Monday, October 3, 2011

Goodbyes and Hellos

Hi! Hello! Hey there you wonderful readers and friends! It's been a while. I'd say I'm sorry for the absence but... I'm not. I needed time. I needed space. Life got really really hard for a while in ways I couldn't talk about publicly. This blog, which for so long was a space to sort through my own messy wedding planning thoughts, became a burden. I didn't want to write about the hard dark moments this summer but I felt so guilty about disappearing on you. However, I needed to disappear for a while to work through some private issues. Taking that necessary step back showed me that I've outgrown this blog.

This space has been so important to me over the last two years. This space gave me a lifeline to a community of like-minded people navigating wedding planning and life transitions. This space - and my readers' ongoing comments, cheerleading, and friendship - gave me new confidence in myself as a writer.  Even more than throwing some words on a screen, I feel like I built something, carving out a little corner of sanity for myself that apparently resonated with others too. I learned to trust my own voice, buoyed by the support so many of you showed me, and I grew stronger in my professional life in ways that are just starting to unfold. I discovered new passions. I discovered new talents. I made so many friendships, some of which I've been lucky to grow in person and so many of which I treasure online. I planned a wedding. I learned about marriage. My life grew immeasurably richer because of this blog.

I'm not interested in talking about weddings anymore, but any moving-forward writing felt constrained by the history of this space. I felt stuck. I love what this space is, but I no longer cared to expand on these conversations. My relationship, unlike my wedding, is a private thing. And my daily life, unlike a year ago, is no longer consumed by wedding planning stress. These days, I'm much more passionate about my career, mentoring women, politics, social analysis, striving for some semblance of balance, and learning to forgive myself when balance remains elusive. 

For whatever reason, I couldn't find a way to start these new conversations here. So I started them elsewhere. I have a new blog. It's different than this one. It may be more overtly political. It may have more career topics. It may be a bit more personal. It may be a bit more flippant. We'll see. It's a work in progress, much like myself. It's also just progress, which feels so important as I grew beyond the wedding and my words here. 

Thank you to all of you for reading my words. Thank you to everyone who commented, emailed, engaged me on twitter, and voted for me in the 2010 Wedding Channel contest. I can never thank you enough. I am so grateful for this blog and the experience it became. But it's time to say goodbye to A Los Angeles Love and hello to the next step. 

I hope you will join me, but I understand if you don't. I'm blogging now at Stumble and Leap.

Love and gratitude always,


 Photos by the incredible Kelly Prizel Photography

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hump Day Break

Fuzz bucket
Fuzz face
Meow face
Snuggle slut
Purr monster
Cat butt
Fur baby
Fur monster
Seat thief
Doctor Von Plopenstein

Any cat owner who tells you they don't have a list of embarrassingly silly behind-closed-doors names for their cat is lying. Even the men. And we occasionally (okay, often) say them in snookums-wookums baby voices. Unless the cat has knocked something over... again. In which case, the names we call the cat aren't exactly appropriate to share in polite company.

Monday, August 1, 2011

July, In Review

April is the cruellest month, breeding  
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing  
Memory and desire, stirring  
Dull roots with spring rain.  
Winter kept us warm, covering 
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding  
A little life with dried tubers.  
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee  
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,  
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
-T.S. Elliot, The Wasteland

Things have been a bit mixed up for me this year. April and our springtime wedding was truly a time of rebirth; though its joys were certainly complicated by twists of wedding madness, the fear of cold Spring rains, and honeymoon amoebas, April's mud wasn't cruel. It gave way to something new for us. But it was July - July with its sunshine and summer and easy weekend pleasures - that surprised me with its cruelty. 

In many ways, we've been very lucky this July. Jason found a job, and he loves it. We finally finished decorating our wall and made progress on sorting through our post-wedding mess. But things have also been hard. My health has precipitously deteriorated, due in large part to stress. Life became both much larger, in my desperate desire to experience it, and much smaller, when my days contracted around immediate physical pain. 

July forced me to take a hard look at my life, and finally conclude that my current situation is untenable. This situation includes the way I eat, the way I exercise, the way I relax (or don't), and the way I work. In other words, I'm reevaluating everything, leaving me a bit overwhelmed and confused as much of my day-to-day foundation crumbles around me. There have been nights when Jason and those commitments we made in April are the only things tethering me to hope. Watching him find a job, in an entirely new field, and how he's begun to re-imagine his life on the outside of a dying music industry, reminds me of what's possible... with a lot of hard work. And only after I get better.

I can be brave and re-imagine my life. Our life. But it will take strength and reserves I don't yet have, because I have to focus on physically healing first. And then I need to build new dreams from scratch before I claw my way towards achieving them. And in the meantime, I know something needs to change and I'm dangling one foot out into empty space, searching for a next step, knowing I don't have the security of turning around and stepping back. I've been there, and know it's no longer working. 

So I'm a little bit scared. And a little bit overwhelmed. And very very tired, as I sort through my immediate health needs. I'm trying to focus on the teeniest of teeny pleasures. I don't have energy for much else, but I still need the momentum of action and the reminders of small simple pleasures. I kept up with my small-but-manageable promise to accessorize every day. I made new promises to integrate relaxation yoga at night. I made new promises to clean up my diet and eat nutritious, vegetable-filled, from-scratch food. And I made progress in each of those goals. And so, like I promised at the beginning of July, I'm sharing a celebratory cocktail recipe. It's filled with real food and summer joy.  We picked lemons from a friend's tree, mint from my parents' backyard, and made a pitcher of the incredible mint lemonade recipe from Anna at Braising Hell, pouring it over a shot of citrus-infused vodka for a perfect Saturday sunset drink in our backyard, making July (or at least Saturday) just a little bit sweeter.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Secret Slob

"You remember I said before that Ackley was a slob in his personal habits? Well, so was Stradlater, but in a different way. Stradlater was more of a secret slob. He always looked all right, Stradlater, but for instance, you should’ve seen the razor he shaved himself with. It was always rusty as hell and full of lather and hairs and crap. He never cleaned it or anything. He always looked good when he was finished fixing himself up, but he was a secret slob anyway, if you knew him the way I did. The reason he fixed himself up to look good was because he was madly in love with himself. He thought he was the handsomest guy in the Western Hemisphere. He was pretty handsome, too - I’ll admit it. But he was mostly the kind of a handsome guy that if your parents saw his picture in your Year Book, they’d right away say, “Who’s this boy?” I mean he was mostly a Year Book kind of handsome guy. I knew a lot of guys at Pencey I thought were a lot handsomer that Stradlater, but they wouldn’t look handsome if you their pictures in the Year Book. They’d look like they had big noses or their ears stuck out. I’ve had that experience frequently."
- J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

There are certain passages in literature that stay with a person. They hit upon a deep truth, presenting it in a way you'd never thought about before. And at the tender age of 16, I had that moment with J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Not the whole book (though it was great too) but the specific passage above. Because when I read it, I was finally able to put words to my personal shame: I am a secret slob.

I'm not a secret slob in the "I take great yearbook photos but I'm actually average and have a dirty razor" sense: I'm rarely the most attractive girl in a room or a photo (I do live in Los Angeles, after all), and I take pretty decent care of my personal care items. I mean it in a life sense.  As in, superficially, I am a shining example of success: I have a job that sounds very impressive with a good salary with room for growth, I have a great husband, I have an apartment I love in a neighborhood that should be trendier than it is (which means it's on the cusp of being discovered... and we are therefore the "cool" kids who were here first), I can handle myself in a yoga class, I love the farmer's market and homecooked meals, Jason keeps me up to speed on the cool bands and pop culture happenings, I read the NYT/Atlantic/Economist regularly, I like going to museum and art exhibits, I know where actual microbreweries exist in Los Angeles, and I can even fool people into thinking I have a sense of personal style. In other words, I seem to have some modicum of my sh*t together and I am conversant in the hip buzzwords for urban living.

But secretly, I'm falling apart. Behind the scenes, things are a mess. There's never enough time. I'm always one yoga class away from a panic attack. I'm an intellectual mess, barely finding time to write, to reply to emails, or to cross things off my to-do lists... at work or in my personal life. I barely pull myself together to even make the to-do lists and, when I do, my spur-of-the-moment thoughts are scattered on post-its all around the house, hidden under piles of unopened mail.  In fact, I am a major piler: piles of mail, piles of paperwork, piles of clothes that I tried on and discarded at 7:30am and never bothered to re-hang, piles of books I've been meaning to sell... piles that attempt to contain my messy life into some semblance of precarious order. Piles that a cat can easily knock over as she runs across the table, scattering things in every direction. Piles that become heaping overwhelming mounds until I breakdown and toss half the papers. I actually manage to clean dishes regularly and clean up after the cats and their tumbleweed hairballs (because I may be messy, but I'm not dirty).  But oh, the piles. Any dinner party at our apartment necessitates weeks of planning and, um, hiding piles of crap in closets.

