Sunday, February 28, 2010

Clueless About Bridesmaid Etiquette (What I Wish I Knew Then)

I had a real eye opening experience as a bridesmaid.  It was the first wedding I’d been to since I was a child so I what not really up on my bridesmaid etiquette when my friend asked me to be one.  I was 21 at the time and didn't know what being a bridesmaid entailed, so I asked someone (don't remember who, probably my mom) and they said "you just get invited to parties and show up at the wedding.”  I hadn't talked much to this friend much since we'd graduated college, but I was happy for her, so I said sure, I’d be happy to be in her wedding.

She told me that I could find my own bridesmaid shoes so I’d be comfortable.  And since our bridesmaids gifts were candles it seemed that jewelry was up to us too, so I bought a cute necklace and earrings that were perfect bridesmaid jewelry to coordinate with the dress, but versatile enough that I still wear 10 years later.

All that was fine so far.  But I'd never driven out of state on my own before and as I’ve mentioned before, I have an awful sense of direction (this was long before GPS, kids).  So my stress over the situation started knowing I was going to drive 6 hours to get to her wedding (and yes, I got so lost it added another hour onto my travel time).

Then I learned I had to pay for my bridesmaid dress.  It makes sense to me now, I mean, the bridesmaid gets to keep the dress (though she doesn’t get to choose it) but mom hadn’t mentioned that was customary. And it was actually a very pretty dress.  A lot like the purple bridesmaid dress below.

So while I don’t fault her for making me pay, it was a real shock to my system this bridesmaid dress was more than twice as much as any dress I'd ever bought for myself.  I never bought “couture” before; I handmade my own prom dress.  That freaked me out right there, because I had JUST moved out of my parents' house and started full time work and grad school was not used to supporting myself or budgeting money.  And due to unforeseen circumstances, money was REALLY tight.

Then came the hairstyle I had to pay for.  It was 10 times more money than I was used to paying for a haircut, and at least a haircut lasts more than a single day!

Then the manicure I had to pay for.  I never had one before; I do a fine job of filing and polishing; always thought they were a waste of money.

She didn't tell me about the hair and manicure until I had already arrived in her state, so there was no backing out then!

And then, nothing to do with money, but she wanted me to do a reading.  I'm not of the same faith as her, and when I looked at the piece it made me so uncomfortable that I finally did draw the line there when she told me the day before the wedding that I’d be doing this, and handed it to me.  I felt horrible because I know it was her day, but I just couldn't bring myself to stand in a church and say things I didn't believe in.

Lots of this is common knowledge in terms of bridesmaid etiquette I guess, but back then it wasn't common knowledge to ME and it was a horrible experience.  I was already in debt, so the whole time I felt so mortified, but went along with all the expenses without one word because I didn't want to put a damper on her day.  The friendship didn't last long after that, but like I said, it had been dwindling prior anyways so I felt like she just wanted another person in purple next to her.  I don't think she did any of the above to be mean spirited or greedy, she was NEVER like that.  My point is just that some people have NO CLUE about wedding protocol, and though I asked, I was not given the whole story!

So based on that bad experience, I started thinking about the whole concept of “the roles of people in my wedding.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

Dealing with Uninvited Wedding Guests

I’ve read about other brides' moms inviting guests who they don’t want coming to their wedding.  Guests they don't want to invite for various reasons.  It might be personal, or it might be that they want to keep the guest list under a certain number because of the size of their venue or budget.  I’ve always respected that.  And for months now I’ve felt very confident that I was not going to have to deal with that awkward situation at my wedding.  (Oops).  Because I know my mom, she always says that I'm an adult and can make my own choices (and it's my money) and she supports my decisions.  (...)

See, early on in my wedding planning process, I had some fears about our wedding guest list.  One had to do with an estranged family member, but that person is not the focus of this post.  Another fear had to do with the fact that Adam is very shy and not good with crowds (and though I don’t get “stage fright,” I am also painfully shy) so I want to keep the wedding guest list small.

So I talked to mom about my worries about the guest list.  She agreed that this estranged family member does not need to be invited to the wedding.  Totally respected my feelings and fears about the situation.  It was a HUGE load off my mind.  During this same conversation, I let her know about how concerned I am about Adam being comfortable too.  I want him to enjoy our wedding and be more happy than nervous!  So I mentioned another family member that I was not really comfortable inviting.  Her sister.

Now, my mom complains about my aunt all the time.  She tries to be controlling, she’s kooky, and she’s very self centered.  Mom’s successfully dodged her visits for several years now (she invites herself over every summer and mom’s figured out a way out of it each time).  So we were on the same page when I said, “I’m not sure where to seat her…” and mom said “You don’t have to invite her either.”  Cool.

*Takes a moment to prepare for a flaming for this post*

It’s not that I hate my aunt.  She’s not awful to me.  It’s just that she acts REALLY entitled.  She will hit on married or 20 year old men.  I could see her hitting on Adam on our wedding day, and/or his dad, who is in a relationship (seen her do similar in the past).  She’s fussy, and I could see her insult our caterer (seen her do this in restaurants).  She’s a fashion consultant so she prides herself on what she wears, and I know she would be the one to wear white to my wedding (seen her dress inappropriately for a funeral).  And how often are my new English family going to get together with my blood relatives?  I’m thinking so few that it could take DECADES to erase the image of my family that she paints in a single day from the minds of my new family.  And I’m thinking that her presence is NOT going to make the day more special for Adam (or anyone else, but again, I’m most worried about my future husband on OUR wedding day).

