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

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fuiji Instax Mini Giveaway!

Throughout the wedding planning process, this blog has become more than a place to share my wedding and marriage thoughts. It became my wedding community and you all have been my wedding team. You've cheered me on (and cheered me up) in comments and emails. You've helped me build a wedding, by making my accessories, coordinating my wedding, and giving me a Fuji Instax Mini camera for free.

That's right. Out of the blue, reader Maggie (who you may know from her comments here and from her recent APW Wedding Graduate post) offered to send me her Fuji Instax Mini camera for my DIY photobooth. Maggie and I bonded over our seemingly simple (but actually complex) community center weddings. We worried about DIY logistics. We battled with expectations about photography and authenticity and beauty. And then, she sent me a camera. And all her unusued film. So we could have the DIY photobooth we'd been hoping for but were unsure we could afford. And she sent it to me in the card box she'd made for her own wedding. And then I cried because I couldn't believe how lucky I was to have stumbled into this community and these friendships. And then I cried again after we sifted through all the amazing photos and messages from our DIY photobooth and guestbook, which was pulled together for pennies from Maggie's generosity and our friends' halloween costumes. And that simple act of generosity and magic created moments and memories like this:

Maggie's only stipulation about the gift was that the camera had to be passed along, for free, to another couple. And then that couple had to pass it along too. And so on. So I happily passed along the camera. It went to one of my bridesmaids, who got married a month after me. At which point, Maggie's camera helped create new moments and memories like this:

When I passed along the camera to my girlfriend, I added my own stipulation. I didn't want the camera to get passed along to a random couple. I wanted it to go back into the community it came from. I wanted it to come back here. Back you you. To whoever might need a free camera to help create photobooth memories at his or her wedding. 

So today I'm holding a giveaway for this Fuji Instax Mini camera. Unfortunately, there isn't any film left and it's about 80 cents per picture, but it's 100% worth it.  The photos are about the size of a credit card - so they're small, but large enough to capture tons of fun. You can find free costumery (like we did) or just put out a guestbook for fun photos messages (like my girlfriend did). Either way, I hope it brings one of you as much joy as it brought us. I have a sneaking suspicion it will.

So how do you enter? It's easy. Just a) leave a comment telling me your favorite Halloween costume and if any of it will go into your photobooth. And b) leave your email. And  c) you have to tell me you promise to pass along the camera for free, with whatever film you have left,  when your wedding is done. Because that's how wedding magic grows. And this camera is all about building and capturing wedding magic. 

The contest will close next Thursday at 6pm PST. I'll announce the winner next Friday, June 17.  

This is the box the camera arrived in for me. It was Maggie's card box, and it became mine. The box got ruined along the way or I'd pass that along too, but this photo (captured by Kelly Prizel Photography) felt like the right way to end today's post.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Dress

I've been holding off on writing this post for a while. Not because I've been waiting for some giant reveal with the dress (you've noticed I haven't shown any dress photos, right?) but because there aren't really any dress photos to show. And it hurts. I have very few regrets about my wedding, but the lack of dress photos is at the top of my list. 

Our wedding day was clear but unexpectedly chilly for early April.  However, we felt lucky. It had been raining on and off for weeks beforehand. So what if it was cold? We didn't have to get married indoors and could have the outdoor wedding we'd been dreaming about.  Although I tried to brave the pre-aisle waiting period without my wrap, I (very sensibly) decided that being warm and present for our ceremony was more important than achieving magnificent dress photos while I shivered and silently prayed for the rabbi to hurry up. 

And so, I walked down the aisle in a green cashmere wrap I'd bought for the reception. I bought it to complement my pink shoes and because I'll wear a green scarf more often than ivory.  I bought it because I tried 20 different shrugs and scarfs that all felt wrong.  I bought it because weeks before the wedding, I was exhausted with the accessory search and this one seemed good enough. I did not buy it with the ceremony in mind. I did not expect that I would be wearing it in nearly every wedding photo.

The scarf and wind conspired against me, with the scarf taking tangled flight as I began walking back down the aisle.

