Picking the Music, Part 1

Hello! I figure I'll start with a brief introduction: my name is Dan. I am the lucky guy that Katherine has decided to marry; for whatever reason, she hasn't quite yet realized the scope of her mistake, so we're still going through with this wedding thing. As it is, I tend to get referenced here quite often, usually while Katherine is emphasizing my uncommon skill in rejecting things.

I'll be writing here occasionally, though this is pretty clearly Katherine's ship. I am, however, attempting to overcome my aversion to hassle, and am doing my best to participate in this process. One of the components of the wedding that I am spearheading is the music. Katherine's tastes in music are not particularly well-defined, but she knows that I do take music somewhat seriously.

Our initial plan was to rent some sound equipment and set up a laptop with a playlist. We would then enlist the help of one of our many technologically-savvy friends to monitor the set-up during the reception (I expected to have a few volunteers for this eminently-enjoyable role).

I'll offer a snippet of the wedding playlist I had begun to prepare:

Sing, Sing Sing - Benny Goodman
Keep the Customer Satisfied - Simon & Garfunkel
Cell Block Tango - Catherine Zeta-Jones, Susan Misner, Deidre Goodwin, Denise Faye, Ekaterina Chtchelkanova, MyĆ” Harrison, & "Chicago" Cast
Give the Girl a Kiss - Bruce Springsteen
All My Loving - The Beatles
You and I - Wilco
Ever the Same - Rob Thomas
Quarter to Three (live) - Bruce Springsteen
The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani
Daydream - The Lovin' Spoonful
Summertime - Marcheeba & Hubert Laws
Build Me Up Buttercup - The Foundations
I'll Be Your Mirror - The Velvet Underground
Hung Up On You - Fountains of Wayne

This is a pretty eclectic mix, I would say, of some upbeat rockers, some older songs, and some romantic, slower pieces. I would also point your attention to the hints of jazz and R&B in some of the music.

The situation changed, though, so now, we need to find a live music act for the wedding. The fun of preparing an interesting playlist that Katherine would approve has been replaced by the fun of finding a live music act that fulfills various requirements, some of which seem to contradict each other. There probably is no fully-rational way to make this work, so intuition and feel will have to do. I'll start with a few bands/musicians that I like a lot:

- Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band: As far as I can tell, Springsteen is the best live performer of his generation, and probably the generation after his. I love his earlier albums; "The Wild, The Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle" is probably my all-time favorite album, and I revere both "Born to Run" and "Darkness on the Edge of Town" as well. During the mid-70s, Springsteen's career trajectory was still largely unsettled. He didn't become a full-on "rocker" until the late-70s, mainly with Darkness. His music prior to that was a mix of folk, jazz, and R&B, with his shows moving around those themes (listen to Kitty's Back from 1978 and you'll see what I mean). I am also from New Jersey, and we are contractually obligated to like at least one of Bon Jovi or Springsteen.
- The Band: "Music from Big Pink" taught me the value of musicians who know how to play their instruments. The Band played behind Bob Dylan when he moved from acoustic to electric, and that move would NOT have worked without a band as good as "The Band." Their sound has significant folk undertones, and they were good performers on a variety of different instruments. (How can you not love the mandolins floating around that album? Just wonderful.)
- Wilco: Wilco is one of the only modern bands I listen to consistently. They have a good mix of keyboards, guitars, subdued percussion, etc. Impossible Germany is one of my favorites that they do. It showcases some great guitar work towards the end, and also has a bit of an improvisational feel.
- Pink Floyd: Extended themes, slow pacing, prominent guitars. All good things.

I am looking for a band that incorporates components of these sounds: the long musical interludes, the improvisational feel, the intra-band chemistry that allows musicians to play off of each other. I also want something largely accessible--I don't want the septuagenarians at the wedding completely alienated by the sound.

Katherine wants something that, in her words, "her mother will judge impressive enough for her guests." She is also looking for dancing, and I think she would prefer a female vocalist. (Her stipulations are rather minimal, which is good for me here, but they are also somewhat prohibitive. Perhaps it is better this way; I get some additional guidance.)

Generally, these lowest-common denominator decisions, like airline food, lead to horrifyingly bad things--in other words, people can hate them together. I am determined to avoid this fate, though.