I have a feeling many people would say, “But she’s family.  That’s what the wedding is about, not proper behavior, so laugh it off.”  And I get that.  I do.

But when I think about our situation coupled with my relationship with her in general, my gut tells me to just not invite her.  I haven’t seen her in about 10 years.  She’s never bought me a birthday gift.  When my sister was still a kid and mom was getting things set for Nana's funeral, she bought HERSELF lunch and told us she didn’t get enough for us so we’d have to go buy something (I’d just got my license and we were in a strange town and there was literally no food in Nana’s fridge.  Also, this was well before the GPS was invented and I have NO sense of direction).  So yeah, she’s family, but I’m having fewer than 25 guests.  IMMEDIATE family and friends.  I think that is grounds for disqualifying her.  And it was mom’s idea, so it’s not hurting HER any.  No problem, right?

Well, tonight mom told me, “Your worst nightmare is coming true.”


“Your aunt has invited herself to your wedding.”

“Oh really.”  I wouldn’t say it’s my worst nightmare, and I was more amused than upset.  “How did she do that?  We don’t even have a date set.”

“Oh.”  Mom thinks a minute.  “Well, I told her you were hoping to get married next summer.” 

“Oh.  YOU told her that, hmm?”

“Yeah.  Oh, I remember.  She was interested about those bridal shows you go to…”

[I’m sorry, just an aside here:  Once she found out that I have been having fun attending bridal shows, she started signing up for some.  She is not getting married or even seeing anyone currently.]

“She was interested in those bridal shows you go to and I told her that you need to tell them the date of your wedding so you tell them August 15, 2011.”

“Ahh.”  I didn’t say anything else.  One of us changed the subject at that point (I think we were getting out of the car and heading into a store and started focusing on the thrill of the impending shopping).  But what I was thinking was, “I wonder how YOU are going to tell her that she’s not coming.”

Like I said.  My aunt doesn’t even buy me birthday gifts.  She’s never called or written to me.  I haven’t seen or spoken to her in 10 years.  If I decided to become a Mrs. tomorrow, neglected to tell her, and she gets put off, that’s no skin off my nose.  I already have my list of who's getting an invitation.

Mom’s the one who talks to her every other week.  Mom’s the one who suggested I don’t invite her.  Mom’s the one who told her when I hope to be getting married before we can even set a date.

Sorry mom.  This one is not my problem.

Looking at Womens Wedding Rings Some More!

Since my three ideas about what my wedding band should be were all turning out to be NOT ideal, I wasn’t sure what I wanted in womens wedding rings anymore.  But the good news was I still had LOADS of time.  Over a year to try to find a nice two tone gold wedding band.  Which means I got to look online at LOTS of pretties!
SO romantic!  If only Adam didn’t hate his handwriting.  With his OCD I just know he’d find something about his writing that he’d forever hate and obsess over when he looked down at my left hand.  Such a shame.  There’s so many pretty womens wedding rings along with the handwritten one here though.  Some with paisley, and wedding vows.  I could look at rings for hours (and I have).

Plus I don't want to deviate TOO much from the look of my rounded band, two tone round solitaire engagement ring.

I could go with my first wish for a plain yellow gold band.  If I chose something very thin it would give prominence to my engagement ring, and if I chose something rounded it would not only be very traditional, but mirror the contours of my engagement ring.  But again, I feared that it wouldn’t sit right up against my diamond.  So I realized that what I’d really like was a band that coordinates with my engagement ring.  One that is two tone, and has a twist.  That would look best, and that would mean there would be a notch that my diamond could fit beside.  But I figured that was going to be impossible.  How do you go about searching online for womens wedding rings that coordinate with a unique looking ring from a tiny family shop?

Eventually, after aimless searching of Google Images I found a ring online that is along the idea of what I wanted.  It’s very pretty, but it looks like white gold instead of yellow, which I prefer.  As I read on I learned it's actually “palladium,” whatever that is.  But at least I learned something.  First, the twist design for womens wedding rings DOES exist outside of Totang.  Second, it seems that the twist style is called an eternity band.  Ah ha!  So I continued my search, still hoping for a two tone gold wedding band.  And I found this:

Now we’re talking!  I found that that wedding ring here.  I like the yellow gold better than palladium, and that notch would DEFINITELY allow for my round diamond to nestle in.  I was finally getting somewhere!
And then I came across this ring that nicely tapers and this really cheap two tone ring (so I fear the yellows will look different,) and it’s cubic zirconia instead of diamonds.  But the funny thing about these two rings, that I just happened to come across using a Google Image search, is that they just happen to be at a shop that’s about a 2 minute walk from where Adam got my engagement ring!  Adam said we can go to HSamuel this summer; so I’m excited!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Looking For a Two Tone Gold Wedding Band

