Invitation development and wording

Just a couple more images:

A simple way to get some colorful artwork onto a card: grid filled in with different mixed colors of acrylic paint (mer mag)

"Los Angeles" invitation suite by KenzieKate (via Oh So Beautiful Paper, of course)

love this design, enough to even actually try to look what the cost would be to just pick this and get the invitations done. It's the colors, the graphic chevron stripes (I'm not sure whether this trend is just starting up or if it's already fading away, but I don't care), the handwriting font, and the clever placement of red text for emphasis. I appreciate that this business' website gives you a price calculator, but $1250 (about 50% of our venue cost) for invitations that I hope will at least be recycled just isn't going to happen here.

I came across this in my email the other day and realized I'd forgotten to share this poster Amy (she of the save-the-date design) one day when she was "goofing off." I don't know about you, but when I goof off, I generally don't end up with anything out of it, much less an adorable design of some sort:

Does the state of NJ look like a seahorse shape to anyone else?

Lately to try to make my weekday evenings a bit more productive, I try to set myself just one goal for the night, with my laptop down at 10pm to help me get to bed earlier. A couple weeks ago, I set myself the goal of going through my archives of invitation designs I've really liked to try to categorize the different aspects of what I'd like to have. They include:
  • Stitching details: fabric overlay with words printed onto fabric, stitch into paper directly, stitch two layers of paper together, broken line border, fabric envelope
  • Type as graphic design: modern and bold plus handwriting detail
  • Typewriter: as font, on vellum paper
  • Circles
  • Kraft paper: contrasting the rougher brown texture with something dainty, like a lace doily
  • Illustrations/line drawings
  • Papercuts
  • Other little details: rounded corners, colors in general, fabric tape, pennant stamp, letterpressed text
  • Envelopes: templates, Google Maps
Which is a lot to be going on with (I won't do everything all at once), but I'm hoping to get more traction here by giving myself clear next steps for what to research and test. I want to have the invitation ready to be mailed out in mid-April, which gives me about a month to get them all done.

I also need to figure out the wording on the invitation, of course. Robin's post on trying to do so is very funny. I think we're going to go with the suggestions we've received about just saying something like "Join us for hors d'oeuvres, drinks, and pies galore" rather than including the full menu and then posting the full menu to the wedding website. 

The trickier item item of invitation wording is going to be designating the dress code, I think. Amid Privilege posted her mother's advice for wedding invitation dress codes, which includes not saying what's not allowed and recommends using standard dress code wording if possible (Cocktail, not Semi-Formal), leaving it up to guests to figure out the rest given the style of the invitation, what they know of the couple, and the time and location of the wedding. I probably might give more examples in the FAQ of the wedding website for those that want more guidance. Handwringing over what's appropriate to wear to a certain event and fears about being over- or under-dressed waste enough of everyone's energy everywhere else already.

The Beer: Results

The results are in for our preference poll; it's been up for over 36 hours now, so I figure that's enough time to get a sample of something, at least.

The votes:

Sam Adams Summer Ale - 7
Kronenbourg 1664 - 5

Smithwicks - 8
Bass Ale - 4

I think this implies that I should stick with Sam Summer Ale and thus stick it to the French; because Kronenbourg was such a late entry into the fold, the only way it would have received serious consideration was with a loud outcry of support from the masses. That did not materialize. It, unfortunately, ran a rather disorganized campaign and did not develop a very good ground game. (It should have emphasized its German roots rather than its French reality, I suppose.)

As for Smithwicks/Bass Ale: prior to the poll idea, I was going to do a blind taste test between the two and decide from there. But the Summer Ale/Smithwicks combo really does seem quite elegant, particularly because Smithwicks is a little darker than Bass. I think I'll still do the blind taste test if only for my own edification. (Plus blind taste tests are fun. Who doesn't like blind taste tests?)