That's right. I'm a secret slob. I live with piles and mess and survive because we have a lot of closet space to hide things when guests come over. But, since the wedding, things have become worse. We had so many piles (gifts, goodwill leftover wedding crap, new photos) that it became emotionally overwhelming to consider having a dinner party. How could we invite people over when we didn't even unpile our new photos or art pieces and get them on our walls? We couldn't. We were failures. We were never going to finish cleaning or decorating our apartment. Instead, I was going to be left with this d*mn Ikea bag full of picture frames on my floor for the rest of my life.

Personal photo, sans pretty effects. Because this bag is real and raw and ugly.

This Ikea bag became everything I hate about my secret slob self. It's full of picture frames and plans that are seemingly abandoned to piles of "someday, I'll get to this." It's bright blue, ugly, and crackles loudly when the cats leap on it. It makes my failures known. It reminds me of all the other piles that are sitting around my apartment, all the other half-done projects. And even worse, it taunts me because I've been trying to get rid of it for months.

The Ikea bag reminds me that, despite all our hard work, the pile never seems to go away. Every seeming step forward feels like zero progress, because the darn bag is still there. Despite braving Ikea in the weeks after our honeymoon (on a Saturday afternoon!!!) and buying 18 picture frames, I still feel like a failure. Despite conquering the painful negotiation of which pictures to choose for our new photo-and-art wall, I still feel like a failure. Despite printing and cutting said pictures to the appropriate size and ordering a large professional print of one, I still feel like a failure. Despite working through our photo layout disagreements and establishing a cohesive design for the wall, I still feel like a failure. Despite several evenings spent with a measuring tape, a leveling tool, hammer, and nails to painstakingly hang each picture, I still feel like a failure. Because the bag is still there. Even when I'm actively trying to eliminate piles... months later, the stupid Ikea bag is still there.

Piles upon piles

Other piles seem to find strength in the Ikea bag's audacity, hanging out with the bag in the corner, smoking a proverbial cigarette and jutting their chins out, daring us to try and organize the chaos. There are two chairs we still haven't built that hang out with the Ikea bag. There are the leftover serving bowls from the wedding that we haven't quite figured out where to store. There's a box of goodwill wedding items. There's a bike that never quite finds its way into the garage. Together, they all stick their collective mound-pile tongue out at me and laugh, knowing that my secret-slob self will continue to deal with it because I have a high tolerance for piles that pile on. 

I'm convinced more people have stuffed-with-piles closets than they're letting on. Because I've been working to get rid of this d*mn Ikea bag for months now, and I can just finally see the bottom of the bag, now that most of the pictures are hung. And it's not like I've been goofing off and ignoring the bag: instead, I'm learning that careful I-love-this-room design takes time. Lots of it. And other life-piles are always lurking to claim immediate deal-with-me precedence over long-term design planning. Like buying groceries. Or doing laundry. Or sudden all-hands-on-deck work deadlines.

The truth is, my piles aren't a public broadcast of my failure. They are a public broadcast of my choices: I choose to live with some level of messiness because I have other things I want to succeed at. And I can't have it all. And I choose to live with some piles because I'd rather cook real food and spend time over dinner with my husband... in addition to everything else. I choose to forgo hiring a maid for a number of reasons but, right now, because I'd rather save money for important dreams like trips, children, and a home. And at the core of it all, I know that if I chip away at the work for long enough, I will conquer a pile or two. Or even an Ikea bag. And all the surrounding piles of crap that can no longer find refuge in our messy corner. 

I am a secret slob. Despite that, I am strong and determined enough to tackle even the most cruel and persistent of piles. The Ikea bag is hording just three measly frames. Its end is near. It will be mere days before I empty it, once and for all, and reclaim a small corner of my life.

Until the next pile encroaches, of course.

 First framed photo success - framing images of flowers (from our wedding and personal travels) to decorate our bed headboard.

Second framed photo success - finally starting to hang photos on our living room wall.

Monday, July 11, 2011

10 Things to Try When You're in a Foul Mood

Screaming in digital - Day 27
via rutty on flickr

There are bad moods, and then there are desperately foul "get the #@$$%*^I%^#! out of my way if you remotely know what's good for you" moods. The kind of mood that descends from grumpy and irritated into into unfathomable hatred and rage, without any single identifiable reason (which, of course, makes it even worse). The kind of mood where you have to stop yourself from throwing your cat across the room because she dared to taunt you with her contentment by proffering a fuzzy tummy for you to rub. The kind of mood that makes you want to shred your partner to pieces, even when you know they haven't done a thing to deserve it, because you're that angry and you're assuming that they love you enough to eventually forgive you (ummm, don't try this unless you've recently saved up a LOT of good partner points.)

When you are in the sort of dark place that inspires a violent emotional response to fuzzy pet love, there's no sort of "walk it off" remedy. Thinking about a relaxing drink on the patio with a cold drink would probably lead to shattered glasses and not calmed nerves.  And punching a pillow is a sad joke of a rage-relief method. So instead, you might consider some of the following instead:
  1. Turn on your I HATE THE WORLD playlist to just past acceptable neighborly levels, "singing" at the top of your lungs, and getting into serious elbow grease cleaning mode.  At a minimum, this playlist must include: Hole, Bikini Kill, the Hives, Rage Against the Machine, and whatever random assortment of punk songs you have on your ipod. (btw, I hate cleaning. But there's something cathartic about literally attacking crud while howling to a battle hymn f*ck the world playlist.) 
  2. Kick fallen peaches into the street. Repeatedly. Aim for the car that is using TWO spaces to park (there's always one, f*cker), and no doubt was the reason you had to circle for 20 minutes to find a freaking parking spot.
  3. Take out the recycling, making sure to HULK SMASH each and every glass item as you hurl it into the bin.
  4. Turn the playlist music up full blast and scream for 20 seconds. Turn the music back down to normal levels and headbang, air guitar, or otherwise jerk around in energetic dancey motions. Make sure to jump on the couch as part of your routine. 
  5. Cry. Make sure it's a deep sob fest of red-faced chest-wrenching crying-so-hard-you-go-silent wails. Wimpy everyday weeping clearly won't do.
  6. Work out, as hard as you possibly can, while watching terrible reality tv. Make sure it's the sort of show that lets you feel smug and morally superior while also offering you the opportunity to scream epithets and insults at the screen. 
  7. Take some time with your post-workout shower. Get creative.
  8. Cancel all plans that night. Tell yourself it's not because you're considerate enough to not inflict your friends with your mood. Tell yourself it's because you're an *SSHOLE D*MNIT.
  9. Make bread. Knead and punch that dough down. Pretend that the smell of fresh baked bread is not actually making you feel better and give yourself permission to tear off chunks of bread and stuff your face with every morsel of sweet delicious carb.
  10. When you've finally exhausted yourself, indulge in pizza/thai food/insert weakness here, a hard drink, and a movie or tv marathon of something that has received your partner's eye roll of dismissal. Brush crumbs onto the floor. Just because.  
The next day, after you've awoken hungover from both booze and rage, tummy still distended from your carb fest, with embarrassing memories sending you groaning back under the covers, apologize to your partner. Profusely. Snuggle and heal, consoling yourself (and your partner) with the knowledge that these tazmanian devil furies very rarely happen but that, when they hit, you need to honor the crazy emotions with a safe, worthy, outpouring to match.

Additional suggestions for foul mood activity tips and playlist songs are more than welcome in the comments.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Small Steps: Day One

Today was the first step in my accessory-styling adventures. And here are my first impressions of the experiment:
  • Even just making the effort to coordinate fun pieces made me more conscious of my presence. I feel GOOD today. Even if I skipped my morning workout (shhh. And that wasn't part of my stated goal this week anyhow.)
  • Clearly, all you blog people who take great "look at my daily outfit" photos were not squeezing in between my overflowing dresser and single full length mirror, where the morning light isn't so great. You probably also used a real camera and not your iphone. Whatever. I don't need artistic renderings of my clothing mashups (mishmashes?). I need to document my process. 
  • I hate that my clothes don't fit. HATE it. Some are too big, some are too small, and nothing looks great. I'm trying to remind myself that THIS is why I'm focusing on the accessories. I need a DISTRACTION from the larger issue of my wardrobe and a way to still feel put together until some undetermined point when we have enough money for a mini-shopping spree for new essentials. 
  • However, I think I did a good job of pulling together professional-fun-casual look for non-client days (keep in mind this is California. Life is more casual here): Brown work slacks with a tucked in light blue shirt under a khaki casual short blazer. I added fun pointy-toed brown kitten heels embellished with gold zig zags, a bold blue statement piece necklace (whose statement-ness is mitigated by the blazer), and a thin woven mustard belt.
  • I make bad styling decisions in the early morning. I am decidedly NOT a morning person and, by 8am, the coffee hasn't quite kicked in. I've decided to blame my bleary-eyes on my unfortunate belt decision. It seemed like a good idea at the time, mostly because the belt I really wanted to wear didn't fit and I thought I needed a belt. I would have been better off without. Because it's so thin, it cuts my body in half in an unbalanced way. A thicker belt might have been fine. Also, while the color works, the woven style is too casual. I knew this, but I just didn't want to believe it because I wanted a belt. Harumph. I'm not sure how to mitigate the sleepy-styling issues. Don't recommend picking an outfit the night before. It's just not going to happen. Sorry. 
    Overall assessment: I'm off to a decent start. I'm happy with making coordination a priority and with the outcome of my look. I can't change the fact that my slacks and blazer are a bit too big, so I have to put up with the ill-fitting-ness for a while. (That's something they don't mention in style blogs, do they? That some of us don't have the luxury of well-fitting clothes right now? Hmm?) But, aside from the belt, I really like the concept. So yay.

