Friday, July 30, 2010

Registry Tip

One of the interesting things about planning a wedding is the way it has shifted my experience as a participant in friends' weddings. I have a heightened awareness (and forgiveness) for all things wedding (C - that's my way of saying sorry for getting angry that you had an immediate-family only ceremony. I get it now. Really. And the restaurant reception-for-everyone was truly delicious.) Anyhow, with weddings on the brain, it's only natural to start noticing and filing away lessons learned and moments of awesome for my own planning process. And the same goes for registries, apparently, so I thought I'd pass along this little lesson-learned tip.

Along the wedding planning path, I finally came to understand that the registry is a really useful tool. We're only listing things we really want and need (nor do I expect gifts at all - I really believe in the idea that "your presence is present enough," but I know that a lot of guests like registries), and I know most of our friends are being equally thoughtful with their registry requests. It's not impersonal to buy a registry gift, it's helpful and appreciated. And while I know that, I still prefer to slightly personalize a registry gift, if possible. Which is why I recently made a beeline for a girlfriend's Target registry coffeepot, since I know coffee and I was pretty excited to accessorize her coffee habit.  I was also excited because the coffeepot was only $35, which left me enough money for a permanent gold tone filter, a coffee bean grinder, an airtight container to store beans for maximum freshness, or beans from my favorite local, organic, fair trade roasting company. (Yes, I am a coffee snob, and darn proud of it)

This would have been a brilliant personalized gift plan, if Target hadn't decided to charge $15 for shipping, thereby wiping out most of my extra accessories budget.  Well eff that shipping charge. I decided to go to the store in person, since I figured she'd prefer additional coffee awesomeness to arrive-in-the-mail gift convenience. (Note: if you decide to buy something offline because find a better deal than the one listed on someone's official registry, let your friends know immediately. My whole genius plan could have been thwarted if someone else decided to click through with an online purchase, thereby leaving the couple with two coffee pots and the hassle of returns.)

However, when I arrived in the store, I was underwhelmed with the coffee pot. And no, this is not from a coffee snob perspective, it was from a looks-cheap-to-the-naked-eye perspective. Whereas online, it had decent reviews and looked sturdy with its brushed stainless steel, in person it was flimsy. It looked like it was made in China by a less than happy factory worker. (Granted, most stuff in our stores is made in China by a disgruntled factory worker, but that doesn't mean it has to look like it.) And I couldn't buy it for her. Even if it was the exact model listed on their registry. And even if the other coffee maker models were more expensive. I couldn't buy a cheap-looking registry gift for a friend. Inexpensive, I can handle (especially when it's a deal) but cheap I cannot.

Instead, I bought her an awesome coffee maker that came out to the same price as the $35 + shipping price from the original registry request. I decided to buy her an accessory too (no, I'm not telling which one, just in case she stops by to read this post before her wedding. Which she probably won't, but it never hurts to be careful.) I also learned an important lesson as we begin to craft our own tangible gift registry*: although internet registries are incredibly convenient, there's probably a real benefit to that in-person laser gun process. It would be nice to confirm that our requested gifts will actually help us build a home together, instead of falling apart the week after the honeymoon into a pile of made-in-China plastic and wrapping.


*We're doing a tangible gift and intangible gift/"alternative" registry. And we're also making it clear that, especially for guests who invested in traveling to join us for the day, that we're simply grateful for the gift of their presence. We want to make it clear that our real excitement  is the opportunity to celebrate our joy with friends and family and not about anticipated wedding gifts.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Guest Post at Souris Mariage

Have you been following all of the amazing guest posts happening over at Souris Mariage? If not, you should be, because it's a pretty amazing line-up of smarty-pants ladies like Angie, P, Lyn, Cupcake Wedding, Robin and me. Yes, today it's my turn to chime in with a guest post about how to take a vacation from wedding planning. So please head on over and let me know if you have any other tips to prepare for, what I'm affectionately calling, Operation Vacation from Wedding Planning Cr*p.

Official Results

I am grateful, humbled, and so d*mn excited all at once because this little personal wedding blog won the Wedding Channel Blog Contest. A Los Angeles Love is the official 2010 Best Overall Wedding Blog. I am officially over the moon. And I am officially shocked and amazed at this outcome. 

While Jason, myself, and our now slightly-less-constrained wedding budget profusely thank you all, I've also been trying to figure out how on earth this little site managed to beat all of its professional, high-traffic competition. By the end of the contest, I was neck and neck with the Wedding Chicks, which receives about 8,000 unique visitors each day. I get significantly fewer hits per day. Significantly. This little site shouldn't even register on the Wedding Chicks radar. This little site couldn't offer its readers all sorts of incentives like store discounts if I won the contest, since, well, I don't have a store. Or sponsors. Or business venture-level traffic numbers.  

But what I apparently have is a small-but-powerful army of readers and friends who really really care. You cared enough to vote multiple times on multiple days and to ask your friends to do the same. All week, I've felt a groundswell of goodwill from this outpouring of support and effort. Yes, a groundswell. Because that's all I can think to call it. A from-the-ground-up push for something different in our wedding-related reading. A push for something beyond beautiful photos. A push for something beyond visual inspiration. A push for heartfelt content, ugly moments of honesty, and the triumph of silliness and joy. I think maybe this was our push to reclaim our weddings for ourselves, even just a little bit, from the business of weddings. It was our stand against the expectations of the WIC for what the Best Wedding Blog (or, by extension, the best wedding) should look like. Most of my twitter retweet "please vote" efforts came from readers (and from a few amazing photographers I now consider friends.) Most of the other contestants' twitter retweet "please vote" requests came from vendors.   

This isn't to disparage what the Wedding Chicks (and other planning and resource-heavy blogs) have created. I love gorgeous photos. I like the occasional inspiration shoot because heck, they inspire me to think more creatively about our wedding (so long as I step away from my web browser before I dissolve into a can't-afford-and-can't-craft-it-and-can't-lose-enough-weight panic of tears.) I really appreciate having a curated site of vendor options that meet a specific and defined aesthetic or ethic. These sites help me plan my wedding more effectively. These sites are generally created and run by amazing women who tend to know a ton about weddings and are genuinely excited to share it. Seriously. I've emailed or met a quite a few of them. Dana at the Broke-Ass Bride is so much fun and so giving in person. Jessica at Budget Savvy Bride was so helpful when I started this blogging thing (and the budget panic thing.) Kat at Rock N' Roll Bride was so sweet when I inadvertently stirred up some boudoir shoot controversy and the internet got angry. And as for Amy at the Wedding Chicks... I bought my first dress from her, and she was the most kick-*ss awesome fun lady ever. She used to be a photographer and insisted on an impromptu photo shoot with me in the dress. I'm a huge fan. 

