Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oh Design*Sponge, how I love thee. But first, some background. Andrew is a science guy, and I am a literature girl. For a while now I've been thinking about different ways to incorporate Andrew's love of science into our wedding. One of the first presents he ever gave me was a necklace inside of a test tube he made himself. How cute is that?! I still cherish that test tube. Based on that memory I half-jokingly threw out the idea of test tube rack centerpieces that would act as bud vases...and he loved it! Score 1 for team science, but in my head it looked kind of kitschy (remember the wooden racks from high school chemistry?). Enter Design*Sponge stage right with a beautiful take on this idea:
All you have to do is change the base, and it becomes an elegant test tube rack. The tutorial is here, and it's so easy to accomplish by yourself or with a buddy. If elegance is not your thing, you could easily change the base and flowers to suit your style. The other great thing is that you don't need that many flowers to fill a test tube and get a full, lush look. It would be equally striking as a more minimalist, modern centerpiece with a single flower in each tube. I'm thinking a metal rack, or a couple of those single test tube holders crowded together.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Local Wedding Ring Resources: Delivered

I promised a wedding ring round-up a while back, and now I'm getting around to it. Oops. A simple internet search yielded tons of results, but here are a few of the stand-outs.

The Jewelers Workshop - This place sounds like a ton of fun. Not only can you custom design your own jewelry, be involved in every step of the process, and walk away with a unique handmade piece, but you can contribute old or donated jewelry to the making of the new piece. The trade-in value will help ease the cost, and the sentimental value of wearing a wedding ring made from pieces donated from the ones you love is too good to pass up. Plus, Richard Armstrong, the man who started and owns Jewelers Workshop, is from Huntington, Long Island (aka my hometown)! Enough said. Go Yankees!

Capital City Coin and Jewelry - I couldn't find a ton of information on this place, but they are advertised as having custom design services, too. They also buy old gold, so recycling old jewelry may also be possible to contribute to your custom design.

Studio Jewelers - This is another store I would definitely check out. These guys not only buy old gold, but if you take your trade-in as store credit you get an extra 20%. What a great way to finance your custom wedding rings. A big selling point for me is that Studio Jewelers also deals in conflict-free diamonds. As I said before, if I had known about blood diamonds before I bought one, I would have only bought conflict-free. They also have Eli the shop cat to cuddle during your visit. Bonus!

I think any one of these stores would offer a fun experience with personalized results. Since I already have wedding rings and I am an earring freak (I have over 30 pair) it might be fun to custom design a knock out pair of wedding day earrings made from donated gold. I like the symbolism of blending two new families through jewelry contributions into something new and special.
Pictures from and respectively

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dress Shopping #1: Premiere Couture

This is kind of how dress shopping felt-a little blurry and kind of a whirlwind. Maybe it's because it was my first serious wedding related shopping trip. Did anyone else have this experience?
This is in no way a reflection of my experience at Premiere Couture. Getting a coupon at a wedding show with an expiration date enticed me to make an appointment. I fell in love with a simple, sassy Nicole Miller dress at the show and was utterly shocked to find that it was well below my $1500 arbitrary dress budget. This dress allowance is in no way based on any kind of arithmetic. I simply guessed what I could spend on a dress and still sleep soundly at night. I've also prioritised our attire as something we care about more than..say...menus and seating charts and stationary. My goal is also to find a wedding dress that can be taken up, dyed, and turned into a party dress for all future occasions. If I could find a great dress within my budget and get 10% off why not get the dress shopping out of the way, right? Remind me to tell you a story about the other point-of-view later.
Anyway, my dressistant asked me what I was looking for/not looking for and my price range, and let me tell you...she delivered. She did not show me one dress over $1500, but there was still a huge range of styles to choose from. I was a little concerned about that since my price limit is on the cheap side of wedding dresses, but I tried on 8 or 9 entirely different styles in my $ range.
I was also worried that I was going to be pressured to buy in a smarmy slick sales-type way, but this never happened. She was much more concerned with my happiness than the price tag or sealing the deal. She was also very knowlegable about body types and the way different fabrics, cuts, and styles worked on me. I really felt like I was being taken care of. I did get to try on the Nicole Miller, and oh my God I found a winner. It is everything I wanted-no pouf, form-fitting, v-neck, open back. It is so f'ing beautiful and it fit my personality and my, but it's sassy! There's a bit of a decolletage issue, if you catch my drift, but my dressistant informed me that this could be fixed with a panel of lace or scrap silk from the hem. I also specifically remember saying that I don't care about the neckline issue. I'll find a way to wear it. *dreamy sigh* I may wear that dress yet. In case you couldn't tell, I am one satisfied customer.
One of my friends I invited along asked me if I felt like a bride, and I think I kind of said yes, but I'm not sure. Upon reflection, I kind of felt like I was playing dress-up and I suppose that's true. I hardly ever dress that fancy. I don't have galas to attend or premieres at which I need to make an appearance. I also have been asking myself the "do I want to wear white" question. I love neutrals and earth tones accented with pops of bright color, and the idea of that on a dress is very appealing. I also avoid white clothing like the plague in everyday life because I get it dirty. The color white has no symbolic meaning for me, but it is part of the iconic bride image, and I may want to take this opportunity to drape myself in a stain prone color just to prove to myself that I can wear white incident-free.

