Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Found an officiant!

Last time, I summarized who we aren't going to have perform our marriage ceremony: not a justice of the peace, not a non-denominational minister, not a Unitarian minister, not an internet-ordained friend, and not a civil celebrant.

Whew! Sounds like we've exhausted all of our choices, right?

Well, there's one that I may have mentioned before, but only in passing: My grandfather.

My grandfather is a retired minister. For pretty much as long as I can remember, he has just been "my grandfather," whom I call Grandpa. I never knew him as a minister, really, other than having him say grace at family dinners and taking us to church on Sundays when my siblings and I visited my grandparents in Florida. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary, I'd say, and nothing that particularly stands out as being ministerial rather than just a regular guy.

When I was 18, one of my cousins got married, and he helped perform her wedding ceremony in Maine. I think Maine might have rules about who was able to do the ceremony, and that is why he shared the responsibility with the minister from her church. Another of my cousins got married before I did as well, but I wasn't able to attend her wedding, so I don't know if he participated in it or not.

I've always thought it would be nice to have my own grandfather marry me, but over the last 10 years I've come to realize some other things that made that decision more difficult to make. One was my grandfather's (my dad's dad) relationship with my mother, which hasn't always been the best. The second was my relationship with religion.

As to the second issue, it turns out that I'm really not religious. If my grandfather weren't the one performing the ceremony, I wouldn't have a religious ceremony at all. To be honest, my favorite thing about churches are the architecture (I LOVE walking around in old cathedrals, like St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Notre Dame in Paris, and the Cathedrale des Saints Michel et Gudule in Brussels), the stained glass, the echoes, and the incense at midnight mass. I like the ceremonial nature of church, but not necessarily all of the ideals they stand for. Not really good reasons to go, right?

And, to be really really honest, I'm not only "not really religious," but, in fact, not religious at all. Religion isn't for me, and I'm fine with that; I don't feel conflicted or feel that my life is any less complete by not having religion play a part in it.

How, though, can I reconcile that with the fact that my grandfather, whom I love and would otherwise be ecstatic about performing our wedding ceremony, IS religious? I respect other people's beliefs, if they are not harmful, even if I don't share them, so I would not feel comfortable asking him to perform our ceremony and then saying, "Oh by the way, can you take all the religious stuff out?" (I could ask that of a stranger we've hired for the occasion, but that's a different relationship altogether.) I talked it over many, many times with Eric, and in the end, I was able to come to terms with it in a way that makes sense to us. First and foremost, he is my grandfather, and that is the relationship we are celebrating. I feel lucky that he happens to be able to participate in our wedding in this way, and that's enough to make asking him worth it. And if that means "God" gets thrown in there a couple times, I'm OK with that.

And as for the first issue, that of he and my mom not getting along, I asked her what she thought of it. It turns out she thought it was a wonderful idea to ask him, and said that her disagreements with him have nothing to do with us children. So with her blessing, and my own emotional reconciliation with the idea, I asked him on Christmas, and he said yes!

There was just one other little wrinkle: the legal stuff. I wasn't really sure if he was able to perform weddings in Kentucky, but a check of our County Clerk's website and a follow-up phone call proved otherwise. Here is what the website says:

"Marriages shall be solemnized only by clergy, justices and judges of the Court of Justice; retired justices and judges of the Court of Justice, except those removed for cause or convicted of a felony; county judge/executives; such justices of the peace and fiscal court commissioners as the Governor or the county judge/executive authorizes, and certain religious societies.

There are no residency requirements or licensing requirements applicable to ministers or priests who wish to perform marriages in Kentucky."
I still wasn't sure, but when I called, the person I talked to told me that we are good to go "as long as the minister is in good standing with his church or organization," and that they don't need any proof of said good standing. And it doesn't matter if the minister is retired. And there are no forms for the minister to fill out whatsoever, other than signing the marriage certificate. Doesn't that sound too easy?! I still can't quite believe it. My grandfather, on the other hand, said, "It sounds like Kentucky is like Florida. Which has no rules." So at least I'm not alone in this!

(I'm the type of person who is always looking for loopholes. So I'm now wondering why anyone has to get an actual clergyperson or judge to perform their ceremony at all; why not just any old friend, without the internet ordination? I guess it's just the fear that someday, someone might challenge the marriage in court?)

So now it's on to the planning stages. Grandpa said he welcomed our input for the ceremony design but has always "generally followed the familiar ritual," which sounds so comforting, and exactly the feeling I'm looking for. I'm looking forward to putting together our ceremony with him, and feel so lucky that he will be able to participate in this way.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Show your mettle!

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but my engagement ring is set in palladium. Prior to receiving it, I hadn't heard of palladium, but Eric really picked a winner: it's in the same metal family as platinum, but less expensive and lighter. See? Palladium (#46) is right above platinum (#78) on the periodic table.

