Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Socially Concious Centerpieces

A bit of my past-self showed up again yesterday, and it left me a little uncomfortable. I was searching through the archives at 2000 Dollar Wedding, which I visit when I need to re-remind myself of what's at the core of this process after stripping away the party, the costs, and the fluff.  And there, in the October 2008 archives, was an email-post I'd sent to Sara about centerpieces.  And looking at my earnestness then, and my excitement about doing things differently, cheaply, and meaningfully, was a bit of a shock when compared to my recent excitement about our music, design, and photography options.

Jason and I started talking about marriage in "whens" and not "ifs" about a year before we got engaged, and I started researching this wedding thing around the same time since, until then, the idea of ever getting married had been entirely foreign to me. And I was entirely unhappy with what I found out here in the wedding world with the consumptiveness, the social pressure to conform to certain standards, and how I never saw my values or needs reflected in wedding-related media and resources. Finding 2000 Dollar Wedding, along with A Practical Wedding and Offbeat Bride, finally helped me see where Jason and I could fit into this process. 

And so, I wrote Sara. About centerpieces.  Specifically, about centerpieces made out of canned goods and donated afterwards to charity, just like I'd made at my Bat Mitzvah* in 1993.
"I worked with my Mom to make food donation baskets. We painted the baskets in dusky rose and silver (sigh, my 13-year old color palette preference) filled them with canned food items, wrapped them in cellophane and ribbon, attached a note saying where the food was going, and voila!"

"For a wedding, I'd probably go with something 'prettier' and stay away from non-eco friendly cellophane, but still. I was thinking maybe wrapping the cans and jars individually with pretty papers or simple ribbon, and maybe mixing them in with old tin-can vases for a similar stylistic impact (a la Style-for-Style). For shelters that accept fresh fruit, that's also a centerpiece option (not all do). Besides the charity impact and the waste reduction impact, using non-floral/non-perishable centerpieces would undoubtedly cut down on day-of stress about decor (flower shopping, transporting and arranging! ack!). For the less aesthetically inclined and DIY-impaired, I also found a charity that rents centerpieces in return for a charity donation."
Even a year and a half ago, I knew we couldn't afford a florist and I wasn't sure how I felt about the wastefulness of pesticide-covered cut florals for a single day event. And holding on to my memories of the centerpieces for my Bat Mitzvah felt like an important ballast against all the wastefulness, consumption, and single-day-focus of much wedding planning. However, since getting engaged and jumping into the reality of this thing, I think I've lost some of that focus on simplicity.  My real-wedding choices are still values-focused decisions, but I think it's fair to say that collecting succulent floral design options (pretty live plant decor) is somewhat more aesthetically-focused and less simple than charity-bound centerpieces, particularly when we're going to have to buy tons of wooden boxes and learn how to grow succulents without killing them (for me, this will be a challenge.)

It's not a problem to want pretty centerpieces and great music and a talented photographer, but I think finding this glimpse of past-me showed me how far I've come in the planning process and how much more stressful and expensive some of our choices have made this journey. I don't know what I'd change about now, since we're both comfortable with how things are shaping up for us, but finding this post certainly made me pause. During this pause, I want to spend some time re-reading Sara's summary of her $2000 wedding adventure to see where it takes me. And I might take another look at this canned food idea (which one of Sara's readers actually made happen here), which feels like it has some continuity with who I've always been, even dating back to age thirteen. And I'm just going to take a few moments away from the pretty and see how I still feel about my DIY garland, flower and pinata imaginings.  My guess is that I'll still hold onto our current plans, but I'd like to make my peace with them all over again, after re-reminding myself of our real values and priorities underlying this marriage and wedding.  

Image via Style for Style

*For readers who are unfamiliar with Jewish customs, a Bat Mitzvah is a Jewish girl's coming of age ritual when she turns thirteen. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

The WIC, and What It Really Means

Last week, there was a lot of really great discussion about the WIC, or the Wedding Industrial Complex, and the ways in which consumerism has staked a big ugly claim on our personal rituals such as marriage and on the ways in which so many of us are both pulled in and repulsed by the wanting. If you haven't read both the posts yet, I highly recommend diving in.

As Jason and I have started to interview vendors and weigh our options against our values, budget, friend-helper alternatives, and wantwantwant desires, these posts were particularly resonant.  Because the truth is that I want something to rail against when this gets hard. I want to be able to scream at the damn WIC for how expensive this is and for pressuring me with all the cultural expectations that I simultaneously want (pretty dress! amazing photography! fabulous shoes!) and yet know are entirely besides the point at a wedding. These desires and decisions are fraught with import, silliness, and the emotional weight of marriage, and I find myself wanting an easy scapegoat, and the effing WIC fits that need pretty d*mn well.

However, in my more thoughtful moments, I know that there is no easy target for my frustration because there is no single Evil Wedding Beast.  I think the recent Classic APW post about the WIC over at A Practical Wedding captured the true complexities and my feelings on the matter.  Meg's definition of the WIC is one of the best I've seen, as she explains how the WIC encompasses the Wedding Industry, the societal expectations about The Way Things Are Done (and therefore, usually, the way we are not necessarily doing things and therefore Ruining Everything), and our own complicit desires in wanting all the pretty things that we're being sold by the Wedding Industry.

As I get deeper into the decision-making process, I'm finding it even more difficult to get riled up by Wedding Industry hatred, and therefore even more confused about my frustrations. I've never been anti-business or anti-profit: Jason and I both work in the private sector and I, in particular, am dedicated to reforming public policy outcomes via critical buy-in and involvement by business entities.  However, I'd heard so many horror stories and frustrations about wedding markup and ripoffs that I was wary about embarking on this vendor search.  And I've been genuinely horrified by the insidious ways in which the Wedding Industry (as a whole, not necessarily it's individual players) have given us "must have" guidelines that warp our perceptions of need versus want on everything related to weddings.

Given my wariness, it's been a genuine pleasure to recently meet so many lovely, dedicated, hardworking, caring, artists and smart scrupulous businesspeople who happen to tailor their work to meet the wedding market and needs. Yes, artists. And yes, businesspeople I would love to work with (again and again and again), if money were no object. In particular, the artists we're meeting with (musicians, DJs, photographers, caterers/chefs) during this process challenge these false demarcations between Indie and WIC weddings.  It's true that there are wedding professionals who simply identified a market and provide a service, but it's also true that there are incredible artists out here who appreciate the emotion and importance of a wedding and have directed their artistry towards serving the wedding market niche out of joy and business principles.  Our own DJ search has been really illustrative of the difference.  Once we admitted that yes, a DJ was important to us, we started emailing around and getting references. We received some quotes from people who seemed passable and like they provided reasonable music services without the cheeseball overtones. Professional, matter-of-fact service providers. And then, we emailed the Flashdance DJ, on the remotest offchance it was in our budget. The experience of meeting Michael in person showed us that his DJ services have very little to do with the standard wedding expectations. Aside from getting us geekily excited about his musical transitions, mixing and choices on his sample CD, monthly mixes, and the recent in-person experience at the Kick Ass Cake Bash, Michael just got it: music, weddings, business, and everything we were aiming for in our day.  Talking to him got us excited. Talking to him about the entire Flashdance wedding artist collective with Max Wanger, Our Labor of Love and other expanding options got us excited about their entire approach to weddings as an important emotional experience that they want to serve artistically.

It may be out of our price range to hire high end artists for all our wedding needs, but it feels good and right to be searching out and working with people who I like, respect, and admire as people and artists. It doesn't feel WIC-like at all, in the railing-against-it way I've been thinking about it. I don't feel the need to rail against anyone or anything. It simply feels right, albeit understandably expensive. In refusing to work with vendors I don't respect and adore, I've found there's a lot less to rail against at all.  My wedding doesn't feel crass or commercial or like a process of exploitation by vendors. I've ended up simply wishing I had a lot more money to support all the artists I've found and adore via this wedding research process.

