Help me pick a save-the-date design

Why hello there. Since the last post on this blog a month and a half ago, we:
  • booked an officiant (Celia Milton)
  • met with our day-of coordinator (Carina of Luxe Events--she's really lovely)
  • went to see our band (B.D. Lenz) at a "gastropub", which made us feel really good about our band choice again, and finalized the composition of said band: guitar, bass, drums, saxophone, male vocalist, female vocalist
  • scheduled a visit to the rental company (Brillman's Rental Barn) with our caterer for January
That last one I just did today and it's not like we've actually gone yet and had to actually pick out the colors of our linens and such. The idea of having to make those kinds of decisions fills me with a vague anxiety (what if the linens don't truly express the core color of our personalities?!????) but it's probably good to get it over with. Oh, I did also finish my dressmaking class at Sew Fast Sew Easy which is sooort of wedding-related, and I've bought a serger with some Christmas present money...those of kind of wedding task related too! Are too!

My next actual concrete goal is to get out save-the-dates in January, and after that, put together a project plan and timeline for craftiness to get done in the remaining...less than 6 months. Eek. Somehow now that the big decisions of booking vendors have mostly been made, I find myself dragging my feet on making decisions about all the smaller stuff that I'd been looking forward to as the fun part. I think it's because each decision closes off potential.

So, I need help figuring out the save-the-dates. My friend Amy very kindly put together some mocks for me, and I'd like you to vote/comment on them to help me decide what will be the least annoying when put on someone's fridge for 5 months:

In the postcards to be printed at Vistaprint category:

Option 1, by Amy (would have to be tweaked to fit in an address/stamp area somewhere)

Option 2, by Amy (would have to be tweaked to fit in an address/stamp area somewhere). Also Dan would want to remove the "OMG" bit.
Option 3, thrown together by me. The back would be your typical postcard split. Photo subject to change.
In the "other" category, these Polaroid postcards from Photojojo, the idea of which I'm kind of in love with:

which would look something like this, if I had the Scrabble photo printed up at CVS and round circle stickers made at Zazzle:

Option 4, by Amy (Option 5, the same thing but switch out Scrabble photo for something else)
We have about 40 households that we need to send these save-the-dates to, so with that as the estimate, getting postcards printed up at Vistaprint will have an end result of around $2.77/card, while the Polaroid postcards would be around $1.62. That doesn't seem like much of a difference but it amounts to around $50, with many fewer spares of the Polaroid postcards and much more assembly required. The difference is around $25 without the Zazzle circle stickers. And I don't know if I or the people receiving these will even like the Polaroid postcards more.

Ok, so, time to vote! Likely actual recipients should de-lurk and express their opinion as well. "I don't really care about having a photo of yours on my fridge for the next few months, no thanks" is fine to express too.

On Mismatched Expectations

I am a firm believer in the importance of expectations. Take a simple example. Let's say you're a parent, and you are driving your child to get blood drawn for the first time. The child senses that something is going to happen but is not sure what. He asks, "Mommy/Daddy, what's 'getting blood drawn?'"

I see three courses of action here:
  1. Downplay it: "Oh, it's nothing! It'll feel like a little pinch."
  2. Exaggerate it: "It's going to feel like you left your arm on a hot stove for several minutes."
  3. Level with the child: "It will sting a little and will feel a little strange for about a minute, but you'll be OK."
Now, I would bet that it's about an even split between parents who choose Option A and Option C, with a small minority of sadists and humourists selecting Option B. As someone who believes firmly in establishing expectations, I would skew towards C.

Why? Well, it's mainly a process of elimination choice. If I go with A, and my child is particularly sensitive to pain (something that is hard to gauge when dealing with someone else's nerve endings), the child will be (rightfully) annoyed with me for misleading them. If I go with B, the child will likely panic for the remainder of the drive; their relief when the blood is actually drawn (if the blood ever gets drawn) will be nice, but likely small satisfaction. A prolonged reliance on B-like strategies will also presumably cause psychological traumatization (from here).

B, on the other hand, offers fair expectations to the child. They will be nervous, and I may be forced to offer additional reassurance, but they now know what to expect.

People act on expectations all the time. If they expect that new flat screen TV to drop in price for the holidays, they may postpone their purchase for another month. If they expect to get a raise, they may start spending a bit more money in advance. If they expect to have to skip lunch, they may eat a larger breakfast, or may pack a Nutri-Grain bar for the road.

Like most things, weddings are about expectations. Everyone who heard that Katherine and I got engaged had some expectations about what the wedding will actually look like. Likewise, everyone who gets an invitation will, for at least a moment or two, create a picture--or, rather, a mental model--of how the wedding will look.

(This is another one of those principles for me. Back when I was in an educational psychology class, we talked a bit about mental models in learning. One of the jobs of a teacher is to help students draw accurate, understandable mental models of reality; the mental model of the solar system for a third grader will inevitably be less sophisticated than the mental model for an astronomer, but both models need to depict the abstract concept in a concrete way in order to be effective. I see the wedding the same way.)

Mismatched expectations lead to conflict, fights, divorce, miscommunication, wars, and all manners of other problems. Take weddings. If John likes to drink, and assumes that weddings will have alcohol, but sees no alcohol when he arrives, John will be angry. If, however, John has been informed in advance of the dryness of the wedding, John will adjust his expectations accordingly (or wisely send a small gift and skip the affair altogether).

I anticipate that the most controversial aspect of the wedding will be the choice of food. We have made two potentially-unpopular decisions:
  1. We will not be serving a full meal; the menu calls for a variety of hors d'oeuvres and other light fare.
  2. We will not be serving a traditional wedding cake, having decided that pies are better, and more interesting, than cake.
Thus, going forward, we have two places for potential disappointment or, worse, outward anger (particularly when combined with freely-available social lubricant). My goal here is to determine how best to enhance the mental models of our guests, and head off any potential problems before the wedding day.

I see a few different ways to do this:
  1. Strategic leaking: We can leak to select potential (chatty) wedding guests that the menu will be mostly hors d'oeuvres, and that we are serving pies, rather than cake.
  2. Publicly-available website: We can direct people on the invitations to this blog or our wedding website, which will have the full menu available to readers, well-wishers, and guests.
  3. Invitation enclosures: We can include a copy of the menu in the wedding invitation.
  4. Caveat emptor: We can do nothing, and conduct a small social experiment.
Option A gives me the enjoyment of categorizing our guests according to their interconnectedness (and loquaciousness), which might be perversely fun. Sadly, I think it is ultimately too difficult to verify that the information has been passed.

Going with only Option B requires a good bit of additional work from the guests. Most people will not visit a website that they receive on a piece of snail mail. People are busy, and have far more important things to worry about than our wedding. (As my mother would say, it's probably not in "their top two.") By the time they start thinking about the wedding, it is quite possible that the invitation was lost, or that the information was written elsewhere.

I personally am leaning towards Option C, likely in combination with B. It is the most direct and transparent way to circulate the information that I want to circulate. It also, I think, gives people a chance to look inside the process a bit, and to feel involved.

In another context, Option D could be fun. But I would like to get the marriage off on the right foot. There are thousands of potential flashpoints in this sort of social interaction; as the logistics guy here, my goal is to minimize them.

So, as of now, I am in favor of including the full menu along with our invitations, preferably on some sort of ceremonial stationery, along with posting it on the website. Katherine agrees, but we're still trying to figure out a way to word it and make it look classy. Any ideas?

Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding

I'm running out of chances to renew this book again, so I wanted to try to get in the notes I wanted to take down about Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding. As Robin commented the last time I mentioned Miss Manners' book, as you're reading it, you do feel a little bit under attack as the bride. Fortunately, Miss Manners at least ends the book with a letter from a beleaguered bride listing the many occasions in which rudeness from guests comes up and then acknowledges that she's been a bit "snappish" after being overexposed to brides with the "After All It's MY Day" credo.

In general my attitude to these kinds of guides to etiquette is that it's at least good to know what other people might be expecting. I bought a copy of Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior after I behaved entirely gauchely towards a college roommate who was going through a rough time with the deaths of several relatives. Western culture etiquette has been something that I feel like I've needed to try to teach myself. [edit, in response to Lisa's comment] Regardless, I think generally if you honestly try to be considerate and thoughtful of others, that's the whole point of etiquette anyway, so it doesn't matter if you didn't follow an advice columnist's directives exactly.

The helpful thing to remember is that Miss Manners isn't trying to sell you anything here, unlike etiquette givers in wedding magazines might be. My favorite line in the whole book is, "the theme of a wedding is marriage." Also, I've always rather enjoyed Miss Manners' arch tone, but I can see how that's not for everyone. In conclusion, worth checking out from the library but probably not worth buying.

Miss Manners says:
  • [edit, forgot to include this part initially because I didn't have a post-it note marking it] Determining your guest list: when starting to plan a wedding, first sit down and figure out who your A+ list is (that clearly isn't Miss Manners' terminology, I just made that up), meaning who has to has to be there, for the couple in consultation with both sets of parents. I'll admit, we didn't really do the parental consultation part too much before deciding on our estimate of 100 guests and looking for venues to fit that number of people. Miss Manners shakes her finger at not including your parents just because you're paying for everything on your own, which, yeah, fair point. I hope Dan and I managed to strike a sufficient compromise, though.
  • Maid of honor (p124): you don't have to have a maid of honor, you can just have all bridesmaids. I have to say, I'm not entirely clear on what really distinguishes a maid of honor from bridesmaids, unless the position is basically saying, here is my very best friend of all the girls I've asked to be my bridesmaids. I think someone's told me at some point that the maid of honor serves as one of the witnesses when you do the legal bit, but I'm not sure if that has to be the case.
  • On dealing with people trying to invite themselves (p147): "Here is a phrase that every prospective bride and bridegroom and everyone in both families should memorize: 'Oh, dear, it's just going to be a small family wedding, with maybe a few old, intimate friends. You are so nice to take an interest.' ...Let us say that the word [small] is used out of modesty, rather than crowd estimation."
  • On the plus one issue (p152): for established couples, both members should be invited. The hosts can ask their unattached guests individually if there is anyone they would to bring, get the name, and issue another invitation in this person's name, so guests don't feel pressured to bring a date (I really want to make sure people don't feel pressured to bring a date simply for the sake of having a date). Miss Manners frowns upon just issuing an invitation "plus one," though this is what we're going to do for everyone over 18 (one of the points that Dan feels more strongly about). If you've been invited to a wedding as the guest of a guest, you should check to make sure you've really been invited with a note to the bride that's something like "____ has asked me to accompany him to your wedding. I would consider it a great honor to attend, but I would also understand if his enthusiasm has overrun any boundaries. In any case, I send you my very best wishes for your happiness."
  • Timing of invitations (p192): send out 4-6 weeks prior to the wedding date
  • On invitation design (p179): engraving is meant to imitate handwriting for making it more convenient to send out a greater number of formal invitations, so hand-printed invitations (calligraphy) are perfectly acceptable to getting professionally engraved invitations.
  • Invitation wording (p213): "a couple giving its own wedding modestly goes into the passive tense when issuing formal invitations," something like "The pleasure of your company is requested at the marriage of ____ to ____ on Saturday, the eighteenth of June at one thirty, Mountain Lakes House, Princeton and afterwards at a reception."
  • On reply cards in invitations (p185): unnecessary to include stamped response cards.
  • Thank you cards (p246): for gifts of money, write your thank you message referencing what you bought or plan to buy with that money, so that the "rest of your thanks can apply to that present, as if the giver had selected it."
  • Thank you card response time (p244): should be written and sent out as soon as the gift is received in order to acknowledge it. It's actually wedding presents that can be sent up to year into the marriage.
  • Miss Manners is against both registries and favors (p270 "Etiquette has never thought of weddings as comparable to children's birthday parties, where the guests might need consolation for not being the center of attention.")
  • No programs (p90): "the only excuse for a program is to give the order of the service, which is not necessary at a wedding." (Miss Manners is pretty strongly against all things that make the wedding a bit of a show, which I am down with)
  • Receiving line (p120, 261): charming and necessary for making sure you talk to all the guests at some point during the wedding. Guests are received at the beginning of the reception. The traditional order tries to mix the families of the bride and groom with bride's mother, groom's father, groom's mother, bride's father.
  • First dance (p272): the bridal couple opens the dancing, not gives "a private dance featuring their relatives." Halfway through the bridal couple's dance, the bride's father cuts in to dance with his daughter, the groom brings in his mother (can also be done with respective in-laws first), and then followed by the bridesmaids and groomsmen to encourage the rest o the guests to follow.
  • Toasts (p270): "At the wedding reception, the best man offers the first toast, and others may follow, including the bridegroom, to offer toasts to his bride and to her parents."
  • Tipping the bartender (p268): you don't tip the bartender at a private function
  • Reception timing (p261): the married couple should leave the reception before the guests.
  • Announcing your decision on changing or keeping your last name with an at home card (p216): either "Mr. and Mrs. James Scott will be at home after the Fourth of July" or "Ms. Heather McGee / Mr. Daniel Scott" with the adress in the bottom right o the card (my question is though, how do you actually send these at home cards out? Tucked into thank you cards?)
More on thank you notes from Souris Marriage:
However, you have to toe the line between deep appreciation and unmasked materialism. It's fine to be excited about your new Dutch Oven, for instance, but you should always be MORE excited that whoever gave it to you came to the wedding. Specifics are very important in both cases. Extra points for referencing some future event or experience unrelated to the thing you're thanking them for--this emphasizes lasting friendships rather than stuff.

APW Book Club: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed

I read Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed: a Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage a few weeks ago, after Meg first posted about it as the selection for the next book club meeting. I'd enjoyed Dan Savage's The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family but that APW book club meetup happened the same day as our engagement shoot so I missed the book club in favor of getting fake eyelashes, pretty much. I was rather skeptical of Elizabeth Gilbert and the whole Eat, Pray, Love thing, but realized that I was unfortunately pretty much playing into exactly what Meg was talking about in the "if women like it, it must be stupid" assumption. Very disappointing, and to make up for it, I decided to trust Meg and give it a shot.

And actually, I quite enjoyed it! And then went ahead and read Eat, Pray, Love afterwards, too. The thing that won me over was when I realized, sure, Gilbert can seem rather self-absorbed and privileged at times, but she is entirely self-aware of this and even makes fun of herself sometimes for it. And then I found myself just enjoying how she uses words and her sense of humor. Even though she and I have very little in common, there were still many passages when I felt myself nodding along.