I love the color of white gold and platinum, but I've known that platinum is too heavy for me -- my mom got a new ring in platinum a few years ago, and quickly started complaining about its weight, and one day I tried it on for a while and agreed. And don't say I just need to do finger exercises, either -- that stuff is heavy! (And expensive!) And while I love white gold, I do think it's a pain to have to get it re-rhodium-ized so often. I have a tanzanite ring in white gold whose rhodium is starting to wear off, and I really don't want to bring it in to get it replated, but I do wish it was nice and silvery again. (Actually, for the tanzanite ring, I've decided to let it continue to wear for the time being, because I hear white gold develops a nice in-between color after many years.)

So palladium was the perfect choice that I never knew existed, right? And once I discovered its wonders, I knew I wanted my wedding band to match. (Based on the simple realization that it would be annoying to have two rings that wore out differently, and one that I would have to get replated periodically.)

So today, for reasons I'll reveal later, I stopped in to see the jeweler who made my engagement ring, Philip Haas. Because of what we were discussing, I asked about the relative cost of palladium compared to white gold or platinum, thinking that palladium was more expensive than gold. But Philip told me otherwise: platinum, which hit about $2000/oz a year ago, is now down to $900/oz, and gold is about the same, having risen dramatically in the last year.

So I found some charts, and he's right (not that I doubted him):

Gold and platinum are about the same, at $900+/oz, while palladium is hanging out at less than $200/oz. Score!

Interested in some historical graphs? Me too!

Gold prices, 2000-present:
When Eric bought my engagement ring, around July or August of 2007, gold was about $650/oz. Now it's at $900/oz! I've seen those commercials about now being a good time to invest in gold, and ads and newspaper articles about people selling their old gold to pawn shops and the like, but I didn't realize what that actually meant. Too bad I don't have any gold fillings to get rid of... I guess the crappy economy drives people to invest in gold. Or something. I don't know, I know hardly anything about money (like most doctors, sigh).

Platinum, 1992-present (sorry, I couldn't customize the graph to be just 2000-present to match):
In July 2007, platinum was about $1300/oz. Then look at how it skyrocketed in late 2007! Then notice how it dropped to 2004 prices. Now's a great time to buy platinum, if you have any spare change to make investments.

And my favorite metal, palladium, 1992-present:
Wow, I wonder what that peak in 1999/2000 was all about. In July 2007, palladium was about $350/oz, compared to almost double for gold, and over triple for platinum. And soon after, it also peaked, along with gold and platinum. Now, it's a lovely sub-$200/oz, perfect for wedding band buying :)

Fascinating stuff, the metal market. And I'm happy knowing that when Philip calls me in a couple of days to tell me something super-secret, I'm going to be satisfied with the price.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Having a conflict-free diamond is important to a lot of people. Before I got proposed to, I had thought a little bit about the issue, but not much, to be honest (I promise I'm not a horrible person!). I have to admit, I don't know much about the details of conflict in the diamond industry, other than:
-DeBeers has a monopoly on the whole gig.
-People get hurt and/or killed in the diamond mining industry, and not in the same way as coal miners.
-Leonardo DiCaprio starred in a movie about it. I didn't see it. I heard it was good.

But essentially, we never really discussed engagement rings, so the topic of the type of stone I might want never came up. I have no idea if Eric ever thought about it or not. (In case you're wondering, he ran his proposed design past my sister Laurel, who approved it. She knows my tastes very well.)

After I got proposed to, I just assumed my diamond was inherently conflicted, since I figured most diamonds were (otherwise, why the big deal over ones that aren't?), and because Eric never mentioned anything about it. I didn't want to bring the topic up, if the answer was going to be that it was conflicted, so I just kind of ignored it. It's not as though I didn't love my ring -- on the contrary, I LOVED it (and still do)! And the diamond is perfect -- a great example of the beauty of the four C's. But every now and then, I felt a tiny pang of guilt.

But guess what! I was just checking out the website of the jeweler where Eric got the ring made, Haas Jewelers,* and amidst the not-so-fine print, was this proclamation:

"We support the Kimberley Process and the system of warranties to ensure diamonds are conflict free. We are members of the American Gem Trade Association and adhere to its Code of Ethics to support fair trade in gemstones."
And I asked Eric if he knew whether the diamond he bought me is conflict-free, and he said, "I can't remember. I think so." Boys.

However, I'll take the jeweler's word over his for this one, which means I don't have to feel (as) guilty any more. In Eric's words, "it is conflict-free, so you can be, too." Whew!

And to celebrate, here is a picture of my ring, taken by me, in the style of Anne Ruthman, and cleaned up for me on Photoshop by Introverted Wife.

*I was checking out the Haas website because I have another jewelry-related project in the works. Hint: it involves the other rings we need to buy!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Finding an officiant

When you look at the planning timelines suggested by various magazines and websites, booking a ceremony venue is often one of the first things on the list. And with it tends to come booking an officiant, which makes the two tasks all rolled up in one; when you find a venue, you find an officiant.