I think, perhaps, those of us who rail against the expectations for weddings and who want to focus on the honesty and emotion of the day while not breaking the bank or DIYing everything have it rough. We want to scream about the WIC because this whole process is so effing expensive. So we turn away from the Knot and Martha etc and towards websites that promote independent artists and handcrafted options that better meet our aesthetic and ethical values. And then we're furious that we get sucked into the "alternative" vintage-type, sunburst photography, impossible DIY paper decor insanity and aspirations. "Eff you and your d*amn inspiration boards!" we cry, confused about where WIC and Indie begin and end, because we've ended up coveting stuff and getting further away from the meaning of the day when we really thought that's what we were avoiding. While my ethics support the trend towards quality, handcrafted (if possible), service-driven, local business, entrepreneurship by artists who really value the music, photography, food, desserts, flowers, and other wedding-related options out there, hanging around the so-called Indie blogs is really just a shift in the aesthetic and type of sales and manipulation inherent in this negotiation with the WIC.

I stepped away from the photo/planning centric blogs around the holidays, when I had overdosed on "inspiration" and needed time to focus on my family and what's truly important about the holiday season. But now, as we hit the year-out mark from our April 2011 wedding, I've had to jump back in. I'm researching vendors and those sites have a tremendous amount of resources for the sort of artists I value. Yes, we're also reaching out for referrals, we've been inspired by many of you, and we have a ton of creative independent-minded ideas of our own.  But, if you're starting to research DJs and photographers and invitation options (because you've already deemed these things important to you and not because you need them), there's a real benefit to a centralized location that largely aligns with your aesthetics and possibly even your values. But there's also a real chance you'll either overdose on bullshit details or you'll crawl away licking your budgetary wounds because you can't afford the amazing artist photographers you found.  We're running smack up against the Wedding Industry, but it's hard to rail against the WIC when I'm really just against my own budget limitations and honest desires for beauty, art, and joy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wedding Pinatas

As excited as we are for a wedding pinata, I have to admit, I haven't been able to quite picture it.  I mean, I can picture where it fits in the day (after cocktail hour as a way to "introduce" the reception). I can picture the instrument of destruction (either a bat or a wooden broom. From personal experience, I would stay away from standard "metal" broom handles as they break exceedingly easily).  And I can picture the fun upon breaking it open and having 60 crazed 20- and 30-somethings descend upon the mini-liquor bottles and candy (yes, I assure you they'll be plastic bottles.) However, I can't quite picture a donkey pinata at our wedding.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen many pinatas that I can picture at our wedding. Not that I've been looking for wedding pinatas (oh goodness, what would that look like anyhow? I'd hope it would be as innocuous as a white bell or two, but I have horror-story visions of bridezilla bride and dragged-to-the-altar groom caricature pinatas that the opposite partner goes at with gusto.)

UPDATE: reader Margaret figured out exactly what a bride and groom pinata would look like and see? It's just one big paper mache horror of No.

So I really I don't know where to start pinata shopping for the wedding. We were sorely disappointed in December by rumors of a supposed pinata district in downtown Los Angeles (I really should learn that Yelp is not to be trusted) and we ended up in a seafood warehouse area instead.  However, in wandering the bodegas and indoor labyrinthine markets closer to the toy district (which is not just a rumor) we managed to find tons of pinatas.

Although we weren't expecting a properly themed Chrisma-Hannu-Gradulations-Housewarming Party pinata, we weren't really able to find something basic either.  Everything was plastered in superhero or girly cartoon images. We would have been thrilled to find a basic donkey. Instead, we ended up with this:

Ignore the ugliness of the garage, since really, it's just a garage. We had no where else to hang a pinata.

In case you can't quite tell, it's covered in Happy Birthday Pokemon images. But at least it was blue and gold, which felt fitting for a Hanukkah-esque celebration. For a wedding, however, I'm not sure wedding-esque will quite do the trick.  Especially if we don't have colors to kinda match it to. 

Instead, I think we might have to go for something like this:

Minus the pink, YES YES YES. And inclusive of the DIY paper project, YES YES YES (you have to cover a soccer ball pinata in pink floppy paper to achieve this pinata look, which seems entirely manageable, even for me, and far preferable to Pokemon or trying to find this elusive pinata district.) In fact, I think this pinata is awesome enough to become a faux wedding "trend" and DIY craze over the next year. In fact, this pinata is actually the complete epitome of indie wedding ridiculousness and will have to become a trend because lantern-type charm + DIY paper project + candy buffet replacement + no worries about cash bar with mini-booze bottles + great photo op smashing = total wedding trend.

That would be one "trend" I could totally get behind. Yes, indeed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I Take it Back About the Stamps

It's been what, a whole week now, since I mentioned invitations and stamps?  
"But the biggest ah-ha moment came with the envelope because, despite having my head stuck up the bum of wedding planning for the last several months, I didn't notice the stamps AT ALL.  In fact, I had actually recycled the envelope before Jason wondered aloud about the stamps. If I recall properly (which I probably don't) I think they were the LOVE stamps.  "
Yes, I wrote that a whole eight days ago. Which is apparently just enough time for me to find, cook, and eat some crow.  Because darn, all I can think about right is how desperately I want need these stamps.

No, I have zero idea what our invitations will look like - I truly haven't even started brainstorming that yet.  No, I have no idea if USPS will raise rates between now and next January/February when we send the invitations out.  And no, I have no idea if our invitations will be some silly-sized non-standard-shaped card that necessitates extra postage (though I will guess that, since we're cheapos and sustainably focused, we'll probably end up with standard postage sizes and rates).  So yes, I am utterly aware that it is absurdly premature to consider buying stamps.

But Rothko. On a stamp. Even if I didn't attach intense emotional importance to experiencing both the Tate Modern's Rothko Room (not a current collection, I believe) and the Rothko Chapel in Houston, I would love this entire set of stamps for the nine other artists represented too. Expressionism, including the American-based Abstract Expressionists, is one of my absolute favorite artistic periods. The set of ten stamps honors the following artists and works:

  • The Golden Wall (1961) — Hans Hofmann (1880–1966)
  • Romanesque Façade (1949) — Adolph Gottlieb (1903–1974)
  • Orange and Yellow (1956) — Mark Rothko (1903–1970)
  • The Liver Is the Cock’s Comb (1944) — Arshile Gorky (1904–1948)
  • 1948–C (1948) — Clyfford Still (1904–1980)
  • Asheville (1948) — Willem de Kooning (1904–1997)
  • Achilles (1952) — Barnett Newman (1905–1970)
  • Convergence (1952) — Jackson Pollock (1912–1956)
  • Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 34 (1953–1954) — Robert Motherwell (1915–1991)
  • La Grande Vallée 0 (1983) — Joan Mitchell (1925–1992)

I'm having a really hard time passing this up. I know stamps are meaningless in the grand scheme of a wedding and that no one will remember them (they certainly haven't struck me on any invitations we received), but Rothko is intimately woven into two major life-moments, one of which Jason and I share and treasure together. So even though I know exactly how silly it is to buy these limited edition stamps today, a year before the wedding, there's a real emotional pull and sense of right-ness about this otherwise insignificant detail. These stamps, or at least one of them, hints at my life story, and it's hard to turn away from that and towards practicality.

Oh hell. I really will have to stop reading the entire internet from now until my wedding. I was simply looking for general pretty things and happened across this stamp post at Oh Joy! and now I'm considering buying stamps for a wedding without a secure venue contract, date, dress, or any other d*mn thing.  But, at least I can have stamps! And a partner, of course. So, if everything else falls through, at least my partner and I have a great excuse to mail lots of letters in standard sized envelopes with 2010 postage rates. Maybe we can send out holiday cards that include an explanation of our premature stamp buying adventures.

Talk me down folks.  Please, talk me down.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Recap from a Groom's Perspective

I've been pretty vocal about advocating for grooms' voices in the wedding planning world and celebrating those who do grapple publicly with wedding planning (go check out the groom blog links on my sidebar!) but it's still all too rare here in weddingland. I know from your comments and emails that you feel the same way: you wish you knew how to better engage your grooms in the planning process, your groom wishes that he felt more prepared or invested in the process, and both of you lament the lack of community and resources on the groom's end of things (though this is changing, slowly.)

