Friday, May 20, 2011

My Waterfront Clambake Summertime Super Beach-y Wedding

Michael and I have decided that if we get married in New Jersey, we’d like it to be in Asbury Park. We have several options we’re considering. I wrote recently about letting wedding stress get to me. At one point a couple weeks ago, I came across this idea, and spent the day putting together a great, laidback, casual-but-fun back up wedding plan. May I present…

A couple years ago during Asbury Park’s revitalization, The Beach Bar opened on the deck of Convention Hall. This previously under utilized space was just begging for a bar like this- you absolutely cannot beat this location. You enter through Convention Hall or you can walk up the steps directly from the sand. The bar itself is indoors and has a row of seating there, but the draw, of course, is sitting directly above the sand and soaking in the million dollar ocean views.

And, the Beach Bar does weddings! You rent out the wings and choose a liquor package, then bring in a caterer. Rather than formal seating, you can utilize their fun lounge furniture for a great waterfront cocktail party vibe.

Really relaxed

Once you eliminate the standard ‘chicken or fish?’ seated dinner, you can get pretty creative with the food. With the lounge setting, a never-ending cocktail party would be a great option- a couple stations and passed hors d’oeuvres all night, with lots of great seafood options. My favorite idea was a clambake- I found a number of local caterers, including some very helpful people at Shore Catering and Lawrence Caterers, who do great lobster clambakes that can also be combined with BBQ packages for the ultimate beach party menu- think steamed clams, shrimp cocktail shooters and crab claws, burgers and barbeque chicken and whole steamed lobsters with drawn butter. Relaxed, fun and delicious.

And how easy would it be to decorate? This wedding demands a beach theme, and there are a lot of reasons beach themes are so popular- they’re fun, pretty and easy. Since the tables would vary in size and style, you wouldn’t need to coordinate large matching centerpieces. Just spread some shells and tea lights on the tables, and let the natural beauty of the ocean take center stage. The lights strung across the ceiling provide a romantic minimalism as well as light.

A cute sandcastle cake would fit perfectly.

Downsides- well, the inconsistency of weather. Temperatures at the beach are notoriously fickle- I would need to remind everyone to check the forecast for the shore and dress accordingly. Also, it’s an open air venue- if a storm rolled in, as my future mother-in-law quickly pointed out, rain + wind = wet guests. We saw this first hand last month!

Last, I’m still struggling with how ‘formal’ I want my wedding to be. I loooove the thought of this relaxed vibe; wearing a cute tea length dress, running down the steps barefoot directly onto the sand, slow dancing with my new husband while the waves crashed right in front of us. But there’s still a part of me that feels this is my only chance to ‘own’ a big old ballroom for the night and have a huge dance floor for getting down to Lady Gaga in a multi-thousand dollar dress. See, this is a side of me I’ve always struggled with- never wanting to miss an opportunity or my ‘only chance’. And I have to admit, I am getting a little caught up in the wedding world undertow- lately I feel the pull of BRIDE so strongly!

The Crystal Ballroom at the Berkeley Hotel

I always look for meaning or a connection in my venues- well, if you know me, you know I love the beach, and if you knew my mom, you know she really loved the beach. Our families love Asbury, and Michael and I both love the summertime.

So I have filed this under Plan B. Today, on this rainy, gray day, I’m going to comfort myself with visions of Michael and I, with rings on our fingers and our toes in the sand.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bridesmaid’s Luncheon- Girls Gone WINDY in Asbury Park

A Bridesmaid’s Luncheon is, in fact, a real thing. Originally, the bridesmaid’s luncheon was a tea that all the bridesmaids and often the women in the family attended, sort of a proper version of a bachelorette party. Now, I’m not proper, and I do intend to have a real bachelorette party. But part of me longed for a nice tea. I recently inherited some of my mother’s lovely heirloom china and imagined a genteel luncheon with wine and cucumber sandwiches, and perhaps a crafting party afterwards. It's kind of weird, how wedding planning makes me crave things I never thought I'd be interested in.

Alas, as I’ve mentioned, my bridesmaids are scattered across the U.S. and my proper tea wasn’t meant to be. But, I did finally get everyone together last month and what the hell, I’m going to call it a bridesmaid’s luncheon anyway!

The three of us met at McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park, which you may remember is one of the venues we’re considering. Michael spent the afternoon at his parents’ house but he offered to buy us a champagne toast in honor of the occasion. We were only too happy to accept.

My maid of honor (and sister) Stephanie gave a lovely, well-prepared toast. I don’t remember the exact wording but I think it went something along the lines of “Suzanne is wonderful and a great sister and will be The Best Bride Ever”. (Uh, whatever that even means.)

