Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rules of Engagement...Parties

Greetings and salutations, fellow lovers of large, elaborate parties!  It's been ages since last your precious eyes grazed my words.  The summer was very busy.  And by busy I mean I spent it working on my tan and watching the dramatic journey of the contestants on So You Think You Can Dance.  It was a well deserved summer of mindless relaxation after a particularly difficult year at work.  I did, however, manage to cross a few items off of my wedding planning list.  One of these items was purchasing my wedding dress.  More details on that to follow soon.

Most exciting, however, was the long awaited arrival of our engagement party.  Dave and I had a FABULOUS time, and we were ecstatic that so many of our friends and family were able to make it, many who had to travel a long way or give up other exciting summer plans to be there.

While the engagement party was an "event" in its own right, another way to think about it is as practice for the actual wedding.  There was real planning involved, enough so that the aftershock resulted in me wasting the remainder of the summer lolling around our condo in recovery from all the work and time spent with my mother.  We had to find a venue, choose a menu, book a DJ, design centerpieces, package favors, and find "the dress."  Ambiance, food, and entertainment...the essentials for any good party. 

And booze.  Lots and lots of booze.  When the drunk men in my family pose for a classic guinea line-up, lifting their pant legs in Rockette fashion, then you know your bartender earned his tips. 

Anyway, I suppose I should share my new found knowledge on vendors and party planning.  The party was an engagement gift from my parents, so it was more elaborate than if Dave and I had tried to throw it for ourselves.  We checked out a few places, but finally settled on Marco Polo Ristorante in Downtown Brooklyn.  It has a private party room, the food is delicious, and the people there were super accommodating.  Plus, there is this enormous stained glass ceiling depicting these god awful, puffy haired angels peering down from the sky at us revelers below.  The whole scene is so tacky that it's kind of spectacular...hideous in a way where you can't stop looking at it and finding new things to laugh at.

They look like an 80's hair band from heaven.

The centerpieces were fan-frickin'-tabulous!  We ordered them from the same florist my sister used for her wedding, Flowers by Emil on 18th Avenue and 73rd Street in Brooklyn.  The woman, Phyllis, who lives in the shop (or at least she must live in the shop because she's always there, and the poor lady always looks exhausted) is amazing.  She, unlike my mother, does not find my excessive color ideas to be extreme, and goes above and beyond what you expect.  I showed her a few pictures of centerpieces that were out of our price range, but she somehow found a way to mimic the look while still keeping the cost down.

She put lemons in the bowl.  LEMONS!  :) 
(An emoticon is appropriate here, for lack of efficient words to describe my happiness and satisfaction with the service.)

We went with the same DJ my sister used for the wedding as well.  His name is Peter Agnotti, and he's really good and on top of that has unbeatable prices.  We didn't hire an MC, deciding to save those bells and whistles for the real shebang.

The favors were the most talked about item of the evening.  Quite honestly, it's going to be impossible to top the awesomeness of this favor at the wedding, so I don't think we're even going to attempt it.  The concept for the favor was actually my Dad's idea.  There was a custom designed pint glass with a picture of an electric guitar that read "LOVE ROCKS," packaged with two bottles of various New England craft beers and a bag of mixed nuts.  We slapped custom labels with our grinning mugs on them and a message that read "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.  Thanks for helping us celebrate." 

It might have been my Dad's idea, but I did all the work to design and order the supplies, and my mother did all the work to wrap it all up and make it look pretty. 

Again, practice for the real wedding.  Other people give super ideas...bride and MOB stress out and argue about the details and execution. 

It was my idea to wrap it in orange.  But that shouldn't surprise anyone.

All in all, although the planning was stressful and tedious at times, I kind of like this stuff.  I'm a list maker; there is satisfaction in writing out page after page of daunting tasks and then violently crossing them out one by one as you gradually affirm to the universe just how awesome and indestructible you are. 

The "Write Out-Loud" Sharpie ad campaign is directed at people like me.

What neither Dave nor I were prepared for, however, was the amount of time we spent taking pictures.  There are about 20 pictures of us plastered around Facebook with tired fake smiles on as we desperately tried not to look at the drinks we were not drinking while taking all of these God forsaken pictures. 