For us, though, we knew we weren't going to get married in a church (one of our venue criteria was that we could have the ceremony and reception in the same location), and we knew we most likely weren't going to get married by a religious official. There are various reasons for that, the most important being that neither of us is particularly religious. So we've had our ceremony site for over a year, but just got an officiant in the last few weeks.

I've documented our search for an officiant before, here and here, and you, my dear readers, had some good suggestions for us. Hiring one of the Louisville justices of the peace was out, since none of them was right for us. I found the names of a couple of non-denominational ministers on my local Knot board and on the internet, but they charged exorbitant (by our standards) fees. It was suggested numerous times that we have a friend or family member ordained via the internet to perform our marriage ceremony, but to be honest, we couldn't decide who to ask. Why my brother rather than Eric's sister, or my sisters? Why this friend instead of that friend? Everything about it seemed -- to me at least -- to be choosing unfairly, and our wedding is all about being fair.

Actually, one of Eric's best men, Joel, IS an internet-ordained minister. He got ordained back in the dark ages of the internet, because he's a computer geek and he thought it was cool. (Not that it isn't.) He's never performed a ceremony, but when it was brought up by another friend, both Joel and Eric felt instantly unsure that it would be a good idea. Joel was too worried that he would screw up -- a sign of how much he valued his friendship with Eric, I think, which is actually kind of flattering. In any case, the only already-ordained internet minister we had was not going to work out.

One of the women in my Student Affairs office recommended Todd Eklof, a local Unitarian minister who performed the wedding ceremony of a friend's daughter. I did some googling, found him, and immediately liked him. Here's an excerpt from his bio: "He came to Louisville in 1986 to attend Southern Theological Seminary, but soon left after finding it too intellectually and spiritually stifling." Ha! I don't know a whole lot about STS, but from what I do know, I'm not surprised someone would say that.

Upon further research, though, it turned out Todd Eklof wouldn't be a viable option, either. Since 2004, Mr. Eklof has vowed not to perform any marriage ceremonies, because Kentucky is one of the states that bans gay marriage. Here is an excerpt from the sermon he gave explaining his decision: "
Marriage has become an institution used to discriminate against a segment of our society and I refuse to participate in it until it has been redeemed."

Wow. How powerful. Even though we really weren't looking for a religious ceremony, this kind of made me want him to marry us even more, but I respect his decision and hope these bans crumble in the years to come.

Reader, future-sister-in-law, bridesmaid, and mother to our flower girl, Paige, suggested that we look into civil celebrants, so we did. From CelebrantUSA.com, I found out that civil celebrants are people who perform ceremonies for a variety of life events, including weddings. I had never heard of a civil celebrant before, but it sounded like the kind of thing we were looking for. There were no celebrants listed for Kentucky, but after sending off a request email, I got back the names of two who worked in Ohio. The first one, who goes by the name Persephone (which, to be honest, freaked me out a little), communicated with me by email, inquired about our budget, and flat-out told me there was no way she could accommodate it. Argh. (Incidentally, part of her price quote included asking how many people were in our wedding party and how many guests there would be; I really don't understand why that factors into things. Any ideas?)

The second, Ricki Huff, set up a phone call with me, and we had a wonderful conversation. She wasn't sure if she was legally able to perform ceremonies in Kentucky, but promised to look into it for me. We really hit it off over the phone, and even though her quote was on the higher end of what we had in mind, I knew it would be money well spent. Something about her voice was just... so... nice and soothing. She actually said something along the same lines, remarking that she normally wouldn't want to travel to Louisville for a wedding, even if she was reimbursed for travel, because it's slightly out of her way. But, she said, she has some old friends in Louisville that she could visit, and there was something about my voice that made her think it would be a nice ceremony to perform. What a nice compliment, right?

In any case, she would have been a wonderful officiant to perform our ceremony, but we ended up not hiring her for reasons I'll disclose next time.

So to recap, we considered three justices of the peace, one or two local non-denominational ministers, a Unitarian minister, our best man Joel, and two civil celebrants, but ended up choosing none of them. Who are we going to have marry us, then? Stay tuned to find out!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Christmas Rewind

Christmas was kind of hectic this year – I was in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for most of my winter break, and I drove down to my parents’ house in Maryland a few days before Christmas. My cousin Ollie, from London, came to see us, on a side trip from New York where he was with some of his friends. We cooked a monstrous Christmas dinner for him, and Ollie was pretty impressed. He said his family doesn’t usually make much of a Christmas feast – he’s a cousin on my mom’s side, so no big turkey dinners factor into his Chinese Christmas celebrations. So we made a turkey (we usually only have turkey on Thanksgiving, but it was a treat for him) and a lamb roast. I can only take credit for the turkey and mashed potatoes – my sister Laurel made the majority of the rest of the meal, including the lamb, a homemade mint and yogurt sauce, and roasted fingerling potatoes. Yum. (I did make the gravy, though – and corrected the salt problem from my Thanksgiving gravy mishap.)

Here's my brother Sean carving the turkey. I bought a small one, since we were also having lamb:
That's a roasted carrot underneath the bottom of the turkey there, that got dragged along from the roasting pan. It's not a shriveled up hot dog.

