Monday, March 28, 2011

The Coolest Wedding I’ll Never Have

On Friday, Mike and I stopped by our local bodega for beer and on a whim, I bought a lottery ticket for Mega Millions, which was up to $300+ million that night. On the block and a half walk back, I wondered aloud where we should get married if won.

Here’s a couple of ideas…

I probably wouldn’t go nuts and do the ‘June at the Plaza’ route or the New York Public Library ($40,000 just to rent that place, without food or drink!) or anything like that if our wedding budget suddenly increased. What I would consider is something decidedly more modest- two Brooklyn venues that actually aren’t that far off from our budget. In fact, if we were willing to cut back the guest list a little, we could probably pull these places off.

First one: Galapagos in Dumbo. This place used to be in Williamsburg (their old building is now Public Assembly) then they renovated their current location and moved in 2008. They have multimedia artists in residence, rotating exhibits, performances and events (like the Busker's Ball, at which talented street musicians perform a concert, and Nerd Night, which is speed dating for geeks/smart people), and most famously, Saturday evening’s Floating Cabaret- in which  the cabaret is performed floating above the 1600 square foot indoor lake.

They have pretty reasonable drink packages, with a variety of caterers you can bring in. The prices are staggered for days of the week and time of day- you can even have a more ‘casual’ wedding that concludes with the floating cabaret performance.

Next- the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in Fort Greene. We see movies here a lot- it’s close to our apartment, and is only a couple blocks from the park in which Mike proposed. We love this place. They have movies as well as theatre, and shows in the CafĂ© space- which is also where you can hold your wedding. Those cool lights on the outside of the building? It’s right inside, next to them!

Pics pics

You can hang out here on Friday and Saturday nights for happy hour before the performances start at 9:00. BAM’s mission is to be the preeminent progressive performing and cinema arts center of the 21st Century and most people agree they’re on their way- BAM Cinematek is regularly lauded, as are the performances. Alan Rickman and Geoffrey Rush both performed there this year. It’s one of our all time favorite places in Brooklyn. They are exclusive with one caterer. And god bless both both of these venues; they spell out their wedding packages right on their websites. I know other brides planning weddings will relate to what a rarity and blessing this is!

In the end, we’re not comfortable cutting the guest list, nor spending even a few thousand more than the absolute ceiling we set for ourselves, so these places will exist only in my dreams. Well, actually even better- in my every day life! That’s a perk of living in NYC. One person’s dream is another person’s happy hour- and sometimes, they’re the same person.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A New Direction – New York, NY

For the past 5 months, we’ve been looking exclusively at New Jersey venues- at least that’s what I’ve been telling you. When we got engaged, we figured we’d get married in Jersey since that’s where the bulk of our family is. Some of our friends are there too, and a lot of the people who would be travelling from other states have roots in NJ. Our instincts were to make it easier for everyone else, and also, we hoped, to save some money.

But over the last few months, we’ve realized several things- first, NJ aint exactly cheap itself. It’s not like we’re leaving New York City to hold the wedding in rural Arkansas. Also, the frequent trips back really drove home the fact that Brooklyn is our home now. After meeting with some fellow brides in January, I felt a little jealous that they were planning weddings in their own neighborhoods, getting to show distant friends and family their new homes. Some people have destination weddings, asking guests to travel thousands of miles to show them a place they love. We were doing the opposite and going to our guests. Is that a little backwards… ?

Anyway, the strongest emotion was a desire to get married in the place that means something to us- like the place we really consider our home. New York is where we first lived together as a couple. It’s where we got engaged. It’s where we first said ‘I love you’. Michael swears it wasn’t until he mentioned that he lived in Brooklyn that I became interested in him. And Brooklyn is where we plan to stay for the long haul. It makes sense to get married here.

Now, nothing’s official yet- and it has to become official soon, as most places start getting booked up at least a year in advance. Prime dates in May and June go the fastest, so we really need to pick a place and secure a date within the next month or so, tops. Luckily, I’ve been investigating NYC venues for awhile now. I’ve already been able to eliminate quite a few, based mainly on pricing- yeah, I said NJ isn’t cheap, but as everyone and their brother knows, NYC is really expensive. So here are a couple places I would’ve LOVED to have the wedding, if our budget was a little larger.