    (I promise I won't post style photos every day for a month. I just got excited about my new project. Whee!)

    Small Silly Goals and Big Scary Steps

    On Monday morning, I love/hate the moment I make my workweek to-do list. Love it, because it gives me direction and priorities in a sea of competing deadlines and client needs. Hate it, because I'm inevitably setting myself up for failure. In my line of work, the to-do list is never conquered. It's like a reproducing cell, multiplying in an exponential fashion, with no end in sight. Unless you're giving birth to a deadline-oriented project, like last week's grants. I happen to like those sorts of projects because deadlines are both inspiring and limiting. 

    When I take yoga classes, the teacher always talks about "setting your intention" before you begin your practice. I like yoga for the stretching and the way that hard physical movement clears my brain of thought-clutter over the spiritual side of things. But with yoga, the hippies got something right in a big way: setting a single, doable, "focus on this" approach to the class like "remember to breathe properly", or "hold posture/correct form" or "you WILL make it through every d*mn downward dog without going into child's pose" helps stop me from checking out everyone else's perfect yoga bums and focus on my own process. These small daily goals keep me in the moment while also moving  my practice forward, instead of allowing me to worry about how my bum or yoga skills compare with where I want to be.

    When I kickstart life improvement processes, I tend to start with the Monday-morning approach to things: write everything down, triage the most important items, get overwhelmed with the hugeness of my goals, and decide to read something distracting instead. So I'm thinking I need a bit of a yoga approach in my goal setting. I need a way to direct my focus instead of setting strict goals. I need a way to stop getting jealous of the perfect yoga bums (and "perfect" lives around me) and to stay in the moment of single step of the journey instead of worrying  about the big picture.

    I know where I am, which is a good place, but not not nearly good enough. I know I'm not living up to my potential. I know I haven't found my "passion" yet (and there will be a lot more talk about passion in upcoming posts and what I think it is and isn't). But I also know where I've come from. Two years ago, I was stagnant. I had a great job (on paper, at least), a great relationship, and great friends, but the ease and comfort were actually a bit discomfiting. I couldn't picture my life in five or ten years because I wasn't inspired or enthusiastic about the big-picture possibilities. The little picture - the everyday vignettes - were great enough to usually mask my vague sense of discontent.

    Without direction or ideas, but tired of feeling bored, I just started taking tiny steps in any direction, stumbling forwards, backwards, and sometimes downwards. But the motion itself was a relief, until I suddenly realized I'd created a whirlwind of doing: wedding planning, volunteer teaching, entertaining,  blogging, and even managing full schedule (plus) at work. Despite my exhaustion, the whirlwind cracked open my world and, somewhere amidst the chaos, I started to dream again as I caught glimpses of the possibilities.

    Part of the reason the current big picture is giving me panic attacks is because it feels so huge and far away. But at least I can finally see one. The post-wedding calm finally gave me space to birth the first rumblings of my secret dreams. But even with the merest wisp of an outline, I can already tell that my dreams will require hard work, a lot of sacrifice, a leap (or seven) of faith, and very few guarantees. I'll finally have to admit that I can't have it all, despite my overachiever tendencies, and that I need to choose. That whirlwinds are as unsustainable as stagnancy.

    But I'm not sure yet what choices I should make and what paths to follow. Or if clear pathways  even exist. I just know, from experience, that I need to take a first step. to get out of this current stagnancy. And then a second step. And so on. That the tiny consistent actions will gather momentum. But I also know that I need to focus so I don't end up in the whirlwind again. But the big picture is making me panicky. The Monday-morning type task list feels impossible because I don't have a clear vision in mind.  And so the yoga approach reminds me that I can achieve clarity by focusing on the action itself. The journey needs to become my focus again. I need to set a direction for myself, with small clear goals to mark a pathway. Not necessarily the pathway, but just a clear sense of possibility.

    So I'm starting a new feature here, because several of you have mentioned feeling equally adrift, bewildered, and confused. None of us seem to know where or how to begin. We're either paralyzed by ennui, fear, or choice. None is particularly helpful. So today, I'm admitting to one direction (of many!) And then, I'll identify manageable small-task focus-goals that set a direction. And then I'll see where those baby steps take me. And I think you should join me, if you're so inclined. Share your direction publicly. Give form to your wispy secret dreams, even if you think they're small or silly. Because small dreams of little joys and silly dreams of joyful hopes are important too, especially because small victories create confidence and faith. And because the heat of July is just right for small goals and sunburst hopes.

    In fact, my first dream is definitely small and silly: I want to define a sense of personal style. Hoo boy. Writing it down makes me realize that it's not terribly small, but it could be seen as silly (even if it's not.) But instead of diving into my closet in a What Not To Wear panic (especially since our budget is somewhat constrained right now and new clothes aren't a real option), I'm just going to think about accessories, since I already have a ton. This month, I'm promising to wear a fabulous piece of jewelery every day. And, if I'm so inclined, a belt or scarf. That's it. I have to accessorize every day instead of rolling out of bed and throwing something on. I just have to pay attention to myself. Teeny steps. We'll see where they take me and what ideas they inspire.

    If nothing else, I finally took the first step in moving past wedding recap writing paralysis with this post. I don't claim that this first step was a perfect post, but at least I'm finally trying. I know I'll stumble towards something more coherent soon, both with my posts and (fingers crossed) my style confidence. And from there, who knows? So I'd love it if you joined me here in publicly claiming and working towards your goals. This is a safe space for messy vague thoughts, since I'm more than a bit messy and vague too. But just try taking a step. If you do, we can check back again at the end of July and celebrate baby steps with a celebratory cocktail recipe. Seriously. Since I'm set on finding a perfect Friday-evening-on-the-porch cocktail, I figured this was a good space to chase down that dream too.

    Via flickr

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Our Videographers - Help Support Independent Film

    I haven't talked much about our videography. I wasn't planning on having any. I thought having video would somehow change my memories of the wedding day, shifting them over time from the ephemeral emotional memories into whatever superficial moments were captured on film. But at the last minute, my mother made a serious plea for video. She wanted to be able to send the ceremony to her family overseas, who couldn't attend. And our dear friends and talented aspiring filmmakers offered to make us a wedding video as their gift. They'd already made a wedding video and music video for our friends Britt and Mike over at Bowie Bride, and it was amazing. So we figured it was kismet, and I got past my reservations about videography.

    I am so happy I did. The video is too personal to share, but suffice it to say, I never thought a three minute music video of wedding highlights could be so perfectly encapsulate the energy of our wedding or pick up so many of the emotional moments that still make me cry. I was a blubbery mess by the time I'd watched it once, and as a music video it was removed enough from the strict emotional story of the day that my memories have remained intact. And the video is gorgeously done.

    However, it's simply too raw to post on the internet here. So I've felt terrible that I can't really promote our friends to help with their fledgling wedding video business. But since wedding videos are a side business and their main project right now is developing an independent film, I can happily jump in and support that. Because hey, it has a talented female director, Jocelyn Kelvin and, if you know anything about Hollywood, you know we need more female directors. And our amazingly brilliant friend Brock Wilbur wrote the screenplay.  And the film uses video games to explore relationships, from well outside the traditional shoot-em-up violence or male-driven mainstream video game cliches. They've been getting great early good press in the video game community and I can certainly vouch for their movie making talent. Here's a bit more: 
    Your Friends Close” takes us into the evening of a going away party for a husband and wife team of video game designers who have created a groundbreaking new MMO game that questions our relationship to reality, personality, and how well we can truly know one another. (For those of you who are proud nerds: it’s based on the Turing test.)  The game requires such huge resources, the couple is leaving California to develop it at a company in Paris. When it turns out one of them may not be going, the party devolves into a game for the newly vacant “throne.” What happens to what we call friendship?

    The film explores what lengths we are willing to go to in order to win....and what we lose in the process.

    I have to say, I'm a giant nerd, but not generally about video games or technology. However, our friends are using the format of video games to explore something deeper. And Brock and Jocelyn know how to pull emotions out of words and celluloid. If you think the idea of a video-game based movie is technology-driven or cold, you should check out Brock's beautiful essay about family, loss, adoption, and video games for a sense of the potential nuance of their project. And just in case you wanted to start your week with some heart-wrenching storytelling.

    If the idea of a woman-directed video game/relationship film intrigues you, please consider checking out their film idea and funding their project on Kickstarter. They've hit the point where they can make the film, but they still need to pay for a good deal on credit cards. So every dollar helps. So if you love the idea of this film, help them out. Tomorrow morning is the last day to fund their project on Kickstarter.

    And if you need a low-cost, high-talent wedding videography package, give me an email and I'll link you up with Brock and Jocelyn and their talent.

