The final, tangible save-the-date postcards

Ta da! After all those different designs, here's what we ended up going with.
It's a combination of my two favorites from the last round of designs, plus my remembering the Chinese double happiness character. The 618 in the corner is supposed to reference Scrabble tile numbers...not sure if that will be apparent to everyone, but I like it.

Here's what an order of 66 postcards looks like in real life:

I really like the rounded corners because of how they echo the rounded squares in the design, definitely worth the extra $1.

Yup, I'd ordered 50 postcards, but they sent us 66 instead. The extra 16 on the left, 50 on the right.

66 postcards take up less space than I thought it would, the whole thing came in one of those slightly larger UPS envelopes. I was very pleased with Overnight Prints overall, I think you could discern the slightly lower quality of digital printing if you stared at it a bit, but it's not immediately apparent, as Robin said. The paper was nice and thick and the surfaces were shiny and smooth. The order was guaranteed to be delivered by Friday but they made the first attempt on Thursday, so the shipping was pretty quick as well.

I did have to test out a couple pens to find one that wouldn't smear and ended up using my green space pen that I got a Christmas present from my college roommate Emily in '09 (love that thing). It took me about...2 hours? To address my half of the guest list, but this included calling my mom to harass her about getting a couple more relatives' address (still waiting on this) and to check which names were the right ones to use, as well as looking up Chinese characters online (the word for an uncle who's older than my dad is different than for an uncle that's younger than my dad, for instance) and practicing them a bit so they wouldn't look entirely like a kindergartener's scrawl. I also wrote quick personal messages on each of them.

Dan, on the other hand, took 30 minutes to fill in the addresses and note that people could invite a guest if they liked.

It balances out, though, because he took all the ones that needed to be mailed out (40) and got them stamped. The postage came to $11.20 (28 cents to mail a postcard, currently) so the whole save-the-date postcard endeavor came to just about $31. Thanks again to Amy for designing them and putting up with all my requests through the whole process!

Kate's Lazy Meadow suites and airstream trailers

A couple weeks ago, Dan buckled down and started booking hotel nights for us with his Marriott rewards points, and I've started to bookmark blog posts that mention Seattle or Vancouver (like this one for Seattle by Nothing But Bonfire readers or this recent visit to Vancouver). Maybe if we wanted to do a weekend summer getaway next year, though, these suites/airstream trailers in the Catskills (an area northwest of NYC and southwest of Albany, evidently) sound awesome. Via the haystack needle, several months ago :P

Airstream trailer

Airstream trailer, interior

Cabins have funky and fun decorations.

I suppose they probably do a check in as you check out to make sure you haven't squirreled away any of the furniture.

Ribbon wands

For a quick hit of pretty, these ribbon wands seem easy to make and a nice way to inject color into the ceremony setup:

Contenders for the ring

In the category of things that I probably don't need to worry about for another couple months but I'm researching anyway because it's fun, my current frontrunner for my wedding band is this Mobius Loop ring from greenKarat:
(I'd get it without the diamonds)

As I've posted previously, I seem to like rings that are mostly unfussy but with some kind of twist that symbolizes something about marriage. This Mobius loop ring fits in well with that, with its one surface, and it's the first ring that I think fulfills both the "interesting enough to wear on its own" and "goes well with the engagement ring" (I haven't decided if I'll want to wear both after the wedding). I don't think I've posted a photo of my engagement ring before? It's also from greenKarat, with all lab-created sapphires (yup, even the white one in the center):

There's a funny part to our "engagement story" in that it took ages for greenKarat to make and ship the ring, and then when Dan went to pick it up, it was in a recycled cardboard box with recycled paper stuffing. He spent some time that afternoon running around trying to find a jewelry store that would sell him just a regular ring box, but was unsuccessful.

Here's another ring from Etsy that I'd favorited awhile back:

I really appreciate when you can see the ring on an actual finger/hand, because here this makes me think it wouldn't go all that well with the engagement's not sturdy looking enough?

