Beginning of the End (And It’s a Happy Ending)

I think I’ve finally reached the point when I can finally get excited. The dates for prewedding events have been nailed down; the invitations for the wedding and prewedding events sent. Tasks have been delegated. The budget almost entirely finalized. In one month, my wedding planner will be taking over. Hallelujah! I really think this is the best point in the whole process. Up until this point, I felt like I was just faced with this behemoth task. But here I am two months away from the big day, and most of those tasks crossed out and complete, and I finally feel like I have a reprieve.

And I owe this reprieve to my Tamon, my family, my bridesmaids and even Tamon’s amazing groomsmen — our parents for coordinating the rehearsal dinner, my sister and bridesmaids for the bachelorette party and bridal shower and Tamon for EVERYTHING in between. And I’m not forgetting my brother who helped disassemble and transport the chuppah and pergola.

And a testament to their friendship, Eddie, Paul, Le and Le’s girlfriend Cassie came over on Saturday to help us set up the chuppah and pergola for the wedding reception. Saturday was a full day of construction; the boys had to reassemble and paint the chuppah and pergola that my dad designed with little to no assistance from me regarding their assembly (think IKEA furniture without the instructions). Most times, the boys were on their own, figuring out which beams matched up and which screws to insert. And after a one-hour detour, I personally learned a obvious fact about drill bits — that you don’t have to buy a new power tool for each bit (sigh). As I grew more progressively more frustrated throughout the day, to the extent in which I started scolding Tamon for every little thing, his friends defended him and calmed me down. After erecting the chuppah and pergola (turns out, surprise, surprise, Paul loves the word “erection”), we picked up sandwiches for a picnic in the park and played Telephone Pictionary for the rest of the afternoon.

I think my current excitement comes from the fact that I can start seeing my vision for this wedding come to life. The ceremony structures are up and I can start sewing the canopies for it (but that is a piece of cake). My dad did a good job so there isn’t much to fix except maybe have him add a stabilizing beam to the middle of the chuppah and some sandbags to the foot of the legs. Cassie finished painting the screen for the photo backdrop on Saturday and I just put the final flowers on the large emerald heart that I plan to mount in front of it.

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Kamon’s wedding reception photo backdrop. So bootiful!

And the manager at NBC Seafood has been a dream to work with; he’s incredibly polite and accommodating whenever I’ve presented questions. The restaurant is providing a bunch of extras such as alcohol storage, tables and tablecloths for the check-in and dessert, cake-cutting knives, wine and champagne glasses, soft drinks and microphones.

In the whirlwind of wedding planning, I’ve almost forgotten the most important aspect of this wedding — the marriage. In fact, I was only reminded when we finally met with our officiant Pastor Mongens. The pastor is interesting in a lot of ways — he was Tamon’s pastor before Tamon’s dad passed away — and he studied family and marriage counselling in college. The pastor made us take three types of relationship tests before even meeting with us. The tests were secular and analytical; one of them compared Tamon’s and my answers to the answers of other couples so that we could get a sense of where we fell in this group. The analyses were really interesting and incredibly revealing about our personalities. I discovered that due to my family history, I tend to idealize my romantic relationships to the point of being overly enthusiastic. I used to think this was a good thing. But in fact, it’s bad! For instance, I tend to overestimate my abilities to communicate and resolve issues with my partner because of the belief that I’m going to be better than my parents — more specifically, that I’m going to have a better marriage than them. (I know, I didn’t want to believe this when I saw it on the analysis either. The nerve!) Pretty wow, huh? Another truth bomb the pastor dropped on us is this — it’s a whole new ballpark after marriage. Despite the fact that Tamon and I have been living together for a year now (Costco card, housing hunting and all!), we haven’t actually pulled the trigger on marriage. After June 21, @&*# gonna get real. There’s no backing out after that point.

In all seriousness, I think that’s why I want to consider this whole process the practice run. From the moment we got engaged, I began to think of my life as our life. And this wedding was always our wedding. Throughout all our trials over the past year, I always made sure to keep Tamon and myself invested in this wedding as our project. At first it was one way to get Tamon to help me. But once we nailed the language down, I could feel Tamon’s pride in this wedding growing. And I could feel my trust in him growing. Because in truth, everything I did for this wedding, and everything he did for me, was ours to treasure and reflect upon after June 21. Hence, our efforts go beyond just one special day.