By the end of the night (after several of the aforementioned drinks), we stopped trying to hide the fact that the picture-taking process was defeating us.

So please, future wedding guests, I beg of you: be merciful in when you snap our photo.  On my wedding day, I am a declaring a "NO POSED PICTURES MORE THAN ONE HOUR INTO THE RECEPTION" rule.  Take my picture while I'm sober and my desire to be the center of attention still outweighs my desire to cut a rug and throw my sweaty hair into a ponytail. 

Can we shake on that? 

Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Will you marry me? (No really...will you get ordained online and marry me to Dave?)

We have officially passed our one year mark, and I have officially been slacking with this blog.  However, while I've officially been slacking with blog writing, I have been busy getting some official wedding planning done.  For example, we've procured an official officiant to officiate the officialities of our wedding ceremony.  Official enough?

Contrary to what most of my family and friends have done in their own weddings, Dave and I have decided not to get married in a church.  Neither one of us is against people subscribing to a specific faith, and we can't claim beyond a reasonable doubt that one faith isn't true above all others.  However, we ourselves get along just fine without any religion.  Okay, perhaps I eat fish and open gifts on Christmas Eve, but I do so without the guilted obligation of having to go to church the next day.  And just because I indulge in a few beneficial Catholic indulgences here and there doesn't mean I count as "someone of faith."  Therefore, the Catholic wedding my mother dreamt for me would seem hypocritical.  Furthermore, I'm not tickled by the Catholic ceremony that reads like a list of rules the couple must adhere to for a successful marriage NOT to each other, mind you, but to God, like He's there in between the bride and groom giggling with anticipation, jiggling the rings in His pocket.  Sure, many of you are tsk-ing at this blasphemy, and perhaps I am going to hell, but at least Dave will be there waiting for me with a beer.

My mother, in fact, almost did not get a church wedding herself.  In fact, had the summer of '77 (might be wrong on the date there) been just a tad hotter or the ludicrously long precaina process been been just a tad more ludicrously long, my parents wouldn't have gotten married at all.  I'm not quoting but paraphrasing to the best of my ability my father's words from the story that has been told many times in my house, a story that pits him as the temperamental fiance and my mother as the frustrated, teary bride-to-be as he storms out of the home of the precaina hosts screaming: "Why do I need to listen while some fat, sweaty people talk about their sex lives?  I won't do it!" 

Of course, my father did pull it together and completed the precaina, albeit begrudgingly.  Dave and I, however, were not exactly excited to do the same.  Besides, while Dave was baptized, he was never actually confirmed, so there were other obstacles in the way other than our minimal tolerance for pointless preliminary processes.  We decided that instead of a church ceremony, why not have a family member perform the service?

But who to ask?  My first instinct was to ask my cousin Gabe to officiate the service.  Those of you blessed enough to know my amazing cousin understand him to be the life of the party.  Those of you who know him well also know him to have an incredibly large heart, and nothing is more important to him than family.  We thought he would be the perfect man for the job since he is so entertaining while still recognizing the seriousness of the occasion.  When we asked him to do the honors the night after Dave proposed, he immediately and enthusiastically said YES!  We explained that he would have to apply online to get ordained to make the whole thing legal, and everything seemed settled.

Have I not mentioned that family is incredibly important to Gabe?  This is what sparked his immediate enthusiasm to the proposal.  However, this same love of family is also what sparked the subsequent panic.  Shortly after saying yes, perhaps in the span of two or three scotches, Gabe approached Dave and me with fear in his eyes.

"So, once I get ordained, does that make me a priest?  'Cause I can't be a priest.  I'm a sinner!  A SINNER!"

Dave and I laughed and explained that he would in no way become a man of the cloth, but it was in that moment that I realized the gravity of what we were asking my cousin to do.  It's a lot of responsibility to marry two people whom you know well.  You become a pivotal part of the most important day of their lives, which is a lot of pressure to put on a person.  I'm not sure I would want that kind of pressure pushing down on me, and I certainly didn't want to place that kind of burden upon anyone in my family.  I want my cousin and everyone else invited to my wedding to enjoy the ceremony,  to get swept up in the emotion of it, not to stress about it. 

