Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Carols

I've been feeling pretty Grinch-like this holiday season, for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was that I had to miss my family's annual Christmas Caroling party. Even though I generally refuse to sing, I really enjoy the whole spirit of the day, and I'm always a sucker for family rituals and traditions. I'm also a sucker for well-done a capella. That's alright, take a moment to giggle. I understand why earnest pop-song vocals set to choreography and performed in matching outfits can make the more jaded roll their eyes. I can be as snarky as the next girl with my arty elitism but it doesn't matter: when a capella is done right, it gives me chills. Listening to a perfectly blended cascade of sound is mindblowing, especially when it suddenly hits you that there are no instruments or autotune*.

This version of "All I Want For Christmas" from Nota (the group that won The Sing Off last season - yes, I watched) is an incredible example of how a capella can be complex and gorgeous. It even managed to elicit a smile or two, despite the Bah Humbug stormcloud I've been grumping under this week. So I thought I'd put aside all my holiday stress and snark to share a cheesy but beautifully done Christmas song.

Happy holidays.

*Do you hear me Glee?  You have talent like this, so just let them shine already.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Stuff I Really Like: Win a Free SoCal Wedding

I'm generally leery of "win a wedding" contests, possibly because many of them ask you to submit a heart-wrenchingly feel good story (ours wasn't a fancy how-we-met story), submit a photo (which makes me think they'll only choose publicity-worthily pretty couples) or allow a camera to follow you around for a reality show (um, gross, and kinda defeats the purpose of a wedding for me). But this contest is none of those things. And frankly, this contest opportunity sounds 100% awesome, so I'm happy to share:

The South Coast Winery Resort and Spa in Temecula, California is is giving away a Valentine's Day 2011 wedding. The winning couple will get married under their rose arbor, overlooking the vineyard. The couple and 100 of their family and friends will then get treated to an hors d'oeuvres, sparkling wine, and a three tiered wedding cake reception. Best of all, the only thing you need to do is fill out a form with your contact info by December 31. Really, that's it. No photos, no essays, no anything but your name and contact info.

I just want to take a moment to daydream about how amazing this would be, if we were in the early stages of wedding planning, the let's elope stage of wedding planning, or the tear-our-hair-out-I-hate-So-Cal-venue-prices stage of wedding planning. In other words, if I didn't have a bazillion contracts in place and family members with booked flights, I'd be all over this, particularly because the South Coast Winery actually holds a very special place in my heart: Jason and I stayed here for our first weekend-away trip and we genuinely love the low-key vibe of So Cal's Temecula Valley vineyards. If you don't have a firm plan yet for your wedding and you're willing to kick bum throughout January and February to make this happen, you should enter this contest. Here's how I picture it could go:

The winner will be announced on January 2, 2011. The wedding will have to take place on Monday, February 14, 2011. This gives you time to: call all your guests and invite them, send out an email invitation (eff the stress and cost of printed invitations), find a dress from a department store and rent a suit, load up some ipod songs, find an officiant or get a friend ordained in California to perform the service, write your vows, find a friend or last minute photographer to take photos, and done. It doesn't give you time to stress about extraneous wedding cr*p like centerpieces, bouquets, bridesmaid dresses and other things you won't care about 30 years from now. But it will give you time to get your family and friends in town to celebrate your wedding. You could absolutely make this happen in six weeks. Add on a DJ and some regular wine or plated food if you want. Or not. Regardless, this is a truly great opportunity to end the stress of wedding planning in one fell swoop at a fraction of the normal SoCal cost, at a location that would be truly beautiful and worth it.

So what are you waiting for? Go and enter the contest!

This is not a sponsored post. This is just an opportunity I might have liked for myself a year ago, so I thought I'd share. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


A box that I wasn't expecting arrived from Amazon yesterday. I got very excited, thinking maybe our first registry item had arrived and I used every ounce of willpower to not look at our Amazon registry to see if anything had been purchased before I ripped into the box. As I pulled out a Kitchen Aid Mixer catalogue, I then proceeded to have a jaw-dropping freakout moment. Despite the fact that we didn't register for a Kitchen Aid Mixer, I've been secretly lusting after one but only because a) they're very pretty and b) I have a fantasy in which high end kitchen toys magically turn me into a baked goods goddess (in this fantasy, flour all over the kitchen is sexy instead of being a big old mess).  Logically, I know the mixer stand doesn't make sense for our limited countertop space and cooking time right now. But logic didn't matter once my brain flashed to baked goods, mashed potatoes, and sexy flour fights.

Sadly, the box did not contain a Kitchen Aid Mixer. Instead, it contained half of a Christmas present I had bought for someone else that had shipped from a kitchen store that also sells Kitchen Aid Mixers. But my ridiculous disappointment for something I don't even need or truly want showed me that Christmas, Amazon, and my wedding are all conspiring to uncover my latent greed for things ranging from fancy knives to melon ballers to countertop mixers. I've begun second guessing our decision to keep our perfectly serviceable and matching plates because new white plates would be so pretty. It's almost made me forget that all I really and truly need is this:

Love captured while we weren't posing for the camera. A moment of finding comfort and strength in each others' hug. That's it. I know it sounds sappy and cliche after talking about greed and cookies and sexy time baking escapades (which is all a bit cliche too) but this week, it's just very much true.

Right after receiving the Amazon box, I also received tragic news from one of my oldest friends in the world, and the pile of gift items and registry hopes suddenly became painfully meaningless. I still very much appreciate the intent and love behind the gifts, of course. But it hit me that I can relax about plates and presents and stuff because all I really want is time with my loved ones, both over the holidays and at our wedding. It's been so easy to lose sight of that with all the registry and holiday excitement, despite knowing, really knowing, what matters to me about Christmas morning and the wedding weekend. And so today, I'm reminding myself to pull back from all the gift giving to focus on the reasons I'm working so hard to find meaningful gifts: because the people in my world matter deeply to me and I love them. And I feel so lucky that I get to spend Christmas with some of them and the wedding with so many of them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Silver Linings

You may have heard that Gawker Media got hacked. Because I have a commenter account for Gawker and the hackers posted commenter information over on Pirate Bay, I spent a lot of time making sure all my online user names, email logins, and passwords were still secure. First I updated my email, financial, and social media accounts. Then I remembered I had Amazon, Etsy, and Ebay accounts I needed to check. My mess of three emails, five user names, and four password options meant I was pretty safe, despite the security breach (here's some tips on building stronger passwords and tips on how to manage your mass of online passwords).

And then, a few hours later, it hit me that I still have a few random online dating profiles out in the internet ether. I haven't logged in* or paid for an account since I met Jason, but my inactive accounts still exist and my profiles are still searchable (though someone would have to be pretty desperate to send an email to someone who hadn't logged into Jdate in over four years). But I'd genuinely forgotten about those profiles since hey, it's been over four years since I've cared about dating anyone aside from Jason. So I'm finding a silver linking in this Gawker hacking irritation: it reminded me that there's no better way to welcome in married life than by permanently deleting old dating profiles.

So, in tribute to the woman who was brave enough to consider meeting a stranger on the internet and who is more than ready to marry him, a snippet from the Becca of five years ago:
"The first thing people notice about me: I'm 5'9" without heels. And I've been known to wear heels.

The six things I could never do without: a sense of adventure, a moment of alone time, a few heartfelt laughs shared with friends, an appreciation for the absurd, a swiss army knife, and cold drinks on perfectly hot summer days. 

You should message me if: you love the banter of a great argument; you stand at the airport newsstand debating for 15 minutes and then eventually decide to buy both the Economist and something trashy; you've stopped whining about how plastic and fake LA is because you're too busy enjoying a hike in the Santa Monica Mountains; you prefer a smoky dive bar with a dart board to standing around and looking cool; you go to the gym because you want to feel healthy and not because you adore your biceps; you know how to cook up a great tofu dish and a mean steak; you love the occasional pajama Sunday; you laugh out loud at yourself on a regular basis."
It's nice to have this reminder that my relationship hasn't changed the parts at my core: I've just matured and grown stronger with Jason. And even better, it's incredible to realize that he was attracted to that core and that he actually fit the description of the person I was hoping to find (minus the tofu, though he's definitely mastered some delicious vegetarian meals over the last few years). But the best part is that I'm ready to say goodbye now to who we were because I'm much more focused on building our future.