Anyway, Eric joined us on December 26, after celebrating with both his mom’s and dad’s sides of his family. I wish I could have joined them, but since my parents were back in the States for the first time since March (Mom) and in over a year (Dad), I preferred to be at home. The result, though, was that I missed out on exchanging presents with Eric’s families, and when he brought my presents from his family down to Maryland, I opened them, but it was in the midst of lots of stuff going on at home, and a few days later, I packed everything right back up again. By New Year's, when I got a mysterious 24-hour mini-flu, I had pretty much forgotten about Christmas, and by the time I drove back to Louisville, which involved having a mini car breakdown -- twice -- and dove right back into work, I had completely forgotten about Christmas. Four weeks later and I STILL haven't unpacked; this is the pile of unpacked-but-not-yet-put-away and freshly-laundered-but-not-yet-put-away clothes that is currently blocking my dresser:

And yes, I just had all of Sunday afternoon, Monday afternoon, and all of Tuesday off, and no, I didn’t touch that pile at all. I’ll get around to it… sometime soon. Or else it will miraculously become spring and I can just put it all into storage :)

Anyway, amidst all that mess, I just got around to unpacking the other stuff I brought home, like Christmas presents. And I remembered the coolest present I got this year.

It’s a booklet of Christmas cookie recipes from Eric's family. His cousin Kara put it together for me. On the front she wrote about her fond memories of eating their grandmother’s Christmas cookies, and inside she included her favorites, “some originals and others as close as I could find.”

Inside are cookie recipes from three generations of women in Eric’s family, from his great-grandmother, to his grandmother, to his aunt (Kara’s mom).

The cover (Eric's grandmother was known as "Mom-Mom"):

Butter Cookies, from Eric's great-grandmother:The recipe calls for 1 cup of oleo; I didn't know that was a real thing, other than in crossword puzzles!

Candy Cane Cookies, from Eric's grandmother:

Peanut Butter Blossoms, from Eric's Aunt Joyce:

What a wonderful way to be welcomed into Eric's family! (Not that I haven’t felt welcomed before; on the contrary, I’ve felt like family for many years now!) I’m just sorry I didn’t get to try these recipes out this year. But next Christmas is going to be full of cookie baking, I suspect!

I joked to Eric that it was a shame we didn’t get any presents from our registry for Christmas, but honestly, these kinds of presents are better than any stand mixer, pots, or new camera.* They come from the heart.

Were family secrets -- recipes or otherwise -- shared with you when you joined your fiance's family?

*Seriously, though, we are in dire need of a new camera; the LCD screen on our current one goes in and out, and with it, our ability to take pictures. These took me three tries!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cake for me!

I've been putting off looking for a baker for our cake, for a variety of reasons. First, I just knew it was going to be expensive -- I had checked out a couple local bakers who put prices on their website and I just couldn't stomach it. $3+/slice? It just seems ridiculous when the slices are so small and you can buy a whole box of cake mix for less than $2. (I'm aware that $3/slice is pretty standard for wedding cake, at least in this area, and I can only count my blessings that I'm not getting married in New York.)

(It's probably pretty clear, but I'm not a cake snob. My favorite cake is any sort of from-a-box chocolate cake. No icing.)

Plus, since Eric no longer lives here in Louisville, it would be so depressing to go to all of these cake consultations by myself, and just not fair for me to get to taste the cake without him. Delicious, but not fair.

But this weekend, with the calendar ticking away before my eyes, I got serious and started the research end of things. I made a list of as many bakeries as I could find in town, and made a few phone calls. It turns out a lot of bakeries are closed on Mondays, which I didn't know. Anyway, I ended up with an appointment for two days from now for a consultation and tasting, and I just figure that if everything works out OK price-wise and initial tasting-wise, I can always bring Eric back the next time he visits for a confirmatory tasting.

I called another bakery who gave me a price quote over the phone, and I asked about the often-mentioned strategy of having a small display cake and sheet cake to make up the difference. It turns out this is pretty economical, so I was excited and invigorated to do more cake searching.

Then I spent the rest of the evening pulling together pictures of cakes to send to Eric, in order to get his opinions on decorations, before I go to these consultations. It just wouldn't be nice of me to order a big purple cake covered in pink sugar flowers, you know? I'll share my inspiration photos with you later.

But today, when I was out running errands, I drove by one of the more well-known bakeries in town. I decided to pop in and see if they could just give me information -- I wasn't expecting to taste cake or anything like that. And the consultant was nice enough to sit down with me and write up a quote for me on the spot. This bakery doesn't price by the slice; instead, they start with the appropriately sized basic yellow cake with white icing and standard, unfancy decoration, and go up from there for colors, flavors, fillings, etc. But still, their quote was very reasonable, especially with the small-cake-plus-sheet-cake strategy, and I started to warm up to the whole cake thing.

