Thursday, December 31, 2009
I'm not referring to the marriage, I love J-Cakes with all my heart. And I'm not talking about the blog, I like looking at this stuff and I love hosting parties so it's fun. I mean the wedding. Why go through all of this? Every time I get a few steps ahead with planning, I hit a huge block in the road when the price tag presents itself. It's not as if we're incredibly demanding, but it feels like our budget is almost laughable and so many people feel the need to express their opinions about how whatever we're doing it wrong.
"Make sure you serve meat"
"I know you guys are vegetarian, but you better have meat"
"You can't just do heavy appetizers, people expect full dinner if they're coming ALL the way there"
"You have to have a full bar or people will be really upset"
"People will be unhappy if they have to pay for cabs to get to the wedding"
"Do you really want to have a band play, what if people don't like the music?"
"It's not really a marriage unless it's done in the church, in front of the eyes of God"
It's no longer a surprise to me that the days of having really big weddings have gone by the wayside. Who wants to spend a year of their life or longer doing everything they can to make a personalized and welcoming wedding reception to celebrate their love with their closest friends and family, only to feel like crap in the end? We're really doing the best we can, but most days, it feels like no matter what that is, it won't be good enough.
Somedays, I am even convinced that on the day it all comes together, someone is going to say something snotty or rude about the way things were done and I'm going to overhear it and just fall to pieces. Just start sobbing or second-guessing everything we have worked so hard on all this time. I have always work hard to make people feel welcome, and I really feel like good hospitality is a lost art and friends and family should be treated like the important people they are. To think that on one of the biggest days of our lives, after three years of working on how to make this all happen, I might fall to pieces over one rude remark may sound silly, but that's just the person I am.
Today's one of those days, where I feel like giving up.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Based out of Portland, Sarah creates these amazing vintage-inspired dress designs that are perfect blend of modern-meets-vintage. Her designs have this whole ethereal, romantic feel (the same feeling I'm hoping to evoke throughout our wedding from dress to invitation) and she has this amazing collection of dresses made of delicate layers of natural and recycled fabrics.
The dresses run a little pricey, but they are truly amazing she also donates a percentage of all of her designs to charity. Here are some of the other ones I heart:
I'm not sure if I'll be able to afford her design, but a girl can dream, right?
Maybe I can find something similar more locally? Any suggestions?
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Ah, wedding magazines. So glossy, so pretty, so full of expensive wedding stuffs and gorgeous models to show it all off.
I fell into the glossy entrapment of wedding magazines pretty early in the game. I think the first wedding-related magazine I picked up was actually at the airport on the way back from our Europe trip (where we got engaged). As a huge fan of magazines in general, I was excited to see what sort of inspiration was out there, note a few dress ideas, scout some vendors (I'm a huge fan of "Best-of" lists) and just gain a general sense of what the soon-to-be-wed crowd was up to in the 2000's.
Problem was, instead of being incredibly inspired and hopeful, flipping through the pages of wedding magazines like Modern Bride, The Knot and Martha Stewart Weddings made me feel more overwhelmed than inspired and I found myself being flushed with anxiety anytime I picked one up. They were pretty, very nice to look at, but these were supposed to be an examples of what normal people were doing? Throwin' down $40K for ONE DAY was actually considered normal?
I felt sick. Even if we magically came into money, I knew that J-Cakes and I would lean towards planning something more unconventional, but the fact that every single wedding-related magazine I picked up seemed to confirm the idea that this one day would cost a full year's (or more) income was absolutely terrifying. What the hell were we thinking? There's no way we could pull this off. I started feeling like maybe we should just elope and play up the kitschy appeal of the Vegas or something so we wouldn't end up looking like total fools.
After a more than a few panic-stricken moments (which I only shared with my mom), I started looking for alternatives. Melanie, my best friend and maid of honor, picked up a planner for my Christmas gift. I scouted the shelves of Borders and searched through Amazon for tips on how to be fancy when you're more fiscally-strapped and eventually felt better about everything. A job opportunity later led me to a couple hundred inspiring blogs online, all couples who had either made it work on much less than $40K or were attempting to. Things were going to be okay.
That sense of relief and feeling like it was possible to have a nice, big wedding without going into major debt was a big moment for me. It dawned on me the other day that I never mentioned what kinds of sites and research I have been a big help to me with all of this planning business, so I wanted to take a few minutes to mention them. (I feel I should note that this is in no way paid advertising, all of these resources have either been recommended to me by friends and family or I have found them on my own and I am recommending them solely based on how helpful they have been to me so far with the hope they might be helpful for someone else).
First up is "Bridal Bargains: Wedding Planner" the book Melanie gave me to help gain a sense of what to expect. Filled with checklists, lists of important questions to ask vendors and advice for just about everything wedding-related, this book has become my trusty companion to all meetings with anyone who might help with part of our big day. I have to admit that I don't actually use this checklist (I use the one on TheKnot because I can link up my guest list and manage things easier), but as far as having a physical guide to help you along with meetings and keep you on track and within your budget, this book does a great job.