It's not like I had a "gasp! wow!" dress. I didn't. I had a simple, elegant dress that still had some intriguing detailing of its own. I had a dress that allowed me to wear bold pink shoes, a green scarf, and a modern necklace that I loved. I had a dress that fit like it was made for me. It was simple and stunning. And I wish I had a single photo that captured that.

During the indoor ketubah signing photos, I'm standing with my hands across my stomach. During family portraits, I'm holding my bouquet in front of the dress. During my post-yichud portraits with Jason, I braved the cold for about three minutes without my shawl. And in those three  shawl-less minutes, Kelly and Holly got a few great pictures of me and Jason, But three minutes isn't a long enough time to ensure you'll get great dress shots. And we didn't. We got some great couple pictures and a few full-length dress shots that don't really do it justice. At all.

You see hints of the detailing, fit, and movement, but the dress never got accurately captured in these few photos and angles (and, um, bad posture). And these are the best "dress" photos we have. However, can we take a moment to discuss how amazing Jason looks in his Theory suit?! (He's owned that suit for two years. No need for a new wedding suit when you already have a tailored stunner.)

Yes, this is silly. Instead of the dress photos I wanted, I got the wedding I wanted. Instead of compliments about my dress (which no one could see under the wrap), I got gasps and compliments about how pretty I looked overall, including about my outfit, hair and makeup, and my bouquet. And since I focused on buying an amazing outfit instead of an amazing dress, this should have been enough. But it wasn't. It isn't. I'm weirdly emotional about this dress and what it represented. I wish people had appreciated a dress I put so much effort into finding. I wish I could show off my dress in photos for some after-the-fact validation. I wish I had photos to show my future children.

I loved my dress. After a dress saga that included buying and selling a designer dress and then buying, trying on, prancing around in, and returning way too many dresses to count, I fell in love with a simple department store dress that felt 100% right for me. And even though the wedding isn't about the dress at all, and even though I love my wedding and photos more than I can say, I'm still sad.

From even these few photos, it's clear that the dress was secondary to anything that was truly important about our wedding day experience. When I see these photos, I care about the moments, not the obscured view of the dress. And yet.

I've had friends recommend a trash the dress shoot to make up for the lack of dress photos (or "rock the dress shoot" as Kelly calls them). To me, these shoots always seemed silly. A wedding isn't a photoshoot and the converse is also true: a photoshoot can't make up for a wedding. Our wedding photos are special because they capture the story and raw emotion of the day. To me, a trash the dress photoshoot misses the point because it's lacking that story, emotion, or any connection to my wedding, aside from the garment. I wouldn't bother framing those photos or putting them in an album.

Moment I first saw myself as a bride, in my dress, with my hair and makeup. How can you recreate that emotion in a trash the dress shoot? You can't. Also, check out that bustline detailing...

However, the emotions about wedding dresses are surprisingly strong. After all, it's the dress I got married in. I felt more beautiful and special on that day and in that dress than I've ever felt in my life.  And so, I might  have considered a trash the dress shoot, except for one thing: I accidentally trashed my dress as I left the wedding.  Yes, you read that correctly. My dress is trashed. Destroyed. Ruined beyond repair. 

In the post-wedding glow and excitement, we (I? A friend? who knows) shut the door of the getaway car on my dress. I didn't notice until, during the drive, the dress managed to wrap around the rear car wheel. It ripped and got covered in wheel crud and grease in the mile long distance between the venue and our hotel. Although the grease stains are limited to the bottom of the dress, the pressure of the tire rotation tore my dress along the entirety of the chiffon detailing.  Therefore, I can't even shorten the dress and make it a chic knee-length dress like I'd been hoping to do. At least the dry cleaner managed to get out the worst stains, even if he yelled at me (making me cry all over again. Which I also did on our wedding night, and again when we got back from the honeymoon and I saw how extensive the damage was.)