So that's why all of you should go read this post over at Veiled Vows right now. And then you should email it to your grooms. Emilia Jane has an amazing recap from the groom's perspective about the process and challenges of planning their DIY wedding that I minimally excerpted below. (The bride's recap will follow in an upcoming post on Veiled Vows).
Before starting the planning, I hadn’t really thought of the design aspects at all. My parents had a cookie-cutter wedding that was planned by my grandmother, whereas Cori’s parents had a tiny in-house wedding and her sister (& brother-in-law) had a very personal crafty wedding. For me, my idea of a wedding was more about the start of a committed marriage & somehow I hadn’t really thought about the event as a day. Planning out the myriad details wasn’t part of my initial picture. For me, at least, it’s one of the most important things to understand as a groom. The party is part of the process.
I wanted to be involved! I wanted everything to be truly mutual, but at the same time I had a lot of trouble getting myself fully into the wedding planning mindset (which scares me when I think about how I am already not your average groom, I’m an avid knitter and do most of the cooking, while C is more hammer and nails). The result was that, when it came to the details, I felt like most of the planning and creative ideas came from C. (Of course all of the big decisions: venue, food, officiant, etc. were completely mutual) 
On the other hand, I feel like the actual wedding-work was doled out mutually when it came to the actual doing. And I think this is important for grooms to keep in mind. If you agree to have those handmade paper decorations that are compostable, do not make your fiancée craft alone.  
This is only a small excerpt of Zach's wisdom and insight into planning and partnership. So what are you waiting for?  Go read the rest now and share it with your own partner straightaway.

Bella Bridesmaid Love

It should be criminal that expensive dresses send me into a giddy happy place, but they do.  Especially when those expensive dresses are under $1000 and thus "affordable" here in weddingland.  (Ha. Typing "$1000" and "affordable" in the same sentence about little wisps of fabric still gives me pause, but moving on, since that's the way it is.). And especially when those dresses are simple, elegant, and entirely unrelated to the sort of poofy, sparkly, princess style trainwrecks so popular in many salons.

So what am I giddy about this morning? Saja Wedding is finally in Los Angeles and it joins Alix and Kelly, Swoon Bridesmaid, Thread Bridal Alternatives, Simple Silhouettes, and other elegantly simple and flowy (and affordable!) bridal alternative lines under one single roof in Los Angeles at Bella Bridesmaid at 5759 West 3rd Street.

 Saja Bridal

Swoon Bridesmaid (C'mon it's totally bridal, but at bridesmaid prices)
 Alix and Kelly


Since I have to shop for a new dress anyhow, I'm happy to find all sorts of simple, lovely, focus-on-the-accesories, kick-your-heels-up-and-have-fun-with-the-flowy-bits dress options in my price range. Oh Bella Bridesmaid, thank you for finally bringing Saja Bridal to Los Angeles.  And for providing a single location for simple bridal elegance that's so well located (bikeable even) from my apartment. It's like you knew just what I needed for my rustic, outdoorsy, elegant, budget-stretched-thin, wedding.

Update: Check out examples of Saja dresses in action here at Once Wed and Style Me Pretty. The flowy ethereal quality makes me catch my breath.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Behind the scenes, things have been hard here. Life hard. Scary hard. Wake up in the middle of the night with your mind racing fifteen years forward hard. At least healthcare reform legislation finally passed and in ten years some of this might be easier type of hard.

I'll be okay. Really. But that doesn't take away from the scary moments and what if/where do we go from here questions. And it doesn't take away from how tired I am of the hard stuff happening to us. I recognize that, in most ways, we are extraordinarily blessed. We have amazing families and friends. We both have jobs that we enjoy and that offer real room for growth. Overall, we've been thrown a few health-related (our own and our families') curveballs and a few scary job moments, but we're okay. 

In truth, we're more than okay. And I wonder if, paradoxically, it's because of the challenges. Migraine on our anniversary? He took care of canceling our Downtown LA hotel and fancy dinner reservation plans, picked up the surprise flower arrangements, and set them up on the floor for an impromptu at-home picnic. Flu on Valentine's day? I brought him chicken soup, flowers, and company while I unraveled and rescheduled our around-town all-day adventure plans. Mom in the hospital hours after he proposed? We wordlessly held hands and hugged our way through those first few says, letting that eventually transition into public joy and sharing once we knew everything was okay.

They're small moments, perhaps.  But they're the indications of everything that matters underneath.  They're the reminders of the days and weeks that were even harder, and of the everyday grace and strength that navigating a joint lifetime requires.  They're the reminders that we can't get complacent.  They're the reason that we don't take each other for granted.  They're the reason we wake each other up at 6:15am to exercise a few times a week and why we're cutting corners elsewhere to invest in higher-quality produce and groceries. They're the reason we decided not to get cable and to instead focus on our individual projects and scheming until far too late at night. They're the reason that we've learned to appreciate Sundays filled with farmer's market shopping, errands, gardening, cleaning, and homemade pizza making, because it's the only full day we really get to share and it's more fun to tackle it all together.

These last few months, we've been on fire. It's like we leaned back into each other for support, finally figured out how strong this thing is, and finally realized what we can do when you know, really truly know, that it's going to be okay no matter what. For the first time in years, I'm making real progress in accomplishing long term dreams. I'm writing every day. I'm volunteering at an organization that matters. I'm moving forward with my career and scheming about how to get accepted into a prestigious local leadership program. And Jason's accomplishments are paralleling mine.  It's as if our plans finally have momentum.  Perhaps even a bit too much hurling-forward, tumbling-over-itself momentum.  We had to pause a bit lately and try to make sense of it all. To wonder about what we did with our days when they weren't full of work and projects and hobbies and cooking and wedding planning and evening drinks and everything else. To wonder how we keep on track when the setbacks can feel so derailing.

And then I lean back into Jason, readjust a bit, and brace myself for whatever comes next.

 plastic-sfoonss via Le Love

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Still Don't Believe in "The One." However...

Today I wanted to start by revisiting a post from November. Specifically, the post in which I wrote about buying my wedding dress.
As for the idea of "..the wedding dress that I'll just magically know is "The One" for me once I put it on and twirl... I call BS.  I understand that many women have that YesYesYes moment.  Some of my readers have talked to me about it.  There's an entire tv show (and dress salon economy) built around it.  But I'm of the opinion that searching for "The One" dress can be just as damaging and elusive as holding out for Prince Charming."

And then, I found it. A Nicole Miller dress I'd fallen in love with a year ago but mentally put aside due to the price tag ($1800) and fact that it never showed up on the resale sites or ebay. The ad promised me a $600 like-new sample from a salon that had gone out of business. When I finally put on the dress I'd gasped about online, I gasped even more in person.

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

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

It is absolutely absurd, and I keep looking back at my list and my photos to calm myself the eff down.  There is no "the One" in partners or dresses, only partners and dresses that work extremely well for each of our individual priorities. A dress is a dress, and I'm going to glow on my wedding day regardless, with the dress fading into the background against our joy."
I just wanted to put that out there, to let you know that I'm fully aware that I (kinda) have to eat my words today in public.  Because today is the day I admit that I am selling my amazing, wonderful, flounced-for-thirty-minutes-straight-when-finding-it inexpensive-yet-spectacular wedding dress. Well, I guess it isn't really my wedding dress.  I'm selling my it-could-have-been-my-wedding-dress dress.

In my defense, it has nothing to do with not being "The One." Since October, I've had a lot of time to try it on again (and again) in the mirror and get a little weepy thinking about the wedding. I love this dress. Let me say that again: I lovelovelove this dress. But, unfortunately, the dress no longer loves me. And by that, I mean that I've lost a few pounds, particularly in the bust area, making this dress really unsuitable for my new body shape. Like grandmothers-would-cry (in a bad way, in the hell-in-a-handbasket-way) unsuitable.  And, unfortunately, based on the style of the dress, it can't quite be tailored to mitigate for the weight loss/shape change. The cut is pretty complicated and would lose a lot/be hundreds of dollars to tailor down enough in a flattering way.  And still, it would better suit a woman with a (now) larger cup size than I.

