Friday, September 4, 2009

PS: Things Will Go Wrong

A. at AccordionsandLace wrote a great post yesterday on the things that went wrong at her wedding, and how she simply could not be bothered to give a shit. I was sincere when I signed off in my last post, but I couldn't resist the chance to spread the word: Things Will Go Wrong. There will be mistakes. But you can choose not to dwell on them. You can decide that today you just aren't going to give a shit. And your wedding will still be awesome.

I can honestly say that I've never seen anything go wrong at a wedding I've attended (with the exception of the one where the groom was incredibly hung over and looked like he was going to barf at the altar). I once assumed that I didn't see any snafus as a guest because everyone else ruled at wedding planning and orchestrated everything perfectly.

Now, I know better. I'm sure that at every single one of those weddings, something went wrong -- maybe lots of things. Maybe small things, maybe big things, but SOMETHING didn't go as planned. I also know that I, the guest, had no idea.

Snafus at our wedding included:
* My family broke venue rules and took beer from the bar before it was officially open -- a massive no-no according to our contract. Thankfully, I don't think the venue manager noticed!
* The ceremony programs we spent 2 days designing and printing didn't make it to the chairs because of the rain.
* The string quartet messed up the processional, after refusing to attend the rehearsal on the grounds that they were so awesome they didn't need to practice their timing with us.
* The outside cocktail hour got rained out, and the decorations we put up on the patio got soaked. (My mother took home a very soggy box of decorations!)
* No sparkling wine was poured for the toasts.
* Our menu cards were droopy and the candles kept going out.
* I didn't get to try both flavors of cake!

Did we notice all of these things? Obviously. Were we a bit sad about some of them? Yeah, mostly the programs.

Was our wedding "ruined"? No. Absolutely, positively, completely NO. Did we give a shit on the day of the wedding? Again, NO!

Because our ceremony was magical -- the rain parted just long enough for us to say our vows outside, and our officiant was warm and inspiring and uplifting. My friend brought her tiny newborn preemie, a little miracle in and of himself. Our friends promptly snatched the droopy menu cards out of the holders to read them, and to analyze the wines we'd selected. I waltzed with Econo Boy in front of everyone and didn't feel self-conscious even once. And then, our guests didn't leave the dance floor until the DJ announced the last dance.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a "tree" person rather than a "forest" person -- I tend to get caught up in the small stuff, wedding-related or non-wedding-related. But on the day of the wedding, for once in my life, I didn't care about the small stuff. Because I was married to a man who loved me more than anything else in the world, and I love him back just the same way, and we were surrounded by family and friends who loved and supported us and our new marriage.

Yeah, that's sappy. I don't care about that either.

x-posted to my new blog: PetiteChablis.wordpress.com.

Friday, August 28, 2009

So long, and thanks for all the fish!*

After kicking around a few different ideas, I've answered that difficult question of what to do with my wedding blog after the wedding.

My answer is: move on.

I've loved writing this blog -- it let me rant about my dislikes and squeal over things I loved without inflicting yet another call about weddings on my poor bridesmaids. And I can honestly say that wedding blogs often kept me sane -- not the ones with the glossy magazine-worthy photos, but the ones by all you wonderful ladies who were also planning your weddings. In your blogs, I found much-needed reality checks, great ideas, and most of all, the knowledge that I wasn't alone and that I was still pretty normal, even when I thought I was going nuts!

But, I do love writing, and reading, about life and marriage and everyday issues (and, of course, wine!). So I'm opening the doors on a new blog, this time on Wordpress: PetiteChablis.wordpress.com . I would love to see you over there if you're interested!

* Bonus points if you know my geeky reference :-)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

One more little story

As my husband and I look through our photos, it occurs to me that I'd really like to tell the story of my mother's dress.

It begins back in November of '08. I had ordered my bridal gown from a store on the East Coast, and on a visit out to see us, I took my mom to the bridal salon to take a look.

We walked through the first floor of the bridal salon, and the owner, seeing a potential sales opportunity, said cheerfully, "and THIS is our mother of the bride section!"

"Horrified" would be too mild a word to describe my mom's expression. We were surrounded by taffeta, satin, sequins, Dynasty shoulder pads, and matronly skirts cut straight from hip to floor. As we ascended the stairs to the bride's section, my mom whispered to me, "I don't have to wear ... uh ... floor-length, do I?" ("Floor-length" being the most polite way for her to explain what was wrong with the frumpy formalwear downstairs.)

"Of course not, we're getting married outside in the summer," I replied.

Not really my mom's style. Image from JasmineBridal.com.

Thus began my mom's quest for a dress for our wedding. From my own vantage point, 2000 miles away, I could tell it wasn't an easy one. She soon learned not to tell anyone at the store she was shopping for her daughter's wedding, because she'd be led straight to the sequined taffeta jackets. And just as I was nervous about everyone looking at me and wanting to look my best (oh so vain and shallow, I know), my mom was feeling the "you're the MOTHER of the BRIDE" pressure and was second-guessing her desire for a pretty, brightly colored sundress -- was that formal enough? Fancy enough? Would people judge her for not choosing the traditional MOB regalia?

But finally, one day in Macy's, she found a royal purple dress with a faux wrap waist and bright coral, white, and black flowers on the hem. It was pretty, and bright, and just her color, and comfortable cotton instead of non-breathing polyester satin. She bought it. And she looked fabulous.

So mothers of the bride out there, if you're like my mom and your reaction to the MOB section in a typical bridal salon is "ugh ... really?," don't let anyone (especially anyone standing to make money off your transaction) bully you into thinking that this is the only acceptable way for the MOB to dress. Work your own style, be comfortable, and you'll be radiant. My mom's non-MOB dress is one of my favorite "wedding details" from our photos.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Denver Vendor Reviews

Now that I’ve finished wedding “recaps,” I’ve decided to write another semi-obligatory post-wedding post: vendor reviews. The business side of the wedding is not nearly as much fun as the wine or the dancing or the food or the wonderful pictures of your family members hugging post-ceremony. But at the same time, I know how helpful local recommendations were to us in our wedding planning (especially given that we really didn't want to have to interview 20 different florists, DJs, and photographers), and I like to pass along props for people who did good work for us.

I’m not going to go into much detail on each of these vendors because let’s face it – that’s kind of boring. But if you’re a Denver bride or groom considering any of the following companies, leave me a note in the comments with your e-mail address – I’m happy to tell you more if you’re curious! I'm sorting them by category -- Highly Recommended, Recommended, and Not Recommended. (We didn't really have anyone who fell into the "Neutral" or "Maybe Recommended" type categories.)

Highly Recommended:
These are vendors who went above and beyond for us, who delivered exactly what we wanted, at a great price. If we had friends ask us who they should use for their weddings, we’d rave about these four vendors.
  • Dana Dunphy, Revel & Bloom (day-of coordinator)
  • David Wegwart, Photocraftz (photography)
  • Sue Kimball, Kimball Floral (flowers)
  • Mulberries (cake bakery)
Recommended: These are vendors who did a good job, maybe with a few minor snafus along the way. We’d recommend all of them to friends.
  • Three Tomatoes Catering (food)
  • Butler Rents (rentals)
  • Argonaut Liquor (wine, beer and hard alcohol)
  • Applejack Liquor (wine – yes, we purchased wine from 2 places. Yes, we’re nuts.)
  • Grant-Humphreys Mansion (venue)
  • Musictainment (DJ)
Not Recommended: (that one's pretty self-explanatory)
  • Unnamed string quartet (ceremony music). I don’t want to bash them by name on my blog (although I did post a lukewarm-to-negative review on WeddingWire.com). Honestly, their mistake on the processional wasn't that big a deal, but it annoyed me because they refused to come to the rehearsal, citing their "talent and experience." Also, I didn't care for the disdainful way they treated my dad (a church organist with 50+ years of classical music training) in the weeks leading up to the wedding. It was pretty clear that they slapped together our music at the last minute and didn't take weddings very seriously. So if you're looking for a string quartet in Denver and would like to steer clear of this group, leave a comment with your e-mail address and I'll get back to you!

Photos!

Guess what arrived in the mail yesterday? A DVD with our photos! Naturally I ran right upstairs to put 'em on my computer, and then surfed the web right to Blogger to show off ... er, I mean share ;-)

Let me say before I continue how highly I recommend our photographer, David Wegwart of Photocraftz. The shots here barely scratch the surface of his talent, and he was absolutely wonderful to work with. We couldn't be more in love with our photos -- my mom said she cried all over again! So if you're here because you're a Denverite looking for a photographer, go to David's website and get in touch today!

