowns over chairs.  Or DIY favor projects.  Or perfectly matched ribbon colors.  The precise break-down moment is not important here, it's the insane pressure (family, friends, cultural expectations, budget limits, personal preferences, blogs, etc) that creates a situation in which we're reaching for this "perfect day" nonsense, however much we may try to remind ourselves that our wedding is just one amazing day in a lifetime of amazingness (fingers crossed).

So I get it, I really do.  And I understand the doubts that accompany these decisions, with panic often hitting after we've made a costly decision.  My dress is a perfect example of the oh-no-but-what-if-there's-something-better panic that sneaks into your brain after overdosing on OnceWed and Green Wedding ShoesIf you ladies hadn't kept me sane in my moment of panic, I might have let my silly dress doubts run away with me.  Because, the truth is that I still love vintage style dresses, Wai-Ching dresses, and Monique Lhullier lace dresses, but I don't need to wear them all at my wedding.  But the OTHER truth is that I love my dress too, and that's enough for me.  

Unfortunately, that's not the case for many two dress brides.  Many jump in and buy a dress right away, only to discover that, as wedding plans change, the dress no longer fits the event.  Someone else may buy a dress and then realize that what she wants from a dress has changed as she becomes more confident in defining her own authentic wedding.  Some get new dresses (East Side Bride), some get reception dresses and keep the original for the ceremony (Bowie Bride) and some of us just decide to stop panicking (me.) So instead of being smugly judgmental about two-dress brides, I get it now. 

But you know what's still beyond me?  The idea of a five or six dress bride. I can only pray that the New York Times was running low on story ideas and therefore blew this "new wedding trend" out of proportion to meet a print deadline in their story entitled "When 'The Dress' Turns Into 5 or 6."  Because wtf.  I think I'm pretty open to living by the your-wedding-your-rules credo, but five or six dresses feels absurd by any stretch of the imagination (Or budget. Or patience. Good lord, if I had to go to enough salons to buy six dresses, I'd have a nervous breakdown).  But no, as the New York Times reports, women are dress shopping like never before. 
Josie Daga, the owner of, has labeled the phenomenon multiple-dress syndrome. “A two-dress wedding is old hat,” she said. “Easily 15 to 20 percent of our sellers are two-dress brides. But buying several dresses? This is new."
Mrs. Daga points to dozens of brides who have shared their multiple-dress stories on her site, including a woman who bought seven dresses, and another who bought six.
If this more-than-two-dress bride thing wasn't new before, then trend pieces like this New York Times article help make more culturally acceptable and more likely, because other people are doing it too (woohoo groupthink.)  Also, when people in the wedding dress industry start referring to two dresses as "old hat" we're all in trouble.  Once it becomes normalized, then profit and growth depend on the previously ridiculous three-dress brides. 

But back to these five and six dress brides (um, it pains me to even type that).  There is no way that at least three of those dresses wouldn't have been perfectly fine if the women had taken a day to breathe deeply and step outside the pressure cooker of wedding hell, thereby giving herself time and space to think.  Because I've bought a shirt (or 30) on a whim that languished in my closet until I gave it to Goodwill, but those shirts probably came from H&M and cost $20 apiece.  There is no way in pocketbook hell that I could spend $$$ on multiple wedding dresses to let them languish in my closet.  And dresses are like cars - the moment you drive them off the lot, they lose significant resale value - even if they're a sample and even if you never altered the thing.

Again, it's a your-wedding, your-priority situation, but my uninformed guess is that most of these women can't afford all these dresses. Some certainly can, such as this woman who bought four dresses for about $10,000 total.
“My husband paid for the first two, I paid for the third, and my mother paid for the fourth,” she said. “Everyone contributed to the madness.”
Madness indeed.  But it sounds like, even if she fell into the Perfect Day frenzy, she (and her family) were able to afford it.  Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion many women fall into that frenzy and put thoughts of budgets aside, like another two-dress bride mentioned in the article. 
“My husband and I will be paying this wedding off for years and years to come,” said Mrs. Schneider, a hospital social worker. “I felt guilty about it, but at the same time, I wanted to feel beautiful on my wedding day.”
Reading these stories doesn't make me angry and doesn't incite my scorn.  Instead, it just makes me a little bit sad .  I've talked before about how I'm wresting with my own conflicts about this obsession with Bridal Prettiness (TM)* and my panic about the dress I bought.  None of us are immune.  But the worst part is how this panicking entirely misses the point and, even worse drives us to make stupid decisions that we have to literally pay for over the next several years.  Yeah, we all want to look stunning, but we'll look stunning regardless of whether we wear the first or the fifth dress we buy.  We'll look stunning if it's a department store dress, a David's Bridal dress, or a handmade couture dress.  We'll look stunning whether we spent $80 on an ebay J Crew dress or $8000 on a Monique Lhullier.  We'll look stunning because we're filled with joy about the wedding, not because of our beautiful dress and perfect hair/makeup/skin/teeth.  Yes, let's admit we all want a beautiful dress and to feel gorgeous on our wedding day, but let's stop elevating it to panic-worthy episodes and credit card regrets.  And let's stop panicking once we've already made a dress decision that felt completely right at the time.  Let's trust ourselves for a minute, stand back, and take a deep breath, and let go of the insidious wedding crazy.  Because the truth is that we'll look stunning and stunned both, simply because the moment is so huge that we're not going to care one whit about lace details when we're actually walking down that aisle.