Also, to clarify, No I most certainly did NOT lose weight "for the wedding." Long term readers may recall a few offhand references to Weight Watchers, which has been my healthy-life-approach of choice for the last several years. Now that I'm back into the healthy swing of things, it's making that wedding dress purchase look really premature. Ridiculous and useless even, since it was such a complicated and unique dress. And I'm both sad and ticked off.  And now, since I obviously need to find a new dress, I just want to find this dress a home with someone who will love it as much as I do.

In conclusion, there certainly isn't just one. In my case, there will be two: the one that got away and the one that has-yet-to-be-found. And, if my recent salon appointments are any indication, finding a dress won't really be an issue since I'm going for simple-with-awesome-accessories and I already found three dresses in my cheapo price range that I'd be happy to buy. No, really, I already found three affordable dresses that I flounced in, so I'm calming down and know I can manage the budget (so long as the first dress sells... fingers crossed. HARD).  And seeing as how I found three dresses I'd be okay with, I'm definitely not holding out for any "the one" moments.  It's still not my thing.  But don't be surprised if some dress posts pop up on the blog since, unsurprisingly, it's on my mind again as I sort through "the many."

So, um, in case you're 5'9", a street size 8 (or 10 would work too), have a large B/small C cup, and are interested, I'm selling it at cost (sample sale price of $600, $625 including shipping). Check out the Recycled Bride sale listing here.  Or click on the (newly added) photo on my sidebar to take you directly to the sale listing.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Springing Forward

I love these first tentative days of spring and the palpable sense of joy in rediscovering the outdoors, particularly in a place with as much biodiversity and varied landscapes as Southern California. Although the seasonal shifts are subtle here in Los Angeles, there's still a noticeable shifting as winter falls away and springtime hopes gradually become more secure and solid. The winter produce is already looking a bit ragged at the market, it's been a few weeks since the last rain, and the temperature jumped sharply upwards in the last few days.

A few weekends ago, we took advantage of a break in the rain to explore the nearby Abalone Shore Tidepools in Rancho Palos Verdes. With some sturdy shoes (flip flops aren't recommended), some sunscreen, and $5 for parking, we spent hours exploring the little pools and crevices filled with anemone, snails, and sea creatures of all shapes and sizes (see if you can find the less-than-fingernail sized crab in the third photo). 

We initially found the tidepool idea at 356 Cheap Dates, a which is an invaluable local resource for inexpensive activities of all varieties in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. If spring caught you by surprise and you're looking for a little outdoor fun, this is definitely a good place to search for ideas. And if you're not local or spring hasn't quite arrived, it feels good knowing it's finally, tangibly, nearly almost here. 

Wishing you all great weekend, regardless of the weather or adventure.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Photography and Beauty: Let the Vendors Know

I think they're finally starting to listen to us. Maybe some of the wedding vendors and blogs are starting to understand that their images and blogs subtly exclude us from the definition of "bride" because we don't fit their "marketable" physical description. And maybe, just maybe, if we start to discuss it more openly, vendors and mainstream image-heavy blogs will start to treat all their clients with respect for their unique beauty.

Splendid Communications is a wedding and hospitality industry social media consulting firm, run by Leine Stevens of Blue Orchid Events. Her Think Splendid blog is one of the few wedding industry blogs I read, primarily for its insight into general business principles (really, it's that good.)  Stevens is a major wedding industry player, which is why I nearly jumped out of my chair upon reading her post today: "Online Marketing and the Plus Sized Bride."  If you haven't read it yet, go NOW. She makes a real case - the first I've seen from such an influential position - that photographers and blogs are complicit in creating the unattainable beauty ideals many of us are railing against. She calls out the hush-hush practice of photographers who won't blog their "less attractive" couples and points out that it doesn't make good business sense (not to mention good people sense.)

I've already made the decision to not hire a photographer who doesn't respect all their clients by featuring a variety of looks, weight, races and ages.  The local photographers I hope to highlight in future posts will have to meet that criteria as well. Money talks, and our dollars and feedback matter.  So please, if this issue matters to you at all, go read the Think Spendid blog today and comment.  Or go comment on the Offbeatbride Facebook Fan page, where a similar conversation is taking place.  I promise, for today at least, the wedding industry is listening. 

Thoughts on Fancy Invitations

I'm a complete paper snob.  I admit it, I love pretty paper and could spend entirely gleeful days inside Paper Source.  To give you an idea of how ridiculous I can be, one of our biggest disagreements ever actually happened inside Paper Source because we seriously disagreed on paper combinations for a non-wedding related decoupage art project. That's right, we nearly had a public brawl over color and pattern because he's as firm in his design principles as I am in mine. So, it should come as no surprise that the moment Jason mentioned the term "save the date" I was ready with fifteen examples over which we could bicker, ranging from maps, to music posters, photobooth mick-ups, vintage postcards and colorful modern designs. Lord help us both.

Having said all that, we're probably going with emailed save the dates, and invitations are so far down on my list of wedding priorities that I'm tempted to just phone everyone to let them know about the wedding. (Don't sound so shocked.  You know we're going to be phoning them anyhow for addresses and you-didn't-rsvp-but-are-you-coming follow-ups anyhow.) After months of examples underscoring the relative unimportance of exquisitely designed invitations, it was the invitations from this past weekend's very elegantly high-end wedding that finally convinced me to eff it and focus our particular project efforts and major expenses elswhere.

Example #1: An Invitation Does Not a Wedding Make
When my Jewish tomboy friend decided to get married in a private ceremony and invite everyone to a Moroccan blow out reception the next day, I wasn't expecting to recieve a invitation decorated with gold angels and bows. Well, I recieved an ivory decoration covered with gold angels and bows. Saying that their invitation was neither a reflection upon her, her husband nor the look-and-feel of their wedding is, um, putting it mildly. However, it was an inadvertant reflection upon her wedding priorities overall, since the DIY invitation kits were the result of such a quick shopping trip at Michaels that she didn't notice the angels. (Or the bows.) She just saw a basic gold leaf design and was too busy/didn't care enough to take them back for an exchange. While there may have been some good natured teasing from her peers because the invitations were so extremely out of character, in the end it was a funny moment that didn't intrude on the reception at all. Promise.

Example #2: USPS Doesn't Care About Your Fancy Invitation
On the other hand, I have a feeling that a recent Bat Mitzvah invitation we recieved meant a lot to the girl who picked it, giant pink hearts, matching pink envelope and all. Along with her entire Bat Mitzvah, this invitation mattered to her and she was invested in it.  Unfortunately, USPS wasn't nearly as invested and the invitation arrived as a crumpled mess. It was so battered that we had to press the RSVP card in order to send our reply. It was so damaged I wouldn't be surprised if you told me a postal worker had purposely balled it up and basketball tossed it in his delivery bag.  At least it reminded me of the ultimate transience of our wedding design efforts, even if I wasn't quite ready to let go of my invitation design schemes yet.

Example #3: Eff It Already
After all my excitement about crafting highly personalized invitations, I actually had to pause upon recieving the invitation for this past weekend's high class wedding. Although it ranks well up there with the classiest wedding I may ever attend, the invitations didn't leap off the page in the way I've become accustomed to here in etsy and designer-heavy weddingland. Instead, we received cream (or perhaps ecru) high quality heavy paper invitations, printed with black embossed lettering in a cursive font, slipped in with a velum cover, an envelope liner, and a response card.  Simple, understated, elegant and done. No registry information, no website information, no design elements or playful colors, just the basic expected information for a wedding. My first thought upon receiving the invitation was finally understanding the sort of simple elegance that Ms Manners extols and realizing that so much of the vintage inspired design that's been inspiring me lately is, while lovely, besides the point.  But the biggest ah-ha moment came with the envelope because, despite having my head stuck up the bum of wedding planning for the last several months, I didn't notice the stamps AT ALL.  In fact, I had actually recycled the envelope before Jason wondered aloud about the stamps. If I recall properly (which I probably don't) I think they were the LOVE stamps.  