I mentioned a while back that I didn't feel comfortable posting too many photos of our wedding. I've kept my wedding blogging fairly private from my family and friends, and I don't want to put our loved ones' images online without their permission. So the selection of photos below represents, in many ways, the shallowest parts of the wedding -- the "details," the things that made it pretty. You won't see our relatives singing along to "Shout!," my matron of honor holding hands with her husband and laughing with her whole body, the moment before the ceremony when I kissed my mom on the cheek and she smiled, quietly, taking in the knowledge that it was the last-ever kiss she'd get from a single daughter. But those were the moments that Econo Boy and I remember, the ones that make me tear up, the ones that made having this darned wedding worth it in the first place.

But I did promise at least a look. So, without further ado, some pictures of our wedding! All images are by David Wegwart, and are not to be reproduced or posted elsewhere without his permission. (David, if posting these here doesn't fall under "personal use," let me know and I will take them down ASAP!)

My bouquet:


Our table settings:


Our cake, after we cut it. (We kind of did a hack job on the cutting, so don't blame the bakery for the little gaps in frosting on the second tier, that was all us! And oh my lord, was this cake yummy.)




I will probably take a break from blogging (but not from reading or commenting on your blogs!) over the next few weeks as I decide what to do with this blog. I may start a new blog, or simply surrender this one to the wide-open spaces of the internet as a relic of our wedding planning, or keep on with this site and write about life as a wife in exile, bouncing back and forth between my husband in Boston and my grad program elsewhere. Thank you all so very much for your support, advice, and ideas on your own blogs -- it's meant a lot to me!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Booze breakdown

A while back, I promised a reader that I'd do a breakdown of how much alcohol we ordered, and how much we had left over. And I like to keep my promises, so, here we go!

BiE and Econo Boy's Alcohol Breakdown
Estimated number of guests: 150
Actual final guest count: 137
Bar time: 4.25 hours (as specified in our contract with the venue)

What we ordered:
* 12 cases of wine (6 red, 6 white)
* 2 cases of sparkling wine
* 10 cases of beer (Blue Moon and Fat Tire)
* 2 bottles of gin (1.75 L)
* 2 bottles of vodka (1.75 L)
* 2 bottles of bourbon (1 L)

What we had left:
* 4 unopened cases of wine (1 red, 3 white) plus about two mixed cases of unopened bottles, mostly red.
* 8 bottles of sparkling wine
* 3 unopened cases of beer, plus two more nearly-full partial cases
* 1 nearly-full bottle of gin
* 2 nearly-full bottles of vodka (I couldn't believe this one! They must have poured maybe 5 vodka drinks total.)
* 1 half-full bottle of bourbon

Clearly, we over-ordered!

Fortunately, we recovered a full 25% of our total liquor costs with returns to the store. But we still have quite a bit of leftover alcohol sitting in our parents' basements in CO. Some of that is because we had planned for more guests. A lot of the leftovers are almost certainly due to the stunted cocktail hour -- far fewer drinks were poured after the ceremony because of the rain and the need to strike the outdoor bar and move it inside. I also think we would have had a lot less leftover Cava if it had been poured prior to the toasts.

I was, however, very surprised at how much hard alcohol we had left over. I thought it would be gone by the end of the cocktail hour, but not so. And obviously vodka wasn't a big hit with our crowd, while bourbon was. (I went to college in the South, where whiskey and Coke is often the drink of choice, so I think this was specific to our guests -- I don't know if I'd suggest making a point of serving bourbon at most weddings, but for ours, I was glad we decided to offer it!)

So if someone asked me how much alcohol they should buy for their wedding, here's what I'd suggest for approximately 140 guests with 4.25 hours of bar time:
* 10 cases of wine (5 red, 5 white)
* 2 cases of sparkling wine
* 8 cases of beer (2 kinds)
* 2 bottles of gin (1L)
* 2 bottles of vodka, rum, bourbon, or other favorite liquor (1L)

We would still have had leftovers with the amounts listed above, but I think with a full cocktail hour, most of this would probably get consumed!

Remember, this is not a universal checklist -- how much you'll need depends a lot on your guests. Ours was not a terribly hard-drinking crowd (I'd estimate maybe 1 drink per hour per person), and went for the wine and beer much more than they did for the hard liquor (with the exception of the bourbon). If your family eschews wine but loves rum and coke, or you think that my 1 drink/hour estimate is too high or too low for your crowd, adjust accordingly.

One final note: bringing our own alcohol saved us a *lot* of money. The markups on alcohol at restaurants, country clubs, and hotels are significant. Many venues that make you buy their alcohol will try to tell you that you won't save that much money by going with a BYOB venue because you'll over-order and be stuck paying for alcohol nobody drank, but as someone who did have a lot of leftovers, I'm here to tell you that we still saved a bundle. Two friends of ours who got married at a country club last year confided that they spent nearly twice as much as we had on their bar, and they had half as many guests! Per person, they spent roughly four times what we spent on alcohol. So while BYOB is a bit of a hassle logistically, financially speaking, it may be worth it. Just make sure your liquor store accepts returns of unopened cases!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Post-wedding wisdom: advice to future brides and grooms

Much of the best advice Econo Boy and I got while planning our wedding came from those who had been there -- whether in person from friends close by, over e-mail or phone from friends far away, or via blogs. So what advice would I personally pass on? Why, I'm glad you asked! (OK, you didn't ask. But I'm going to tell you anyway. It's a habit of mine and a key reason my chosen career is that of "professor.")

3. DOC? Totally worth it.

Our venue was more or less a blank space. We had to bring in everything -- plates, linens, tables, chairs, caterer, alcohol, the works. That's a lot of moving parts to keep track of on a day when 140 people all want to give you a hug and ask how your dissertation's going. It's also a lot of phone calls to make the week before the wedding in order to confirm contracts and delivery times. I also had a few DIY projects that I really wanted out at the reception -- our menu cards, our escort cards, and our table numbers.

Hiring a day-of coordinator ensured that Econo Boy and I didn't have to worry about any of the event-planning stuff on our wedding day. We also didn't have to keep an eye on the time, wondering if it was time for the first dance or whether we'd cut the cake ahead of schedule. Instead, we relied on our DOC to tell us what we were doing and when. Much less stressful!

2. You can't please everyone.
If you throw a Saturday night wedding in the summer and limit your guest list to family and close friends, some people will claim you're being selfish by having a "fancy" wedding at the expense of including more people. If you throw a lunchtime wedding on a Sunday for 300 people, including everyone's dates and roommates and pets, some people will gripe that they barely got to see the bride and groom and wonder why you needed to have so many people there. Hire a live band, and you're sure to hear someone complaining that the "real" songs played by a DJ are more fun. Hire a DJ, and someone will tell you a live band is always better. And if you throw the fanciest Saturday night wedding imaginable for 300 guests, have a ten-hour reception so you can visit with all of them, and you somehow manage to have a DJ and a live band, someone will sniff that you shouldn't have "wasted" all that money.

So accept now that whatever choice you make, someone somewhere on your guest list probably won't like it. Guess what? It doesn't matter. It's your wedding, and you get to set the priorities.

I'm not saying you should jettison guest comfort as a consideration and do something like not rent enough chairs or not feed everyone in order to afford the deluxe limo package and a $10,000 ball gown. Just because it's your wedding doesn't give you the right to treat your guests or your bridal party like peons who are lucky to be in your august presence on Your Special Day.

But here's the thing -- however much the media (I'm looking at you, "Bride Wars" movie trailer) tries to ram the Bridezilla stereotype down our throats, most brides and grooms aren't selfish monsters. Most of them are just trying to throw the best party they can for their loved ones, while honoring what they personally want out of their wedding day. You probably fall in that category. So don't let anyone guilt you into thinking you've committed a crime against humanity by having an outdoor ceremony. Ignore them. At their wedding, they can have an indoor ceremony. Besides, I guarantee you that someone else on your guest list absolutely *loathes* indoor ceremonies and would gripe quietly in the pews if dragged to a church for your nuptials.

Remember that aesthetics are not ethics. You are not a horrible person for having a Sunday afternoon wedding, or a Saturday evening wedding, or a Wednesday morning wedding. You are not a horrible person for choosing a cake with chocolate ganache instead of white buttercream. You are not a horrible person for inviting 50 people, or 150, or 500. And if someone really hates what you've done with your wedding, I humbly suggest that they skip the event. That's what the "Decline" box on the RSVP is for.

1. Trust your gut when it comes to vendors.
I was only disappointed in two of our wedding vendors (the printer who did our invitations and the string quartet), and in both cases, I had a feeling that they weren't going to measure up. The warning signs were poor communication, unhelpful or flat-out unprofessional behavior, or (in the case of the musicians) a condescending "we're the professionals here, sweetie, let us do it our way and stop asking questions" attitude.