When I was a kid, I thought of womens wedding rings as being a plain gold bands.  Very shiny and rounded.  I was lucky enough to get the round diamond solitaire ring I wanted just like mom.  But her two tone gold wedding band was not the plain yellow gold one I would think of when I thought “traditional wedding rings.”  My dad’s was.  I guess on mom's left hand the diamond had the most prominence so I never paid attention to her band, but a mens wedding ring is the only one dad wore, so it stuck out more.  So for a wedding band dad’s design stuck with me as the “correct” kind.
But my view on that simple wedding band style above sort of changed.  Once Adam and I started talking about getting engaged when I went to see him in England over the summer, we started looking at rings.  He found a two tone gold wedding band, just as my engagement ring is.  But he likes a more matte finish, and a stripe running through like the two tone wedding band below, not the yellow gold band like my dad’s.  Not what I envisioned, but that was fine, I want him to have a style he’ll enjoy. 
So then I wondered about if we were “supposed” to have matching wedding rings.  However, after looking at the ladies version of the mens wedding ring he liked, I realized that instead of trying to talk him into polished gold like I like, or going with brushed gold that wouldn’t really go with my ring, maybe we’d both be happier staying true to our individual styles.  He didn’t seem to be bothered either way, so I started looking around.

Since the plain gold band idea for us was void, and the matching wedding rings for us wasn’t happening either, my next thought was about comfort.  I was a little concerned about how womens wedding rings fit up against the diamond.  I didn’t want to make a mistake I’d regret with a ring that wasn’t comfortable.  I didn’t want them to look mismatched, and I didn't want them to have a gap where they didn't fit up against each other, like this: 

Unfortunately, by the time I thought about this, learned about what a bridal set is, and saw pretty ones like these rings it was pretty much the night before we were going to pick out my engagement ring:
Ooooops.  Of course Adam wasn’t prepared for that, (I give him a lot of credit for not losing it that I even brought it up so late in the game).  I knew it wasn’t right to throw him for a loop with such a big purchase.  I felt nervous because these are going to be on my hand for the rest of my life, and my worries now were more about comfort than the look, but I knew it wouldn’t be fair to push that on him the night before.  I kicked myself for not bringing it up earlier.  I just had to drop it, wait, and hope that things worked out later.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Outdoor Summer Wedding: Wedding Guest Pet Peeves

Another thing I learned from the wedding planning website was biggest “guest pet peeves.”  Apparently, many summer wedding guests hate sitting in the hot sun for a ceremony.  When I was a kid, and felt the warm sun on me as I watched my uncle’s wedding, I thought it felt kind of nice, and peaceful.  Of course I knew I’d need a tent in case of rain, but I didn’t think I’d have to erect it in case of SUN to shield my guests from the Vitamin D and golden rays. But now that they mention it, I could see this being a problem depending on the time of year and the temperature. No one likes to be sweaty.

I guess I didn’t really think about what my responsibilities to my guests would be for a summer wedding.  I had the common sense to plan on seating for the ceremony and bottled water under the seats.  But having a tent in case of sun?  An air conditioner designed for tents?  Holding a morning or evening ceremony?  I hadn’t thought about that.  And I didn’t like these options either.

A tent would ruin the feeling I was going for, the whole point of having a summer outdoor wedding.  The feel of the sun smiling down on us and the expansive feeling that the blue skies would provide, would all be covered up and wreck our photos.  A morning ceremony?  Well, we’re not morning people.  Plus Adam wants a nice plated dinner for our reception (not sure a multi-course lunch is really ideal).  And an evening reception would lend itself more to expectations of dancing, which we don’t want.  Plus it would mean our pictures aren’t golden summer afternoon shots.  

But they definitely had a point.  If I DON’T consider how to keep cool, I’ll sweat in my dress.  My makeup will run.  My hair will droop.  Adam’s going to be in a wool suit and pass out.  My guests will feel tortured.

Maybe an outdoor summer wedding isn’t a good idea.

But if I don’t have a summer wedding, I don’t get a week to spend with his family here, to return the hospitality that they paid me.  I don’t get a few weeks between work and wedding to unwind and prepare.  I don’t get a few weeks between work and wedding to get Adam moved in and acclimated to living here.  If we don’t have an outdoor summer wedding, there goes all my ideas for lawn games as entertainment and getting our families and friends interacting.  And of course as a teacher, I don’t want this to be me.  And a small point, but I’d like to start out a new school year with a new name so as not to confuse my students.

And thinking ahead to the future, I want an anniversary in the summer.  Ideally on the same day he proposed (August 15) but more so, I associate summer time with “our” season.  It’s when we met in person, and my happiest memories with Adam are in the summer.  I equate summer with romance now.  I really want a summer wedding.  Readers, do you have any other suggestions for me on the best way to make this work?  

Photos courtesy of:
Right About Me                            Corey Ann                Marc van der Chijs              M3umax               
M3umax                                             M3umax                   M3umax                                     Princess Ashley          
Cavinb                                                  Cavinb                       Corey Ann                                 Corey Ann               
Princess Ashley                            Corey Ann               Corey Ann                                 Tiswango         
TenthMusePhotography        M3umax                   Corey Ann       


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Looking for Bride and Groom Cake Toppers with Adam

As Adam and I were looking at wedding cakes, he had pointed out the flowers on top, and I told him that it seems that is the done thing nowadays.  Even though I’ve always kinda thought flowers on cake is weird.  They’re not edible, and don’t seem to belong.  I told him I wasn’t sure what I wanted for a cake topper.  Monogrammed wedding cake toppers, initial wedding cake toppers, hearts on the top tier; I wasn’t limiting my options yet.  So he mentioned that he likes the traditional bride and groom on the top of the cake.