But their blogs are a lot different than this one. I don't really do photo-heavy posts. I use gorgeous design and striking images to feed my soul, but it's not what drives this blog. I don't really do sponsored posts. I loveloveLOVE the few vendors we've selected to help with our wedding, but vendor love posts don't really drive my content (except for a few overly gushy and excited posts about how much we lovelovelove them.) Instead, this site is just about me and us and our little wedding journey. It's raw and unpolished and looks at wedding planning in the context of my life instead of defining that life as wedding planning (though sometimes it truly feels like the wedding is gobbling up all other contexts).  

This isn't my business. This is my life. And I think, maybe, that's why you voted for me so continuously and that's why I won. Because this wedding planning journey I write about is a bit like your life too, and you're looking for wedding talk that's more than visually inspiring. You're looking for other people who understand that life and weddings are messy, compromised, highly imperfect, and worthwhile all the same. And maybe that's what you get here, and on each of your own personal sites (which I visit and love. Because, if you leave a comment, I'm clicking through to your site to see who you are.) And maybe your votes for me were really a vote for us: the people getting married and struggling with the complexities of this journey.  

Whatever your voting motivations, thank you. And whatever route your own wedding planning journey takes, I hope that you find as much complexity and joy as I've found along mine.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ring Thing

Recently, I had the, um, pleasure of waiting in a two hour line to make a traffic court appointment. The downtown Los Angeles traffic court line is the sort of place where you see lots of t-shits, scruffy jeans, plastic sandals, mothers with young children in tow, and other indicators that most people weren't taking an extra hour of lunch to deal with moving ticket violations.  It was the sort of place where no one looked twice at the man in front of me who was recording hip hop beats into his phone (yes, for the entire two hours.) It was the sort of place where the two people behind me desperately needed to fight their jaywalking ticket to make rent.

I felt actively uncomfortable. Not because of the people, but because my stress about how a few hundred dollars in municipal fines would set back our monthly budget and wedding planning was suddenly thrown in stark perspective. I looked down at my engagement ring, which was purposefully budget-minded but is still rather sparkly, and felt even more uncomfortable. It was the sort of place where my ring felt glaringly out of place. It was the sort of place where my context for "budget-minded" felt rather misguided. And so I swung the synthetic sapphire down towards my palm. Not out of fear. Not out of any self-protective instinct. But because I suddenly felt gaudy, ostentatious, and painfully lucky.

This doesn't usually happen in my professional world, among our friends, or with our two families' communities. Yes, my ring generally feels out of place, but it's generally because I find myself explaining why my center stone isn't a diamond. But I felt absolutely out of place in line downtown. In with a real mix of the entire range of Los Angeles instead of in my relatively privileged subset. And it was at that moment that I finally made up my mind: I want a plain wedding band.

In Jewish tradition, the wedding band is plain. It is supposed to be a solid, uninterrupted, unembellished gold band, to represent hope for a solid, everlasting marriage. But I've been torn on whether this tradition matters enough to me. I'm not someone who follows tradition for tradition's sake. And my engagement ring, while gorgeous and perfect-for-us, was never chosen because it fit my particular sense of personal style. And, while I love it, it's not the most practical ring. (I have a real fear of accidentally scratching my future babies' eyes with the prongs.) So part of me has my heart set on a handcrafted, minimally sparkly, practical-but-beautiful wedding band that I can wear on its own, even around babies. But if I buy the ring I've fallen in love with (in white gold), it won't "match" my engagement ring. And so I briefly considered buying a plain band to stack with the wedding ring I love, but that I could also wear with my engagement ring. I recognized that it's more than a little greedy, but weddings have a way of making small greedy impulses seem reasonable. They make the silly seem entirely necessary, and provide ready-set justifications for three entire rings. Even when you know better. And even when your ring budget is modest.

But standing in line at traffic court reminded me that I'd never actually wanted an engagement ring in the first place. It reminded me that there's real beauty in a simple, straightforward, slim band of gold that indicates my marriage to the world versus announcing it.  There's something special about a ring I can wear anywhere I feel like, without feeling self conscious at an industry conference full of men or in a waiting room full of mixed-class people. I can dress it up with my engagement ring if I'd like or wear it on its own. A strong, unbroken band of gold symbolizing the hope for our marriage. That's more than enough for me.

And heck, if I'm still hung up on all the pretty rings I couldn't buy for our wedding, we've got quite a few anniversaries and celebratory ring excuses to look forward to over the course of our lifetime.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Down from the Ledge

This week, my inner wedding dialogue has gone something like this: "grumble grumble blue plastic plates grumble budget grumble well at least I have pretty papel picado OH NO WHAT IF THE PAPEL PICADO DOESNT MATCH THE PLATES deep breath research hotels effity eff all these hotels are expensive, okay research shuttles, effity eff these are expensive too, grumble grumble why the eff do succulent plants cost $5 per plant??!! grumble I hate the black plastic chairs at my venue but GRUMBLE BUDGET GRUUUUUUMBLE my wedding is going to be mismatched and uuuuuuuuugly and I know that shouldn't matter but WAAAAAAA."

In other words, this week was not exactly a shining moment in my wedding keep-it-together-ness. Which is why, at times like this, it really helps to have sane and fabulous wedding friends. Like Emilia Jane, our DOC, but more importantly a wedding friend who just got married herself. I emailed her in an angst-ridden panic about all of the above. And she made it better.

She reminded me that our reception room is stunning (yes, yes it is)

photo by Chris Soltis, who does amazing LA nightlife and downtown photography

She told me she actually likes the blue, BPA-free, recycled, reusable, dishwasher-safe plastic plates (psst - they're on sale right now, in case you have picnic or, um, inexpensive eco-friendly wedding needs.)