So if a vendor gives you attitude or isn't communicating with you, and that vendor is in charge of something you really care about, don't be afraid to look elsewhere, even if you'll forfeit a deposit by switching.* You may hurt some feelings, but you're not running a charity for snotty wedding vendors, you're paying a businessperson to do their job. I found, and I think others have also found, that the way a vendor behaves before the wedding is a pretty good indicator of the kind of job they'll end up doing. And if you're getting bad service, I guarantee you that there are lots of great vendors out there who will be happy to have your business. Everyone else I worked with was helpful, kind, responsive, supportive, and professional, and all of those people did an awesome job.

* As a corollary: DO NOT pay in full, up-front, for ANYTHING. Seriously. Learn from my mistake!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Everyone's got an opinion!

We're waiting a bit longer for photos -- the DVD with our images is on its way! And wow, are the ones I've seen amazing.

Just about everyone's got an opinion on wedding planning. Before the wedding, it's hard enough to brush off the people who insist that you HAVE to do things a certain way, or who passive-aggressively comment about how gee, they wish they had the guts to be so "unorthodox," or gosh, "you're really going for the whole white-dress thing, aren't you?" But negativity can be even more upsetting after the wedding -- it can color your memory of the event, make you wonder if your loved ones actually had a good time.

Shortly after the wedding, Econo Boy and I had dinner with my father and his girlfriend. I've tried really hard to be friendly with The Girlfriend, but it's difficult for reasons I mentioned in this post, and to be honest, her general personality makes it harder. She's a bit of a drama queen, loves to complain, and puts a lot of emphasis on physical appearance. (Once she praised me for being "light and slight and a sensible eater, just like me!" We were at a restaurant. Three minutes later I ordered a giant calzone stuffed with mascarpone cheese and prosciutto and ate the whole thing, even though my stomach hurt afterwards. How's that for maturity on my part?)

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when TG told us "it was a lovely wedding" and then proceeded to tell us everything that was wrong with it. It was an awfully big wedding -- do you know, she'd always thought small weddings were the most likely to lead to happy marriages. Also, she couldn't hear the string quartet, and her food was cold. And the slice of cake she'd been given was "itty-bitty."

I jokingly asked why she hadn't just cut herself a piece from the cake at the cake table -- her table was right next to it, after all. She blinked, surprised. "I assumed it was a display cake! You know, styrofoam. Everyone does that nowadays."

She thought our cake was styrofoam. For the love of peanut butter and crackers.

Don't get me wrong, I still think we had an awesome wedding, but her comments stung a bit, and briefly (but only briefly!) made me wonder if the celebration I thought was awesome had, in fact, sucked for everyone who wasn't us. Has anyone else dealt with post-wedding sniping? How do you let it slide off your back?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vignette 10: The getaway!

I was shocked when Econo Boy told me it was only 15 minutes before the dancing ended. Where had the time gone?!

After the last dance was danced, I went back to the bridal suite to throw my things in my suitcase and came downstairs to find Econo Boy's groomsmen waiting with eager smiles on their faces. I knew immediately they'd done something to our car.

I should say now that I'm not a huge fan of the auto abuse tradition. Too often, it seems to involve making the car near-undriveable. (And don't even get me started on wedding parties who short-sheet the bed or draw penises on the mirror in the bride and groom's wedding night suite. We're not 12 and we're not at summer camp, people.) But Econo Boy's groomsmen are much less obnoxious and much more creative than the usual auto-decorating crew. The guys had scrawled "just married!" on our back windshield and attached balloons to the bike rack. So far, pretty typical. But the coup de grace was the bubble machine. Yes, that's right, they attached a bubble machine to our car, and put bubble solution in the cupholder so we could refill it!

We couldn't really appreciate the handiwork as we drove to our B&B -- it was dark and we were pretty tired. But the next morning, Econo Boy and I proudly drove our decked-out auto to the post-wedding brunch, and refilled the bubble machine so we could trail bubbles behind us as we pulled up. Several small children squealed with delight as we passed, and Econo Boy and I waved and waved. It was all kinds of awesome.

Coming up next: the details! (By which, I mean actual photos!)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier

I've really been into white wines this summer, which is unusual for me. But darn it, they're refreshing and delicious on a hot, humid East Coast day! This Saturday, at the wine tasting run by our local liquor store, we were introduced to this beauty: Pine Ridge 2008 Chenin Blanc-Viognier, on sale for $11 (down from $14).
Image from wine.com


This is a rich, almost exotically floral white wine (the nose reminded me of jasmine), and uses one of my favorite grapes, Viognier. I told Econo Boy that this would be a perfect cocktail party wine -- it's round and interesting enough to be sipped on its own, without needing food to complete the experience. If you're looking for a more robust white, but don't usually like Chardonnay, I think this one might be a good pick!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vignette 9: I could have daaaaaanced all night, or, BiE's insane shoe quest is vindicated

After I finally scored my pair of David Tates, I started to feel a little silly about the whole shoe thing. I had a perfectly nice pair of wedges -- why on earth had I gotten so obsessed with finding "dancing shoes?"

But my craziness was vindicated on the day of the wedding. Because while the wedges were perfect for walking on grass, at the end of the ceremony? Those thin plastic soles on the Coloriffics were making my feet weep with discomfort. Econo Boy felt my pain -- his rented patent leather shoes weren't exactly cushy either. He and I both ran upstairs after the family photos to swap out our uncomfortable ceremony shoes for better dancing shoes.

And those David Tates were magic on my feet that night. I danced as much as I've ever danced in my life. I waltzed to our first dance, "Blue Eyes" by the Cary Brothers. I two-stepped to "Wildflowers" by Tom Petty, our parent dance. I twisted and shouted to the oldies, walked like an Egyptian to one of my favorite songs from my tweenhood, and while no dance-offs ensued when the DJ played "Billie Jean," Econo Boy was delighted to learn that his new wife could moonwalk.

Our guests danced up a storm -- I knew I could count on my college pals to get down on the dance floor, but I had no idea my uncle or my cousins could cut a rug that way! The dancing pictures are some of my favorites from the whole wedding -- everyone looks happy, silly, and like they're having a great time.

One of my favorite moments was when the DJ played a song I'd requested for the playlist, "Melt With You" by Modern English. This was the first dance song for two dear friends (I'd been a bridesmaid at their wedding) and I'd hoped they would be on the dance floor when it was played. Sure enough, I was standing right next to them when the first notes played, and they both jumped with delight, grabbed hands, and tangoed out onto the dance floor! It was adorable.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Vignette 8: The aftermath of the rain

The ceremony had ended, the marriage license was signed, and our families assembled on the porch for those dreaded posed shots. Meanwhile, our guests started the outdoor cocktail hour. Hors d'ouevres were passed, and the lovely caterer brought a plate of them to the bride and groom, who scarfed them down gratefully. Those empanadas did not disappoint.

And then? Just as the last family shot was snapped? The rain came back. With a vengeance.

The rainstorm sent our guests scurrying inside (thus solving the problem of how to get everyone off the porch and into the dining room for dinner!), and sent our serving staff into overdrive. The lovely outside bar had to be struck down and moved inside as quickly as possible. With the staff scrambling to cope with moving the cocktail hour inside, a few things didn't get done. Most notably, there was no sparkling wine poured for the toasts (it was later plopped down just prior to the cake cutting), which was kind of a bummer, but did mean that we had lots of leftover Cava!

The humidity also made our menu cards a little droopy. And, for some reason, our candles kept going out! (Guess I know why they were $5 a dozen ...)

A slightly blurry guest photo of our centerpiece -- complete with 3 non-lit candles!

But despite the rain-related chaos, dinner turned out lovely. My dad gave a charming welcome toast -- efficient and to the point, but full of affection and warmth. Very much like him! Supermaid and the Best Man gave wonderful toasts as well -- Supermaid teased me about my previous conviction that I would never marry and ended by saying "I told you so!" The food was very good (especially the hors d'ouevres ... oh, those sausage and pecorino bites were divine!), the wine was amazing (naturally ;-)), and with a few calories and a little alcohol in my system, we began the process of table-hopping.

I had pushed for a receiving line. Boring, yes, but you get to see everyone. Econo Boy hated the idea and insisted we could simply visit tables during dinner after scarfing down our own food. Table-hopping worked fairly well, but gave us very little time to visit with anyone. (Then again neither would a receiving line.) This was the moment when I really felt the downside of our large wedding. Part of me resented the moments I felt obligated to spend with people like my mother's co-worker and her family (and it didn't help that one of the teenage girls informed me that they weren't having any fun!), rather than having a longer conversation with two of my favorite people who were sitting at that same table.

But I did get to talk with my friends, take one large group photo of our graduate school crew, and meet lots of people Econo Boy has been talking about for years but whom I've never met. Before I knew what was happening, our DOC tapped me on the shoulder and asked if we were ready for the first dance!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Vignette 7: In which BiE realizes something has gone astray

There was but one little hiccup in our otherwise perfect ceremony. When Econo Boy's father got up to read the prayer we'd selected ("Wedding Prayer" by Robert Louis Stevenson, an author dear to both Econo Boy and his dad), I looked out at our loved ones and realized something: no one had programs! With the rain, they had simply never made it out to the chairs as planned.