P.S. - Premiere Couture recently had a trunk show featuring a designer who uses sustainable fabrics, and there are dresses featured on their blog made in the USA if that's something you are taking into consideration as you shop. My other friend said she wished she'd known about the store so she could have shopped there for her wedding dress. Definitely check it out, you guys.

Diamonds in the Rough

I don't want to completely dump on Brides magazine. Not every piece of advice in there was ridiculous. There were several that made me smile. Here are the winners:

1) If things don't go exactly as planned, go with the flow-if you relax, your guests will, too. -Alison Hotchkiss, Alison Events

I completely agree. You've heard that attitude is everything, lead by example, fake it till you make it (in various contexts), etc. People will take their cue from you. Smile and laugh it off, whatever it is.

2) Don't worry about what so-and-so thinks. You'll feel best if you are wearing the items that you love. -Fred Hord,

I love it when the experts give you advice that basically says, Screw what even I, the expert, think. Do what makes you happy. Enough said.

3) Don't worry if "your song" is corny or syrupy-if it means a lot to you, make it your first dance. -Donna D'Cruz

Another call for authentic self-expression. I love it! If you love something corny or cheesy...embrace it. It can only serve to make your wedding more "you."

I also love, love, love that what I have deemed the good wedding advice advocates grace under pressure, and surrounding yourself and your guests with things that are meaningful to you. That's the good wedding advice round-up. I'd love to hear any good advice you've given or received.

Pieces of Crap

My friend recently sent me the February issue of Brides magazine for fun (thanks Emilie). Inside the 414 pages is a section called 72 Tips For A Perfect Day in which the experts give you, the bride searching for perfection, ideas to make your wedding its best. Here are some of the tips I find problematic:

1) Bring two pairs of shoes: one for the ceremony, the other to put in the reception site's freezer. When your feet start hurting, slip on the second pair to feel instantly refreshed--trust me! -Nancy Williams, Carolina Herrera

Okay, what?! Who does that? I'm sure it would literally be refreshing, but can you imagine suffering through a pair of shoes so uncomfortable that you need to stash another pair in the freezer? What kind of advice is that? Hey, how about instead of buying two pairs of shoes and remembering to take one out of the freezer(!), just get one pair that is comfortable and break them in. I don't trust you, Nancy.

2) Plan for each stage of the party to last between 60 and 90 minutes and to flow effortlessly into the next--cocktails to dinner, dinner to dancing, etc. -Peter Callahan, Callahan Catering

While this is not the worst advice, I find it problematic. I am a planner and a bit of a perfectionist, and no one likes an awkward transition, but there is a lot to be said for allowing things to flow and happen on their own. Do you want your schedule to be so rigidly planned that you're checking the clock every 90 minutes to make sure your transitions are occurring correctly? Didn't think so. It makes sense that this piece of advice is coming from a caterer since they are on a more strict time schedule, but I wouldn't go crazy with it.