I was SO psyched!  Adam with an opinion on the wedding décor!?  The cake was one thing, but this was a total shock!  And not only that, but secretly, I kinda wanted a couple for a wedding cake topper too!  I feared people might think the bride and groom on the top of the wedding cake would look a little kitchy, a little bit old fashioned, but it’s for a wedding;  If you can’t be over the top romantic then, then when?  So yes, I told him if he liked the idea, it will be so.

I told him that there was one I found at a local craft store with the couple embracing, and he asked to see but I couldn’t find it again.  So he encouraged me to keep looking, and he looked as well.  And we found cake toppers above that were by one of the same designers that I found, but it was a little bit raunchier than we wanted.  There were funny ones too, and really pretty ones, but not the couple I had in mind to show him.

 So after looking a long time, he finally found a nice, traditional one of the groom carrying the bride.  I loved it.  Not only is it nice on its own, and one I probably would have picked, but just the fact that HE chose it too sealed the deal.  We looked at a few more, (above) and there were a few nice ones, ones that both of us agreed on, but the initial butterflies I got when he picked that one weren’t there for any of those, so that’s definitely the most romantic option in my book.  Wow.

Aww :)

I know what they say, that while the marriage itself is about the couple, planning a wedding is really all about the bride, she should just pick what she likes, and the man doesn’t care anyway.  And it took me a while to get used to this, but I did.  After all, if he and I were butting heads for the whole wedding planning stuff, that wouldn’t be fun.  But to have something we agree on for OUR WEDDING felt amazing.  Not sure agreeing on wedding details is the best predictor of agreement during the marriage overall, but it can’t hurt.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Three Tiered Cake: Adam Gets in on the Wedding Planning!

Adam and I had the nicest talk today.  I told Adam about hunt for a three tiered cake that would be the right size for our small wedding guest list.  He doesn’t act too excited about most of my wedding planning (but how many grooms do?) but the one thing that never fails to pique his interest is the cake. 

By this point I had tasted wedding cakes from a handful of places at various bridal shows.  One place I had checked out was Cakes for Occasions.  They were at the Danversport Bridal show in February.  People at work rave about their gourmet cakes.  So I inquired about if they could make a three tier cake for my small guest list; I figure when the time comes I want to price shop and make an informed decision.  Unfortunately they said the smallest three tier cake they could make for a wedding was for 150 people.  So unless I have each guest bring home 5 or so pieces of cake, that’s not happening.

But there was another place I really liked that was at two separate bridal shows I went to. So I mentioned to Adam about their wedding cake flavors.  At first he said he wants a white (on the inside) cake, but I told him it’s boring, hah.  But I let him know that the beauty of a three tier wedding cake (other than the visual beauty, heh) is that we can pick different flavors for each tier!  I told him I want to pick a tier and he can pick a tier (and he can even have the big bottom tier).  So he got more adventurous, and we perused their online menu.  Now he’s leaning toward red velvet cake with black cherry frosting.  I’m leaning toward a lemon cake with raspberry preserves.  I think they’re both going to be awesome!

Once his appetite was whetted, he even started to get into the LOOK of the cake.  He showed me one, let’s say “whimsical” tier cake and I said no.  He laughed that I just shut him down instantly and I told him sorry, he can have the flavor he likes for his tier, but I am going to be very picky about the look of the cake.  I want it white.  Just white.  And a very traditional three tier cake with some sort of filigree.  The purple stripes and flowers on the black and white cake was NOT going to cut it for me at all (as always, no offense if this sounds like your dream cake, it’s just not the style I’m going for).  So he admitted that when he thinks of wedding cake, he thinks white and traditional is preferable too, and was just teasing me.  So he linked me to another tier cake.  That was the one.  That’s it.  So long as the price is as good as the taste, I’ve got my baker and I won’t even need to go the custom route.  I can point to the three tier cake on their website and tell them “do that again, for us please.” 

Maybe we’ll collaborate on the top tier, but that’s a conversation (and post) for another day.  Plus if I can manage to get him to the place for a tasting, we might find we enjoy a different flavor than we expect.
Photos courtesy of:
Afroswede          Cherry Pi           Frostnova     
Samdogs             Caribou               Daveynin
Soa2002              Donnaphoto     Amy the Nurse
Basykes              Phil_g                   Karla Cakes    

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Choosing the Bridal Party

In the early stages of “I’m engaged now what?” I started worrying about choosing my bridal party.  One thing I learned in my travels to other wedding websites is that you CAN have uneven sides when it comes to the bridal party.  Seeing it in black and white that we can have a different number of bridesmaids vs. groomsmen was SUCH a relief to me, although I felt a little silly for worrying about it in the first place.

We’re having a really small guest list.  Neither of us are close to our extended family, and we’re both pretty shy and reserved, so we want just immediate family and our close friends.  (No looking up old high school buddies on Facebook for us).  So for my bridal party I only want a maid of honor (my sister) and no bridesmaids or I wouldn’t have anyone to WATCH the ceremony, just stand beside me.  On the other hand, although Adam hasn’t exactly committed to who his best man will be and who his groomsman will be, I know he wants his brother and best friend up there with him.