*Ok, fine. I've logged into OK Cupid a few times because that's where I met Jason. But I feel like nostalgia-schmooping over my fiance's old profile doesn't really count as problematic use of online dating sites.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Love/Hate Relationship with My Wedding Dress

I love my wedding dress.. It's simple, elegant, and just feels right when I put it on. And by "feels right" I mean it suits our location, our wedding vibe, my own personal style, and it's ridiculously comfortable. I'm still amazed that I bought all this dress magic for a mere $200.

However, I also hate my wedding dress because, right now, it's currently one size too small. When I bought it, it was perfectly sized, no alterations necessary.  I'm not sure how this sucker managed to shrink so much while sitting in the closet for the last four months (la la la denial), but it's clearly an evil item of clothing that is using the holiday season calorie fest to further tant me. It whispers to me about how I'll never recover from my normal five pound ( weight gain from Thanksgiving to New Years in time for our April 3 wedding, since I'm already starting from five pounds more than looks decent. The dress is cajoling me to eat salad - salad! - during the hearty soup months and to say no to appetizers and drinks at the 18 holiday parties we have scheduled. It's taunting me because it knows I can't let it out with alterations and that I have zero interest in shopping for a new dress and new set of accessories in February and March.

Long time readers will remember I wrote about how I reconcile my post-holiday weight gain with wedding-related pressures to be beautiful. In any normal year, I'd still be in complete agreement with that post. But this isn't a normal year because I currently have a too-small wedding dress to fit into. And so, I am cursed with trying to lose weight over the weight-gainiest season of all. Instead of nonchalantly stuffing my face with my favorite seasonal treats, I'll have to actually exercise restraint. And exercise a lot. And think way too much about this stupid wedding when I'd prefer to be thinking about gingerbread and mulled wine. This stupid wedding dress is ruining my holiday season.

Bah. I'm stressed enough to start nibbling nonstop from the box of cookies our clients sent as a holiday gift. I won't, but I'll definitely be thinking about those d*mn cookies all day because, as much as I appreciate my newfound commitment to yoga, yoga =/= cookies.

@$^#$^!#$^% wedding and %$&(@(^ wedding dress.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Our Save the Date

When we decided on our list of wedding priorities, save the dates barely registered. Of course we intended on informing people about the wedding six months out (or maybe more like five...) but the idea of spending money on creating and mailing these announcements was less important than spending money on wine. Or programs. Or our ketubah. Or my new shoes/his new tie. You get the picture. Instead, our save the date priorities were the following:
  • free/exceedingly cheap
  • get people to put the date on their calendar
  • direct guests to our website for more information
  • request a pre-wedding questionnaire to collect address/mailing info
  • simplify our event management process
  • attractive
  • easy to use
With this list of priorities, we were pretty much left with email options. I looked into constant contact or vertical response, which I've used to create professional newsletters, but I didn't love their templates. I looked into mailchimp, which allowed for free emails to email lists under 1000 people, but I needed better photoshop skills to make their templates sing. And so I revisited a New York Times article on evite alternatives (because I despite evite) and discovered Thank g-d. Because Pingg honestly saved me from a save the date DIY meltdown.

Meltdowns are what happen when a) you're cheap b) you're incredibly strapped for time c) you're very particular about your aesthetic, d) you don't have the design skills to create your vision without serious help, and e) you are entirely unwilling to budge on any of the above listed points.

Enter Pingg, which offers a range of attractive wedding invitation and save the date templates that were simple to personalize. After deciding we didn't want to upload our own design, we gleefully explored all their gorgeous and varied save the dates and found a template with succulents. Succulents! And space to add our own photos! In about five minutes I'd uploaded a few photos (from our engagement shoot and from general adventuring) and finalized our save the date design.

Aside from chic, easy, and entirely free email invitations, Pingg also provides several other features that made it extremely attractive to us:
  • Privacy settings that only allow invited guests to view and respond to our invitation and limit everyone from seeing who else was invited (you can also open the invitation to all of facebook, twitter, and your email address book, if you wanted to go that route.)
  • Ability to import your address book and export RSVPs
  • Management page where we can manage all communications, track emails sent, emails openned, invites forwarded, RSVPs, guest messages, total headcount and more (having done large-scale events, this sort of functionality was critical to me)
  • Ability to send reminder messages
  • For less tech-savvy invited guests, you can order printed copies of the invitation or save the date that Pingg will mail via USPS, for about $3 per card.
  • Private messages (guests can message you or you can message your guests)
You could even theoretically use Pingg as your full wedding wedsite (though it was a bit limited for our needs), since it allows you to integrate gift and charity registry information, add google maps, and post photos.

Although Pingg can be free, we decided to spend the $10 to upgrade to Pingg Plus, which means our guests experience an ad-free save the date, we got a customized URL for the website and RSVPs, and we got to include a fancy interactive envelope with our email invitations. I appreciate that Pingg offers an affordable way to class up even email invitations.
This is what arrived in our invited guests' inboxes

When invited guests click the image, it opens to reveal the save the date. 

When guests click on the save the date, they're taken to our Pingg website

At our unique Pingg URL, guests can see more event details, send us a private message, click through to our official wedding wedsite (which we created for free in a wordpress blog), click through to our questionnaire (which we created and published for free in google forms), or RSVP.  It makes everything easy and streamlined. We can send out reminder notices as the wedding approaches. We can track all our RSVPs in one place. We can see if anyone hasn't received/opened their email and follow up by phone. And, for invited guests who are less tech-savvy, you can even order printed copies of our invitation that pingg will send in the mail. 

Although I am convinced this was the best $10 we've spent so far on maintaining our wedding sanity, I should note a few drawbacks.
  • Pingg includes an RSVP option, which is great for normal invitations but slightly confusing for save the dates. However, I appreciate that many people are already eager to reply.
  • Since we decided to sidestep the Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. issues for emails, we imported everyone with first names only. We now have three yes replies from various Janes, which is difficult to manage without last names in our Pingg system. If I had to do it again, I'd probably import everyone's actual full names and titles.
  • We were careful to address the emails carefully, noting that people in serious relationships were addressed as "John and Guest" But because email is informal, many people without the "and guest" designation have simply assumed they all get a plus one. Ouch. We've had to send some awkward emails about that.
Overall though, I am entirely in love with the ease, style, and functionality of Pingg. I'm sure our online invitation process would have been simpler if we had used a designed-for-weddings, visually coordinated online event invitation, wedsite, and guest management program like Glosite. But Glosite would have cost us $119, and we found a way to cheaply recreate its functionality with a combination of Pingg, Wordpress, and Google Forms. And even if our online items aren't visually coordinated, I'm really happy with how our save the date looks. It fits our event needs, our aesthetic, our design skills, and our chock-full schedules, all for a tiny $10 investment

This is not a sponsored post. I'm just sharing the results of our wedding experience so it can hopefully assist someone else.  

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving Giveaway Winner!

Thank you so much for entering the giveaway last week and sharing your stories. All of your comments truly warmed my heart and felt very Thanksgiving-appropriate. Which is nice, because sometimes wedding planning doesn't feel like there's much to be grateful for.

Sadly, I can only pick one winner. To to be entirely fair, I used to pick a number and, counting down, it was Lira's comment that won:
"Finally, FINALLY, we saw a venue that just might work with our micro-budget and that very night I looked into my fiance's eyes and said, "I've gone from heartburn to excitement now, just thinking about getting to marry you." 