*Bridal Pretty is a whole other beast than regular pretty. It's practically a package deal (in its look and its product list)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hanukkah!

Hee.  A DIY Hanukkah menorah via ReadyMade.  I like this.  A lot.

Photo by ReadyMade, via the Los Angeles Times

If you're in Los Angeles, here's some places where you can get your Hanukkah (eats) on.  Because presents shcmesents: If you're Jewish, you know Hanukkah is really about the fried latkes and donuts.  Hanukkah Harry was always stingier than Santa (at least in my childhood house) but latkes and Jewish meals are NEVER stingy, because food is all about love.     

Happy Hannukah to all my Jewish readers. Enjoy the latkes love.

Baby it's Cold Outside

Winter has definitely arrived, even to Los Angeles.  And although the rain is a cold inconvenience, it also makes me appreciate the small, snuggleable moments that much more.  I think about how my brother will be visiting next week during his break from school.  I think about my family's annual Christmas caroling party.  I think about how our cat Liz Lemon is getting more and more curious about exploring my lap at night.  I think about having  Hanukkah latkes tonight.  I think about how happy I am that you've all welcomed Jason this week while I've been MIA at the office. I think about how this partnership thing is really special, and I can't wait to come home tonight and savor it for a bit before we dash out again to see Up in the Air.

And because it's truly cold enough for worthwhile hot chocolate indulgences and comfort food evenings, I'll leave you all with my favorite rendition of Baby it's Cold Outside, featuring Tom Jones and Cerys (from the 90s Welsh group Catatonia.) I used to play this song for my students each winter and it always makes me think of the Holiday season with a smile. 

Happy Friday everyone.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kick Out the Jams

Jason here again for another guest-post. Today's topic is one of my personal favorites: music. To say I'm a "music guy" is an understatement -- music is my personal hobby, my geeky obsession, and until recently, my career (I worked at a major record label until I was axed by the most recent round of layoffs). So when it came to divvying up who would "own" which portion of the wedding, there was no question about who would tackle the tunes.

There was, however, some serious disagreement about *how* those tunes would be played. Neither of us really wanted a live band, but the question of DJ-vs-iPod caused friction. B's budget concerns led her to consider anything more elaborate than an iPod as too expensive. To me, that concept came across as unthinkable. A good party has a vibe that ebbs, flows, and shifts according to a number of different variables (mood, setting, formality, participants' age, energy level, and degree of intoxication, just to name a few). A "set it and forget it" playlist is fine for a gathering of friends at home, but a big event like a wedding benefits greatly from a live human monitoring the vibe and choosing the music accordingly. I understood the cost benefits of supplying our own music, but if we tried to go too DIY, I would drive myself crazy making tweaks to the playlist every 20 minutes. I attended a friend's wedding where the music was pumped from his MacBook into a stereo system...he asked me to assist with DJ duties, and I only spent about an hour total enjoying the reception because I was constantly running over to the computer to adjust the tracklist. I can't help it, it's just my nature.

I began researching DJs and was dismayed by some of my findings. Not only were all the available DJs very expensive, but I read horror stories of DJs hijacking the wedding, ignoring the bride & grooms' requests, and being extremely corny. Conscious of these pitfalls, I began to give the iPod option some serious consideration. After delving into several articles about the pros and cons of a playlist-powered reception, I started to envision a solution that would work for both me and B. I could create several playlists for the different phases of the party, like so:
  • light music for cocktails (including a lot of the emotionally-resonant songs from our relationship that aren't exactlu dance-worthy)
  • all-ages dance-floor classics (i.e. "Twist & Shout") to get people moving
  • popular club hits (Beyonce, Justin, Lady Gaga) to keep the vibe alive
  • old-school hip-hop/R&B for our twenty- and thirty-something friends to rock with
  • end-of-night drunken sing-alongs like "Don't Stop Believing" for last call
This allows us to switch the tunes to match the vibe while ensuring that our preferred songs get played. Still, I wanna be out on the floor enjoying my wedding day, not monitoring the playlists every hour. So... our plan is to hire an assistant/low-level DJ to run the playlists at a reduced rate.  They'll essentially use my carefully crafted playlists (saves them on pre-wedding labor) but they can also monitor the feel of the room and shake things up a bit, if the need arises. 