The "Offbeat Bride: Taffeta-Free Alternatives for Independent Brides": I found this book on our way back from Europe when we pit-stopped in Chicago to see our friends. I was cruising around Quimby's, (my favorite neighborhood bookstore) decided to pick this up and ended up reading it from cover to cover twice before realizing that there was a blog to go with it. (If you get your inspiration from seeing examples of couples who have wed before you, I highly suggest browsing the "wedding porn" section on this blog). The book made me feel excited about planning again and instead of feeling a sense of dread that we wouldn't be able to ante-up I started to feel excited about all of the ways we could express our creativity. The appeal of blog is that the weddings on this site look like people are actually enjoying themselves which is kind of what you want at a wedding anyways. These couples seem more real, are reall creative and it goes to show you that there is a place for every kind of couple, even the kind that dream of having a Star Wars-themed wedding complete with a light-saber ceremony.
"Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot" is a quick read and a good guide if you're trying to figure out what your options are for various budgets. Organized by "Bargain, Budget or Bling" each section is broken down into what kind of alternatives you can consider and a quick line about what to expect.
Additionally, for solely the cost of Internet connection, there are a TON of talented bloggers out there dishing out design advice, sharing wedding photos and passing along information about some awesome giveaways amongst other things. Since blogs have been helping me out big time, I feel compelled to mention the few that stick out in my mind. In no particular order, here are some of the sites that I often visit for inspiration:
- The Broke-Ass Bride
- Snippet & Ink
- DIY Bride
- Green Wedding Shoes
- Brooklyn Bride
- Once Wed
- Clover & Bee
- A $10,000 Wedding
- 100 Layer Cake
- One Wed Savvy Scoop Blog
These are in no way the only sites I visit, but it's not a bad place to start if you're looking.
In completely unrelated news, this morning I did a search on Google to see if there were any photos or blogs mentioning Lula Cafe. I love Lula, and have been there many times, but since we're hoping to set-up our rehearsal dinner there, I wanted to get a feel for what that experience might have been like for someone else.
That's how I stumbled across Peopling Places, a community-driven blog about Logan Square, written by Lynn Stevens. It was great to see a blog intended to foster community in the neighborhood we live in, because we're both huge fans of Logan Square and some of the amazing people businesses around here. I noticed that AwesomeMidwestWedding was listed on the blog roll, so thank you to Lynn for being a fan! I hope we can work with some amazing people in the Square!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Surprisingly, that poses a problem when picking a wedding song: With so much to choose from, what do you pick as "your song," the one to best represent you both together? How do you narrow it down? How do you choose something that really fits for you both as a song by an artist you both like, a lyrical representation of both of your feelings on the relationship? How will you dance to it in front of everyone you know? And most importantly, how long is it?
With both J-cakes and myself being obsessively into music, (albeit, different types of music) I knew that choosing the music for the wedding, especially what to play as "our song," might be a little complicated. I can honestly say that I didn't envision it taking seven hours to decide, but hey, you can't plan for everything.
Long, drawn-out process or not, I kind of liked how we came to the final decision so I figured I would share the process with you. I figure, best case scenario, you consider a few songs you might have forgotten about or never thought of before and worst case scenario, you rule out 20 or so songs from the running. Either way, it works, so here's a How-to Guide for Choosing the Right Wedding Song:
Hit the Sauce. To help us get started, I started drinking. It's my personal opinion that alcohol always helps in these kinds of tough situations, so if you're reading this and trying to find a song right now, I suggest you crack the cork off your favorite wine bottle or pop open some PBR and get started.
Consider yourselves as a couple. Do you and your sweetie both like to cut a rug or does he/she get painfully shy when you're just trying to slow-dance? If you lean towards the attention whore side, you might want to consider the popular trend of fast-paced, musical montages. Get your wedding party involved and choreograph steps to the song. Capture it on video for You Tube. Have some fun with it!
Two left feet or not that into dancing? Try to choose a shorter song (less time in the spotlight) that allows you to slow dance (requires less dance talent). You could always take dance lessons somewhere to learn a few moves before the wedding. Obviously, dance studios are a good place to start looking, but you could also check for cheap dance lessons that might be happening at local colleges, universities or community centers.
Write it down. Before you even try researching songs, think about the ones that may already mean something to you and start a list. It doesn't matter if you remember the song title or the artist. Hell, if all you remember is tune and one verse, you may still be able to find it online. You might even find the lyrics are way off later, but it's nice to get started with the songs that already have meaning for you and your fiance.
Start your search engine. If "Why do birds suddenly appear" is the only verse you can remember right now, (Note: This may be a side-effect from killing off that bottle of wine) just type it in Google and see if it gets you somewhere. Once you have the title and artist for each song listed out, start searching for sites where you can read the lyrics in their entirety and music players where you can hear the whole song.
Read, Listen and Cross-off: Remember that part in the last step where I said read the lyrics in their entirety and listen to the whole song? Yeah, that's because the part of your brain that remembers the verse or chorus that might make it a perfect fit (ex. "It's a nice day for a white wedding") might have blocked out or not cared to remember the other parts ("White Wedding" by Billy Idol is actually about Idol's little sister's shotgun marriage to someone he didn't like). Take notes about what you like, what you don't like. (Hint: Write down the songs' time lengths - shown on the bottom right side of most online media players - it helps weed out the best songs later).
Honorable bad choices (for various reasons):
"Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics ("some of them want to abuse you)
"I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston (it's about a break up)
"Every Breath You Take" by The Polices (hey there, stalker).
Compare Notes: Once I had a decent list together, Johnny got home and cracked open another bottle of wine (yet another reason why I love him) and we went through the list side-by-side, opening up the lyrics on one screen and playing the songs on YouTube (when available) on another screen. Besides being a helpful way to get a sense of the song, it's incredibly amusing to see some of the worst music videos ever made.