And she especially likes the plates because they'll tie in with the bold color papel picado strands and So Cal fiesta theme we already have, especially if we're smart about the napkins and tablecloths (I'd forgotten about those, and smart choices in linens could help tone down the color-everywhere effect and tie them in together.)


When I panicked about how to tie in the black plastic chairs with sliver trim (yes the ones in the reception room photo) with our wooden ikea boxes and succulent centerpieces, she reminded me that I could paint the boxes white or find white planters. Oh. Yes. I think that would work well and solve the chair clashing issue without "needing" to find money to rent white chairs. I was getting nervous I'd have to give up succulent/mod fiesta dreams to match the chairs. And yes, while white chairs would be lovely, I don't know that they're worth $375 of lovely when my budget's strapped already.

Oh, and she reminded me that no one will care about the decor once they're actually at the wedding because they'll be too busy talking and eating and drinking and dancing. She did warn me that, if I'm planning to invite Martha Stewart, the decor might be an issue. Yeah, not really a concern. I think this will all work out okay.

So, in case you're like me and you've been running around in a panic about wedding things you know are insignificant but really truly seem to matter and are altogether terrible and awful, I'm advocating an email or two to a fabulous wedding friend. Someone who can talk you down from the ledge you knew was silly to stand on in the first place. Someone who can make sanity real again. And then I think you should thank them profusely, because I've never felt more grateful for people (like Emilia and all of you) who can sympathize with freakouts about plastic chairs and plates and yet can still point me the direction of sane and pretty.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gratitude

Thank you. Thank you all for each and every vote you submitted to help me win the "Best Real Bride Blog" Category over at the Wedding Channel. My wedding budget is now $100 richer and my soul is full of joy (which is even more important, though that $100 budget help is really nice too! Yay chuppah supplies!) And thank you for each and every vote you've been submitting to help me win Best Overall Blog. This vote is the final contest for the $1000 grand prize. This is a wedding shuttle. This is our wine budget. This is huge. 

But even more, this is huge because I never expected my blog to be anything more than a little place to sort through my wedding and marriage musings. I've been lucky to slowly realize that it's so much more than that now. It's not huge in a "I get 5,000 visitors every day" way or a "I make money from advertising sales" way, because neither of those are true. But it's huge because it's so much more than I ever expected or hoped for. This isn't a site like A Practical Wedding or Offbeat Bride or Indie Bride, which are sites and communities that inspire me each day, but it's my link into a community of smart, sane, thrifty, conflicted, fabulous, creative, challenged and challenging women (and men). I treasure your blogs and the conversations that happen among us. I treasure your comments and emails. I'm amazed that my words resonate with so many people, and it gives me strength.

This blog has helped me find my voice. I feel more brave in my convictions - about our wedding and about my life in general. You challenge me. You support me. You remind me that my independent-minded ideas are valuable and valued, even when wedding stress and emotions can obscure my truths. You have convinced me that my words matter and that I am a writer. Not a professional writer, perhaps, but someone who enjoys playing and using the written word (sometimes to better effect than others). You have helped me achieve writing goals and wedding goals and life goals because you chime in with ideas and cheer for me along the way.

And so, I feel like a winner already. In this final voting round, I'm up against nine blogs: some of them are professional enterprises, many of them have inspired me along this wedding journey, and some of them are written by women who have been unbelievably helpful with personal assistance and support. I'm in a bit of shock and honored to be included with this group of blogs. It's definitely an underdog story. I don't have a pretty professional design. I don't post how-to guides or photos that can help direct your planning efforts. I just write about my own wedding journey, framed by questions about gender, sustainability, art, and economics, because that's what I know. It's a different blog altogether. I'm not sure how to really compare my sanity check posts, wedding stress overload rants, please-help requests, brainstorm ideas, and lessons-from-my-life posts with their sites. I won't be surprised or upset if I don't win, because it's such a strange competition filled with sites that are each incredible for such different reasons.

But if I do win, I can only promise you that it matters. It matters more than the $1000 prize. It matters in the way that you've each helped shift the trajectory of one little life of a woman who has been inspired by all of you. So thank you. Thank you to the Wedding Channel for hosting this opportunity. Thank you to those readers who nominated me. Thank you for everyone who has and continues to vote. And thank you for so much more.

Voting closes Friday, July 23. The winner will be announced on July 27.

Out of Town Bag Alternative

I like the out of town bag. I really do. I like the non-hotel priced bottle of water and packet of hangover-appropriate Tylenol and cookies. (mmm cookies.) I like the local attraction info, maps, bus route info, rehearsal dinner information, and phone numbers. And I especially like the handwritten welcome notes I've received in some out of town bags at other weddings. 

However, I do not have a real budget for out of town bags. Nor am I entirely comfortable with throwing more paper bags into the world (though these might make a nice, affordable, canvas alternative that's sized for reusable gift bags.) Nor do I love the idea of buying single-use, chemical-laden water bottles when the hotel is likely to have glasses for water.

But I still love that packet of pertinent information and the handwritten card (and the cookie, obviously.) They always make me feel truly welcomed by the couple. It's the sort of gesture that creates hospitality and warmth that stays with you long after the event ends. Feeling individually welcomed and valued has no price.

So I'm thinking we may go with Out of Town Envelopes as a waste-free(er), practical-but-still-sentiment-inducing alternative.  I can write a handwritten greeting. I can make it pretty with a stamp or fun label (perhaps a double print of our eventual invitation label design and mail merge? or perhaps I won't care when I'm assembling these at midnight?) I may try to bake cookies to hand out with each envelope at hotel check-in.  Like the Doubletree chocolate chip cookies, but without the Doubletree getting involved. (And by "I may try to bake cookies" I mean "I will try to wrangle my baking goddess friends to "help" while I eat cookie dough and make a mess with flour.") 

I think this compromise embodies the heart of the Out of Town bag without all of expense, disposability, or when-will-wedding-cr*p-stop-taking-over-my-spare-room insanity-inducing potential. Also, cookies. Everyone will be happy about our wedding and can forget about horrid airport stories if they're greeted with cookies, right?

