Monday, February 28, 2011

Chuppah Sneak Peek

As much as I've complained about the tyranny of DIY-pressure in weddingland, the truth is we chose a few key projects that both mattered and felt doable for us. We kept away from the paper goods and signs and bunting and anything related to sewing. But we found a few projects that felt important, felt possible given our basic-level crafting skills, and seemed worth an investment of our limited time. Our chuppah is one of those projects, and we finally made progress this weekend, after a long process of planning, re-imagining, compromising, accepting our limitations, compromising again, designing. Although I don't want to reveal the full chuppah until after the wedding, I wanted to provide a pre-wedding glimpse. 

  • White linen tablecloth (54" x 54") that has been washed and ironed
  • High quality fabric paint
  • brushes, including a detail brush for hard lines. 
  • Photoshop to develop the design
  • Patience in creation of said design
  • A time out to both cool off during creation of said design
  • Staples run to print design on a 30" x 30" piece of paper for tracing
  • Pencil for tracing design onto cloth
  • Cardboard to paint on, so paint doesn't leak through
  • Spare room to keep curious cats at bay

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Practical Love Letter

Dear Jason,

Thank you for being awesome. Not because you bring me flowers and give me perfect presents like in-city getaway escapes here. You do those things too, and they are justright and oh-so-thoughtful and romantic. But that's not why I love you right now. Right now, I love you because you are organized. Right now, I love you because you make me a more functional human being with your filing systems and deadlines and task list. Right now, I love you because you're the exact opposite of my stressed out, papers-flying-everywhere mess. You compliment me, and you give me something to aim for, a goal for how I want to live, a pathway for how not to disappoint myself again with my ongoing shortcomings. We all have shortcomings, but I feel incredibly lucky that you help balance mine, especially when I'm feeling so unbalanced.

In return for your complete awesomeness, I promise to help with your balance by washing the dishes, finding healthy meals to cook, being obsessive about our budget tracking, and scheduling time for us.

I like this partnership thing a lot. It's why I'm marrying you, even when the actual wedding part of the marrying makes me go completely haywire. So thanks for helping keep the haywire part at a somewhat minimum.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Managing Wedding Stress

For context, I'd just like to announce that MY WEDDING IS JUST SIX WEEKS AWAY. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!



No, you do not get to complain about the capslock on this post. It is an entirely apt expression of my life-angst right now. Because this is the phase of wedding planning that no one can prepare you for. They may try, and they will warn you about the monumental stress-mess-overload that takes over your life in the months preceding the wedding, but you won't really understand. I certainly didn't. I thought I'd understand. I'd pulled all-nighters before. I'd worked under pressure on eight competing deadlines. I'd planned 500 attendee conferences before and knew what needed to get done. I'd seen those to-do lists from The Knot and knew that the last two months seemed to be engulfed in an impossible stream of tasks. It was going to be hard but manageable.

What no one could prepare me for was the emotional overload on top of it all. No one could prepare me for all the darn tears: tears because I feel so gd*mn lucky, tears because I am entirely and legitimately frustrated, and tears from the straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back-eeeeefffffff moments. I didn't know I could get twisted in so many ways at once. I didn't know that people who had stayed away from our wedding planning process would all come clamoring in during the last two months (both in incredible and irritating ways.) I didn't know that small problems would explode into big problems when all the emotions, stress, and complete lack of time set off a dangerous fuse.

And since I can't really prepare you for it, all I can do is tell you how I've been coping. A from-the-trenches look at how I'm managing the day-to-day pressures of the end-stretch of wedding planning.

Gum. Specifically watermelon-flavored gum. I am a stress eater. I will eat and eat and eat until my stomach is filled to bursting. I have no "I'm full" receptors that tell me to stop eating. Yes, it's an emotional issue that I'm dealing with. But the point is, I knew wedding planning would bring out the stress beast. And so I bought a carton of watermelon gum at Costco. Mint gum doesn't help (too refreshing.) Watermelon gum is like candy. I don't care if it's rotting my teeth or giving me aspartame cancer. I care that I'm not stuffing my face right now. (Fun fact: Snoop Dog is also a big fan of watermelon gum. Who knew?)