Compare Votes: Once we had reviewed 20 or so different songs, we put it to a vote. No better way to choose a song between two die-hard music junkies than to put through a democratic process! To choose, we each grabbed a post it, numbered 1-3 with 1 being our top choice. In the event that we both chose the same songs, the one that was listed on closest to the top for both would be the final winner.
I sort of knew this wouldn't be an issue, but I hoped we would pick at least one song we both liked, and we did. Without giving the final pick away (cause what fun would that be?) here are some of the songs we checked out with links to the lyrics:
You're My Best Friend - Queen
Oh My Love - John Lennon
In My Life - The Beatles
And I Love Her - The Beatles
Never My Love - The Association
Into My Arms - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Ship Song - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
It's, Oh, So Quiet - Bjork
The Promise - When in Rome
Harvest Moon - Neil Young
This Magic Moment - Ben E. King & The Drifters version
This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) - Talking Heads
Perfect Day - Lou Reed
Center of Gravity - Yo La Tengo
All Day & All of the Night - The Kinks
Come Rain or Come Shine - either by Ray Charles or Billie Holiday
The Luckiest - Ben Folds
Just Like Heaven - The Cure
Close to Me - The Cure
Moon River - Frank Sinatra version
I Love How You Love Me - Camera Obscura version
I Can't Help Falling in Love with You - Elvis Presley
I Only Have Eyes for You - Art Garfunkel version
Mushaboom - Feist
Unchained Melody - The Righteous Brothers (I know, almost as over-used as "At Last" by Etta James, but so good!)
Whichever songs were awesome, but not the best fit for first dance are going to be played somewhere throughout the night. There's plenty of opportunities, with the cake cutting, anniversary song, etc.
Friday, November 20, 2009
So how this miracle finally happened? What did it finally take for us to lock it all in? Simple - We decided to chuck the Humboldt Park Fieldhouse idea and we're relocating the reception to the Logan Square Auditorium. (Psst: Pictures coming soon, I took a few on my phone but I don't have time to upload 'em).
Yesterday we met with potential caterers (a few folks with Honest Foods) to scope out Humboldt Park and map out some ideas about the rentals and layout. Once we finished, we popped in to check one last time and see if by some chance things had finally come together. No such luck. It still wasn't ready (through no fault of Neirda's, she is a super chill and pleasant lady to that is just waiting on the City of Chicago to get it's self together).
I guess that was sort of the breaking point on this. With less than a year until the wedding and no contract, we're getting increasingly nervous. They did promise to hold the date, but without a deposit or any sense of what the cost will be hiked up to, it doesn't seem smart to keep waiting. We've been asking since May and it's making it really hard to budget for everything else. I know, there are plenty of couples that get hitched in well under a year, but there are also hundreds of couples who book locations far in advance and with a limited budget in a big city where most venues run $5,000 and up for an empty space, it just seemed to risky to bank on a venue that still isn't ready.
We haven't completely given up on Humboldt Park though. We still plan to host the ceremony at the Humboldt Park boathouse, (if things get too crazy with the wait on that, at least it's just an hour event and there are other parks in the city) and in some ways that works out better than the boathouse/fieldhouse situation. If you're livin' around Logan Square or considering a wedding/event over there, here's a couple notes on the auditorium:
$3,275 is the cost for a Saturday rental (if you're planning a Friday night gig, you'll save yourself $500 but with so many out-of-towners this wasn't something we could consider).
Security, chairs and tables (includes 60 inch rounds, high boys and low tables), ice, soda, a sound technician and amp/stage equipment are included in the $3,275.
With all the sound equipment access, booking a DJ with a lot of talent but not a lot of gear may be easier.
You can choose to buy your own alcohol or buy it through the venue if you'd like.
You can bring your own bartenders through your caterer or pay for their bartenders.
You can choose any caterer you'd like as long as they sign a certification with the venue (pretty standard, but the choosing who you want isn't so standard).
The venue can fit 350 people normally, and we had the luck of seeing a wedding being set up for late this evening. The couple was having 208 guests, and was able to fit 26 large rounds, 14 low boys, buffet food tables, the head table and ample dance space.
The closer bathrooms and kitchen space are being updated and will be finished by the time we have our wedding next year.
It's right off the Logan Square blue line stop and Milwaukee bus route (a big plus for city-livin' guests).
It ties into our idea for the flyer-style wedding invite pretty nicely.
The only really big concern for us is the wheelchair accessibility (there isn't any). There is also no service elevator, so everything has to be hiked up some stairs. Bands do it plenty of time for shows and with the tables and chairs already available on-site, at least it's a few less things to haul. Still, we have some family members who might struggle with the lack of elevator situation. I checked in with family to make sure they are comfortable with it because I'd had to sign up somewhere and have people not come for that reason. It seems like we'll be okay...
Also, a lot of people complain about the sound system for rock shows. Johnny and I have both been to concerts there and while we agree it's not our location of choice for shows (the sound bounced off the walls as sound tends to do in large, gym-like spaces) it's a wedding. We will have to double check it's all on the up-and-up, but I think we can work with it.
We're getting married! With an actual space to have the party and everything. Whew, finally!
