Monday, February 28, 2011

More Wedding Purchases- Thank You Cards

We made a real purchase! No, not just a magazine or book or even one of my DIY guides. I am looking into handmaking some of my paper- invites, save the dates and thank you cards. But I haven’t had a chance to do a craft yet, and in the meantime, our engagement party was held last Saturday. (More on that soon!)

I decided to look at the company my future mother-in-law had used to order the invitations for the party. She sent out this lovely invitation:

Um, ours said Suzanne and Michael.

There wasn’t an exact matching Thank You card, but I did find this cute design with champagne glasses that corresponded nicely with the invites- plus you know how I feel about champagne! But then another one caught my eye. Initially I had wanted a card that featured the New York skyline or Brooklyn Bridge- something that would show a little bit of Michael’s and my home, since we were doing everything in New Jersey. I couldn’t find anything I liked until I spotted this one:

Torn between the champagne and the skyline, I knew I needed to choose quickly- the party was days away and we’d just received an early gift. I asked Mike to weigh in, even though I was sure he would probably think they were both fine.

Wrong! He loved the skyline picture. I have to give him more credit, lately he’s been listening and answering wedding questions. He likes the idea of tying in NYC and really liked this Thank You. Decision made- cards ordered!

Tonight we’re sitting down and starting the process- they’re blank inside so we can write a little note to each person. Michael has offered to help, but I might let him off easy with just signing his name- or writing out the addresses. But mostly I’m just excited to do it together!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ah, St Valentine, You Sadistic Bastard

Cupid is an asshole.
Tonight was supposed to be our makeup Valentine’s Day date. Yes, the original makeup date was last Tuesday. Then postponed to Friday. Then postponed again until tonight. Okay, no big deal. At least it’s finally happening! Mike wore a new shirt to work and I brought something to change into. He wore real shoes, I put in my contacts and even put on some makeup . We were looking good and ready to go.
 So we met up after work and made our way to the Strand Hotel on 37th, ready to make our way to the top. I was looking forward to a purple cocktail and amazing views of the Empire State Building. The moon was big and bright and we were both excited to have a romantic, classic New York evening- and okay, I was really excited about those cocktails!
We walked to the door, the doorman escorted us in… and told us a private party was taking up the Top of the Strand bar for the next 3 hours. Wah waaaaaaah. Insert Debbie Downer face. Valentine’s Day date - thwarted.
We sat down at the (street level, very nice but view-less) lobby bar and regrouped. We passed on checking out our second choice (the rooftop bar Jimmy at the James Hotel) and decided to hit up lobster night at Wombat in Brooklyn. No view, no purple cocktails, but it’s close to home and hey, lobster. I’ll take it.

The street level version of my purple drink. Would’ve looked better in the moonlight, but it WAS $3 cheaper!

So we took the train home, hopped in the car and drove to Wombat. On the way we kept our spirits up- thrice-postponed Valentine’s Day, Take 2! Michael even agreed to hit up Trophy, a nearby cocktail bar, after dinner. Specialty cocktails here I come! I’m feeling the Valentine’s Day love!

     ….Wombat was closed. No sign, no explanation, just lights off, nobody’s home. We stood in silence and peered through the windows. Thwarted again!

We walked a few blocks on Metropolitan, trying to find a suitable alternative, but it was cold and after your Lobster and Fancy Drinks dreams are dashed, even Bushwick Country Club’s cherry vodka slushy drinks couldn’t cheer me up. We called it quits and cobbled together Plan C- pizza, beer for Mike and the bottle of wine I’d been saving back at home for me.

Still we tried to maintain our good humor. Even when we pulled up at the bodega for beer and I tried to get out of the car while my seatbelt was still buckled. (Doh!)

We got home, got the pizza, Mike cracked a beer and I- realized I’d already drank the sparkling wine I thought was in the fridge. Strike 3. I’m out. I threw in the towel, put on my sweatpants and watched an Office marathon with my sweetheart.

My fancy Valentine's Day dinner :/

I think this is the universe telling me that an engaged woman should not post THREE blog entries about Valentine’s Day on her wedsite, where she already posts lovey-dovey Mikey schmaltz that probably makes her single friends want to light her on fire. Sorry folks. Guess I got what’s coming to me.