What are your thoughts on out of town bags or envelopes? And, more importantly, do you have any tried-and-true cookie recipes to share?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I Am Not Cheap: A Class Manifesto About Weddings

I had a complete meltdown the other night about tableware and glassware rentals. A chest-wrenching, uncontrollable sobfest over how many glasses to rent/buy/beg/borrow/steal for our wedding*, mixed with a desperate attempt to convince Jason, my mother, and myself that plastic** tableware is a perfectly acceptable serving option for a wedding. We're not getting married in a ballroom, we're getting married in a rustic setting with taco truck catering, for goodness sake. Plastic tableware might actually suit the event better than anything else. And, even if it weren't a simple nature-fulled, taco truck event, who cares what the food and drinks are served in, so long as they're free and tasty, right?

Yeah, I care. But due to practical concerns (budget, logistics, staffing needs vs DIY) I am willing to get over it. But I haaaaate that I care, and by care I mean I really truly care. And I hate that other people care (which they do, and have already expressed to me) and that they'll judge me for those practical choices. And I hate that I'm letting other people affect my practical-minded decision making. Because, at some level, I'm fully aware that this is all about appearances and not substance. Personally, I wouldn't blink twice at a wedding with plastic utensils so long as the utensils enabled me to eat tasty food. Especially now that I know that our bare-bones rental estimate for basic chairs, plates, dessert plates, glasses utensils and tablecloths is currently running around $3,000.

To anyone not in the throes of wedding planning, a sobfest over plastic cups probably seems a bit excessive. But to those of us in the middle of this mess, we know it isn't really about glasses, budgets or so-called bridezeilla behavior. It's about a whole lot more. Namely, class.

Jason and I both grew up in upper middle class neighborhoods and circles, although both our families are probably more accurately described as financially middle class. Therefore, we both grew up with an interesting combination of upper middle class social expectations and comparatively constrained family finances. (I want to make it clear I'm not boo-hooing. I feel incredibly lucky about the home, family and community I grew up in.) Although neither Jason nor I ever felt like our life was lacking, I think we're both highly attuned to upper class class expectations. And those expectations, in case you're wondering, are costly. They are far more costly than our current financial state would permit spending (again, we feel incredibly lucky, just not wealthy).

Frankly, however, I don't give a fig about modern American upper middle class cultural norms and their associated costs. Jason and I want what we want, not what we're "supposed to" want. We've worked through a lot of hard conversations and decisions about our economic, social, social justice, job-related, time-related, and personal values to get here. We're comfortable with our decisions, even though some go against the grain of our upbringing and, yes, our class origins.

Or, more accurately, we were comfortable with our decisions, until the d*mn wedding came along. And now we're "supposed to" provide an elegant, class-appropriate wedding for our families and friends, despite the fact that we're not elegant and that we're not earning upper middle class salaries. (Heck, I'd even argue that the standard wedding expectations plastered all over blogs and magazines aim for upper middle class/upper class sensibilities when most of us aren't earning the salaries to support it.) Professional florals, musical entertainment, open bars, ballgown dresses, professional photography, coordinated details, and plated meals are expensive. Upper middle class expensive. They are not remotely attainable for the majority of us without some serious DIY and creativity, and yet that's what our "cheapness" is being judged against.

Our wedding is expensive, despite the fact that we're pushing back against standard wedding expectations. We are decidedly not in the $10,000 budget range, though I initially had fleeting dreams of achieving that mythical budget. With 150 people in Los Angeles and a serious aversion to DIY catering, there's no way we're getting out for much less than $10,000 on food, drink and staff alone (yes, that's taco truck catering and beer/wine pricing at a DIY/BYOB/anything goes location). But we've decided to spend $10,000 on food/drink/minimal service because I'm not cooking for 150 people or asking my friends to clean at the end of the party. It's a lot of money, even before I add in the costs for everything that isn't food or drink related. I feel like I'm constantly worried about money - not because we don't have it, but because it's the most I've ever spent on a single thing in my entire life and it's terrifying.

But now, I also have this added pressure of feeling cheap because I wondered if maybe, just maybe, we could use plastic plates, utensils and glasses. Unfortunately, it feels cheap to some key players involved in this wedding. And, although I recognize the feeling of cheapness myself, I think there's something truly wrong with this situation. When you can't have a wedding with your large family in a large city without spending between $20,000-30,000 on an event that still feels cheap to particular class sensibilities, there's something really warped about our social expectationsWe are not cheap. We have cut a lot of excess and made some really hard decisions about our priorities and values, but we ultimately valued a community-filled celebration and we're spending a pretty penny to achieve it. We are stretching to the edge of our financial comfort zone to provide a tasty, boozy, safe, and fun wedding for a ton of people.

Yet I still have to defend my plastic cup suggestions against perceptions of cheapness. Granted, the cups are blue because they're the only legitimately eco-friendly, reusable plastic cups I could find*** but, as the wise blogger Accordions and Lace once pointed out, aesthetics are not ethics. In choosing wallet-friendly, waste-and-chemical-friendly cups as an alternative to petroleum-based, BPA-laden disposable plastics that go straight to our landfills, I am apparently displaying cheapness by betraying standard wedding aesthetics. I can't believe this is a battle I need to fight when looking at $3,000 rental quotes and $10,000 food and drink estimates. I can't believe this matters anymore when we know so many people who have been affected by this ongoing, no-real-end-in-sight recession. I can't believe that I'm feeling pressure to prioritize waste (since clear, less ugly, disposable plastic would be a more acceptable option, apparently) over my genuine commitment to more sustainable living. And I refuse to believe that ugly-but-sustainable plastic cups or asking guests to reuse glass cups are a real betrayal of anything that truly matters in the world, aside from outdated cultural expectations of class and aspirational living that I'd hoped had shifted with the onset of the recent economic sea change. But no, I'm still battling with being perceived as cheap, tacky, and classless despite my attempts at graciously hosting a giant mass of people.

In my humble, wedding-stressed opinion, all references to "cheap" or "tacky" weddings and the imputed "classiness" can go to heck because this is my real financial life and I am trying to live honestly and within my darn means. And that's not an impulse that ever deserves public scorn.