I've found some DJs who are willing to make an arrangement like this -- every good DJ has an assistant on-deck and, given the poor economy, they'll take partial work over no work. I don't know exactly what this plan will cost us yet, but it's much less labor-intensive than having a premier DJ choosing tracks all night, so I'm sure we can negotiate a good deal.

This way, everybody wins. I get to geek out over song-picking but not worry about day-of monitoring. B (and I) have one less budget concern to cope with. And we both get a little peace of mind. Just like the "traditional or nontraditional" trap, the "iPod or DJ" dichotomy proves to be a false choice, and is easily resolved with a little out-of-the-box thinking. What are your thoughts on this topic? I'd love to hear from you readers if you've encountered any weddings with interesting or unusual music set-ups. Suggestions of all-time favorite reception songs are encouraged as well. Bring it on!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Your Wedding is Not A "Best of 2009" Contest Application

It's that time of year when the "Best of" lists get tossed around: Best Songs of 2009, Best Inventions of 2009, Best Websites of 2009, etc.  Heck, because its the close of the 2000s we're even getting inundated with "Best of" lists for last decade.  So perhaps it was only a matter of time before someone had the, um, bright idea to compile a list of the year's best weddings.

That's right, you read that last sentence correctly. At least one major wedding website is currently compiling lists of the best weddings from 2009.  Unfortunately, I'm not talking about celebrity weddings which, while awful, would simply be an extension of the horrific "Who Wore it Better" tabloid frenzy.  This is a list of real-people weddings that hit the blogs in 2009After lusting after all that impossible blog prettiness, you can now vote on which wedding was your favorite in a variety of categories.  You can help decide "which wedding had the most creative table decor." Was it Jack and Jane* who got married at Smog Shoppe or Bob and Linda* who got married at The Ambassador Mansion and Gardens? Go ahead and vote for either of these couples' weddings in multiple "Best of" categories, including "your favorite eco-friendly wedding," "the best groom style," "yummiest looking cake" and yes, "your favorite real wedding" of 2009.

Thanks, wedding industry, for getting it so completely wrong and probably sending at least a few women into a covetous panic for the "most stylish bridesmaids dresses." Also, could you please explain how in holy h*ll random internet strangers are supposed to vote on which outdoor ceremony was our favorite?  Were any of us actually there to compare?!

I don't feel the need to name or link to this site publicly. It's a site I appreciate for what it is - a gathering of wedding prettiness and wedding resources. But I don't want to give them traffic for something that stands in such stark contrast to all of the amazing things I actually adore about weddings; namely joy, love, community, and the celebration of meaningful transitions.  Let me also be entirely clear that in no way am I disparaging the couples who shared their intimate wedding stories in a public forum the first place. The featured weddings are actually quite charming and (obviously) beautiful.  Several were even bookmarked in my inspiration files ages back.  The problem is that these lovely weddings are now listed for your voting pleasure; their carefully planned details are now simply a checkbox in your process of deconstruction and dismissal. 

My wedding inspiration links are generally a disorganized mess of emails to myself, uncategorized bookmarks, and post-its, but I have one special set of "sanity check" bookmarks that I save for moments like today, when I encounter this sort of nonsense.  Top on that sanity check file is Ariel's post "YOUR WEDDING IS NOT A CONTEST".  No, the original title from the Offbeat Bride post was not written in all capital letters.  However, given this "best of 2009" wedding cr*p, I feel that an all-caps reminder is perhaps justified. 

For 2010, I have a different "best wedding" nomination that we might all consider: one in which any two people get married, surrounded by all their loved ones, with an authentically-them ceremony and a joyous celebration that marks the importance, solemnity, and absolute joy of the occasion.  You can't compare that to anyone else's joy.  In fact, trying to do so entirely misses the point.

*names changed to protect the innocent from this rant, as it isn't directed at them.

You and Me and a Kitten Makes Three

Howdy readers! Jason here, with my second guest-post of the week. As B mentioned last week, we recently became the proud parents of an adorable 9-month old kitten that we've named Liz Lemon. This is a pretty big moment for me -- I've never been a "cat person"; in fact, I loathed felines while growing up. I thought they were mean, cold-hearted snobs. Then again, I come from a family of dog owners, so there was no precedent for a good relationship with a cat. All I knew was, cats were the opposite of dogs (and dogs were awesome).

