Feminism and weddings

Wedding Graduate, Part II: Sarah & Feminism & Weddings
I still felt skeptical toward weddings and the institution of marriage, which I associated with a stereotyped version of heterosexuality. Straight weddings, to my mind, symbolized the idealization of heterosexuality over other forms of loving relationships. Also, I was really bothered by how much we celebrate the couple, rather than the individual, at a wedding. Why don’t we celebrate the achievements of single and independent men and women with as much fanfare as we celebrate a wedding? It bothered me that women, in particular, are supposed to see our marriages, and thus our wedding days, as the singular greatest achievements of our lives—except, perhaps for becoming mothers.

When my fiancé and I got engaged, I had no doubt that he was the person I wanted to spend my life with and I found myself really excited about both the marriage and the wedding. But I also found myself feeling guilty and embarrassed about being excited—I couldn’t reconcile that with the skepticism I still felt toward weddings and marriage on a political level. I can say in retrospect that even the most basic decisions we made in planning the wedding were emotionally fraught for me because of this. At the time, however, I did not let myself fully explore the dilemma I was facing, I think because I was afraid that if I examined it too closely I would be forced to choose between my feminist politics and my excitement over the wedding and marriage; in other words, that I could be either an unmarried, or reluctantly married feminist, or an enthusiastically married non-feminist, but not both.

Now that we are married, I cannot say I’ve entirely worked out this dilemma, but my perspective on the cultural and personal significance of weddings and marriage has definitely shifted since we first become engaged. I feel, for one, much more comfortable with the idea that relationships are the singular greatest achievements in our lives—all of our lives, men and women. I think we must all pursue our individual dreams and use our own talents to the best of our abilities and that these dreams and talents must be nurtured and celebrated, but I have also come to realize that we need deep, mutually caring relationships with others to live fulfilling lives.

These do not need to be marital relationships. But what my own wedding showed me was that weddings are not actually about the marital relationship alone. Weddings are usually public, communal celebrations because they exist to celebrate the family and community of the couple—not just the couple themselves. Our wedding was the most amazing day of my life not only because I got to celebrate my love for my husband, but also because I got to experience the depth of the relationships we have with so many other people, the closeness and love that surrounds us on all sides. It filled me with gratitude and helped me to take all of my relationships more seriously, less for granted. There is nothing in this that challenges my feminism at all—I’m still just as committed to female autonomy and gender egalitarianism. It’s just that I now think that “autonomy” is best achieved in the context of a web of loving, committed relationships, not by separating oneself.

The other thing I worried a lot about was whether I was being too materialistic in thinking about the aesthetics of our wedding as much as I did during the planning process. Was I shallow, for instance, for seeking out a beautiful set of four white birch branches to use as chuppah poles, rather than using the free plastic ones we could have gotten from our synagogue? Now that the wedding has come and gone, I’m glad we used the (stunningly beautiful) white birch branches. I think it is fine to want our weddings to be rewarding to all of our senses: caring about the way things look, the tastiness of the food, all the textures and colors of the day is fine. In Judaism, it’s called “beautifying the commandment”—it means that there is actually an ethical value in making rituals, such as the wedding ceremony, pleasing to the eye and other senses. This does NOT give us license to flaunt wealth or break the bank if we don’t have it; there is a subtle but real line between ethical and unethical uses of aesthetics, I think. In the end, we had a wedding budget that we stuck pretty closely to, and we had no wedding debt. I wish I had given myself less grief over not throwing the lowest cost, most Spartan wedding possible!
In the last paragraph (pretty much the one part I did not pull into here), Sarah also encourages people to seek couples counseling. I've been musing over the officiant thing, considering friends of ours that would be willing to perform the ceremony and then researching professionals who specialize in melding different faith/cultural backgrounds (April Beer, for example).

Now I'm thinking it would be nice for us to be able to be married by the same person we'd go to for pre-martial counseling, like the role a priest would have served, but I haven't found someone like that through my initial searching just yet. Let me know if you have any potential leads. I'm going to try reaching out to our benefits/perks team at work to see if that might be something they could assist in finding a contact with too.

On having a dissimilar partner

Wedding Graduate: Rebecca of Princess Max
you and your partner may not be on the same page about what makes a perfect wedding and that’s OK, too. I remember feeling so frustrated with the wedding blogs I was reading because it seemed like every writer had a partner who was absolutely just like her because s/he was passionate about letterpress, too. My husband and I have very different aesthetic styles, very different socializing styles, very different relationships with our families, very different personal histories and very different religions. Each and every one of these differences had to be hashed out and that was exhausting. It was made worse by feeling like every other couple out there just needed to figure out whether they would have a rockabilly fiesta or gnomes-and-buttons campout because both were integral parts of their relationship. I had to remind myself constantly that loving someone is not reliant upon liking the same things they do.