So yes, we are going to try again, but I promise not to write about it. In fact last night I finally gave Michael his birthday/Valentine’s Day present and I’m not even going to tell you what it was! Look at me, shutting up. (Now that would be a real gift to Michael.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bridal Party Meeting and First Bridesmaid Dress Fitting (Sort of)

Michael and I first met because of our two mutual friends, bridal party members Jessica and Ryan. After the night we met, the four of us hung out together frequently. Over the last 3 ½ years, though, a lot has changed (Mike and I moved out of state, Jessica became a mom) and we don’t get together nearly as often as we’d like to. So on Saturday, we drove down to NJ for the express purpose of seeing our good friends, and having our first Bridal Party meeting!

Sure, it was only two members of our bridal party, but they are ‘special’ in that they introduced us. More on that in a minute- but first, Jessica and I met up for lunch and catching up, just the two of us. We had a casual lunch at which we talked more than ate. Then we hit up some of the President’s Day sales at the local Jersey outlet mall. I got some work-wardrobe staples at The Gap and J. Crew at 40% off- AND no sales in tax in NJ! Score!

The raspberry sangria she semi-accidentally made in 2008 changed my life. No joke.

 I had recently dipped my toe into the murky waters of choosing a bridesmaid dress. Yikes. Each of my bridesmaids has a very different shape and fashion sensibility than the next. Both style and fit were called into question, and I decided to put this task off until I was better emotionally prepared to deal with negotiations.

Although in the meantime, I did come to realize that one thing I would definitely need to consider is fit. The dresses I like best so far are only available online or in just a handful of salons across the country.(J. Crew’s Bridal Collection.) But Jessica and I realized as we walked past the J. Crew outlet that we could probably get a good idea of fit by trying on a similar dress from their ready to wear collection! Eureka!

Initially, I worried these dresses might not work. As I said, each of my girls is a different size and shape, Jessie’s best summed up as Va-Va-Voom. But she was game to hop right in, unprepared, and we experienced a Wedding Miracle- a similar dress to my current favorite not only fit- it fit her wonderfully TWO SIZES SMALLER than she had estimated! Hurray for Wedding Miracles! (Now if I magically fit into a dress two sizes smaller than anticipated when I go gown shopping, I might become religious.)

Here she is being all cute

And in model mode. I'm definitely going to work in the socks!

This is not the dress I had in mind, but it had a similar shape and cut, so I’m thrilled to know it’s an option, and that other dresses from the line could work as well.

Later that night she and I met up with Michael and Ryan at The Pour House, our old local dive-y hangout. (Best mozzarella sticks in the state, hands down. Must be enjoyed with ketchup, of course.) The plan was to start talking about the night we met, and how Jessica and Ryan might incorporate that story, as well as their unique vantage points of having been privy to details of our nascent relationship, into a special toast we’ve asked them to do. Unfortunately we were so busy catching up that we hardly touched the subject, but we’re looking forward to getting together again soon! Next time I’ve been instructed to put on my Bossy Bride hat and be sure to have a clear, typed agenda complete with action items and tasks to assign. Plus a gavel and laser pointer. You asked for it!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Happy Valentine’s (Birth)Day!

Are you sick of hearing me talk about Valentine’s Day yet? Beginning to realize my dismissal of it as ‘just a Hallmark holiday’ was a bald-faced lie? Okay, you’re partially right. Like I said, I like making a big deal about things just for the sake of enjoying them. Remind me of this when I try to claim I’m a humble person who never blows things out of proportion, and swear I don’t want any drama on my wedding day. Actually, don’t, ya jerks- leave a bride alone!
Right, so, I admitted a couple days ago that I had a small poutfest last year about ‘missing out on’ Valentine’s Day because of Michael’s birthday- okay, wow, I can’t even finish typing that, I am really terrible! I am so lucky to have Michael. Even luckier because instead of calling me out on being a selfish, living stereotype of a chocolate and flowers-obsessed woman, Michael listened, somehow continued to love me AND promised to not only give me a real makeup date, but also came through with gifts on V-Day.
I think there’s both kitschy and sentimental appeal in going traditional. (Er, sometimes. I’ll claim never to have typed those words if someone starts pressuring me about a garter toss or playing the Macarena at my wedding.) And I think Mike enjoyed being an atypical boyfriend by bringing home:

A dozen red roses, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and a sentimental card.

Note he got a card inscribed ‘To My Wife’. The kid loves doing that. I told him we should make the most out of ‘fiancé’ because it’s a temporary status that we’ll never have again, it’s special blah blah blah, but he just loves calling me his spouse. He’s pretty sweet, that boy of mine.

I like to spread my flowers around so there’s something pretty and fragrant in several different places in the house. Here’s my stab at amateur floral arranging- good test run if I go this money saving route for the wedding:

Yes, all my makeshift vases are made out of wine bottles and decanters. It’s called upcycling, people.