Congratulations on finding a venue (I know how hard that can be) and finally getting the chance to get excited about your wedding!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Even if the blog's been quiet for the last few weeks, it doesn't mean I've been avoiding wedding stuff. In fact, I've probably been more productive in the last two weeks than during any other single time during this wedding process. Of course, all that doing has left very little time for writing. And somehow I'm still behind on the doing (it really never ends. I swear I end up adding two items for every item I cross off the to-do list.) So I hope you'll forgive me for a cursory check-in post as I try to sort out the jumble of accomplishments, DIY projects, silly-but-important freakouts, ceremony thoughts, and joining-family joys that I've been grappling with lately. Because here's a fraction of the wedding jumble, as it currently stands:

We ordered our invitations. Hmm. It sounds so deceptively easy when you say it like that. "Oh, we ordered our invitations" doesn't hint at the hours of angst that went into this checklist accomplishment. I may have spent several days pouring through every recycled paper invitation option on etsy (again), every option on Printable Press, every option on Hello Lucky, and every option I'd previously bookmarked for invitation inspiration. Didn't I mention at some point that I didn't care about invitations? Why yes, I did. Well, I gave up. I admitted that I wanted something that made my soul sing a teensy bit, and soul-songs on recycled paper don't seem to happen with the $1.50-$2.00 range invitations. And I admitted that if I had to think about finding a good printer (ours is terrible) and cutting paper and gluing little pieces of paper to make invitations, I would have screamed and thrown a wedding tantrum. So I sucked up the extra dollar per invitation and made my aesthetic soul and my to-do list happy. Sometimes, mini fortunes are oh-so worth it. (wheee money! whee wedding!)

We decided on our ketubah. I fell shell-shock in love with the first ketubah I found over Thanksgiving weekend. Although I've been lazily researching and bookmarking over the last year, I never found anything that made me think "Yes, absolutely YES."  But then I finally got serious about our four-month-out wedding needs (side note: HOLY CRAP FOUR MONTHS), typed something about modern art ketubahs into Google, got directed to a random blog, and gasped. I then showed it to Jason and his jaw dropped. I then spent the next day scrolling through all 800 ketubahs on because I simply couldn't believe that we found our ketubah with my first browser click. Well... it turns out we found our ketubah with my first browser click.  But I had to work through the shock and doubt to really believe my gut.  I think there's a lesson in here somewhere, but if previous wedding lessons have taught me anything, it's that I haven't learned my lesson yet.

We met with our rabbi again, we're re-reading the New Jewish Wedding, and we're starting to talk about the pre-wedding rituals and ceremony ideas that resonate with both of us. This is the raw, momentous, joyful, and bone-achingly important part. This is the part of the wedding that's connecting me to thousands of years of family history, to our present values and relationship, and to our future plans for an ethical Jewish life. We're talking about the beauty and deep wisdom in how our tradition approaches so many aspects of the wedding, and we're talking about which traditions we want to choose and the ways in which we can truly make those traditions ours. It's the part of the wedding that I curl up with at the end of the night, when the rest of it is sending me spinning in headless chicken circles.

We planned out a rough honeymoon itinerary for our Guatemala honeymoon, with the help of our new Lonely Planet guidebook, some of your comments and emails (thank you!) and some internet searches. I can now buy our plane tickets, make a honeymoon registry, and dream about a new camera. Mine broke a year ago and now, after looking through photos of Guatemala, I need a camera. It's been a long time since I had a good excuse to take great travel photos, and I'm itching for it already. I wish I had money to get a DSLR and learn how to use it, but oh well. That can be a post-honeymoon goal. I'm okay with my nice point-and-shoot interim goal because I'm going to Guatemala.

I bought a necklace and a pair of wedding shoes. I returned the shoes and bought a second necklace and earrings. I then ordered another necklace and pair of earrings. (I told you there was a silly-but-important freakout in there. More to come on this particular bout of the wedding crazies in an upcoming post.)

I had my first wedding shower. Jason's mother and their family friend organized and hosted a shower over Thanksgiving. I spend a lot of time before the shower feeling bad about all these women spending money on shower presents and just asking them to host a girl's afternoon. But I get it now. After being overwhelmed with generosity and love from all the women who love Jason, I get it. This deserves its own post too.

I wrote half my shower thank you cards before running out of stationary. Jason then discovered an insane Black Friday (Sunday?) deal on thank you cards at Target: $2.00 for a box of 25 cards. And they're perfectly nice! They aren't as nice as the Paper Source cards I just used up, but they're nice! And given that I'll probably need to write about 150 cards in the near future (showers, holiday, wedding) I'm thrilled with "$2.00 and nice," especially if it's dressed up with the content of heartfelt gratitude.

We ordered rubber stamps: one with our return address (for those 150 thank you cards and 100 invitations) and one with a succulent-looking flower that we can use to accent our table numbers, escort cards, and random paper goods. I decided I couldn't stomach trying to print our return address on envelopes. I also decided that a well-designed self-inking address stamp was far prettier than labels, just as easy to use, and inexpensive when ordered via vistaprint.  And heck, if we say eff it to the floral design stamping (which is a real last minute eff-it possibility), I lost a whole $7 in the transaction. Big whoop.

We decided on our wedding centerpiece idea. For real this time. And while it won't be cheap-cheap, we get to use the pasta sauce jars we've been saving for the last year mixed in with some inexpensive Ikea pieces, succulents, and whatever flowers are in season the day before our wedding.  Now, we just need to prepare ourselves for our biggest DIY wedding endeavor, which will involve goo gone, spray paint, dirt under our fingernails, a last minute trip to buy flowers, and some wine to ease me into a proper "eff it" approach when something surely goes haywire.

There's more. Oh goodness, there's more. But maybe I'll wait to relate that until after our trip to Costco and Ikea this weekend. And until after I actually put in our rental order (I know, I know. I'm procrastinating and still haven't made up my mind on the stupid glasses.) But the point is, there's been a whirlwind of forward motion that caught me up and left me without time or perspective to write. And it feels good to whittle away at this darn checklist.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Giveaway

In the last few months, everything wedding-related has started feeling like a chore. I'm sure my posts have hinted at it, but I'm mostly just overwhelmed with all the responsibilities on my plate. The wedding tasks feel like an joyless slog and April is alternately way too close for comfort and an interminable ways off. Work is demanding more and more of my time and focus, and I arrive home exhausted. And then there's this blog... which I've been neglecting. As we get closer to the wedding, the challenges have become more personal and private, and finding energy at 10 pm to sort through them, let along write about them in a protective way, has been difficult.

Because of all this, I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving more than usual. I love holidays and rituals, because they give me the chance to step outside my everyday routine and really see it for a moment. They allow me to pause and assess whether I'm still moving in the right direction for my goals. And on Thanksgiving, in particular, I have a ritualized opportunity to reflect on all the things I'm truly grateful for.

This week, I wanted to take some time apart from my routine to focus on giving thanks for the muddled complicated glories of my life. And to start off that conversation, I wanted to say thank you to all of you. Thank you for reading, emailing, sticking by when the blog hit a lull or two, and for generally being such amazing wedding cheerleaders.  I feel like I've found a strength here, talking with you, that's infused both my wedding and my everyday endeavors. I'm braver in my wedding choices. I'm more confident in imagining post-wedding writing schemes. I'm a bit more fierce about defending my needs and opinions and a bit more accepting of everyone else's. I'm also humbled by the outpouring of support, feedback, and genuine friendship that's grown out of these words thrown out to the internet ether.

Because I feel so grateful for all the support you've shown me, I really want to give something back to you.  I've been holding onto my Amazon gift certificate prizes from the Wedding Channel competition, wondering how to best use them. Yes, "them." Plural. Because when you voted for me for best real blog, I won a $100 gift certificate. And then, when you voted again and again and again for best overall blog, I won the $1,000 gift certificate too. And I can't thank you enough for that. Beyond the shock and joy of it all, on a practical level, you've all contributed hugely to my financial sanity.  For the last nine months, my computer has been dying a sad, slow death. I've been trying to coax it along, begging it to survive until after the wedding, when we'll have disposable income again. Unfortunately, my computer doesn't care about wedding budget timelines and decided to stop working. But, because of your voting, I'm able to afford a new computer now without panicking. I'll be able to stop borrowing Jason's computer to write blog posts or do work. I am so lucky and so darn grateful for all of you, for so many reasons.