Monday, November 9, 2009
I've been picking up a few extra shifts a week at the pub and I've gotten a few more freelance opportunities in the past few weeks. It's not enough to be a full time situation, but every little bit helps and the more we look at the costs of wedding crap, the more I'm happy to take on any assignment. (Hint, hint, if you happen to be looking for a writer/publicist at the moment).
J-cakes has been working a more shifts at Piece Out while looking for a full-time gig and he's been getting a lot of stuff together for his band, Sadhu Sadhu. The band is actually working on recording their first full-length album and he does all the album/poster artwork so he's had a lot going on. I'm excited to see how the recording pans out he's definitely been working his butt off.
The nice part about recent developments is that we now have our days off together, vs. nights, so whenever we think about something else that might be cool for the wedding we can actually make appointments to meet vendors and both be there. J-cakes is actually looking forward to parts of the wedding planning beyond just setting up the bachelor party (which is more of the stereotypical dude action). It should be interesting to see how we mesh all these ideas together.
Anyways, as part of the planning, we met with Deb from Art of Imagination last Thursday. (If you've been reading this blog for a bit, I mentioned a few posts ago that we were supposed to meet up, but a work deadline got in the way).
Deb was met us on-site at Humboldt Park Field House so we could get a better idea of what we might need to make the place a little fancier. Again, if you read this blog, you've seen this before, but one of my biggest concerns - and the whole reason we needed to meet with Deb in the first places - is to figure out a way to tastefully cover this:
Fortunately, Deb came prepared to consider not only the mural situation, but also tips on how to mask the basketball hoops in the gym area, what ideas might look nice to help create an entrance, and which lighting might work best around the place, among other ideas. Besides appreciating her eye for this sort of thing, we also liked that Deb didn't just spout off the priciest options when suggesting ideas to us. While we wandered around the place she made a point to mention ideas we might be able to put together ourselves and suggestions on where to go to get keep it on the cheap. The whole meeting made us both feel much more at ease and I know we won't be able to afford all of her ideas, but I'm still excited to see what the possibilities could look like. Here's are some examples of event work Deb has done in the past:
Friday, October 23, 2009
Once we started talking about our wedding, we knew we would probably be no exception to the photo booth mania, seeing as how we can hardly go to Empty Bottle or Rainbo Club without sneaking in a strip or two, and why not? They're fun, they have a special way of looking cool and creating a memory that might have otherwise gone undocumented and they offer a chance to cram a whole bunch of people into a small space and take silly photos. What's not to love?
We were already planning on renting a vintage photobooth from 312photobooth.com and asking guests to rubber cement their photo strips scrapbook style and jot down a few words to us, thus operating as a much more fun and functional guest book. (I personally loathe the regular guest book, no one ever really signs more than their half-assed signature). We figured guests could also take a few strips home for themselves, eliminating the guest favor dilema, but then I did some research.
As it turns out, (and not to my complete surprise) photo booths are not cheap to rent - think $1000 rental range. Not really a cost-saving idea, so I've been thinking about other options. I've seen some very lovely photos of weddings and other parties where people have gone the DIY route and done a great job of creating their own cloth backdrops to mimic the photo booth feel, like this gorgeous backyard wedding backdrop from GreenWeddingShoes.blogspot.com...
And there's the adding of giant picture frames and goofy props, which has been a wedding photo mainstay for a few years now...
It's all very pretty (and in some cases, incredibly impressive) but I still saw us sticking with the real deal, until I came across this AMAZING photobooth idea:
and then saw this at OffBeat Bride:
And now I am completely obsessed with the idea of creating our own photo booth. How are we are ever going to top the amazing ingenuity and creativity of these kids? I'm still not sure, but I'm working on some ideas!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The upside? Park lady confirmed the following:
- We can definitely go til' midnight at the venue.
- We can definitely bring in the caterer of our choice.
- They have 21 round tables that can seat between 8-10 people which is exactly how many we need (we were able to whittle down the guest list to 225, and with a lot of out-of-towners, we're guessing we'll have 200 or less at the wedding).
- We can use the concession stands as bar set-ups and coat rooms for no additional costs.
After we wrapped up lunch, we talked to Danielle (one of the chefs) a bit about weddings and Humboldt Park and she said that Flying Saucer actually does catering. While we have a few places in mind at the moment (Honest Foods and Centered Chef) Flying Saucer does have the advantage of specializing in vegan/veg food and being a block away from Humboldt Park (something that is especially helpful considering the tiny, tiny kitchen in the Fieldhouse space). Not sure who we're going to go with in the end, but it's cool to know they have the capabilities.
Next up, a lot of decoration talk with Art of Imagination. They're based in Humboldt Park/Logan Square and specialize in drapery (if you've ever gone to a Stan Mansion event before, chances are you have seen their work since Deb from A-of-I has an exclusive contract with Stan Mansion). We chatted a bit and have an in person appointment next week to meet at Humboldt and go over some ideas. We're hoping we can do this on the cheap. My biggest concern is if she can help us temporarily cover this:
Nice for a community space, not so nice for a wedding.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
This is why I am enlisting J-Cakes (the fiance) for this very important task.
Like myself, J-Cakes is equally enthralled at the idea of spending the morning trying to hammer down the hidden details and costs for our wedding venue with the hard-to-reach lady who works in Humboldt Park. If I were being honesty with myself, the only thing really motivating us to go is the desire to get this boring part out of the way and the promise of stopping for brunch at the Flying Saucer.