First: Stage 6 at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yards. Steiner Studios is one of the largest movie studios outside of California, and the Stage 6 building has amazing views of Manhattan. The venue is enclosed in glass and can be lit and decorated in so many ways. Abigail Kirsch is the exclusive caterer. Abigail Kirsch is a fantastic and pricey caterer who works in tons of the best NYC venues. I learned early on that if I see that name attached exclusively to something, I might as well cross it off the list immediately.

I liked the idea of this because the Navy Yards are so close to us- there’s a great Italian spot called Il Porto we like about a block away. Also, Michael works in the industry, to a degree, so there’s that connection. However, he didn’t warm up to the idea like I did, saying, “Why would I want to get married somewhere I might work one day?” Luckily, the expense made this a non-issue.

Smack Mellon in DUMBO, Brooklyn is a converted boiler building that now houses a fantastic non-profit arts organization that houses and curates exhibitions as well as offers studio space and educational programs. Nestled between the two bridges in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), it’s another ‘raw’ space to which you pay a site fee and bring in your own caterer, rentals, etc.

My initial instincts were for art galleries or museums. And Smack Mellon does great things for the community. Their fee is certainly fair but, when combined with catering, still out of our range.

The Foundry in Long Island City, Queens, was in fact a steel foundry built in the 19th Century. It was restored about a decade ago and is absolutely beautiful. Fred Armisen and Elizabeth Moss got married there last year. You can have the wedding inside or out on the grounds, or do a combination. Some services are available from the owners but you do need to bring in your own caterer and rentals. The main space has a vaulted ceiling, exposed beams, two levels and lots of little alcoves.

All along, in any state, I’ve looked for a ‘connection’. Really, this place doesn’t have a big one for us, other than being the exact ambience we’re looking for as well as having a strong New York history. But it’s in Queens, and it’s not exactly cheap. Connections aside, it’s the cost that eliminated this for us. So unless an extra $15,000 drops into our laps, we’ll have to move on. But GOD it is gorgeous!

In the next couple of weeks I’ll be reporting back on several venues that are actual contenders (and probably a few more that we were priced out of but just want to share!) before we make our final decision. Again, I’m not saying that we’re definitely getting married in Brooklyn or that we’re even leaning towards it, just that it officially On The Table!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Guest Book

We recently received an engagement gift from Michael’s aunt and uncle that I just have to share. It’s a gorgeous guestbook for the wedding!

It’s Vera Wang for Wedgewood and it’s just beautiful. The top is solid silver with an embossed bow tied like a present. Inside are heavy cardstock pages for our guests to sign their names. The back and inside covers are lined with soft material.

It’s very classic and elegant and I just love it. It’s clearly designed to be kept forever, which I love! I’ve mentioned that Michael and I often battle over stuff: what should be kept and what should be thrown out. I’m a hoarder, he’s a tosser. (Heehee. UK friends, please don’t tell him what that means.) I’ve already warned him that I’ll be saving quite a few things from our wedding, and that he can’t fight me on them! I have a feeling our first real estate purchase as a married couple will probably be a storage unit :/

Many of our wedding details may end up being decidedly ‘funkier’, so I’m very pleased to have this beautiful, traditional guestbook to use and save forever. Our grandchildren will probably being signing in at weddings via the 2065 version of an iPad (whoa, 2065?!? That just blew my mind), upping the cache of our distinguished, pretty guestbook with handwritten signatures.

I didn’t think I was the kind of girl who would drool over china patterns and perfect reception accessories, but I’ve already taken this out of its box several times just to look at it, and even started musing on what type of pen, with which color ink, I’d like used. I guess I have the bride gene after all!

It's so shiny!

I know it’s probably tacky to discuss gifts, and I initially wanted to show everything we received, and to especially thank everyone for all their generosity, well wishes, and simply for their presence at the party. It really meant the world to us! I’m singling this gift out because it’s going to be used at the wedding, and so you’re going to see it here eventually, and a few people out there might notice it and think, “Huh, when did Suzanne get such good taste?” So please excuse this, if you find it to be in poor taste, as I just want to share wedding details. Unfortunately Emily Post hasn’t written a book on blogging yet.

Thank you Uncle John and Aunt Meg!

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Let me describe my wedding attitude. Let’s call it my Wedditude. (No, wait, let’s not.) I am not a traditional person. However, I don't want to throw an idea out simply because it’s the norm. I don’t want to do something different just for the sake of being different, either. Nowadays there’s a new attitude towards weddings (wedditude wedditude) that focuses on making them not just personalized but meaningful and true to yourselves. So I’m looking at each element of ‘normal’ weddings and examining it to determine if it’s a good fit for me. (Er, I mean us. Right.)