I don't need both gift certificates - I feel blown-away lucky to have stumbled across one, let alone two. After all, I owe them both to you for reading and voting, and so it only feels right to offer the $100 gift certificate back as a Thanksgiving Thank You.  So to enter the giveaway, please leave a comment telling me a moment when your wedding or wedding planning made you feel lucky or grateful. I know that some of you are still on the fence about whether your weddings were worth it, some are still glowing from the full positivity of the experience, and the rest of you feel pretty mixed overall. But I know there's something, someone, or some moment that hit you as important. So please share in the comments, any time from now through Friday, November 26 at 5pm, and you'll be entered in a giveaway for a $100 Amazon gift certificate. The winner will be drawn at random, and announced next week.

Thank you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Crass Fantasies

Recently, my fantasies have shifted from dirty sexy things I don't feel comfortable talking about in polite company to far more crass daydreams. These are lottery winner hopes, mink stole and diamond musings and fantasies of swimming, Scrooge McDuck-style, in a silo of gold coins.

But my moneymoneymoney daydreams aren't really about wanting stuff. I'm not a terribly acquisitive person by my nature. If I were to come into a windfall, I'd likely tuck it away in my savings account, pulling out just enough for an exotic adventure, possibly through Southeast Asia.  But these days, I can't stop thinking about money, because I really wish I could buy time. I want helper people to respond to my wedding whims and just make them happen. I don't want to think about all the darn work that goes into making this wedding affordable anymore. I want to simply throw piles of money at my wedding problems to make them go away. I want someone else to take care of the headaches at 9pm, after a long day of work.

I'm at the point where my fantasies are of me, lounging around in my pool of gold, and tossing two thousand dollars at a florist. Poof! No need to hike back to Ikea (yet again) for table supplies, or to go to the flower mart, or to scour design blogs because I have no clear aesthetic idea about what we want.  Or poof! I could call a rental company and take their overpriced recommendations without nitpicking, even if it's in my nature to nitpick, because I'd have the money to just deal with the price and move on to more important things. Or poof! I could call travel agent and have her arrange all our flights and intercity travel in Guatemala, leaving me to examine volcano hiking and massage adventures instead of the giant logistical bore or itinerary making.

I'm thiiiiiiiis close to having the wedding I want. It's within my reach. It's entirely within my budgetary means. But it's simply not within reach of my meager time resources. And so now, well after I thought I'd made peace with our budget, I'm cavorting in daydreams with bags full of money, showering my riches upon letterpress designers and $400 veils and personal trainers who will whip me into three-times-a-week shape before the wedding (apparently I get a bit spendthrifty with my imaginary money). In my dreams, I'm sitting in my apartment, fanned by people with palm fronds as I sip on a margarita instead of arguing over whether to go with the cheaper hotel option in Antigua (even though the difference is a whopping $15 a night.)

So maybe, just maybe, I no longer give a hoot about my budget and I give a lot more hoots about my sanity. I'm getting ready to dig a bit deeper and find some moneybags to cavort with, because I don't know how much more of this nitpicking I can take. And I don't like the idea of spending any more money on this darn wedding, but I despise the idea of spending much more time on all the mind-numbingly boring parts.

WIC - 1, Becca -732*

*Clearly, I am still in the overall lead with my department store dress and taco truck wedding. However, I will concede that the WIC is a deviously persistent opponent that is clearly in cahoots with my boss and our month of 9pm worknights. The WIC is also obviously partnered with Santa and his absurd December 25 deadline for gift shopping despite mandatory attendance at 15 holiday parties before then.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Affordable Hippie-Inspired Wedding Dresses

I've been known to appreciate breezy hippie styles and accessories. And I've been known to covet an item or two from the Free People store. Despite this, I've never been known to buy any of their items, because they are generally insanely expensive for a little hint of knit and fabric. However, if you're in the market for a hippie-inspired wedding dress or a short rehearsal/elopement/party/wedding dress, I would actually recommend checking out Free People. Because apparently, in the land of laugh-till-you-cry wedding dress prices, Free People's sub-$300 options suddenly seem eminently reasonable. Context is truly everything. And some of these dresses warm my latent hippie-girl heart.

So clearly these dresses are at the more informal end of the wedding dress gamut, but still. I'm dreaming about throwing that first one with the uneven hem into a suitcase and getting married on a Mexican beach tomorrow. Or rocking those ruffles at a shower. These are easy dress options: easy to care for, easy on the (hippie-inspired) eyes, and easy on the wallet. And in the land of wedding planning, easy is never a bad thing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wedding Planning Romance

A long week. A glass of wine. A record player. A first-dance excuse as a reason to find time to hold each other and sway our way through some songs on a quiet night at home.

Wedding planning provides very few opportunities for romance, despite all our focus on a day that we hope will be full of love and joy. Because somehow, weddings aren't really about romance. The thought of standing up in front of 150 people and publicly committing myself to Jason isn't romantic. I hope it will be powerful, joyful, loving, and a little bit emotionally overwhelming. But I'm not counting on romance, which, for me, is bound up in the small moments of pausing and reflection. Curling up together after the wedding will hopefully be romantic (among other things). Waking up the next morning, taking in the wedding experience will hopefully be romantic. The honeymoon had darn well be romantic.

But weddings, and all the wedding planning leading up to it, can be decidedly unromantic. Instead, I'm finding that weddings are about the hard work of love. They're about the real life disagreements, compromises, and processes of working things out that help lay the groundwork for a lifetime of we-can-handle-anything love. So it's nice to find an excuse for romance in the middle of all these hard decisions and to-do lists. It's nice to find an excuse for wine, music, and dancing. And even if you can't dance (truthfully, we haven't been out dancing in a while, and our feet might have been a bit clumsy) it was a nice excuse for a long hug set to some of our favorite songs.

And while I wouldn't say OK Go is one of our favorite bands, we really like them, and some of their their music videos are truly art. Their new video for Last Leaf is evocative, gorgeous, and just about the right length for a long hug set to music. So I thought I'd share, because we all need more excuses for dancing and romance in our lives. So maybe tonight you can go home, turn this on, sway with your partner, and soak in the two minutes and forty one seconds of romance.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Crying in Cars With Boys

You know how sometimes it all gets to be too much, but you haven't been talking about the real issues, and you're both sleep deprived and overstressed already, and then all of a sudden something tiny makes you burst into tears?

Well, um, I don't generally do that. Except, apparently, when weddings are involved. Because weddings have lots of those tiny things that can make me burst into tears, especially when I'm coming to terms with necessary compromises that win out over previously treasured, emotionally resonant plans. And when I'm really not crying about wedding stuff at all, but about all the hard stuff happening in real life, and all the ways that weddings can highlight the emotional knifetwists of our losses, yearnings, and hopes.

But the nice part about crying in cars with boys (or girls, if that's your thing) is that there's generally a hug at the end of the sniffles. Their hugs don't make everything better, but they certainly help.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Accessorizing a Wedding Dress: Warmth Addition

I am getting married in early April, close enough to the beach that the fog rolls in and chills the nights. I am also a woman who is constantly cold (when I shake hands, my fingers are generally ice-like, and I joke with people "cold hands, warm heart, right?"). 

This is to say, I need some form of warmth for our wedding. Something that has sleeves and isn't one of those adorable shoulder shrugs I'd love to have. Unfortunately, fancy sleeved warmth in spring color tones for a mod-grecian-looking dress is hard to come by (particularly when you're shopping in winter time when lovely charcoal cashmere shawls are heavily featured). But for some reason, I'm digging these arm warmers.

Okay, okay, I know they aren't quite appropriate for my wedding style, but they look so cozy and fun. And warm. They really look warm. Now, off to find something that's in between these and opera gloves. And perhaps even something that covers my shoulders.