I went to the NYC meetup tonight at Entwine and had a really lovely time with the five other women who came. Everyone had pretty different backgrounds and prior expectations when it came to marriage, but they all had insightful and interesting things to say. I think meeting people off the internet is one of the best ways to meet people, since it's generally related to some already stated shared interest and so when it happens, there isn't that painful awkwardness of trying to find some topic to discuss and you know when you do start talking about that shared interest, it's probably a self-selecting enough group that the conversation flows far more easily than it would at a party or happy hour or whatnot.

I figured while I still had the book around, I'd try jotting down my quick answers to the questions posed for the book club:

Gilbert talks about how pragmatic marriages caused alliances and saved kingdoms and ran farms. Now marriage is mostly touted as a very individual, or a ‘for the kids.’ Do you think there is something that marriages, generally or individually, can offer to the larger community? Economically? Socially? Emotionally? For our neighborhood, our nation, our friend group, our families, or another group? Discuss.
  • I think there marriages are a stabilizing force in societies. People like to know where other people stand, and while of course you'd never know what truly happens behinds closed doors, there's a strong enough cultural assumption of what a marriage means that to know that someone's partner is a "husband" as opposed to "boyfriend" can be rather comforting (boyfriend = on and off partner, just met 2 weeks ago, or have been living together for 10 years?). Marriages are certainly not the only stabilizing force, however, and in many instances the stability is not worth the costs paid in an unhappy marriage.

Has the evolution of men’s and women’s roles in our social network negatively or positively affected our marriages in the Western world? (see page 31)
  • I think the evolution of gender-based roles in our society may have only negatively affect marriages if you define a positive effect to consist solely of most people getting married, and married for life. I see what Gilbert's saying about the evolution towards the idea of your spouse being your end-all-be-all of your social network, instead of one part of a larger community as she says it is among the Hmong people, setting unrealistic expectations for many people, but I think she's mixing up two different things here. Not needing an entire community's mutual support to survive and being self-sufficient is different from taking up the idea of finding your soul mate.

Gilbert asks on page 185 “how might we work together as a society to construct a world where healthy children can be raised with out women having to scrape bare the walls of their own souls to do it?” Discuss.
  • Much like not demanding that your partner match your every need, I think we as a society need to not expect mothers to have all the answers and ultimate responsibility for children that are borne. I also think we definitely need to have greater acceptance of the concept of paternity leave and that stay-at-home dads shouldn't face social stigma.

Early in the book, Elizabeth Gilbert says that “every intimacy carries the ever-coiled makings of complete catastrophe.” Do you think that’s true of your relationship? Does it make you feel doomed, or hopeful?
  • Yes, I think that's true of all truly intimate relationships. When someone really loves you, and I mean you, not the facade of you, they know all your deepest secrets and fears and nastiness--and the wonder of it is, they love you anyway. I think you can't have real intimacy without exposing yourself and becoming vulnerable to this person you've decided to trust not to hurt you. And unfortunately, sometimes that part doesn't work out, but you can't let that possibility stop you from opening yourself up to hurt, because you'll miss out on love, too.

On page 35 Liz states “… the person whom you choose to marry is perhaps the single most vivid representation of your own personality. Your spouse becomes the most gleaming possible mirror through which your emotional individualism is reflected back to the world.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
  • DISAGREE. I mean, yes, who you choose to marry says a lot about the kind of person you are, but I utterly recoil from these kinds of absolute statements. I just reread that section and you should note that Gilbert is actually discussing her theory of how western cultures perceive marriage, and how especially for women, their marriage is "at the center of their own emotional biography." I agree with her characterization, and I also think that it's part of the culture of holding up marriage on such a lofty pedestal that contributes to a lot of disillusionment when people realize that "and happily ever after" doesn't exist magically.

How has/have your own parents’ marriage(s) influenced your view of marriage? Have you learned anything surprising about their marriage as an adult?
  • I'm skipping this, because I'm not comfortable discussing this in a public arena (generally when I think about what to blog, I imagine how I'd feel if the last person in the world I wanted to read it actually did read it, and then I decide), but I'll just say that I do think it's very important to examine the models that you may be unconsciously looking to, for both yourself and your partner, so that you can try to emulate or avoid aspects of these models consciously.

How did Gilbert’s list of demographics’ effect on marriage make you feel about the prospects of your own marriage?
  • I thought this part of the book was so funny. I was fond of her at this point, as someone who dove into books and research and general obsessiveness when trying to deal with a conundrum (my modus operandi when I feel like I don't know something is to go out and get a book on it...hence this rather long list now of wedding/marriage books I've read in the right sidebar). Anyway, you can't apply generalized statistics like that to yourself directly in that way at all. That's not how it works. It is interesting for the noting what may be your "risk factors" and try to plan for how to lessen their potential effect.

It's a bridesmaids party

I've already written about definitely having my sister as a bridesmaid but about a month ago I decided to also ask Dan's three sisters to be bridesmaids. I'd been waffling on this for an even longer (I just checked and I wrote an email to Mama G about this very issue in...July. Yeah.) but I finally made up my mind to ask them because Dan's family has been extraordinarily gracious and welcoming and just so nice to me all along. Not a hint at all of any future-in-law drama or trying to impose their opinions or anything at all!

I think I'm very lucky because Dan's extended family really respects his judgment so I assume a lot of it is that they're confident that things would never get too crazy because Dan wouldn't stand for that, which is true. But, that alone isn't enough to explain the other nice things that have happened, like his aunt digging out a red dress with a full skirt that she wore to her graduation from her attic to give to me, just with the thought that it might be useful as I work on making my own red dress. This was the same aunt that took charge of pumping me for wedding planning info at the Easter family gathering this year because Dan had not been sufficiently forthcoming, and then all the (women in the) family reacted with exactly the kind of support that you'd want.

The main reasons I was hesitant for so long were that I didn't want them to feel like they had to be bridesmaids at their brother's wedding, I wanted them to be able to just be family and guests since that might be easier on them, and I also just assumed that more people involved = more potential for drama. With just my sister, I know that I would be able to boss her around and it'd be fine (isn't it fun how younger siblings always stay younger?) but I wasn't as sure about it with Dan's sisters. We've always been on friendly terms and I figured they've just seen me hanging around their house for so long that I just kind of fade into the scenery but we'd never really hung out outside of when I'm with Dan.

Plus, I kept asking Dan whether he thought they would care one way or another and he kept insisting it wouldn't really matter to them, that the only thing they would care about is that there's enough food that they can eat and that there isn't anything too weird at the wedding overall. Mama G said to definitely include them, it would be a really good bonding experience.

So, what did I end up doing? When Dan's older sister Cara and her boyfriend came over to our apartment in August for dinner, I cornered her and asked her to please, please be honest with me and tell me if they really wanted to be bridesmaids or if they really didn't want to be bridesmaids so I could make sure I didn't impose on them in either direction. Her answer really surprised me, something along the lines of, "whatever you want to do, we're totally cool with!" Is there anything sweeter to hear when you're trying to make everyone happy?

And then, when I asked his two younger sisters, Katie and Emmy, to accompany me to the mall to get my makeup done before the fauxgagement shoot, they were so sweet and complimentary and supportive the whole time that I was like, this is awesome! Having these girls around me on the day of the wedding would be great!