*in case you were wondering, it's about three wine glasses, three beer glasses, one water glass, and one non-alcoholic beverage glass per person, since no one remembers to hold onto their alcohol glasses at parties and no one really cares about water. I tried to suggest wine glass charms/reusing the same glasses and was entirely shot down.
**we were focused on eco-friendly plastic/alternatives to disposables, since sustainability is an important issue for me. I'm going to talk more about specific sustainable tableware options and the pros/cons of each option in an upcoming post. But I found one particular plastic to be the most sustainable/best for our needs.
***Yes, I know about compostable cups that come in more palatable colors than blue.  But we don't have an industrial composting option in Los Angeles, so the cups would go straight to the landfill, where nothing biodegrades, including theoretically biodegradable items like food scraps, wood, etc.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Favors

From a conversation with my Mother, Summer 2009:
"Favors? You get party favors at weddings now? Why? Isn't that for birthday parties? Aren't you giving them food and drink already? I don't understand. We never had party favors for weddings. Why do I want a glass figurine of two owls? Or a picture frame with their wedding date on it? This is just silly."

From a conversation with my Mother, Summer 2010:
"Ooh Becca! I have a great idea for your favors! See, it's a template that says Love. You print it out and wrap it around a chocolate bar! It's simple and inexpensive and cute!"

Sigh. Weddings officially addle the brain of anyone within a two generation radius. But I'm still not doing favors. I have enough to deal with, DIY, and pay for without usually-thrown-away knicknacks or superfluous food. I sometimes feel like favors are the sneaky last-ditch effort of the wedding industry to finally break us of our will to resist. Soul finally broken, I will sit down like a good weddingbot and develop a DIY timeline to make my pocketfold invitation suites, coordinated drink flags for signature drinks, charming bunting, hanging mason jar candle holders, a birdcage veil, escort cards, out of town bags, an ipod playlist, and a floral scheme that matches our wedding palette. At some point, overwhelmed because my DIY projects look like DIY kindergarten crafts, I will break down in tears and become a good little wedding consumer who just hires someone to take care of the mess because I can't handle it anymore and I just need some d*mn sleep already.

And it all started with the "easy" chocolate bar favors that "only" cost $150 ($.50 per chocolate bar, $.50 for bar for paper, color printing and glue sticks, 150 guests) and the complete loss of sanity during the 1am assembly session during which you realize that you're already having enough sugar at the dessert buffet to destroy a diabetic ten times over so why the hell are you bothering with candy bar favors too?

Miss Manners agrees. "Etiquette has never thought of weddings as comparable to children's birthday parties, where guests might need consolation for not being the center of attention... You owe them only the hospitality of the occasion."  Indeed. We're not doing favors. We're focusing on a heartfelt receiving line (or receiving area, more likely), great food, free-flowing wine and beer, a great party, transportation, and genuine thank you card sentiments.  That $150 and 1am freakout is best saved for wedding stuff that matters*. Like our attempt to grow and design succulent centerpieces, obviously.


* If favors are something that matters to you and they are truly reflective of your relationship, then I am fully supportive of your project efforts. Different wedding stuff matters to different people. I just despise the notion that favors are expected.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Merging Identities

I swore I wouldn't be one of those women whose lives get so intermingled with their husbands that they no longer have a separate identity. I was going to maintain my own friends. I would never have a couple picture as my profile pic on Facebook. I would never keep a wedding photo as my profile pic for more than a month after the wedding. I would never get a joint email account. 

Hahahahahaha.

I decided it was about time to take down the Facebook profile photo from my 30th birthday party in May, but I couldn't find any good recent photos to replace it. It turns out that the only flattering pictures of me over the past year all include Jason. I have tons of solo photos, but I despise them for one reason or another. And then, there's that ever-more-compelling option of using one of the amazing photos... that includes Jason. And possibly a hug or some other equally cutesy lovey cr*p. But they are recent and flattering and available. And so, for the first time, I was tempted to just one anyhow. Except, damnit, it's MY facebook profile, not OUR Facebook profile. And I'm not one of those women. Right?

I'm starting to realize that the lines are getting blurred, and it's harder to keep certain things separate. We just signed up for a joint email address to facilitate wedding RSVPs and long-term bill paying. Although the gmail account will forward to both of our individual emails, I felt really torn about it. It makes really smart logistical/shared information sense for a household, but I still I felt like I was losing this little piece of my independence. And I really hope my friends never use that email after their wedding rsvp. Because it's really important to me to have a space for privacy - not to hide anything, since I figure we'll probably end up sharing passwords at some point - but just to have a place that's mine.

For the moment, the Facebook picture is just mine. And my career is mine... except if I want/am forced to change, in which case the choices become ours. And my friends are becoming ours and his are becoming mine and it's all just becoming a large extended social group. And the bills and healthcare insurance decisions are ours. And the responsibilities of life are ours. Jointly. Together. There's no line anymore for so much of it. My choices affect his. His choices affect me. I may be keeping my name but this is very much a partnership. And it's getting harder to figure out my own personal space, and even if I care about it as much as I used to. I like coming home to Jason. I like sharing couchspace as we work on our own projects. And I like knowing that we're in this together.

So I'm figuring out my new lines in the sand. I'm figuring out how it feels to be someone's partner in every sense of the word.  I'm gaining so much, and my life is immeasurably enriched by it, but I'm saying goodbye to impulsive solo travels and complete career independence and the ability to stay out until 1am (or even just 10pm) without phoning anyone. After 26 years of rather fierce independence and inability to allow anyone to get me chicken soup while I was sick, I'm actually comfortable with it this shift. I don't really feel like I'm fighting to hold onto myself because my priorities have naturally shifted towards Us (with a healthy dose of Me and cheering for Him.)

Although I swear I will take that wedding pic down after it's been up a month. Promise.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Popularity Contests

I hate popularity contests. Really and truly. I kinda just opted out in high school and went to an arts school instead. So I'm not good at asking for this or marketing myself or whatever. But, it turns out that I'd like to win this Wedding Channel Contest thing. Not for the popularity (which skeeves me out a bit, and I'm not really looking for validation) and not for the competitive aspect (I get the sense that my blog is really different than the other blogs in my category, so I'm not comparing myself to them) but because my wedding budget would really appreciate it. Really and truly. Also, I love the written word and I'd like to think that smart words still matter, even in the photo-heavy wedding world. So, if you agree at all, I'd really appreciate it if you voted again. And, per my mother (who has been obsessively voting since last Friday. Hi Mom!) apparently you get one vote every four hours.Voting ends tomorrow at 11:59 EST.