Of course, if we do try to save money on flowers for the wedding, we won’t be having roses. The funny thing is, I think Mike always gets me these because they’re his personal favorite. Which reminds me!

I finally got an opinion out of him!

That’s right, Michael had a décor opinion about his own wedding! Shock! Awe! I asked him if he could envision any type of color or shape- or dear god, anything- that would fit into a certain venue and was fully expecting another, “Uh…. I don’t know. I don’t know about this stuff. Whatever you like will be great, baby.” (He’s learned to lay it on a little thick to get me off his back.) But instead he said, drum roll please…. He thought red flowers would look nice. Ta da! That’s right, folks, Michael took a wedding décor question, gave it some thought, and produced an opinion. I know I sound sarcastic but I’m truly happy.

Whether I’ll actually use his suggestion, um, we shall see, but in the mean time I’m just thrilled to have him be involved. (More on gender stereotypes in wedding planning and how they irk me- yet remain factual in my case- later.) And actually, he later moved the bottle/vase in the kitchen from the counter to the stovetop because he thought it looked nicer. He's developing an eye for style and an interest in floral placement! I think all the incessant wedding talk must finally be seeping in...

Michael reports that he had a great birthday evening- first, I made his favorite dinner upon request:

Ribeye, mashed potatoes, brussell sprouts with bacon and spinach sauteed with garlic

This man loves brussell sprouts!

Then we just chilled out in the living room.

Our makeup Valentine’s date has been rescheduled to Friday night due to various circumstances. The upside of that is the weather is supposed to be lovely (for February) AND there’s a full moon that night, and we’re going to a rooftop bar. Candy, flowers, a lacy card, full moon view from a romantic bar- I feel like I’m inside the ‘ideal’ bubble in a Kathy cartoon- i.e., not what I ever imagined myself wanting. But much like finding and falling in love with Michael, it’s surreally wonderful. ;)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

More Wedding Purchases- Books and Magazines

Today Mike is out doing his part for the wedding (oh, yeah, and our future and all that), doing a sound gig for extra cash. So I’m keeping up my end of the deal and planning ways to spend it.
{Note- we are contributing equally to the wedding financially; however, I am definitely fulfilling the stereotype of Bride Does All the Planning.}

Recently I bought some more books: Altared, a book of essays by modern women writers on contemporary weddings, including essays by Curtis Sittenfeld, Amy Sohn, Amy Bloom, Lara Vapnyar, Carina Chocano and Janelle Brown (and Julie Powell, blech); The Conscious Bride, a more scholarly exploration of marriage and bridal identity in the 21st Century; and Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides.

 I’m still working through The Conscious Bride, but I finished Altared, which was a real treat, and I’ve actually started re-reading Offbeat Bride, written by the creator of the Offbeat Bride blog I mention so often. I identify with the Offbeat Bride label and get a lot of good advice and inspiration from both the site and the book. I highly recommend all three!
Now for the guilty pleasures- the magazines! I love Martha Stewart Weddings and New York Magazine Wedding Edition a lot, but I’ll buy almost anything, both national issues and NYC/NJ specific. Today I bought:

Real Simple Weddings- purchase of this magazine came with a free year long subscription!

Brides, national edition- your standard wedding mag

Well Wed: New York edition. Goooorgeous 'wedding porn' here

I’m spending the day snuggled on the couch with my cough syrup (still getting over bronchitis, wah) and magazines while Mike puts in some overtime that’ll go straight into the wedding account. Happy Weekend everyone!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Cupid

I never went crazy over Valentine’s Day. Sure, it has some historical significance, but it’s basically a Hallmark holiday. I don’t want to do something just because a marketing executive tricked me into it. Yet, I have a diamond engagement ring, a red velvet Christmas stocking with my name monogrammed in glitter glue, and I’ll be pretty damn grumpy if I don’t get chocolate in one form or another this coming Monday.

See, I do agree with taking a day to make a big deal out of things. Yes, you should love and honor your mom every day of your life. But she does deserve one day a year where she is guaranteed brunch and some thoughtful words. I love my birthday and think everyone should take advantage of  a 24 hour period in which no one is allowed to be mean to them, plus a pass to eat all their favorite foods in one meal. I know that New Year’s Eve is just another day on the calendar. But you’ll never hear me complain about an excuse to drink champagne!
One (of several) bottle(s) used to toast our engagement

So Valentine’s Day, to me, is a holiday worth celebrating, if you want to. I never felt depressed if I was single, though, because it gives single people even more excuses to ‘celebrate’. For couples, you have a reason to have a nice dinner, a nice bottle of wine, some nice chocolates- and a responsibility to NOT be smug or act too happy in front of ‘poor, lonely’ singles. If you want to celebrate, you pay for your happiness in over priced restaurant specials and jacked up heart shaped candy packages. It’s only fair.