Catering state of mind

Useful advice on food/rental items, from chic on the cheap:
  • On planning a dessert reception: link
  • On self-catering a dessert reception: link
  • On buying silverware, glasses, linens, etc. instead of renting: link
I'd been thinking of self-catering but because the reception is relatively early in the day (not as much time to prep and setup ourselves) and the location is far enough from our home bases in either Jersey City or Monmouth County that I'm not sure what we would do about storing all the pre-made food and then transporting it over to Princeton. It may just be worth the cost to hire caterers in the end.

We met with Kelly of Chez Alice last weekend. She seems like she has a great deal of experience in catering and is very willing to be flexible and work with us to keep things within budget. Her proposal included the following:
  • assorted pies & tarts
  • coffee, tea, lemonade,
  • simple sandwiches (meat and vegan options)
We won't be able to do an individual tasting with them but their Yelp reviews seem to indicate that they're more than a competent bakery.

We also got a proposal from Emily's Cafe, who has one 5-star rating on Yelp for a wedding reception. I was really impressed by their detailed proposal, which broke down the different parts (food, beverage, server costs) very clearly and also included their suggestion of rental items as well (under $1000! makes me feel much more secure that that won't have to spiral out of control as an entirely unexpected cost).
  • Artisan Cheese Board
    • chef’s selection of Stilton, Vermont cheddar, brie, boursin, port salut, Parmigginao Reggiano, pecorino, Aged Gouda, Jarlsberg
    • *Crostini, crackers, flatbreads             
    • garnished with seasonal fruit
  • Paired with: 
    • Pastry Encrusted Baked Brie stuffed with Raspberry Preserves
    • *crostini, flatbreads, crackers
  • Tiers of Tea Sandwiches
    • prepared on assorted breads to include: pumpernickel, sourdough, black olive, and multi grain
    • mango chicken salad, prosciutto and marscapone, smoked salmon and crème fraiche, cucumber and dill
  • Assortment of Miniature Scones
    • white chocolate & raspberry
    • chocolate chip walnut
    • cranberry
    • *served with clotted cream and preserves
  • Assorted Petite Tartlets
    • Butter Tartlet Shells with: Lemon Curd, Chocolate Ganache, Maple Walnut, Whipped Cream and Berries 
  • Miniature Cupcakes
  • Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
  • Ice Cream & Sorbet served in cones on artist palettes
  • Additional Beverages
    • Gourmet Coffee & Tazo Tea 
    • Lemonade & Iced Tea Station
With all the server costs, this proposal exceeds Chez Alice's by about $600, so I would need to go back to them to see where it could be cut down a bit more (and of course, remove the nut items. Dan also hates Tazo tea, maybe we could bring our own?)

However, Dan and I have a disagreement about the suitability of a dessert or afternoon tea reception with the wedding pie idea. Dan thinks that the food should just be sandwiches and the dessert is the pies, standing in for your usual wedding cake. He thinks that this way, it's a very clear statement of your awareness in breaking the 'rule' of general cake, and that if you have a dessert reception, the effect of the pies is diluted to the point where it's not worth the extra effort to source out the tower and set it all up, etc.

I'm leaning more towards that the variety of desserts will be more visually impressive with the varied colors/shapes and more appealing to guests since they have greater choice. I don't think a dessert reception would detract from a pie tower, and certainly not so much that the effort of setting up the pie tower won't be worth it.

Dan's ok with the varied dessert reception if it's at a comparable cost and we don't put especial effort into the pie tower thing. I figure I'll discuss the proposal a bit more with Emily's Cafe and see what it looks like when it's under $3000 and make the call from there.

Red/golden yellow/light blue color palette

First, Style Me Pretty came out with this neat color palette tool to show suggest colors often seen together with your selected color and the pulls out images with the selected color. Will be useful in gathering photos of the desired colors in action.

I do want to make an inspiration board at some point to keep the visual things cohesive (you know, beyond just 'these are things I like') but don't really have access to a large pile of magazines to be able to clip out physical images. I could make a digital image collage, of course, but I think I would like to be able to arrange them in a physical form. Oh I know, Abby has said she subscribes to a ton of magazines so maybe I'll ask her to keep some for me and we can have an inspiration board creating party some time.