A good water bottle. I am not joking, my favorite Christmas present this year was this water bottle, in pink (for that, I blame my mother). I love it. Could I drink water out of a glass? Sure. Could I drink water out of a plastic disposable bottle? Sure (but here's why I don't). Could I buy a safe, reusable, aluminum water bottle? I did. I didn't like it. It leaked and got condensation everywhere. I didn't use it. Is $30 a stupid splurge for a water bottle? Not if I inexplicably love the darn thing and carry it with me everywhere. Mine is pink! And has a handle! And I end up drinking 9 glasses of water a day and feeling less sick and dehydrated from the three cups of coffee I'm also drinking! YAY!

Mini-Step Machine. I am not the best at regular exercise. I generally put it off until I'm too tired to actually get around to it. So I bought a mini-step machine that eliminates all "I don't have time for exercise" excuses. I wake up 50 minutes earlier than usual, load up a guilty pleasure TV show (Glee, perhaps? Or Buffy the Vampire Slayer?) and step away. It's been revolutionary. I can watch tv for 40-45 minutes and exercise, all without leaving my house/dealing with the gym. And all for $70 dollars. I cannot sing the praises of this machine enough (I compared reviews. There are cheaper machines out there, but go for the NordicTrack) It's a lazy whiny procrastinator girl's exercise-and-associated-stress-relief dream machine. Yay.

Massage: I don't care if you're too strapped for cash because of the wedding: do it. Or hint to the person planning your shower or bachelorette that you'd love one. Find a well-reviewed Thai massage or non-spa massage location that doesn't cost $100. Just go. I finally made an appointment here and nearly cried from joy (after nearly crying from deep tissue massage pain. There's definitely a tear theme here). I hadn't realized how bad the stress had become until I could actually move my shoulders again. If massage isn't your thing, get a facial, manicure, acupuncture, reflexology or whatever it is that feels like a mini-splurge and relaxes you. You need to take an hour for you. You can find an hour. You can find something in an affordable price range. Really. Now go schedule it.

Wine. That's right, wine. A glass a day is good for you. It doesn't need to be fancy, just something you can enjoy. Personally, if I air out the Charles Shaw Merlot or Cab, it does the trick. Ever since it won at our blind taste test party, we've been bigger fans. For white, however, I prefer Trader Joe's Vinho Verde, which is a refreshing, slightly bubbly, inexpensive ($4) Portuguese white.

Oatmeal oatmeal and more damn oatmeal. This is both a cost issue (waaaaah budget means very little money to buy lunches at work) and a time issue (time? who has time for supermarket shopping??!! or cooking!!!!!) So, as incredibly boring as oatmeal has become, I can still have something cheap and easy at my fingertips. I've stocked my home and office with oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, and nuts. And I keep a bag of pre-washed salad, black beans, and shredded cheese in the fridge for quickie salads. Because honestly, right now, I could stress eat the entire bag of fresh baked cookies that they sell at the shop beneath my office. In fact, I could happily stress eat that bag of cookies every day. But I don't have an extra $6 each day, nor do I have an extra 1500 calories each day. So, by keeping oatmeal in the office, I no longer have the excuse to pop by the store that sells those delicious cookies, looking for a lunch sandwich (and cookies). I can thereby save my money and my stress-eating waistline (yep, still trying to fit back into that wedding dress).

Ask for help. I'm not very good at that. In fact, I'm terrible at it. But I cannot tell you how grateful I am - and how much this wedding planning process has been enriched - by the people who have jumped in to help us out. And by the people who insisted on wresting tasks from my controlling hands. I want to kiss and hug every one of them right now.