I suppose I could choose one of my friends to be in the bridal party, and the others could watch.  But how do I choose just one without hurting the feelings of the others?  We met around the same time, we socialize pretty much the same amount; there is no “best friend,” we’re just equally friendly.  Preserving my relationship with all of them is more important to me than “matching” the groom’s side.  And I suppose it’s true that maybe I COULD have a discussion with Adam about having “family only” in the bridal party so the sides are balanced.  But not only is this guy his friend from childhood, but if his friend is going to the trouble of flying from England to America then he deserves a special place there.  And Adam hasn’t asked for much regarding the whole wedding thing.  So no, setting a limit wouldn’t make for a happier day for us.  And are people really going to point and whisper, "Look, they can't count, they don't have enough bridesmaids!"  Photos are just as pretty with unbalanced sides.  The couple smiles just as big.

So it’s not like prior to finding advice online about the bridal party I planned to tell Adam, “Pick one because I have one.”  I want him to have all the support that he likes, and not increase the pressure on him when it comes to the wedding.  But I feel less like I’m breaking tradition now that the internets have given me permission to just go with it.  Readers, will your bridal party be uneven?  If so, is it concerning you in terms of the ceremony or formal photos?
Photos courtesy of:
Gretchen Mahen

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Massachusetts Wedding Planning Help: Trying a Wedding Planning Website

I needed a distraction from the heartache of losing out on my dream wedding venue.  I decided it was time to check out a popular wedding planning website.

I already learned a lot from more than one wedding planning website.  Previously I found:

  • Ideas on what to do at a wedding reception other than dancing 
  • Inspiration for wedding color palettes  
  • Budget calculators that broke components of my budget down into percentages for me
  • Locations of local venues and their open house days
  • Sign ups for bridal show expo mailings  
  • Wedding planning “to do” lists and timelines
  • A free ring sizer 
  • Which flowers are in season and wouldn’t wilt for an August wedding 
  • A huge wedding dress sale thanks to a bridal shop mailing list I was on 
I never would have figured this out on my own.

    But now that I had the basics and new what stuff and money was needed for planning a wedding, I decided to check out the forums on the wedding planning website I picked.  What I really wanted now were some specific suggestions on good vendors.  I liked the caterer, bakerphotographer, dress shop, and tuxedo rental place that I’d found.  But not only did I want to check up on them before I had to book (just in CASE my gut instinct was wrong) I also wanted to find local:
    • Classical wedding musicians
    • Seamstresses
    • Makeup artists
    • Hair dressers
    • Florists for weddings
    I thought I was going to get advice about local vendors and venues, but it wasn’t quite as localized as I hoped.  This was around the time I started the idea for this blog.  I’d already done some research and learned a lot.  And since this REALLY popular website was lacking in that area, maybe I could fill a need on these big wide internets.  So I started this blog as a wedding planning website, so that if you’re planning a wedding in Massachusetts, hopefully it will be helpful for you.

    That’s not to say I didn’t learn a LOT on this particular popular wedding planning website.  These ladies had a lot of experience and a lot of opinions.  It was just a little more…personal.  They talked about mother in law problems, (and mother problems) wedding dress advice, and jewelry suggestions.  So, stuff that any bride could relate to, and benefit from, not just brides here in Massachusetts.

    But they also seemed to worry a lot about stuff that I didn’t hadn’t really thought about.  I’ve learned a lot about wedding etiquette that I just never would have imagined before.  Some made me think twice about what I planned for my wedding.  Most of it has just added to my wedding planning stress.

    • Getting a “better” engagement ring to replace the first one What?!  There’s an interesting way to emasculate your future husband.  Maybe that's easy for me to say because Adam brought me to pick mine out, but still.  Ouch. 
    • Save The Dates  The first time I read about giving guests STDs I was appalled, but later learned that it is the norm to sent out pre-invitations called “Save the Dates.” Apparently this invitation gives only the date but not the location and time. Then a second invitation will give the location and time. Why is this necessary? Do people set a date before they have a venue booked? That’s the only reason I can think why this is necessary. I don’t think I need to follow this rule, however, since my guest list is so small Adam and I can easily tell them through word of mouth.
    • Wedding shoes I kind of thought the dress would cover my feet pretty well, but apparently photographers take pictures of the shoes alone, or with the ring around the stiletto heel.
    • Getting a second wedding dress Why would I want a separate one for the reception?  I’m paying more for the gown than I ever paid for a dress before.  I’m going to wear it for as long as possible!
    • Heavy Drinking  Apparently, many people expect lots of alcohol to be served at a wedding.  Now, I’m not a big drinker, and neither is Adam.  I planned on having champagne because it’s elegant, and I’ll never get more elegant than the big white wedding gown.  But having a full open bar?  Not something I planned on.  I am the last person to think about a drink (any drink, I don’t even get a soda with my meals when I get fast food) so I guess I thought wine with dinner, champagne toast, but after that…I didn’t think.
    And other stuff like that just made me feel more overwhelmed instead of helping me.