Second, after I posted about the difficulty of a color scheme around red, Amy sent me a few ideas and we ended with this red-golden yellow (not sure of the name of this color? also I tweaked it to be more yellow)-light blue combo which Dan actually quite likes. The lightness of the blue balances out the saturated red and gold-yellow, per Amy's suggestion--left to my own devices I would just have tons of loud colors so it's good to have the balance.
I think what's also nice about this is that the various pairings of the three colors also look quite nice together, so it won't be necessary to have all three together at once, but can be used to differentiate things. For example, maybe red/yellow decorations on chairs for my side and yellow/blue for Dan's side, if we decide to have sides. For those reading in an RSS feeder, I've changed the background to be stripes of this combo to see how I like living with it for a bit.

Vases transformed with puffy paint

I thought this faux porcelain project from Design*Sponge would be a quick and easy way to make a collection of thrifted vases have a more uniform look.

Paper doily tablecloth

There are a bit like the lace doily runners I posted about previously but extended to be entire tablecloths! And made just out of paper doilies, I bet they'd be quite cheap. How would one store them without creases, though?

Fabric Poms

How lovely are these fabric poms, with their soft texture? (via not martha)

Besides being hung up, I could also see them sort of just scattered about (artfully, of course) on tables, for people to play with if they want to.

Whirling Turban custom wedding dresses

Love this wedding dress, featured in this Wedding Graduate post at (where else?) A Practical Wedding.

just right amount of poofiness and girliness

also love the glamorous hair, makeup, and veil

Her dress was custom designed and made for her by Whirling Turban, who she raves about here. They do seem like they'd be amazing, in their attention to detail and fit through photos and measurements, and they do have the kind of Chinese red brocade fabric I have in mind (for a trim or border, if not the whole thing):

I don't think I really want to inquire into their custom dresses, though, since their ready-made dress are all in the $500 range already. I think I should probably keep my attire under that amount, so although Mama G & co. lean more heavily against trying to make the dress, I've been browsing various department stores' websites and I haven't quite find anything that's the right shape and color of red to be able to then take and modify to what I have in mind right now.

I'd like to take more sewing classes anyway, and I've found a few dressmaking ones that might be good. If I can find a good pattern and make a few practice version for fit, and then use a non-slippery fabric for the main parts and then the slippery, shiny brocade for accents, it might not be too bad. For the bolero, that might be something I could have custom made here in the brocade, since anything with armholes is more difficult, but that probably wouldn't cost quite so much as an entire dress.

When Amy and I went shopping on Saturday, I tried on this cute springy Maggy London dress:

The pleating with the print fabric is really well-done, so now I'm thinking maybe something similar with hidden panels for the red brocade fabric. However, I do still also want the poofy, which most likely means some tulle or a crinoline. And, if there's some way to work in pockets, that would be amazing.

I also really like the neckline, I think it falls under the category of a sweetheart neckline? Abby has offered to ferry questions I've got about dressmaking to her seamstress grandmother, so I might ask about the difficulty of that kind of neckline. The straps on this dress were also of a good width and well-positioned. I'm going to keep an eye on it and if it goes on sale I might buy it both to wear now and to try to pattern off it.

Oh and potential bridesmaids dresses! I think I definitely want my sister to stand up with me. Mama G & co. discussed white sundresses, which would be easy, but with the color scheme maybe also a sunny golden yellow? We'll see, as Mama G said, gotta consider what it would look like in the photos.

Red-orange-yellow color scheme

I want to wear a red dress and do you know, it's actually rather difficult to come up with a color scheme around red beyond red and white? I tried looking around at the various objects in the Chinese supermarket when we were there this past weekend to get food for Chinese New Year but the thing is, modern Chinese culture seems to have an affinity for rather garish looking colors thrown all together.

However! We were watching the Olympics and the Chinese team has some rather nice looking warmup suits. After much Googling, I found out that their team apparel is made by Anta. My level of Chinese is barely sufficient to navigate the website, but I did manage to find a promotional poster of the Olympians here and then used my mad Photoshop skillz to pull out the colors above. Thoughts? Maybe the proportion of orange and red should be switched, so that the loud red is just used sparingly.

Dan's first reaction was that it looked really Asian and would therefore come off as yet another, ah yes, this event was entirely planned and executed by the bride kind of look. So we tried compromising by throwing in some blue, since Dan is a bit Swedish (and a bit of various other western European ethnicities), which is yellow and blue. I didn't like the look of the darker blue and so I lightened it, but Dan thought that looked silly. The only color scheme he has any preference for is American red/white/blue, but my reluctance to American patriotism aside, I'm not a fan.