That is why in the end Dave and I decided to hire an "official" officiant, one that presided over my cousin Lisa's wedding.  Her name is Allison Dolan Hall (http://www.alwaysnyweddings.com/index.html); she is amazing and has some really great ideas about how we can personalize the ceremony so that it is uniquely our own.  I've already worked with her to write the first draft of the ceremony, and I'm excited to see how it will evolve over the course of the next year.  I don't want to give away too much in order to preserve the emotional integrity of my future ceremony.  However, if you are planning your own wedding and want to know more, just email me and I'd be happy to share information and ideas about what I've learned from this experience.

Oh, and by the way, I bought a dress.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Oh yeah, I'm engaged!

It seems like eons ago that Dave got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife.  He left for Scotland within days of proposing, and then as soon as he got back I'd already plunged myself into the final events leading up to my sister's wedding (which was a blasty-blast, by the way!).  The only thing I've done to get ready for our nuptials is pick a venue and set a date.  So much time has gone by since then that "being engaged" seems more like a state of mind than a contract that actually involves me to take any action to fullfill.  It was beginning to feel as though if I just waited long enough, the planets would naturally align and one day I would simply wake up married without having gone through any fuss.  This delusion only last until my sister's bridal shower, when I overheard  a few of her friends, who by the way all got engaged about a month after me, were gushing with excitement over their upcoming engagement parties.  It occurred to me that perhaps I should be doing something.

Dave and I had gone back and forth many times over whether or not we should have an engagement party.  We hadn't wanted to have a long engagement to begin with, which was one of the reasons why we didn't see the need for one.  However, when going over all of our date options and realizing that the only way this wedding would ever happen was to time it a year and a half away, suddenly an engagement party didn't seem so pointless.  Unfortunately, Dave's departure for the UK didn't leave us with enough time to get the whole thing together, and his return cut it way too close to Stephanie's wedding to have one when he got back.  Now that he's home and settled, and Steph's wedding is done, and there are no obstacles left standing in the way of having a celebration, the reality is it's been almost SIX MONTHS since our betrothal; is it pointless to have an engagement party at this point? 

Although part of me is still a bit uneasy about it, the louder, more dominant part of me is excited to finally be doing something!  It was beginning to worry me that every now and then I'd forget I'm engaged; people just don't ask about it as often anymore, and my life has gotten too busy to daydream about my eventual wedding like I used to.  Even my beloved ring no longer grabs my attention as it once did; while once upon a time I would lose myself in gazing at it while I procrastinated grading papers, I've now instead taken to mindlessly twirling it in circles around my finger when I'm nervous (something for which my sister is constantly yelling at me).  Perhaps this was my subconscious sending out a message that my brain would rather be planning a party and my future married life than grading practice MCAS open reponses.

Planning an engagement party has given me an opportunity (now that I have the time for it) to get excited again, to even look forward to all the work I know I'm soon going to have to put into planning the real wedding.  This is because planning an engagement party is basically like planning a mini-wedding.  You need a venue, a DJ, centerpieces, favors, blah-blah-blah, etcetera.  The only difference is everything is on a smaller scale.  The guest list is limited to strict family and close friends; the DJ need only play music, relieved of the pressure to guilt the guests into dancing to prove their love for the bride and groom; there are lots of pictures to take, but digital cameras take the place of a formal photographer.  And so forth.  You get the idea.

Thus far we've picked the date, the venue, the invitation, the centerpieces, and the favors.  More on these traumatizing decisions to come soon.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bridal Storm

Yeah hi, it's me again.  Sorry I've been out of touch...but seriously, there hasn't been much to write about.  Ever since Dave got home from Scotland, wedding plans have been on the back burner.  We've mostly each been absorbed with work, minor house projects, prepping for our annual St. Patrick's Day Parade party, snuggling on our new couch (yes, I did just use the word snuggle in all seriousness), and avoiding doing our taxes (because it's super boring).  With our own wedding a millenium away...or over a year anyway...there hasn't really been any impending need to do anything.  And for those of you who know us well, Dave and I are pretty good at doing nothing.  We're leading experts in the field.  It's why we enjoy camping so much.