If you’re single, personally, I think the world is your oyster on February 14th. You can go to a bar alone and not worry about people staring- they’ll feel obligated to pity you and be discrete in their glances. You might think you hate pity. But do you know what pity equals in a bar? That’s right- FREE DRINKS!! From the bartender, the manager, the other patrons. Men will line up to buy you a drink and bemoan your single status with you. You’ve just been handed a free pass to get wasted and say inappropriate things. Your boss will feel as awkward for reprimanding a single girl’s post Valentine’s Day hangover as he does when you need to leave early due to ‘lady troubles’. Huzzah for gender stereotypes that work in our favor.

On the house, of course!

As someone who is always trying to repress her propensity for excess, I kind of envy you girls who can justify that whole bottle (or two) of Moet and entire tray of Fererro Rocher to yourself. Because ladies and gentleman, I’M the one you should really feel sorry for. Because- Valentine’s Day is also Michael’s birthday.

That’s right. Affianced,  I’ve lost my opportunity to swill pity champagne and trade sexless marriage jokes with the bartender. And what do I get in exchange? Nada! Worse- a raincheck. For three years now, Michael has promised me a ‘make-up date’ for Valentine’s Day. Do you know how many makeup V-Day dates we’ve been on? ZERO. It never comes to fruition. I spend my Valentine’s Day buying him dinner, or cooking whatever he requests, or waiting outside a movie theatre in the cold because the cinematography of the movie he chose is making me nauseous. Poooor me! Boohoooo. { ;) }

All joking aside, I’m happy to give him his special day- after all, I’m the one who believes in birthdays. But last year, looking at everyone’s facebook ‘what a sweet spouse/partner’ postings, I let it get to me- momentarily! Just momentarily, okay?- and got a little bummed. Enough for Michael to notice and run to the corner of Flushing and Broadway, where he purchased a teddy bear-in-cellophane from a folding table and a box of chocolate from Duane Reade.  His being born on Valentine’s Day was not a coincidence- he is my little cupid.

This year, he surprised me- early! He has already made plans to take me out for drinks at Top of the Strand. Nothing says love like $18 cocktails and million dollar views. Seriously, I love this shit. Once in awhile I just really love to (1) see Michael in something other than his beloved swishy pants, (2) gawk at the Empire State Building from a swank rooftop 4 blocks away and (3) spend a day’s pay on drinks that contain more ingredients than most of my dinners. I’m stoked. And it's our first Valentine's Day as an engaged couple. Awwww. (You know i'm going to do this for Every Single Holiday, right? Flag Day just has so much more significance with a ring on your finger!)

Happy Valentine’s Day to all you lovebirds out there- and happy ‘Pour me another on the house, barkeep! You’re my imaginary boyfriend tonight!’ to everyone else!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Inspiration Board/Blog: Fun with Fruit and Flowers

Every time we see a new venue, I go home and start imagining how everything else would fall into place around it. Fashion, favors, decorations, place cards and of course, centerpieces.

I love fresh cut flowers, which sets me apart from a lot of Offbeat Brides. However, I'm not crazy into giant expensive centerpieces. (Thank god, because they're really expensive and almost impossible to do yourself.). As I continue to do research and ogle pictures online, I've found I prefer single solid colors. I posted about my cut your own lavender centerpiece idea on my previous Inspiration Board/Blog post here. I still love them. But I needed to look for shorter centerpieces to better compliment places like The Supper Club. I found I really like square vases with a solid color. I like the architectural look when they are even across the top:

 Roses seem to be the most popular, but I think tulips or other flowers could work. I also really like the understated elegance of this:

It would need a table that wasn't too crowded so it wouldn't be overwhelmed by wine glasses and silverware, but I love its simple beauty, and it would be pretty easy to DIY. Using multiples that keep a light floral touch could pump up the volume a little while remaining delicate:

In a lot of the images that popped up for 'square vases with flowers', fruit was used inside the vases:

I love how this looks. I also love the idea of edible centerpieces. I've seen people use vases filled with green apples or lemons and oranges as decorations. I've also heard of brides using Edible Arrangements baskets (or making them themselves) as centerpieces. I started looking into fruit as decoration.