And the best part? She offered to give me some cake to go! "Just a second and I'll ice a couple pieces for you. Just tell me what flavors you'd like."

And so I left Plehn's Bakery with a yellow cupcake and a piece of strawberry cake.

Mmmmm. The yellow cupcake was really really really really good. Light and moist. The icing was pretty standard buttercream -- I don't really like icing, so I scraped it off, but it tasted like good buttercream. I ate it for -- I mean, in addition to -- my lunch, because it was lunchtime. (Seriously, I stopped at Whole Foods and picked my way through the store sampling the freebies, pondered for a long time over the prepared foods bar, and settled on some sushi. After I ate the cupcake.) I had the strawberry cake just a little while ago, eating it in front of the webcam for Eric to see (and envy), and it was pretty good. It wasn't particularly strawberry-y, and it wasn't quite as moist as the yellow, but that might be because it sat in the box all day, I'm not sure. Still very good cake, don't get me wrong.

So, depressing single consultations and unfair solo tastings? Who cares! I'm going to keep tasting as much cake as I can! Who knew there were all these perks to planning a wedding? This might have to become a habit of ours in the years to come.... ;)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bridesmaid dresses -- the final account

Well, I hope this is the final account. I feel like I've been stringing everyone along all this time as I (and my bridesmaids) change my/our minds over and over again!

When last we left off, everyone had the choice of a purple or green dress. The acceptable designers/colors were:
-Mori Lee eggplant
-Jim Hjelm eggplant
-Bill Levkoff European eggplant
-Alfred Angelo grape
-After Six, Renaissance satin, eggplant
-Bari Jay, eggplant
-B2, bordeaux
-Da Vinci, aubergine
-After Six, Nu Georgette, aubergine (probably)
-Jim Hjelm moss
-Alfred Angelo clover
-Mori Lee patina, maybe

In the months since, I confirmed that After Six's nu georgette fabric in aubergine was the right color, and determined that no one wanted to wear green. I had thought Paige, Eric's sister, might, as she already had a gorgeous Jim Hjelm dress in "moss," but after it had been altered so much to fit her pregnant belly in October, she didn't think it was salvageable. Plus, she said she didn't really mind getting a new dress and liked the purple color, so I didn't argue. Everyone would be wearing purple.

I mentioned before that Paula, one of my college best friends, already had a dress that we thought might work, and it turns out it does. It's a pretty chiffon, mid-calf-length dress in the exactly right shade -- how fortuitous! I don't have a picture of it, but it's got a halter top, a v-neckline, and some beading embellishment at the bust. Perfect! Maybe something kind of sort of like this:

Minus the sash, and with not as much of an A-line shape, and with sparkly stuff at the neckline. Yeah, kind of sort of like this but really not so much at all :)

In December I was able to go dress shopping with Marjorie and Karen, my two best friends from high school. We went to a bridal salon in New Jersey where the most wonderful thing happened: The salesperson asked what my vision was for the bridesmaid dresses, and when I explained that I didn't care what style, fabric, or designer they were, as long as it was on my list of approved colors, and I knew that the shades might not be exactly the same, she replied: "That's wonderful! How easy!" I was instantly in love.

You see, most places, over the last year or so, have given me the standard spiel that my bridesmaids HAVE to match. If not the exact style, then at least the same designer and fabric. To ensure that the dye lots match, you know. And as much as I've explained that I don't care, no one seems to really believe me or want to agree. So the fact that this woman instantly approved took a huge weight off of my shoulders. Not that I NEEDED her approval, mind you; it just made the experience so much more pleasant.

After a fun morning of trying on dozens of dresses, we went out to lunch, then went back to the store and had Marjorie's mom stop by to give her opinion. Marjorie had it narrowed down to two dresses:

L: James Clifford BH1814 R: Jim Hjelm JH5822

They are very similar, with the ruffle detail at the top. The ruching on the James Clifford dress was really flattering on Marjorie (but that ribbon was random and unnecessary), but the portrait neckline made her shoulders seem very broad. We loved the neckline on the Jim Hjelm dress (awesome cleavage!), but the ruching didn't happen at the most flattering spot. While trying to decide between awesome cleavage and awesome tummy coverage, the aforementioned awesome salesperson came over to see how we were doing. We explained what the problems were, and we brainstormed possible ways to address each dress with alterations. Suddenly, the salesperson exclaimed, "I know!" and ran off to get another dress. She came back with this:

Alfred Angelo 6549, the perfect blend of the two, in satin and chiffon in grape. The portrait neckline isn't as severe as on the James Clifford dress, and even though it doesn't have ruching, the cut of the dress fit Marjorie well. Plus, the fact that the ruffle cascades to the waist really camoflages the tummy area. The ruffle is accompanied by a dangling cord, which none of us really liked -- I believe the word "dingleberry" actually came out while discussing it, but it can be removed easily. Jackpot! Hooray for helpful and nice salespeople!

Karen also made a choice:
Alfred Angelo 6556. Organza and satin in grape, totally adorable!