Some relevant floral arrangements I've found:

a fall wedding (in Middletown NJ, actually) from SMP


red poppies (smp)

Maybe for flowers we'll just get red and yellow poppies or tulips, in line with the advice on just choosing one flower if you're doing your own flowers.

Fingerprint wedding bands

custom fingerprint rings from fabuluster

Table decorations

From discussions with Mama G and Meghan:
  • colored tablecloths to bring color to the empty rooms
  • centerpieces: bud vases + one large flower or, tall & thin vase + 1 flower, little candles surrounding it
  • lucky bamboo in centerpieces
  • and from the interwebs:
white lace border on red tablecloth (smp)

wine bottles and non-floral greens (smp)

beer bottles and lace runners, lace ties on chairs (smp)

And one last DIY vase idea for now: plain thrifted cylindrical vases dressed up by wrapping them in colored ribbon.

Food display

I generally prefer blog posts with photos but for the stuff on food I've collected, I figured it'd make more sense to separate the information/advice-heavy stuff from the visual display ideas. But here are your pretty photos now:

sandwich display from jenloveskev

champagne/dessert spread from project wedding
We covered a buffet table with a simple white tablecloth and stocked it with champagne and sweet treats.  To keep the look cohesive, we chose food with a similar color palette (pink, gold, and green).  Goodies like chocolate, shortbread cookies, fruit, tarts, and small pastries are easy for guests to eat using only a cocktail napkin, so silverware and plates are optional. 
We're meeting with a potential caterer on Saturday who I think will help us do a rough estimate on rentals, but if that doesn't work out, I do like the patterned Ikea paper napkins and disposable bamboo plates/silverware that Shannon posted.

I also had an idea of making up fabric napkins from thrifted fabrics for everyone monogrammed with their initials, used to signify seating arrangements (before the more mingling, cocktail style) that they'd use and then take home as favors. However, for people who aren't into it already, the idea of reusable hankies or napkins for every day (not just as restaurants, I mean) probably is too much of a stretch and so it'd be a lot of work for not too much payoff. I can't figure out darning on my sewing machine yet, so embroidery/monogramming is still farther off.

I also seem to remember reading somewhere (I think on 2000 Dollar Wedding?) that in certain cases it's cheaper to just buy tableware and linens, either through thrifting or at restaurant stores instead of renting them. The problem of course is then the clean up. I think linens might not be too bad, and from the above I think I shall definitely keep an eye out for interesting plates (superglue a support to the bottom and you've got a stand!), cake platters and dessert stands. My thrifting afficionado friends, you are hereby on notice to keep an eye out for me as well (this means you, Emily of Florida with the amazing thrift stores).

Links about food

General descriptions of non-full meal reception types (link). Ours is somewhere between dessert, tea (I actually have been corresponding with a very sweet woman at Ana Beall's Tea Room about catering), and hors d'oeuvres, I suppose, but no hot food or food that requires a lot of preparation.

Info on self-catering full meals: SFGate article titled "Do-It-Yourself Feast: How to cater your own wedding without losing your peace of mind" and this thread at indiebride, titled "Get The Smelling Salts, They're Doing Their Own Reception Food!" Seems like it's just about prepping as much as possible beforehand. My main question on this is, where do you keep at the food refrigerated beforehand?

Dessert menu suggestions: link, link, link, link.

Advice and posts from bloggers about their own experiences: chic on the cheap, Adventures Along the Way, and Apartment Therapy editor Faith Durand, with hopefully more to come! Basically I left comments on every blog I could find that mentioned doing a dessert reception and all of the women have been really nice and willing to share their wisdom on the subject. Lessons gleaned from the above posts:
  • Don't plan on a very long reception (2-3 hours): I'm estimating maybe 3-5 or 3-6.
  • Make sure the invitations make clear what type of food will be served: we'll need to ponder this for a bit, with the sandwiches being thrown in there
  • Figure out the appropriate timeline for stuff like cake-cutting: we'll have a really little cake, but I hadn't yet thought about when we'd be doing that bit.
  • Multiple stations for people to mingle and not have to wait in line and easy access to drinks
  • Small servings, so people can taste many items
  • Variety of textures and flavors, including sugar-free options: I do need to remember this, one of my uncles is diabetic
  • Set up tables, tableclothes, serving trays, etc. the day before if possible: the site coordinator said if there's no event booked on Friday, we could come in early that day to set up then
  • Hire people for set up and clean up if not getting a caterer (trouble is, where does one find trustworthy folks with experience to hire? Yes, craigslist ads, but references would be better)


I've decided to put Dan wholly in charge of the music, with the stipulation that I do want there to be dancing. My mom has also weighed in that if we're going to be serving simple food, there should be a band for live music rather than just the iPod (this input is more than okay because she's willing to contribute to this), so Dan's also going to be in charge of figuring that out. He did already put together a playlist of about 2 hours but will figure out some way to mix together everything. Still, some links:
More clearing out of my links backlog to come.

