May 23, 2011

Engagement Party Plans

You’ve seen our engagement party invites, and now it’s party time in just two short weeks!

We’ve got a big crowd: out of the 90 people invited, only 10 said no! (Two of the no’s are bridesmaids unfortunately.)

Most of the plans are underway- Mr. B’s mom has organized the menu, a casual Italian feast, his dad’s given the lawn a makeover, the pool is ready to go, and the tent and tables are ordered. My mom is working on the beer and sangria, as well as the cake (she wants to put our picture on it, gah).

I’m creating a playlist, which includes a random mix of awesome, or at least my version of it: Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Frankie Valli, Weezer and Ozma (look them up) for Mr. B and me, Pearl Jam, a bunch of Usher/Taio/Gaga etc, miscellaneous classic rock, plus a restrained dose of the Backstreet Boys and ACDC, because it’s not a party if I can’t chug a beer and shout along to Shook Me All Night Long (sorry Mom!). I’m hoping to have some beer pong set up too, since there's about 15 or 20 college age people attending.

So the only thing left to think about, for me at least, is my outfit. I figured an engagement was a reason to splurge a little bit.  I loved the following:

At over $300 each though, they were too much. So I found a more modest splurge (if you can call $170 modest) in this Lilly Pulitzer:

It was too short on me. I’m 5’6 and live in heels, so issue creeps up frequently.

I scoured the mall, but in the end, the only thing I really love is the outfit I wore for my engagement pictures- a plain white strapless dress with a cardigan and gigantic necklace.
For the party, I’d change up the cardigan from navy to a bright coral, swap the pearls for a chunky turquoise necklace, and wear gold espadrille wedges instead of the navy ones, but it’s still the same basic outfit. 
Pic sources: Necklace, Cardigan, Wedges

Considering some engagement pics might be displayed at the party, and obviously everything will go up on Facebook, I can’t decide if it’s a bad idea to repeat the look.

Thoughts?? Am I being totally shallow, or is it weird/tacky to repeat? I have kind of lost steam for shopping!

May 20, 2011

Required Reading: Marriage

Recently, I found myself in the midst of a minor freakout about getting married. I started to realize that there were some life aspects we hadn’t solidly figured out- like our future kids’ religion, where we’d live when I found a new job, how long we planned to stay and where we’d go next. We had ideas about these, but no definitive plans.

So being the complete geek book junkie that I am, I bought a book to help structure our little chats: 1001 Question to Ask Before You Get Married, by Monica Mendez Leahy.  The book includes exhaustive lists of questions on tons of topics, including children, relationship to parents/in-laws, childhood, career, unemployment, money, situational questions, even specifics like defining what you both consider cheating.  

Mr. B and I decided to go through the book. 1001 questions is a lot, and sometimes it only takes one question to spark a long discussion, so it’s not exactly something you do in a day. But we have covered some topics I never thought to discuss, like how our childhoods affect us today, our individual relationships with our parents, and what we wanted to copy or avoid from our parents’ marriages. The discussions were eye opening and interesting, plus helped us verbally solidify things that were maybe instinctive, but not previously discussed. It’s possibly a cheesy thing to do, but we are entering into an institution with a pretty high fail rate, so I figured anything that might give us an advantage going in is good to me!

I also loved the realistic and adorable Project Everlasting, by Mat Boggs and Jason Miller. The two bachelor authors travel the country, interviewing couples still in love after 40+ years, as they attempt to discover what makes marriage work.  The stories range from couples who knew from the first second they met, to challenges couples had faced over the years and how they overcame them. Almost every couple went through a crappy period that could have led to divorce, but they worked through it to become stronger than ever, and their tips and stories are things I hope to put into work in my own marriage if need be.

The authors also have a website, and here is a recent story from the site that totally made me a little teary at work today. It’s pretty similar to the type of stuff in the book:

Okay fine, one more because I am a total sap for these stories!

Has anyone read either of these books, or something similar they’d recommend?

May 17, 2011

Flower Inspiration!

I've been taking time to collect some floral inspiration, to be prepared for
Originally, I envisioned a ton of all-white lushness: tall, round centerpieces, overstuffed with fluffy peonies, roses, and puffballs of hydrangeas, all seated on a tall, wrought gold candelabra.
Lush like this bouquet (Source)

With a design like these centerpieces (Source)

Turns out, that type of lushness so incredibly far from our budget that I laughed when our florist quoted the cost. She suggested combining the above idea with a classic orchid arrangement:

Orchids, while a more expensive flower, have a lot more blooms per stem, which means you don’t need to stuff as many into a centerpiece to make it look good. So they actually wind up being a more cost-effective choice than the beloved peony. Plus, my mom always liked this look better, and I definitely trust her judgment.  