I'm in second place right now and, even if I don't win, I am so grateful and overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and voting and amazing personal feedback I've already received from all of you. So thank you. This entire experience has been amazing.

If An Elementary School Kid Can Make It?

I am generally DIY-averse. I know my limitations and I know most projects get started with hopeful glee and abandoned halfway through in utter frustration and self-hatred. (Except for poms. For some reason I am a pom-making genius.)

Anyhow, I'm always on the prowl for uber-easy DIY. Like, throw-some-flowers-in-a-mason-jar level DIY. And, while these stunning mobiles from Frazier &Wing are significantly more labor intensive, if an elementary school class can make them as an art project, maybe I can too? Maybe? Or maybe not, since thinking about the knot tying on either side of each individual piece of paper/figuring out another elegant way to secure the paper just-so would kill me. So maybe I can buy them from Frazier & Wing instead. Because dang, these are awesome.

All images from the incredibly talented Frazier & Wing, at her blog.

And here is the elementary school kid art concoction I mentioned, which was inspired by the mobiles above:

Blah blah, the details don't matter. I know. But I still think about how I can use the wedding to collect/make sustainable/affordable/easy-but-impactful pretties that can decorate our home or parties for years to come. And, um, I love these pretties. Especially the branch-hanging mobiles.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Real Wedding Joy

We're not getting married in a temple. If my parents had been paying for our wedding, I'm pretty sure my mother would have insisted on the cost and sanity-saving benefits of getting married at our synagogue with a reception in the temple social hall.  This is one of the main reasons I pushed so hard for Jason and me to finance the wedding ourselves: it felt vitally important to us to have an outdoor wedding in a location that was intrinsically prettier and more meaningful (our site is emotionally meaningful to us) than a basic reception hall at the temple. I wanted it to be beautiful. I wanted it to feel like us and look like my backyard wedding visions. And I wanted this outdoor beauty to be seeped in our progressive Jewish rituals with a ceremony we craft with our Rabbi. I thought this would be our perfect wedding, far more than any synagogue-based ceremony and celebration.

And it will be perfect for us, because it's ours. But, now that I'm farther along in this wedding journey, I realize that the synagogue-and-social-hall wedding would have been perfect too. I've tried to tell myself time and time again that Love wins out over Pretty every time. I know it's true. But I don't really know it in my core. I've held tight to our outdoor wedding plans to the exclusion of several simpler options. And then, I saw this wedding photographed by Kelly Prizel, and I finally really understood.

I generally stay away from photo-heavy posts, because you can turn to 1000 other wedding sites for visual inspiration. But sometimes, pictures are exactly what I need to make my musings feel real and connect me back to our own personal truths. In a highly professionalized, photo-heavy online wedding world, church and temple weddings get short shrift. The "details" at these weddings are about connecting to thousands of years of tradition instead of "branded" aisle runners (though you can certainly have both, of course, if that's your, um, thing). Thousands of years of history don't really fit in with the blog crush over the newest trends.

So today, I thought it would be nice to have a visual reminder that these weddings matter too, and that they are special and stunning for reasons that are hard to capture on detail-focused blogs. This wedding is probably more akin to the way my parents or grandparents probably got married - in family-focused, non-detail-centric, religious* events - and these rituals and joys deserve more blogland celebration. This wedding showed me that I would have been just as happy getting married at our synagogue and with a plain social hall reception. This wedding reminded me that any wedding celebrated in a simple, unadorned basement (temple owned, or otherwise) can be alive with love, ritual, joy, revelry, beauty, emotion, and everything that really matters to me about a wedding.

D'Alizza and Lonny met at salsa club in Miami. After they fell in love with each other, D'Alizza (who is Dominican) also fell in love with Judaism and had an Orthodox conversion.  She was really excited to showcase to her friends and family what an Orthodox wedding was, and to showcase to her religious community how vibrant and rich Dominican culture is.  D'Alizza and Lonny got married at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, an amazing non-denominational Jewish space in Washington, DC. Their Orthodox community helped them plan and execute the wedding. It was truly a communal affair.

And their reception in the temple basement is the most stunning burst of joy and love and dance I've seen captured in ages, and their intercultural Dominican and Jewish party seemed to be just about perfect. Although our ceremony will be Reform (which is a more progressive line of Judaism), seeing these photos by the incredibly talented Kelly Prizel immediately linked me to why we're having a Jewish wedding and to the beauty in our shared traditions and rituals. They reminded me that the party is in the people and not in a pretty location or elegant decor or perfect dress**. These are things I know. But these are the sort of photos I turn back to again and again and again to really remind myself that our wedding only needs to be about our truths: the ritual matters, the love matters, the people matter, the joy matters, and that I really want our photography to capture the story of the day and not the details.


And, because I completely fell in love with the photos posted on Wedding Yentas, I contacted Kelly to find out more. In Kelly's own words,

"While they did have a beautiful ceremony venue, they partied it up in the synagogue basement. Yes they had pretty things but it was the intense connection and joy and forever commitment that blew me away. D'Alizza is one of the most expressive, excited brides I've ever met- she was literally jumping up and down with joy after coming off of the bimah. I'm also a convert to Judaism from Catholicism, so D'Alizza and I immediately bonded. I told her the day of the wedding, I've never seen such a beautiful Jewish bride and never been so convinced that two people were each other's "beshert" (true love.) Plus, between the Orthodox and the Dominicans they know how to party. I was happy all day photographing it because they were both just so happy to be marrying each other, having a Jewish ceremony, and you can't fake that. There's a lot you can fake, but honest joy is not one of them."

And, as an extra treat, please go take a look at the full slideshow here. I've gone back to it at least ten times, and it's made me tear up each and every time. Kelly also sent the links to videos from the wedding that capture celebration and joy at their purest. These snippets hit the core of something so much more essential about weddings than we generally have the chance to see here in weddingblog land, and I've been reveling in the ceremony and joy bursting out of each moment. These pictures are keeping me sane and keeping me focused on what matters.And these photos are making me yearn for our own wedding to happen right now, and for all the important parts and emotions that I'm looking forward to most of all.