Although I haven't done much in the way of planning my own wedding, I have been dabbling in some secondary planning for my sister Stephanie.  My mother and I recently threw her a bridal shower, and while it went off fairly successfully and Steph seemed to have a great time, it's a bit of a relief that it's over.  If you've ever been involved in planning one, then perhaps you understand what I mean.  If you have not yet had the joy of planning an afternoon party for a bunch of women with sex advice and cupcake pans on the brain, then please allow me to elaborate.

Dave recently told me that at his company they are no longer calling a session of idea sharing as a "brainstorm."  Apparently there's too much negativity attached to the word storm, so they've now adopted the much friendlier brainshower

This is not a joke.  This is actually a thing now.

Okay, well if a big corporate bank can reduce a powerful thunder of ideas to a benign sprinkle of musings, then I propose changing the commonly accepted label "bridal shower" to "bridal shit storm".  Any objections? 

I say this because I've never once met a woman who actually enjoys going to the traditional bridal shower: the ooh-ing and aah-ing and pretending to pay attention as the bride-to-be opens her gifts; the polite conversation as you sip brunch-appropriate cocktails; the cutesy-poo games having something to do with love and weddings and animal mating habits and such, etc.

As maid of honor, my first instinct was to put a stop to this madness.  I suggested that we skip the gift opening, hire a DJ and offer an open bar, turning the whole party into a girls'-night-out sort of festivity.  After all, my family of women is a pretty rip-roaring good time, especially when music and a few glasses of wine are thrown into the mix.  My mother, however, does not have my sort of vision.  With pursed lips she reminded me that this is not how bridal showers are done.  Being that this is my first bridal shower planning experience, you can't blame me for trying.  And so we dove into a multiple-months-long process of planning for a four hour event. 

At first things went smoothly.  We chose the venue with little debate - The Greenhouse Cafe in Bay Ridge.  They provided a reasonable and delicious menu, audio equipment for music and announcements, and supplied the wishing well and bridal chair to officially mark the party as a shower.  We went shopping for a favor, and decided (after moderate debate) on a stilletto shoe-shaped bottle opener.  My mother was apprehensive of the modernity of the gift at first, unsure if it was appropriate for older guests.  I reminded her that I've only used about 10% of the picture frames, coasters, and oil and vinegar bottles I've received from similar parties, and it's never once driven me to blind hatred of the hostesses.  If anyone hated it, no one would tell us to our faces, and we could rest easy ever after.

The shoe bottle opener set the tone for the whole party.  The box it came in was pink and black with white polka dots, so we decided to go with a pink and black "diva" theme.  If this seems cliche, I apologize.  As previously mentioned, I've never done this before.  I did spend a very long time researching just what's expected at a bridal shower, and as far as I know, "diva" is one of only a small handful of theme options available; diva, lingerie, and tea party.  I still don't understand how this all got started... 
Anyway, I went online and started ordering little knick-knacks in the chosen color scheme to round out the decor, including a custom banner with Steph's name on it, advice cards for the guests to fill out, hot pink and black shoe-shaped confetti (very rock star!), and pink game cards with her name also personalized on the front.  I even found an invitation with a bride taking a snooze inside of a pink and black polka dot high heeled shoe (it's less hideous than it sounds), which I personalized with a Daniela-original poem (copyright pending).

Props to my mother for coming up with an awesome idea for the centerpiece.  She thought it would be funky to use jewelry mannequins propped up on hat boxes as the centerpiece for the tables.  You know the kind of dolls I'm talking about; they're like Barbie dolls dressed up for Fashion Week, but instead of a head and arms they have metal curly-cue spokes you can hang necklaces and bracelets off of.  Pretty cool, huh?  And for once, I'm not being sarcastic.  I loved the idea and told her to go for it.  She wasn't comfortable making the decision solo, though, and so she asked for my help with the selections.

Thus began the most torturous phone conversation I've ever had with my mother.

Things started smoothly.  There were a few we both immediately agreed on:  a flirty hot pink and black cocktail dress; a fuschia sequined cocktail dress; a long, black, one-shouldered evening gown. 

But wait! she protested.  Can we mix short and long dresses?  Won't that look weird?  What will people say! 