So after checking with my sister that she was ok with the bridal party getting quadrupled (she was totally fine with it, of course, and I wonder how much was due to this meaning an automatic promotion for her from the one bridesmaid to maid of honor instead, haha), I kept trying to get them all in one place to ask them in person but it kept not working out. I ended up just sending them a group email that included the following:
All that you need to do to be my bridesmaids is: 1, not roll your eyes if I'm going on for too long about the wedding plans (check), 2, accompany me on wedding errands if you're free and I'd like some company (check), and 3, stand up with me when we say our vows (TBD).

There is no: bridal shower or bachelorette party planning (Miss Manners says bridal showers can't be given by family anyway), no required matching dresses, and no other tasks other than the ones outlined above. You can wear whatever you want, really. Something cute and comfortable, which I imagine you were planning on doing already anyway.

If you don't want to be involved either, that's totally fine as well. No reason needed.
And they all responded with excitement and their mom was thrilled as well. TOLD YOU DAN, that girls really do care about being bridesmaids. TOLD YOU. He admits now that when he said they wouldn't care, what he really meant was that he didn't care.

Last week, we all got together to go bridesmaids dress shopping, including his mom and grandma who'd been driven down by his aunt especially for this dress shopping event. I brought over my sister's dress for them to check out the color and try it on for size, as Katie came up with the great idea of potentially getting summer dresses in different styles from J.Crew but in the same color. We still went to the mall just to see what was out there (answer: nothing appropriate for summer weddings anymore) and go to the J.Crew store there to try on what dresses they might have for size. They only had sack-like dresses in the store, so that was disappointing, but we got an approximate idea (I asked if I could use their names in my blog and they said that was fine but I didn't ask about sharing sizes, so suffice it to say: they are tiny).

After all the mall-ing, Dan's mom treated us to lunch at a local diner where the food was pretty good but the room smelled of spray paint fumes and the service was atrocious. We had a good time making fun of how much our waitress obviously didn't care about her job at all. When we wanted to get the check, Dan's mom had to wave back and forth for some time, like she was trying to hail a cab or something, until a manager noticed her and brought it to our waitress' attention. I put it all into the "so bad it's funny" category, though of couse that may have just been my impaired judgment after brain cells were killed dead by the paint fumes.

When we got back to their house, we browsed through the entire J.Crew website looking for what was available in that "fresh mint" color that's like a light green-y Tiffany blue and it ended up that the only style that was still available in all their sizes was this cotton cady Madeleine dress that Katie had been eyeing from the start.

The plan is for all the girls, including my sister, to find red accessories that'll inject their own personal style onto these dresses as canvases.

At the start of the day, when they were asking me what my vision was and what I wanted for bridesmaids dresses, I told them that this was what I wanted:
  1. That they would under no circumstances agree to a dress that they didn't like the style or felt was unflattering on them, just because I said I liked it.
  2. That they would solemnly swear to wear these dresses again.
I thought about having them put their right hand across their heart and repeat after me, but then I decided that was going into the creating my own cult territory.

But here's the best part of the story: we got these dresses for $40 each. $40! Where the original price on this style was $195! And we found a code for free shipping! They were final sale, so they can't be returned, but they just got delivered today and seem to fit just a little big but nothing that a tailor can't tackle. I figure, though, I've had dresses I've bought for more than $40 that I only wore once and so even if KWu's two rules for bridesmaids dresses are broken, at least it didn't cost them too much. I am so far winning at my own "being a cool bride" contest.

We won a day-of coordination giveaway!

No burying of the lead here, no sirree. One of our potential officiants sent over a newsletter from one of her colleagues, Carina of Luxe Events, who had her birthday earlier in October and wanted to celebrate by holding a giveaway for free day-of coordination service by herself! I thought about it for awhile but then got busy with life. Luckily, I managed to put together an entry just a couple hours before the midnight deadline.

And we won! This is so cool!!! Here's part of what I wrote in my entry:
I entered a few wedding-related giveaways in the beginning when I was looking at various wedding blogs and such, but stopped after awhile when I realized that many of what they were giving away wasn't entirely what I was looking for anyway. This giveaway, though, would be really appreciated by us because our current day-of coordinator is actually a dear friend of mine, the mother of a friend from work whom we affectionately call "Mama G" (her last name begins with G). She's supported me throughout the whole planning process as an impartial, sane voice I can always turn to who I know always wants the best for me. She even sent me an engagement present of the Martha Stewart Weddings book and has spent time talking about my wedding when she's visiting her daughter in NYC.

If we were able to have the help of a professional coordinator, then Mama G would be able to organize and plan the parts that she really enjoys without having to deal with anything that she's not as interested in, which would be a great gift for me to be able to give her in gratitude for all that she's already helped me with. 
I think Carina and I are going to get along really well. She has a background in organizational psychology and describes her strengths as an organizational nature--nature, mind you, not just skills, which is how I feel about my own personality as well--and her attention to detail. One of the stories I like to tell people when asked to describe myself is that when I tell colleagues that I used to be an editor on a research journal in college and did a lot of copyediting for them as a result, they invariably go, "Ohhhhhhh...yeah that explains a lot/makes a lot of sense."

Carina's sending us her contract in the mail, but basically our part to the giveaway will involve writing a testimonial for her and giving our consent for her to use the photos by Kelly within the stipulations that Kelly sets out. From what I found on her website, Carina's been running her wedding planning/coordination business since 2009 and has some great testimonials already but no reviews on Wedding Wire yet (I've decided that of the many, many vendor review sites out there, I like Wedding Wire best because they have a pretty easy-to-use design and most of the vendors I've researched for our NJ wedding have had a good amount of information on there). We'll get that fixed up.

Hooray for putting ourselves out there and getting offers of help from the universe in return!

Tentative schedule

I've had this sitting in a draft for awhile because pinning down a timeline seems to have about it, like I'm closing off options to optimize the whole day even more. I'd like people's feedback on whether this seems like it might work, though:
  • 9-12: morning setup, flowers (makeup/hair?)
  • 12-12:30: lunch
  • 12:30-1:30: caterer sets up, immediate family arrives for the posed family group shots
  • 1:30: ask guests to start arriving by then, drinks are available (lemonade, iced tea, hot tea, coffee, alcohols)
  • 2-2:30 ceremony (probably shorter than 30 minutes though)
  • 2:30 onwards: guests enjoy food, drinks, dancing, games...
  • 2:30-2:40: Dan and I hang out in the sitting room to take a moment and savor being newlyweds on our own
  • 2:40-2:50: photographer comes in to take a few photos of us
  • 2:50: we make our 'entrance' (we'll probably just walk in and join the crowd, I don't think I want a formal announcement here or anything)
  • Reception until 6:30, Dan and I will head out to have a private dinner. We need to figure out transportation so that Dan can drink as his own wedding.
  • I'll probably take a nap back at our apartment.
  • If I feel up to it, we may head into Manhattan for an after party/bar-hopping of sorts with all the young folk who are in town.
The whole thing with the timing is balancing it so that people don't need to rush over after lunch and so that it goes on long enough so I don't feel like we spent so much time planning for something that passes in the blink of an eye, but then also ends early enough that people can get home or go out to dinner (but, sustained by the finger food at the reception, not need to get dinner immediately).