Tell, Don’t Ask and Other Bridal Requests

Only 80 or so days till the wedding. Gulp! I realize it’s only taken me about two months to update this blog. And what a crazy two months it’s been! People who haven’t planned a wedding think a year is enough, or that it’s too long. But you really can’t do most of the important things until the last four months anyway. Everything before that is in anticipation of the four-month long period of madness. You can try to tell your vendors what you want ahead of time — and they’ll still end up asking you for the same information over and over again. Now my baker is emailing me on a weekly basis. Whoohoo!

Today I just dropped off the invitations at the post office. In retrospect, if you’re not working with a tight budget like mine, the invitation is something I highly recommend that brides and grooms outsource. You can spend about $200-$300 more and have someone else via a website like Vistaprint.com do all the manual labor for you. Unless you yourself are a graphic designer or have a very close friend who is willing to do free design work for you, go with convenience. Don’t get me wrong. Since I loved how my invitations turned out, the effort was well worth it. My bridesmaid Katherine Chiu is a really amazing graphic designer. Because of her, I was able to save a lot of money and end up with a beautiful product.

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Wah! I loved how they turned out. But I could not have done it without a designer friend.

Now if you decide to go the DIY route out of necessity, here’s my advice:

  • Get to know your paper: 100 lb feels so much nicer than 80 lb. Just because you’re DIYing doesn’t mean it has to feel cheap. The weight makes a difference.
  • Look for cardstock sales on websites like LCI Paper Co during holiday sales. During Christmas and New Year’s Eve, those kind of websites usually offer free shipping. Paper is heavy so the shipping fees are no joke ($8 or more for a ream).
  • Compare prices for invitation kits at Target, Michaels, Joanns Fabrics, etc. I was able to buy my kits on sale because I shopped around.
  • Unless you’re comparing it to your friend’s fancy embossed invitation, printing from your laserjet or inkjet printer looks good enough. And you’re spending $800 less than that friend. So embrace your home printer.
  • Try to keep your invitation under 13 ounces. I was able to do that and ended up having to spend only 49 cents on postage per envelope.
  • Embellishments are nice but can increase the price of postage. Stick to confetti and ribbons if you want to be festive and avoid metal or other rigid materials.

With this said, I’d like to point out some observations I’ve made during the course of wedding planning. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful and I’m not trying to call out anyone. But since most people I know seem slightly interested in my updates about wedding planning, I just want to point out some of the comments that have stuck with me. I’m not pointing out these comments because they are inspiring or helpful but rather the very opposite. I guess this could be one of the chapters of my future “Wedding for Dummies” guide book (this is for you, Eddie and Paul), “What Not to Say to the Bride.”

Telling the bride not to stress out.

Weddings are stressful. There’s really no getting away around it. Shy of taking over the wedding planning or subsidizing the wedding, there’s no way you can remove the bride’s stress for her. So implying that she is stressing out over nothing is unproductive. Instead of downplaying her feelings, why not inquire about the source of stress? After all, you’re the one who opened up the can of worms. If you really want to ask how wedding planning is going, prepare to lend your ears.

Telling her that no one will notice.

Considering that the bride is putting so much thought into her big day, the worst thing you can say to her is that no one will notice the details. After all, she’s pulling out her hair and spending half a year’s salary on this wedding. The last thing she wants to hear is that any of her efforts are in vain. I know that a lot of people have a hard time just listening to the bride complain, but telling her that she should get rid of her problem by forgetting about it is somewhat dismissive. If you can’t say anything nice…

Asking the bride, “How can I help?”

This is a sticky one I know because I know how well-meaning people can be. But asking someone how you can help is not quite the same as telling the bride how you can help. Of course, the bride is grateful that you offered. I’m not calling out anyone here because my friends and family have been tremendously helpful. But I really wish that instead of just asking, “How can I help?” that people would specify, for instance, if they are good at flower-arranging or picking wines or putting together wedding song lists. So although that’s great that you’ve offered to help; if the bride doesn’t know you intimately, most likely she won’t take up on your offer.

Lastly, despite being aware of the fact that some readers might take this post the wrong way, I felt that this needed to be written because future brides and grooms, and all human beings, need to know that it’s okay to have negative feelings and not let other people project what they perceive as proper modes of behavior on you. It’s hard for some to understand what a large endeavor a wedding is and how difficult it is to do even when you don’t have other things on your plate. For instance, I nod and smile when well-intentioned acquaintances ask me why I’m planning a wedding and trying to buy a house while finishing up my master’s degree and working full time. What can I say? I’m superwoman. Or at least I pretend to be. I’m not going to let a wedding stop me from living and fulfilling my goals. Instead I laugh and tell them that I’m also freelancing because frankly, how else am I going to pay for this darn wedding unless I have at least two jobs? (Then they probably look at me like I’m crazy.)