Then I had an epiphany while house-sitting for a family friend during my senior year of college. She left me to care for the household pets while she went away for two weeks, and the cat -- who had previously given me nothing but cold shoulders and stink-eyes -- started to show some warmth towards me. Eventually, she slept on my feet in bed and curled up in my lap on the couch. Since then, I've discovered that cats are not objectively better or worse than dogs. They just have a different approach to emotion and affection, and you must change your expectations to suit their behavior. You can't expect a cat to enjoy endless hours of petting and playing, or to obey your commands like a dog would. But once you engage a cat on its own terms, you'll find it can be just as playful, loyal, and affectionate as a good dog (although it will NEVER play fetch with you, ever).

I learned all of this before we got Liz Lemon. But each day with her brings new discoveries. First and foremost is the slowly-dawning realization that Liz is part of a brand-new family B and I are starting together. She is the first little life that we're responsible for, and this is the closest we've come to feeling like parents. The "parent factor" wasn't our primary motivator for getting a cat, but it's a truth that feels really significant when I stop and think about it. I mean, this cat will be around when we have our first (human) child. Our kids will grow up with Liz Lemon, and we'll have to explain that Mommy and Daddy really liked this TV show called "30 Rock" back in the late 2000s. The cat represents one definite component of the unwritten future that we're building together. We've made a commitment to Liz, and in doing so we've deepened our commitment to each other and our relationship.

Coming so close on the heels of Thanksgiving (where B spent several days immersed in my Houston family) and approaching Christmas (where I will join B and her fam in their annual holiday traditions), it's remarkable to think that something as simple as a pet kitten can represent a major step into unifying our two lineages and creating a new branch of the family tree. Just like any life, Liz's years will be filled with hopes and challenges, ups and downs. But B and I will see it through together, sharing all the feelings that go along with it. And someday in the not-too-distant future, we'll experience similar things, multiplied by a thousand, when we have a real human child. Hopefully our time as cat-parents will teach us some helpful lessons so that we can be the best Mom and Dad possible.

One thing's for sure -- if we heap as much love & affection on our future baby as we do on Liz Lemon, that kid is gonna be one happy little stinker! It's too bad I won't be able to torment him/her with a laser pointer...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On Tradition

Greetings readers! Jason (better known as "J" the fiancee) here. As Becca mentioned, I will be offering up some guest posts this week while she's bogged down with work. I intend to provide my perspective on some topics that are relevant to this blog and its audience. Becca (henceforth, "B") has shared your input and interactions with me, and I must say I'm thrilled to see so much active conversation and positive feedback. I hope I can offer up some interesting thoughts & ideas and keep the spirit of discussion alive while B is off-duty.

My first topic is a big one -- tradition (cue the Fiddler On The Roof soundtrack!). This is admittedly a broad topic with lots of different points to discuss. For now, I'm going focus on the use of "traditional" as a descriptive term, i.e. "a traditional wedding".

Traditions (in the literal sense of specific acts or practices) have firm roots in religion and family. But the term "traditional wedding" tends to conjure up images that bear little relation to the practices handed down through one's parents or faith. The phrase spurs thoughts of poofy white dresses, men in tuxedos, big flower arrangements, and a fancy sit-down dinner. However, a Google Image Search for "traditional wedding" generates some interesting results: a few photos of multi-tiered cakes and "veiled-dress-and-tuxedo" couples, but mostly Google shows colorful images of wedding ceremonies in India, China, South Africa, and other exotic locales that look nothing like the "white wedding" we perceive as traditional here in the West. The citizens of those countries probably consider the trappings of their weddings "traditional" and think ours odd & unusual. The precedent for our "tradition" only goes back to the early 20th century, and the elements themselves are rooted in European (mostly Caucasian) history.

This brings me to the key point of this post: tradition is relative. What each of us considers "traditional" is influenced by our personal culture, immediate surroundings and recent history. And our sense of whether something is "more" or "less" traditional is defined in relation to where we see ourselves along that spectrum. B and I provide a perfect example of this.

I grew up in suburban Houston, where the prevailing traditions included football, Christianity, and Texas pride. Given my preference for arts & intellectualism, my Jewish upbringing, and the fact that half my family hailed from Pittsburgh, I considered my life quite nontraditional in contrast to my peers. But to B, my upbringing seemed more conventional. She grew up with two full-time-working parents; her mom was the one coming home at 6:00pm; her dad cooked dinner after he spent the day teaching. My family, in contrast, cleaved to the "dad-as-breadwinner, mom-as-caretaker" model (which worked well for us - both my parents loved their roles and fulfilled them wonderfully). B went to an arts school where actors and singers were the "cool kids"; I went to a real-life suburbanized version of Friday Night Lights where jocks and cheerleaders ruled the school. So even though I considered myself nontraditional in the context of my Houston suburb, I was much more traditional (in the mainstream American sense) than B was used to.