At the time I brushed it aside -- too many wonderful things were happening to dwell on the missing bits of paper. But after the wedding, when I looked back, this was the one thing that really bummed me out. Our programs were so lovely, and moreover, they were a fair amount of work! But you know what? We count ourselves lucky that this was the biggest disappointment of our day. (Second biggest: not getting to try both flavors of cake! The lemon-raspberry was untasted by me, but received rave reviews.) If that's all the rain took from our ceremony, that's not bad. And at least the programs made it to the tables at dinner, so our guests could still admire our hard work!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Our ceremony

I don't think I can attach the word "vignette" to our ceremony. It was too weighty, too beautiful, too perfectly imperfect to think of as just another little story. Talking about it still gets the two of us choked up.

This was due in no small part to our officiant, Katie, a family friend and socially progressive minister. She opened with a welcome, including the following words:
As we celebrate this marriage today, the covenant promises that these two will make and the rights and privileges that will be offered them as a result, we are ever mindful that there are loving couples to whom these privileges are not offered. Econo Boy, BiE, and I celebrate this moment with the hope that marriage might someday be an institution recognized by both church and state for all couples who would make the promises of living their lives together.
Then she read us the declaration of intent, the "I do" questions. Econo Boy went first, and I was so spellbound by those words that when my turn came, Katie had to prompt me with a little smile and nod -- "Do you?"

Yes, I do.

Katie then read a homily she'd written, with 3 new R's for these two academics: Recognition (of our differences), Reverence (for the promise we'd made to one another), and Ritual (shared traditions binding out lives together).

And then the vows. I handed my bouquet to Supermaid, and took my fiance's hand.

Econo Boy almost cried, but managed to hold it back to just a few sniffles. And when my turn came, my voice suddenly broke. For a moment I thought I wouldn't be able to say those words back to him, that my throat was too closed with emotion and that I'd have to whisper them. But my voice came through, wobbly and soft and not at all like my usual public speaking voice. But Econo Boy could hear me.

When the vows were through, we beamed at each other, clutching hands for dear life, and instinctively, we leaned in to kiss -- stopping ourselves just in time. Katie laughed, and so did our family and friends. "You can kiss if you want!" But we held off until after we exchanged rings and Katie presented us as the newlyweds.

Katie gave the benediction and blessing, the string quartet started up the "Hornpipe" from Water Music, and we turned to go down the stairs, but then I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder.

Supermaid: "Uh, sweetie? Do you want your bouquet back?"

Me: "Oh, yeah!"

And down the aisle we went, married, glowing, and complete with bouquet.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Vignette 6: The processional

Pictures were taken. The rain had lifted. Our awesome DOC said the ceremony was a go. And so we all lined up at the side of the house to process down the aisle, up to the front steps of the mansion.

The processional began with Katie, our officiant, followed by Econo Boy and his parents, then the groomsmen, all to the strains of Vivaldi's "Largo" from the "Winter" suite of the Four Seasons.

As my bridesmaids started down the aisle, our string quartet, who had prima donna-ish-ly insisted that they had played zillions of weddings and that there was no reason for them to be at the rehearsal, botched the processional royally -- they restarted "Largo" instead of moving on to the hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth." Fortunately they switched in time for the last two bridesmaids to walk down the aisle to the right song. I was annoyed, but pushed it aside. Because as soon as the last bridesmaid was down the aisle, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" started, and it was my turn to walk down the aisle, my dad on my right and my mom on my left.

Of course, being the total goofballs we are, we couldn't resist talking as we walked down the aisle.

Me: "Between not wearing my glasses and this veil, I can't see a damn thing."
Mom: "Hey Dad, are we supposed to remain standing at the end of the walk?"
Dad: "Yikes. I forget. Well, everyone will stand when the bride enters, right? So we'll stand."
We entered the aisle. Everyone turned, but no one stood.
Mom: "No one is standing."
Me: "Eh, close enough."
Dad: "I guess we'll sit then."

And suddenly there we were at the end. I hugged my parents, and extended my hand to a beaming Econo Boy. I grinned at him through my tulle, and as the quartet finished the verse, I whispered, "Hey, want to help me with my veil?"

Econo Boy lifted the veil. Supermaid adjusted it subtly as we ascended the stairs. Katie smiled at us warmly. And the ceremony began.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vignette 5: Rain, rain, go away

When Econo Boy and I decided to have our ceremony outside, we of course made sure we had a contingency plan for bad weather, but we never thought for a moment that we'd actually *need* it. Colorado is bone dry in the summer. Rainstorms in the summer are short, few, and far between ...

... except, as it turns out, in the summer of 2009, the wettest Colorado summer since 1882, when they began tracking rainfall.

The forecast all week had been for "possible PM thunderstorms." And sure enough, just as my bridesmaids and I left the salon, it started sprinkling. The rain soon cut out, but three hours later, as the ceremony setup was completed, it began to rain again.

To my surprise, I was completely calm as I watched the drops fall from the window of the bridal dressing room. It was still an hour before the ceremony, and in my heart of hearts I believed that the patch of blue sky was coming towards us just quickly enough.

For the first look and the wedding party photos, our brave photographer posed us under the mansion's awning and stood out in the rain, cheerfully ignoring the drops as he called instructions to us. (I am absolutely dying to get our photos back!) I periodically shook my bouquet dramatically at the sky and told the rain to stop, never seriously considering that it wouldn't.

And then somehow, miraculously, as the guests began to arrive ... it stopped. My optimism was rewarded! Once the clear weather had held for 15 minutes, our wonderful DOC declared the ceremony a "go!"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Ironstone Vineyards Obsession

We interrupt our recaps to bring: a return of Wine Wednesday, and a brief rant on the liquor laws in my new state.

I don't think it's telling you too much to say that Econo Boy and I have relocated to the Boston area. (We're American academics, it's sort of inevitable.) There are many things I like about our new home, including the beautiful wine and liquor store that's literally just around the corner (time from front door to wine shop: 3 minutes).

But I cannot stand MA liquor laws! We can't have anything shipped here, taxes on alcohol are through the roof, and to combat underage drinking, some stores only take a MA driver's license as proof of age. I look young, I'm always carded, and I'm OK with that. I respect that there are strict penalties for selling to teenagers. But at 27 years old I hardly expected to have a bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc nastily snatched away from me by a very unpleasant woman at a Costco in Waltham, with the snotty announcement that it would be ILLEGAL to sell to someone offering another state's driver's license as proof of age. Yeesh.

Fortunately, our corner wine store is much friendlier, and didn't bat an eye at our out-of-state licenses. They also stock a wide range of unusual wines, including this one that Econo Boy and I opened the other night: Obsession, from Ironstone Vineyards, made from the Symphony grape (a hybrid of Muscat and Grenache Gris).

Image from Wine.com.

I've started making a point of trying anything that looks "weird," and a grape I'd never heard of in a Riesling-shaped bottle, selling for $9, caught my attention. The wine was juicy, with lots of tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, and even a hint of starfruit), and had a clean finish. It was clearly thoughtfully made. But to be honest, it was a bit sweet for us -- I think we needed a spicier dish than the fairly tame stir-fry we were eating to really stand up to its sugar. I'm not sure if I'd buy it again, but if you like sweeter wines, this one is worth a look.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Vignette 4: Tree Pose

The morning of the wedding, I woke up feeling rested and happy. My bridesmaids, who were staying next door, came over for breakfast (mmm, leftover brunch muffins), and a lovely, lazy morning began.

But despite getting some exercise and eating some snacks, the nerves began to build. I had to force down the light lunch of tuna salad and grapes my mom prepared. And so every half hour or so, I started stepping into Tree Pose to quiet the butterflies in my tummy.

Image from fitsugar.com.

I'm actually not that good at Tree Pose, but I did find that it helped to just stand perfectly still, on one leg, breathing deeply and focusing as best I could. Before I knew it, 1:30 had arrived, and Supermaid rolled up in her car to drive us all to our hair and makeup appointments!

And who met us there? Econo Boy!

OK, I know what you're thinking, bad luck, etc. etc. etc. But Econo Boy and I aren't very superstitious. What we are, is a pair of dorks. We couldn't stand not seeing each other until 4:30 pm, so Econo Boy scheduled his hair clean-up for the same time as my makeup appointment. Feeling his arms around me was wonderful. I won't pretend that all my nerves went away, but seeing him then was just about the best, most soothing thing I could have asked for. Way better than tree pose.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Vignette 3: In which BiE truly begins to enjoy her wedding weekend

My mother-in-law completely outdid herself with the rehearsal dinner. It was western-themed, with BBQ food, adorable table settings, wildflowers everywhere, and 75 chocolate daisy lollipops, hand-made by Econo Boy's mom.