    This is not a sponsored post. This is just a chance to support local artists, a woman-directed enterprise, and friends who are taking the leap to pursue big dreams. All of which, I can absolutely get behind and cheer for.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Blog Silence

    Sorry for the blog silence. I miss you guys too. But I've been working late nights and weekends to meet a major deadline for some alternative energy grants (you know, my day job). It's exciting stuff, but it's consuming my blogging (and personal) time right now. 

    At some point, I'd love to start filling you guys in on the sustainability projects I work on, if you have any interest. And talking how I try (and sometimes fail, and sometimes succeed) in my transition to more sustainable living. Like getting rid of chemical-laden beauty products and food, and finding ways to produce less waste, for example.

    In the meantime, know that I'm missing you all, missing my blog, missing my husband, missing my kitties, and dreadfully missing my sleep (not necessarily in that order. I actually think the sleep and kitties are paramount right now. Sorry, Jason. You aren't small and fuzzy enough to curl up on my lap and provide late night writing comfort). If I have a moment, I might check in here with a few quick words. If not, know that I'll be back next week with new posts, energized after celebrating my deadline accomplishments and refreshed from the long holiday weekend. Until then, enjoy the lazy day heat, barbecues, fireworks, and long summer nights.

    Our cat Liz Lemon, who is keeping Jason company as he freelances and looks for work. And whose fuzzy tummy is one of the best stress relievers I know.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Fifteen Minutes a Day

    I sometimes forget how easy it is to be nice. Not that I'm normally mean - at least I hope I'm not - but there's a difference between being decent and going out of your way to actively make something better in the world. But "make something better" doesn't often get penciled into your post-7pm personal to-do list of the day (commute, get groceries, cook, wash dishes, pay bills, reply to personal emails, blog, read industry articles, etc). My idea of "making something better" at the end of a hard day is a hug from my partner and a glass of wine.  It's my survival instinct turning on, pulling me inward so I can hold tight to my personal kernel of sanity and relief.

    Other people don't necessarily register when you're protectively pulling in. 15 minutes feel huge when your mind is already experimenting with scheduling contortions and configurations to make space for your immediate task list needs. But sometimes, 15 minutes is all it takes to make a day exponentially better. A flash-in-the-pan moment of kindness can spread its glow through the entire week. A slight detour on my commute home to visit a flower shop and stop at my parents' house was all it took to remind me that kindness is surprisingly simple. It took 15 minutes. Maybe 20. Just enough time to leave flowers and a card on their front table, so they're welcomed home with beauty and love after a long trip.

    It made me think about how an unexpected email, phone call, or kind comment can brighten my day. How surprise flowers from Jason can shift my energies from their normal state of exhaustion into appreciation and thankfulness. And I only hope that the flowers for my parents help shift the energy of their long multi-flight journey into relief at being home, in every sense of the word. It's not much. I wish I could do more. But even a 15 minute detour is enough time for a floral burst of Joy. Multiplied. Flowers and happiness made stronger through a tiny act of giving.

    Picture of my mother's roses, which greeted me on my 15 minute detour

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    In Sickness

    Our wedding changed things. It didn’t change us, our commitment to each other, or the apartment and life we walked back into after the honeymoon. But the world around us has noticeably started to shift. Family is already treating us differently. We can add Jason to my healthcare plan at work while he looks for a full-time job. And we get to refer to each other as husband and wife, which gives me a thrill in a way that boyfriend, fiance (which I didn’t like using), and partner (my go-to label) never did.

    It’s hard to define the difference, but it’s here. Husband and Wife feel unexpectedly solid and substantial. They definitely carry more weight for others, which I first realized when we got sick on our Guatemala honeymoon. (Both of us. Twice.) It felt more urgent and more serious when I was asking for 2am medicine for my husband and he got indignant about unclean facilities for his sick wife. They carry more emotional weight now, with the layoff. It feels different than two years ago, when the record label purged one third of their workforce and Jason was among the casualties. Then, we each talked about how we each were going to pay rent. This time, we sat down and finally combined finances (which we'd been talking about doing for a while), finally eliminating the “you will” and “I will” of our everyday finances. For the first time, it's definitely about what we are going to do. 

    But the truly little-big thing that has already changed are our conversations. We’re not talking about planning a wedding anymore. We’re getting excited again about planning our life. As I curled into Jason in my amoeba-fueled feverish state during the honeymoon, we whispered about how we’re excited to get home and start cooking all the meals in our “we HAVE to try this” recipe list and all trips we want to take over the next few years.  As Jason recovered on our rooftoop terrace in Antigua, we talked about wanting to live abroad for a year with our future children, and started to muse about how we can make it happen. As we work through Jason’s job search options, we've both started to talk about our separate and joint career dreams. We know it will be hard - we’re both starting to articulate lifestyle-change dreams that may harder to build than anything we’ve ever undertaken - but we feel energized by possibilities because we're secure in what we already have. 

    As husband and wife we’ve already slammed into some major challenges. But I feel stronger now. Life can throw down its gauntlet and I’m ready. Right now, I’m supporting Jason as he works through the job search. And he’ll support me in a few years, when I pull back on hours to have children. And we’re both supporting each other when the fear feels paralyzing and we exhaust ourselves with our projects by reminding ourselves about all the possibilities and promises of the future.  Because this is what we promised each other. And finally, with the wedding past us and the promise as natural as breathing, we can begin to see our dreams take shape, however hard we need to work in the meantime to achieve them.

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Fuji Instax Giveaway Winner!

    Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. I am selfishly thrilled about all the new Halloween costume creativity you shared and superexcited thrilled to be sharing this camera with even more weddings and joy. I wish I could give each and every one of you the camera, but alas, there can be only one (until she passes it along, of course.) I used to select our winner, Jo!

    And since Jo's sister already sent her a costume care package with "sunglasses big enough to wear as a bra" is sounds like she and her friends are going to have a great time being utterly ridiculous with this photobooth. Congratulations!

    Choosing Celebration

    Today marks two weeks since Jason was laid off. I haven't written about it here because we needed to work on things privately first. To panic. To rally. To see this as an opportunity for phoenix-like rebirths and reassessments. And to mourn a bit as I realize our "after the wedding" plans have now become "after Jason finds a job" plans and expenses. With the wedding finally done, I was ready to move on and move forward. But now, we're hunkering down and pulling back even more than before.

    And it's really okay. Curveballs beget mental and emotional flexibility (and physical flexibility, I suppose, if you're using literal baseball speak).  Crises really do bring you closer and remind you of what's actually important.  

    Financial crises also force you to make choices. Hard choices about what to cut and what to keep in your budget. But at the same time, they also make you treasure the Yes choices so much more. Scrimping makes me positively gleeful about splurges like farmer's market strawberries or a nice glass of happy hour wine with a special girlfriend. Finding free outdoor musical performances within walking distance of our apartment feels like a boozy picnic jackpot instead of a nice afternoon.

    There are lots of ways to make budgeting an adventure, especially because we have the luxury of one salary that can take care of our basic needs. But there are still moments when fear and frustration pushes in at the edges. When I get resentful of waiting again. When I forget to feel lucky and wallow in the grump. And that's why I believe in splurges. That's why I don't always believe in hunkering down with the "No" of our changed financial situation. The No is important, but the Yes even more so. And this weekend, we're saying YES. Oh hell yes.

    This weekend, we're taking back our birthdays. Jason spent his April birthday recovering from our Guatemala honeymoon (we arrived home at 1am that morning.) I spent my May birthday recovering from New York and then working (we got home at 4am after a delayed flight and I was at work by 9). We got through the jet lag with promises of make-up birthday celebrations at a special (expensive) restaurant we've been desperate to try. We had to make reservations weeks in advance. So we did. And then Jason got laid off. 

    When we started slashing our budget, I spent a long moment considering whether we should cancel our birthday dinner. The panics were telling me to stash away that $100 for prudence's sake. But the rest of me screamed back a giant EFF YOU, WE'RE CELEBRATING OUR DARN BIRTHDAYS, DARNIT. Because I've needed something to look forward to and celebrate. And it really isn't as dire as the panics want me to believe. We have enough for our rent and bills, with something left over for strawberries. We have two fluffy kitties who keep Jason company as he looks for jobs and takes on some freelance projects. We have long summer nights and a cold June haze that finally seems to be burning away. And, if you want to be all sappy about it, we have each other too (and trust me, we are definitely all sappy about it.)

    This weekend, we have a dinner at Osteria Mozza, where we are taking time to revel in the joys and celebrations of life. So happy weekend everyone, and here's a little reminder to get out there and celebrate, just because. 

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Sweet Emilia Jane, or Why You Need a Coordinator/Equivalent

    I was exceedingly lucky to be able to work with Sweet Emilia Jane as our Day-of-Coordinator.  She was organized and level-headed throughout my wedding planning, giving me more support than my day-of-coordination (or really month-of-coordination) package warranted. She was helpful and enthusiastic, even when I was wracked by wedding crazies. And, quite simply, I could not have pulled off my wedding day without her.