This is yet another reason I curse the overabundance of strapless dress styles for wedding dresses, because sometimes I think it's just another way to wring more money out of me for fancy shoulder warmth. And another way to send me on internet chases where I find things I like (arm warmers!) but that I can't afford because I need something weddingy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Evaluating Rental Needs and Eco Plastic Options

I need help. I managed to get a recommendation for an affordable rental company, which is great (I'll let you know which one after we sign a contract). But now they want me to submit a list of rental needs for a quote... which is difficult when you've never planned a wedding before. So that's why I'm turning to all my wise readers who have been there/done that for your own weddings. I need to know if I'm missing anything or being ridiculous about the items I included. I also listed some information on our eco-plastic alternative options (yes, this post will be needy and servicey!) So please throw your words of rental wisdom into the comments. Because otherwise, it's me and the rabbit hole of internet research (which hasn't been treating me so kindly lately. Darn that rabbit hole.)

Let's start out with some assumptions, shall we?
  • We're going to have 175 guests  (no, I don't want to think about what happens if more than 150 people show up, space-wise or budget-wise. But dang if people aren't enthusiastic about coming to this shindig. And dang if I'm not terrified of what happens if they all come. Terrified and happy, of course) 
  • We are not renting plates or silverware. Instead, we already bought these eco-plastic plates and I am looking into bamboo fork options (we don't need knives or spoons).
  • We are willing to nix all rented glassware for eco-plastic options, if the options are truly eco-friendly and not terribly ugly.
  • Our site comes with a few included items (yay!): reception chairs and reception tables that we can't bring outside for the ceremony or buffet set up (boo) and a brushed concrete floor that eliminates the need for a dance floor. It's not a lot, but every bit helps.
  • We asked out caterers if they need any rentals, and they said "just two banquet tables for the buffet line." Sweet. 
  • We have hired a bartender and two bussers through Border Grill Truck to help with the day. Border Grill will also have five people working the actual food set up/serving line. Yes, the Border Grill Truck is still incredibly affordable, even when we hired these extra helper-staff, who are worth their weight in worry-free logistics gold.
  • For drinks, we are getting a few kegs, lots of bottles of wine (kept at the bar), sangria (during cocktail hour), and we are providing pitchers of water at each table. 
I think that's it. If I missed something, I'll clarify in the comments. So here are screenshots of my assumed rental needs for 175 people:

If we decide to go with rented glassware, we need to add this:

I read somewhere that we need three glasses (for both wine AND beer) per person, since people all get tipsy enough to set down multiple glasses and walk away. I have no idea if it's true that people can't keep track of their own glasses, but I wouldn't want to impede our ability to imbibe.

Alternatively, we could go with eco-plastic cup purchases, which would save us about $800, if my back of the envelope calculations and cost assumptions are right. Here's what we could get, while still saving $800:

The big question regarding eco-plastic options is what the second-best sustainable option is, since rentals are the greenest choice. But we're trying to be ethical and frugal, leaving us wondering whether to use compostable cups (generally corn-based, or "bagasse") or cups made from 50% recycled materials. The problem with compostable options is that many industrial composting facilities won't accept bagasse-plastics. Really. I called the City of Los Angeles' Department of Sanitation to ask about composting locations, but they explained that bagasse needs to be in the composter for a longer time than standard food scraps or green waste to properly break down. Therefore, bagasse throws off commercial composting operations and can't generally be included with standard industrial compost materials. I found a website that might be able to help me find alternative local composting options, but I need to call and check if these options really compost bagasse. If I can't find an industrial composting facility to take the corn-based cups, I refuse to buy them because I refuse to send that many cups to a landfill. Even though bagasse cups are technically biodegradable... nothing really biodegrades in a landfill. If you throw a banana peel in a modern landfill, it won't biodegrade. Organic substances need air to break down, but the trash is too tightly packed to allow air to work its biodegrading magic on landfill items.

If composting isn't an option, we can consider buying cups made out of 50% recycled material (the FDA regulates post-consumer plastics in food packaging, so it's hard to find concentrations above 50% recycled plastic.) Using recycled PET plastic saves petroleum (oil is used to make plastic as both a component and for energy) and keeps the reused plastic waste out of landfill, so I like that this option is somewhat eco-friendly(er) and very affordable. Unfortunately, PET plastic is not recyclable in most areas (plastics can't be endlessly recycled. At some point, they cannot be remade into a new product). However, Santa Monica (where I work) definitely recycles PET and I'll need to research it for Los Angeles (where I live). If you're considering these cups, you should check with your local municipality or "materials recovered facility" (MRF for short) to see if #1 PET plastic is accepted (they are labeled with a #1 inside the recycling symbol, which is the code for PET plastic).

I need your help. Did I leave anything off the rental list? And what's your honest opinion of the attractiveness of the eco-plastic glasses? The ones I posted here would be our 9 oz "wine glass" choice and we'd also order a 16 oz "beer mug" choice.

Bah to decisions. Especially decisions made as I stab blindly, in the dark, hoping I'm not making too many mistakes that won't cost too too much*

*Ha. Since we're talking about rentals with same day drop-off and pick-up, it definitely costs a lot. Like $2000+ a lot. Even without the need for tables.

If you're interested in more rental overview issues for your wedding, check out this post from Amber Events, a wise local wedding planner.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Transgressive Hairstyles

A few weeks ago, the New York Times' published a piece from a middle-aged woman who wears her hair long and naturally grey examining how her family, friends, and strangers all vehemently disapprove of her hairstyle. Beyond the questions of middle-age-related gender expectations, it made me think about how women's hairstyle choices always seem to elicit discussion, disdain, and efforts at conformity. Including, of course, our wedding day hairstyles. 

As a bride, short hair is transgressive. Long hair is the youthful, romantic, Rapunzel-esque wedding ideal, despite the fact that many of us are no longer young, not terribly romantic, and we've managed to discover that short hair can be sexy as hell.  Jason still thinks my sexiest haircut was when I chopped it all off and debuted it by striding into his office holiday party with four-inch stiletto boots. And he'd be right because short hair is brave and daring. Short hair is punk rock. Short hair is what happens when you finally get the bad ex out of your system and go out barhopping with girlfriends.

And then, somewhere along the way, as discussed in the New York Times piece, long hair becomes daring for a middle-aged woman and short becomes de rigeur. And as for natural... natural is always daring. Whatever age of race you are, natural is daring. And by natural, I mean natural color, natural kink, and minimal product. (And yes, this post is mainly going to lean on my white-girl hair perspectives, so I apologize in advance, though I'd love to hear more from non-white readers in the comments.) And for those of us getting married, even if we've made some sort of peace with our hair before now, the wedding raises all sorts of new questions about hair expectations and cultural beauty transgressions.

A few years ago, a girlfriend got married. Aside from the big white dress, they did things their own way. When I mentioned how beautiful she looked, an uncomfortable friend made a comment about her hair. Instead of really talking about how she was uncomfortable with a wedding that wasn't "typical," she said our friend "should have had an updo" because her (gorgeous) blow-out didn't fit the big dress or the occasion. This was my first introduction to bridal expectations, and I was shocked. A year later, when I was talking with my mother about our budget, I mentioned that I might do my makeup myself and that I should probably start learning how to do fancy things with my hair. She. Was. Horrified. My mother offered to immediately pay for my hair and makeup because it was absolutely necessary and because - wait for it - I couldn't do an updo on my own.

Oh the bridal updo. I think my mother got a little bit teary when I broke the news that I have no intention of having an updo (though I have decided to splurge on professional hair and makeup). Each intentional curl feels a little bit strange and overdone for my sense of style. I like understated style with an unexpected element or two, and updos don't really fit that. And yet, updos persist as the dang bridal expectation.

From the day we get engaged, there's this weird wedding hair expectation looming over all of us, imbuing each haircut with the potential for irrevocable bridal doom. When I got bangs a year ago, my stylist warned me against it because of the wedding. I got them anyhow... but only because I knew I had time for them to grow out if something went terribly wrong. Since then, I've refrained from my normal I'm-bored-and-want-to-chop-off-all-my-hair tendencies. I'm suffering through everyday hair ennui, all in pursuit of having longer wedding hair. I'm jealous of all the other women who just got married and are now rushing pell-mell to their hairdressers, begging for bangs and short hair. I'm tired but resigned to putting my personal style on hold until after the wedding. Because I want something like this:

For the moment, this is my front-runner hair option. I've been holding onto the unfussy fussiness of this hairstyle since I saw it. It plays with the edges of bridal and it hints at wildflowers in the hair. It reminds me of how I used to weave tiny braids in my hair. I like it because I appreciate the way my hair frames my face when it's down, but I'm practical enough to know it will become a wind-whipped tangle if I don't DO something with it.