And they were yummy, too!

It started with a cocktail hour outside, then moved in for BBQ food and fun. I got to meet Econo Boy's aunts, uncles, and cousins, and he got to meet mine. I saw friends I hadn't seen in ages -- including apricot, a friend from summer camp (we were both counselor-type people) who I hadn't seen since 2005! The moments with all of these people were, of course, way too brief. I could have spent hours hanging out with every one of them, but had to settle for hugs and short conversations and the excitement of knowing they were there.

The slideshow (yes, we did the mandatory baby pictures-to-adults slideshow) was adorable. The toasts made us laugh and cry. Highlights included my former Girl Scout leader's subtle reference to that time I barfed on a camping trip (her advice to Econo Boy included "don't feed BiE s'mores and hot dogs for dinner"), much teasing about our braininess/geekiness, a rather embarassing picture of Econo Boy that I won't describe here, and two stories about me drinking, both prefaced with, "Now, BiE *never* drank."

I had so much fun that when I finally got to bed, I slept until 9 the next morning, after several consecutive nights of tossing and turning and waking up at 6:30. It was darn near perfect.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Vignette 2: In which BiE inadvertently makes life very difficult for her bridesmaids

The rehearsal, on Friday afternoon, was brutally hot. It was 90 degrees outside, and at 3pm, we were standing more or less in direct sun. But the bridal party pulled through like champions, and when it was all over, Econo Boy and I were looking forward to hanging out with our buds for a while before the rehearsal dinner.

Not to be. The groomsmen departed to fix a tux situation, and the bridesmaids departed for a vague "errand," leaving me and Econo Boy alone to watch an episode of "Bones" on his parents' TV. (Did I mention we were fried?)

In my zoned-out state, I did not realize that the "errand" had anything to do with us. Nor did I catch on the next day, when my "Supermaid" (really my "matron of honor," but "matron" sounds so wrong!) continually offered to take my luggage to the wedding night hotel for me. "Oh, no thanks!" I chirped as the nice makeup lady glued false eyelashes to my lids.* "I need some of the stuff in there at the wedding."

As you have probably figured out, the "errand" involved buying treats for our wedding night hotel suite, and poor Supermaid was trying to subtly sneak away to put the champagne and strawberries out for us. It was not to be. Instead, Econo Boy's sister snuck away while I was getting dressed. Thank goodness the hotel was only 4 blocks from the wedding site!

And since I'm an aspiring wine geek, I'll tell you that our wedding night champagne (which was, in fact, consumed 2 days later on our mini-moon to the mountains) was Veuve Clicquot, which we'd never tried before, but enjoyed tremendously.

Image from LeBonVin.co.uk

* I have skimpy lashes, and the little clusters of faux lashes the makeup artist used looked brilliant. I'm not about to use 'em myself in the mornings, but for this most photographed of days, I was a big fan.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm back!

Whew. Now that? That was quite a week.

To be honest, I'm not even sure where to start with a recap of our wedding weekend, so I'll start by saying this: it was fantastic. We had a blast, felt incredibly loved, and we think (we hope!) those who attended had almost as much fun as we did! There was also some last-minute wrangling of details, a few minor stressors, and a slightly annoying rainstorm. It was, as I mentioned on A.'s blog, "perfectly imperfect."

Rather than try to give a blow-by-blow of the whole weekend, I think I'm going to focus on little stories/vignettes. These may or may not be in order, but I'll do my best to tell them roughly chronologically!

Vignette 1: In which BiE's bridesmaid is put to work, and too much wine is opened.

On Friday, the day before the wedding, two dear family friends helped my mom throw a bridesmaids' brunch. My bridesmaid C had arrived the night before, and joined me and our other college pals for low-key beer and pizza at my favorite hometown pizza joint. As early as Thursday evening, having solved the Great Shoe Crisis of 2009 and otherwise spent the week a bundle of nerves, I was exhausted and borderline incoherent.

Thankfully, C was there (having stayed in our neighbor's guest room the night before) -- she transferred salads from plastic bowls to serving bowls, helped my mom set the tables, and was otherwise a rock star. My only task? Opening 2 bottles of wine. Number of glasses of said wine consumed at lunch? 1. (Guess who drank it? That's right, your truly, BiE.)

Lunch was lovely. Presents were bestowed upon the bridesmaids and upon our mothers. I gave each bridesmaid a book, individually chosen for her, and a La Purse pashmina in "Dusk."

Image from LaPurse.com. Two thumbs up for this San Francisco-based retailer!

Econo Boy's family skittered out earlier than I'd expected in order to work on the rehearsal dinner. Fortunately, this meant that I got to follow lunch with a pre-rehearsal power nap. Mmm, power nap.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The shoe situation

Previously: My frustrating search for shoes moved online, and I ordered two pairs, which arrived 4 and 3 days before my wedding respectively.

Contender #1: Coloriffics Knotty, sold by DSW.com. Price: $29.95 plus $15 for two-day shipping.
Image from www.DSW.com

A little plain, but the knot in the front saves them from being totally boring. At that price, I couldn't pass up the chance that they might work. But I wasn't convinced they would. Would the heel be too high? (It's listed at 2.5", but the sites don't always get that quite right.) Would my ankles be too fat for the straps?

Contender #2: David Tate Rosette. Price: $71 plus free shipping.

Image from Zappos.com

Sparkly detail, sturdy 2" heel, and a lovely goldish color -- what's not to like? I'd had my eyes on these for a while. What stopped me from ordering them? The price, and my belief that I could score something great in Colorado for less. Ha, ha, ha. When the situation became desperate, these were the first shoes to hit my electronic shopping cart.

Contender #3: VANEli Modesta, sold by Nordstrom. Price: $95 plus tax.
Image from Zappos.com

In all my hours of shoe searching in Colorado, this was the only pair that almost became my wedding shoes. They were comfy, pretty, and even looked a bit like those Stuart Weitzmans that first caught my eye in Nordstrom. But alas, at $95, they were pretty spendy for me. And to make matters trickier, the store only had 1 pair of my size left, and it was clear they'd been tried on a *lot.* The soles were visibly scuffed and one heel had a nick in it. Normally I'd say "whatever" and just buy 'em, knowing I'd scuff them myself by the end of the night anyway, but I felt weird about spending so much on a pair of shoes that clearly weren't in top condition.

And the winner is ...

David Tate Rosette! This shoe looks so much better in person than on the website -- the champagne satin has just the right amount of shimmer, and the heel height is perfect.

I was sorely tempted by the Coloriffics, which made my feet and legs look long, slim, and sexy, but that extra 1/2 inch and the narrower heel made a huge difference in terms of how they felt on my foot. I feel like I can dance all night in the David Tates, while the Coloriffics had the balls of my feet going "ouchy!" within minutes of putting them on.

They're a hair tight across the instep, but I'm solving that by wearing them around my mom's house all day today. Next stop: pedicures!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wine Wednesday: A big-bottle buy

Econo Boy's parents are also regular readers of the WSJ Tastings column, and when we came to their house for a few nights, they had this lovely wine waiting for us: the Frontera Sauvignon Blanc, recently recommended by Dottie and John.

Image from ConchaYToroUSA.com

Frontera is sold in large, 1.5L bottles for around $9 (for those keeping score, that's the equivalent of $4.50 per regular bottle!), which makes it an amazing bargain for everyday drinking -- and especially for a party. If anyone is looking for an inexpensive white wine to serve at a wedding, for example, I would definitely point them to this one! It's juicy and fragrant, light and refreshing, and seriously yummy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On gratitude

One of the things I've struggled with this week is gratitude, and how to balance the appropriate amount of gratitude with the appropriate amount of sanity-saving alone time and appropriately saying "no, I'm so sorry, we won't be able to do that." Let me elaborate.

Weddings that turn into "wedding weekends" get a lot of flack from the indie bride community. But now I see how they happen. Econo Boy and I are booked solid from Thursday night until Sunday brunch. It's not that we think we're super-cool and so important that our wedding deserves a ton of extra events. It's that we have lots of people traveling in from out of town who we want to see (result: Thursday night dinner with friends), and lots of family friends who are throwing offers for parties at us left and right (result: Sunday post-wedding brunch). We honestly don't care if people attend or skip the "extras," but people offered to host them, and really wanted to do these things, and so we said yes.

But to be honest? Brutally, totally honest? I wish the brunch would go away. And maybe a few of the other events too. I could use some down time this weekend.

And I feel awful for feeling that way. Because these family friends have worked so hard to put these events together, and they've done it out of love and warm wishes and all good intentions. But I am so. fracking. sick. of reviewing lists of people who haven't RSVP'd for Wedding Weekend Event X, and of answering questions about whether we prefer donuts or danish. Again, I know full well that these questions are posed with the best of intentions, and that the people posing them just want to make us happy, and I answer all of them promptly and with enthusiasm (sometimes faked). But what would really make me happy right now is not being asked any more questions!