I emailed back and forth with Paige regarding when she might want to order her dress. You see, she's due any day now, and if we could wait just a few weeks for her to lose at least the weight/girth of having a full-term baby inside of her, getting measured would be a lot simpler. I thought David's Bridal, with it's off-the-rack-if-you-can't-wait-to-order-a-new-one philosophy, might work well, so I checked out their color and style options. After Christmas, Paige stopped in to a store near her to check them out as well, and found one she liked. She'll wait as long as she can to place her order (DB told her the dress only needs a 6-week lead time) for this dress:
David's Bridal D02101, flat taffeta, in plum. I love this dress and want it for myself! The top is good because, as Paige (who will be breast-feeding) said, it "would also allow me to wear a hard-core bra if necessary, which is appealing." Good thinking!

With those decisions made, I told my sisters it was time to place their orders. Shannon had previously decided on Alfred Angelo 6518, and stuck with it:

Here you can see my ghetto photoshopping trying to turn it into a purple dress. I apologize if I've burned your retinas! The satin trim on the dress can be any color, and Shannon chose to match the trim with the nu-georgette body, so the whole dress will be in aubergine.

Laurel had previously chosen Bari Jay 756:

But when she went to order it, she went back to the Bari Jay website one last time and found that a new season's worth of dresses had been posted, and changed her mind to Bari Jay 382:

It's chiffon, in eggplant. I'm not sure what color choices there are for the strap, but I told her I don't care what she does, so we'll see what she ordered.

Finally, my other best friend from college, Jamie, was stuck dress shopping on her own. I did get to go shopping with her and Paula back in September, but I still wish I could have helped her pick out her final choice, if only because she seemed a little more distraught at having to search on her own. She settled on After Six 6513:

"Renaissance" satin, in eggplant. Even though it's pretty damn near to the exact same color as the nu-georgette that Shannon's dress comes in, Jamie's color in "Renaissance satin" is called "eggplant," while Shannon's color in nu-georgette and "Matte satin" is called "aubergine." After Six had to go and make things difficult, but by looking at enough swatches, I figured it all out. This dress has a really long sash that is shown tied in the back here, and was tied in the back when Jamie tried it on back in September, but Marjorie actually tried on the same dress and tied the bow in the front, and it looked really good, so Jamie is thinking about doing that as well.

Here's a composite I made up that shows all 8 of our hot dresses together:

Models standing in for, clockwise from top left: Jamie, Marjorie, me, Paula, Laurel, Karen, Paige, and Shannon. The actual color of purple we're using is somewhere in between all of those, but you get the idea.

After about a year, it's all coming together! I can't wait for all the dresses to come in so I can see how great they look on everyone! What do you think -- will it work?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sharing the love (and the cost)

One thing that doesn't come with our venue is chairs for the rooftop ceremony. The venue provides chairs for the reception tables inside, and certainly has more than enough chairs to provide them for the roof, but for some reason, won't allow their chairs to be used outside on the roof. Fair enough. So we knew we needed to rent chairs.

One of Eric's recurring concerns is that it will be very hot on the roof. It's certainly a valid concern; while most people having outdoor weddings simply pray for it not to rain, we have a rain contingency plan (the venue lets us use one of their indoor spaces). What we do not have is protection from a bright, hot sun beating down on us, which is actually what happened at his sister's wedding a couple years ago. (It was a minor annoyance, to be sure, but a couple people got sunburns during the ceremony!)

So when we started talking about chairs, Eric was worried that plastic chairs would feel much hotter than wooden ones, and so he preferred the wooden ones. You know, the ones that look like this:

These aren't actually wood, by the way; they're usually a composite resin material that just looks like wood. I have to confess, I was never really fully convinced of the hot-chair issue, but if Eric feels strongly about something, it's worth doing, because he doesn't have a super-strong opinion (when it comes to wedding planning) that often.

The alternative is the plastic ones, which look like this:


I like the wooden ones, too, because they look nicer. However, they're also more expensive -- usually at least $1 more per chair to rent. When you're renting more than 100 chairs, it adds up quickly!

Of course, I also love the gorgeous chiavari chairs:


But around here, at a price of about $8/each, that's way out of our budget! Plus, to be honest, I don't really think they fit the feel of our wedding too much, so I wasn't too sad to cross them off of our list.

What I did want was the wooden ones, and I wanted to find a way to make them even less expensive. So I emailed our wedding coordinator contact at Glassworks and asked her to please pass my contact info to the bride getting married the day before me, and tell her to please contact me if she might be interested in splitting the cost of renting chairs.

For a while, I didn't hear anything, so I assumed the other bride wasn't interested. But then, out of the blue, I got a phone call (with an apology for taking so long to get back to me) expressing interest from Jenica. Then the negotiations began.

It turned out she was having a larger wedding than us -- definitely 150, whereas I think we're going to end up having about 125. The width of the rooftop at Glassworks isn't huge, so you're limited in the number of chairs you can fit in each row, and, as it turns out, the wooden chairs are just slightly wider than the plastic ones. Enough so that if you use the wooden ones, you can fit only 5 chairs on each side of the aisle, but if you use the plastic ones, you can fit 6 on each side.