The Beer

While I am dispositionally non-confrontational, I am also something of a natural critic/analyst, finding myself compelled to comment on the positives and negatives of different things.* Unfortunately, it is often difficult for me to verbalize exactly why I like something and dislike something.** To describe something effectively, you must be an expert on it, probably down to the mechanics of how that something is actually made or done. So, as much as I like to comment on various things, the only things I am really qualified to comment on intelligently are in some fairly narrow history fields where I have done primary source research. Everything else requires a degree of finessing reality a bit, or at least papering over some of its intricacies. (See: my discussion of different Bruce Springsteen songs. And I know a LOT about the Boss' catalogue.)

*I usually manage to keep my mouth shut in public, and then bombard Katherine with why I think something was stupid. Lord knows why she puts up with it. This makes most people think that I am a quiet, unassuming guy, which is my preferred self-presentation.

**I get the feeling that this is a common problem for just about everyone. Read reviews of wine and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Katherine and I set out a few weeks back to meet with our caterer and to check out our venue for the second time, and she asked how many varieties of beer we would want to provide. As someone who likes to encourage variety and choice, I suggested "seven or eight." Our contact Samantha gently noted, "You may want to stick to something a little lower..." and added that four choices usually works well. Seven or eight would be difficult to manage.***

***I would swear by Samantha, who is among the most competent people I have ever dealt with.

This brings me to our beer choices. Unfortunately, I am not a trained beer expert, so there will be a bit of finessing reality here. I also don't have the words to describe the taste, so I have appropriated the words of more confident reviewers from the interwebs. I hope they don't mind.

So, here's where I stand on the Four Beers:
  1. Coors Light: While I am no beer snob, I don't drink crappy American macros. Still, Coors Light is the least offensive of the Big Three, to me. It has basically no taste but is refreshing. Bud Light tastes like lightly-carbonated rice water. Miller Lite tastes like I imagine that urine would taste. I decided that some people actually prefer drinking bad tasting or weak beer to the alternative, and I can sympathize, at least. I have been in situations where the only food options are gourmet and elaborate (where everything has truffle oil) and I found myself desperate for some chicken pot pie or a burger.
  2. Yuengling Lager: This was an easy choice. I find Yuengling to be an excellent value beer with a very deep, beery taste. I am not a huge fan of Yuengling, and I rarely, if ever, buy it in 6 packs. But it is certainly drinkable, and it is very popular in our generation.
Those two are in, and, barring some severe beer shortages or accidents at their breweries, they should be available at the wedding. The other two, though, are more challenging.

First and foremost, there should be a contrast between the two remaining beers. It wouldn't make sense to have Miller Lite and Bud Light, even if they didn't suck; they would be too similar to Coors Light. We want variety in our choices here.

So I came up with a couple of options. Here's what we have, modeled after a student council style election.

Running for "Lighter Beer at the 2011 Jersey Hootenanny Wedding":

Samuel Adams Summer Ale
  • Beer style: American Pale Wheat Ale
  • How it got the nomination: Sam's Summer Ale is my third favorite Sam specialty beer, behind the Old Fezziwig Ale and the Chocolate Bock. Those are both winter only, so the summer ale is a worthy consolation prize. Plus, the wedding is quite close to the start of summer.
  • Praise for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "This is the quintessential summer beer. The ale has a very smooth ale feeling to it, and does not leave your mouth dry. The flavor has a nice fruit taste without over powering you with too much sweetness. Some places garnish this one with fruit, but I like it as it is. Cheers." - chiccabeer,
  • Criticism for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "The taste is dominated by lemon and spice. Standard wheat beer flavors are not noticeable. There is a sharp flavor apparently from spices rather than hop bitterness. The aftertaste is strange and 'soapy' ... I would not call this refreshing or drinkable. I give the brewer credit for trying something different than a standard American Wheat style, but I don't care for the heavy-handed, strange combination of spices." - Radome,
  • Interesting way I can use the beer to be annoying: Periodically adopting a horrible Boston accent.
Kronenbourg 1664
  • Beer style: Euro Pale Lager
  • How it got the nomination: I first had this beer about a year ago at a tavern in New York, and was quite impressed. I had halfheartedly been looking for the beer for a while to try it again, to the point where I asked about it at a bar and they said that they were all out (even though it was on a menu). The next day, I was at a gathering of friends when one of them brought it. I took it as a sign (and had a very satisfying bottle right then and there).
  • Praise for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "very nice lager and example of the style, nice balance of malt and very crisp hop bitterness and dryness on the back end, very nice and super enjoyable flavor... drinkable to the extreme with a very lot of flavor for the style, definitely worth trying and so much better then most lagers out there today." - Stunner97,
  • Criticism for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "... The carbonation seems quite low for the best-by date not even being near. Mouth feel is that of cold, lightly carbonated water and is therefore easy to drink, but flavors are not prominent enough to enjoy. I had a lot of trouble separating the ingredients on my tongue to analyze the taste at all. Stick to wine, France. Stick to wine." - BFrost,
  • Interesting way I can use the beer to be annoying: Detailed discussions of sad history of Alsace-Lorraine, where this beer hails from, along with international relations theory, because Alsace is the textbook case of irredentism.
And, running for "Heavier Beer at the 2011 Jersey Hootenanny Wedding":