So the lesson here is twofold. 1) Any events associated with your wedding WILL INVOLVE WORK FOR THE COUPLE. Even if they say "you won't have to lift a finger," trust me, there's work in there somewhere. Sometimes it's tracking down RSVPs, sometimes it's long and boring conversations about the guest list, sometimes it's constant questions about details. Be aware of this, and accept or decline offers to host such events accordingly. (It's OK to decline.) 2) Sometimes we end up resenting people who are trying to be kind. Take a deep breath and remember that they're trying to be kind before you let yourself get too far over the edge. In short, remind yourself to be grateful that people care about you guys enough to do this stuff, even if the danish vs. donut e-mails are driving you nuts. And if you really don't care about what they're asking, just flip a coin ;-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

This is a message from the Office of Ceremony Program Quality Control

The little inkjet printer in the room is whirring, whirring, whirring, working its heart out to print the inside of our programs! It has already given us the front of the programs, our wine lists, and drink menus, plus name tags for the rehearsal dinner. Next up: place cards, color-coded according to meal choice. (Number of ink cartridges depleted thus far - 1, at $50 a pop. HP, hats off for your extraordinary dedication to the "sell the razor for cheap and the blade for dear" business philosophy. But I love your inkjet printers.)

I like doing this stuff. It makes me feel useful, and busy in a mindless sort of way that doesn't require too much concentration. Econo Boy has been writing thank-you notes and helping his mom with the rehearsal dinner nametags (she bought adorable cowboy boot stickers to put on them -- it's a Western BBQ themed dinner).

On another subject entirely, Econo Boy and I played hooky and went on a date last night. I highly recommend this activity in the week prior to your wedding. We banned all wedding talk, went to see "Star Trek," and then drank margaritas (decent ones, not ones made with that horrid sugary mix) and ate carnitas and sopapillas at my favorite Mexican restaurant in my hometown.

And this morning, we got our marriage license! We both agreed that the women working there seemed unusually cheerful for government employees. I'm sure that has a lot to do with the fact that they're giving out marriage licenses, and not handling vehicle registration or jury duty -- they see happy people every day.

So in short, we're doing really well. I still don't have shoes, though. C'mon Zappos, let's see that box!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A couple things I've done right

Two minor things were accomplished this morning.

* I ordered liquor and beer to fill out our bar -- and the store was running a sale! $7 off Bombay Sapphire and $3 per 12-pack off our favorite beer (Blue Moon). Yes! (My brother will be relieved when he sees the drinks menu. His cocktail of choice is the G&T, and I've been teasing him by saying that I'm going to buy the ultra-cheap Gordon's gin. I don't like gin at all, so I'm no judge, but according to Bro, Gordon's tastes like nail polish remover. Then again he likes sweet Riesling, so what does he know?)

* We will still have a cake, according to the nice lady at the bakery who took my CC information. Phew. I am not a pastry delinquent.

But to be perfectly honest, the courthouse elopement followed by popcorn-eating and shoe-running-over still sounds pretty appealing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

10 days out: details meltdown

OK. I pretended to be all cool and calm in this morning's post, but the truth is I'm having a meltdown. I'm swimming in details, constantly exhausted, and I feel like an unorganized failure. I know that's silly, that we've done a lot of things right and we're actually very organized, but in the past few days I just keep slamming against stupid little humiliating things that aren't working or that I didn't do right. And Econo Boy has gone backpacking with his father, so I'm left alone facing an ever-increasing list of stupid wedding crap like the following.

* Had the florist not reminded me, I would have missed her final payment deadline. And I think I may have missed the deadline to pay for the cake, judging from the very friendly but firm voicemail the baker left me today. Great.

* I still don't have shoes. I'm wearing a very cute wedge sandal for the ceremony (which is outdoors, hence the need for a heel that won't sink into the ground), but the shoe is vinyl and doesn't breathe at all -- I doubt it's going to be very comfortable for dancing. So I've been searching high and low for a cute sandal with a 2" heel that I can dance in and that won't break the bank ... and so far, zip. Zero. Nada. I've seen cheap shoes with footbeds that won't bend at all, great shoes with 3" heels, great shoes with only one pair left in a size way too small for me, and one pair of perfect shoes that turned out to be $300 Stuart Weitzmans, but nothing in my size and price range that I like even a little. And I came dangerously close to strangling a saleswoman who tried, very loudly and insistently, to convince me that a pair of shoes did in fact have a 2" heel if you "measured it right." Call me crazy, but if a heel adds 3" to my height, in my book that's a 3" heel.

* I'm also lacking a necklace. Several months back I found a stunning necklace online: Lily, from Blue Sprinkle.

Image from bluesprinkle.hostasaurus.com

But it was more than I wanted to spend, and so I kept looking. And looking. And looking. And I found ... nothing. And now, after several humiliating trips to various jewelry stores and department stores, having received looks dripping with either pity or scorn when I explain what I'm looking for (a very simple necklace with a drop pendant) and my ideal price range ($50ish), I am jewelry-less. (It's not like I want diamonds! I'm happy with paste, seriously, it only has to look good for about 4 hours. But the saleswoman at Nordstrom, which usually has such great customer service, turned away with a disgusted look on her face and *stopped talking to me* when I said that the pearl pendant she showed me was out of my price range. And it was a fucking ugly necklace to boot.) Maybe I should just give in to temptation and pay for 2-3 day priority shipping on the Lily necklace, but it still feels like too much money, and frankly I'm not sure I trust USPS to deliver it in the promised time frame anyway.

Ugh. Between hair appointments and shoes and jewelry and looking skeptically at the very expensive dress that I'm not even sure I like anymore, I feel sick about the money I've spent and the money I'm thinking about spending on myself, and I feel like I'm going to be the world's most unimaginative, slapped-together, frumpy bride no matter what, so why bother? It's probably gauche not to show up for one's own wedding, but I am so over this right now that I just want it all to go away so I can spend the 25th eating popcorn in front of a TV, having eloped to the courthouse the day before, donated my dress to charity, and run over my shoes a few times in a very large and heavy car.

Wine Wednesday: Clayhouse Adobe Red

Y'all. I am exhausted. 2 walkthroughs, numerous errands (votive candles for $5 a dozen at Michael's! Hooray!), a listening session, and what seems like an infinite number of discussions later, Econo Boy and I have picked our vows, purchased place cards, finished the seating charts for the rehearsal dinner and the reception, and somehow managed to squeeze in time with all 3 branches of the family (my mom, my dad, his parents). Still to do: dancing shoes (I'll explain later), decorations for the outside terrace, purchase of beer and liquor, and hopefully little else.

At dinner with my dad (who you may remember is a wine lover too), I chose the following bottle of red wine for the table.

Image from www.kenswineguide.com

US winemakers tend to prize varietal wines, which are almost entirely (or sometimes 100%) made from the same grape. While a wine labeled simply "red" can be a bit of a risk, I've grown to appreciate the results when skilled winemakers blend their grapes. This Clayhouse Adobe Red is delicious. The combination of Malbec and Zinfandel makes it rich and robust, with a nice kick on the finish, while the Syrah and Petite Sirah add roundness and softness. A great buy for $15 at the wine store (and still not a bad value at the restaurant for $32, but restaurant alcohol markups just kill me).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

RSVPs part III: my favorite responses to RSVP follow-ups

Our efforts to follow up with guests who hadn't RSVPd yielded one excellent excuse, a couple who did RSVP but whose card went astray, and a handful of pretty lame responses.

* "I'm definitely coming, but my wife hasn't decided if she can make the time yet. Can you put her as a 'maybe'?"

* "Sorry I didn't return the card, I thought my dad already told you I couldn't make it." (Is it just me, or should someone over 30, living on his own, consider handling his own social calendar without parental assistance?)

* "Oh, right! I lost the invitation, but I totally want to come. When is it again? And can I bring my girlfriend?" (Age of guest: two years older than I am.)

But my personal favorite RSVP mishap was the phone call I got last night: "Hi BiE! I RSVP'd no, but then I realized the river rafting in Colorado was going to be awesome this month. Can I still come? I already bought the plane tickets." (This was a relative of mine! We got the call while staying with my grandparents, and my poor grandmother was beside herself with annoyance.)

To be honest, though, we're feeling pretty good about everything -- walkthroughs are scheduled, all invited guests are accounted for, our seating chart is in good shape, and we're arriving in Denver tomorrow. Whew! Here we go!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wine Wednesday: A Zinfandel for summer

In their Wine Notes column last week, my favorite wine writers, Dottie and John of the Wall Street Journal, gave advice to a student at Chapel Hill looking to expand his palate on a tiny budget. Their advice was excellent -- go down to the local wine store and buy a mixed case of wines under $10. Econo Boy and I have been doing that for a while ourselves. We'll take an afternoon, go down to the wine store, grab an empty case box, and start picking different wines to try.