My theory is, strength in numbers. The reality is, neither one of us is particularly intimidating and I have no idea how much difference it will make to have us both there. I figure even if the worst-case scenarios play out to be true...
a.) They still won't let us sign a contract
b.) The prices were raised to something ridiculous
c.) The stuff they said was cool to do at the venue turns out to be not cool (such as staying at the venue until 12:30 or bringing our own caterers with)
d.) All three
...at least I'll be hanging out with my honey, walking through the park and getting some Metropolis coffee out of the deal.
The bad news is, even if all the best case scenarios plan out and things go smoothly (which will lead to us immediately attempting to do airborne high-fives the whole walk home), we still have to consider the completely shitty weather that was October 9th this year. Shitty weather that could very well be the same next year. In other words, the picturesque ideal of having the ceremony in the Boathouse and the reception in the Field House might not work out completely. I just imagine it would be hard to convince people to want to stand outside in the cold, close to water (albeit, not a large body of water, but water nonetheless) while we talk about how much we love each other and everyone huddles together for warmth.
So now, we need a backup plan for the outdoor ceremony if we go with Plan A, and a more flushed out idea of what Plan B looks like in case it ends up actually being our new Plan A.
Sometimes, I wonder if this really needs to be this complicated. Then I remember that a big part of that complication comes from us being poor and kind of picky.
Time to nut up or shut up?
(You'll have to forgive that last part. It's a horrible, but I just went to see Zombieland recently).
Go Team Awesome!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
This does not look good.
Monday, October 12, 2009
- I spent July 28th - September 1st logging into Livestrong.com, where I walked almost every day and logged in everything I ate (or at least my best guess at everything I ate) and ended up losing 15 pounds. Sometime during I pulled some muscle in my leg and got a nasty knee injury, which led to not walking, then we lost the internet for about 3 weeks. By the time we got it back, 10 of the 15 pounds were back on and my enthusiasm for calorie counting has significantly waned.
- I went on a few job interviews and sent a bunch of resumes out. I regret to state that my employment status did not change. (This relates to the planning, because we're pretty much broke).
- I went to Renegade Craft Fair and got a crapload of business cards. If my attempt to letterpress or screenprint fails, I have a lot of lovely crafters in mind for the invites.
- I ate a pint of Ben and Jerry's while looking at giant magazine of wedding dresses I can't fit in.
- I had one wicked fight with the fiance (which was pretty surprising, we're usually pretty chill).
- I watched all of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons in order. (I would use "watched" loosely, since it was sort of my in the background thing, but still).
- I did a bunch of freelance work.
- I threw a few mini tantrums when we finally fixed the internet and then the computer crashed altogether (still in the process of dealing with this. Not having Microsoft Word or Excel is a real challenge).
- Spent a lot of time at the Bucktown library using the computer.
Let the fun, and starvation dieting begin!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I've been sort of sliding on this part of the process because I'm still waiting on Johnny's vote for the suit (light gray, dark brown or very black) which will have a bit of an impact on what we should go with. Unfortunately, so far the only response I have gotten on his preferences has been to find something that "looks like something Nick Cave would wear" (see picture above). What he's looking for is a bit of a slimmer cut on the suit, but this direction is vague at best and does not a color scheme decision make, so I've still been tossing around ideas for what might be the best mix for our low-key, middle-of-the-park shindig. Apparently, there's a lot to consider and this post by The Knot just sort of made me way more anxious then I needed to be.
Call me crazy, but with Fall being the backdrop I felt like windows were the most important part of the process. Just open them up and let autumn do it's thing. Unfortunately, just getting any Fall-ish colors together and lacking some kind of structure could make things look pretty messy, and avoiding a scheme all together makes all the details much more annoying to figure out. When you choose two or three colors and roll with it, decisions like guest favors and invitations become that much easier to consider. So, here's what we're thinking about...
Burnt Orange/Pumpkin and Chocolate Brown:
At first I thought we should stay away from this 1960/70s wedding combination (not to mention, the team colors for the Cleveland Browns) but the combination has kind of won me over. It's very Fall, pretty dramatic and a good solid base for dropping in other Fall colors wherever we need the decoration. There's something kind of Halloween about it, and that's our favorite holiday. Wedding is in October. We may just have a match.
Chocolate Brown, Carmel and White Chocolate (with some Gold in the mix):
Also known as Brown, Tan and Ivory-ish, the other way just makes it sounds nicer (and more tasty). Whatever you want to call it, this was our first idea for a color scheme. It was the idea we conjured up while freshly engaged and still backpacking through Europe. On the upside, it's clean and modern, classic and gorgeous. On the downside, our location isn't very modern/sleek-looking so this is for detail might get lost in the shuffle or look too minimal if done wrong. I think if we had gone with an art gallery or cheaper version of Cafe Brauer, this might have been perfect, but now I'm not so sure.
Option Three is really sort of a combination deal of both of those with a little crimson thrown in for good measure.
Sometimes I really wish we could just buy a house because there are so many cool ideas I have for a backyard outdoor wedding (read: our dream wedding) but unfortunately a park is as close as we can get.
Any suggestions on colors? Cool shit you've seem somewhere else? Lemme know.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Additionally, my dress meeting with Elise prompted me to think a little more about the massive amounts of poundage I hope to extract from my body before the wedding. If that is actually going to happen, I will probably need to stop ordering french fries as a side and you know, workout once in awhile.