I've also toyed with the idea of a welcome picnic of sorts on Friday evening (though most people probably wouldn't arrive in time unless they take time off from work, and I don't want to make people do that), and then some kind of group brunch on Sunday, because there are a lot of people who will be around that I don't get to see very often that I want to spend more time with, but it seems unlikely that that would happen without planning ahead and planning just the one day is already a bit of a project (potentially helpful link: 2000 Dollar Budget Wedding on pay-your-own-way events beyond the wedding day itself). Also, I know that even the wedding itself will tire me out quite a bit and I'll need some time to recharge, so I probably shouldn't be too ambitious with the amount of social activities planned in here.

Princeton Township officiant info

Figuring out the officiant situation has been on my list of next big things to do in wedding planning for awhile now, but I finally got to it last week. I'm recording what I found there just for posterity's sake, since I don't think we'll end up going with this government official route after all.

I talked to Linda McDermott, the Princeton Township clerk (the Mountain Lakes House is in Princeton Township, which surrounds the smaller Princeton Borough--that's basically the downtown area of Princeton, as far as I can tell), and she sent over this document about what the deal is with getting married by the mayor of Princeton. I admired that she was very straightforward with me, though she said this information was available on their website and I couldn't find it, so I've uploaded it into my Google Docs if other people are interested in taking a look. I also thought it was rather funny that she caveated all her statements with the fact that there may be a new mayor of Princeton by the time our wedding rolls around. I couldn't quite judge what her feelings on this potential state of affairs was.

Anyway, basically, New Jersey doesn't have justices of the peace, and if you don't want to be married by a religious figure, your options in terms of government figures are the mayor of any town or municipal judges. The current mayor of Princeton evidently will do weddings on weekends, but doesn't like to book civil ceremonies more than 2 weeks in advance. These ceremonies generally just follow the standard format outline in the document she sent over and don't last more than 10 minutes. Most mayors will also only marry residents of their township, which makes sense to me but isn't particularly helpful in our situation.

The Princeton municipal court judge is Judge Goldman, who also requires that the couple be Princeton Township residents. She only performs weddings on Tuesdays or Mondays (her court day), but there isn't a fee on top of the marriage license ($28 in NJ, I think) so that's basically like a city hall/courthouse wedding.

Marriage licenses are issued by the Department of Health (609 497 7608 for Princeton Township).

So basically, what Dan and I concluded is that since we don't have any connections through family or friends to local judges or mayors, we'll probably end up going with the hiring a celebrant method instead. We'd thrown around the idea of having a friend do one of those being ordained for a day thing, but decided that we wanted someone who pretty much knows us equally well, rather than trying to do something of one friend from each side and then also be able to have someone a bit older, rather than a peer. We're in the midst of talking to a few different officiants, and I'll report back when a decision has been made on that front as well. Choosing an officiant is pretty much the last Big Decision, I think.

Qualities of an ideal vendor

As far as dealing with unpleasant vendors has gone, I think I've been pretty fortunate in that the worst case has been a potential caterer saying, "...really. Are you sure about that? Really?" when I told him about our light finger foods afternoon wedding plan and then he never even bothered getting back to me with a quote. Other people have been really lovely, like Cheryl from Ana Beall's Tea Room, even if we didn't end up going with them.

I was slightly frustrated in contacting another potential vendor lately. I think it's mostly because he's rather new to catering weddings in general, but he just wouldn't give me a straight answer in terms of estimating the cost, which is just so irritating. So with that in mind, here's what I look for when judging potential vendors:
  1. Have a website with current contact information, with email address for initial inquiry. As Becca recently wrote, there's something about needing to call someone to get a vital piece of information that makes the task seem really difficult. Welcome to a generation of people who would do everything over the internet if they could, I suppose. I'm slightly wary of how well I'd mesh with a vendor that isn't online.
  2. Respond quickly (a couple business days or so) to inquiries. Some people have gotten back to me within 60 minutes, but some dig up my email from their spam filter after we've already decided to go with someone else. Some people (as mentioned above) never even got back to me when they said they would.
  3. Being upfront about your range of rates, if not the exact package costs, results in lots of extra bonus points. Even if not on your website directly, at least when directly asked over email. It just boggles my mind why any business person would insist on meeting in person first and wasting everyone's time if it's never going to happen within our budget. I know some people are great salespeople but I don't want to be sold something I can't afford and it frustrates me when some vendors try to corner you into that position.
  4. Avoid using the word 'invest' to put an overly positive spin on cost. In my research I came across a lot of photographers in particular who would do this and it just kind of irritates me.
  5. More bonus points for actively seeking feedback. actually sent out this survey to the clients that did not hire them to find out more about why that was the case, which I thought was really quite admirable.
  6. If they advertise on A Practical Wedding, that's also many additional bonus points. This is one of the best examples of targeted advertising around, in my opinion. The audience of APW does want to find these kinds of practical-minded, budget-friendly, non-WIC vendors, and Meg, bless her, helps us find them. I bet a lot of WIC-type vendors do reach out to her but she knows to turn them away, I'm sure.

Indochino's custom-made suits

In my ongoing efforts to teach Dan about style and clothes (see: talking him into getting an existing suit tailored for our engagement photos, talking him into buying a $25 Groupon to Gap and then picking out the blue western-style shirt we also used in the fauxgagement photos and mending the back of his jeans as well), I've been trying to find accessible men's style blogs for both him and me to subscribe to. Two of these are Honor Thy Tailor and The Effortless Gent, the latter of which just shared a code for $100 off any suit from Indochino with a base price of more than $349 (promotion only until 10/23).

I'd read about Indochina before at Primer Magazine, where they'd had a different promotion around August for 10% off and a free dress shirt and free shipping (I was planning on trying that code since there doesn't seem to be an expiration listed on that post, but it's probably no longer valid). Basically, their deal is that they teach you how to take a guy's measurements properly with different videos and then sends the suit to be made in China (with good labor practices to their employees), meaning you can get a bespoke suit (bespoke means made-to-order; I just looked it up) for less than $500. They'll even cover you for up to $75 in additional tailoring that might be needed, or if it's just not doable, you can get a refund on the whole suit.

I think that this is kind of a brilliant business model, using the power of the internet and globalizaton to bring products to customers who wouldn't otherwise have access at all, and I like to support smart businesses who know how to use the internet when I can. I've had this idea for awhile that if I ever run a start-up, it would be to build a body scanning system where you would have these traveling booths where people could step in with undergarments on and have their body scanned from head-to-toe in their usual posture.

Then, armed with a digital model of their body, they could shop online and test out how different clothes would look on them. There'd be some cost for the scan itself to start with, but then the real revenue would come from getting different online retailers subscribed to the system overall to accept these customers' measurements and setting up a shopping system where you can then recommend different styles that suit someone's body type or also purchased by other people with similar measurements. The problem of not really knowing whether something will look good on you is something that I really believe technology could go a long way towards solving, because so much of it is just math and physics, in my opinion.

Anyway, I think we might go for a suit for Dan with this latest promotion. Second after registering for a KitchenAid mixer has always been getting a really nice suit for Dan as something I've looked forward to about getting married. His fit issues are that he was extremely thin for his height, with pretty broad shoulders relative to his waist and long limbs. When I dragged him to Uniqlo to buy shirts because I'd heard they might have styles that suit him better, given that his is also somewhat the body type of your average hipster dude (except that Dan's probably taller), Dan tried on a pair of jeans that were the right length, and for the first time in his life, did not need to be worn with a belt to stay on his waist. It's hard to emphasize how revolutionary that was.