Throw money at it. Seriously, if you can, get a bit freer with your pocketbook. I decided DIY invitations were insane with our schedule and we just ordered something we loved. I realized I have no interest in worrying about whether we have enough staff to clean up at the end of the night and just hired someone to help. I decided not to worry about how our small car will transporting things to the venue and we're renting a minivan (which will also take care of a taxi expense to the airport.) I decided I wanted a bouquet so my nervous hands won't be weird looking in photos. Whatever. I don't care anymore. I'm using our contingency budget on this and, if a real contingency comes up, we'll find a way to manage. Because I don't have the energy to deal anymore.

If you have a pet, indulge in tummy petting whenever possible. You may have heard that it's like frolicking in the back hair of an angel. It is. And it absolutely helps.

And lastly, let yourself cry if you need to. Even if you don't know what you're crying about. Curl up in your partner's arms, even if there's nothing he or she can do to help besides stroking your hair and offering you shoulder to burrow into.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rain Plan

I'm the sort of person who thinks through all contingencies. Some might say I overthink to the point of anxiety, but I'm a planner. And so, as the rain washes over Southern California again, in one of the rainiest years on record, I feel grateful that I insisted on a place with a rain plan.

Our rain plan isn't great, mind you. It simply entailed making sure we had an indoor reception space. Which we do.... but. Oh, the buts.

We picked our site for the outdoor ceremony space. The outdoor views speak to our hearts. The location speaks to our history, with our engagement adventure starting at a restaurant down the road. It's located in one of my favorite Los Angeles communities, and the wild, rustic, hills are a big part of that. It's a community that's been untouched by much of the urban density and paved-over nature throughout Los Angeles. Our ceremony site looks over the wild hills. It's just a mile or so from the beach, and the air is cleared by ocean breezes. And, to be practical, our site also has a functional-enough reception hall. With yellow-orange curtains on the stage. And flourescent lights. And barely enough space for our seating and dance floor under normal weather conditions (we're already seating people on the stage.) To make space for seating, we're planning on having the appetizer buffet, catering buffet, bar, and DIY photobooth outside, alongside the reception hall.

But now, with all this rain, I'm having to seriously think about what it could mean for us and our wedding. We won't be able to set up standard ceremony seating in the hall, since there's no where for people to go to turn the room back into a reception layout. We'll just get married in the dance floor or maybe on the stage, if people are willing to pitch in and move and reset a few tables. I'll probably end up looking drowned-rat bedraggled, despite my best efforts to stay dry (I'm a mess like that.) We'll probably get married under fluorescent lights, since our plan to use candles and white Christmas lights may not provide enough light (though I'd probably have a minor temper tantrum and scream about buying more candles and getting those paper bags with sand and votives for the ceremony. I should probably look into where we can buy those at the last minute). We'll have to move catering indoors, in the hallway behind the bathroom (sounds grosser than it is. There's a wide hallway in the back of the hall). We can't hang the pinata anywhere. We'll probably give up the DIY photobooth (no space). We may have to leave the bar outdoors, under an overhang, with heat lamps, because we simply don't have space.

When thinking about my wedding, many of the joys were bound up in our outdoor plans. In the space to move. In the setting we chose. But now, when February rains pour in with their ominous reminders of possible April scenarios, I'm having to re-imagine our wedding. Feel it become smaller. Less grand, in that most of the Pomp and Decor and Pretties will simply be washed away. Made irrelevant by circumstance. Instead it could become cramped. Or better yet, cozy. Shadowed where I had imagined natural light. Illuminated by a large fireplace and candles instead of the sun. Stripped bare of the physical beauty I had imagined. Transformed instead by the heart of the day and our words.

It's not what I wanted for my wedding. And in truth, it may not come to pass. But it's reminded me, in the most raw way possible, that it will still have everything I truly wanted from our wedding in the first place. We'll pull our families in tight together, and huddle around our ceremony words. We'll find a way to manage life's curveballs, pitch in to make the room layout work, and laugh. We'll dance to warm ourselves and not because it's That Time During the Reception. We'll find firewood and make a roaring fire. We'll buy skewers, marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate and make s'mores. We'll put aside my sangria hopes and instead we'll order a last minute hot water heater and hot chocolate packets. 