In 2008, I spent my summer back from Europe focused on losing weight. It started with a birthday gift for a week-long trip to Fitness Ridge (fat camp/spa for grown ups) during which I dropped 8 pounds in one week. My then-boyfriend/now-fiance and I had sold our belongings to finance a 2 month backpacking trip through Europe which followed the Fitness Ridge trip just a week later. I ate copious amounts of bread and cheese and other delicious European stuff while away and figured if I kept off the 8 pounds I worked so hard to lose I would keep going, and if I gained a ton more during the backpacking trip I would just give up.
Fortunately, I lost four more pounds while in Europe (nothing short of a miracle, seriously we ate bread/cheese/tapenade everywhere we went). Post trip, my new fiance and I were stuck living apart with our parents in separate states (Ohio and Indiana, but possibly also state of minds) and so I used my time to keep the fitness train on track. By the time I moved back to Chicago with Johnny in July last year, I had dropped 74 pounds, just walking/jogging daily and tracking what I ate on Post-It's. At the time, I used sites like DailyPlate.com and CaloriesPerHour.com a lot to keep all the "I'll just have a bite of this" and "what's one more helping's?" in line. It helped keep me motivated and they seemed to be the best sites for accurate calorie counting.
Fast forward to Tuesday of this week: A little browsing lead me to find that Daily Plate and Calories Per Hour have both hooked up with Live Strong.com to create a tracking site/group support forum for people looking to stay fit and active. I signed up and I am three days into tracking. I have lost 2 pounds already (one of those can probably be chalked up to water-weight, but still) and so I'm back on the wagon. It's a pretty cool site, actually, and you don't have to wear those yellow bracelets to be a part of it.
So until I make a little progress on the financial/career part of my life, I think this blog may run a little slow. Expect a shit-ton of pick-up on the posting come October, because with one year to go there will be a lot to blog about.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
So, I've seen the perfect dress done in real life, and I've known plenty of ladies lucky enough to have snagged "The Dress" at sample sales, eBay and vintage stores. There's also Running of the Brides events at Filene's Basement where tons of ladies line up and wait to bum rush the door and frantically grab dresses hoping to find the right one. (Reminder for Chicago brides-to-be: The Running of the Brides in Chicago is on State Street and happens tomorrow, July 24th).
In any case, as a bride-to-be that is not sporting a sample size physique, I'm kind of doubting the sample sale and vintage route will work out the way I'd like it to. I'll keep looking and keeping my fingers crossed, but if money allows it, I'd love to have my dress custom made, so I've started looking into it.
Last week, I met with Elise Bergman, local Chicago designer with a strong grasp on how to use eco-friendly materials fashionably and expert on convertible dresses. I posted about her dresses before (see the post on Bridesmaid dresses) and wanted to see what something like this might cost and what kind of time it might take.
I headed over to Elise's current studio in Ukrainian Village and arrived a little earlier than expected. Actually, 20 minutes earlier (I forgot my phone at home and didn't want to risk being late) but Elise and her intern were incredible welcoming. As instructed, I brought some pictures and ideas of what I'm looking for and we sat and talked about the specifics. Here's some ideas on what I'd like...
I hope to post more pictures as things come together, but it's still pretty early on in the planning, so that's all I've got for now.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Despite being the most elaborate party we will probably have ever thrown in our lifetimes, not everything about the planning process is fun (shocker, I know, and for more on that, see previous blog on reception site hunting). However, one very fun part is the part where we go through the process of figuring out which wedding cake to get. In our case, the part where we get to stuff ourselves silly with cupcake-y goodness.
I had done a few cake tastings in Ohio. One was at a lady's house who is a friend of my mom's and one at the Bake Shop in Ghent in Bath, OH. The Bake Shop in Ghent makes this amazing date cake with cream cheese frosting and has been a cult favorite in my family for years. In addition to making one of the most delicious cakes I have ever had in my life, the lady who owns the show is also incredibly welcoming, and when Johnny and I originally planned to get hitched in Ohio, we were completely sold on going with this bake shop. As bigger fans of flavor vs. fondant and form, we figured cupcakes would be nicest way to go and the best way to have a little variety. As an added bonus, there's not scary hold-your-breath-and-hope-the-don't-drop-your-super-expensive-wedding-cake moment while you're waiting on the delivery, and cupcakes are (as a general rule) cheaper by comparison.
In any case, the relocation to Chicago meant kissing our delicious cupcake and amazing deal (at $.75 per cupcake and $25 for a smaller cake for us to cut) goodbye.
Following this decision, I did remember the tasty cupcakes I had tasted before had often come from Sweet Mandy B's. Maybe it's because it's in Lincoln Park and a lot of big agency office types commute from there, but in my intern days I remember many a Sweet Mandy B's cupcake making it's way into our office to celebrate everything from birthdays to promotions. It was as good of place as any to start looking.
I made us an appointment and when tasting day finally came, Johnny and I got in a bit of a fight. (Logistics for appointments sometimes put us a little on edge when we have a lot of other stuff going on). Anyways, I ran out to make sure we made our appointment on time and Johnny finished up his sketch for Chicago Independent and promised to head over as soon as he was done.