A wedding is one of those turning points that allows you to pause and see glimpses of an entire presumed lifetime. We feel the weight of the wedding as a (presumed) turning point from childhood to adulthood. We look towards our future and can feel the weight of upcoming expectations, as people begin asking about children and mortgages. The signposts for important life-moments approach ever more quickly as you swing past Wife and possibly into suburbia and "matronly" short hair. It's a surprise to realize that long-haired updo expectations are going to shift quickly into short hair expectations.

Part of me really wishes I were brave enough to say screw waiting for the post-bridal chop. I could start to think beyond the wedding. I would be forced to live for today. I could celebrate my short hair while it's considered something worth noting and not simply the norm. And yet, although I like playing with expectations, my rebellions are a bit more subtle. I definitely want to let my hair down and release it from the updo. So I'm looking for what that sly bridal transgression might look like, when accessorized by a flower and a merest hint of tulle. How did you wear you hair? And how did you find something that felt right for your wedding while balancing who you really are with all these hair expectations?

Reference for short-haired brides: I love the list of short hair images Ariel pulled together at Offbeat Bride, even if I can't quite embrace it myself... at least until after the wedding...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Boring, Hectic, and Necessary

Sorry for the silence here, but it’s hard to get jazzed up about this phase of wedding planning, which is also known as “getting sh*t done.” There’s no real musings to be mused about hotel block research, even if we did score a pretty sweet deal ($140/night, including parking, in the very chic Hotel Angelino. Booyah.) And frankly, although I’m sure you’re all thrilled with my budget prowess, there’s no real blog post excitement to be found in unearthing a (comparatively) affordable equipment rental option (no, I don’t care if they have thin tablecloths. I just care that the tablecloths aren’t plastic.)

But that would be a boring blog post. Even if I told you about the super hipster hip hotel with black walls, sheep in the lobby, and a bowling alley next door that I fell in love with (the Custom Hotel). See? You’re still bored. That’s because this stage of wedding planning is boring, hectic, and necessary. In fact, the most exciting wedding planning moment of the week only was only tangentially related to weddings, because we met with our rabbi this week to start talking about the ceremony, but got entirely sidetracked into talking about our new synagogue that we adore and all the great community, volunteer, and adult learning activities we can get involved in. Instead of talking about our wedding needs, we talked about the ethical and spiritual life we’re building.

Because in the end, isn’t that what’s important about all of this planning and running around? We’re working on building a meaningful life in the midst of life tasks which are often boring, hectic, and necessary. But it’s a life whose drudgery can be transformed by small moments of beauty, however fleeting. A life which can be infused with purpose, once we decide to focus on creating communities and communal rituals that matter to us. A life in which our weddings demand space for a little bit of sparkle and a whole lot of out-of-the-ordinary celebratory joy. Yesterday, with our rabbi, we focused on that life-sparkle. At some point, we’ll focus on the wedding sparkles too but, for now, the life-sparkle was more than enough.

Even though we didn’t talk much about our wedding, meeting with our rabbi reminded me that all these slog-through-them to-do list items really do matter, as frustrating and boring as they may be. Because with every to-do list victory, we’re getting closer to creating our wedding and creating a whole day of powerful moments, rituals, and memories that matter.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I F*cking Rule

It's Friday! And it's been waaaay too long since I checked in with you to celebrate how all of us have f*cking ruled in recent days. And really, we could all use more celebrations, so how about we have at it?

Non-wedding related celebration: Yesterday, I gave my first on-camera interview. And yesterday, in preparation for this interview, I took my insecurities and locked them away for about two hours so I could tackle the challenge at hand: namely, nailing that interview.

For some context, as much as I dislike photographs of myself, I despise videos of myself about 1000 times more than photographs. In fact, there is no way to adequately describe the way I want to cringe, run into a dark cave, and cry when I hear my recorded voice, see my facial expressions, and recognize that the camera adds ten pounds (really, the video cameras add ten pounds.) But I held myself together. And I forgave myself for having genuinely gained ten pounds in the last few months (really, I've gained ten pounds and I no longer fit into my wedding dress.) But instead of torturing myself with visions of how the camera is adding twenty pounds to what I looked like a few months ago, I dressed in a flattering-for-the-camera, appropriate-for-my-industry, conservative brown pant suit, I carefully applied impeccable makeup, and I blow-dried my hair into professional perfection.

Unfortunately, as women, our professional credentials are judged based on our looks. This struck me even more clearly than usual when I arrived for the interview and met the other person being filmed for the segment. This gentleman was definitely more than ten or twenty pounds overweight, and I'm pretty sure he wasn't wracked by self-doubt about it before heading to the interview. No - he probably showed up, did his job, and represented his company. Which is exactly what I did too, and so it's entirely absurd that I wasted any mental energy on worrying about my looks over worrying about my talking points. But I f*cking ruled because, instead of handing off this interview to someone else at our firm (which I considered, for a brief minute) I stepped up to the dual challenge of representing myself and my company in a professional, intelligent manner and hopefully managed to further my own career in the process. Screw those ten pounds of doubt. My makeup looked smashing and I relied on my smile and my smarts to cover all traces of my jangling nerves.

Wedding-related celebration: I finalized the website, found a save-the-date program and design, and finally sent the dratted save the date emails. And, once I got past this procrastination hump, it unleashed a productive whirlwind of wedding activity as I contacted a rental company and multiple hotels to inquire about room block rates. Take that, checklist.

How about you? What victories can you celebrate this week, however large or small? When you stand back and review the last few days, what makes you silently cheer to yourself, "heck yeah, I f*cking rule!" Let me know in the comments because, like I said, we all deserve more celebrations in our life. And if we don't cheer for our own victories, however subtle or small, then we're missing a chance to recognize our everyday moments of strength.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Invisible Eyes. They Burn

A few hours before sending off our save the dates I had a mini panic attack. Everything was ready to go with our email design and wedsite. Both of them looked polished and the writing had personality and managed to be informative. Jason and I had talked through the design and wording so much that we'd exhausted all other possibilities and were entirely happy with the result. And yet... about three hours before I had planned to send them out, I emailed two girlfriends in a panic. 

"What do you think about the wedsite? Does it look okay? Are the pictures flattering? Oh g-d, you'd tell me if it was terrible, right?"

Both of these girlfriends are honest enough to tell me if the website is terrible. And both of them were honest enough to tell me I was being neurotic and crazy (in the nicest way possible, of course.) Because, despite all my insistence on ease and just getting the d*mn save the dates out already, I'd frozen up. I'd panicked at the sudden realization that people were going to see these things. That our people - including about a ton of people on Jason's guest list who I've never met - are going to be introduced to our non-traditional wedding via our non-traditional wedding website and our email save the date that's covered in giant green flowers. I mean, Southern California residents might know that the giant green flowers are actually succulents, but what about everyone else? What if they think we're just weird and that we don't understand what color flowers are supposed to be? And what if people read our long-debated "about us" section on the website and don't like it because it's not overly gushy? And what if they disapprove of us referring to our wedding venue as a hippie-artist-non-profit location (even if it is)?

What if. What if I was panicking because I suddenly felt 210 invisible pairs of eyes turn on us and our heartfelt wedding plans and wondered what they'd think of our non-traditionalness. It's been easy to craft these wedding plans up until now - we're paying for the wedding ourselves in part so we had the freedom to design a celebration that reflected us and our needs without judgment or compromise. Our financial freedom has given us a real measure of creative freedom. But once we send the save the dates, the wedding is no longer just ours. It's out there for everyone to see. And examine. And judge. And so I panicked, because 210 pairs of eyes can suddenly feel like a lot, when you're laying your love and your very personal wedding plans bare for them to read.