    But it wasn't just the superfluous stuff they agonized over that I found stressful.  They also fought passionately on this wedding planning website over things like whether it’s tacky to serve sandwiches at a wedding, or if it’s all about what works/pleases the couple.  They ripped into vendors, even those who posted on seemingly appropriate threads.  They aired their personal issues, and they told these poor young girls that they didn’t understand what marriage is about; they clearly just wanted to wear a white dress to a big fancy party.

    I stayed on for a while, hoping to learn more tips from this wedding planning website, but in the end it was clear.  This was dominated by a handful of women who were already married, and for some reason stayed on to let everyone else know if they're doing it right or wrong.  I felt pretty uncomfortable posting on that wedding planning website since I felt like I was in the minority on a number of issues.  Some of them pretty personal.  But I did learn things along the way.  Even if a lot of what I learned was that even though I thought I wanted my wedding to be traditional, there were a lot of traditional things that didn’t seem to fit me.  I guess I want it to LOOK traditional, but I’ll be breaking tradition in order to simplify.  At least I was learning what I don’t like well in advance of having to commit to anything.

    Since it’s not time for me to book anything, I still have lots of time to really judge for myself which suggestions to pass on, and which to take to heart.  Readers, are there any wedding traditions that you decided you just don’t need to bother with, and why?

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Venues for Weddings in Massachusetts: The Search Continues (My First Wedding Planning Disappointment)

    I had my first wedding planning disappointment today.  I’m sure it won’t be my last.  Still pretty crummy though.

    I knew it was a bad idea to have my heart set this one place the perfect wedding reception spot so far in advance.  I’m hoping to be married in a year and a half, after all.  We can’t set a date yet so I can’t book anything.  But there’s a fine line between waiting for the right time and wasting valuable preparation time.  So I wanted to see what was out there in terms of small venues for weddings in Massachusetts.  And I happened upon the most beautiful little vacation home that I knew would be the perfect wedding reception location for us.

    Yeah, we want to have our wedding at a private residence.  I mean, it would be the perfect wedding reception venue for my small guest list.  We're only having about 25 people so most venues for weddings in Massachusetts are function halls that are way too large.  We don’t want dancing after, so I’d like other things for us to do after we eat.  I’ve been looking at outdoor venues for weddings in Massachusetts so it doesn’t need a big room, just a nice yard.  Adam’s family will need accommodations of course.  So why not let them make a week of it at a nice home?  And for that matter, I could use that week to show them around the state so they can see where Adam will be living.  Adam agreed a vacation home is a perfect wedding reception venue because it was geared exactly to our particular needs.

    So out of all the homes I looked at that had the potential to be venues for weddings in Massachusetts I found a place that has it ALL.  A beautiful garden with flowers all around the retaining walls would be the perfect wedding reception spot, with a few circular tables dotted around.  It looked just like the gardens in England for Adam: so pretty that I wouldn’t have to buy much in the way of flower centerpieces.  There was a lake in the back for me, so I envisioned amazing outdoor wedding photos.  There was a gazebo, balconies galore, a nice neutral décor inside, a baby grand piano.  A billion different spots for beautiful outdoor wedding pictures.  The price for a one week rental rivaled the cost of most traditional venues for weddings in Massachusetts for a single day.  And it was only about an hour away from me.

    I was obsessed with this house for about a week.  I knew it was too good to be true.  Last night I emailed Adam to say, “This is bad.  I really have my heart set on this place, and I know it’s too soon to commit to a wedding reception venue.”  We’re just not ready to set a date until we start the visa application process.

    I made plans to go see it with mom (on the advice of a friend who feels that internet photos lie) since I’m on vacation this week.  I emailed for permission to walk around the grounds to get a better sense of the place.

    I got an Email back with permission, but was told that the house was up for sale.  After September of this year there would be no more reservations taken.  No way can we move up our date to this summer; there’s just no guarantees when Adam would get a visa.


    I’d had a hard enough time the past week, being unable to spend Valentine’s Day with Adam (planning a trip to England is hardly worth it when I only have a week off).  And now I lose my perfect wedding reception spot.  Readers, I really hope your soul mate isn’t living in a different country from you, because although you have the benefit of a partner with a sexy foreign accent, the long distance thing can REALLY mess with your plans.

    If you're curious about seeing more images, the house is here and since the direct link no longer works, you need to scroll down to the listing that says, "Elegant Pondside Victorian."  It sure is.  *tear*
    Photo from:
    Google maps


    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Massachusetts Wedding Venue: The Stevens Estate, N. Andover

    This evening’s bridal trade show at the Steven’s Estate in North Andover, MA was easy compared to my first New England bridal show.  I am a pretty shy person, now that I’m experienced and feel like I’m the one in control, I can definitely put on the confident act at the bridal trade show expos.  And what’s more confidence inspiring than looking forward to the day when the man you love commits the rest of his life to you?  So I look those bridal trade show vendors in the eye like, “bring it on.”  So what if I don’t have a  date set?  So what if I’ll only have 25 guests?  I’m the bride and that’s what I want so either make it happen or I’ll find someone who can!”