3) Coordinate floral designs with the wedding's setting and season. It's jarring to see sunflowers at a winter wedding. -Monica Hirsch

This advice makes sense mostly because it is cheaper and more environmentally responsible to buy flowers in season, but just saying that it is "jarring" to see a sunflower in winter is not a good enough reason not too use what you love, or what represents you and your intended as a couple. If anyone comes to your reception and says, "This wedding is beautiful and the couple is so in love, but damn these flowers are jarring," they don't deserve to be there. What if you really wanted to have a Caribbean destination wedding, but it just wasn't in the cards? And we know that winter is the off-season when things are cheaper. I think it would be refreshing to have a tropical inspired wedding in the winter. It would be like a mini-vacation.

4) The bar is a high-traffic area, so make sure it looks beautiful. -Alex Holzer, The Jefferson Hotel

Who cares? It won't matter once people start drinking anyway and everything is a little blurry around the edges. You know what makes great bar decor? A tip jar for the hard-working people in the service industry. Next tidbit...

5) So many brides tell me they didn't sleep a wink the night before, but it's not called "beauty sleep" for nothing. Talk to your doctor about a sleep aid or learn some relaxation techniques. -Liz Banfield

This is when I dropped the magazine and ran screaming into the night. Yes doctor, please prescribe me a semi-addictive sleep aid that I do not need because I MUST BE PRETTY! Fix my life with a pill. It's not like the makeup I'm putting on later will cover those dark circles. This may be the worst thing in this article besides the freezer shoes. Has anyone gotten caught up in bad wedding advice?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marriage and Gender Roles

This post via A Practical Wedding about gender role fatigue really hit home for me. I have always been concerned about getting married and suddenly being expected to "be a wife." I have heard, and still continue to hear, women say that they feel like bad wives because they do not always have the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other domestic work entirely under control. This breaks my heart and makes me mad every time. Check this out! It's worth reading.

Hot on its heels is this post from Jezebel about 60% of married British women supposedly tricking their husbands into marrying them. I have to echo the author's sentiment: Who does that?!

Recycled cardboard decorations by Cardboard Safari

How great would this wreath be as a decorative touch? Cardboard Safari uses recycled cardboard to make these great wreaths, animal figures, etc. that can be easily snapped together to make unique decorations. (Many thanks to Young House Love for introducing these to me!) Hearts, the obvious symbol of love, would be a great choice...or how about this skull wreath!
Dia do los Muertos or Halloween wedding? There you go. They would look great painted too. What a fun blank canvas to play with and make your own. You can also buy them right here in town, according to the website. Pop Deluxe on State Street, and Enchantments Flowers & Decor in Dodgeville.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wedding at Isthmus Green Day

There is apparently going to be a green wedding on Saturday, April 17th during Isthmus Green Day at the lovely Monona Terrace. There are a whole slew of green businesses contributing to Kelly and Mike's wedding to make it as sustainable as possible. Check it out here. This got me thinking about ways to make our wedding more environmentally friendly. It's something I think about but haven't actively investigated yet. I think our natural propensity to simplify and get rid of crap we don't like is going to help a lot with that. Online RSVP's are something I am psyched money wasted on postage and extra stationary. The same goes for menus. I cannot for the life of me understand printing menus. I see no reason to waste money and resources by telling people what they're going to eat ten minutes before they eat it! Choosing a location that is Travel Green Wisconsin certified would also be a good start. Buying a pre-loved dress contributes to eco- and wallet friendliness. A fabulous resource for green wedding ideas is 2000 Dollar Wedding. Sara and Matt made their wedding's environmental impact one of their top priorities, and their ideas are many and varied. What have you done to make your wedding more green?

The Rock, The Bling, The Merchandise

Well, here it is. This is my engagement ring, and I sometimes feel like it's a little large. The setting is taller than I'd like, and I'm sorry if I've inadvertantly scratched you with it...if I haven't already I may someday. You've been warned.

Picking out a ring was a really big deal to me, not only because of the obscene amounts of money that can be spent, but because purchasing one seemed like a signature on a contract...this is really going to happen someday! Getting married has always seemed like something other people do. I wasn't sure that it would happen to me, and I wasn't seeking it out as a life goal. I found it hard to believe that there was someone who would want to spend that much time with me and vice versa. Buying this ring entailed a deep committment, which I am not afraid of, but I was never sure I'd reach that point with another person. And here we are.