A Wedding Retreat

If money and time, both of ours and of our guests, were of absolutely no limit whatsoever, a wedding retreat like Sara & Stof's South African wedding would be the kind of event that I'd want. Casual, in a gorgeous natural setting, and with sufficient amounts of time to hang out with everyone, both friends and all extended family. It just seems like it would be so much fun, and more in line with an idea of weddings for a time of gathering and celebration.

Stof and I made an intensely private commitment public, but we did so within a group of people who had come to appreciate each other almost as much as us, so we felt *held* by our community.
To be realistic, I probably wouldn't actually enjoy quite that much time with so many people, being as strong an introvert as I am. I just like the idea of it, and of the awesome people in our lives getting to know awesome people in other parts of lives.

Although we're just having just an afternoon event, I'm pretty sure I will need to schedule in downtime so that I don't get overwhelmed, like at the Thanksgiving dinner for the P-scholars senior year. I was so tired from cooking all day and setting it up and as soon as I saw that there were many people there and they seemed to be having a good time, I had to slip away to just sit in silence, by myself, before I could summon up enough energy to be around people again. Even with people that I love dearly and enjoy spending time with, I can only handle so much before I can feel myself shutting down, and the more people there are, the faster that happens.

The other thing I've been thinking about is the whole being the center of attention bit of 'traditional' weddings. I don't really want to make a whole grand entrance with my dress at the ceremony--this thing isn't just about me and how great I'll look, and how this is going to the best moment of my life. If that's the case, serious fail at life, really. I also don't want us to make a grand entrance as the married couple and do a first dance where everyone has to stand around and look at us.

I think my discomfort is mostly due to two things, 1) the feeling that the more people that are looking, the more people to notice when you screw up, and 2) the belief that forgetting your own inconsequence relative to everything and an inflated sense of your own self-importance will just bring you down in the end. I am deeply afraid of becoming someone who can't stop talking about her wedding planning and at whom friends roll their eyes behind her back, but it's hard not to bring up new things I've discovered that I'm excited about. Hence blogging at a stop-gap, right? :)

On the other hand, we shouldn't be so afraid of stepping outside this comfort zone. As Amy wrote to me earlier today, "Don't be afraid to ask your oldest friends to help out on the day of. I'm sure we wouldn't might at all. You're our friends, and it's a celebration. We're all there to have fun and celebrate, not to stress out!"

So, some quotes from A Practical Wedding for me to refer back to:

Wedding Reception Entrances: No, They Don't Have to be Grand
"I am not a "grand entrance" kind of girl. In fact, I think they are downright silly…Am I nuts? I just can't see making all my guests watch my new husband and me sway like 6th graders for 3 minutes before allowing them to eat."

Um. No. You are not nuts. I actually AM a grand entrance kind of girl, and there was no way that I wanted any part of that for my wedding. We just were not having that sort of party.

So what did our entrance look like? So, after our ceremony, we had our yichud(do this, people) and then our photographers pulled us aside for five minutes of photographs. And then we wanted to party. We were so excited to party. So we just walked over to the cocktail party going on.
 Your Wedding is Not a Show
I've heard a lot of talk on APW lately about people's fear of being the center of attention on their wedding day, and I thought we needed to chat. Because here is the thing: the whole wedding industry is built around this idea that the wedding is a SHOW, and you are the STAR(s). Which... of course that's enough to make an introverted girl freak out. But more to the point, we're so stuck in this idea of the wedding as a show, that we put a huge amount of thought, energy, and stress into the idea of entertaining our guests.