Here's 5 chairs on each side of the aisle, and the altar does seem kind of far away... (source)

For 150 people, that's the difference between 12 rows and 15 rows, and when you're worried about sound being carried, that can be a big difference. To be honest, I hadn't even thought of it, but it was one of Jenica's #1 concerns, so she really wanted the plastic ones.

I said we were flexible, and even though Eric wanted the wooden ones, I figured a significant price difference would probably be enough to convince him, so Jenica and I asked around for quotes.

She got the first one, and it was a great quote, with one exception. She told the company that she would be using the chairs on Saturday, and I would be using the chairs on Sunday. The company, seeing an opportunity, offered us a "deal": Instead of being charged fully for each day's rental (because we were two different weddings), the second day would be 50% off. The 150% price was more than other place's 100% price, and I knew it. I was also annoyed at that company, because if Jenica hadn't disclosed there would be two parties using the chair, they wouldn't have charged her double -- they would have given her the 100% quote because it was a single contract, and most places won't pickup on Sunday anyway. But because they saw an opportunity, they took it.

So then I made a couple calls, and simply told the rental companies that we needed the chairs for Sunday of Memorial weekend, and asked when they would anticipate delivery/pickup occurring. Most places said they would deliver late Friday afternoon or first thing Saturday morning, and would not pick up until Tuesday, because they were normally closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays and Monday would be a holiday. Jackpot! If you don't tell them it's for two events, they just charge you for a single event, as long as it's within their normal delivery schedule.

So with that setup, we got some more quotes and found one that was the best. The plastic chairs were still significantly less expensive than the wooden ones, and both Jenica and I went back and forth -- first she said she wouldn't mind getting the wooden ones, since they looked nicer and with the shared cost, they were a good deal. Then Eric and I said we wouldn't mind getting the plastic ones, since they're less expensive, and even less so with the shared cost. In the end, economy won out; Jenica said she and her fiance were already over budget and it would be helpful to cut costs any way they could. We decided the plastic chairs won't be much hotter than the wooden ones (we're dealing with the heat in other ways, too -- more in a later post), and, let's face it, we care more about price than the look of the chairs.

I signed the contract and specified Saturday morning delivery, and Jenica and I split the cost of the deposit, and we'll split the cost of the balance come May. I'm really happy we were able to work this shared rental out -- sometimes it seems like companies in the wedding industry are just out to get you, but we found a way to use the system to our advantage. Can you imagine how silly it would be to have her chairs stacked and put away Saturday night, then have a separate set of chairs put up for our wedding, when her chairs were sitting right there, waiting until Tuesday pickup anyway?

And we really won in terms of price -- our share of the entire rental essentially works out, per chair, to the price of a single chair from other companies, not including delivery and setup. So we kind of got delivery and setup (which can be a lot of money!) for free!

What do you think -- are we scamming the system? Or are we simply being smart shoppers?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Making the Veil, Part 2

When we left off, I had torn apart a perfectly nice veil and refinished the edge with silver thread. Next to do was to add the silver appliques I found, which really wasn't very difficult.

First, I laid the veil on my parents' marble dining table and placed the appliques around the edge until I found an arrangement I liked:

Next, I simply glued the appliques to the tulle according to the directions on the bottle. I made sure to put a piece of parchment paper between the tulle and the table to catch any glue that would leak through. I weighted the appliques down with heavy books and left the whole thing alone for an hour.

Then it was time for the sparkle. I added some of the self-adhesive rhinestones semi-randomly across the tulle. I put a little cluster of rhinestones between each applique to add some sparkle at the edges, and sprinkled a few throughout the body of the veil as well. It was sort of trial-and-error; I'd add a bunch of them, put the veil on, and make my sister stop what she was doing to give me her opinion. Then I'd make adjustments and ask my brother. Then I'd make some more adjustments and ask my mom. That's the beauty of doing projects at home for the holidays -- you have lots of opinions you can gather. The rhinestones weren't super sticky, so I could remove them with a pair of tweezers easily if I needed to.

And here's the final product (Eric, if you don't want to see it, don't look any further!):

And zoomed in a little:

The veil is a little wrinkly, and clearly my hair and clothes leave something to be desired, but hopefully you get the picture. There's enough going on at the edges that it's clearly not a plain veil, the design of the appliques complements the floral/vine embroidery on my dress, and the silver edge and rhinestones give it enough sparkle, but not too much. I'm really pleased with how it turned out, and really proud of the fact that I did it myself!