And that was the moment I decided to let the invitations go.  We'll put some effort into designing a single page invitation, sure, but I'm going to try and keep it all in perspective: it doesn't reflect a bit on the wedding, it may well get crumpled in the post, and no one's going to pay one iota of attention to the stamps (including other recently married/engaged women). Also, please remind me of this post when I'm making myself hysterical about fonts six months from now. Please.

Having said all that, if you haven't seen if already, you should absolutely check out Rachel's (from Heart of Light) 100 Layer Cake DIY guests posts right now. If invitations are a priority for you, and DIY was part of your plan, yesterday's invitation post is a great starting point.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Celebrating Shoes and Complexities

Hi. I've been a bit MIA in the last few days and I apologize. I've both been dealing with significant personal issues and trying to process the overwhelming response to last week's "You Won't Find Beauty in the Portraits" article. Since the post got crosslinked on both East Side Bride and Weddingbee, I've been getting a definite range of reactions in comments and emails, all of which were thoughtful and all of which I appreciate. The initial post started out as a "your joy will be beautiful" post and somehow ended up as a challenge to popularly celebrated wedding portraiture, details shots, and "mainstream" blogs. I stand by everything I said in that rant (hoo boy it needed to be said after I read dozens of I'm-going-to-look-awful/need-to-lose-weight posts last week) but it's only part of the story. Because, while I'm entirely fed up with how wedding media began warping my hopes for a simpler, emotion-filled and joy-filled occasion into an opportunity for a vintage-y event that denotes simplicity and carefreeness in its carefully chosen details, I get it too.  Because darnit, I like the details, particularly because they're fun, work the creative non-excel focused part of my brain, and they're pretty.

Yes, even though this blog has focused more on planning angst and big-picture/eye-on-the-prize posts, I like the pretty.
  • I like pretty photography (define as you will. I have a very particular aesthetic that may not float your boat, but it certainly floats mine) and I'll be making time for formal portraits. Not a ton of time, mind you, but time enough to have a formal record for our families and family history.
  • I'm a little obsessed with collecting succulent inspiration ideas for our So-Cal wedding. 
  • I perhaps spend too much time daydreaming about these inspiration boards made by our DOC, Sweet Emilia Jane, for our wedding.
  • I love shoes. I can't exactly afford them right now, seeing as how I'm saving for a wedding, but I appreciate a few shoe posts now and then.  
So yeah, I'm the last person who won't get excited about shoes because it's not marriage related.  Personally, I don't care two whits about shoe pictures at the wedding (again, detail shots aren't my thing), but I know I want fabulous, colorful, comfortable, inexpensive (for me), rewearable, shoes.  I choose to spend (some very limited) time on (selected) popular wedding sites because I appreciate the help in thinking about how to make my wedding more inexpensive, sustainable, and yet pretty (and then I run away again very quickly before the aspirationalism and budget envy and body image issues creep in).  Because heck, if it were just me trying to come up with party ideas, I'd be left saying well, um, organic DIY flowers? Does this mean I have to buy vases? What's floral tape? Shiiit.

Those sites have their place. Indie wedding planning sites and communities have their place, particularly as a balance against one or two overriding aesthetic points of view or wedding approaches that don't fit what many of us may really want. More personal-blog contemplative sites have their place as a space to sort it out for ourselves, away from advertising dollars and reliance on "tradition." I'm not really a fan of any of these labels and I'm a big fan of working-it-out-for-yourself, which means there's no category for my blog except perhaps over-analytical-yet-occasionally-superficial-goofball wedding site.

This blog is simply an attempt to make sense of wedding planning in a way that makes sense with the specific life that my partner and I are building. I'm grappling with the institution of marriage and what it means to be a wife and married versus just me. I'm grappling with the wedding symbolism and expectations that feel gendered and constrictive. I'm struggling with what it means to be publicly coupled and how that's shifting people's perceptions of me and us in ways I hadn't anticipated.  I'm banging my head against the wall of our limited-yet-overwhelmingly-huge budget. I'm trying to plan a sustainable wedding and support local vendors. I'm running smack into self-esteem issues that I thought I'd put aside years ago because I'm now faced with the horrific bridal pressure to look the Best You've Ever Looked for the Most Important (and Most Photographed!) Day of Your Life (or what, he or she will run down the aisle in horror because they suddenly realized you don't look like a movie star?) I'm working on finding a synagogue and writing a meaningful ceremony and combining finances and figuring out chore charts and cooking responsibilities and building the healthy foundations of a life together. I'm dealing with family and personal challenges and way too many hours at the office. And in the midst of all that, I'm also struggling with how to achieve a pretty, welcoming wedding with an easy flow and a great party.

This site is a space for my wedding planning, my priorities, my frustrations, my personal bullshit meter, and my wish-I'd-had-this resource gathering (with a slight emphasis on LA couples' needs and general sustainability questions). It's not an indie wedding site or or a budget wedding site or a feminist wedding site or whatever other terms and signifiers we're using to define our various wedding blog communities and their intersections, and yet it's all of those things too. But it's also place to celebrate succulents, shoes, out-of-the-box reception ideas, lower-key wedding alternatives, and the lives that frame our weddings and make them worthwhile in the first place.  It's not an attack on anyone else's weddings or choices.  It's not an attack on the people whose weddings are featured on photo-heavy blogs or on anyone's individual photographic priorities.  And it's not an attack on anyone who is lucky enough to actually be as conventionally attractive as the people whose weddings generally get featured on those blogs.

In conclusion, I like shoes, I like pretty, I'm both conflicted and overjoyed with this process of planning a wedding/marriage, and I really like that moment when I burst into tears at a wedding. Thanks for reading along.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Heart of the Matter

We attended a wedding this past weekend.  It was the first wedding we've attended since getting engaged, but I wasn't really worried about comparisons or gathering inspiration, perhaps because the high end, more traditional wedding context was so far removed from our own more casual future celebration, and perhaps because the context was so besides the point for a couple I adore so entirely.

After being steeped in all the glorious inspiration here in the less bound-by-tradition wedding world, I think I actually appreciated their more classic event all the more. There were certainly small touches that hinted at the couple's personalities, but there was no angst about floral centerpieces over handcrafted non-floral options or her designer dress over a personality-infused perfect dress or the semi-religious egalitarian Episcopalian service and the Corinthians reading instead of a personally written ceremony. It was simply a wedding, exactly how you might picture it progressing from a fortunate Southern California beach-view vantage point. It's the sort of event that some of us might write off as "cookie cutter," particularly if we're the sort who might consider slaving away on a pile of whimsically gocco'd programs.

We'd be wrong.

After all of my concerns about making the day entirely personal and a full reflection of our values, their wedding was a solid reminder that the most personal aspect of a wedding is the promise made in the vows.  It didn't matter that the readings and (mostly) Episcopalian ceremony didn't include handpicked poetry and wasn't a self-written reflection on their relationship and future. It didn't matter that their vows were minimally personalized, instead relying more heavily on the ritual of egalitarian Christian vows. The moment they said "I will" and I saw their faces light up with the full comprehension of their incredibly personal promise to each other, I burst into tears. 

There couldn't have been a more personal and intimate moment, regardless of the words and ceremony used to frame it.  And when I gave the groom a giant hug on the dance floor later that night, he was still beaming from the impact of that moment. This man was entirely overwhelmed with joy from the sheer act of his promise. He was still filled with that moment as he said to me, hours later, "This is amazing. I'm married. I'm just trying to take it all in. It's all rushing by so quickly. This is just so incredible."

As I talked it over later with our friends who were married a year and a half ago, they both nodded along in perfect understanding.  He recalled the incredible feelings from his own wedding upon realizing you're marrying this other person, knowing that you're entering into the rightest decision of your life, and of wishing the ceremony could have lasted even longer.