Andrew has always been way ahead of me in terms of being ready to take the next step towards marriage, so we shopped for wedding rings together as per his suggestion. I didn't know that it is a) unusual for a couple to purchase an engagement ring together and b) a complete anomaly for the girl to then hold on to said ring for a few years. These things were made abundantly clear to me as I began to tell people that we had not only looked at rings, but bought one. The first question was usually something like, "How could it still be a surprise?" To me the surprise and fun of the "engagement ask" was going to be the where and the how, not what size and shape the stone was. This decision was met with some surprise by other ladies, but I am really glad that we shopped together for several reasons. First of all, Andrew has exceptional taste, and he often picks out clothes that look better on me than what I would have chosen, so I wanted his input in the process. Mostly it was just a really fun experience that got us in the mood to think about our wedding and our future. I got to try on different ring styles with different size and shape stones, and I ended up choosing something completely different from what I initially thought I wanted.

My favorite part was that we made our first big team decision. We hashed out a budget, researched a couple jewelers, and performed some online reconnaissance before we went to Shane Co. to try them on. I do wish there was a Shane Co. in Wisconsin that you guys could go to. The staff was incredibly friendly and not pushy at all, and the prices were right in our range. There are two in Minnesota if you want to make the trip.

Anyway, this went over pretty well, but most people flipped out a little bit when I told them the ring sat in my jewelry box for two years before we got engaged. I concede, that is a bit unusual. I don't know anyone else who's done that, but it's not like I didn't peek. I would open up the little red box every couple of weeks and admire its sparkle with a huge stupid grin on my face. I sometimes wore it when I was home alone and would think about how special it would be to be an officially engaged person. Who could resist, right?

I was told I was very patient, weird, sweet, etc. for not demanding to be engaged sooner, but it never crossed my mind. I wanted to be engaged of course, but other engagements, a big move, and life got in the way. I also didn't, and still don't, feel any sense of urgency. I never once thought we'd better hurry up because he's going to change his mind, or if we don't do it right away it'll never happen. I know our relationship is solid and we are completely committed to each other, and I don't have to prove that to anybody.

There are things I would do differently now, other companies I would look into that ethically source their metals and diamonds/semi-precious stones, and I'm looking into handcrafted Madison resources for those who want completely individual rings. More on that at a later date. I have rings on the brain now!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Facebook Thinks I'm Fat

So the first thing that happened when I changed my Facebook status to "engaged" was that I became a target. In the sidebar these ads started popping up for Bridal Weight Loss. One literally asked me, "Do you want to be a skinny bride?" Spew! I am officially disgusted. My friend who is also recently engaged said this happened to her to, and she was simillarly outraged.
Attention Mass Marketing: the purpose of being a bride is not to be skinny! This event should be a celebration, not a reason or impetus to crash diet. Do not give women another reason to worry about their appearance on a daily basis. We have enough of that, and it's taken FOREVER to finally get these kind of magazine spreads. Can you tell it makes me a little crazy?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Welcome to my World

Hello out there! I've been thinking about starting this blog for a long time, and I finally decided to go for it. I live in Madison, WI and am currently, half-assedly, leisurely planning a wedding here. After asking a venue related question on another wedding website, I was surprised to see how many Madison brides came out of the woodwork and wanted to share their ideas, advice, and make connections. I decided that we need a forum for all this Midwestern generosity, so that is what I'm trying to create. I will be venting my personal thoughts, feelings, and struggles with wedding planning, but I would also love to be a resource for other Madison area brides.

That being said, I want to highlight ideas and resources for those of you, like me, who are not really interested in a hotel ballroom with standard catering. You can get plenty of that at any old wedding show. I want your input and budget-friendly ideas to utilize as many local businesses as possible. Madison has so much quirky uniqueness to offer, and sharing that with out-of-town guests in creative ways is part of the fun of planning this wedding. So ladies, (and hopefully gentleman and LGBTQ folks will want to join the conversation too!) let's keep it clean, make it fun, and help each other out. You with me?