So on that note, let’s talk about veils. To be upfront- I don’t really like them. At least not on me. Ok, I haven’t technically worn a veil since I was 7 and performed an original song entitled “I’m Getting Married” for a talent show my neighbor, her Irish foreign exchange student houseguest, and I put on for her parents (sample lyrics: “I’m going to marry, a boy named Harry, I’m getting Maaaarried!”) but my fashion sense has evolved a bit since then. (Saddly, my songwriting skills have not.)

Right, so, 3… er, 25+ year old me and veils don’t seem to match. But before I throw them out the window, I decided to investigate the concept.

Many modern wedding traditions have stuck around for hundreds of years. One theory on the origin of bridal veils dates back to the height of the Roman Empire. Brides wore veils to hide from evil spirits and protect them from the gaze of the evil eye. Vikings, asian cultures and many others believed in this superstition. In fact at one time veils were painted with flames to scare the spirits off. I’d like to see that trend come back! The Chinese actually carried wedding umbrellas (which connects to the wedding parasol look) and the Japanese wear really cool looking headdresses called tsunokakushi and wataboshi.

So- do I connect with this? Well, no, but that’s okay. If veils ward off bad luck, they could be considered a good luck charm. I’ve been known to wish on a star or an eyelash or a wishbone. I may not believe in it but the history doesn’t offend me, at least. It's kind of cute, like the whole Old, New, Borrowed, Blue (And a sixpence in her shoe) deal.

Another veil origin- arranged marriages. The bride was concealed so that the groom wouldn’t try to back out of the deal if she was ugly. Conversely, she was also covered in case she was very pretty, so no one would try to kill the groom over her beauty. Hm. I guess the grooms aren’t making out too good in these scenarios either.

Who dat?

The lifting of the veil was also a form of ceremony relating to the bride as chattel to be traded. The groom lifts the veil to symbolize opening a gift and taking possession of it.

The rise of veil popularity is actually accredited to the rise of Islam, in which veils rose in use by women and came to represent modesty and purity. This transferred to the ‘white wedding’ and was symbolic of a virgin bride, and again, the groom being the first to reveal her and take her virginity. The veiled bride portrayed submission, chastity, a willingness to obey her husband.

So, do I relate to this?

What do you think?

The Jewish roots are pretty interesting. A bridal veil conveyed the woman’s right to her personal space; a nod to the superiority of inner beauty; and a promise by the groom to clothe her from that day forward.

Well, okay. I like all those things.

In modern time, veils lost the bulk of their meaning and became, for most, simply an accessory. In the earlier part of the 20th Century, they shrunk to mimic fashion and economic climates- hence the birdcage veil. By the 1980s & 90s, the bridal industry had swollen with a love of excess, and veils ballooned in size. Who can forget Princess Diana’s 25 foot long cathedral veil train? Or Star Jones’ 27 foot long veil, which holds the record for the longest ever. (Wow, I could really go on at length with what I thought of Star Jones and her wedding, but let’s stay on topic.)

So now let’s just talk fashion.

Veils come in various lengths- most commonly elbow, fingertip (self-explanatory) and cathedral (which is floor length- or longer, if you’re very formal, a princess, or an ego-maniac talk show host marrying a gay man. Oops!) You also choose whether they are tiered or not, which seems to come down to whether or not you want a ‘blusher’- a piece that covers your face. Also called a chapel veil. Actually, I’m not going to even describe them all, try this glossary from the knot: Knot Veil Glossary.

Also mantillas:

And birdcage veils, also called Russian or fishnet:

To be fair, I think they look very pretty on some girls. It seems most people just see them as emblematic of ‘bride’, just as much as the white dress. Although it’s sentiments like the one below, from The Knot, that make me want to run screaming: 
For photos that really say "It's my day!" you'll want a veil that makes a statement from the front as well as the back. One such variety is a fountain veil (also called a waterfall), which rises up from the top of your head. This style adds height, which may be desirable to petite brides, but it's a poor choice if it will make you taller than your groom.
I cannot begin to describe the many ways that scares me. Ladies, I’m sure someone out there has rocked a fountain veil and rocked it good, but in my case, I would probably look like I had indeed just fallen into a fountain and climbed out with something stuck to the top of my head, drowning me in tulle. Pass. It’ll still be ‘my day’.