But here is the thing: Your wedding is not a show.
Weddings are about two things, and we only ever talk about one. Weddings are about everyone gathering to see two people make vows of lifetime commitment, and to celebrate that. But weddings are also about something else - they are about old friends and family getting together, sharing stories, catching up, hugging, laughing, talking... and making new friends, and creating new memories. The two of you are the reason why everyone is gathered together, but (blessedly) when a wedding goes right, it is about so much more than the two of you.
So don't worry about being the center of attention. Because you're not really. You're just the center. And that will be enough.
 Your Wedding is Not an Imposition

Did you get that? It's not an imposition on *anyone.* And let me tell you why. It's not because your guests will have fun at your wedding (though, duh, they will), it's because your guests are grown-ass people. They are GROWN UPS. If your wedding is too expensive, or too far away, or just too much of a bother? They won't come. If you're lucky, they'll be very kind when they tell you about it. If you're not lucky? Then you didn't want them there anyway (try to remember that mid-sob, it was hard for me.)

But the people that come to your wedding? Well, let me quote the wise Marisa-Andrea, "This is what I have learned: The people who love you and care about you will not feel like your wedding is a burden or an imposition. They will be thrilled that out of all of the people you could have invited, you want THEM. The (editors note: FEW) people who do feel burdened -- eh. You are always going to have someone who isn't satisfied."
 This just in: Dan's been looking over my shoulder as I pontificate and says that actually, he would like to do the 'Too Heavy' entrance below:


Google Docs' wedding templates

This is a great promotion by the Google Apps product marketing manager. I took a look at the templates and don't really need any of them right now, I'm comfortable enough creating my own as I need them for now, but just wanted to put it here for revisiting at a later point.

The rough guest list and budget are being held at My Wedding Workbook (from A Practical Wedding's endorsement). It's good enough, though I wish it were more customizable to remove all the line items we feel are unnecessary. For example, the budgets section is broken down not only to ceremony and reception, but bridesmaids' luncheon, post-wedding brunch, bridal shower, etc. No need for all those, and yet reception food is just one line item, without alcohol being broken out separately?

On class

I got a few different wedding-related books out of the library on Thursday. I flipped through The DIY Wedding pretty quickly, it seems like most of its suggestions are things I've come across already elsewhere, but I'll go back to in more depth later. I finished Offbeat Bride on Friday and more valuable than the tips on the side were her description of the order of events and the funny stories about her own moments of insanity, such as panicking about getting the guests out to the front porch in time for toasts to the sunset.

Now I'm working on One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Weddingwhich even though I'm not very far into it, I think probably should be required for anyone who wants to be sensible about weddings. I'm going to get Dan to read it after I'm done, as one of the interesting points she makes in the beginning is how part of the purpose of the hype from the wedding industry is to overwhelm engaged women to the point of feeling like they absolutely have to rely on wedding professionals to stage the kind of event that's up to people's expectations--expectations that are conveniently also set by the wedding industrial complex.

An anecdote from this weekend:
on the drive to a Chinese supermarket Saturday morning
mom: so have you guys picked out a venue yet?
me: yeah, we've got this place in Princeton.
mom: how much is the site rental fee?
me: 2450.
mom: oh...that's rather expensive...
me: yeah, well.

on the drive back
mom: so, are you guys really settled on that place? that really seems pretty expensive (actually I can't quite remember how she brought it up again, but sufficiently close to this anyway)
me: yeah, well, the cheapest place we found that would be large enough was twelve hundred.
mom: wait, twelve hundred??
me: yeah...
mom: how much is your place?
me: twenty-four hundred.
mom: OH. Oh god, I thought you had said twenty-four thousand!
me: mom! I'm so surprised you were that restrained if you thought I was spending that much! if I had that much I would totally buy a house instead.
mom: yeah! well I just thought, maybe she's changed somehow.
As hard as I have worked in my adult life to convince my mom that I am sensible about money, still it's feasible enough in her head that she didn't question a deviance from that immediately. I'm going to choose to believe it's the WIC's fault and not her faith in me.

Even with that, my mom was a little uneasy that serving just dessert and sandwiches would be too simple. After I outlined some initial full hot meal catering estimates for her, she came around a bit more, and then I confirmed that Dan and I would be paying for everything ourselves. The main thing really is just that food is not good value; you have to spend a lot to get decent food.

She's going to look into whether there might be Chinese restaurants that do off-site catering but probably what they'll go with is that my parents will take out all the Chinese guests to a Chinese restaurant afterwards and pay for that themselves, which she estimates would cost about $1000. I think it's partly that she does want to be able to spend some more time with family friend guests from out-of-town, but also an idea about the minimum that they'd have to do to pass muster for the Chinese guests' expectations. Since my mom is a fair and sensible woman, though, she doesn't expect us to shoulder the burden of that expectation, for which I am grateful.