  • Beer style: Irish Red Ale
  • How it got the nomination: I asked my sister's long-term boyfriend for some recommendations for a fourth beer, after having told him that Sam Summer, Coors Light, and Yuengling would be the other three. He has good taste in beer.
  • Praise for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "The beer possesses a near perfect mouth feel. Nice and light with lots of carbonation, yet really creamy. It feels very velvety on the tongue. There is a slight metallic taste, and then lots of roasted/toasted nuts and malts. Also some smoky/woody flavour and a sort of port wine taste. It finishes with a nice light bitter sweet after taste. A great beer that is tried and true. It's no wonder it's so popular - delicious!" - spinrsx,
  • Criticism for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "Mouthfeel is thin and watery with no character or appeal. Feels like a light coffee flavored water in your mouth. Flavors follow. Light, weak and watered. Like a weak cup of coffee to which one added light carbonation and some water. No reason to drink this one, unless one needs to hydrate and there no water in sight." - GRG1313,
  • Interesting way I can use the beer to be annoying: Deliberate mispronunciation. The beer is technically pronounced "SMITH-iks" but I could easily go with "smith-WICKS."
Bass Pale Ale
  • Beer style: English Pale Ale
  • How it got the nomination: See above.
  • Praise for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "In my opinion Bass is a wonderful Ale. Upfront you get blasted by the bitterness of the hops and then the malt kicks in with the swallow. Carbonation is light, not heavy. Fits very well with the beer. I also get a bit of a fruity/nutty taste with it... Seeing as I drank down a whole 12 pack of bottles that evening, I believe it's safe to say that it is very drinkable." - PapillonJohn,
  • Criticism for the beer from a random person who felt strongly enough to write about it on the internet: "Appearance is copper color, topped with light foamy head that produced little lacing. Aroma consists of musty yeast and bruised apples. Yuk! Initial taste contains a minute amount of bitter hops and malt, those danged apples again, followed by fruit and brown sugar. This under-carbonated beer leaves a nasty taste in your mouth, and DO NOT drink it warm. Hard to believe this beer is selling well." - palliko,
  • Interesting way I can use the beer to be annoying: Did you know that Bass Ale's famous "red triangle" logo was the first-ever trademarked logo in British history? This could quickly devolve into an uninformed discussion on intellectual property.
So, now it's your turn. (Note: this is a non-binding preference poll. So I might ignore the results.)

First first dance dance lesson

Dan and I just came back from our first "first dance" lesson! One of my aunts is a ballroom dancing instructor and my mom's been taking lessons with her for awhile, so we went over to my aunt's place tonight with my mom for our first hour-long lesson. We're practicing to the acoustic version of "Ever the Same" and learning a series of foxtrot steps (slow, slow, quick quick):
  1. Two basic steps
  2. One quarter turn
  3. One promenade
  4. One spin
  5. One diagonal weight shift thing
  6. Two quarter turns
  7. Two karaoke step things
  8. One arm swaying thing across two sets of four beats
  9. One quarter turn
  10. Repeat from beginning.
It was really fun! I've always liked taking dance lessons and had Chinese folk dance as my cultural class in Chinese school for years and years, with a few years of ballet when I was very little. Dan is not as much into the dancing but wants to learn to do this for the wedding and is trying really hard. Sometimes (in life) he'll get frustrated enough to lose his temper (rare) when he's not learning something quickly enough for his own standards, but we kept it light enough tonight to laugh about our various mistakes.