Here's the money breakdown:
Veil: $17.98
Appliques: $20 for 16 of them, including shipping. I bought that many because I didn't know how many I would want to use, but I still have 9 left.
Silver thread: about $5, with a coupon
Fabric glue: a couple bucks
Self-adhesive rhinestones: a couple bucks

So all in all, it probably cost about $47 to make the veil, but I still have tons of thread, appliques, fabric glue, and rhinestones left. I'm glad I did it this way, though, because it's still much cheaper than buying a new veil, and I made it exactly the way I wanted it!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Making the Veil

Sorry, loyal followers (the few of you there are), for my extended absence. My winter break was busy with holiday and family stuff, and while it was also busy with wedding stuff, my hard drive also died, leaving me computer-less for two weeks. I guess that was a good thing, because I didn't have the lure of the Internet to prevent me from doing wedding stuff, so I promise you won't mind too much that I was gone for so long :)

I got to Maryland with a veil and an unbustled wedding dress, and I got back to Kentucky with a better veil and a partially bustled wedding dress. Here's how I made a perfectly good veil perfect!

Last April I bought this veil off of eBay:

It's a David's Bridal single-tier, fingertip length, unadorned, corded, pencil edge veil, brand new. It seemed like the seller somehow had an entire lot of DB veils to sell off, but I don't ask questions. It was $18, instead of the retail price of $79. And actually, I just found this same picture on the DB site, and it is listed as having pearls, but my veil definitely didn't have pearls, so maybe it's not authentic, but whatever. Everything in that first sentence is still definitely true other than the "David's Bridal" part. I should note that my can-do insane personality is sure I could make a veil from scratch -- it's just tulle and a plastic comb, after all -- but the sane part of my brain figured it would be easier to just find a cheap veil that someone else already took the trouble of cutting out correctly and attaching to a comb. You should delegate when you can.

When I first got the veil, I tried it on and was pleased. It's funny how putting on a veil just makes you feel bridelike, isn't it?

Please ignore the incredibly bad photography displayed here, as well as the incredibly bad modeling ;)

But I always knew I was going to make adjustments to this veil. You see, when I tried on my dress at the bridal salon, I tried on a veil that complemented it beautifully, but I would never, ever pay $100+ for a piece of embellished tulle. Here's the detail on the veil I liked:

It had a silver finished edge and beautiful embroidery and crystals in a floral/vine pattern around the edge.

Over the next few months, I assembled the rest of my tools:

Embroidered silver appliques in an acceptable design, from eBay.

Silver thread, from JoAnn Fabrics. I spent a good 30 minutes collecting all the spools of silver thread in the store, then comparing them to figure out which color silver was the one I wanted. I had no idea "silver" came in so many colors! Plus, it was really expensive -- that spool was almost $10! I've never bought fancy thread before, so I didn't expect that price -- in my mind, all thread should cost less than $2. Good thing I had a coupon.

Self-adhesive gemstones from my local Archiver's. This particular package had a variety of sizes, which was good for my experimentation.

A bottle of Liquid Stitch, also from JoAnn Fabrics. There are a lot of fabric glues at JoAnn's, and I asked around but couldn't get any advice as to one being better than another. Finally, the woman at the register suggested that if I might be clumsy like her, this one might be better than the other one I had narrowed it down to, because the other came in a tube, and this one was in a bottle. It was a good enough reason for me, so I went with it. The appliques were the iron-on variety, but I suspected, and confirmed with the JoAnn's experts, that ironing on tulle would melt the tulle, so I glued the appliques on instead.

While I was at JoAnn's I also picked up 1/8 of a yard of tulle to experiment with -- I didn't want to ruin my veil by accident!

First things first: Getting rid of the corded edge. The tulle was sewn to the cord very simply, and I easily detached it using a seam ripper.
(Notice the purple edge on the top of the photo? Our camera LCD seems to be going out, so a patch of funny colors shows up at the edge of all of our photos now. I hope someone buys us the new camera we registered for!)

Next, I made a bobbin of the silver thread, rigged up the whole machine, and tried out a couple techniques. I wanted to make a very thin border of silver thread at the edge of the veil, so first I tried sewing in a straight line. It worked, but didn't look good -- the line of silver thread was so thin that I realized I would have to go over it at least three times, and that didn't seem fun. Next I tried setting the sewing machine to a zigzag pattern. That ended up working really well -- as the machine made the zigzag pattern, it ended up rolling the edge of the veil under, so I ended up with a finished, rolled edge.

Here's the sewing machine in action:
You can see the silver finished edge of the veil in the background, and the way the machine is rolling the raw edge of the veil as it goes. I didn't expect for this to happen, but it was really good that it did. After one go-round with the sewing machine, I was initially impressed with the way the veil turned out, but when I put it on my head, my sister and I decided the silver edge wasn't really that noticeable. So back I went, sewing the edge one more time. The foot of the sewing machine had trouble sewing all the way to the comb the veil was attached to, so I was left with a bare, raw edge for about an inch on either side, and when I was done with the sewing machine, I finished those parts by hand.

And here's the result:

Nice, right? It has a subtle sparkle and looks a little more delicate than the corded edge. All of that took just a few hours one evening a couple days before Christmas, as my sister and I watched TV. Quite relaxing, actually!

Next up: Adding the appliques.