But my girlfriends calmed me down and reminded me that our site is smart, well-designed, and actually informative. And they reminded me that I'd been procrastinating for a month and that I just needed to send the darn things already. And suddenly, I realized why I've been procrastinating: because once I send this save the date, our wedding becomes real. It becomes boisterous and noisy as the email replies and excited phone calls and opinions start rolling in. But what I forgot about that noise is all the joy and excitement it expresses. In my panic, I didn't think about how our one email finally allowed our community to rally, en masse, to tell us how much we are loved and how much they are looking forward to our wedding. 

We haven't received a mean reply yet.  Which is probably because our community is awesome and supportive and just the sort of people we're excited to surround ourselves with on our wedding day. The fear of judgment was definitely strong, but it's been powerful to be reminded that their acceptance, love, and support is even stronger.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wedding Cheese

Unfortunately, I'm not talking about that sort of delicious cheese today (mmm cheese). Instead, I'm talking about engagement photo cheese. And the wedding wedsite cheese. And the sort of kissy, gaze-into-my-eyes posed photos that go hand in hand (pun indented) with wedding-related announcements. Because these sorts of things make my skin crawl. Maybe it comes from my years as an independent single lady, but I still don't love the public celebration of schmoop that happens leading up to weddings (on the wedding day, however... totally acceptable. Obviously). And engagement photos, partially because they're so polished looking, feel like my old online dating days when I'd screech "Did he get a professional to take his dating profile picture? Is that a headshot? Noooooooo!" I always preferred context and honesty. Maybe a picture of him with his friends. Maybe a snapshot at the beach. It didn't matter, so long as it hinted at a person who had real experiences, a personality, and looked cute enough without a professional's help.

Part of my issue with engagement photos as wedding advertisements has been that a) they seem contrived and b) they also seem to focus on the wrong thing. Because to me, a wedding isn't a MeMeMe or UsUsUs day of running around downtown Los Angeles gazing longingly into each others' eyes (which we did during our photo shoot. And which was a lot of indulgent fun).  If that's what were important to us about a wedding, we'd elope. Instead, for us, a wedding is about a ceremony and an amazing celebration that's much bigger than our individual or coupled desires. We've been warned that there won't be much schmoop time, except for our 15 minutes alone after the ceremony, because we'll be both hosting a celebration and partying our little feet off to the music. This is about building a new family. This is about sharing something with them. This is about having and excuse to see so many people who matter to us, in a way that we'll probably never have an excuse for again. It's not about us and our schmoop.

And yet, we decided to put our schmoop front and center in our save the date and wedsite, since we have some really great, albeit schmoopy, engagement photos that actually capture something of who we are and places in Los Angeles that we love. Yes, there might have been more kissing than usual, but there was probably the same amount of hand holding as on any other day.  And, as much as I wanted to dismiss engagement photos as cheesy, I'm realizing that it's nice to have a few decent photos so our far flung families can all exclaim "why, he's such a handsome man/pretty woman, I can't wait to meet him/her in person." And so, despite having never loved the idea of plastering our schmoop all over our save the dates or our wedding website, that's exactly what I did. Because it was easy. And at this point, easy trumps almost everything else. 

Photo by Rachel Chapman Art in the Union Station train tunnels

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Taking Pride in Our Weddings

Early in school, I learned that, even if my teachers appreciated my intelligence, the other students didn't. Knowing the right answer might get me a gold star in class but it also got me ignored on the recess yard. And so, I figured out that schoolyard politics were safer if I downplayed my test scores, my grades, my SATs, and pretty much any academic or extracurricular accomplishment. I noticed that my brilliant friends somehow lost their wittiest edge around their boyfriends. I learned that many women were rewarded romantically for when they hung on their boyfriends' words but not necessarily when they interjected too many contrary opinions. In other words, I learned that I was supposed to keep quiet.

The act of publicly claiming our intelligence and accomplishments is a gendered act. Whereas men are oftentimes rewarded for bold ideas, I've often found that women who celebrate their brash smarts and myriad accomplishments are subtly punished. We're somewhat less datable because we're "threatening." Women are "supposed to" be nurturing, supportive, coalition builders whereas popular concepts of masculinity celebrate strength, bold action, and individual initiative. Men are taught to intellectually strut. There's a reason that women still earn about 11 percent less than men with the equivalent experience and work histories, and much of it could be bound up with salary negotiations, or not knowing how to effectively demand our worth. Asking for raises is complicated because, at some level, we've been taught not to brag about how amazing we are, which is absolutely imperative in making our case for salary negotiations. But it's also complicated because women who negotiate are often perceived more unfavorably than those who continue being nurturing, supportive and agreeable about the status quo.

This is certainly a simplification of modern North American gender expectations. And I know a discussion of how women often downplay their accomplishments, salary negotiations, and gender isn't what you necessarily expect from a wedding blog, but bear with me here, because I think it's relevant to our weddings. It's relevant because the act of planning a wedding is culturally undervalued, in part because it's dismissed as "women's work" and in part because none of us are standing up and cheering for our wedding-related accomplishments. We've learned to keep quiet. And, much like with our temerity in salary negotiations, our accomplishments therefore remain undervalued.

Last week, Petite Chablis wrote about a recent job interview, in which was asked about her conference planning experience. She replied by describing her skills and her experience planning small workshops. When the interviewer asked her to describe anything she'd done on a larger scale, she immediately thought of her wedding. But she didn't immediately mention her wedding, because she was smart enough to know better. But then she was brave enough to actually stand behind her incredibly relevant accomplishments and take pride in her wedding planning experience:
"I immediately froze in horror. Oh. My. God.  I just mentioned my WEDDING in a JOB INTERVIEW.  I am so not getting this job. I could hear the skepticism in the interviewer’s voice.  “So … you’re organized because you planned your wedding?”

But I gamely soldiered on, explaining that the event had had almost 150 guests, that I’d made spreadsheets accounting for all RSVPs and meal choices and dietary restrictions, and that the caterer had called us the most organized couple she’d ever worked with.

If I had to take it back I’m not sure I’d mention the wedding again, based solely on the skepticism in the interviewer’s voice.  But I got the job.  And damn it, in retrospect I kind of resent that skepticism and I resent myself for thinking that my experience planning a 150-person event somehow didn’t “count” because it happened to be a wedding. The truth is, I’m now starting to plan an event for my job and the lessons I learned while wedding planning really are helpful."
Well yes, of course these wedding planning lessons are helpful and relevant for a conference-related job, as anyone suffering through wedding planning can attest (and you should really go read the rest of Petite Chablis' post here, because she shares some very smart lessons-learned from her wedding.)  We're all taking a crash course in event planning and learning first-hand why "event planner" is a professional category. But we're generally still too embarrassed - logically so, given how weddings and bridezillas are depicted in popular culture - to publicly take pride in our massive accomplishments here.

Make no mistake, planning a wedding is a huge accomplishment. If I told you that I was coordinating a multi-day offsite event with catered meals, shuttle buses, out of town logistics, event design, a marketing campaign, entertainment, equipment rentals, and collateral materials for 150 people, all for well under $30,000, most people would be impressed... because it's impressive. And if I told them I was managing wildly competing event visions from various Event Advisory Committee members, someone would nod sagely and buy me a stiff drink. In fact, I've done this sort of work for 200-500 attendee corporate events on which I have actual staff support and boss feedback, so I know it's professionally impressive. But it's only impressive until I mention the word "wedding" and clarify that the "Event Advisory Committee" is comprised of us and our parents, at which point most people would dismiss me as a flighty spendthrift woman with tulle-for-brains.

While I understand the impulse to shove our wedding work under the proverbial rug, keeping quiet only further allows our culture to diminish these accomplishments. It further allows people to think that our momentary breakdowns about decor are proof that women are weak and can be broken by silly things like centerpieces,  instead of looking deeper at the way this second job (ie planning a wedding) finally got to be too damn much and how escort cards can just be the final straw in a haystack of impossible expectations and undervalued efforts that finally broke my wedding planning back.

We should be bragging. We should be strutting. We should be taking pride in our weddings as massive accomplishments that speak to our creativity, our thriftiness, our prowess (or at least newfound experience) at diffusing tense family discussions,  and our complex logistical know-how. Planning a wedding is huge, and not just because getting married is a huge emotional step and process. It's huge because planning a wedding itself is a huge responsibility, challenge and accomplishment. And I, for one, am tired of downplaying just how huge this is.