So now we’re working with this as the official inspiration, only with more green leaves in to cut the cost:

Source (Flowers by MDS Floral)

I absolutely love these! The center still has some of our fluffy round flowers, but on a much smaller scale. It wouldn't work on its own, but the addition of the loose orchids and tall branches (FMIL’s idea) make the centerpiece dramatic, needed in our 32 foot ceiling venue.

We will use a gold candelabra for the stand, and also add in some lush low centerpieces. The flowers will be all white (though those pinks are pretty!), and the centerpieces will be surrounded by small candles wrapped in lace. 

May 15, 2011

Sweet Relief

So today as I was flipping through the mail, I noticed a small brown envelope addressed to me from our photographer. I tore it open to reveal its contents:

Our engagement pictures!

We’d seen a sneak preview through email, but I was so excited to have real copies of all the pictures. The pictures, in case my blog post title didn’t make it obvious, really came out okay. My hair, while nowhere near perfect (and in no way similar to how I ever wear it) really looks fine in the pictures. Not amazing, not perfect, but fine. Our outfits photographed well. Our photographer came up with great poses, and really worked with the weather. The pictures aren’t what I had always envisioned (sun, surf, rides), but you know what? They came out good anyway! Maybe this is something I should keep in mind for the wedding- little things might go wrong, but the overall result will be right. 
Okay, so you probably want to see these don’t you…Click ahead!

May 9, 2011

Engagement Picture Fiasco

Every email that shows up in my inbox today is giving me a heart attack.

Don’t the coupon people at Ann Taylor know that WE ARE SUPPOSED TO GET OUR ENGAGEMENT PICTURES BACK any day now and I need them to stop faking me out?!  I feel like I’m waiting for my semester grades in Calc- half of me is terrified of the potential horror, and the other half anxiously hopes for the best.  

See, our shoot was kind of a disaster. I was really pumped about engagement pictures, looking forward to them even before I had a ring. I had visions of us frolicking on the boardwalk, cotton candy in hand, yellow rays of sun sparkling across my ring. Like these:

I booked the April shoot in January, and took the day off of work, for maximum nail, hair, and makeup pampering. For my hair, I wanted something polished but sexy, a blowout with volume and maybe some curls at the end. Like this:
I wanted simple, pretty makeup, not wild, but I did want my eyes to stand out:
My blowout looked a little too curly when I left the salon, but I reasoned it would fall a bit and be perfect. Instead, it fell so much that the makeup artist asked how I was going to do my hair when I got home. Unfortunately, I had no time to fix it, because  my makeup looked porn star awful and redoing that was the bigger priority. She actually used burgundy eyeshadow, and rimmed my eyes and lips in such thick liner that I had to hide behind my sunglasses as I slunk out of Nordstrom’s. Luckily, I’ve never hated the way I do my own makeup, so I washed it off, and crafted a quick navy smoky eye at home (while panicking to Mr. B, screaming at him to get me a shot of gin, so I could calm down and not look frazzled in pics. Wisely, he refused).  

My hair was still hateful, but my makeup salvaged and our outfits awesome. Plus, Mr. B had thoughtfully arranged some props on his own, including a bright bouquet of yellow roses and his guitar. It would be ok.

Yeah, it wasn't. The weather might have been sunny in my hometown, a half hour from the shore, but it was was gray and wet once we crossed the bridge to the beach. The boardwalk was smothered by a late afternoon fog so heavy we couldn’t even see the water. A steady mist floated through the air, covering the photographer’s camera in a thin layer of moisture that he kept wiping off.  Plus it was freezing, and our teeth chattered through every posed kiss.

May 4, 2011

Vendor Search Tips: Florist

The florist search is simpler than other vendors. The photographer really impacts the memories you have of the day, and bad music will ruin the actual event, so choosing those can get stressful.  But flowers? They pretty much always look beautiful, and odds are that if you bring a florist pictures of what you want, they’ll be able to do it for you. Really, you’re just choosing who you're comfortable working with, and who’s offering you the most competitive price.