This contrast has cropped up in our wedding planning. Many of my initial assumptions about the wedding were based on templates I'd encountered while growing up. I quickly learned that B did not necessarily want all of these things. I'm an open-minded guy, so I began widening my view to include a broader range of options, but I found that some "traditional" elements meant a lot to me, even if B found them undesirable. As we proceed with planning, I try to gauge which of these elements are truly meaningful vs. which lean on tradition by default. If B disagrees with some of my choices, I try to boil down the essence of what I love about them and find a way to incorporate that. Same goes for B's's all about compromise. In the end, our wedding will be a hodgepodge of traditional, non-traditional, unique and just-plain-beautiful elements, and it will truly reflect us as a couple and as individuals.

Obsessing over whether your wedding should be "more" or "less" traditional is a bit of a trap - it puts restrictions on the event from the get-go, since every aspect is judged in relation to some non-existent standard. Avoid pegging the whole wedding to one point along the "traditional/nontraditional" spectrum. It's better to evaluate the more "traditional" features as a set of options in the overall scheme of planning the RIGHT wedding. Make it about what feels good, what makes you happy, and what will create the most fun & memorable event. If you like a few "traditional" aspects, throw 'em in the mix. If you're aiming for a "nontraditional" wedding but still want a big five-tiered cake, don't let the fear of caving in to "tradition" prevent you from going for it. It's YOUR wedding. Pick and choose what suits you best.

Introducing J

I'm pretty much moving into my office this week for a few major deadlines and don't have time to write.  However, instead of leaving you for a week without new content, my incredible partner J will be filling in with posts about his own perspective on this wedding and marriage process.  We've been talking about having him guest post for a while, but this week was a great opportunity for him to jump in and also help me out (which is what true partnership is all about, after all.)  I could tell you a bit around his background and who he is, but I'd rather let him tell his own story, from his own perspective, about whatever wedding and marriage related topics he wants to tackle.  He'll be around all week (and hopefully he'll pop back again from time to time), so feel free to ask any groom-related (or other) burning questions you have in the comments, or by emailing them to alosangeleslove [at] gmail [dot] com.

And now, please welcome Jason - previously referred to as J - here at A Los Angeles Love.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Giving is Awesome: Heidi Ryder Photography

One of my favorite parts about the holiday season is how we all take a step away from the rhythms of our everyday to celebrate family, friendship and giving. Although I run myself ragged running from Thanksgiving to New Years with all the traveling, holiday party obligations, gift shopping, and family craziness it's really the one month of the year that I really force myself to engage with ALL the people who matter.  It's the time of year when everyone seems to stretch a bit to give loved ones a meaningful holiday celebration.  Some of that's been subverted into a buybuybuy mentality, but most of it all stems from a true generosity of spirit that's enabled by holiday cheer, goodwill, and end-of-year contemplation.

One aspect of that generosity is a focus on meaningful giving and charity.  For me, that means allocating dollars to my favorite charities and volunteering.  For one photographer, that meant deciding to offer free photography and asking her photographer friends to do the same. That generosity snowballed into Giving is Awesome, a commitment from over 250 photographers worldwide to give free custom photography to people in need in order to give back to their communities.

Locally, Heidi Ryder is one of the talented photographers offering a giveaway this holiday season.  If you've seen her work from this Style Me Pretty feature you'll know that this giveaway is an incredible opportunity for one deserving person, couple, or family.  Below are some of my favorite portrait-style photos from her portfolio, to give you an idea of her style and range.

Courtesy of Heidi Ryder

In Heidi's own words, here are the details on her participation in Giving is Awesome:
"This year I am giving away a portrait session (a $450 value) to one deserving person, couple or family. At first I thought of limiting the contest to families only, but then I realized that whether or not a person has family should not make them less than deserving. Same goes for couples. The point is, no one is immune to hard times, so I’m not excluding anyone.

You likely know someone who’s experienced a tragedy, is struggling to stay afloat, is raising kids while holding down more than one job, or is volunteering selflessly despite extenuating personal circumstances. You know someone who can’t afford custom photography, but who would cherish it this holiday season. You know someone who deserves a year-round reminder of their family’s spirit, love and beauty.

I want to know who they are, and I want to give them the chance to experience complimentary custom photography.  It is in your power to give them the artwork they deserve this holiday season."
You can't nominate yourself, but please think about who in the Southern California area might appreciate this incredible gift after a difficult year, and nominate them here. The deadline is December 20 and Heidi will announce the winner on Christmas Eve.