And just like that my mother grunted and hacked into the receiver, and over the miles of distance that separated us I heard her painfully morph into...MOMZILLA!  For the next 2 1/2 hours I pulled out most of the hair on my head as my mother over-analyzed the most minute details about these dolls:  cocktail dresses versus evening gowns; casual vs. dressy; shiny versus toned-down; gold versus black spokes. 

The variables, which were not evident before, now seemed mind-boggling, each capable in its own catastrophic way of altering the very fabric of our well-organized party. 

Once I'd finally convinced her that it was okay to have a mix of short and long dresses, I picked out a sexy little doll dressed in a zebra print evening gown, to balance out the number of short and long dresses (per her request).  My mother slowly told me that this doll was not appropriate.  Not getting it, I pointed out that the outfit was awesome and totally went with the whole diva theme.  She again told me that the doll was inappropriate.

"It's a black doll," she said quietly.

Huh?  "Ma, it's black like Crayola-black.  That's only 'cause the dress is white so, you know, it pops more."

"It's for black families."

"Mom, it doesn't have a head or arms.  If anything, it's for headless, armless families."

But alas, my mother refused to let go her fear of a race riot at my sister's bridal shower, so we trudged on, sifting through images of doll after doll after doll, for about another hour before I finally gave up...I could take no more; she was on her own.

And she did just fine on her own.  My mother's jewelry doll selections ended up being pretty fabulous, and were a coveted prize during the games. 

Oh, have I not yet mentioned the games?  Where to begin...

If you have never been to a bridal shower, there is a rule that you are not permitted to simply sit, eat, drink, and enjoy the company of the women around you.  No, you must partake in games the mere existence of which perpetuates stereotypes about the frivolity of women.  If that's too many big words for you, let me break it down easy: they're girly in the stupid way. 

My mother made it very clear that the games were my responsibility.  Looking to make my life easy, I found a pre-printed game card online that included five games, was pink and could therefore be used as part of the table decorations, and could be personalized with Stephanie's name on it.  SOLD!  I ordered enough for each person to have her own, and the plan was to place one at each dish setting.  Easy enough, right? 

Wrong!  Now came the question of how to actually execute the games and award prizes.  Yes, prizes are in fact necessary.  These games are not just for fun.  They are a competition for prizes selected by mother - some very decent prizes, I might add - and as sometimes happens with competitions, things can get ugly.  Our fear was that since the games were pre-printed and everyone would see them all at once, there would be no way to tell who finished each game first.  If there was no fair, accurate way to tell who finishes each game first, then how, oh how! would we know who wins a prize?  HOW?

I actually lost sleep over this.

Then I had the idea of making a polite announcement at the start of the party that each guest please not begin any game without my announcing it first...to keep it fair.  Everyone nodded politely at the end of my polite announcement, and then proceeded to (politely?) ignore everything I'd just said.  Which, by the way, I wouldn't have cared about if there hadn't been such an uproar everytime I needed to give a prize away:  Hey! you said I didn't have the right answers, but I do have the right answers!  How come I didn't get a prize, but she did?  Didn't she already get a prize?  Are you ignoring our table?  

Oh, the horror! the horror! 

Maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit, but when you want everything to be perfect so badly and things don't go your way, one tends to exaggerate.  So after what felt like two hours of being yelled at by our guests, I was covered in sweat and suffering from agita.  I looked longingly at my sister and other bridesmaids, who at this point were about seven mimosas deep, and sighed...something told me it would be inappropriate for me to get drunk right now.  It was the same feeling I'd had in Macy's a few weeks before when my mother sent me hunting for underwear to use at the shower. 

How does one use underwear at a party, you ask? 

The plan was to orchestrate a performance with the other bridesmaids  in conjunction with the reading of a bridal lingerie poem. 

Oh yeah, this is a thing. 

It was a great idea, until I actually had to find the exact pieces of underwear to match the poem and figure out where in the party to work it in.  I decided to boycott the idea when, cracking under the pressure, I broke down crying in the lingerie aisle at Macy's, a pair of leopard print boy shorts in one hand and a pink and black teddy in the other (in my defense, I had my period and had just gotten off a very looooooong, horrible day at work). 