I've also been in contact with the folks at bario-neal, because I'd like to support an APW vendor whenever I can. They had a nice survey to fill out if you were interested in a custom design, and I sent them a link to my engagement ring and they suggested the following designs:

I still like the Mobius loop ring better than these options, but the Milla Shoulder Band might work as Dan's band. He lost the engagement ring I got him, helped in part by the fact that its rough edges irritated his skin, so I think for his wedding band, we should stick to something simple and comfortable. I think it'd be nice to have it engraved or have some minimal design etched in it, to echo the loop, perhaps?

Incidentally, one of my favorite fashion bloggers put up a post recently about how she's changed her designated wedding band throughout the years, which isn't something I'd considered at all, but it's interesting.

We're so trendy we don't even know it.

Did you know that last Sunday, January 23rd, was National Pie Day? Here are some theories as to its origins:
National Pie Day was created by the American Pie Council*. The American Pie Celebration began in 1986 to commemorate Crisco's 75th anniversary of "serving foods to families everywhere."

We have inquired to the American Pie Council to see if this is truly a "National" day, which requires an act of congress. Stay tuned for their response.

Charlie Papazian of the also claims to have started this day in 1975. He says he selected this date because it is his birthdate.
I find it shocking that the people who were into pie enough to create a National Pie Day didn't insist on it be March 14th (3/14, like the digits of pi, 3.1415926...), but ok. Anyway, because it was National Pie Day recently, I got sent a couple different articles about how pies are the new wedding trend to replace cupcakes, like this NPR article: Cupcakes Are Dead. Long Live The Pie! I'm more of the "good food never goes out of style" school of thought, but it's cool to see that maybe our wedding will be frontrunners in this new trend. First and last time in our lives we'll be trendy, I'm sure.

*How awesome would it be to say that your job was to work for the American Pie Council?

Gorgeous (but tiny) vintage red party dress

In the Sally Jane Vintage shop, currently listed at $66:

Isn't it beautiful? This is so close to what I have in mind: classic silhouette, mostly plain red but with some texture/subtle pattern, princess seams down the front bodice...the only thing is I probably want a deeper neckline and shorter sleeves for the hot summer weather, but I'd scoop up this dress if I could. However, I could only have fit into this dress if I were the size I middle school, maybe. 24" waist, 32" bust. Damn you, beautiful tiny vintage dresses, always with the breaking my heart!

I have a long list of dress-related bits that I need to post, but no, I haven't gotten started on making the actual (or muslin for the) dress just yet. Soon!

The Music: We Get Two Requests

As our four or five readers know, we selected BD Lenz as our wedding band. But what they may not know is that the band graciously allows us two request songs: we give them a month before the gig, and they'll learn two songs of our choice.

This was a difficult pair of choices, believe it or not. There were two separate things that had to be done:
  1. Come up with the "wedding song"--must be romantic, preferably danceable/slow.
  2. Come up with a second song, preferably one that will get people dancing.
Two separate challenges. Katherine and I had periodically talked about the wedding song for a couple of years prior to getting engaged; such is the advantage of the long relationship pre-engagement period. (If you recall, I am the guy who takes expectations seriously. Time does a good job in balancing expectations.)

So, here are some of the "wedding songs" that Katherine and I periodically discussed:
(The emergence of YouTube has made this sort of thing a far more enjoyable experience; instead of hoping that interested readers recognize the songs, I have, instead, been able to provide links.)

This one was actually a fairly straightforward decision: Katherine liked "Ever the Same" a lot. The subtext of the song, at least to me, is how effortless it feels. I honestly don't know what kind of a challenge it was to write, but the final product seems, to me, like it was very easy and natural. (I think back to F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was notoriously rough on his early drafts en route to the near-perfection of his final drafts, as possible evidence that Thomas really worked hard on the song.) I know that relationships (and marriages) take work, but I like the idea that at times, on autopilot, it can work really well.