Having past the shop before without actually going in, the first thing that struck me was how cute the place is. Lots of pastels and the kind of decorating that plays up the inherent cuteness of a place that makes cupcakes and other baked goods. It's probably a weird thing to note, but I was happy to see that the staff was mostly the young and creative tattooed-type. Maybe it's because of the crowd we run in, but that kind of thing makes me feel more comfortable.
Anyways, once I was done gawking at all of the tasty treats at the display counter, I was seated and asked if I would like any coffee or water and presented with 12 cupcakes with various flavors and frosting...
Johnny was still running a little late, so I thumbed through the photo albums of specialty cakes and attempting to channel the willpower to not get started without him.
Since our previous tastings were with people we've met before and since we're not the kind of people who are usually find ourselves signed on for tastings, my fiance and I were not entirely sure how this was supposed to go down. Do we pay for this? How many do we try? What exactly is the etiquette for this? How many can we eat before we get physically ill, that kind of thing. Fortunately for us, Tim, a very knowledgeable staff member was able to walk us through the process with incredible ease.
Among the cupcakes we tried was a seasonal special - Strawberry with Strawberry frosting - one we were informed would be traded in for a pumpkin cupcake in a few months. We dug in, trying get past the initial awesomeness of being presented with so many different delicious options to try to figuring out which favorites we had in common. The Banana one with cream cheese frosting stood out as a favorite for both of us, while the Red Velvet (SMB's knock 'em dead best seller) was a little drier than I remembered it being before. Tim patiently watched us make our way through about six cupcakes, split between the two of us, before we called it quits and presented him with our questions. Here's the scoop:
- They do not deliver, but most people use Chicago Messenger Service, send their caterer or send someone from the wedding party.
- The standard cupcakes can come in mini, regular or jumbo and range anywhere from $1.12 for minis to $3.75 for jumbos. "Standard" includes the cost for their cream cheese and a few different butter cream frosting with their standard cake flavors (including red velvet, carrot and banana chocolate chip).
- Premium cupcakes (ones with specialty flavors and fillings) can be done, but do cost extra. A regular-sized, filled cupcake will cost you $3.25.
- They can make your cupcakes the morning of your event if you schedule your pick up time for after 2:00 p.m.
- They will work with you on ideas for new specialty flavors.
We're not totally sure where we're gonna go for our cupcakes, since we still have to workout a vegan option, but Sweet Mandy B's is definitely on top in the running.
Since the whole wedding is following a Fall theme, here are the four flavors we're thinking about:
- Chocolate with Raspberry Butter cream Frosting
- Pumpkin Spice with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Banana (with added Walnuts) and Maple Butter cream Frosting (*this one was not an offering at SMB's, but they did say they could probably work with us on creating it)
Monday, July 13, 2009
Option 1: 8-10 various apps, passed around for what would have been dinner hour and then set up for stations for the night. Possibly with a mashed potato bar set up (with a vegan mash and raw jicama with mustard seasoning, of course) and an array of a buffet of tater toppings, including: cheddar cheese, blue cheese, vegan cheese, scallions, bacon, fakin’ bacon, corn, shaved fennel, roasted garlic, sautéed mushrooms and more.
Option 2: Mini veggie, (free-range) chicken and shrimp kabobs with four different sauces. Passed for an hour and then set up at the buffet table with the afformentioned mashed potato bar and probably a couple other apps, but we have no idea what those would be just yet.
Ultimately, we are going to have to go with whatever fits the capabilities of the caterer we choose, but to help us get a better idea of what we'd like, we've been checking out our favorite vegan/veg cooking websites and the the online menus of some of our favorite Chicago restaurants for a little extra inspiration. Here's a few foods we feel would really make our menu:
Photo credit: http://static.px.yelp.com/bphoto/WUwSCqSShaEQLVgDo96jIw/ms
If you've ever been to Mana on
Karyn's Cooked was the setting of our second date as a couple and a birthday night for two of Johnny's closest friends. Johnny broke his straightedge streak with a glass a mead that day (and has had an addiction to craft beers and other adult bevarages ever since) but what also caught our attention was the food. It took two years before I even knew about the Karyn's Raw location, but the sliced shiitake mushroom cap carpaccio seasoned with pink Himalayan salts sounds like the right amount of fancy for this occasion.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/quintanaroo/1517635450/
Chicago Diner, another
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gailtang/2749071504/
Lastly, as a nod to my favorite Chicago restaurant (5 stars for tastiness, great servers, price, location and indoor/outdoor seating) I would love to include something as tasty as their smoked gouda mac n' cheese. I had my first bite of the stuff years ago, and have nicknamed it mac n' crack ever since, due to my inability to restrain myself from ordering it every time we got there. I have no idea how to make mac and cheese work for our wedding menu since we're doing apps only, but if I can figure it out finding something as tasty as the smoked gouda mac n' cheese at Handlebar it would be amazing.
Some other delicious ideas include:
- Free-range and faux grilled chicken skewers with a honey mustard, spicy BBQ and some kind of Asian-style dipping sauces
- Battered pumpkin or zucchini blossoms with a couple sauces.