More good reading on class and weddings:
I'm trying to develop more bravery against the deep aversion to more openly say, "I can't afford this," without any ensuing feelings of guilt about not making more money so that I wouldn't be in that situation, because money earned is tied to effort which is tied to your character--American culture just can't escape its Puritan roots. 

Even still, I feel defensive and have the urge to qualify it by saying, "It's not that I can't afford it, it's that I choose to be prudent and save money and with what's left I can't justify purchasing this item." But that's still silly, in the end. Not being rich shouldn't cause feelings of shame (and conversely, just like not wanting to go to med school or to grad school just yet shouldn't make me feel inadequate either, as much as my father tries).

Questionable "traditions"

From Meghan, the ladies of Slate's DoubleX debate the question, "Which wedding tradition do you wish were abolished?"
Hanna Rosin: I would definitely say the throwing of the bouquet. In the last few weddings I've been to—even the ones for more conservative friends—there is a strong ambivalence hanging over this moment. The ladies gather shame-faced in the corner and the bride gives a limp, embarrassed toss. In each case the flowers landed on the floor, as the women were too embarrassed to catch them. The age when women want to get married is not over. But the age when women proudly display a grasping eagerness to do so is long past.
I've previously posted how I love Saipua's flower arrangements, as well as the idea of button or felt flower bouquets, so I suppose whether I do a bouquet toss (assuming I do get a bouquet) will be dependent on how invested I feel in the bouquet itself (and therefore don't want it to get damaged) and whether more than three (enough to make a small crowd) of my girl friends feel really strongly about it.

It does seem to be a "tradition" that has a slightly unsavory tinge to it but if I don't care about preserving the bouquet too much and there are guests who really want to partake, including guys, then at this point I don't feel particularly strongly about it.

Other items of interest:
  • "No one needs a little box of chocolates with the couple's name on it." - Ha! In one random wedding magazine I picked, the bride was a watch designer so they gave all the guests a custom watch design with the name of the couple and the date of the wedding on the back. ?!??????
  • "Extensive hors d'oeuvre spreads followed by massive, plated meals. Your guests just feel guilty about the wasted food, and then they're too bloated to dance." - undesireable and unaffordable
  • "The one I hate most is a relatively new invention: the unity candle. It's meant to symbolize the joining of two families, but isn't that what the wedding itself is? Really, these elaborate, pricey candles just add to the cost of the event and make the ceremony longer." - Ha, I can just imagine now Dan's speechlessness if I were to suggest a New Age-y thing like a unity candle that also costs way more than its worth
  • "And instead of having my father "give me away," I had both my parents walk down the aisle with me. It wasn't a "passing off," but symbolized, at least to us, the journey they had guided me on from my birth up to that point, and how they were there for me at the biggest moment of my life and always would be." - Yes. Also Martha said this is a Jewish tradition, props to them for that.
  • "But I will say that I enjoy a lot of the pageantry at other people's weddings and seeing how their personal style gets expressed (or, more often, crushed beneath conformity and family pressure)." - We are not pageantry kind of people, pretty far from it, actually (see A Practical Wedding's wise words on 'Your wedding is not a show' and 'Your wedding is not an imposition').
Pretty much all the effort that I'm putting in is precisely to avoid the being crushed by conformity and family pressure. I would love to have a totally equal sharing of the planning with Dan, but the issue is that he doesn't really have a problem with conforming to family pressure except if it's going to be a lot more expensive to do so. So I'm a bit of a fish swimming against the current here, but I am supported by all the modern, independent female friends instead. Thank you.

Cupcake pies

Via Amy, more adorable mini-food!

First favors ideas post

Favors, ooo man, can we talk about THE wedding item I am most likely to get nuts over the crafty possibilities?
  • (from Mama G/Meghan): fortune cookies with a custom message inside, in clear plastic takeout boxes
  • various little jarred gifts from Design*Sponge: granola, tea, potted plants, pickling kit (maybe something with a pie recipe?)
  • booklet of pie & other dessert recipes collected and bound
  • mini-pie pops!! (via A Cup of Jo) Ok, clearly something that would need to be tested and see if it could be made way ahead of time...but there's just something about mini-food, I guess. [edit: more pie lollipops here]

    Thank You photo

    This idea suggested to me by Abby, whose mom saw it at a recent wedding. The couple has photo taken of them holding up signs that say "Thank You" and then uses that photo to print up custom thank you cards.
    (image found on flickr)

    Cute, right? We would do this with more handmade/crafty-looking signs. Of course, it would only work for thank you cards sent out post-wedding, but if we get gifts early it's probably better if we send out cards for those early on. I'm not a real big thank-you card kind of person but I recognize it as a reasonable custom. And it is nice to receive thank-you cards.