Additionally, the song is very nice with Rob Thomas on an acoustic guitar. I think I even like the acoustic version better, and the fact that the song is so effective in these two very different styles implies, to me, that BD Lenz will be able to do good work with it.

The second song, though: this was the challenge.

As a New Jersey resident with misplaced pride in his own state, I felt that we had to have at least one Bruce Springsteen song in the program, and BD Lenz's catalog doesn't contain any Springsteen, as far as I know. I even broadened out my horizons to "songs that Springsteen used to cover in his 1970s-era shows," thinking that some of the early soul and Motown that Springsteen enjoyed so much would fit right in the wheelhouse of BD Lenz's style. (They played songs like "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Oh Yeah," and a lot of Marvin Gaye when we last saw them.)

So, here's the list of songs I considered, including some suggestions from family/friends. I'll offer up some thoughts on each one.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Fire: This one had an early lead because of its appearance in Glee, Season 1. (Roller rink, Kristin Chenowith and the sad lead character, who has my respect b/c he's a Met fan in real life). It's a fairly... erotic song, though, more so than I was comfortable with at the wedding. Moreover, good versions of the song really require that driving rhythm piano in the background, but BD Lenz will not be bringing a keyboardist, as per the arrangement that we picked. (This piano thing is a common Boss theme.)
  • Bruce Springsteen - Paradise by the C: Awesome instrumental from the 1978 tour. I suspect that BD Lenz could do some excellent work with this song. A few problems, though: the prominent Hammond organ solo would have to be replaced by either an extra guitar solo or more sax work, which would detract from the nice contrast thing that this song has going. Plus we're paying for two vocalists.
  • Bruce Springsteen - From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come): This song is a lot of fun. Springsteen farmed this out to Dave Edmunds, a British rockabilly guy, way back in the 80s. It's very upbeat, and it's about as close as the Boss got to writing country music, which harkens back to my childhood a little bit. (This song is often covered by country artists.) Like a lot of country music, though, it's a bit sad. The early love song devolves into a pastiche of sarcasm and sadness. Note the lyrics: "Well, she shot him dead on a sunny Florida road. When they caught her all she said was 'she couldn't stand the way he drove.'" Springsteen sings the lyrics so exuberantly that you almost miss the message. But considering that I do all the driving, this one was out.
  • Bruce Springsteen - The Fever: Before there was "Fire," there was "The Fever," which is a song of pure desperation. We liked this one a lot, actually. It was stricken, though, because it's a little slow, and again, I don't really like the erotic undertones at the wedding. Desperation translates into music really well, but it's not quite what I'm looking for in this instance.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Rosalita: My sister suggested this one, and it's definitely a classic. My only issue with this is the sheer number of lyrics that it has; I feel like someone who isn't fully-schooled in Springsteen would probably struggle to handle the song. I also don't think it has quite enough room for improvisation/embellishment; for a 7-minute marathon, the structure is fairly tight.
  • Bruce Springsteen - So Young and in Love: A great, upbeat song. It's also one of few Springsteen songs that does not rely on a prominent piano, organ, or synthesizer. If I have any objections on this one for the wedding, the lyrics tend to be a tad unintelligible at times, particularly on the studio version, which uses a good bit of scat-type singing in place of lyrics. I thought it might be difficult for our vocalists to sing. This one, at least on my list, came in at second place.
  • Bruce Springsteen - If I Should Fall Behind: This one was proposed by one of Katherine's friends with a strong Springsteen background. (She's also not from NJ, so bonus points there.) From such a wise source, I considered her suggestion very carefully. It's a very beautiful song, but it's just a little slower than what I was looking for.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Mountain of Love (cover of Johnny Rivers): I probably would have picked this one if not for the prominence of the piano solo. Compare this to Rivers' version of the song, and you'll learn everything you need to know about Springsteen. I like Johnny Rivers, but Springsteen simply has much more energy and life than any comparable performer. (This show, for what it's worth, is what got NY Times' columnist David Brooks into Springsteen.)
  • Bruce Springsteen - Raise Your Hand (cover of Eddie Floyd): Strongly considered, but the critical call-and-answer component of the song might not work in a venue with 50-60 viewers, assuming half the guests aren't watching the band.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Give the Girl a Kiss: This isn't the greatest recording of the song; we've got all sorts of crowd noise (and people missing the lyrics, which I find humorous). And astute readers who have been following my convoluted logic so far will recognize the prominence of Danny Federici's organ solo. In this case, though, the organ solo doesn't seem essential to the flow of the song, and could be pretty easily replaced by a nice sax solo. The guitar solos, as well, lend themselves to extended improvisation/embellishment. In short, this is what I'm looking for: it's Springsteen, it's exuberant, it's upbeat, it doesn't end with the male being shot, and it's not dripping with desperation.
So, we're going to go with "Ever the Same" and "Give the Girl a Kiss." We still need to figure out the music for the ceremony (this is all reception stuff), but it's nice to keep checking off these theoretical boxes.