Enter the Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout. This is a band that Katherine and I saw live at 55 Bar down on Christopher Street in Manhattan. They were joined by an exceptional female vocalist--Leah Siegel--who really added something. The band had a lead guitarist, a bass guitar, a keyboardist (who played what sounded more like a Hammond organ than a piano, but both sounds are good), drums, and a saxophone. The interplay was excellent, and the music was quite good. We like this instrument combination.

They don't, however, seem to do weddings. They were also a tad too loud for my "don't alienate the septuagenarians" requirement.

I spent a good deal of time surfing through websites trying to find a similar sound, and I have at least one lead. The band is called BD Lenz (the band name is eponymous with the lead guitarist's name, I believe), and they are playing at the Salt Creek Grille in Princeton, NJ on Friday, September 3 (apparently as a fully instrumental group). They are also playing at a place called Yo y Papa in Morristown, NJ on Friday, September 18, and claim to have a female vocalist lined up for that one. (Katherine will be out of town for that event, unfortunately.)

Katherine and I will probably be going down to Princeton to see them on the 3rd, and I may go out to Morristown to see them on the 17th with a FlipCam, depending on how the first viewing goes. (We may just pick them on the spot then, or we may eliminate them from consideration.)

Here's an excellent cover of "Superstition" by BD Lenz:

Highlights from conversations with my parents tonight

Me: So, do you want to invite any of your friends?
Mom: No. Too much hassle*.

Me: So, do you want to invite any of your friends?
Dad: No. Too much hassle*.
Me: What about your friend _____ that Mom mentioned?
Dad: Give me the date and I'll call her and see if she and her husband can come. If they can't then there's no point in inviting them.
Me: That doesn't make any sense, that's what RSVPing is for!
Dad: By the way, I can't guarantee anyone except for myself, your uncles like to make last minute changes often.

Mom: Oh yeah, that's the Chinese way of doing things. The invitation itself is just a formality.

*Just to be clear, I think the desire to avoid hassle bit of these conversations is more our family's general introverted/anti-social tendency rather than general Chinese culture.

Another invitations round-up

Free templates at download & print by Anna Skye, via 2000 Dollar Wedding.

Loved the color scheme and font usage/placement in my girl Angie's invites, as designed by her husband-in-7-days (!) Josh:

I really like how the broken line border looks like stitches in Delphine Press' Hibiscus design, via Oh So Beautiful Paper.

Also a fan of the fun and bright yellow and blue color scheme

One way to incorporate the fabric/stitching/DIY feel to the paper goods might be sewing an outline around something, using bright embroidery thread. Once we get our engagement photos back, I'll take a look at them and see if we could convert one into a suitable save-the-date postcard, jazzed up a little.

I just like the look of this vintage airmail inspired set, even though it wouldn't really fit for us:

My mother used to get letters from her friends/relatives in China with that airmail border. Not so much anymore, though.

Map-lined envelopes! Too much work (if I'm going to spend that kind of effort, I'd go all out with the map envelopes, but I know that I'd at least appreciate this detail if I were to ever receive one myself.

Again with the graphic design using type, via the haystack needle.

It is a nice contrast to have the hand-lettered portion.

They included the menu with their invitations, which is something Dan wants to do, to make clear what the food will be like upfront.

Speaking of the food, our caterer came up with a delicious sounding prosecco bar! It'll include: sliced strawberries, mango puree, fresh orange juice, herbed simple syrup, and lemon twists, bitters and sugar cubes for the prosecco version of this champagne cocktail. I'm pretty excited, though I do still have to taste prosecco first, heh.

Back to invitations: this set came in a sweet little seersucker pocket (via Oh So Beautiful Paper).

I think the pocket then also fit inside the envelope. Probably too fussy for utility gained overall (I guess the idea is that envelopes are easily torn up and this would help keeps all the little bits of paper together better?).

And for the last item, I could see this tutorial on making your own fabric tape (costs $8 for the sticker machine to get started, then about $0.25/ft thereafter) coming in handy because the color blue I'm looking at has been hard to find, so it might be easier to find fabric that's the right color and then make things using that.

Boy clothes

Dan usually gets items from the following categories as gifts from his relatives: B&N gift card, DVDs, B&N gift card, books, electronic equipment, B&N gift card, more books...you get the idea. Once in awhile there are some Gap gift cards thrown in there too and clearly that's what I get the most excited about. All his best pieces of casual wear have come from those gift cards (and were then stolen by his sisters...I haven't forgotten that grey zip-up hoodie with elbow patches, nor the BC hoodie I bought him, no sirree).