For more information on Giving is Awesome or to find a photographer closer to you or a deserving loved one, please search this map.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Los Angeles on a Sunny Day

Los Angeles isn't exactly the most zen-inspiring city (darn you traffic, darn you) but I genuinely believe there's beauty in this concrete-and-natural-wonder-mixed sprawl. And there's definite beauty in the creative energy that infuses and interprets this city.  And so, I want to leave you today with a little Los Angeles zen, beauty and creative interpretation from the Silverlake/Echo Park/Los Feliz area on this Friday afternoon.

The East Side of Los Angeles on a Sunny Day from clark vogeler on Vimeo.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Unique Los Angeles Craft Event

Are you looking for a non-generic holiday gift option?  Would you rather give your hard-earned dollars to an artist or artisan than to  Yeah, me too.  So I'm thinking about checking out the Unique Los Angeles independent design and gift extravaganza this weekend.   This is their second annual event and the largest independent design show on the West Coast, featuring over 300 designers and artists.

There's a $10 entry fee, but it goes to support 826LA, an incredible local non-profit that focuses on expository and creative writing skills for students with one-one-one tutoring, workshops, classroom programs and English language teaching.  You also get a tote bag, a drink ticket, and two-day access to the booths and art workshops.

Since I usually end up buying half my gifts from etsy anyhow, it's nice not paying for shipping and knowing more of my dollars are supporting local artists (and therefore local communities) while giving me the chance to build relationships with people whose work I admire.

When: December 5-6, 11am - 6pm
Where: California Market Center (110 East 9th Street - Map It)
Cost: $10

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our So-Called Liberal Bastions

I've been a mix of furious and saddened since sometime yesterday afternoon, when I heard about the wrongheaded decision of the New York legislature to continue denying equal rights to homosexual couples and marriages.  I swore.  I left condolences-type comments on sites of blogger friends who are directly affected by this decision.  I found a list of the Democrats who voted against equal rights (at the end of this Gawker article here) that I hope every New Yorker studies and considers in their voting decisionmaking.  I finally got around to posting my white knot support of marriage equality on this website.

I thought about Thansgiving, and meeting J's wonderful gay cousin and partner, and how wrongheaded it is that their family can only attend our legal marriage when there are actually two joyful commitments to celebrate. All I want is for my family and friends to have equal acecss to the legal rights of marriage.  Anyone who religiously disagrees can keep their religious marriage ceremonies to themselves. I'm tired of explaining that one marriage doesn't impact another and that I'm fighting for legal (healthcare, hospital visitation, taxation, custody) rights that won't impact anyone else's private or religious rituals or definition of marriage. I may not agree with your religious practices, but I'll protect your right to keep the state out of your religious affairs and your church/synagogue/mosque's marriage ceremonies. Church and state are constitutionally separate in this country, and we're only fighting for the state rights here. 

I'm tired of being angry and I genuinely believe that, with time and exposure, society will come to realize that equality of opportunity is a basic civil right for all couples. My mother is a perfect example of the "with time" theory: she grew up Catholic and, while she never actively discriminated, I don't think she was entirely comfortable with homosexuality when I was younger.  I remember a knock-down drag-out fight when I was 15 years old and Hawaii was considering gay marriage. I could not understand her pigheaded* smallmindedness about gay marriage; she was okay with commitment, but not with the implications for "the children" (bah. arguments that reference "the children" always drive me batty.)  Within five years, it was a completely different story, and she was planning Lord of the Rings movie nights with her close gay friend and his partner (since my father had no interest in drooling over Aragorn.) All it took was time and exposure for her to become comfortable with equality and what it means.  I hold onto this story, and know that, slowly, society will follow her as we become more comfortable with gay artists, celebrities, teachers, neighbors, friends and family members.

And now, because I'm tired of being angry and want to move into hope, I want to leave you with an excerpt from Wifey Wiferson's great post this morning. Instead of talking only about gay marriage issues, she ended her post with a discussion what it means when lawmakers stand up for equality:
"This is a clip I found from a 1970 news broadcast covering the New York State Assembly vote that legalized abortion years before Roe vs. Wade.  It shows the moment that Assemblyman George Michaels, who came from a conservative district in Auburn, NY, realized that he cast the one vote that would tip the scales and keep abortion illegal in New York State.  He had discussed the vote with his family, who strongly encouraged him to vote yes, or to at least not be the deciding no vote.  He stood up just as the speaker was about to announce the result, and changed his no vote to yes, saving who knows how many women's lives.