Suffice it to say, I have some very messy, complicated hurts and regrets associated with my wedding dress. Which, in the grand scheme of wedding things, is pretty lucky. I have no major regrets about the wedding itself, so I suppose I can sacrifice a wisp of fabric to the wedding gods. And frankly, I have no regrets at all about my choice of dresses. In fact, after all this ridiculousness, I am especially grateful that I only spent $265, including alterations, on my dress. I bought it off the rack at Nordstrom and it competed with any of the designer dresses I tried on along the way (and I tried on a lot).  The bottom line is that: I felt beautiful in my dress (and that sort of confidence is the most illuminating beauty of all), it was too cold to wear my dress without a shrug or get any associated photos, and my dress got destroyed. So thank goodness I didn't spend $10,000 on a dress.  Or even $1,0000. Because for me, it turns out that my wedding dress was even less important than I'd hoped for or expected.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Flashdance Dance Party

I thought we'd be fine with an ipod wedding. After all, Jason is the go-to guy in our circle for party playlists and mixes. But once we heard the Flashdance at a wedding industry party, Jason couldn't picture our wedding without The Flashdance. Because music was Jason's personal top priority for our wedding, and because even I recognized that The Flashdance was something special, I finally gave up my ipod hopes and found ways to reallocate our budget. Now, after experiencing the amazing energy, excitement, and dancefloor frenzy at our wedding, I would have happily paid twice as much to have the Flashdance as our wedding DJ. That's not an exaggeration. The Flashdance was worth every penny and budget challenge. It was a wedding splurge that mattered.

Michael Antonia is more than a wedding DJ: he's a club-worthy DJ who happens to play weddings. He's a DJ who has fun with supersmart musical transitions and juxtapositions. He's a DJ who knows how to get your grandmother, your boss, and your hipster music geek friends onto the dancefloor.  He's a DJ who had our artist friends and my father (who, bless his heart, is hardly a music or danceparty man) noticing and exclaiming about the amazing DJ. He's a DJ who will have a sweaty, barefoot, pumping dance party until the lights go on and the venue finally forces everyone to leave.  

I could try and explain precisely what makes Michael so great, but it would be a general "that was flipping amazing" recap because I'm not a music writer. Fortunately, my husband is. Jason spends much of his personal and professional life thinking, talking, and writing about music, so he spent a bit of time thinking and writing about our wedding music experience for today's post. In Jason's words, here's a brief flash of insight about what sets The Flashdance apart from other wedding DJs and how he made our wedding dance party so incredible:

"From the first moment I heard The Flashdance drop the needle at a party, I knew he was a super-talented DJ.  But his performance at our reception was even better than I'd hoped.  Several times over the course of the night, my friends tracked me down on the dance floor and gushed, "DUDE, this DJ is AMAZING!" which I suspect doesn't happen at most weddings.  So what makes The Flashdance special?  A lot of wedding DJs are content to just line up a bunch of songs and make smooth transitions between them.  Don't get me wrong -- there's nothing wrong with that, and it can certainly provide ample accompaniment to a great party.  But Michael takes it to another level.  He creates live mash-ups of a beat from one song and a vocal from another.  He adds tasty record-scratches and samples in the middle of songs, adding some freshness and originality to old favorites.  His song selections always kept the crowd enthused and energized.

The Flashdance is a DJ you can trust.  After hearing him spin at a party and listening to his monthly mixes, I knew he had impeccable taste (as a huge music geek myself, I can recognize when someone really knows what they're doing).  So instead of delivering him a list of "must-play" songs, I just gave him some general guidelines (soul, funk, 80s pop hits, classic rock drunken sing-alongs) and let him do his thing.  He did not disappoint.  Furthermore, he was not in any way "corny" -- he didn't hog the mic, make lame jokes, or use that annoying radio-announcer voice.  He was kind to us and attentive to our needs.  Most importantly, I could tell he really enjoyed what he was doing.  He was genuinely having fun mixing and scratching and spinning records.  He loves his work, and it shows.  I would hire him again in a heartbeat."

I wish words could adequately describe our dance party (though Jason's words definitely help).  I wish Michael's mixes (which you need to download NOW) could impart the in-person energy and smarts behind his musical choices and how he reads a crowd and builds a party. I wish pictures could accurately capture the revelry.  But they can't.  Nothing can quite get across how amazing Michael Antonia is as a DJ or how he transformed our wedding into the wild dance party we'd always hoped for. But maybe these pictures are a start. 

All images by Kelly Prizel Photography
All dancing inspired by Michael Antonia of The Flashdance