Sadly, with the apartment move around last holiday season, that kind of gift card wasn't in the mix, but my friend Amy's suggested that we go on a trip to Uniqlo to get some good, cheap basics for him. The problem is that he's just so tall and skinny and angular. So far my experimentation has determined that he looks best when basically dressed like an old man. This isn't just because of how I like vintage, but because it expresses his true inner self of a crabby old man (Dennis the Menace's neighbor, but with very strong social filters).  For example, he's got a great "flat cap" from Old Navy that was the best style for price deal ever ($3!).

So that's what I'm kind of looking for for his wedding attire. Isn't it a bit weird that it's far easier to get him something that he would wear again? And in fact, I've been pressuring him for a really long time to get a properly tailored suit for the wedding so he'll have a well-fitting suit to wear for a change (see "tall and skinny and angular"). He's got a light gray one that's pretty nice, actually, though still just way too much fabric in the abdominal area.

Here are some ideas I've come across that I quite like:

I love how slimly fitting this suit is, and I like the pinstripes. He's also got nice old man shoes. (A Cup of Jo)

Suspenders make my heart go aflutter. I think I also like the higher waist of the pants.
Jazz Age dance party at Governors Island (The Sartorialist)

Suspenders and Chucks! Maybe red Chucks, to match my dress. (Brooklyn Bride)

I do also like vests over nice shirts (academichic)

Engagement photo inspiration

Summer seems be slipping by, spent mostly hiding indoors from the heat and humidity, but I've gotten a chance to slow down a bit and spend some time just staring off into the distance with this vacation of volunteering at an organic farm in Princeton. I met with our caterer today and feel re-energized about getting on with all this planning business. Things are feeling good.

A destination wedding in Iceland, via Cup of Jo
Lesson being, it'll still be awesome even if it's rainy and cloudy out.

I have some homework from our photographer, since our engagement photo shoot is coming up relatively soon (Saturday 9/11, the one weekend day she isn't booked this fall) and she's on top of her stuff. She's asked me for 5 inspiration images to convey the look and feel of what we want, since some people like more prop heavy and themed photos, versus arty and fashiony, or romantic, etc.

I need to talk to Dan about what he might have in mind, of course, but so far I'm just thinking along the lines of "fun, with a sense of humor, not taking ourselves too seriously." No sappy photos of us looking longingly into each others' eyes. No couches in fields, or things that are weird and contrived.

In terms of images, I've already posted this set of engagement photos that I love to pieces. One prop idea is to use Scrabble tiles to spell out the date and location, kind of like in this set from Brooklyn Bride and to underline the nerd thing. I think this idea of drawing out your own chalk backdrop is adorable:

But this falls into contrived since we are not artists and also, would just be too much hassle (Dan's heart rate just slowed down without him knowing why). Kelly's engagement shoots last 1.5 hours and she says that usually means enough time for 1 outfit change and maybe 2 locations. I want greenery and the NYC skyline, so I'd like to hit Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken and then I also wanted to get a bit of feel of Hoboken, so perhaps the old waiting terminal in the train station and some of the streets? As an aside, did you know that Cake Boss is in Hoboken? I know when the shop is open because there's an inevitable long line of people waiting outside. Sometimes they have to go all the way down the block and wrap around, or go across the street past the CVS.

Anyway, from Kelly's own portfolio, I like the following sets:
  • Meridian Hill Park: THAT BUBBLES PHOTO. Sigh. Anyway, just also overall a joyful feeling.
  • Capitol Hill and Eastern Market: her excited smile in the first one, and then the one with The Onion with an article titled "Jilted Hasbro CEO Laughs Coldly As Scrabble Destroys Another Relationship." Brilliant of them.
  • Georgetown DC with Vespa: vintagey feel on a Vespa and a.. tandem bike? without feeling like we're trying too hard. We don't have either a vintage bike (well, mine's from the 80s so I guess it's vintage, but it's not cute vintage) nor a Vespa, though.
  • National Zoo: playful feeling
  • Union Station DC and U Street: for the mix of picnic/park and urban area settings
I was going to write, "how does one pick just 5?!?" but I'm sure Dan will be able to whittle it down quite a bit.

Any other sets that people love?