*in my family, you probably have to go back to my mother's parents and my father's grandparents to find serious religion, but the rituals, traditions and visual symbols of Judaism have framed my progressive Jewish upbringing and are incredibly emotionally and culturally resonant.
**although yes, can we all take a moment to gasp about that dress and the way it came alive with D'Alizza's dancing? I truly think there's an entire party in that dress too. Da-yum.

Monday, July 12, 2010

DJ Splurge Excitement

I've been a bit of a downer with my budget "woes" in the last few weeks. And while it's entirely understandable that I'm having momentary panic attacks (the "total" number on our budget spreadsheet is frankly terrifying) I keep reminding myself that we're choosing to spend this money. While there's no way a venue, dinner, and drinks are ever going to be inexpensive for 150 people, we could have stopped there with our bare-bones needs. However, we're also choosing make additional expenditures on splurges that matter. And, even though I pale a bit when thinking about the deposit checks we've been writing lately, I am honestly giddy about our chosen splurges. Like, five-year-old-on-a-five-day-sugar-high giddy.

You already know that our venue isn't much of a splurge. And I'm getting happier and happier with cheaper dress options by the day. But we really are putting extra money into our guests. We're renting shuttles so no one has to brave the twisty canyon roads after too much booze. And (eeee! here comes the sugar-rush joy!) we just signed the contract with the most superfabulousamazing DJ in the entire dang world. Like, I could not be more excited about the music we're having at our wedding.

Michael Antonia, aka the Human Jukebox, aka founding member of The Flashdance wedding artist collective is going to be DJing our wedding, and my glee is at the just-mainlined-twelve-pixie-sticks level. No joke.

When we started this process, I ruled our budget with an ironclad grip. No wedding cake - we can't afford it and we have tons of friends with baking skills. No florist - we can't afford it and we can grow our own succulents. No DJ - we can't afford it and Jason has the best music collection and party playlist skills of anyone I've ever met.

Yeah, that "no DJ" directive lasted about two seconds after we heard Michael DJ at the Kick Ass Cake Bash event.  Jason couldn't even join in the conversation because he kept getting distracted by the DJ set in the next room. After the event, Jason not-so gently reminded me that this is his wedding too and that, after the ceremony, music is his number one wedding priority. Music has always been Jason's primary passion. As in, Jason's a musician, used to work for a major record label, and still helps independent artists as a side gig. As in, once we heard Michael spin, trying to ipod our own wedding was a lost cause. And trying to hire one of those generic djs was an equally lost cause. Instead, we get someone who describes his background and business venture like so:

Flashdance is an idea that has been brewing for nearly a decade... Way back in the day Whitney [of Our Labor of Love Photography] and Michael [our genius DJ] dreamed of having their own company together...

We didn’t get into this business because we thought it would be an easy way to earn a buck, we did it because our weddings were the most amazing days of our lives, and so much fun, that we decided to trade in the grind of corporate events, music festivals, and nightclubs, to make love and happiness the biggest part of our lives.

The music that I play at any event is determined soley by the people in attendance. I can confidently cover the last 50 years of soul, jazz, funk, & rock. More recent stuff includes mainstream and underground 80's, 90's and current hip-hop, electronic, disco, house-party hits, and dance music of every variety.

I AM NOT going to tell corny jokes on the mic
I AM NOT going to play trance at your wedding!
I AM NOT going to play desperate, crappy disco to try to “Please everyone”
I AM NOT GOING TO PLAY DESPERATE CRAPPY ANYTHING!
I AM NOT going to be an ego driven “artist” and only play what “I” want to hear
I AM NOT going to be a shitty wedding DJ!
I AM NOT going to play thug hip hop at your dinner (unless of course…)
I AM NOT going to play ipods/cds

I AM gonna play VINYL (remember that format?)
I AM going to play the perfect music for the mood of the people in attendance.
I AM going to be able to read the crowd and build the energy accordingly.
I AM going to seemlessly blend from dinner to dance party
I AM going to make you dance your ass off.
I AM going to make you laugh
I AM going to make you cry
I AM going to make your friends jealous.
I AM going to create lifelong memories… 


Um, YEEEEEEEEES PLEASE??!!

Especially when Michael makes wedding DJ sets like this!!!

And when he creates monthly playlists and curates guest mixes that keep me sane at work, like these!!!


So, we're splurging. Big time. And we couldn't be more excited about it, because it's right for us and all our love-to-party, music nerd and artist friends. We're investing in a party. And we're totally high on pixie-stick style joy about our DJ.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thank You!

So, um, I'm a finalist over at the Wedding Channel's Best Real Blog Awards. I have no idea who nominated me, and I had no idea this contest was even going on until Elizabeth emailed me this morning. (Apparently voting opened a few days ago?) And, while I think it's a little amusing that the Wedding Channel picked my non-froufy musings about marriage and my occasional anti WIC rants over other more, ahem, standard bridal blogs, I am entirely touched. Not just because of the contest (though winning would be more than a little rad, mostly because of the grand prize thing) but because someone out here went and nominated me and some of you are even voting.

I love you guys. I would have packed up and turned inward to a private personal blog a long time ago if it weren't for this amazing community. I would have driven Jason and my poor local friends nuts with stress about succulents and wedding dress shopping and guest list horrors while they attempted to feign interest in my idiocy. Instead, I have this amazing little community of brides and grooms with whom I get to work through these big and small picture questions about this life transition. This has been more rewarding than I could ever have imagined when I started this little blog about a year ago.

So thank you. To each and every reader and to each and every person who voted, thank you!

And, if you want to help me win the grand prize of a $1000 from Amazon (which really, would be so freaking awesome and would really help with some of the wedding budget crunch), please go and vote for me here, until July 16. I already wish I could reach through the computer and hug each and every one of you personally for reading and commenting and emailing. And, since I feel like today I want to break down the computer screen with that thankyouthankyouthankyou desire, I'm going to find a better way of saying thank you for all being so awesome, at some point very soon.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thrifty Dress Thoughts

BOOM

That was the sound of my monthly budget exploding from some rather significant expenses that all decided to hit within a few short weeks of each other. While we do have savings, apart from our wedding account, these were the sort of expenses that sent me into money panic and cost-cutting mode. I hate spending large quantities of money. I haaaaate seeing my bank account shrink. And it made me re-think some of the more expensive aspects of this wedding that I maybe don't want to shrink my bank account for. Like the dress.