    We initially met via her personal wedding planning blog, where her gorgeous ideas always inspired me without making me feel inadequate (which  is important, because I often feel inadequate when I read design-oriented wedding blogs). We worked through our wedding planning challenges and frustrations together, and became friends along the way.  I got to cheer as she finally went into business for herself, since wedding planning is an ideal outlet for her love of  design, her longtime background in  non-profit event management,  her floral arranging skills, and  general craft brilliance. Oh, and she gets the real point of a wedding, after having planned her own love-centric, DIY, stunner of a crafty backyard wedding in 2010.

    Emilia's event design and artistic eye are obvious to anyone who has read her posts at Style Me Pretty, perused images of her events, floral arrangements, or styled wedding shoots on her portfolio and blog, or reads her design inspiration blog Auburn & Ivory (where she's begun posting again after months of silence).  But as you all know, the pretties aren’t what impress me about weddings or wedding planners. I’m a logistics girl, and Emilia also has that in droves. Thank goodness.

    If you’re like me, you can manage everything up until the wedding day. You can find your own vendors, make your own seating charts, make your own timelines, and figure out your own decor.  I couldn't afford to hire her gorgeous eye and design sensibility, but I happily settled for help with an inspiration board (she offers a la carte design and craft help too!) Her ideas helped me start to see the easy design possibilities and feel more confident in myself. And in the areas where I already felt confident (event organization), I still really appreciated Emilia's professional input on the drafts I sent her. I was nearly gleeful when I realized that her timeline format and organization was better than mine (the little organizational things really matter). She walked through an event questionnaire that identified challenges we hadn’t thought about. She contacted our vendors for us the week beforehand for final confirmations and to confirm herself as the point of contact (which was nice, because I was already harried enough). She helped with the last pieces of our signage and craft projects at the rehearsal. These were all things I could have done myself, but Emilia helped make them all better, and just knowing I had support was serious relief.

    However, on the wedding day, I could NOT manage things on my own. I did fine until 11:30am. I oversaw rental equipment set up, unloading the uhaul, pulling the tables and chairs from storage, the flower arranging,  hanging papel picado from the rafters, making the sangria,  laying out our ceremony chairs, and other efforts with our army of helper friends in the morning. However, as of 11:30, I was done. I had to get dressed and ready for our 2:30 ketubah ceremony. I couldn’t oversee the final set up and our helper friends all had to leave and get cleaned up too. So Emilia jumped in and made the room prettier than I’d pictured it could be, by arranging extra flowers in unexpected receptacles and displaying our eclectic decor to its best advantage. She set up our DIY photobooth. She finished laying out  and decorating our ceremony and reception spaces, and she created a really sociable and attractive cocktail/buffet/bar area.

    During the wedding itself, I was too focused on getting married and enjoying the day to understand anything about our timeline or where we were in the schedule (if I’d been in charge, food would never have been served because we’d have stayed on the dance floor until 9pm without noticing). She put food in my hands and made me sit down and eat (this was a lot more difficult than I expected. Everyone wanted to talk with us, which made eating really hard. I needed someone to tell me/allow me to sit down.)  She cut our cake into 140 delicious pieces.  When the party got rowdy (which is exactly what we'd hoped for) and rowdiness led to breakage, Emilia swept up broken glass.  She jumped in to solve crises like the shuttles. She handed out tips and final payments to all our vendors. She brought an emergency kit so I didn't have to (you don't have an event emergency kit? You need one, with duct tape, scissors, band aids, and random event and first-aid items).  And she let me ease into the first post-wedding moments of married life, unworried about cleaning up the venue. That was huge guys. HUGE. I was willing to haul ass and beg friends to help with setup, but I refused to let any guests (or myself) lift a finger to clean up. Emilia and her assistant took care of that for me. And then they loaded our uhaul with all our remaining decor, props, booze, and supplies and had it ready for pickup the next day.

    Having Emilia at my wedding was the best money I spent.  Emilia let me be present at my wedding. I remember being aware that something bad was happening with the shuttles, but I just flagged her down, figured she could fix it as well as I could have (yep), and got back to the party. Your crises may not be shuttle-related, but you'll probably have something  go wrong and you'll definitely need someone to take care of solving it.  If you’re not in the budget category where you can afford a coordinator, you still need a sober, organized friend or family to be your manager for the wedding day. If you are not an organized person, you definitely need re-work your budget to hire someone or cajole a friend to help you get organized beforehand with nifty excels and timeline assistance. You can’t do this alone. You can’t do this without a system of organization (well, you probably can, but my last weeks were chaotic enough with lists and preparation galore, and I wouldn’t wish anything more chaotic on anyone.)

    And for everyone in the position to hire a coordinator or full service event planner, I can’t recommend working with Sweet Emilia Jane highly enough.  For people who want some help with design, she's great with that too (and with "eff it, I can't take it anymore" crafting services too.)  Emilia just relocated to Los Angeles, but she's familiar with San Diego, Southern California, and beyond for your wedding planning and design needs. 

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Wedding Logistics Documents

    I started this adventure with the benefit of knowing how to organize multiday events. I understood the need for call lists, timelines, and paperwork I would need to bring. I understood the preparations we would need. And I still flailed. It was still really hard to pull this together. So I thought I'd help some of you out by providing a modified sample of the logistics documents I compiled. Copy, paste, adapt as works for you. Learn from our hell and benefit from my obsessive organization (without which, we would have failed miserably in pulling this together). I kept each of these documents on me at ALL times all weekend, in addition to working through a shared ongoing to-do list on Google Docs.

    Upfront advice:
    Google Docs is your new best friend. Seriously, the fact that you and your partner can both be editing wedding lists at the same time is a huge benefit. The fact that you can share a document with your photographer, caterer, and friends that are helping out is HUGE. They can edit and update things, as needed. You can all be looking at the same things while you talk it over on the phone. It's genius.We used Google docs to: track our budget, manage our guest list/thank you card list/email list, create an embedded rsvp form on our wedding website that dumped everything in excel, develop all weekly to-do lists, develop all logistics documents, and more.

    Call List
    You need a call list for everyone involved in the wedding: vendors, helper-friends, family members, wedding party, and anyone with a role to play. You need to be able to immediately phone someone if there's an emergency or if a vendor doesn't show up or whatever. Some of these will apply for you. Some won't. We had a lot of friends doing these things. They still need to be on the list

    Bride/Groom Cell: (let people know you will NOT be answering your phone on the wedding day. You will be handing it over to someone else. Period)
    Bride/Groom Cell:
    Coordinator (or whoever is going to be managing the wedding day, paid or not):
    Day-Of Cell Contact for Bride/Groom: (for me, it was a bridesmaid)
    Day-Of Cell Contact for Bride/Groom: (for Jason, it was a groomsman)
    Becca's Dad's Cell: (he was the contact for my Mom and Dad)
    Jason's Dad's Cell: (he was the contact for his Mom and Dad)
    DJ/band/friend setting up soundsystem:
    Caterer/Person Delivering Food:
    Ice: (if you're having a DIY wedding, someone needs to bring ice. 1 pound per person. For us, that was 150 pounds.) 
    Ceremony musicians/soundsystem setup:
    Set-Up Staff/helper-friends:
    Clean Up Staff/helper-friends:

    Important Addresses
    If you have all the weekend directions in one place, it makes it a lot easier. We also have important people - especially out of town guests - the google maps printouts for directions between locations. 

    • Address of Family Brunch:
    • Address of Flower Mart:
    • Address of Mexican Deli (to pick up appetizer salsa):
    • Address of Uhaul:
    • Address of Rehearsal Dinner:
    • Address of Getting Ready:
    • Address of Ceremony:
    • Address of Reception and Cocktail hour:

    Day-Of Payments (In labeled envelopes)
    You are probably going to have some day-of payments that you need to make. These could be tips, cash payments, or final credit card reckonings. I researched appropriate tips (this and this were helpful for me, though I adapted), asked some of our vendors outright about standard industry tips, and came up with amounts I thought would work. I figured out exactly what we needed, including denominations of bills, and went to the bank the week before to get cash (it was over $2000 in an exact breakdown of $100s, $20s, $10s, and $5s). You then need to quickly home quickly from the bank. Stuff and label the envelopes. Give them to your coordinator or a trusted person who will handle all payments. This isn't something you should be dealing with on your wedding day.

    Speaking of tips... I'm someone who errs on the side of generosity when it comes to tipping. I know your wedding is expensive, but if someone deserves a tip, they deserve a tip. Don't hire them if you can't afford it, the same way you shouldn't eat at a fancy restaurant if you can't afford to pay the waiter.

    • PAYMENT Venue Clean Up Staff: $200 cash
    • TIP Border Grill Truck Staff: $25 per truck staff (=$125 cash)
    • TIP Border Grill Table and Bartender Staff: $50 per 3 floor staff 1 bartender (=$200 cash)
    • TIP Shuttle Drivers (three): $80 per driver ($240 cash)
    • TIP Rental Guys: $20 apiece (Assume 5) ($100 cash)
    • PAYMENT Hair and Makeup: $550 cash ($250 per hour plus $50 tip)
    • MISC DAY OF CASH NEEDS = $200 (don't forget this one. We ended up needed some random items from Target and CVS during out set-up. 
    Bonus: if you have vendors who don't deserve their tips (shuttles, cough) then you can keep the cash and bring it with you on the honeymoon.