    Also, apparently you can get 100 free postcards + $15 shipping from VistaPrint for postcard save-the-dates and such. Dan has already put a kibosh on those magnet save-the-dates since they're something like $1-$2 per magnet, plus the cost of postage.

    There are some cute and crafty save-the-date ideas out there (here: photo of fridge, book stack with circled numbers) but I think save-the-dates in general fall under "projects I should only take on if I find myself with a lot of free time and extra inspiration." Once we reserve the date, I'll post about it here and hopefully a mass email or two will take care of the younger folk and phone calls will suffice for the rest of the fam.

    Yes, of course I like letterpress and lovely paper goods and yes, some people may find a reminder that they can post on their fridge to be helpful, but with limited resources I think this is something I don't care about all that much. Maybe I'll design one in Photoshop that people can print out if they want something to stick on their fridge :)

    Venue chosen! Tentative date(s) picked!

    Mama G was in town this past weekend, and as a result I now have two new Gmail Tasks lists: 'blog post ideas' and 'wedding to do.' I'm sure the to do list will morph into something much bigger  very soon, Google products I love you but some things just aren't fully up to snuff in their functionality.

    I will slowly try to work through the 'blog post ideas' to clear it out at least a little bit (possibly tomorrow evening during my JS class...though that will be harder to get away with what with the all the pictures that will be included, heh), because ever since our 2 hour planning session at Meghan's fueled by pear cider and apple cider doughnuts from Greenmarket, I have been Googling like mad and finding lots of great stuff.

    Anyway, venue! Chosen! Mama G threw her full support behind Mountain Lakes House which was just what I needed. Also I agonized over it for a whole week and that was enough time to let it fade and get sensible if it were possible. In her words:
    You and your guests will not remember what you had to eat at the reception but you will remember the setting and charm of the location. Feed them peanut butter and crackers, if you have to, but have your wedding there!!! Lovely house and setting - I can picture it now.
    Which was just the thing in the end, really, I could just picture what we'd all look like hanging around on on the lawn by the pond and on the patios. All classy and grown up.

    Of course, peanut butter is a no no for He Who Is Allergic To Life (if Dan does stuff worth memoirizing about, the title of the first volume will be Allergic to Life) but we decided on the following:
    • Saturday date, so people don't necessarily have to take off from work to get here (I wanted Memorial Day weekend originally but Princeton has their graduation weekend then)
    • afternoon (1-6ish or maybe 2-7ish) so that we don't have to deal with arranging artificial lighting and we take full advantage of the scenic venue. It's also early enough that people won't expect a full-blown dinner and the older folk don't have to leave early, while the younger folk can continue socializing in bar-hopping or some such later that evening if so desired, but also not too early such that we're up at Jesus o'clock setting up.
    • champagne* and dessert** reception (*with nice beer and tea, maybe wine, and partial potluck on the desserts with pies from the good bakers we know, cupcake stand, Mama G's chocolate fountain, and **sandwich platters as well because Dan insists that no matter what people expect to be fed more than just dessert at a social event) I just like calling it a champagne and dessert reception for now because it's more elegant than all the rest together. Also I have no objections to also have OJ and milk available still, brunch or no brunch.
    • Mama G to be my long-distance planner and possibly day-of coordinator as well (Meg's younger sister's graduation is early June)
    • potential red (my dress)/orange/yellow color theme, I'd like to make an inspiration board
    And many, many more other ideas that are now floating around. Right now I'm focused on trying to see if it's at all possible to get just one caterer who will do this kind of food at a good price plus help us figure out the rentals and provide a few people on the day-of to do setup and cleanup. It's probably unlikely, so I've been reading about self-catering as well, which is daunting, but so it goes. 

    I suspect it'll be hard to find a caterer who will do all the services stuff but then be ok with us asking them to just get sandwich platters from Costco or something like that. I did find that apparently there are people who are just 'catering managers' which is a cross between a full-blown planner/coordinator and catering company. I haven't Googled that just yet but we're so near NYC, there should be enough aspiring chefs and restauranteurs that I'd be able to find with postings at a local culinary or school something, I suspect.

    The current tentative dates are 6/11/11, 6/18/11, and 6/25/11. My preference is the 18th but Dan needs to check with his mom about a competition she takes a school team to that happens every year right after school ends. Anyone else have any preferences one way or another?

    I'm really happy and excited about the venue and food style choice, it feels right and doable, especially with Mama G's help. Hooray!