Your opinions are needed. I think of the suit styles available, I like either this light gray 3-piece suit (Roger Sterling what what):

Dan could take the jacket off after the ceremony and just wear the vest.

Or, this khaki ("La Habana") suit:

Normally I really don't like khaki, mostly because how gross enormous baggy khakis are considered dressier and more acceptable than a nice pair of jeans, but this suit makes me reconsider. And they write in their description that it's a good summer wedding suit, and since it's cotton, it should be less overheating, hopefully. However, I'm concerned about its long-term usefulness for Dan wearing to work since it's made of cotton instead of wool (or wool blend or all synthetic, as I think Dan's other suits are).

What do you guys think? Feel free to put your vote in for an entirely different option, though I will probably veto anything shiny.

Body image issues

Thank you, everyone, for your very kind comments on the engagement photos! I love getting comments in general but those were particularly sweet, I think.

Before I get into writing a bit more about how I was feeling bad about my body last week, I did just want to first share that I ran my first (but definitely not last) 5K this past Saturday! It was the Hoboken University Medical Center 5K and my friend Amy and I signed up way back at the beginning of August. We had bibs number 11 and 12, we were that early.

What's funny to me now is that back then, it was a pretty substantial goal to set for myself, signing up for this 5K. Amy told me about how she'd run her first 5K not too long ago and how it was a lot of fun to be part of the large group of people all cheering each other on, and I wanted to get in on that too but wasn't entirely confident in my ability to get there. Thank you, Amy, for inspiring me. I was chugging along on the Couch-to-5K program but my strategy was to run slowly enough that I always felt comfortable, and at that pace I wouldn't reach 5K in 30 minutes.

And yet, when I ran a practice 5K on my own the previous weekend, and then on the actual day of, it wasn't too much of a physical hardship. With Amy's encouragement and the cheering of the NJIT student that got roped into volunteering, I went faster than I'd ever had before, finishing in about 40 minutes (around a 13 minute mile...or a 8 minute kilometer, I suppose!). It was a beautiful day, just perfect weather. Sunny, but not hot until we'd be running for awhile. Clear, crisp air. And, my mom drove all the way up to spectate and was pretty great during the event and right afterwards in treating it like the accomplishment it was for me.

I'm going to hang up the French memo board by my sewing machine soon, mainly for the purpose of sticking inspiration images on it, but in addition to those and the color wheel, I'm also going to put up my Number 11 bib from this 5K. Back in middle school, I worked for 2 years to train and get onto our high school's tennis team and when I succeeded in doing so and then later on achieve a starting singles position, that was a big deal for me. I am not an athlete, not at all, but I can set physical goals and achieve them nonetheless.

I needed to be reminded of that, as well as learn that physical exercise doesn't always have to be a total chore, thanks to the strategy of going slow, free podcasts with engaging content (particularly The Moth), and being consistent about getting myself out there by telling myself that I would feel better afterwards, which helped create a positive cycle of feeling good about what I'd accomplished and seeking to feel that positive feeling again.

So yeah, that was pretty cool! The thing that rather marred the rest of the day was that my mom kept commenting on how I should exercise further and really lose the weight I put on since I stopped playing tennis in high school. She means well, and it comes from a place of love (my family and I generally subscribe to the "we wouldn't bother with you if we didn't care" philosophy of relationships), but it's grating nonetheless and it's another one of those things that I can only help make better by trying to adjust my attitude to it.

But it's hard, and I do very much crave my parents' good opinion. They're smart people, and right about a lot of things, and they do have my best interests at heart. I just wish that I were stronger in letting comments about my weight roll of my back, you know?

I was talking to Dan about how I was upset afterwards and coincidentally reading from articles about how activity level is much more closely correlated with health than thinness, etc. (like this one, for a good primer), and he reminded me that such an argument is not very convincing to a person like my mom when coming from me because it would just sound like rationalization. He set forth my options as either telling her about these kinds of articles, which wouldn't be effective, or exercising more myself and losing weight and then telling her, so that I don't sound like I'm just looking for justifications for my own current behavior, but I told him that I didn't want either and instead, what I wanted this:
  1. To feel good about my body and its level of fitness
  2. To not be so easily affected by others' judgments that I can't change.
Seems like both not too much to ask and a pretty big mountain to climb, at the same time.

Once I got that out, I felt a lot better about life in general and mostly ended the funk I went into after I first saw the engagement photos. I looked at them quickly between meetings while I was at work and on the first viewing, all I could think of was, oh god, I look fat! Am I Fat? Well I look fat! Oh god I can't believe that's all I can think of right now! And...I'm actually feeling bad about myself now! What the hell, self?! What good are all those positive body image blogs you've been reading for now, if you're just going to let stupid stuff like this get to you?!

And so on, and so forth. And I was being so good about sticking to my 'if you're exactly the same shape and weight at the end of the C25K program it's totally ok, it's just about your cardiovascular health!' attitude, for the most part.

As a result, Robin's post on Diet Creep was pretty perfectly timed for the mood that I was in:
I hate our culture’s fear/hatred of fat and its mandate to be perpetually dissatisfied with our bodies to begin with. And body negativity is yet another thing I find generally objectionable that is magnified by a factor of UGH in the context of weddings.

And I hate that it is GETTING TO ME. Me! A believer in fat acceptance!


And that kind of thinking has got to stop. I can’t let my self-worth rest on how I look or how much I weigh. I shouldn’t hold myself to standards that I find abhorrent when applied to other women. It’s hypocritical, disingenuous, and lame.

And it’s a miserable way to live life, and I’m not looking for new ways to feel bad. I don’t want to think about fitting into a dress when I exercise; I want to think about being stronger and more flexible and not getting winded when I run to catch a bus. I don’t want to eat more veggies to save on calories; I want to eat more veggies to get more vitamins. Eff that, I want to eat more veggies because veggies are yummy. And then I want some ice cream. And beer. Possibly in the same mug.

And I don’t want to see women buying dresses that don’t fit in hopes of forcing weight loss. I don’t want there to be hours of cable television programming devoted to shaming women for having visible back fat when wearing a strapless gown. I don’t want people to refuse to let me take their photograph. I don’t want people to feel bad about themselves every time they step on a scale or try to buy new jeans or look in a mirror.  I don’t want people to tell me that I need to eat a sandwich, or that I need to drop my fucking sandwich, or that I need to do anything with sandwiches!

This war has to start at home.
YES. And yes.

Throughout the rest of the week, it also definitely helped that positive comments from my friends started coming in, unbidden by me.
"Oh, KWu, I LOVE the slideshow. LOVE it. You look stunning" - Lindsay

"KWu, your engagement/wedding pics with Dan are absolutely gorgeous! I love the ones with you in a blue dress, you look so pretty." - Emily

"Girlie, you look absolutely wonderful in your engagement photos. You are a beautiful girl." - Amy
Because it helped remind me to dig my head out of the warped self-image hole it was in, and it also reminded me of how it breaks my heart when my girl friends get down on themselves or avoid photographs, and when my sister gets frustrated with shopping because she can't find any clothes that fit but she talks about it as though it's her fault for having a 'weird' body shape and not the fact that it's just hard to find clothes that fit right in general. Her, the athlete! Really, it makes me so sad, and also rather angry that so many women everywhere struggle with this for all their lives.