And that's the heart of the matter. That's the feeling we're really chasing throughout all our planning and budgeting and angst. And that moment will happen. It may end up looking like a DIY craft fest or a Martha Stewart masterpiece, and either will be stunning and will simply add an extra touch to the intrinsic beauty of the day.  On Saturday, we were privileged to witness the marriage of our dear friends and to share in the raucous joy of their 12-piece band reception party.  They got engaged a week after we did and, with only six months of planning and a different social context, they didn't have time or interest in the intense personalization (of either the vow-related sort or the aesthetic detail-focused sort) that's been so easy for us to get caught up in.  But, whereas they had only six months to prepare for the wedding, they've had seven years to prepare for this marriage. The wedding was both the public promise and a party to celebrate their commitment. And that's all that mattered on Saturday.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Just to clarify this a bit, I don't hate all wedding portraits. In fact, I think our mothers might murder me if we forewent them altogether. (And I'm not entirely sure we'd guarantee a photo of my brother without a set portrait list, which would be altogether distressing when flipping through the albums in years to come.) So I get it.  But, I really can't stand the way mainstream blogs have begun celebrating the "artistic" bride and groom shots that look like magazine-perfect, flattened-personality, pretty-yet-cold, editorial-worthy photos. Maybe one or two, I could forgive. But I've literally had to scroll past pages of these portraits before ever hitting the good scrunchy-face-and-tears stuff on some big-time photographers blogs. And these portraits seem to be the first bride-and-groom (yeah, it's usually bride-and-groom) shots celebrated on most mainstream photo-heavy blogs. And sometimes the scrunchy-face-and-tears photos never get featured at all.

Blech.  My portraits are going to rock because they're going to be as ridiculous as we are.  In fact, I quite like ridiculous posed portraits. For example, of all the weddings I've pored through on the internet, this was the first portrait that made me jump up and say Hell Yeah.

Ridiculousness courtesy of the Thirty-Something Bride. Photo by Jonathon Campbell

In Louise's own words: "I'm not exactly sure how this started, but my brother and I have been doing this for decades. If I'm remembering it correctly, he and I were young and were acting up (Southern for misbehaving) one day. Someone (I want to say my dad, but it could have been my mom) told us to knock it off and to stop acting like little cretins. The adults left the room and I asked Austin what a cretin was. He made this weird face at me and made a strange sort of snorting noise and said, "That's a cretin." I mimicked him the best I could and said, "Like this?" And he said, "Yeah, like that!" And thus, The Cretin Face was born. It lives on to this day."

Um, I'm a total cretin, and I totally love this.  Particularly because Jason and I have a ridiculous face ritual of our own.  And good lord if we DON'T include it in our posed photos, it will be an entirely inauthentic wedding. Here's us being normal... or a good approximation thereof. (Excuse the shiny faces because, as you will clearly see, our ridiculousness requires a wee bit of alcohol.)

Now, here's us doing the "spitty face":

It started years ago when a friend introduced us to a website devoted to people making these faces (no, I can't remember it now) and it immediately became our group's thing. We own the spitty face, at every semi-tipsy gathering.  Since then, it's just radiated outward, across the nation. We've managed to convince nearly ALL our tipsy friends to get in on the fun (the above photos were taken in Brooklyn, by two equally spitty-faced fools who shall remain nameless for the purposes of this post). I think we have dozens of these things - of us, various groups of friends, and my boss (yes, really). Because admit it, the spitty face is just that awesome. After a beer or two you'd toooootally want to try too.  In fact, I'm going to see if I can convince my mother to join in with the fun at the wedding.  My dad might be hesitant, but I bet I could convince my mom to take part in some mother-daughter spitty faces. 

So yes, I make a firm exception for portraiture ridiculousness and general personality. Because THIS is what I mean by authenticity. Hell Yeah.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

In Honor of DC's Step Forward

After yesterday, I just wanted an easy and massive smile.  This very much fits the bill.

UPDATE: Boo. the YouTube video is now private and not working. But it was the cutest little boy talking about how he'd never met a husband and husband before, just husband and wife.  And then, as he wrapped his head around what it all meant, he simply asked the husband and husband to go play ping pong.

Simple as that.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You Won't Find Beauty in the Portraits

Spring is just around the corner, which would be great except that it means bikini season is just around the corner. And, more importantly for many readers here, wedding season is around the corner and you "need" to look bikini-ready for that dress.  And even worse than the how-do-I-lose-ten-pounds-fast-and-entirely-unhealthily panic is the oh-fuck-I-have-to-take-pictures despair.  Complete and utter despair.  Because you aren't as pretty as the gorgeous women featured on the major blogs.  Because your wedding won't have all of the gorgeous professionally designed details featured on all the major blogs.  Because you haven't seen yourself reflected in any of the literally thousands of weddings you've been pouring over in the last few months and so you already feel a little sad about your little stretched-budget wedding of ordinary people and ordinary marriage hopes and ordinary joy.

Usually I censor my language a bit. However, after a few angst-ridden posts and twitterings around the wedding web, I'm too angry to care, so please bear with me here.

Turn away from those fucking blogs right now and reclaim your wedding. For yourself. Because your love isn't ordinary. It's rooted in your unique how-we-met story and your own we-snorted-soda-out-of-our-noses stories and your individual how-the-hell-would-I-have-made-it-here-without-this-partner stories.  Your love is gorgeous and obvious and entirely personal.  And it will shine through in the pictures.  And it will illuminate your faces with complete and utterly stunning joy.

I know. You want to believe me. You really do. But you've never seen a photo of a bride who looks like you: maybe not blond, maybe not white, maybe not straight, maybe not slim, maybe not photogenic.  Well, that's because someone running the mainstream blogs you read perhaps can't write insightful content and context but instead posts a bunch of photos.  And perhaps, due to an over-reliance on photos submitted by photographers desperate for exposure who send in only their prettiest clients for wedding submissions, this person is under the misguided impression that beauty exists in a narrow strata of near-impossibility. And, perhaps most importantly, that blog you read is focused on "detail" shots and posed bridal portaits in which bone structure matters more than emotion, because bone structure is immediate and easy and advertiser-friendly.

You know what I think about detail shots and wedding portraits?  Yawn.  Just. Fucking. YAWN.  You know what I think is beautiful?

Photos courtesy of Hazelnut Photography
Photo via Jezebel

There it is.  Stripped of bone structure and excuses about culturally defined norms of beauty. Stripped of perfectly lit poses and perfectly chosen backdrops.  No worries about weight, wrinkles, or whatever the hell anyone else was thinking. Just perfect moments of honest gorgeousness.
 THIS is beauty.  It may not meet the bullshit criteria of the wedding blogs we frequent, but fuck those blogs.  Those blogs won't make you uncontrollably smile to yourself fifteen anniversaries from now.  Those blogs and their cold notion of detached-portraiture-as-wedding-beauty won't break your heart into a million little pieces of joy whenever you look at them.  Instead, those blogs suck honesty from the concept of weddings and leave us with vintage dressers artfully placed in fields surrounded by prancing people in suits and white dresses.  They leave us emotionally empty, yet yearning for some unreal image of a wedding day that never existed.

I don't know about you, but my prancing will be of the oh-hell-yes-I-love-you-SO-DAMN-MUCH-can-I-kiss-you-again-and-again-and-again variety.  My wedding will happen surrounded by family and friends and love and not in the privacy of a damn field with good lighting.  And if my photographer doesn't capture those ugly messy kisses and that sea of community love, I will rip them to shreds in my vendor recap. Because they will have entirely missed what's essential and essentially beautiful about the day in lieu of a magazine editorial/marketing shoot.

On your wedding day, your face will scrunch up with emotion.  Your makeup will run.  You will forget anyone else is in the room besides this person who you are entirely and utterly in love with.  Simply put, you will be resplendent in utterly beatific joy.  And why would you want it any other way?