We'll have to practice a bit, but since it's not a particularly long or complicated sequence, it shouldn't take too long to make it smooth. I also like that it doesn't look too fancy, but still pretty and graceful. My aunt says that since we want to learn this for just one dance, it'll probably end up being around five lessons altogether.

My overall plan is to go with what Miss Manners said about the first dance more being about the couple opening the dancing, with the couple breaking off about halfway through to start collecting more people onto the dance floor. Look, it's even in the Wikipedia article on the first dance: "The 'first dance' of a bride and groom is a popular element at many post-wedding celebrations in modern European and American traditions. Exactly like an old-fashioned ball, the idea is that the bride and groom, as the guests of honor at a dance, open the dancing, not that they perform a choreographed duet for spectators."

I figure this helps us avoid the wedding-as-a-stage syndrome, gives us less to have to learn in order to fill up the time, and will also allow us to dance for a bit with our respective sets of parents without needing to do separate things like a father-daughter dance. And, this'll be one clear way to get people to start dancing. Some more ideas from 2000 Dollar Wedding on how to get people to dance:
  • pick a very high energy first song and ask everyone in the wedding party to dance their hearts out to get the party started. Bridesmaid Cara has already volunteered her efforts for something along these lines (thank you).
  • also ask a few trusted friends and family members to commit to dancing right away too (Emily N, Caitlin...I'm looking at you)
  • start telling people way ahead of time to "make sure to bring their dancing shoes" and continually emphasize that you want the reception to be about the dancing so that when it comes to it, everyone already knows that's what was important to the couple and will hopefully partake
  • if you want people to dance at your wedding, you should be out there dancing yourself
  • get the kids involved: "About 20% of our crowd was kids, and I tried to dance with all of them. Kids usually love to dance, especially at a big party, and they really loosen up a crowd!"
In other bits of wedding planning news, I put up a big old countdown gadget on the right sidebar of the blog. Less than 100 days. Um, eek.

So I did cut out the muslin that weekend and even thread-traced the seam lines, but haven't yet sewn it up and fitted it (trip to visit college roommates in Boston, then recovering from that, then APW book club #2, then many social events this past week, blah blah excuses). That'll be my goal for this upcoming week. I should also really narrow down my ideas for the invitation designs and flowers and set up a few test runs.

We started pre-marital counseling last week, from a therapist I found through work. One of our benefits is to have five counseling sessions of any kind, for free, and evidently pre-martial counseling qualifies as falling under relationship counseling. It was a little awkward at first, but I thought the therapist was very good about just asking us questions to direct the conversation. We started with very general things, like why we want to get married, and then started moving into heavier topics like our ideas about what might make married life difficult. Nothing particularly new was unearthed for us, but it seemed useful enough to keep trying, at any rate. We have another session this week.

One thing I'm really looking forward to and crossing my fingers that it works out is a girls' weekend being planned jointly by Emily N and Abby. This is to be sort of like a bachelorette party, but minus any craziness and plus a lot more sitting around in our pajamas, watching sci-fi, crafting, and cooking. I read The Conscious Bride a couple months ago and while some of it was a little too New Age-y for me, the author did go on for some time about the importance of finding time to connect with the important women in your life before making the transition into married status.

I actually don't understand right now why getting married should change my relationships with my girlfriends in any way, but I don't want to miss out on time with them beforehand should I be wrong about things staying mostly the same. However, lots of these girls are grad students of one kind or another and would have to travel to get to the NYC area, so we'll see. I don't want to put pressure on people to have to fit in two trips to this area into their budgets and busy schedules, so if it doesn't work out for whatever reason, so it goes, but it would be a lot of fun to basically recreate the way I spent most Friday nights in college :)