If we have to use our rain plan, it won't be pretty. Not, at least, in the ways that I sometimes want my wedding to be pretty. But in having to think through marrying under fluorescent lights and against a weird orange curtain backdrop, I'm remembering that the real beauty of the day is something hard and tiny, lodged deep within my chest. The real beauty will get expressed in the knock-the-breath-out-of-me reaction when I think about becoming Jason's wife and him becoming my husband. The rest of it - planting our succulent centerpieces, finding a pinata, finding a cute shrug, making sure we have enough papel picado - it's a distraction. It's okay to get distracted by it, but it's even more okay to be reminded that, ultimately, it won't add anything to the real beauty of the day, even if we can get married on the hillside, under sunlit skies.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Calvin and Hobbes on Love

Calvin: What's it like to fall in love?
Hobbes: Well... say the object of your affection walks by...
Calvin: Yeah?
Hobbes: First, your heart falls into your stomach and splashes your innards. All the moisture makes you sweat profusely. This condensation shorts the circuits to your brain and you get all woozy. When your brain burns out altogether, your mouth disengages and you babble like a cretin until she leaves.
Calvin: THAT'S LOVE?!?
Hobbes: Medically speaking.
Calvin: Heck, that happened to me once, but I figured it was cooties!! 

We've started our ceremony planning in earnest. I spent a lot of time this weekend looking for readings that resonated from sources that felt authentic to who we are. It's been both more difficult and rewarding than I expected, with a few welcome detours for laughter along the way. And while I don't think Calvin and Hobbes can make it into our ceremony (especially not this quote), it made me smile. So for Valentines Day/Singles Awareness Day this year, I thought it was worthwhile to slip back into my happily single mindset and celebrate a bit of childhood to boot.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday Shoesday for The Rest of Us

I love shoes. In fact, I have a closet full of shoes, some of which probably just get worn once or twice a year. But when they do get worn, they make the outfit. I honestly got teary when I found out the cat had chewed through the toes of my favorite purple heels, right before I permanently banned her from the closet. (She's sneaky. She keeps trying to dart past me in the pre-coffee morning, but my protective shoe reflexes kick in and I can always snatch her back from the door.)

It wasn't always this way. I used to hate shopping for shoes. Shoe stores became a battlefield backdrop for my worst insecurities and self-loathing. I hated how California-appropriate sandals strained against my wide feet. I hated how the pumps that looked so chic in a size six became boatlike monstrosities in a size 10. Salespeople tried to console me by pointing out that a size 10 was proportional for my 5'9" frame, but that just made me even more disconsolate, since I hated my height. I hated being the tallest person in elementary and middle school. I hated being taller than all the men I knew. I hated that an ex-boyfriend (who was also 5'9") used to complain about my height. I hated that I felt self-conscious enough to pay attention and hide in flats.

When I moved to Madrid at age 22, I lived right around the corner from Augusto Figueroa Street, with the most amazing shoes I'd ever seen. Seriously, it's a Spanish shoe shopping destination. And yet, within a week of arriving, I learned that almost no stores carried my European size 42 (damn tiny Spanish women). So I started wearing a 41 - when it was available - and more often a size 40. Also, since I'd managed to move to a country full of short, olive-skinned people, I figured that adding a few more inches to my obscenely tall and noticeably fair frame couldn't make me any more obvious than I already was, and I finally embraced heels.  In the process, I learned to despise how painful shoes could be, I gave myself permanent hammer toes, and I fell completely and utterly in love with shoe fashion.

Surrounded by shopfronts full of lovely shoes and finally unburdened from my adherence to flats, I fell in love with heels. Heels were intoxicating as they made me instantly noticeable and powerful (though sometimes intoxication was the only way to manage the late-night pain). A tall woman who wears heels has to be brave. She has to be self-assured. And even if she isn't either of those things, heels help project it in a business meeting anyhow. My height became a source of pride. I no longer needed to waste time with the small-minded ex-boyfriends who insulted my height because they felt threatened. Instead, I announced it upfront in my online dating profiles, daring tall and self-assured short men to reply: ""The first thing people notice about me is that I'm 5'9" without heels. And I've been known to wear heels."