    Note: this all went to hell. But having a full-weekend timeline helped us reorganize and reassess on the spot. Having it in Google Docs allowed me to edit while I was at my parents' house (setting up the welcome dinner) or from my smartphone (in the middle of running errands). These were both timelines and running to-do lists.

    Also note: I did this in a word-doc format after talking it through with our photographer, Kelly Prizel (photographers know a ton about timelines and Kelly has some VERY helpful advice here, here and here). Emilia did a muuuuuch more efficient version of our wedding day timeline in excel, but that's her work product and I can't share that. Excel allowed her to identify who was responsible for which tasks at which times, which was very handy for making personalized timelines for key people.  You can also check out Liz Coopersmith's recent timeline articles (here and here) over at BrokeAss Bride for some great advice too.

    Even if they aren't professional-level timelines, my personal word documents provide a good starting point for timelines (and full amount of detailed ridiculousness) you'll need to consider in the days  leading up to the wedding. Our timelines start with Thursday, because that's the first full day off we had before our Sunday wedding and it was full of wedding errands.  I also included some commentary/explanation of tasks, so you'll get a "fun" glimpse into my specific wedding whirlwind. And whirlwinds inevitably happens when you workworkwork through the Wed before your wedding and you're doing the wedding logistics yourself.

    8:15am Cat Nail Clipping and Flea Treatment before leaving them with parents for honeymoon (drop-off at cat place)
    9:00am Get Marriage License in Beverly Hills
    12:00 Calls:
        •    Topanga Inn to coordinate check-in timing/key pickup
        •    CALL FRAME STORE to get Ketubah!!! (which we had somehow forgotten to pick up the week before. it's always something.)
        •    Ask Dad to pick up ketubah

    12:30: Home for Misc Packing/to-dos:
        •    Iron chuppah and add ribbon
        •    Put stones on succulents
        •    Finalize suitcases/packing organization - Wedding Attire, Rehearsal Dinner Attire, Morning run-around attire, Get ready shirt, Makeup, Honeymoon bags
        •    Lay out clothes - Friday nice clothes and getting ready stuff for morning brunch

    3:30 - Loehmans to remove security tag b/c they @#$%%^*#%^* forgot to take it off for my Friday night dress
    4:00-5:15 - Urth Cafe for time with OOT Family (Jason and Becca drive separately)
    8:30 - Wi Spa for Becca (2700 Wilshire Blvd, Just past Hoover at Rampart. Appt at 8:30. Leave by 7:30.) Jason has massage at Massage Garage
    Before Bed:
        •    Remember to pack Aunt’s card for Friday night
        •    Wrap parent gifts and write card
        •    Wrap bridesmaid gifts
        •    post "leave deliveries in back" sign on front door of apartment


    10:00am: Costco for Temple cheesecake and sangria fruit
    11:30am: immediate family brunch @ parents' house
    After Brunch: email bus company re: driver contact info.
    3:00pm: Becca Nail Appointment
    5:30pm: drive separate cars to parents' with cats and cat stuff, leave Becca’s car for honeymoon due to apt streetcleaning, drive to Temple together
    6:00pm: Auf ruf @ Temple
    7:00pm: dinner @ Temple
    10:00pm: drinks @ hotel bar w/friends

    7:00 am - Load car with: succulent palettes, spare succulents for bouquet, bouquet images, one jar & one vase (for flower mart shopping), rehearsal dinner clothes, makeup, curling iron, all cash tips and envelopes, rehearsal info
    8:00 am: Becca goes to Flower Mart with JM (Flower Mart needs: 22 white bud vases, 21 silver flower jars, bouquet flowers)
    9:50am: BW meets Jason, picks up rental car at Hertz  Conf. # XXXXX
    10:00 am: Becca goes to Mom and Dad’s house for drop off of flowers/other and to load car/pick up booze
    10:30am: AS and CY pick up Uhaul at National Blvd Storage
    11:00 Jason meets friends at home to load Uhaul and rental car
    - Load Uhaul with all wedding stuff, load rental car (honeymoon stuff + wedding attire, light-weight wedding decor (lights, papel picado, signs, other TBD)
    - load RENTAL car with: wedding attire, rehearsal attire, snacks for getting ready, prosecco, scruffy getting ready attire, yellow ties, initial decor (if possible)
    - load JASON'S car with: as much booze as possible to make room in uhaul
    11:30 (in Jason's car) Becca picks up SS at hotel to make booze run
    12:00 Becca meets Joe at venue to unload booze, return to Mom and Dad's house
    Sometime after 12:00: OL picks up salsa from Gallegos (closes at 3pm!!!)

    Sometime after 12:30: At Mom and Dad’s:
        •    Cut flowers
        •    Cut sangria fruit (if possible)
        •    unwrap kippot
        •    unwrap table number frames and insert printed info
        •    placecards: stamp table numbers and fold placecards cards
        •    make signage (ceremony, menus, any remaining other)
        •    make bouquet
        •    give AS uhaul money
        •    get cleaned up for rehearsal
        •    review rehearsal info to lead

    3:30pm: get ready for rehearsal (clean up, prep materials)
    4:00pm: wedding rehearsal walkthrough @ Mom and Dad’s house
    5:30pm: Family portraits
    6:00pm: guests arrive for Welcome BBQ
    9:00pm: Load Mom and Dad’s car: ketubah, ceremony box

    8:00 am - AS and CY load uhaul with salsa, soundsystem, their wedding clothes/makeup
    8:30am - 11:30: set up wedding site (Becca, Jason, Wedding Party, friends). Unload all decor items, drink items. cake, appetizers, other wedding shit (MK brings cake via MH’s house and ice via store, AS brings tons of wedding crap in uhaul, We bring crap via our rental car.
    We need to: set up reception tables and chairs, set up ceremony chairs, string papel picado from ceiling, cut flowers for centerpieces and around room, make sangria so it can soak, set up photobooth/guestbook area, set out linens, arrange outdoor bar/cocktail/heaters/buffet set up, string white lights, centerpieces and table numbers, arrange placecards, set candles around the room)
    9:00 : friends arrive to help set up
    BEFORE 10am: Rentals Delivery from Burbank Party
    11:00 Emilia arrives at venue
    11:30: Girls leave to head to B&B to get prettified
    11:45 - Prettification begins with Mandy
    12:00 Kelly Arrives at B&B
    12:45: Boys leave to head to B&B
    1:00 - Boys arrive and clean up.
    1:25- Dress goes on, accessories (my girls are DONE by 1:25, my dress and accessories go on starting then. We need a deadline for our girly bride moment.)
    1:45 - Boys photos
    2:00 - First Look
    2:15 - Girls photos/Wedding Party/Sibling Shots/Get shots of Rabbi and Witness Photos
    2:40 - Ketubah signing at Topanga Canyon B&B
    3:00-3:30 (on the dot) family and wedding party portraits
    3:00-3:30 - Shuttle pickup from Hotel Angeleno
    3:00 - Bartender and Service Staff Arrive at venue
    3:00 - Michael (DJ) arrives atvenue
    3:35-4:00 Couple Shots at B&B
    4:00: Bar Open for early guests/pre-ceremony. Bartenders mix Sangria & prepare for serving. Guest shuttles begin arriving. Some cars begin arriving
    4:10 - Couple/Officiant/Family Leave B&B for venue (it's less than a mile)
    4:30 - Ceremony
    5:00 - Cocktail Hour/Music Starts (and shuttles return mobility-impaired guests to reception area) Jason and Becca have their private yichud
    5:00 - Border Grill Truck Arrives at venue
    5:15-5:30 - Couple Shots, post Yichud
    5:30 - Ceremony site breakdown (Joe)
    5:40 - Couple enjoys the end of cocktail hour
    6:00 - cocktail hour ends, dancing begins
    6:00 - Announcement for guests to join bride and groom in hall for first dance
    6:05 - First Dance
    6:10 - Dancing/Mingling
    6:25 - Hava Nagila (get chairs with arm-rests from Penny Room)
    6:30 - Buffet is ready (bride, groom and wedding party get food followed by parents and then tables of guests)
    7:00 - Toasts (parents, siblings, wedding party)
    7:20 - Dinner ends, dancing continues
    7:50 - Announce cake cutting and churro ball desserts
    8:30 - Border Grill Truck departs
    8:45 - First shuttle starts loading
    9:30 - Second Shuttle starts loading
    10:00 pm – Final Guests Departure via shuttle
    10:00 pm - MK drives Becca and Jason to their hotel. Give MK all our wedding attire/jewelery for safekeeping during the honeymoon
    10-midnight: site breakdown, leave full uhaul/other car by Joe’s trailer at venue
    11:00 pm – Border Grill Staff load-out
    11-midnight - Burbank Party Rental Pickup

    Rehearsal/Ceremony Breakdown
    You need a precise ceremony breakdown to run the rehearsal. And YES, you need a rehearsal, even if you can't do it at the venue (we couldn't).  No one understood why we insisted on a rehearsal and everyone was happy we did one. Questions came up about how to walk down the aisle with the chuppah, where to sit for readers, who would pass the microphone to whom, and other teeny questions that could have made the ceremony really disorganized. We also realized that people had mixed up their readings, so we were able to sort out some really important confusion. Here's some great info from Liz Coopersmith at BrokeAss Bride about planning your rehearsal.