It's true that Assemblyman Michaels didn't stand up until the very end, but it was because at that moment he realized it was only him standing between the women of his state and safe abortion.  He couldn't say, "well, I voted against it, but so did a lot of other people, so it didn't really matter".  But in reality, it wasn't only him.  Each individual lawmaker in that room had the power to vote the final yes." 
Go over to Wifey Wiferson's site to see the clip referenced above and to see the pro-equality speech from Senator Diane Savino from Staten Island. And go out and think about the power of yes and how each voice can change the world.

*I am proud to say I get my pigheaded stubborness and righteous indignation from my amazing mother, by the way.

PLEASE NOTE: any angry or discriminatory comments in reaction to this post will be summarily deleted. Like I've mentioned before, I respect civil disagreement.  I do not respect hateful speech and will respond accordingly.

Weddings that Make Me Smile: One Barefoot Bride

I've been following Elizabeth's journey over at One Barefoot Bride for a few months now.  Her matter-of-fact approach to sustainability, simplicity and stylish-but-conscious decisions is so similar to our own thoughts about green weddings that her blog really resonates for me. And while I was filled with joy upon hearing about her wedding, the recent photos from Kate Harrison completely blew me away. In fact, they were mind-blowing enough that Green Wedding Shoes picked them up for a feature earlier this week.

There's no disputing the art, beauty and joy in these photos.  But the part that really makes my heart well up is knowing that Elizabeth managed so many of the same wedding struggles I'm dealing with now - marrying in an expensive region of the country, ethics, sustainability, trying to ignore the WIC and the indie-wedding pressures alike - and she came out of it with a day of such complete perfection that even Green Wedding Shoes wanted to feature her celebration.  These photos are a tangible reminder that what I'm striving for is attainable - not the blog feature, but the undeniable essence of the day itself.  And it's a reminder that if I do it my way, it will be undeniably beautiful as well.

And, as if all that weren't enough, Elizabeth and Eric's wedding may have an even longer-term effect on the sustainability practices that regularly inspire them: after their wedding, photographer Kate Harrison was inspired to introduce her new Bee Green discount for couples that incorporate five eco-conscious elements into their weddings.  In other words, the way we wed matters, and I'm reminded again that we're on a path that's right for us.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vintage Jewelery Sale at the House of Love and Luck

Do you have plans yet for tomorrow (Thursday) night?  Do you have wedding jewelry or holiday gifts to buy?  Do you like vintage jewelry from previous eras, say Victorian, Art Deco or general glam?  Are you in Los Angeles?

Well then, perhaps you'd be interested in checking out the anniversary party at the House of Love and Luck. The event features 'Jewelry by Nola', a hosted champagne bar, and special sale pricing. A portion of the evening's proceeds will benefit the animal rescue charity, Animal Advocates Alliance.

LAist first did a feature on this great little boutique back in February. Every item is handpicked by the owner, Ricki Nolan, and she strives to keep her pieces reasonable. According to Nolan, prices range from $30-$400. but "most pieces are around $80-$100. My goal is for the store to be the 'go to' place for cool, unique, statement pieces that have history and a story. I sell quality pieces at an affordable price."

Check out today's LAist article for more photos and information on this fabulous local resource and event.  And if you have time to stop by for the anniversary sale, know that I'll be jealous and I'll want a full rundown. 

The House of Love and Luck
Thursday, December 3
7:00pm - 10:00pm
370½ N. La Cienega Boulevard

On Perfection and Entertaining

We moved into our apartment nearly six months ago now and, while we love our cozy home and neighborhood, we have too many blank walls for it to feel completely right.  The problem isn't vision - we both have strong aesthetic points of view - but outright exhaustion and a bit of laziness too. We tackled unpacking, framing photographs (of us and general world travels), buying and framing a few prints, and buying a few better-than-Ikea furniture items from Craigslist.  And then, we stalled out.  Life took over and trying to deal with long-hour jobs, health issues, cooking healthy meals, meeting up with friends, writing music, writing this blog, and maintaining some semblance of balance have meant that home decor fell by the wayside.

The bedroom's bare walls chide me each time I step in, but I don't quite have the heart to tackle any big aesthetic negotiations now, since I'm secretly looking forward to hanging our Ketubah here after our wedding. We have big plans for our office and bedroom windows but, for some reason, I never feel inspired to start sewing curtains at 9pm at night (when I finally have some downtime.) And I have a list of thrift shops I keep meaning to visit so I can gather a collection of interesting glass containers, mirror frames, and eclectic wallscape items for my half of the office, but again, weekend time is a precious commodity. 