Pretend shopping is so much fun

Look away if you're of the "registries are unseemly" school of thought, like Miss Manners. Dan leans more that way than I do ("it's presumptuous to register for wedding gifts"), but I am:
  1. Practical
  2. Picky
  3. Pretty fond of making prioritized lists
I guess my position on registries is a bit like my position on signing a prenup agreement. I'm not registering us for stuff because I am expecting gifts (Miss Manners had quite a few sizzlers against people who treat weddings as a "time to pay up!"), just like I don't think prenups are about expecting to get divorced. It's just more like, well, if it happens, good to have a plan. 

Incidentally, Dan and I had talked about going through the process of signing a prenup, but we decided against it because we're pretty open with each other about our finances already and the brief research we did into them suggested they are rather expensive given our lack of large assets--even the online DIY kind, since you have to get a lawyer involved at some point to make them legally binding. There is such a thing as postnup agreements, though, so if somehow one of us wins the lottery or comes into a huge inheritance from a stranger, we can always figure it out later.

Anyway, since we're the first among our peers to get hitched, we haven't gone to any weddings as adults responsible for considering and selecting a gift. I've heard enough complaints and horror stories secondhand about the costs associated with just being a guest to a wedding, though, so it's a big goal for us to minimize that as much as possible. 

You should know that if you've been invited, it's because we would like you to be there. We're grateful for your having even just made the effort to get there, and I promise I won't care about what, if any, gift you bring, as long as you do the same for choices we've made that you may disagree with (i.e. no sit-down dinner, or whatever else). That was kind of the whole point of planning an affordable wedding, not a blowout fundraiser. 

Plus, we've been living together for over a year now (!) and clearly anything we really need, we've already procured (though shoutouts are in order to my parents' basement and Dan's relatives for providing so much seed furniture and Bed Bath & Beyond goods to get us going).

If I were designing the whole system, I'd have an algorithm that takes into account considerably more than just a per person estimate (single, single+guest, family, etc.), which is my current understanding of how people usually figure out what to give. It'd be a sliding scale that would consider your travel costs, your current status in life (grad student vs. top executive at a company...though I don't think anyone we're inviting is a top executive, actually), how long you've known us, how close we are, and the thought you've put in. But as Dan often has to remind me, I can't make the world be more practical and logical in the way that I want it to be.

Well, hopefully that preamble's long enough to convince people that I really am being sincere (really, I am, I just think I have to talk a lot to convince people of that, especially when it comes to something that can be as fraught with unspoken resentment like gifts). Now, onto the actual registries themselves.

I decided to register us on Amazon and at Bed Bath & Beyond (hereafter referred to as BBB), instead of something like Wishpot. I didn't really look into other online registry systems very much and I just figured Amazon is convenient for everyone, especially with its universal registry feature. The universal registry allows you to add items from other websites to your Amazon list and it does this nice thing of pulling a photo from the page as well. People can then look at your Amazon list and mark off certain items as "reserved", meaning they'll purchase it from the other store or any place they can get a better price for it. This saves you from the trouble of creating registry accounts at a ton of other stores (I've been working on an audit of all my various online accounts, and good god I have so many! ugh).