Soooo pretty. I especially love the citrus tones for a summer wedding. Although there are ways to take the fruit concept to the extreme:

These are all carved out of watermelons!

I do need to take being a worrywart into consideration- as much as I find the fruit centerpieces charming, after a few minutes my mind starts stressing about refrigeration and flies and bruised fruit. I've got some plans for combating the anxiety issue, but in the meantime, here are a couple other cute centerpieces. I'm particularly excited about the photo cube vases- I have an idea for numbering the tables that I'm excited about, and those cubes could be the perfect solution!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Engagement Celebration Dinner # 2- Brooklyn Brides & Wine

I went with 4 friends the other night, to celebrate all of our engagements. Okay, that’s a rather misleading sentence. The ‘friends’ were girls I’d met through Offbeat Bride’s Tribe forum, a private online community of brides (and grooms) run by Offbeat Bride. We met through a group defined by geographic locations. Noticing several girls in Brooklyn, someone suggested we all meet up in our home borough to discuss our weddings over wine.

Let’s take a minute to go over how much awesomeness is contained in that last sentence.

A night out in Brooklyn, after being bullied by weather into staying indoors for weeks? YES.
Discussing weddings? Oh, yes please.
Wine? Hell yes!
Meeting other brides? Hallelujah! (Almost as good as wine!)

The weather in New York (as well as many other parts of the country) has been atrocious. I believe we have had 5 snow storms in the past 30 days (and a sixth starts today.) Michael is already a homebody. Throw a few flakes into the equation, and he’s got an excuse to hunker down with a six pack and a PS3 controller until April. On the other hand, my favorite thing to do in a blizzard is bundle up and walk the mile to our favorite restaurant for dinner. So what if the subway lets off directly in front of the entrance? Braving the elements and slogging through fresh powder is half the fun! I usually reward Michael for humoring this weird impulse by lobbing snowballs at his head the whole way home in a (now slightly tipsy) effort to start a snowball fight. He’s so lucky to be marrying me.

January 2010 outside Moto

Anyway, so I was thrilled to be going out without having to coerce Michael with offers to pay for his drinks or fight over whether it’s appropriate to wear the sweatpants his mother bought him from a Jersey mall (that’s he’s been sleeping in for 2 days) out to dinner on Saturday night. And I was especially thrilled to be able to talk freely about weddings. My friends have mostly been indulgent of my constant wedding related chatter, but I am self-conscious of the fact that it seems to always be the #1 thing on my mind. I feel like the self-obsessed ‘my wedding is the event of a lifetime’ Bridezilla I’ve loathed for so long. It’s just that there is so much to think about! So many elements to consider, review, strategize, submit; so many people to contend with; plus budget, and dates, and personal style, and ‘couple style’ (ugh what an awful phrase), and food and drink and fashion and paper and flowers and favors and decorations part 1, 2 and 3 and vendors and venues and photo shoots and jewelry and honeymoons and hotels and lions and tigers and bears. Oh no. It’s hard to explain the exquisite pleasure and pain that goes hand in hand with planning. Very hard to explain. The same people that tell you, “It’s your day! Do what makes you happy!” will 5 minutes later say, “It’s just one day. Don’t go crazy” and both sentiments are true but often mutually exclusive.

Right. So, I am lucky not to have a ton of people telling me I need to do things a certain (traditional) way, but it was still great to sit with a group of girls, ask “How are you dealing with dressing your bridesmaids?” and have two of the four shrug and say, “I’m not having any”, then hear a third girl say, “I’ve just got one, and it’s a dude.”  It was awesome to reveal my wedding cake ‘surprise’ and hear squeals of “oh cute!’ and “great idea” rather than the silence and blank stares I got when I let it slip at work. Hurray for Offbeat Brides!

We met at Olivino's wine bar, recommended by one of the girls, and it was lovely. On Fulton Street in Clinton Hill, two doors down from the wine shop, it’s tiny and cozy with eclectic music, a super friendly bartender and a great wine list. For once I didn't try the champagne but had a nice Malbec instead. I will definitely go back. And I will definitely try to plan another night out. I can’t say enough times how fun it was to meet girls whose weddings were all a little ‘different’ though each in their own way. One is getting married in a gallery in Brooklyn, another in a restaurant in Vermont. Two girls are self catering. One’s wedding guest list is approaching 300, while another is well under 100. One girl had just come from trying on Vera Wang dresses; another will be gathering all her foodie friends for a group cooking experiment on the day of the wedding.

To reiterate, wine + offbeat Brooklyn brides + wedding talk + more wine = a lovely time had by all.