    And below is the overview WE used for our rehearsal walkthough. Yours will clearly be different, but examples always help me.

    2:30 Ketubah and Marriage License
        •    Modern Bedeken (Rabbi, Couple)
        •    Sign the documents (Couple, Witnesses)
        •    Blessing read by parents (Parents)

    4:30 Ceremony (~25-30 min)
        •    Procession (Chuppah with 4 friends, then groom and his parents, then bride and her parents)
        •    Egalitarian circling outside chuppah (Becca first. Then Jason. Then together. Then step under chuppah)
        •    Rabbi"sermon" (Rabbi)
        •    First cup of wine/blessing (Rabbi)
        •    Ring exchange with Hebrew vows (Jason then Becca repeat after Rabbi)
        •    Read Letters aloud (Becca and Jason)
        •    Read Ketubah (Rabbi reads)
        •    Second cup of wine/Seven Blessings (Heb and Eng) – Blessings read from seats by chosen family members, Rabbi brings them the microphone (M&D, M&D, G&G,, N&P, R, A&S)
        •    Introduce readings/poetry chosen by couple (Rabbi. Share chuppah holding - MH)
        ◦        MK
        ◦        OL
        ◦        MH
        •    Wrap in tallit – (Rabbi, Couple)
        •    Explain glass-breaking  - set up glass - 2 glasses break (Rabbi, Couple)
        •    Couple processes out, followed by chuppah holders. (Couple goes to the side for yichud. Chuppah to the back)

    Group Shot List 
    It turns out that wedding portraits aren't as easy as snapshots. Add in some serious time constraints and it's smart to start with a list of exact portraits that you want. List out individual names so someone can do a roll-call and organize the photos efficiently. Assume each picture will take about three minutes to set up and take, at least. So 10 shots = 30 minutes. Have a few extra OPTIONAL configurations you want in case you're lucky and finish early.

        1.    Becca with parents (ex: Becca, John, Jane)
        2.    Couple with Becca's parents (ex: Becca, Jason, John, Jane)
        3.    Couple with Becca's immediate family
        4.    Couple with both siblings
        5.    Jason with parents
        6.    Couple with Jason's parents
        7.    Couple with both sets of parents
        8.    Couple with Jason's immediate family
        9.    Couple with Jason’s extended family
        10.    Couple with entire extended family

    Wishlist for more group shots if you have time:
        1.    Couple with one set of Jason’s grandparents
        2.    Couple with both Jason’s sets of grandparents
        3.    Couple with Becca's grandparents. 

    Shots taken before Ketubah (first look, attendant shots):
        1.    Jason with attendants
        2.    Becca with attendants
        3.    Becca, Jason, all attendants
        4.    Becca, Jason, Brother, Sister
        5.    Becca and Brother
        6.    Jason and Sister

    Special/Different moments Photographer should be aware of (besides the obvious. Please don't tell your photographer to take a photo of you kissing at the end of the ceremony. If you need to tell your photographer to do that, then you probably should consider hiring a different photographer. Hire/ask someone you trust to get the standard ceremony, first dance, cake cutting, etc moments. This list is for unusual/specifically cultural moments):
        1.    Hava Nagila Dance
        2.    Getting Lifted on Chairs
        3.    Our Thank You to everyone
        4.    Spitty Face photos. We really want these
        5.    Lining up for churro balls at the truck

    DIY and other Details:
        1.    Chuppah! We’re painting it ourselves. And it will be connected to birchwood poles.
        2.    Centerpieces (we planted them!) with bud vases and a succulent pot
        3.    Table numbers (quotes about love that we couldn’t include in the ceremony)
        4.    Candlelit and flower-filled jars on the fireplace mantle (spray painted silver and frosted glass)
        5.    Escort cards/Placecards table (we stamped them and wrote notes to each guest)
        6.    Papel picado around the room/outdoors
        7.    DIY “photobooth” and guestbook (fabric on the wall and fun dress up stuff, instax cameras, guest book displayed on wall)
        8.    Cake table “toppers” (not DIY, but they’re cute little pinata mascots)

    To-Bring List
    I started developing this list a few months before the wedding, when I realized how hard the logistics were going to be. I added as things struck me. We kept things organized on various boxes ("Ceremony Item box" "Serving Utensil and Food Prep Box" "Decor Box" "Photobooth Box" and so on. In the last weeks, we actually started compiling these boxes, and these lists were a godsend. They also helped us figure out our "to buy" list when we realized we didn't have spare bottle openers for the bar or a long BBQ lighter for candles, for example. We also kept the list on hand during the wedding setup so I knew exactly where necessary items were. 

    As for the physical boxes themselves, our early wedding gifts were a godsend. We had tons of boxes from Crate & Barrel and Amazon. I also grabbed boxes from Trader Joe's when I bought wine and juices and supermarkets are generally a good bet for free boxes too.

    Ceremony Box
    Marriage License
    archival pen
    photocopy of ketubah language
    extra copies of poetry/readings
    extra copies of transliterations and blessings
    Letters to each other for ceremony
    Two wine glasses (polished!)
    White wine and bottle opener
    Two lightbulbs
    Two napkins, tied with ribbon, for the lightbulbs
    Basket with kippot
    Chuppah cloth and ribbons

    Large Items
    Chuppah poles

    Boxes of Drinks
    Wine (White)
    Wine (Red)
    Non-alcoholic drinks
    Sangria Wine, Triple Sec and Sprite

    Snacks for Helper Friends
    Dried Fruit
    Beer (for getting ready)
    Champagne (for getting ready)

    Beverage Box
    Beer bottle openers
    Wine bottle openers
    Sangria dispenser
    sangria ladle
    coffee cups
    coffee cream
    coffee (baggie of ground coffee in portioned packets, filters)
    Coffee Maker
    Sangria fruit
    knives to cut fruit

    Friend Pick Up

    Food and Serving
    cake cutter
    recycled paper plates (appetizers)
    recycled paper napkins (appetizers - need to get)
    plastic serving bowls (chips and salsa)
    bamboo serving utensils
    All appetizer foods: chips & salsa

    Reception Decor
    Succulent Pots (planted, need to remain upright in two boxes)
    Bud Vases (wrapped so they don’t break)

    Jar Box
    Jars for flowers
    Jars for candles

    Decor Box
    table candleholders
    taller candles for table
    framed online dating profiles
    Table numbers
    Sangria sign
    Salsa labels
    Gift Table Box for cards
    Placecard box (alphebetized)
    Toilet Paper
    White Lights
    Extension Cords
    Papel Picado

    Buckets of flowers

    Bar chalkboard
    Menu chalkboard
    Ceremony Directional Sign

    Photobooth Box
    Box of costumes
    Box for finished cards
    sturdy double sided tape and tacks
    archival pens
    fabric backdrop
    basket for new film
    basket with blank sheets of paper

    Undergarments (bra, undies, spanx)
    Shoes (flats AND heels)
    Clutch for makeup/other
    Rings (and boxes!)
    hair gel

    Paperwork Folder
    Call lists
    Living Social Topanga Inn Voucher
    List of personal items vs rentals

Honeymoon Packet
    List of all travel info (hotels, flight info, dates, itinerary)

    Guatemala book

    Emergency Box (Emilia has)
    Stain remover
    Plastic ties
    First Aid

    Like I said, DIY logistics are a pain in the bum and extreme organization was the only way to manage it. But they CAN be managed with careful planning, especially when that planning starts well before the week of the wedding. Hopefully these lists and organizational processes can help some of you too.

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Wedding Decor for Dummies

    After the wedding, I finally figured out why I had been so stressed about something so inconsequential, namely the design of our wedding. Yes, the pretty pretty blogs played a part. Yes, nerves about how our non-traditional wedding would be perceived by more traditional friends and family played a part. Yes, my budget knocked me well outside the category of “just get a florist or a designer and rent some great lighting” into “cobble something together and make-it-work” category. But mostly, the reason I ended up wasting so much brainspace on this was because I’ve never done something like this before. I’ve never designed a pretty room. My apartment, while nice enough, isn’t anything fancy or particularly well decorated. It does fine. It has great “bones” (dark hardwood floors, mellow yellow-beige walls, vintage tile and a cute built-in cabinet) that we just dressed up a bit with a few photos and throw pillows. Nothing fancy. Just enough.

    So the idea of decorating a wedding stressed me out. It’s something I wasn’t familiar with. If you’d asked me to write a 30 page report on the benefits of one alternative fuel versus another in less than a week, I would have panicked less. I’ve done that before. But design on a budget for a large room and 150 people... no. I’ve never done that. Before our dinner parties I just buy whatever bouquet is cheapest at the Farmer’s Market ($5) and make it work in a bud vase with candles.

    And, well, that’s kind of what we ended up doing with our wedding too. BECAUSE IT WORKS. We always get complements on our dinner party decoration. BECAUSE WE HAVE SOME. That’s all you need: something. So here’s the easy, lazy, cheap guide for other terrified couples facing down cheapo design needs and wedding decoration “where do I start?!” panics.

