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:

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: . 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

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 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!


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!