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.