    1. It doesn’t really matter. You know that, right? Like, you could get married in a church social hall and it would be awesome, so long as you’re in love. Remember this wedding in the temple social hall that I adored? Yeah. Find the wedding that inspires you and onto it. Hard. Because, while I appreciate the photos of the projects we poured our hearts into, the wedding was about the moments and the emotion. The photos I’m pouring over again and again from my wedding are the faces, not the stuff. The photo of my face crumpling as I hug my mother is going in the album and not the photo of my centerpieces. Period.

    2. Now that we’ve established that it doesn’t matter, I will also admit that it does, but only in that you want to honor the specialness of the occasion. You want to make the room festive. You want it to FEEL special. Feeling special and festive can happen without a lot of investment. Yay.

    3. If possible, pick a venue that’s already unique or pretty, so it doesn’t need much dressing up. We picked a venue with stunning ceremony views. You know what we used to decorate the ceremony area? Not a d*mn thing. No pomanders, no aisle runner,  no streamers or ribbons or flowers. Just a starkly simple chuppah and us. And we used the cheapo white folding chairs instead of the padded white wood chairs. But the views were to die for and didn’t cost a single additional cent. 

    4. If your venue isn’t beautiful (our reception hall was far from it with plain brick walls and orange curtains) it doesn’t matter (see item #1) and you need to accept that it may never look like the fancy schmancy blog weddings you’ve been lusting over. They probably had event designers or paid help (really.) So stop looking at that those blogs now and you’ll start feeling a lot better about your  less expensive wedding. Go to Moment Junkie instead, which is the first  photo-filled wedding blog that focuses on the important moments, and remind yourself that the emotions are the most beautiful part of any wedding and that moments are free.  

    5. If your venue isn’t beautiful, don’t go overboard trying to make it so. LESS IS MORE. You don’t want to weigh down the venue with thousands of flowers or the weight of expectation. So focus on the small touches that matter. Use accents instead of planning anything elaborate. Remember where peoples’ eyes are drawn and play that up. We had amazing wood-beamed ceilings, so we draped papel picado to add some color and excitement. We had a giant fireplace and mantle so we put flowers, candles, and papel picado on the mantle. We threw some flowers on the welcome table, bar, and buffet tables. And then, aside from centerpieces, we were done.

    6. Centerpieces aren’t as important as you think they are. They’re nice and all, but the point is to make the day feel festive, not to impress everyone with your gorgeous handcrafted amazingness. After all, as much as you spend (be it time or money) on centerpieces, ultimately the point of the table is to have a place to converse and celebrate. Frankly, you could scatter some candles around and make it look pretty so stop stressing out. Yes, candles. Light is pretty all on it's own.

    This advice is brought to you from someone who stressed out about and loved her centerpieces. LOVED THEM. We combined our home-planted succulents with bud vases filled  and LA Flower Mart flowers. Our table number signs had some of our favorite quotes, poetry, and prose about love and marriage. We scattered tea lights on every table. I loved the process of making them and I loved the result.

    But what I loved even more were the tables when they were full of our friends and families. At which point, you couldn’t see the centerpieces at all. (Or the ugly chairs I was so worried about for so long.)

    The centerpieces will be secondary to anything about the party. Unless you buy those awful sky-high floral sculptures, in which case they will inhibit conversation across the table and your friends and family will be irritated. So don’t do that.

    7. Lighting is something that most blogs ignore in lieu of excitement about tablescapes (which are just overgrown centerpieces) and a plethora of papergoods. And yet, I’d argue it’s a lot more important. Two weeks before the wedding, we had our walk through and found out that a) there was no outdoor lighting and b) the primary indoor lighting was ugly fluorescent (except for one really cool but faint chandelier.) Um...No. Just no. My wedding was not going to be lit with ugly florescent after all my work. And our bar and buffet areas were outside, so we needed lighting. And so, lighting ended up being MUCH more important than centerpieces or wall decor. Here’s what we did:

    Tealights on each table (four per table): We used taller block tea lights so they’d remain lit all night without having to replace them.  Note: check on flame restrictions at your venue. All our candles needed to be shorter than the glass jars they came in. So we bought these, which had just enough of a lip. And they were cheap. Yay again.

    personal photo

    Lights in frosted glass mason jars all around the room and on the mantle: We had been saving every glass jar for a year (spaghetti sauce, pickes, jam, you name it) soaked off the labels, and spray painted them with frosted glass spray paint. The spray paint unified them and the soft light was SO PRETTY. Also, so flipping cheap and easy.

    White Christmas lights: we tried to buy these around Christmas time, but the stores all sold out. Oops. So we borrowed some from friends. Then, when we realized the lighting issue, we ordered a bunch more online. It made our outdoor area look a bit fairlyland-like, which I loved.

    8. Linens: Don’t forget that you can also create ambiance with your linens. You don’t need white and white (or ivory and ivory) and a nice pop of color or mellow background tone can add a lot to a plain table without ANY addition in price. We went for sage green linens and ivory napkins. The green tied in with the nature-filled setting, our succulents, and the papel-picado colors without being overwhelming. The ivory napkins were just classic because there's no need to go overboard with color. Less is more.

    "Yeah, yeah," you’re saying. "That’s all great general advice, but I still don’t know how to make things look pretty. I read the blogs for ideas! I need ideas! Where do I start?!" Ok, if you need ideas, here are the two major tips that worked for us:

    1. Ikea is your friend. We are not creative stylists whose heads are full of amazing ideas. We are not people with a lot of money. Ikea has a lot of inexpensive, stylish pieces that are made to work well together, even for people without intrinsic style sense. Go play with combinations of candles, vases, picture frames and planters and I bet you’ll find something affordable and easy. That’s what we did, and it worked.

    2. You can’t eff up with flowers. Flowers are pretty, even if you don’t arrange them in a perfect florist arrangement or have perfect floral receptacles because FLOWERS ARE PRETTY.  Period. Buy simple, in season flowers and let go of a specific floral vision because you remember that flowers are pretty. Do you want something easy and  elegant? Get bud vases. Want something rustic? Paint some jars and throw some flowers in. Want something eclectic and vintage? Go thrift a variety of vases or other random receptacles. We ended up having a combo of all three.

    I bought one white Ikea bud vases for each table.

    personal photo

    We saved our pasta and food jars for a year. Half got painted for frosted glass lighting. Half got painted with silver metallic spray paint to hold flowers on the mantle and in random places around the room. See a tutorial on spray painting jars here.

    personal photo

    personal photo

    And then, because it turned out we had a complete overabundance of flowers, we used whatever random cups, water pitchers, and other receptacles we could find to display extra flowers.

    For the flowers themselves, I went to the LA Flower Market at 8am on Saturday morning with an open mind for what was in season, pointed at some stuff I liked, and was out by 9:15.  On the morning of the wedding, I handed around a few pairs of scissors, gave general instructions to our friends on what I was looking for, and walked away to take care of more important things. The result was easy, cheap, and beautiful.

    personal photo

    Decor Cost Breakdown:
    • Los Angeles Flower Market: $217 to fill 21 bud vases, 20 silver jars,  boatloads of random receptacles, AND all bouquet flowers
    • Ikea bud vases (no longer in stock): 21 (one for each table), $4 per vase (whatever, I splurged and we’re planning to keep some and resell the rest) = $84
    • Ikea candle holders: Four per table = $31.50
    • Ikea block candles: Four candles per table = $32
    • Ikea tealights: One large bag for frosted glass jars and random = $4.00
    • Ikea succulent pots: 25 (one for each table, plus extra for bar/buffet): $20
    • Succulent plants: Free! (unexpectedly)
    • Ikea table number frames: 19 (one for each table - some tables were combined for numbering - plus some signage)  = $19
    • Ikea 8x11 frames for instructions and signage: 3 total = $6
    • Jars: free!
    • Spray paint: We needed 4 spray cans (2 frosted and 2 silver). Jason bought them from Michael’s and I have no idea how much they were. Let’s say $20.
    • White lights: $6 per box of 100 x 8 boxes = $24 (I bought them at Party City, but they’re no longer available)
    • Papel Picado: Leftover from my 30th birthday. Originally purchased from Amol’s for $4 per medium strand and we bought 10 strands. Get the medium. Do NOT get the large. Also, make sure you’re ordering paper, not plastic. If you want to count the full price here, it would have been $40. 
     Total Cost:
    • Subtotal: $497
    • There were some tax and shipping charges in there too (and some without), so let’s add 12% as a ballpark: $61
    • Cost per table (this isn’t a perfect breakdown, since some of the decor was non-table related) = $26
    • Cost per person = $3.70 per person
    • TOTAL Cost for ALL decor PLUS bouquet flowers = $558

    Seeing as how low-end floral centerpiece quotes alone were about $50 per table (or $1,050 for our 21 tables), I'm feeling pretty darn good about spending half of that for all our decor (and bouquet). And I feel especially good about our expenses on The Pretty because, after the wedding, it's even more obvious that The Pretty is entirely secondary to the joy. Although beautiful backdrops help, they're just that: backdrops. And the details that really matter are the ones that happen all around them.

    All photos by Kelly Prizel Photography, unless otherwise indicated