    At least, I say that in my head.  Out loud it’s more like, “I see.  Thank you.”  ;) 

    And as it happens, some of them do decide they’re not the one to “make it happen” for me.  I’ll never forget one photographer at a bridal trade show actually said “oh” and literally turned his back on me immediately.  That sort of thing would have been embarrassing and hurtful in the beginning, but now I can laugh about it.  And hey, if a vendor is doing so well that they don’t need my business, it’s all good.

    This bridal trade show was different.  Much smaller, very few vendors, and less like a convention as it was in a historical home.  This wedding venue had a lot of what I’m looking for: pretty outdoor space for a ceremony.  Pretty, neutral, VERY traditional (old and expensive looking) inside.  Too expensive looking inside.  It was so rich it felt heavy.  All that wood paneling, the copper ceiling, I could feel the metaphoric weight added onto the knowledge that this place was going to be so far over my budget that I didn’t have to take it seriously.

    Figures mom liked it and tried to talk me into it.

    Of course, when I show her the differences in price between the place I like and this place it will be no contest for her.  She’s always about going as cheap as possible.  So I’ve learned from her that given the choice between two places I like about equally, I’ll be going for the cheaper one, be it venues, flowers, catering, whatever.  The cost for the Steven's Estate is about $3100 for the day (peak season on a weeknight, and I added in their ceremony fee to the figure) and that does not include catering, just grounds, tent, tables, chairs, and linens.  For that price I could rent a VERY nice vacation home for the week.

    Besides price, another thing I didn’t like too much was the coordinator.  She was the stereotypical wedding planner: skinny, high energy, and loud with phony excitement.  She gave me a tour, showed me the bridal suite and said stuff like, “out there where you can’t see, that’s where you’d have your ceremony…”  It was all I could do to laugh that they were taking me on a tour and trying to sell me on the look of something I can’t see.  Maybe for nighttime bridal show expo tours a photograph of the grounds from that window could have helped?  She went on to say, “I will knock on your door and say…what’s your name again?” “Amber.” “'Amber are you ready to get married?' And you’d say, 'Just two more minutes,' and I’d go knock on Adam’s door and say, 'Adam, go ahead down, Amber’s ready for you,' and then I’d come back and say, 'Amber, don’t keep Adam waiting.'”

    That seemed SO odd to me.  So she’s trying to sell me on this venue by telling me she will lie to my groom and then pressure me into hurrying up.  Wow.  I understand it’s good to stick to a schedule, but at least pretend to be sensitive to our needs?  That and the fact that she said we’d each have our suites for a couple of hours.  If I go with a vacation home I can have the rooms for a week.  No, this place didn’t feel warm and inviting to me.  Very ornate and picturesque, but not romantic and intimate.

    Apparently I'm not the only one who thought so.  Here's a review from someone who got married there, who echoes my feeling. 

    So I enjoyed the bridal show expo as though I was just out at a party with my mom, haha.  The food was fantastic.  I’m putting this caterer on my shortlist.  We had the most tender fillet, nice salad, a little pasta, one sample with a rich cream sauce and the other sample with a bold tasty tomato sauce, perfect non greasy spinach pie, a few other little appetizers, and chocolate mousse with berries.  All very nice.  I now have two caterers that I’ve met at different bridal show expo events who I’d be just as happy with, so I can let price decide.

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    Bridal Show Expo: Ethan Allen, North Andover, Massachusetts

    This bridal show at Ethan Allen in North Andover had the typical wedding photographers, florists and DJs.  We got to sample foods from yummy local caterers and wedding cake bakeries.  In fact, I sampled some food from a caterer in the city I grew up in, Haverhill, Massachusetts, who I just might hire for my wedding.  She was one of the few vendors that seemed enthusiastic about working with me for my small wedding, instead of sympathetic or eager to end the conversation in hopes of snagging the next bride with a longer guest list and subsequent price tag.  Plus her food was yummy, and she had fliers with her (reasonable) price list in black and white.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

    Another fun thing at this bridal show was visit a spa for makeup and skin care type stuff.  They had this machine where you stick your head in and it shows you everything that's wrong with your skin.  That way you get to feel ugly and want to pay them lots of money to cover up your skin with makeup. 

    I tried it and she said she could see my skin is dry (which I don't think of as a problem for me because usually it's oily!  But I guess in winter, yeah.)  And she said I have dark circles under my eyes which could be from dehydration (yes) lack of sleep (yes) or hereditary (probably).  But other than that she said my pores look good, which was surprising.  And there was very little discoloration, which was not surprising.  There was a mirror in there that I could look down at while she looked in at me, and to me it just looked like I was very freckly!  It was actually kind of cool!  I mean, not that I would want to suddenly have a ton of freckles, but it was funny seeing what I look like with them.  Under a completely unnatural blue light, that is.  Which reflects off the retinas so I looked possessed.  A blue, possessed, freckled woman. Interesting experience!  But it didn’t sell me on how they could make me look amazing on my wedding day, so I’m not really hot on hiring them. 

    That’s the interesting thing about bridal shows.  There are so many different vendors there, you never know what you’re going to come away with.  I’d tried lots of yummy wedding caterers from all over Massachusetts, but this was the first one that seemed to want to work with me, and have a good vision for what my wedding would be like.  So all in all, it was a productive wedding expo! 