The rule for these cases is that they have to be mostly wines that are new to us, but we also go back to old favorites -- I think Altos Las Hormigas has found its way into our last 3 cases. Another regular feature of our mixed cases: Rabbit Ridge Barrel Cuvee Zinfandel, from California's central coast.


Image from www.rabbitridgewinery.com

This charming wine is surprisingly gentle for a Zinfandel. It's not particularly spicy or peppery, but it's not a fruit bomb either. It's just a relaxed, smooth, sippable wine that doesn't feel too heavy on a hot summer day. (But be aware of the high alcohol content in this one! 14.9% packs a bigger punch than the usual 13-14%.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

RSVPs part II: why it's important to follow up with the missing ones

A good friend of mine officially has the best reason ever for not RSVPing: he didn't receive an invitation!

In our defense, we did send one. But he had just moved, hadn't sent out his new address, and hadn't updated his addy with USPS. And fortunately, he did receive our e-mailed save-the-date back in January and had already purchased plane tickets and a hotel room, so he won't miss our wedding because of it. But I think he was relieved to hear that he is, in fact, 100% officially invited!

So if any of you, like A.'s dad or Econo Boy, feel bad about following up with people, keep my friend T's story in mind. It may feel a bit awkward to ask, "so, uh, are you coming or what?," but it's nowhere near as awkward as a guest whose invitation went astray having to ask, "so, uh, am I invited?"

Image from pinkdesignevents.blogspot.com

Monday, July 6, 2009

RSVPs have turned me into a crazy person

I don't know if anyone else is finding this to be the case, but as we get closer to the caterer's final deadline, I'm starting to see our guests, our beloved friends and family, almost purely as numbers on the spreadsheet -- as 1s in the "yes" column or 1s in the "no" column, as chicken, beef, or vegetarian meals, to be carefully color-coded on the place cards and reported to the caterer.

I am also developing a new category of guests. We have "friends," "family," and "people who don't RSVP on time." I'm a control freak. I can't help it. Missing numbers and head counts that don't match up bug me.

A while back, Sweet T lamented the apparent inability of some guests to RSVP, or to give attending a wedding any more consideration than they would have given the kegger at Pi Kappa Alpha back in the day. I think part of the problem is that many twentysomethings may not have had much experience planning large events, and therefore don't have a strong grasp on things like the importance of RSVPs (yes, the "please respond by" date meant something) or how much it means to the couple if you can come. I've noticed that wedding IQ tends to increase drastically between the ages of about 22 and 30. My matron of honor, who got married right out of college, had to deal with some pretty crazy stuff from friends and guests who sort of didn't "get" the whole wedding thing (as in, "I can't wait to come to your wedding! It's OK if I bring my 4 housemates, right? You've never met them but I'm sure you'll love them"). Four years later, I've had far fewer annoyances to cope with.

For those who might need a bit of help navigating a wedding invitation, I humbly present Bride in Exile's Guide to Being a Delightful Wedding Guest: What to Do When You Get an Invitation

For the uninitiated: This is a wedding invitation. It requests the pleasure of your company at a marriage ceremony, followed by a reception. Image from DauphinePress.com.

1. RSVP promptly.

"Promptly" means "by the date indicated on the invitation, and preferably as soon as you decide whether or not you're attending." If you're like most of us, and you have giant piles of random papers and mail in your house, procrastinating on your RSVP card will probably mean it gets lost somewhere in those piles. So just drop the little card in the mail already, or call, or e-mail. Really, you have so many options, so why not take 3 minutes to let your friends know if you'll be there? (Note: even if you think the couple already knows you're coming/not coming, you still need to formally RSVP after you get the invitation. It will be really helpful to the hosts to hear official confirmation.)

Our guests were actually really great about this -- as of the RSVP deadline, only about 10% of RSVPs were missing, and many of those trickled in a day or two later. But I've definitely known other couples who had to call huge portions of the guest list to find out their head count. This adds stress and more work to the couple's already full plate.

If your plans haven't solidified by the RSVP deadline and you think you might be able to make it but aren't sure, talk to the couple and let them know what's going on -- but be aware that this kind of "maybe" RSVP is really only acceptable under extraordinary circumstances, e.g. if at the time of the wedding you will be 8.25 months pregnant (one of my friends RSVPd "yes, unless the baby is early!"). Otherwise, you're just being indecisive and annoying.

2. Stick to your RSVP response.
The morning of my matron of honor's wedding, my beloved-but-sometimes-clueless younger brother, who had RSVP'd "yes," answered a call on his cell phone from my mom. She was also attending and wanted to know what time she should pick him up. Bro responded that he'd sort of forgotten about the wedding and thought he might just skip it. So I will quote my mom, semi-directly: "You have got to be kidding me. You don't RSVP 'yes' to a wedding, let the family pay for your meal, and then not show up because you 'don't feel like it.' This is not a frat party!" The next time I saw Bro, he was seated in the pews next to my mom wearing a jacket and tie. (Now *that's* parenting!)

So to echo my mom: weddings (or really any event where you're asked to RSVP) are not frat parties. Nor are they like that "Welcome Freshmen!" BBQ at the college dining hall. Extra people or missing people will be noticed, and will annoy your hosts. So if you said you'd be there, be there. (Obvious exceptions for births of babies, family emergencies, canceled flights, and other events beyond your control.) Don't decide to skip it in favor of the TV Movie of the Week or drinks with that cute girl in your office who you think might like you. Conversely, if you said you couldn't make it -- or worse, if you didn't bother to RSVP at all -- don't show up and expect dinner to be waiting for you.

3. If the wedding invitation is only addressed to you, don't assume you can bring a date.
The invitation is intended to invite the person or persons to whom it's addressed -- and no one else. If the envelope says "Miss Mary Smith and Guest," obviously it's cool if you bring a date. If it just says "Miss Mary Smith," please don't respond for two -- at least, not without checking with the couple first.

I am of the somewhat unpopular opinion that it's OK to call and ask if you can bring a date, provided that you are asking on behalf of a serious boyfriend/girlfriend. Econo Boy and I received several of these calls and said "yes" every time. But not all receptions will have extra space or extra room in the budget. If the bride or groom says "no, we're sorry, that won't work," don't whine or pout or bad-mouth the couple to your friends. You're a grown-up. Deal with it graciously, and either go alone or politely decline.

And for pete's sake, don't call the morning of the wedding and ask if it's OK that your new girlfriend is planning to "tag along." #1 also applies to asking about dates.

I'm a bit cranky. Can you tell? I think it's the giant pile of boxes I'm staring at right now. Moving is not fun.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Budget, Part III: Things I might have done differently

Every couple has a few wedding-day regrets, I'm sure. I may have more to report after our actual wedding, but at 3 weeks out, these are some things I wish I'd done differently, budget-wise.

Choices I wish I'd made differently
* The dress. Yeah, I know, I just said this came in under budget. But I feel like I could have spent even less and been happy with what I had. I also wish I'd looked into having a dress made. I think this could have come in even further under budget without compromising anything that was important to me, but I got a bit swept away with the idea that my dress had to be THE BESTEST MOST PERFECT DRESS EVER. It doesn't. It just has to be special, and pretty, and something you like, not something that changes your entire worldview.

* The invitations. I like them a lot, I really do. But to be perfectly honest, I don't love the card stock-type paper the printer used (I'm a paper snob), and the stressful communication problems weren't exactly barrels of fun either. Had I increased my budget in this area by 15-20%, I could have gone with a more experienced and reputable letterpress vendor, one that would have used better materials and wouldn't have had me tearing my hair out. But you get what you pay for.

If I had to do it again, I'd probably go with my first love: White Aisle flat-print invitations. Yes, they're flat printed, but the luxurious paper and stunning designs more than make up for it, and I would have saved a fair chunk of change over the letterpress set. The lesson here: don't let anyone, especially wedding magazines and wedding blogs, talk you into thinking that something you love somehow isn't "good enough" for your wedding. If you love it, go for it! And the second lesson: if something is really important to you, it's OK to splurge a bit on it, rather than stress yourself out by trying to find the "perfect look" for less. Cuts in cost almost always come with a corresponding cut in quality or service. (Caveat emptor and all that.)

And really, that's it. I'm completely happy and at ease with everything else we chose, financially speaking. Econo Boy and I set our original budget based on what parents said they wanted to contribute, and on what we felt comfortable contributing from our own coffers. I'm happy to say that we're still cool with the final numbers (even if the catering bill does give me hives).

What about everyone else? Any advice to pass on to the newly-engaged?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Budget, Part II: Sticker Shock

In Part I of my budget recap, I mentioned that we're right on target to be within $100 of our initial budget. I then went on to list a bunch of areas where we saved moolah. So where did all those savings go? Read on to find out.