Fuck you, mainstream wedding blogs.  I challenge you to hold up your posed images of "beautiful" people against the joyful photos above and tell me that your photos are better and more worthy of public celebration.  I challenge you to defend your narrow selection criteria and aesthetic "standards" for blog submissions and tell me these images and people aren't overwhelmingly beautiful.  I challenge you to remember that you're not just selling photography, event design, and paper goods services but that, in the process, you're selling us on your hollowed out definitions of weddings and where their intrinsic beauty lies.

Frankly, I'd bet against those blogs. I'd bet your readers overdosed on bullshit months ago and are yearning for real inspiration from images of sheer, unadulterated joy and not of empty, near-impossible, aspirationalism.  I'd bet we've all hidden away an image of what we really want our wedding to feel like, and it wasn't the one you gushed over.  So come on, readers, let's start a new inspiration file that reflects true beauty and joy here in the comments.  Which moments or wedding stories do you cling to when things get rough durning planning?  Which images stayed with you months after your wedding passed?  My money's on the messy kisses and tears.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Love and Guilty Pleasures

As should be clear from this blog, I have never been one of the cool kids, of either the cheerleader or hipster variety.  I am, perhaps, a little too earnest and nerdly to be cool.  And I'm okay with that.  I can certainly hang with the cool kids and speak the cool kid language but, at heart, I revel in my ridiculous dorkitude.  And one of the reasons I am so head over heels for Jason is that he fully appreciates my seriousness, my silliness, and my complete lack-of-coolness.

Case in point: music. As one of Jason's former music-industry coworkers put it, "Becca isn't really a music person. She has good taste and opinions and all, but you can't sit and have an hour long conversation about music with her." For those of you not in relationships with music geeks, it's kind of a big deal to date outside the music geek tribe. I know and adore many indie rock bands (I initially became a KCRW member because of my complete fangirl adoration for Nic Harcourt's Morning Becomes Eclectic) but I simply don't have the passion and intensity for it that true music fans cultivate. And yet, Jason and I have managed to make it work.  He ignores the fact that I can't remember a single darn lyric to any song (even on my favorite albums) and I'm excited to learn about music history via his vinyl collection and late night talks (I mentioned I'm a nerd, right?  I just like learning.) But the best part is that he not only tolerates my (relative) disinterest in music geekery but that he fully supports my moments of all-out guilty pleasure musical indulgences. (I think I decided to marry him when he defended Kelly Clarkson's "Since You've Been Gone" as an undeniably great pop song that will deservedly grab nearly every woman onto the dance floor.  Mmm I love me some high brow/low brow appreciation.  It's much more fun and datable than the indie rock pretension I put up with in previous relationships.) In fact, he supports my ridiculousness to the point that he made me the best guilty pleasure getting-ready mix EVER in preparation for my recent boudoir shoot.

There's no way around it, the mix is full on cheeseball, bum shaking fun.  There is nothing smart, tongue-in-cheek, or clever about these tunes.  Some of the songs firmly date me as a late 1990s college girl when Britney had just come out and became our (kinda) ironic Friday night cheap-wine-and-makeup-application staple. Some of the songs are more recent, such as Jay Z's "Empire State of Mind," showing that there was nothing really ironic about my Britney-love in 1999.  But the absolute best part of Jason's mix was a little detail sure to grate the ears of any self respecting late 20/early 30 something woman aside from my college friends: the inclusion of "I Want it That Way" by the Backstreet Boys.  Oh yeah.  That was our pre-party SONG.  And yes, we took unabashed joy in actually knowing some of the choreographed moves.  And yes, Jason loves me and my ridiculousness enough to have tucked away that embarrassing gem and to have included it in his rockstar pre-party mix CD for the boudoir shoot. 

Obviously, this CD must make an appearance at the wedding prep pre-party. And, in case you were looking for that right mix of guilty pleasure ridiculousness for your own wedding preparations (or Friday night, whichever comes first) here is the mix Jason patiently crafted while good-naturedly shaking his head about my guilty pleasure musical pop tastes (not in order of the CD).
  • Umbrella: Rihanna
  • Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It): Beyoncé
  • Step (feat. Estelle): Kid Sister
  • Since U Been Gone: Kelly Clarkson
  • D.A.N.C.E.: Justice
  • Daft Punk Is Playing At My House: LCD Soundsystem
  • Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger: Daft Punk
  • Crazy In Love: Beyoncé
  • Cry Me A River: Justin Timberlake
  • Baby One More Time: Britney Spears
  • I Want It That Way: Backstreet Boys
  • Ignition (Remix): R Kelly
  • Empire State Of Mind: Jay-Z
  • Gold Digger (f. Jamie Foxx): Kanye West
  • Work It Out: Beyonce
  • Digital Love: Daft Punk
  • Dvno: Justice
  • Rock Your Body: Justin Timberlake
  • Oops I did it Again: Britney Spears
Shut up, you know you love it too.  And if you don't (why not?!) and you've actually lost all respect for me, perhaps the following post-prep time mix CD track list (with more of my everyday faves) will convince you that I'm not a culturally uncouth boor:
  • Inside & Out: Feist
  • Natale's Song: Sia
  • Come On Closer: Jem
  • Revenge of numbers: Portishead
  • The Line: D'Angelo
  • On & On: Erykah Badu
  • One Evening: Feist
  • Simple Things: Zero 7
  • Know That I... : Alice Smith
  • Unnamed (This Song Makes Me Happy): Leona Naess
  • Punchbag: A Band Of Bees
  • Day Too Soon: Sia
  • The Sea: Morcheeba
  • Cupido: Maria Rita
  • This Fine Social Scene: Zero 7
True story: I knew Jason liked me when, two weeks after meeting him, I left for a long-planned girlfriend trip abroad and he gifted me with ten CDs.  I knew he really liked me because he'd drawn awesome little sketches on all the CDs.  And I knew he really really likes loved me when he hunted down the Backstreet Boys song for my guilty pleasures getting-ready-to-party mix. This insipid CD-of-fun has love written all over it. 

So now, fess up: what songs will be on your guilty pleasure getting-ready mix?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sustainable Weddings: An Approach

As I embark on this attempt to tackle descriptions of sustainable wedding planning, I want to start by making one thing clear: our weddings are necessarily a balancing act among our personal desires, our families' needs, our budgets, and our commitment to the concept of sustainability.  These are not easy things to balance, particularly when budget and personal resources are stretched thin.  That's why these posts are not meant to be prescriptive or guilt-inducing.

Instead, I want these posts to help you sort through your own sustainable choices.  Lists about green wedding choices, while helpful as a one-stop-reference and initial starting point, aren't as useful in helping us measure our means and options.  I find it more helpful to approach such things with questions and research, wanting to know the whys and wherefores underlying the list's prescriptions.  And so, I will trust my ever-so-intelligent readers to want the same. We want background.  We want the information with which to make our own informed decisions.  We want multiple options on how to achieve a greener wedding that work for our unique needs and situations. 

I wanted to start by defining what I mean by sustainability.  For me, sustainability is more than simply buying green products. It's taking a hard look at each aspect of our wedding and our lives and thinking through the three Rs of environmental action: reduce, reuse, recycle (with most of the emphasis on the first two). It's about asking whether we really need an item, whether we can find an eco-friendly option to meet that need, whether we can't and want it anyhow, or whether we say eff it and go without.  It's a lot more than buying a green product.  It's also more than simply focusing on environmental impacts - for us, we're also considering the impact of our choices on helping sustain our local community and as helping to nurture our new and intertwined family.  It's a broader, more expansive look at sustainability because what we're really aiming for is a sustainable life when assessing our physical and human resources. 