And I'm really pleased to say, now that I look at our engagement photos over and over again, I'm able to see past my so-called 'flaws' and see how we look happy, how the composition and light and lines are so crisp and clear thanks to Kelly's skill, and how we're very lucky to be where we are.

Ok, just a few more quick hits before I go to bed:

Via Sally at Already Pretty, a really great, positive fashion and body image blog, this article about Body Image & The Diet Mentality: Letting Go of Shame:
“The truth is we live in a shame-based culture that says that if your body differs from the coveted thin physique, something is intrinsically wrong with you and in need of fixing.” They also write, “You feel ashamed that you have not changed your body in the way you feel you must in order to be happy and successful.”

But the thing about shame is that it stomps on your body image, on self-care and on your health and well-being. It squashes your spirit. And, most important of all, you deserve better.
Also recommended: Sally on "What is flattering?" and "There is no one way to look great" (basically, you do not have to only go for 'thin, tall, hourglass' which took this post from Sara at Orchids in Buttonholes to jolt me into realizing I bought into that one ideal without questioning)

And lastly, this post from Eat the Damn Cake on the damaging effects of talking about "tweaking":
Everyone could always stand to look a little better. Even Angelina Jolie doesn’t like her cheeks sometimes. Or her thighs. Which, the magazines tell us emphatically, is endearing. It makes her a little more human. Because we’re all like that. We all know we really could stand to look a little better. Even when we don’t actively hate the way we look. Even when we’re having a good day. I’ve seen it so many times. I’ve done it so many more times. And because it’s so ubiquitous, I don’t have to think about what it is, or what it means. Or if I think about it, I can just say, “Human nature! We’re all striving to be better. That’s why we built the pyramids! Or, um, had a bunch of slaves build them…That’s why we enslaved those people in the first place! That’s why there’s civilization! Because we’re always tweaking. Always improving.”

But it doesn’t matter. We want to tweak. We see the details, not the whole. We sometimes admit that we look pretty good from a reasonable distance. And then, upon coming closer, all is revealed! All of the problems are right there, literally, on the surface.

It’s disrespectful, really. What are our poor faces and bodies supposed to do? They don’t change easily, or at all, except to keep aging. Or without a lot of painful surgery. They aren’t doing anything wrong. They’re functioning—allowing us to communicate, move around, have sex, look surprised, smile, mime, dance, whatever. And we can’t stop criticizing them.

We need to recognize tweaking for what it is: a vicious, insidious, constant attack. It doesn’t sound vicious, because it’s directed at little things. You aren’t saying, “I’m hideous!” You’re saying, “I’d be a little bit more attractive if…” It’s deceptive. It’s like a parent telling their child, “You’ll never be quite as smart as your brother, but if you get a little better at math, maybe you have a shot.”


So the next time you find yourself in front of a mirror, and you automatically begin the familiar list in your head, “If only your chin was a little less pronounced…” Maybe you should stop. Maybe you should un-roast instead. Maybe you should pick a tiny detail that is really cool, special, weird in a good way, or just interesting. Maybe you should pick the same detail, and figure out what makes it interesting. Maybe you should remember a person who remarked on that exact feature, except to say, “I love your chin! It’s so distinctive. That is a chin so proud and noble and brave that it could’ve inspired civilization. It could’ve, you know, motivated the building of the pyramids.”
I'll go first.

Un-Roast: I have great hair. It's shiny, thick, and with a good haircut, I can always just air-dry and go. Even when I smush it under a bike helmet while it's still wet, it retaliates with a cute flippy effect that I couldn't achieve on purpose if I tried.

Oh and you should also check out Becca's "I F*cking Rule" series of posts.

[edit] And APW for the win, as always: "On Owning Inspiration"
So, my challenge to us today is to think about the ways we take what should inspire us, and turn it into something we can’t hope to aspire to… because it’s so much less scary that way. What do we tune out as ‘not an option for me’? Is it a stylish wedding dress (notice I didn’t say an expensive wedding dress)? Is it a stylish wardrobe? Is it attacking items on our life list? Is it trying for a great job? Living in a great city? Doing something a little more ambitious with your personal blog? Writing more? Having a braver marriage? What is it? Because my hunch is, the things we tell ourselves can’t be done are the things we most need to give ourselves permission to do. Because why not us? Why not now? Really. Why not?

Engagement photos!!

Thank you everyone who commented and clamored for the engagement photos in the last post. I'm really touched that people I know only through the internet caring. I've delayed on this a bit because I had some emotions to work through, which I decided to just put into another post about body image and self-esteem entirely. So here are my top picks, with a slideshow of the full set available here.

We started out in our 'formal' outfits, which for me was a mod acid yellow and gray 60s shift from Empire Vintage Clothing and for Dan was his light gray suit that I talked him into getting tailored. Man, the amount of excess fabric they took out!

This is the Hoboken train terminal waiting room, which is gorgeous and looks a bit like Grand Central Station but with fewer people. Sadly an NJTransit cop shooed us away pretty quickly (Kelly was awesomely quick on her feet and told the guy she was Dan's sister) because apparently you need a permit? But I searched and searched afterwards and didn't find anything on their website about applying for one, so in my mind that means it can't be true. I'm still a little peeved that we missed out on the grand shots of the big staircase, but you get a bit of the idea from here.

Kelly was so great about constantly directing us to move closer to each other and to show some affection, just like Amy had told us we should try to do more of.

Mmm vintage-y post-processing effect.

Fie on ugly but necessary signs marring the frame.

I like this one a lot because because I think I look like I feel a bit sassy here. Hellz yeah bright blue dress that's also from Empire Vintage Clothing. Can you guess what that is behind us?

It's the outside of a parking garage in Hoboken! We were walking from the train station to the park at 4th and Hudson and chatting as we went along and then Kelly stops in the middle of a sentence and just says something along the lines of, "Oh my god what is that I love it we are going there to take photos now." Ok!

There was a guy sitting on a bench towards that right that kept telling Kelly she was doing it wrong because the sun was behind us. She showed admirable restraint there, I think.

This is the same park, we just ducked into a small clump of trees and Kelly managed to make it seem like we were in a forest, which was one of the settings that I wanted all along but thought we couldn't make it work with the urban thing together.

Joint effort from Dan, Kelly, and myself. 

I love, love the concept for a save-the-date card (which I think we are going to end up doing after all) but may want to re-do it with a vintage Scrabble board instead so that the board isn't as distractingly colorful, or maybe use some Photoshop effect so that the tiles look illustrated somehow, or do just the tiles and overlay it on another image, like a vintage map of Princeton or NJ. Dan's preference is for something like this from the battles of Princeton and Trenton. Ugh history. Anyway, that'd be on one half of a postcard and another one of these images on the other half. Gets the point across, hopefully, and people can put it on their fridge if they want.

By this point we were already running over on Kelly's time but she never said a word and got this bubble shot that I really wanted in.

So overall, Kelly is basically the most energetic and enthusiastic person I've ever met. She really was wonderful about directing us into poses and making us laugh. I think you can tell that we definitely relaxed into it as the shoot went on, which is the whole point of doing an engagement shoot after all.

Given that, I kind of overprepared for the shoot in terms of props and such. I made a list, checked it twice, and packed everything into my granny cart which was useful for hauling things around but I really didn't need 3 different belts options and more earrings/necklaces/shoes/books etc. As Kelly pointed out when we talked over the phone a few weeks beforehand, the shots of her other couples that I liked the best were the ones where the couples were doing some activity together and yet I clung to having many prop options as a safety line, I suppose. Ah well, so it goes.