- Panko stuffed mushrooms
- Warm tomato-basil soup with mini gruyere grilled cheese skewered sandwiches
- Grilled apple and pear slices with some kind of caramel dipping sauce
- Crostini with gorgonzola, caramelized onions, and fig jam
- Asian seasoned ahi tuna tartare
- Endive spears with hummus or vegan-style mushroom pate
- Focaccia with hoisin sauce, sauteed onions, rosemary
- Puff pastry tart with sundried tomato walnut pesto, roma tomatoes, and rosemary
- Herbed puff pastry cheese twists
- Smoked salmon cakes with some fancy aioli-type sauce
- Curried butternut squash soup (served in shot glasses)
- Spanakopita triangles
- Jerk seitan on plantain chips
- Mozzarella ball, fresh basil, sundried tomato skewers
- Veggie egg rolls with peanut sauce
- Pumpkin ravioli bites
- Vegan pumpkin sage balls with spicy dipping sauces
- Vegan meatballs with dipping sauces
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Unless that couple happens to be us.
I'm not saying we wouldn't be interested in the classes, and I doubt Johnny would mind, but it's just sort of...boring. Like something you have to do because it's something people do when they get married. I always thought it would be much more fun to do some kind of choreographed dance with the whole wedding party. (In those times where you have a choice to go silly over serious, I always go for silly).
Being an October wedding, and since we're both big fans of Michael Jackson music, I had my heart set on having the whole party do a routine to Michael Jackson's "Thriller." It was a total go, until I saw how many times it's been done before. (And in the video below, done very well)
So then Johnny got the idea that we could maybe start with a slow song and then cut into something faster and more ridiculous. Unfortunately, this is also not an original concept and something that has been done even more so than the "Thriller" dance...
So then, keeping with the Michael Jackson idea, we though, maybe we could be the first couple do the song to "Beat It," complete with the choreographed dancing pocket knife fight.
Or, maybe we could get past not being that into FatBoy Slim and resurrect that totally believable dance scene from "She's All That"
We're still not sold on exactly how it's gonna go down, but it's gotta happen. Now we just need to find the right choreographer and do the big dress rehearsal after the rehearsal dinner. Got any Chicago suggestions on where we might find the talented soul to get everyone's two left feet moving in the right direction?
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I have always thought appetizers and desserts were the best part about going out to eat, so our decision to trade in the traditional sit-down set up in favor of a heavy hor d'oeurves reception just seems right somehow.
Of course, there are pros and cons...
- More focus on the best parts of the wedding - the dancing, drinking and mingling.
- No awkward head table away from the rest of the party. We're gonna be all dressed up to party, not sit in front of the party.
- Easier way to make sure all guest dietary needs are addressed. As pescatarians, we've attended plenty of parties where hosts were gracious enough to keep us in mind when making their menus, so we feel the least we could do is have a couple vegan options and gluten-free choices for our friends and fam.
- No check boxes for "Chicken, Fish, Beef or Tofu" to keep track of.
- No assigned seating, (with the exception of reserving some tables for our parents and older or disabled guests who might not be comfortable hanging out at high top tables all night).
- As I mentioned, appetizers and desserts are the best part, and they offer the chance to show off some creativity.
- Less costly for centerpieces and rentals
- We don't really have enough room at the venue for full sit-down set up, but we could probably try to make it work. Going apps only means more room to mingle.
- I once heard my grandmother describe in great horror, her friend traveling to a wedding that only served a few small appetizers and coffee, tea and soft drinks. While we'll have plenty of booze, we don't want anyone feeling slighted cause we decided to go with hors d'oeuvres only.
- We figured we would have the apps passed for an hour (during what would normally be dinner time) and then have a station set up buffet style so people could graze throughout the evening until it was time for dessert. However, figuring out where that table for this station would go and what would sit there in the meantime in kind of confusing. I guess what I mean is, we're still figuring out the logistics.
- People sometimes think cheap when they see apps only. Worst yet, sometimes passed apps can actually cost more than the sit-down style so then you look cheap and you're spending a lot of money which just adds insult to injury.
Which way do you think is the best way to go?
Monday, July 6, 2009
I came across this RedEye article by Alice Truong and couldn't help but run through a series of emotions as I read it. If you don't feel like following the link, here's the synopsis:
- Weddings are expensive...I am sure this part is coming as a somewhat of a shock, so just let that sink in a second before you continue...
- The reign of the $50K wedding stuff is a thing of the past for most sane people.
- Chicago wedding costs are down by 6.5 percent to $22,642 for 2009, according to The Wedding Report, a Tucson, Ariz.-based wedding research company.
- In 2008, the number of Chicago weddings performed by Cook County Circuit Court judges dipped to 10,510 from 11,434 in 2005.
- Us Weekly and weddingchannel.com are holding their second annual Dream Wedding, which serves as sort of a lottery ticket done wedding style. Usmagazine.com began taking votes Friday to narrow it between 10 final couples.
- Destination weddings are increasingly popular, and according to theknot.com, one in five couples planned an out-of-town wedding in 2008. The article source attributes this to thinning the guest list, and while that's certainly part of it, I think the part where you can double-up the honeymoon and having a day-of wedding coordinator at your hotel helps cut out worrying about as many smaller details. Not mention, after dealing with hours of research and finding the same sad state of pricey places all around you, it's hard not to just want to say "f-this" and go get hitched somewhere warm.
- According to a 2008 survey by theknot.com, Chicago is one of the 10 most expensive cities in which to wed. And from the experience I am having, I completely agree.
Reading the article also made me feel like I have to prove we can do this for under $20K. (To both prove it and because we don't have that kind of money, but still...)
So eat that, average wedding. We're gonna go DIY or local like this city's never seen.