It would seem that our house is not ready for a large holiday party.  Oh well.  I refuse to wait for my house to be company-ready before allowing myself to partake in the joys of company.  I'm sure our hospitality and grace will overcome any home decor deficiencies this weekend, when sixty of our closest friends join us for a housewarming/holiday/engagement party.  I'll wish we could pull together a classy winter white sparkle theme, but I'll be content to pull out our box of delightfully tacky dreidel decorations (blow-up dreidels, hanging-from-the-cieling dreidels, and actual spinning dreidels) , light-up Santa faces, Happy Hannukah garlands, and tinsel. 

I had grand plans for the apartment and for this party that will both remain incomplete before Saturday night.  My curtains will remain unfinished, my winter wonderland tablescape will probably not happen, and I have a feeling we'll end up hiding some of our mess in a closet or two. And still, I wouldn't put off this party for the world.  It's an annual treat, a chance to see our friends before everyone is overscheduled with office parties, family and vacations.  So what if our house isn't perfect?  Our friends are coming for the homemade latkes, lemon-mint cocktails, booze-and-gelt-filled pinata, and company (hopefully not in that order) and the details of our cheesy holiday decorations and limited everyday decor don't really matter.

Perhaps the next time I fret over wedding decor and impossible (for my lazy bum) craft timelines, it would do me well to think about tinsel and love instead.  I have a feeling a lot of our wedding decor projects may go unfinished, but I also get the feeling no one will care.  As with our upcoming holiday party, we could fill our wedding with tinsel, lemonade and love, and all would still be right in the world.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Last Name Issue

Last night, we brought home the newest member of our family: Liz Lemon the cat.  We promptly became ridiculous doting cat parents and filled a new Facebook album with pictures of Ms. Liz.  Besides all the warm fuzzy love and lap snuggles, the best part of this process so far has been J's photo captions in Facebook: without any input from me, he introduced her as "Liz Lemon Mylast Hislast."  I proceeded to swoon and fall a little bit more in love with the father of our new triple-barreled-last-name cat.  It made me wish that the last name questions surrounding marriage and children were nearly as simple and obvious: the cat belongs to us both and so she carries both of our names. However, it's not nearly as easy when we start to talk about children.  We have slightly different viewpoints about that emotional minefield that we've only begun to address (and so I will save that blog post for another time.)  For the moment, I'm just going to bask in the glow of kitty love and egalitarian partner love as my family expands to welcome both.

I promise this won't turn into a crazy cat lady blog, but I couldn't write about my new rescue kitty without posting pictures, could I?

From Weddings to Marriage

As of late, I've found my daydreams wandering off into holiday party planning, new kitty preparations, and Thanksgiving family-time negotiations. With sixteen months to go, wedding planning doesn't feel all that pressing.  We have a venue, our attire, a day-of-coordinator, a sense of how we want the day to look and (more importantly) feel, and I have an inking we've even found our caterer.

Instead of wedding planning, I find myself appreciating the quiet rhythms of our new joint-everyday lives and caring less about the ceremony and party to come.  It's hard to stay wrapped up in the minutae of wedding planning when it's so far off and you don't care much about minutae anyhow. Over Thanksgiving, J's family asked about the ring and our developing plans, but it was only a passing topic of conversation.  I think we all realized that next year's Thanksgiving will still find us engaged and planning for our still upcoming wedding, so talking about centerpieces for a party that's over a year away all seems a bit silly (even if I'm pretty darn excited about those succulents). And I felt a huge sense of relief and right-ness that wedding conversations were a non-topic, since I was more interested in getting to know his family better anyhow. 

We decided to have a long engagement in large part because we wanted our wedding to only be a passing topic of conversation.  We didn't want to jump into living together and planning a wedding all at once.  We wanted to enjoy the process of learning about each other at our (previously) most private moments, about how to navigate shared chores and finances, about how to sit quietly together after a long day, and about all the ways that hugs can fit into our shared time and space. We want our wedding to be a part of the conversation, but not a big part and certainly not the main part.

And so, I now find myself without much to say about the wedding.  Instead, I find I have a lot more to say about the process of partnership and the process of marriage.  I'm finding myself more interested in thinking about readings, ethics, ceremony and tradition than I am about the celebration.  I know these things will likely shift because I still like art, design, and the pretty trappings that come with weddings.  And I know the planning process will continue to drive me batty at various turns and this blog will surely reflect that. But, in these last few weeks and as we navigate our first holiday season as fiance and fiancee, I'm feeling particularly introspective and not very wedding party-focused.  And so, I'd like to end this post with a reading by Robert Fulghum that captures so much of what I've been feeling about weddings lately and how I hope to arrive at my own.
"You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks - all those sentences that began with “When we’re married” and continued with “I will and you will and we will”- those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe”- and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding. The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “ You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed- well, I meant it all, every word.” Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another- acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this- is my husband, this- is my wife."