In the past few weeks, I checked off a major goal on my life list: my work was honored in print. And it didn't just happen once, it happened twice. In the first instance, I was interviewed by an industry trade journal. The article just came out and I read it over and over, marveling at how impressive my professional projects look in a news story. The journalist even wrote back to let me know how "quotable" I was and that she expanded the article to accommodate our conversation. In the second instance, I was contacted by Southern Weddings Magazine to tell me that they wrote about my blog in this month's issue: they included A Los Angeles Love on their list of "the best and brightest prospects in the blogging world." The listed me, ME!, in with Brooklyn Bride, Snippet & Ink, Merci New York, Non Pareil, and Utterly Engaged in their list of top blogs for the Modern Bride. My blog is in print, on the shiny glossy, beautifully printed pages of a stunningly curated national wedding magazine that is trying to re-imagine the visual inspiration and landscape of today's wedding magazines. In one case, my professional work is being publicly praised and, in the other case, my passion-project work is being publicly praised. In both cases, I am still a little bit in awe and feel the shock of my raw accomplishments laid bare, with no real ability to pretend they don't matter or to quickly talk past any reference. Because the references are there, for anyone to see, in print.

I started this blog because I wanted an outlet for my writing. I started this blog because my soul needed something more than the technical aspects of my job to keep me personally nourished and fulfilled. In my job, I am driven to create projects that will move the country from imported diesel and onto clean energy alternatives (really, that's my day job.) But in my life, I was driven create something with words that mattered on a personal level, and hence this blog was born, just as I was embarking on our wedding planning journey. And now I'm at a strange parallel point where both are getting publicly recognized.  And I'm at the strange point where both are possibly "resume worthy." And yet, for a moment, I hesitated to include both on my updated resume. Like Petite Chablis, I know that weddings aren't culturally valued. But also like Petite Chablis, I'm going to be brave enough to claim this accomplishment. Because our weddings are accomplishments. And well-written blogs about weddings are accomplishments. And getting printed in Southern Weddings Magazine is a huge accomplishment.

I am ready to take pride in my wedding, and I hope you're ready to join me too. Because this process really is huge and we all truly deserve three hundred and five pats on the back. At least.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hotel Block

I've been developing a list of possible room block hotels for weeks (okay, two months) now. I've poured through trip advisor reviews. I've discovered that most hotels in Los Angeles charge far too much for parking ($22 per night? Um, no.) I've researched normal, non-room block rates to find places that are generally in the $150/night range, to keep things affordable for our guests. (Yes. $150/night is affordable in Los Angeles. And no, we haven't found much that's on the Westside, has relatively positive reviews, and doesn't charge $22 for parking.) We even stopped in one of the possible hotels last weekend, as we checked off one of the items on our Marina Del Rey photo scavenger hunt. In other words, we're at the point where have a genuine list of hotel options. Sure, the list is four hotels long, but it's a list.

But have I picked up the phone and actually call to research room block rates? No, I can't seem to do that. Because that would feel like work, whereas I have a weird love of hotel research (seriously, hotels and maps remind me of travel adventures) that makes hotel research tolerable. But phone calls feel tedious. So instead of doing something useful like calling the hotels' sales departments, I spend my wedding planning time fretting about wedsite headers. No, wedsite headers aren't fun. And wedsite headers aren't remotely important. But I'm okay pretending they're worth my time by suddenly convincing myself that every aspect of our wedding absolutely needs to perfectly express the tone and design concept behind our wedding*... because it's a smidgeon more fun than actual work.

I think I've finally figured out why we all obsess about the pretties. Because they're (marginally) fun, and the rest of this wedding planning stuff is just hard without respite. It's a second job. And playing with photoshop is slightly less tedious than facing up to the fact that I have a second job, and the design also feels tangentially useful. Unfortunately, it's not. But it's the somewhat justifiable distraction I've been craving from the tediousness of actual wedding work.

However, after genuinely distracting ourselves with a date-day full of a scavenger hunt and a nice dinner out (thanks to Groupon for the discount help), I think I'm ready to really tackle hotel options. This weekend. Or maybe next week. After we finish the save the date.

*Hmm. I think I just identified my next empty-task procrastination justification: setting a tone and design concept for our wedding. And maybe even a "brand." Gag.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Letting Go

It's finally hitting me - my wedding isn't going to look "blogworthy." Which I already knew and thought I was okay with, but... apparently it's not as easy to nurture the eff it ethos now as it is to bravely state what you wish you felt. I've been wishing for the emotional ability to disengage from the unnecessary pretties associated with weddings and for the emotional ability to focus in on the few physical details that matter most. And yet, I can't. At least, I can't just yet. Even though my brain knows better, my soul is still a teeny bit wrapped up in believing that a gorgeous wedding is somehow better than a less physically gorgeous event:
  • I can't let go of my idiotic angst about our ugly chairs, nor can I seem to design magical cheapo nature-inspired succulent wedding centerpieces that tie in the black-and-silver chairs with the rustic brick-and-wood backdrop.  I thought I had finally found some chic sliver goblet things in a thrift store that might fit the bill, but I left the store without buying them and missed my "perfect centerpiece" opportunity. Oh, and the succulents I've been trying to grow are wilting anyhow.
  • I cannot seem to make our email save the dates nor our blog-powered wedsite look remotely polished. I cannot integrate our Google-based survey into our wordpress-powered wedsite. And I frankly cannot give a d*mn anymore. In our push to finally send the darn emails already, I'm giving up. I'm waving the white flag. I'm finally admitting that pretty oftentimes has to give way to practicality. I have zero time. Jason has zero time. And I don't want to spend my two hours of non-errand-full weekend time trying to design a "perfect" save the date. 
  • I got a quote on embroidery for our chuppah that would cost us $3,000. Our chuppah idea is the wedding "detail" that matters most to me out of everything, so I'm trying to pick my jaw off the floor and find more affordable, and hopefully just as meaningful, options. (If anyone knows what embroidery should cost or where to go in Los Angeles for help, I'd love your insight please)    
I wish I could throw money at these projects, but our budget is battered. I wish I could throw time at these projects, but time is in even shorter supply than money. And so, I'm finally admitting that I'm not Superwoman, and that whatever we have will be good enough. Good enough is hardly a wedding rallying cry, I know. But good enough will have to do. Ugly chairs will seat all our beautiful family and friends. Ikea planters will win over complexly, beautifully, thrifted centerpieces because with Ikea a) I only need one shopping trip and b) we can transport the planter boxes to the wedding site more easily than 800 mismatched vintage pieces. Our constantcontact/mailchimp/verticalresponse-designed save the date (whichever we can figure out most easily) will do just fine, because it won't get caught in a spam filter and it will have a pretty picture from our engagement shoot. Our wedsite isn't even pretending to be witty or pretty anymore: we just threw up some information and a photo and we're over it. 

I spent a good day debating whether we could just pay someone to make our save-the-date and website troubles go away. But I'm running up against the limit of our practical reality, and that means I'm finally giving up on a lot of pretties. If I've finally said eff it to the pretty website and save the date (because it turns out my DIY skills and patience are more limited than is necessary for weddingland pretty) then my guess is I'll say eff it to dozens more weddingland pretties along the way too. My soul hurts a little bit when I admit this to myself, because I really truly believed I was going to have a super stylish wedding, DIY incompetence and budget notwithstanding.

I haven't read the design-oriented wedding blogs in ages. I thought this distance and my eff it mantras made me immune to their siren call to stylish insanity. Alas, no. Because even if I'd stopped reading those blogs, I've been holding tight to the image they've created, stored deep in my weddinbrain recesses, of what a chic wedding looks like. And my wedding simply can't measure up, visually. I don't have a team of designers. I don't have the time (or frankly, the interest) in DIYing it all myself. And as this reality slowly sinks in, my brain is thanking me for finally, truly, letting go. Their images are undeniably chic and stunning, but me and my wedding are finally learning to content with our messy authenticity.