For makeup this time around, I scheduled a makeup trial with Jennifer Kang at Mona's in Englewood Cliffs. She was really nice and in a happy coincidence, she happened to be doing these trials for free on the day of our shoot anyway. I regret that I didn't leave her a small tip of some kind just for her time. She applied some fantastically long false lashes that felt pretty weird at first but that I got used to eventually. They weren't too hard to remove at the end of the day, though I needn't have worried at all about them falling out. I'm surprise that they didn't show up more in the photos because they looked enormous to me in the mirror. I also learned from her that you can apparently buy these stickers at Asian grocery stores to put on single-fold eyelids at night to have a double fold in the morning. Weird! And yet, intriguing!

Dan, again, thought there was too much makeup on but I think you can't really tell that there's very much in the photos. I almost want a bit more eye makeup and a stronger lip color, and definitely for my eyebrows to be filled in a bit more, I think. Still, I remain undecided as to whether the minimalistic makeup look I want is worth paying a professional to do. I can buy the makeup and practice myself...but I probably won't do the practicing part of it. I think my sister also wants to the use the occasion to really go for all the beautifying things, since she never went to prom.

So it may be a small thing that ends up being worth throwing money at, but I'm still not quite sure. Plus, a hair person would be separate, and yet there's not much I want done except for it to be blown out nicely. Mama G suggested finding a salon in the Princeton area that I would go to on the morning of to get the blowout and a makeup application but I want to minimize the amount of running around needed that morning. Maybe a place like this La Jolie Hair Salon which has full face regular makeup starting at $45 and a shampoo and blow-dry at $36. The fine print says wedding day work starts at $100 but I'm not too fussed about going in there and not telling them that it's for a wedding.

In conclusion:
  1. I heart Kelly.
  2. I remain unsure about the makeup thing.
  3. I have body image and self-esteem issues to work on that I didn't know I had. More to come on this.

Tissue paper pom poms

Just got the engagement photos from Kelly today (whee!), which were taken over 3 weeks ago, so I thought I'd best get my butt back on this blogging wagon. Traveled, painted furniture, worked, end of quarter craziness, blah blah fishcakes. I did read Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding and even went through it a second time to mark up all the things I wanted to blog about. Oh, and I also started the intermediate skirt sewing at Sew Fast Sew Easy so that I can take their advanced dressmaking class.

The traveling was to Michigan, to visit Mama G!! I'm pretty sure this was my first time to the Midwest ever, though my knowledge of geography is so hazy that that might be wrong. I had such a fun and relaxing time; Mama G is the best hostess ever, she had this adorable welcome basket all ready for me, which include an ornament in the shape of Michigan among other lovely smelling soaps and lotions. We went through two watermelons, visited Zingerman's and found foodie heaven, found an awesome curated and cheap vintage shop and...made the test wedding crafty project!

These were made based on the instructions from Martha Stewart. Here's what we learned:
  1. The rectangle of tissue paper you fold up should be proportionally longer than it is wide. This is because you'll fit in more folds for the same width, which will result in a thicker cluster of paper.
  2. Cutting the edges to be sharper triangles rather than rounded scallops looked better, in our opinion. Not too sharp, though, otherwise the points will flop too much.
  3. Again, fluffiness and thickness were important to the point where we thought it looked better to tie together two halves rather try to one big pom pom sphere from the same sheets of paper.
  4. Having a gradient of colors really gives the whole thing more depth.
  5. Without cutting down the tissue paper, the pom pom ends up looking huge but once you're outside, the big ones look better hanging in the tree. 

This was our favorite one. There are 3-4 different colors here and see how the shape is a bit oval because it's 2 halves stuck together?

I need to scope out how these pom poms will be hung at the venue. I know there's at least one big tree in the yard that's close to the house...but I can't remember others. I also don't know whether we can hang things inside the house itself. As for colors, I think we'll stick to the red-orange-yellow colors. The blue is a bit too hard to find and as Mama G said, I have to be a bit careful that the colors don't veer too much into primary color mode. If I can find tablecloths that are the right blue, that would pull it all together.

More table decorations

"Coral" table decor out of drinking straws at design*sponge.

Individual cupcake stands at hello hanna, via not martha.

I think putting together a template for these shouldn't be too difficult, it's the cutting them out with the curves that would take awhile.

My sister the bridesmaid

My sister is now a junior (like whoa!) at a Division 1 school on a tennis scholarship. We used to fight all the time when we were little, from my end because I was always jealous of the attention she got from everyone else for being the younger, cuter one and resentful that I always had to be the bigger person because I was her older sister. Ah, Confucian culture.

I remember very clearly when I was around 11 and just had another fight with her that my dad took me aside and told me, "Look, I know she's annoying. But she's 7. She can't help it. It's going to be like this for another 4 years but it will get better after that, just you wait and see." (implied subtext: please try to make it easier on your mother in the meantime) My mother always hated that we fought so much, she would try to impress upon us that someday she and our dad won't be here anymore and we would only have each other to truly rely on.

My dad was right (as my mom will be, too), as so often happens. Ergh, that part of growing up where you realize that your parents are far smarter and wiser than your smug teenage self ever considered giving them credit for! Anyway, my relationship with my sister really improved vastly once I left for college. I'd come home and be surprised at the funny, creative person she was growing into.

Now that she's at school, she'll email me once in awhile to ask for advice on one thing or another (even though she ignored my advice about making sure she worked really really hard for the first semester so she wouldn't fall into the trap of spending the rest of her college years working to make up for it, ahem) and I like playing that big sister role, because I can help make her way a little easier than it was for me, figuring things out more on my own.

I also know that I can rely on her to help me when I ask; she was one of the few that helped Dan and me move in to our first apartment together, mostly by driving a second car because she's a far better and more confident driver than I am, and she also drove all the way out to Princeton from eastern Jersey at the beginning of August in order to ferry me to and from an appointment with the caterer.

This is all to basically say that she's earning her bridesmaid status plenty (though I've told her there are no expectations of planning a bridal shower or bachelorette party or any of those sort of 'extra' events). Happy birthday, sis (I am terrible with dates and birthdays but the technology of scheduling things ahead of time when you do remember and before you forget what day of the year it is, to the rescue!).

Cotton cady Erica dress from J.Crew, in "fresh mint"

This is the dress we've bought for her as a bridesmaid dress. Simple, elegant, and pretty close in color to the shade of blue I'm trying to tie things to, though this is a bit greener, I think. We bought it now because it's on sale (listed at $80 currently, I think we got it for $90? Maybe $100? Original price was $225!) and we had such trouble finding anything nearly as close when we spent almost an entire afternoon at the mall that the chances of finding something if we waited until next spring, when she won't be home for spring break due to the tennis season, would be pretty slim.

We may need to bring this to the tailor to get it fixed up a bit when her body changes a bit from all the working out during the season. Luckily no changes need to be made to the length. My mother is verrrry nervous about the whole strapless thing, so maybe we'll add some kind of strap to soothe that. I think a thin halter-style ribbon strap in red might work, so that it doesn't disturb the pretty neckline, and then metallic or red flats, and maybe a little red flower pin at the waist and/or headband. She's got a pair of cute red rose earrings that could work with that, so then maybe just a necklace or bracelet to finish of the accessorizing.