So it follows that my little form is not quite as complicated as the other ones. Honestly, I barely even used it.  I ruled out one florist immediately on her rude personality, and another on the very 90’s style arrangements she put together.  My favorite florist’s prices checked out with the first two, so  we signed our deposit almost immediately. But in case anyone out there wants to get a little more anal with comparisons:

Florist Info
Shop Name

Phone Number

Location & Hours


Cost Estimates
   Ceremony flowers
   Reception flowers
   Misc. Decor

Delivery/set up fee
Fee for coming back to get any centerpiece stands, etc.

Familiar with venue?
Yes          No
Site visit:
Yes          No
Arrival time for setup:

   Deposit Required:
   Final Payment Due:
   Cancellation Policy:

(d├ęcor needs, budget/seasonal flowers)

There’s no contract notes here. Meetings with the florists were long and detailed, with discussions on every element from centerpieces to boutonnieres to cocktail decorations. The “contract” I signed on was just a writeup of what we decided on, changeable until two weeks prior to the wedding. So you’re not exactly signing your life away here. Like I said, low-pressure vendor! 

I promise the next posts will be more interesting and less business-centric!

May 3, 2011

Vendor Search Tips: The Band

Okay, so the next vendor on deck is the band. I would think this information translates  to hiring a DJ as well, but as we only looked at bands, I claim no expertise there. 

I don’t have a snazzy form like yesterday, since we hired the only band we met with (Yay for an easy search!), so I just put my questions in bullet form.

  •    What are the options for band size and number of vocalists? Our band can be as small as 6 pieces or as big as 11, with up to 9 vocalists
  •   Will it be same band members as you are seeing in a showcase? You want to make sure that singer with the Frank Sinatra voice you loved during the showcase isn’t already booked for something else that day!
  •    What is their overall approach to playing weddings? For example, some do a “through the-decades” approach to music.
  •   How many hours of playing time are in the contract, and what is the overtime rate?
  •   What do they wear?
  •   Will they learn songs, and if so, how many? Are there fees associated with that?
  •   Do they have all the equipment you need or will we need to provide something?
  •   Do they require extra electrical power?
  •   Stage size requirements? Gotta make sure you have room in the venue!
  •   Will bandleader emcee?
  •   Will they follow a do not play list?
  •   Can they avoid crowd requests?
  •   How many years in the business, and how many weddings in the past year? References?
  •   How many breaks will they need, and how long is a break?
  •   How do they keep music going during breaks? For example, recorded stuff, staggered break times.
  •   What is the backup plan in case of any emergency on the day of the wedding?
  •   Can they provide proof of liability insurance? Your venue will ask for this
  •   How much set up time is needed? You want them to be playing as the first guest walks in, so you’ll have to plan the day’s schedule accordingly.
  •   Will they need vendor meals? I’d count on this.
  •   Discuss ceremony and cocktail hour options. In my experiences they threw in the cocktail music for free, and the ceremony was a minimal additional charge. 
More after the jump

May 2, 2011

Vendor Search Tips: Photographer

I love planning my wedding (far more than is normal!), but I found the vendor search a little frustrating. Isolating the best people and driving all over the state to meet (and not hire) them kind of sucked, as did learning everything that needed to go in the contracts. Since our parents are covering the wedding, I felt a lot of pressure to really research and make those vendor contracts as solid as possible.  I figure I’m not the only one who struggled with this process, so this week I'll share my personal tips and research.  The posts will have two parts: one, a form of questions  I created to bring when meeting potential vendors, and two, a list of things to include in your contract.

I’ll start with the photographer, since it’s super important and probably the longest post (consider yourself warned!).

I met with a lot of different photographers, so I created a form of questions that I could just print out before meetings and fill in as we talked. This allowed for even comparisons among photographers. It's humongous, but below, for your use (if you put it up anywhere though, link back to me please!)
Photographer Info

Phone Number

Location & Hours

Available on date:
# Weddings/day:
Name of person actually shooting:
Yes          No
Photography Style:

Film or Digital:
(film cost/proc incl?)
Equipment used:

B&W or Color:

Assistant used:
   Assistant’s Role
   Work samples
Yes         No
   Package options
   Hours in package
   Overtime rate
   Will they use a shot list?
   E-pics included?

   Included or extra?
   How/when do we
   get proofs (format)?

   Included & options
   Number of photos?
   Parent albums?
   Average number: 
   CD of digital files:
   Guest print ordering:

Backup plan if sick, etc

Bring extra lighting?
Yes          No
Familiar with venue?
Yes          No
Site visit:
Yes          No
Shooting Schedule or order of shots

   Deposit Required:
   Final Payment Due:
   Cancellation Policy:

(fee escalation protection, weddings per day, copyright ownership, available discounts, what they wear, references)