    New England Bridal Show: Ethan Allen, North Andover

    The funny thing about walking into a New England bridal show at this point is that I recognize most of the wedding vendors personally, haha.  But I'm starting to compile a "favorites" list.  I mean, I have the dress and tuxes all set.  I have a photographer and cake person in mind.  And as of tonight I have a caterer in mind.  So the list of contacts in the favorites pile is progressing!  And a bridal show expo is a fun free night to enjoy mom's company :)

    The caterer was the first one I’ve met at a bridal show expo other than at Spinellis.  Though I can’t say I MET them, more l like I just thanked them when they handed me food.  But once I tried this caterer’s food and told her I thought it was really good, it turns out she was very personable, so we talked a bit about my wedding day vision (the gorgeous vacation home on the lake) and dietary restrictions (two pescatarians and one very picky vegetarian).  She told me that she thinks the small garden wedding sounds REALLY fun for her; it will almost be like a dinner party.  And coincidentally, her business is in the city I grew up in (not too far from my current hometown).  But it’s so small I’d have probably never found her if not for this bridal trade show.

    So now that I’m finding GREAT vendors like this at bridal trade show expos and I know what it feels like to find one, it’s made me realize something.  Previously I felt like I was doing a  wedding wrong.  They are supposed to be big.  I assumed vendors were writing me off because I wasn’t having a “real” wedding, just a little one, and I approached them apologetically.  But I was starting to find vendors that EMBRACE what I want.  And it makes me feel more justified.

    Not that I felt like I had to give IN to the pressure before, and have a big guest list just for the sake of it.  It’s not what we wanted and it doesn’t make sense economically.  It’s just that my thinking at a bridal show expo has changed from, “I know it’s not what you vendors want, but it’s what works for our circumstances,” to “Yay, you GET me, and with your resources and my vision this wedding will be beautiful.”  The bridal trade show vendors who are standing out in my mind now as the top contenders are the ones who have made me feel like they are in awe of what my wedding is going to be, and acted as though they are confident and excited about helping me achieve it.

    Case in point: I tried wedding cake sample at tonight’s bridal show expo, but the flier for the place said minimum of 75 servings.  So unless everyone at the wedding would like 3 pieces of cake I don't see that happening.  But again, it's fine because I found a cake place months ago I like (who let me know they can do a small one no problem, so if their price is right we're good).

    The only other thing notable at the show were a few Massachusetts wedding venues that were recommended to me that are right here in Salem.  One was a function hall which is LOVELY inside, but no outdoor space!  I mean, there’s a public park nearby, but we don’t want a “public wedding.”  And the other is The House of Seven Gables, which is a famous historic home near the water, with gardens and everything.  But when I checked that out, the house is BLACK.  For anyone reading who’s had their wedding there, no offense, that just doesn’t fit my vision.  When you look at historic homes (which I do enjoy!) naturally a lot of times they have wear and tear.  There’s a balancing act between “preserved” and “updated.”  This seemed to err on the side of “preserved” and looked and felt just as old as it is, which isn’t the look I’d like.  Still thinking vacation home will suit my needs much better.  I’d rather something have a traditional look, but be new and clean looking than to be authentic.  And besides, I still think it would be very cozy for Adam’s family to stay at a home, we have all the time we want to set up and prepare and enjoy their company, and have the wedding there.

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Massachusetts Wedding Venues: Vacation Home Rental

    I looked at a number of Massachusetts wedding venues before I realized a vacation home would be the best option for me.  For my outdoor wedding I wanted a nice yard, with a decent interior in case the weather did not cooperate.  That is, one that is neutral and won’t clash with my wedding colors.  No wood paneling on the walls, no pink carpet, no blue anything.  And I really was kidding myself thinking that it didn’t matter if it was near the water.  I want it near the water!  I wanted it to look as nice as your typical Massachusetts wedding venues but be more scaled down to accommodate 25 guests, and have enough bedrooms for Adam’s family to stay the week on their trip to America.

    Well, as I kept looking at places, I realized a few other things that were important to me.  I wanted a porch or deck.  It would be a perfect place to have a buffet set up.  And I wanted an open floor plan so that it felt open enough for all the guests.  A grand foyer would be ideal, but an open floor plan at least would work.  As for the yard, I didn’t want it to be close to neighbors.  That’s one advantage typical Massachusetts wedding venues have over your average yard: they’re nowhere near the road.  I’ll need something set back a bit.

    At first I was looking at 2 bedroom homes.  Then reality hit me that for the number of visitors Adam had coming, it needs to be 3 or even 4 bedrooms, especially if I want to kick him out and make sure he doesn’t see me the morning of the wedding.

    Well, I found THE most gorgeous house tonight [Edit: the direct link stopped working, but you can now scroll down a bit and it's the first listing].  It’s totally on par with your typical Massachusetts wedding venues.  It looks like an estate with a gorgeous garden, 5 bedrooms, all glass doors on the bottom, a pond, balconies galore a little swinging chair on the wrap around porch.  I mean, ENDLESS photo ops at this place.  I would not miss the luxury of a function hall at all here.  In fact, it’s so breathtakingly amazing I think it just might be worth it to cheap out on flowers if it means I can be in that amazing garden.  I can't WAIT to set a date; I'm so excited.  This is the house I want to marry Adam in!


    Readers, what is your relationship status?