Environmental Topics
Each week, I plan to tackle one major environmental topic.  These topics will mirror the classes I teach at Sustainable Works, and will be broken into seven sections:
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Waste
  • Chemicals
  • Transportation
  • Food
  • Shopping

Posting Approach
  • I'll start the weekly post with a big picture overview about why the specific environmental topics matters and the major problems currently related to it. 
  • From there, I'll narrow the focus to the issue at hand: wedding planning.  I'll look at how typical wedding-related activities and items impact/are impacted by the week's topic.
  • Lastly, I'll offer some approaches and solutions you can use to mitigate or address the problems while planning your wedding.
Mixed in, I may add individual posts about green wedding issues that require their own separate topic.  We'll see.  Environmental issues are messy and aren't easily limited to one broad topic, so I'm not sure yet the best approach.  This is new for me too, and I'm willing to see where this posting direction takes me and which structure works best.  So let me know if you have feedback or specific questions you want covered, either in the comments or via email.

Friday, March 5, 2010

In Defense of Boudoir Photography

Dear Jordana,

I'm in a little bit of shock, because I think this is maybe the first time in my life I've ever felt pretty before.  Like photo after photo showing me it wasn't just a fluke of the one-time camera angle.  I barely recognize myself in the photos, mostly because I don't see myself this way - pretty, glamorous, sexy. But you did. And it's challenging me to re-see myself. 

I can never thank you enough.  I mean this from the bottom of my heart.  Seeing myself in these photos, really taking the time to see myself, is shaking me up, in the best way possible. It's more than just the photos: this shoot and the resulting photos have really become a monumental opportunity to change how I see myself.  I'm just trying to take it in right now, but it's a little overwhelming. I love them all.  I love that you saw something in me that I don't see in myself. Thank you.  Thank you for the shoot and for these stunning photos and for being so wonderful along the way.  I'll follow up again when I'm feeling more coherent, but for now, just thank you.

Thank you everyone who sent your inspiration photos, your cheerleadering, and your support. 

Thank you Stacey for your calming advice, your confidence boosting moments, and your incredible makeup artistry that helped me feel beautiful going into this.

Thank you Dana, for offering the amazing opportunity to win boudoir photography from your Wedding in a Week contest.

And a huge and immeasurable thank you to Jordana Hazel, for your warmth, your fun and comforting approach to this process and day, and your incredible talent.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lessons and Moments from my First Wedding Industry Event

I don't really do bridal shows.  I have a serious aversion to people trying to sell me stuff and try to stay away from rooms full of salespeople and extraneous wedding crap.  But when Dana the Broke-ass Bride sent me an invitation to her Kick Ass Fantasy Cake Bash I decided to go because a) free cake b) free booze c) I could finally experience The Flashdance DJ hype myself d) free cake e) free frozen yogurt f) Dana and Hunter really are that much fun in person, so I knew it would be an experience g) nearly every Los Angeles-based wedding blogger I follow seemed to be attending this thing and I thought it would be a great chance to meet in person and h) did I mention free cake?  Yeah. The list was enough to convince Jason to join me (and miss Lost.  Woah.) And because Lost was on Hulu the next day, Jason even agreed that the crazy event was worth it.

Ostensibly it was the launch party for Fantasy Frosting's new Broke-Ass Cake Collection. For a celebrity/high-end cake design bakery, offering non-stratospheric (ie Broke-Ass) cake prices is a huge deal.  For ourselves, we're still in the cake-alternative budget category but, if you love wedding cake and live in Los Angeles (home of super-stratospheric prices) I can heartily recommend these Broke-Ass Cakes for beauty and price (comparatively. I've seen wedding cake starting at $7.00 a slice in Los Angeles.  These "only" start at $4.25 a slice.  Still jaw dropping, but muuuuuch more affordable for a giant gorgeous tasty multi-tiered cake).

Really, though, the night was an experience of wedding-meets-Hollywood Industry party, and it freaking rocked in its wonderfulness and weirdness (for me, since I don't really do fancy Industry parties).  We were surrounded by obscenely beautiful people, and enough male-model types that we were whispering about Zoolander all night long. I semi-recognized people, but I couldn't tell if it was from a vague blog profile picture or because they'd been on TV/Movies.  (Best Moment Ever: when Jason said "there are kinda famous people here" and pointed out Hunter... because of the Del Taco commercial he was in and not because of Weddlingland overload.  It's all about perspective.)   We all drank mystery punch (just like college! only a bazillion times classier!) And we danced our little feet off the The Flashdance.

Things I learned from the party:
  • Wedding cake doesn't have to taste like a fondant-covered nightmare, it can actually be amazingly delicious. (oh goodness, it was yummy.) However, it's still too expensive for me. But! $4.25 a slice would be a great price though for someone else who was set on cake.
  • I want a photobooth with props, hats, boas, wigs and other fabulousness.  I will probably not include bunny ears.  I can do it myself, though Oh Snap did a great job.
  • You can serve whatever alcohol you want at your wedding and no one will care, so long as it's free.  Seriously, it was a room full of fanciness and the lines for (essentially) spiked punch snaked around the room. You can serve Two Buck Chuck.  You don't need an open liquor bar.  You just need something free and alcoholic.  
  • We need want a DJ. The music was our favorite part of the night.  Jason kept getting distracted from conversation because of the incredible transitions and juxtapositions... the sort you can't quite get on an ipod.  I could see the yearning in his eyes and the desire for equally good dancefloor jams at our wedding harden into steely resolve as we kept dancing.  So, the budget will be shuffled and we're trying to figure out how a DJ fits.  The Flashdance is insanely talented, no doubt.  But our wedding isn't a high-end, high-budget or even dance focused party event.  We're going to look into it (a couple can dream, can't they? Sunday weddings are supposed to be cheaper, right?) but we'll be looking around for non-cheesy dj options from here on out (as I cry into my napkin about budget overages already as we kiss our dj compromise goodbye.  Sigh)
  • Big parties are not a great place to first meet anonymous people from the internet.  I recognized no one in the midst of the crowd of beautifulness, despite fleeting profile or dress pics from their blogs.  This should have been obvious.  It was not.  
  • I love Jason more than any leather-shirt-and-white-blazer-wearing real-life Zoolander.  I looked around that sea of pretty, all of whom were standing at the sidelines, not dancing (??!!), trying to keep their pretty makeup and detached looks perfectly positioned, and I chose Jason and our messy, sweaty dancing all over again.  Because eff it, life's a party, and it's too much fun to waste on the pursuit of pretty at the expense of fun now. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Green Weddings are not a Color Trend

For the five of you who were reading this little blog back in October, you may recall I mentioned a  Santa Monica-based non-profit called Sustainable Works in this post as a local option for free classes in sustainability and eco-living.  Since then, Jason and I took the full course and started moving towards greener choices, together, in our everyday joint lives. Following that, I participated in their teacher training courses, and I'm now about to start teaching a full six week course.

Needless to say, I'm a little excited to finally be back in a classroom again (I used to teach, years ago) and to be sharing my professional expertise in a community-based setting on behalf of such a great non-profit organization. (Yes, great.  I've worked and volunteered with other non-profits and this one is truly exceptionally well run and successful in achieving its mission.)

As I start working through my lesson plans, I thought it might be interesting to apply these general big-picture sustainability issues and solutions to the specific context of weddings.  I've mentioned before that I have some issues with how green weddings are generally portrayed in the wedding world.  Last week was no exception to that frustration, when a major mainstream wedding website mentioned on twitter that it was so over the green wedding trend. 

Um, I hate to inform you, wedding site (I wish I remembered which one), but green weddings are somewhat different than the Pantone Color of The Year trend b*s. Green weddings are actually about long-term sustainability, and are driven by the concept that we have limited resources available on this planet and we need to learn how to consume and manage them more responsibly.  Unlike most wedding "trends" green weddings are not driven by their marketing potential, no matter how many "eco-friendly" favors you try to peddle me. 

Yes, there are also tons of great Green Wedding resources around the web that don't pander to the trend cr*p, but sometimes their lists of dos and don'ts are a little overwhelming, even for me.  So, over the next six weeks as I plan out my classes, I thought I'd try and break down the rationale and possibilities for approaching sustainable weddings in a sane and non-marketed fashion. As I'm pulling together these posts, let me know if you have any questions, about green weddings or general sustainability issues, and I'll work to incorporate the responses.