We picked the perfect day to go to the beach. We took a nice stroll in the drizzle and fought near-hurricane level winds to stop inside Convention Hall and then visit the Beach Bar. The Beach Bar is open air but the actual bar is indoors. We had an impromptu photo shoot amongst the storm scattered patio furniture and then decided to get a drink to weigh ourselves down. It was only prudent.

Not exaggerated!

(Psst- more on the Beach Bar to come… )

We swung by the Carousel House on our way out (more on THAT to come as well!) and saw a bride and groom pull up and hop out of a car for pictures!

We ended up staying out for several hours. So it wasn’t exactly high tea but it was a lovely day with drinks and friends and the beach!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Moving Forward

You may have noticed that I’ve been slacking on updating this blog. It’s not for lack of content- I have several things I’ve been meaning to post. It’s partly that it has been a busy month- Mike and I have been shuffling papers for updating our address, identification, insurance, banking etc, partly in anticipation of becoming a married couple soon and partly because Mike has officially changed careers. The career change is exciting; the paperwork, not so much.

To tell the truth, though, that’s not the main reason I haven’t posted. Right after we got engaged, I dove deep into planning. I wrote about how it was helpful for me to have a positive distraction from grieving my mom. I’ve noticed that I’ve lost interest in so many things since last summer and I was relieved to find I was finally excited about something again. I spent hours researching venues, and reading up on traditions I wanted to keep or toss, and looking at color schemes and fun crafts. I immersed myself.

But as time went on, the ‘happy distraction’ morphed. It started to highlight her death and gave me whole new ways to miss her. Weddings revolve pretty heavily around family. I was missing a lot of the help and insight my mom would’ve imparted. I was also starting to see how visible her absence would be, at the wedding of her daughter. Her death was becoming amplified, rather than alleviated, because of planning.

And I don’t mean to be overly morose or self-pitying, but it’s not just that she died. It’s how she died, and all the awfulness that surrounded it. The discord and confusion and agonizing over her care. It was a nightmare. To this day I can’t go to sleep at night without taking something to knock me out, or I lay awake and remember and cry. I’ll stop there because this is supposed to be a happy blog. Nobody’s life is easy, everyone deals with tragedy. I’m not special. I’m just saying it’s been rough. It’s hard to move on when so much is still unsettling- I can't simply grieve like a 'normal person.'

Still, I tried to move forward and focus on the positive parts of wedding planning. The happy stuff, like the sweet parts of the ceremony, the potential themes, the cool d├ęcor details. The fun parts. And I wanted to share it with someone. As every bride has learned, there is sooooooo much that goes into a wedding, and I was bursting with information and ideas. But yet again, I was smacked in the face with loss. Another reason a bride needs her mother is so she’ll always have someone to talk to who’s interested. Someone who wants to listen, who is excited for you, and with you, and someone whose intentions are always positive. I abhor gender stereotypes, but the truth is, this just isn’t my groom’s cup of tea. He’s making an effort, he deserves credit for that, but he really is super busy right now. (Specifically, working hard so we can pay for this damn wedding.) My friends all have busy lives, and/or varying levels of interest in the wedding. I get it. It’s not interesting to everyone. I know I should just accept that and get over it, but it still leaves a void that I’m hyper aware my mom would’ve filled. It’s hard not to take it personally when it’s so painfully personal.

The combination of grief and wedding stress has left me feeling alienated. It's hard to grasp the amount of work a wedding can be, and it's impossible to understand the despair I feel from losing my mom. Not that I would wish these feelings on anyone.

So the last couple of weeks, simply put, I have failed at getting over it. Instead, I’ve just lost enthusiasm. The wind has left my sails. And unfortunately, this is happening right when I need to make the important choices. The time has come to make a decision, and I can’t.

As a response to feeling hurt, I have avoided talking about the wedding, for the most part, and therefore avoided blogging. I was afraid that my posts would end up sounding whiny and self-pitying and sad and… ah… maybe come off just like the 6 or 7 paragraphs above this. Oops.

On the plus side, despite all this, Michael and I are doing great. He’s pretty busy, but the time we spend together is so good, and the one thing I know with absolute clarity is we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together and I’m incredibly lucky. Frankly, at this point I’d happily elope. I’m trying to get back on track by constantly reminding myself that the ultimate prize is Michael. I’ll have had a happy wedding the moment we put rings on each other’s fingers. I did know that, all along, but my focus has sharpened.

So I leave you, dear blog readers, with a promise to get back to posting, more frequently and much more happily! I think (hope) that’ll get me back into the swing of things. And I'm not going to slack on wedding planning anymore. I’m further investigating a final venue this weekend, and then I have given myself until the end of the month to sit down with Michael, go over the budgets and options one more time, and make a decision. In the meantime, no more sad stuff. I promise.