Mama G had recommended also registering at a store that would be easy for people to get to in-person if they didn't want to buy stuff online, and Dan agreed (still with the "registries are presumptuous stance"). I'd considered Nordstrom because that's my favorite department store, but their home goods section online isn't very extensive and you can't manage a wedding registry there online either. Then I considered Macy's but I gave up quickly because I find their site too busy and annoying to look at.

After that, Dan suggested good ole BBB. Most of the kitchen things I'd added to the Amazon list (from my existing extensive and ranked personal Amazon wishlist for cooking stuff, ahem) were also available at BBB. BBB tends to be slightly more expensive, but people can use the 20% coupons (I try never to buy anything at BBB without a coupon of some kind, even if it's like $5) and that's the tradeoff for the convenience for people who don't want to buy stuff online, I guess. Also, I liked that while they asked me whether I wanted to be contacted by a "registry consultant," I could choose to just ignore that and do everything online. I'm not quite sure about the flatware and tableware I picked out--BBB's site has some reviews but not very many--but it should be fine since BBB has a forgiving return policy.

Still, Amazon's list has better features even outside of the universal registry thing, which I guess isn't too surprising. Amazon will let you group by category or by price range ($0-25, $25-$50, etc...they recommend getting in stuff mostly in the $50-$100 range, but evidently I'm a $0-$50 or ~$200 kind of shopper :P). You can also leave comments, so I've put in some comments for certain items on where else they might be purchased for cheaper

Best of all, you can set priorities of "Love to have," "Like to have," and "Nice to have." I've left most of them as just "Nice to have" (small kitchen gadgets, stuff from the Moma and CB2 stores) but the "Love to have" items for me are like a food processor, a West Elm carpet, a Roomba, and anything from Heath Ceramics. Once my mom gets back to me on her preferred brand of vacuum, that's definitely going on as a "Love to have" too because our current vacuum is terrible.

True story: Amazon was playing around with redesigning their personal wishlist design and took away the prioritization feature for a bit, and I sent them not just one, but two panicked emails asking for it to be reinstated because it messed with my rankings, and I got a response from them assuring me that they'd put it back, and thanks for my feedback. Like whoa.

Most of the other kitchen stuff I would really love to have (I know I'm not the only one who didn't grow up not dreaming much about my wedding day except for getting a brightly colored KitchenAid stand mixer) is on the BBB list, but ultimately everything is really just a nice to have anyway, like wine glasses. I'm still close enough to college only to be slightly ashamed by drinking (and serving) wine in mugs, but I haven't been able to justify buying any real glasses since Dan's allergic to sulfites and therefore I usually only buy wine when people come over, which isn't that often either. I picked out a couple of the stemless ones from the Riedel O series, the reviews seem to be pretty good.

I am pleased with myself for thinking of a vermicomposter to add to the Amazon list, though, as it's definitely in the category of "probably too expensive and unnecessary for me to purchase one myself, but would love to try it." Dan is not as pleased.

Putting together the registries was more fun than I had expected. I mean, shopping for yourself usually is pretty fun, this just exceeded my expectations still. I had been saving it for after I got some more actually necessary wedding planning done, but since the save-the-dates have been ordered and I've made a rough project timeline for the remaining 150+ days until the wedding, I let myself indulge and got quite into it last night.

For background: I have spent quite a few evenings adding to and arranging and rearranging to put on my various personal wishlists, just for the pleasure of organizing and researching reviews and having A Plan for what things I want to spend money on. I find it therapeutic even when I stop short of actually spending any money, so imagine the fun for a wedding registry when the likelihood of getting stuff is non-zero! I highly recommend it.