Call me crazy then. If we all did things the way people tell us to do them, this world would be so boring that none of us would want to live on it.

 

Books! Books! We Made Books!

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Last year I came across the idea for reception activity books on a wedding blog. At the time I had hoped the books would replace the need for floral centerpieces but alas, I don’t think so (they’re just not big enough). I found a really lovely cream paper that I decided to use for the covers and we actually put the table numbers on the books so they serve that secondary purpose. I used this easy-peasy accordion book tutorial http://www.designsponge.com/2013/03/bookbinding-101-accordion-book.html. I followed the instructions mostly but instead of book boards I improvised and used chipboards and in lieu of cloth I used the cream paper. I used plain white card stock for the pages.

First I measured everything really carefully (don’t forget to make your boards at least 1/4 inch longer and wider than your pages). We made 15 books so I had to cut out 30 covers, 30 boards and print out 75 pages which I then folded in half. Using a technique I learned from a graphic design student at work, I scored the pages before folding them to get a crisp edge. To score, I used the back of an X-acto knife and a steel ruler. For the picture I misplaced the X-acto knife so I used a box cutter. It’s bulkier to hold but it also did the job.

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I had prepared four questions, a title page and inside and back cover for each book. I printed out five pages and folded them in half. Then I had Tamon help me glue them back to back to form an accordion. Image

Tamon got crafty.

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We made books! So many books.

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A New Year

It’s a new year and a time for new beginnings as the cliche goes. I know friends who not only make some wild resolutions but actually stick to them! One friend is giving up seafood and his wife is having dessert only once a week. As for me, I don’t think I have the grit for that. To each their own.

Since my discipline isn’t as good as some folks, I tend to not pick fixed goals. However I do like the idea of starting off the year with a strong sense of resolve. Taking care of my health has been something I’ve been working on in the past three years. Now that I’m cooking more I’ve decided to make an active effort to eat more vegetarian and more organic.

To clarify, I don’t plan on giving up meat entirely — I love bacon, steak and seafood way too much for that. But I’m always on my soapbox about our carbon footprint and sustainable practices to the point where eating so much meat just feels hypocritical. Also the merits of eating more vegetables and fruits — the prospect of having more energy, better digestion and shedding unwanted weight — really justifies the effort.

I acknowledge that vegetarian cooking feels more challenging. After all red meat practically comes with its own flavor packet! All one has to do is add salt and high flame. But I’ve convinced Tamon to eat vegetarian this week and we’ve produced some really tasty meals so far. I’m feeling hopeful. I made a vegetarian shepherd’s pie with sweet potato mash and lentils and mushrooms. I also baked my own bread (with a super-easy Jezebel recipe and four ingredients: water, salt, yeast and flour) and some homemade hummus.

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Another effort for the wedding year is to shed the uncomfortable weight I’ve gained over the previous school semester. The weight isn’t substantial since it resulted from the fact that I gained back a lot of the weight I had before I started exercising regularly. Now I don’t want to give the false impression that I’m losing weight because I want to look “perfect” for the wedding. I put perfect in quotations because it’s a loaded world when we use it to describe human bodies BECAUSE despite the fact that our bodies come in all sorts of shapes, some folks, men and women, expect perfection to the point where the only curve women are allowed to have are in their breasts.

Now it’s perfectly okay to want to look nice on your wedding day. It’s a treat for yourself since looking nice on the outside tends to make us feel better about ourselves. But even in my most cleaned-up state, I still want to look like myself. Losing some of that muffin top might allow me to fit more comfortably in my wedding dress (why are wedding styles all so constricting?). And hey, if looking nice is equated to good health, I’m on board with that especially if I get to go back in silk again!

In January I’ll be doing silk and working on my upper body and core. I hope to continue by doing more push-ups and crunches. I’m also trying to convince Tamon to go running with me again (I can see now why people are addicted to running! It feels so good once you push through the pain). Tamon and I will be relearning waltz for the wedding. The waltz is surprising great for your legs because of the wide steps you take! I’m also seeing if I can get Tamon to do salsa with me while we’re dabbling with ballroom again. We’ll see where the year takes us. 😉

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Finding my happy place in silk.