Hoo boy. Then you also have to think about the material, embellishments, and how you’ll wear it- barrettes, combs, pins, fascinator, or tiaras or crowns. Folks, I do own a tiara, actually. But I wore it as a 15/16 year old with flannel and plastic clothing, and once to a school dance with this exquisite little black Betsey Johnson dress that had a sort of faux wood paneling finish that I’ve insisted on keeping even though I’m not likely to see the days of Size 2 again anytime soon. But otherwise, yes, my tiara wearing was purely a la Courtney Love, i.e., ironically.

1996. I'm Miss World

Anyway, we’ll come back to this at another time when we start talking hairstyles. (Which happens to be the category Mike has his strongest wedding opinion about!) I feel pretty confident that I’m still going to ditch the veil, although there are some birdcage styles that have caught my eye. (And a few more that just look like they’d get caught in my eye.) And of course, crafty, stylish, and offbeat girls are creating their own unique looks!

So what’s my decision? Still leaning heavily sans veil- although I’m now sincerely concerned someone might glimpse my bridal beauty and attempt to murder Mike. But, it’s a risk he’s willing to take.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fitness Update

Are you ready for some Grade A excuses?

As it is now March, this should be my fitness update #10, in which I proudly tell you that I’ve lost 20 pounds, have transformed from couch-warmer to 5k runner, and am ready for my close up (engagement photo shoot).

Alas, I bear no such good tidings.

My diet and exercise regime was going okay when I began in November. (See me bitch and complain here, here and here). I lost 4 pounds, counted calories, started a running program, and cut my alcohol consumption down to 1-2 days a week. I struggled with wanting to see faster results, and how to get in a good workout without joining a gym, but I was on the right path.

Cue the excuse list. To be fair, it was a rough two week stretch that threw me off, but there aren’t any good reasons for staying off. In November, my dad was in a bad accident that left him hospitalized for two weeks, and Michael lost a family member. So we spent much of those two weeks in NJ. I have a terrible time traveling while dieting. I need my own kitchen and a schedule and an absence of temptations. Translation- I am weak. I am very weak.

At the close of those two weeks came Thanksgiving, which I was cooking/hosting for the very first time. I spent 4+ hours waiting in line for a $75 fried turkey, and I wasn’t about to let those leftovers go to waste! December brought crappy weather, which majorly curtailed all my outside exercise attempts. I had to quit several running excursions because of slippery wet leaves and/or icy winds. That’s what happens when your ‘track’ is either 5th Avenue or the perimeter of an empty lot.

It was also the first holiday season without my mom. After I got off track during the hectic two weeks at the end of November, I let my Christmas-induced melancholia recuse me from making an effort in the diet department. In January, the constant snowstorms and accumulations completely ended all outside exercise, and I had a conference approaching at the end of the month that had me working overtime- yet another excuse once I finally got home each night to laze about, eating chocolate and drinking champagne ‘because it’s Wednesday. And I’m streeeeeessed!’ (This was often followed by “Why can’t youuuu ever cook dinner? I’m tired. Order us some pizza.” Poor Michael. Poor, patient Michael.)

Amidst all that, Mike had some health issues (now mostly resolved) that had us worrying and running around to doctor’s appointments, and then I caught a cold, which became bronchitis, which caused several more complications- the end result being that I am now home, recovering from a kidney infection. (Long story.) It was touch and go for awhile, but I’m on the mend.

So there you go. Somehow, miraculously, I’m still down about 2 pounds from when I started in November, but as a grand total for 4 months? Not so hot. But I am now invigorated. Spring is coming. And speaking of ‘not so hot’, all the pictures I’ve been posting on this blog are reminding me that I do NOT want to look like this anymore. I don’t even recognize myself. And I feel like crap. (I mean aside from being sick.)

Michael has agreed to be my exercise partner, and last week, during a brief respite of my own illnesses and after Michael got the thumbs up to exercise again, we started doing Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. Yowza.  When I’m able to exercise again, I’ll give you a run down on how that’s going. Also, instead of counting calories (as so many wisely suggested) I am just focusing on healthy eating, while staying conscious of fats and carbs. Michael has become a vegetable zealot and claims he loves the new health initiative. It REALLY helps to have a partner in this, because I wasn’t kidding about being weak. There are some legitimate excuses listed above but I’ll come up with anything to weasel out if I’m having a bad day- including, ‘I’m having a bad day’.

Below is a picture of us from the month we started dating. You can’t see my body, but this is my goal weight for the summer. THEN I’ll tackle the wedding goal weight!

Memorial Day 2007