When I met Jason, whose height tips out at around 6'3", I indulged in new four inch heel snakeskin(esque) stilettos. Then slowly, as our relationship sank in, I realized I could wear whatever I wanted and my shoes weren't a statement. They weren't a reaction or a rebellion. They were just fashion. I bought more ridiculous shoes to celebrate.

And then, once we were past the "celebrate his height" and well into the "this is my wonderfully partnered life" stage or our relationship, my back went out. And by saying "my back went out," I mean I slipped a disk and spent three entire days unable to move a centimeter (literally) without excruciating agony. It took two months to fully recover. And then my back went out again. And again. And at that point, I realized I had a chronic issue and finally began changing my life to accommodate my back via ergonomic supports at work and home and by taking up a lot of core-focused back exercises.

But then my back went out again, and I finally had to reassess my collection of shoes. I had to look into my closet full of varied heels (black business pumps, pink pointy springtime wonders, red satin peep toes, black suede stiletto boots, etc...) and start the mourning process as I moved my favorites to the back and started buying flats. Boring sensible flats. Flats that steal my joy in the shoe store. Flats made by shoe designers who think that throwing a garish poofball at the end of a flat counts as fashionable (it doesn't).

Kate Spade, Via

Me Too, via

All of this would be less frustrating if I weren't looking for flats and near-flats as wedding shoes. Because flats and near-flats don't get celebrated on most wedding sites. And most wedding sites definitely celebrate shoes (see: Tuesday Shoesday. Yes, this is a real thing on wedding sites around the web). Women who are generally sensible about budgets have Louboutin-gasms or Manolo Blahnik-gasms or pick-your-designer-gasms as they finally identify one occasion that miiiiiight finally justify pretty shoes. Well, I just don't have that option. Or budget. And yet, of course I still want pretty shoes. Even though I find wedding shoe photography horrific (taking pictures of the shoes is a fun-but-silly indulgence. Elevating the photos on blogs about weddings helps promote the idea that weddings are about expensive details more than marriage)...but I still want photo-worthy shoes. However, I also want comfortable, match-my-dress, 2 inch heel max, wide-foot, photo-worthy shoes for under $100, and this is a pretty tall order.

So I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate the practical wedding shoe.  The affordable and comfortable wedding shoe. The wedding shoe that won't give you blisters while you're dancing. The wedding shoe that you can wear as an actual shoe, instead of as a just-until-the-reception $500 photo prop with your backup "now I can DANCE" shoes waiting in a bag. The wedding shoe that stands up to a 10 hour day of running around, ceremony, photos, reception, and after parties. The wedding shoe that transitions easily into a for-life shoe, that doesn't get relegated to the once-a-year-special-occasion outfits. A shoe for those of us who don't have $500 (or even $200) to blow on shoes. A shoe for all of us who don't get to participate in Tuesday Shoesday. These shoes are for us:

Classic Bridal Whites and Pale Tones 

Blowfish Naked in Cream Lace

 Spring Troxler in Blush Lace

Me Too Linda in Soft Silver Metallic


A Little Bit of Fun

Romantic Soles Geneva in Purple Satin

Gabrielle Rocha Neve in Purple Patent

French Sole Sloop in Zebra Suede

Report Lilburn in Dusty Pink


Notes on flats: I've found, via rigorous testing methods (aka dancing around our apartment to possible first dance songs) that the best sorts of dancing flats have flexible soles. Like real ballet slippers, but with a bit more protection. This lets you move your feet around to the music instead of possibly falling out of stiff shoes as you twist your ankle.

Feel free to throw links to your own favorite flats in the comments or pipe in with recommendations for buying affordable, comfortable, and stylish flats! Or tell stories about how you were also traumatized by/embraced your height, if that's the part of the post that resonated more. Or just gush about affordable cute shoes. I'm okay with that too.