So, this month is the month-of-exploring-cheapo-dress-options. Specifically, I saw a wedding dress I'd been half-eyeing from The Limited go on sale this past 4th of July weekend, and I figured "what the heck." For $200 ($100 off), it seems worth it to buy and try, since return shipping is only $6 if it doesn't work out. I'm going to make an appointment at the J Crew at the Grove (in LA, there's one J Crew where you can try on wedding dresses.) I'm going to order a few dresses from Nordstrom. And then, I'm going to compare them all to my two front-runner, sub-$1000 simple dresses from nearby salons and I'll see how I feel. Because if I can find a dress I love for about $300 instead of $800 (which is what my favorite salon dress is running, without tax or alterations) then I'll feel pretty darn awesome about my wedding attire, in more ways than one. At this point, my thrifty nature is in full gear singling LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU to all nagging thoughts of designer dress envy.

Remember, my event is early Spring, casual and outdoors. If this were a fancy-pants blog, my site might be described as "rustic-chic" and the theme as Modern So Cal Fiesta but, since this isn't a fancy-pants blog, let's just go with hilltop non-profit setting with papel picado and succulent decor. I need a dress that works within those design/atmosphere confines, that is comfortable enough to dance in all night, that doesn't have a train (since it's an outdoor site), that works with awesome accessories, and that has a flatters my slim-shoudered, pear shaped body. And yes, I definitely want a long dress. In general, I love short dresses. But for my wedding, I'm really feeling the elegance and longer lines of a long dress with my 5'9" height. Here are the current contenders.


This is currently my front-runner dress. I think it is simple-but-stylish, flattering, and classic all at once. Also, I could rock some personal accessories with an appropriate casual-but-awesome feel. However, it is $810. However, I also kinda love it. So all dresses are getting judged against this one and how fun it felt to twirl when I visited Bella Bridesmaid in Los Angeles (I highly recommend them!).


The model doesn't do this dress any favors, but it was entirely twirl-worthy and gorgeous in person. However, is was also $935, which is why it got slightly nudged down to second place after Saja. Also, I my shoulders and my waist are my best features, and I think the Saja dress does a slightly better job of emphasizing both.


This is the dress I ordered from the Limited. Normally $300, I caught it on a 4th of July sale for $200 and figured it was worth it to see if the ruffles make me happy in person or just in theory. Also, I bet I can eat and drink to my heart's content in this dress without worrying about unflattering later-night food-and-alcohol pooch. Not that I'll care, at that point in the evening, but the fewer photos I have to delete, the better.


It has the mermaid shape I like, a sweetheart neckline, ruffles, and a modern-casual flair. Also, it's $300. Survey says: definite possibility.


Flattering neckline (I like the harder-cut sweetheart-strapless options), drapey chiffon bits, and a $200 price tag. Yes, please.


This is obviously my out-of-left-field contender. But I like the mod ballgown thing here. And, if you visit the Nordstrom website, you'll see some really fun modern detailing on the bodice. It feels fun, playful, festive, and somehow still right. Don't ask me to explain. Also, it's $800, so I'd have to reaaaaaaally love it to keep it in contention.


And lastly, I tried this Sue Wong dress in-person at a local Bloomingdales and fell in love. Really, the flowy kick-out bit at the bottom and the sparkles did me in (yes, I was surprised by the sparkle-love too, but since I didn't feel like a chandelier had exploded all over the dress, I felt it was understated enough.) I fell in love enough to run home and gush with Jason about how I, the saleslady, and all the women in the dressing room were blown away.  Alas, Jason was not. He got that wrinkly nose look that belied his "well, if you like it, you should get it" words. So, it is not meant to be mine, but I thought you should all know that it's currently on sale for $328 at Bloomingdales.

My thrifty soul has some hard decisions to make. Any additional recommendations to help me out?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Thoughts

It's been a long week. It's the sort of week where my health went entirely wonky, we're still living in my parents house for fear of pesticides, and I had to confront some old emotions that got dredged up out of nowhere that forced me to deal with some Big Stuff. This week meant that I checked out a bit from the blog and from weddings because I've just needed to pull inward instead. I have nothing light and fluffy to say, but nor do I have any interest in wallowing further in the uber-serious posts of the last few days.

The only things that have helped are Jason, who has supported my really challenging healing efforts, and our cats, who are treating my parents two-story house like a massive playground of awesome. Jason has run errands for me at 9pm when I had no energy, has shifted around our holiday weekend plans to support my needs, and has endured conversations about my weird body issues with humor and grace.  The cats pounce on my feet as we come down the stairs (they really think we can't see them "hiding" on the bottom stair) and drop pieces of dry food in our shoes in an effort to play that usually entices me to tease them with strings and tummy rubs.

With everything that's going on, we're both taking time to process the Big Stuff I wrote about this week and more. And so, I wanted to end the week on a hopeful note about these questions, with a quote Jason sent me from Louis CK, a comedian who draws his materials from the real-life stress of having a family. He's talking about why he uses family for the source of his comedy:
"I mean, everything that's difficult, you should be able to laugh about. And the reason it's difficult to have a family is because it's important. I mean, if I didn't love my kids, is would be easy to raise them. But I love 'em, so you gotta do it the hard way. It's important to you, so you do it the hard way. It's important."
But it was Jason's discussion of the quote that really made me glow with quiet joy and appreciation. 
"I think that concept applies to marriage.  Maintaining a strong marriage can be difficult, but we put in the effort because it's important.  Living in the same house as someone is easy.  Some people can "coast" in their marriage, and they might do OK for a while.  But a really strong, solid partnership is hard.  It takes work.  But we do it because it matters to us, and we become better as a result.  And to make the difficult parts a little easier, sometimes we have to laugh about it."
We do. We truly do laugh about it and I've never had a better time with bad puns and third-grade bodily-function humor than during this week. And for those third-grade giggles, I am truly grateful.

I hope you all have a long weekend of giggles and joy. And to my blog friends getting married this weekend - Emilia Jane and KC - I wish you both beautiful weddings and a lifetime of laughter and joy through the good and bad times both.