BiE's Budget, Part II: Where the savings went

* Catering. By far the biggest sticker shock for us was the food and service. Part of this was due to lack of information. We drew up our original food estimates based on the prices a popular Denver caterer listed on their website -- and it turned out those prices didn't include any labor costs. Part of the cost increase stemmed from our decision to do a plated, seated dinner instead of a buffet (due to lack of space for a buffet table, and my mother's surprisingly intense dislike of buffets -- long story).

Add it all together, and the per-person cost of food and service ended up being nearly double what we estimated back in summer 2008. Fortunately we saved enough in other areas that we're still within budget, but I still feel a little woozy every time I look at our catering contract.

* Rentals. We had to bring in our own plates, glasses, linens, chairs, and even some extra tables to the venue, and while my mom and I were cost-conscious in picking them out, we didn't go with the least expensive options either. Our final rentals bill is about 20% higher than we'd budgeted, based entirely on choosing slightly fancier china, linens, and silverware than the absolute lowest-cost items. ($0.10 per piece adds up fast!) Also, in my original estimate, I left out some items, like plates for the cake.

The lesson here: think in advance about things like labor costs and where your guests are getting their plates!

Another excellent cell phone picture from yours truly.

* Items we didn't plan for. Our initial budget didn't include any ceremony or reception stationery (menus, programs, escort cards) or decorations (candles and menu card holders). We've managed to find good deals on these items, but all of it added up. Our original budget also did not include a day-of coordinator, but 2 months ago, Econo Boy and I decided to hire one. Fortunately, the pennies we'd pinched in other areas enabled us to not blow our budget when surprise costs came up!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Budget, Part I: Savings (aka the fun part!)

A while back, sera at broken*saucer wrote a great post about budgets, and the sharing of them online. In the comments, I said that I wasn't planning to share any budget information on my blog. The last thing I want to do is second-guess myself, or make someone else second-guess their own budget choices. In addition, it's incredibly difficult to compare costs across regions -- my budget would really only be useful to a fellow Denver bride. And on top of that, people tend to get a bit judgy when it comes to money, and I wasn't really in the mood for reading comments like "I can't believe you spent so much on your wedding, it's only one day!" or, "only $X? Wow, it must have been pretty rustic/casual/other pseudonym for 'cheap' or 'awful.'"

Then earlier this week, I was adjusting our budget spreadsheet to reflect some new costs, and I was delighted to realize that we're within $100 of our original estimate. I was also interested to see that there were very few individual items where our original and final budgets matched up -- we either ended up way under or way over on most things. So after thinking about it for a while, I decided to share a percentage-based breakdown of where we saved, and where we went over budget. I thought this kind of breakdown might be helpful for anyone who's in the early stages of planning their own wedding, both as tips for saving some money and as a heads up about places where costs might take you by surprise. Plus, as a numbers geek, I'm really fascinated by how it all evened out in the end!

Ready? OK, let's get started!

BiE's Budget, Part 1: Where we saved
* Photography. Initially I budgeted a lot for photography because I wanted a pro album. But as other estimates started rolling in, Econo Boy and I decided to DIY the albums on iPhoto (for parents and grandparents) and SomersetAlbums.com (for us, and one day, to embarass our children). This enabled us to hire an amazing photographer while still coming in substantially under our original budget. And I have to admit, I'm completely psyched to design our own album! Savings: 20%
* Cake. Econo Boy and I aren't huge fans of large, elaborate wedding cakes, so we chose to buy a small, very simply decorated 3-tier square cake for the cake-cutting ceremony. Meanwhile, the caterers will be cutting up a sheet cake (from the same bakery as the tiered cake, with the same flavors, icing, decorating, and fillings) so dessert can be served as soon as the cake-cutting ceremony is over. We went with the sheet cake option because we didn't want people to have to sit around and wait while a giant cake got cut up, but it ended up being a cost-cutting move as well. Savings: 30%
* Ceremony musicians. My dad has connections in the Colorado classical music world, and through them, he found out about a terrific group of music students just graduated from the University of Denver, who charged *way* less than the numbers we'd seen for other string quartets. Savings: 45%
* Dress. My initial guess on the dress was just that -- a guess, based on several hours of online photo surfing, estimated dress costs from TheKnot.com, and little else. But after trying on some gowns, I couldn't quite reconcile myself to spending that much on something I would only wear once, and I mentally slashed my budget. Once I finally chose a dress, my alterations came in way under my estimate -- I was lucky enough to only need a bustle and a little taken in up top. Total savings: 25%
* Rings. Our initial budget reflected the cost of platinum in June 2008, which was astronomical. One economic crash later, and platinum fell down to much more reasonable prices. Plus, we scored my ring on a clearance sale. Savings: 20%.

So that was our savings. Where did all that saved money go? Find out tomorrow! :-)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling

Several weeks ago, I wrote with great sadness and regret that I had to break up with a longtime friend -- Pacific Rim Dry Riesling. I think PRDR and I could reconcile if it said it was truly, sincerely sorry for the flabby, metallic wine it delivered at our last cookout, but in the meantime, I needed a distraction. A gorgeous, sleek, vibrant Dry Riesling to make me forget my bruised heart.

Enter Sweet T, CaitStClair, and their mutual recommendation: Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling. (Think of it as a blind date set up by friends.)

Image from www.ste-michelle.com

I picked up the 2007 vintage the other week, and I can give it an unreserved rave. Guys, this is an awesome white wine, especially for the price (I paid $12). The Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling is seriously juicy, with flavors of pears, green grapes, and just a little bit of peach. But it's not overly sweet or syrupy; it has that wonderful lean, crisp taste that I adore about dry Rieslings. Serve this to dinner guests at cocktail hour and bask smugly in their praise for your good taste. Pour this for yourselves one night with scallops, or salmon, or grilled veggies and pasta with olive oil, and glory in the good life. In short, this dry Riesling has gone on my "great buys" list, and I look forward to a long and rewarding friendship with this Washington vineyard!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Two confessions

My first confession: posting will be rather sporadic this month. Econo Boy and I are moving to a new city, and after 6 days of setting up house there, we'll fly to Denver to hang with our families and tie up the last few loose ends for our wedding! I've saved up a few posts that I've scheduled at regular intervals, but when those run out, all bets are off. We're excited, nervous, stressed out, hopeful, terrified, and all of those other emotions you tend to experience at times of major upheaval. Please send us good thoughts as we lug our boxes down to the moving van!

My second confession is a little more painful. I adore wedding recaps, especially if I've been following the blog for a while. I've been drooling over Sweet T's amazing wedding photos for the past few months -- it's so much fun to see how it all comes together at the end!

Which is why I feel a little bad about what I'm about to say: I won't be posting recaps. Or, if I do, they will be quite limited in scope.

I've always been somewhat touchy about my online privacy. I don't post photos of myself, except on Facebook (where I have my privacy settings set to "friends only") or if I've edited out my head. I don't use my real name in any of my online handles, and I've carefully avoided specifying our current location. Econo Boy is even worse; he doesn't even have a Facebook account because he thinks that's TMII (Too Much Internet Information). So the idea of posting a ton of pictures of us here, where anyone in the whole world could (theoretically) see them, runs against our rather private (some would say Luddite) nature.

At the same time, my online life, especially when it comes to wedding planning, has been kept almost entirely private from my friends and family. Exactly one person from my "real life" knows about this blog (hi, Apricot!). And I wouldn't feel comfortable posting photos of my loved ones when they don't even know that I have a blog.

So, no recaps from yours truly -- at least, not ones with photos of people. But I will tell all the stories, and share as many "detail" photos as I get! Blogging, and reading blogs by other amazing women, has definitely kept me sane over the past few months as I've grappled with wedding planning and impending wifehood. You guys are awesome!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wedding love: Roger Federer and Mirka Vavrinec

Forget the Jonas Brothers or the Backstreet Boys. My longtime celebrity crush has been class-act tennis player Roger Federer. Watch the man hit a perfect winner in the corner of the court, while appearing to expend no more energy than most people do shooing away a fly. I dare you not to swoon.

Naturally, when I picked up the People Magazine (at the gym, I swear!) with his wedding photos in it, I was thrilled to see Roger and his new wife, Mirka Vavrinec, looking so gloriously happy.


Images from www.gotennisblog.com

Things I love here:
1. Mirka's gorgeous knee-length Oscar de la Renta gown and delicate, sexy mules.
2. Roger's shy but happy smile.
3. Mirka is pregnant and a) wears white and b) is absolutely glowing and stunning.
4. While magazines were permitted a limited photo op prior to the wedding, the ceremony and reception were limited to a guest list of their 40 nearest and dearest, no magazine photographers allowed.

Best wishes, Mirka and Roger!! And thanks for skewering that annoying "marriage curse" myth in tennis. (Roger won the French Open just weeks after marrying Mirka. Maybe you just have to find the right person to marry!)