Well, this is probably enough indulging in materialism. If you need help figuring out what to put on your own registry, this is what I used:
The native fun of registering for wedding presents can swiftly devolve into confusion, or even distress. This is largely because people are apt to Have Opinions. Which they will want to tell you...I can help with opinions like, "You MUST have formal china," or, "But dear, that is not the Done Thing," or, "Everyone always registers for crystal." Because High WASPs (my culture of origin) invented the Done Thing, and, although disappearing from earth in alarming numbers, we stand on our authority in the world of china, glass, and silver.
That said, I recommend you furnish the life you will lead. Rather than collect goods. Life is short. We have to eat, and over the years you will be putting a lot of food into your mouth. With any luck people you love will be eating with you. Maybe around a table, maybe at a kitchen counter. Buy plates for those moments. Imagine where those plates will be kept, where they will be used, how on earth they will get cleaned. Same goes for glasses, forks and knives, table mats.* Household good have lives. The lives you give them.

You are not registering for objects. You are registering for use. Not stuff, but the backdrop to memories you will look back on down the decades. I know. Time. Your family. The values you will work so hard to establish and pass down to children, if you have them. It happens while we eat.

I probably need to stop collecting invitation ideas soon

Brilliant handkerchief invites by printing custom fabric with a square map design at Spoonflower and then cutting up the fabric to make handkerchiefs.

I've always really liked clean line drawings, like Danny Gregory's. Every so often I try to get into sketchbook journaling because I'd like to be able to document surroundings like this (Oh So Beautiful Paper)

Amazing laser cut gatefold, closed with a wax seal by Paisley Quill, via Oh So Beautiful Paper. I think this could be translated to a really cool design with red Chinese papercuts. Which I've totally posted about before, heh.

Simple but clever printable mailer template from Lisa Rupp for Gifted Magazine, pg. 129.

Envelope template from Melissa of IS•LY

Also not a specific design but something that may be useful: design*sponge's favorite fonts roundup.

Quick note on ordering custom postcards online

I just ordered our save-the-date postcards from Overnight Prints to arrive by next Friday for just under $20. I went with them over VistaPrint because OP's interface is friendlier and gives you more space for your design on a 4x6" postcard. They have about equivalent review ratings. VP was a bit less hassle to figure out the cheapest price I could get 50-100 postcards printed with them, as they have just a free postcards offer going on, but their shipping is pretty outrageous.

OP, on the other hand, had quite a few different promo codes/links that I could enter in, which changed the final amount by a few dollars here and there. So, word of advice: mess around with the promo codes if you're going to buy from one of these online companies. Note down any that you see in the AdWords ads on Google search results too, because I could've sworn I saw one that said 100 free postcards, but then I couldn't find that code again.

I will report back with my thoughts on the quality of their printing (I chose the "value" digital press since we could get a run of just 50 instead of 100 that way) and the final final design once they arrive and get sent out.

More save-the-date designs

No worries, you don't have to vote again, I just wanted to share these because I'm so impressed by Amy's work and want to showcase it. I also find it interesting to see the evolution of designs, but you should probably ignore this post if you're anywhere near being a bit like, "omg it doesn't matter, just make a decision already," though.







#7 & #8

Dan likes #2 best ("keep it simple") and I like #3-#8 all a lot, particularly the ones that get cleverer with the Scrabble tile thing, but there are minor pros/cons to each. I keep asking people around me for their opinion and it varies a lot, mostly depending on how important they think it is to have our engagement photo be in a prominent position.

Anyway, thank you, Amy, for all the help you've given me so far, as well postponing your plans for the summer until another year in order to be able to make it to our wedding (!). I feel so loved, especially after a visit this weekend from Emily who has enthusiastically volunteered to take up researching hotel blocks and potential post-reception destinations in Princeton, as well as organizing some kind of bachelorette party weekend (by which I mean, gather all my female friends into one place for a weekend prior to the weekend of the wedding so we can hang out and chat and craft while watching sci-fi, or something along those lines). Thank you.