Instead of doing the underwear poem as a performance, I selected an assortment of pink and black lingerie which we strung from the ceiling as part of the decorations.  I thought it was classy and cute, but I could tell my mother was still a little peeved at me.  She was also mad because I'd ruled out the fifth game on the card.  This was the "How well does the bride think her groom knows her" game.  The way it works is before the party someone interviews the groom, asking him questions about the bride.  Then, at the shower, the bride is then presented with the same questions and she must guess which questions she thinks the groom answered correctly about her.  The guests must guess how many the bride will get correct about her groom.  Sound needlessly complicated?  It is, but you know, it's a thing so I was willing to play along. 

That is, until my mother made it even more complicated.  She had a good idea to videotape the interview and play it in conjunction with my sister's answers at the party.  So then for a few weeks we argued about how to make this happen.  Should we set up a television, put it into a powerpoint presentation, rent an LCD projector, ask guests to gather around the laptop (that one was her brilliant idea)?  Eventually, she called the restaurant and they assured us they had all the equipment we'd need there.  Then came the discussion over how to tape this interview.  My mother insisted that I do it.  I calmly reminded her that the three states of distance between myself and Michael might make the task a bit difficult.  So the next obvious choice was my brother, Robert.  Rob agreed to do it, and it seemed like all was fine. 

That is, until my mother called me again in a panic:  "What if Stephanie gets too many wrong answers?  It'll look like she doesn't know Michael, and she'll feel stupid!  I don't want to make her feel stupid at her own party!"

"So we won't play the game, Ma.  No big deal."

"But the game is on the card already."

"So what?"

"IT'S ON THE CARD!  We HAVE to play it!"

By the time we hung up (for like the third time that day), she was reassured that the matter was not nearly as earth-shattering as she was making it, and a final decision was made NOT to play the game.  I called my brother and let him know he need not interview Michael, and that was that.  When I spoke to my mother the next day, I updated her on my conversation with Rob. 

She was quiet for a moment, but then finally said, "So we're not playing it?"

"Mom, YOU didn't want to play it, remember?"

"FINE!  I guess we'll have a boring party with no games and we'll just sit and stare at eachother the whole time and have no fun at all!"

I might have hung up on her after that.

My relationship with my mother somehow survived this whole ordeal.  In fact, I remember hugging her a lot during the party, happy that she was my partner in crime for the day.  And when she teared up during her speech, I teared up, too.  She just wanted everything to be perfect for Stephanie, and I think all of her hard work and creative ideas paid off.  In spite of the fact that there was no lingerie poem, no embarassing interview game, and the games were a disastrous mess, everyone still seemed to have a good enough time.  At the end of the day, when my sister got up to thank everyone for the gifts (which by the way she did NOT open at the party - "Please be a dear, and wrap in clear" - YOU'RE WELCOME!) and she started crying, all of a sudden the drama and stress of the planning and execution of the party was totally worth it.  She'd had a blast and was truly grateful for everything everyone had contributed.

Later that night, as she and Mike genuinely giggled and ooh-ed and aah-ed over her gifts, drunk since we'd taken Steph out for a few drinks after the party, I started to wonder whether or not I was changing my opinion about bridal showers. 

Probably not.

However, you only get married once, and it's not like I'll have to plan my own.  With enough mimosas, I might even have a good time at my own future bridal shower.

After all, it is a thing.

Monday, February 28, 2011

To Be an Attention Whore, Or Not To Be an Attention Whore?

First off, I apologize for not writing in so long. Contrary to what most of you think, this lack of effort is not solely because I am a lazy bum...only partially because I am a lazy bum.  However, I mostly haven't written because I haven't done any wedding planning since last time Dave was in town.  Work has been really busy, with 10,000 meetings a week (or at least it feels that way) and a curriculum I am forever two weeks behind on.  Stress from work coupled with the fact that my motivation (you know him better as "Dave") hasn't been around to remind me I have a wedding to think about.  Besides, I've had more imminent plans to make...like a European rendezvous with Dave.

Although Dave's been in Scotland for almost three full months, I haven't been able to make it out to see him.  You see, while eveyrone in the country seems to think teachers get an inordinate amount of vacation time, the down side to this deal is we don't get to pick and choose when we take that vacation time.  I'm off when the calendar tells me I'm off; so I had to wait for "energy conservation week" to finally hop a plane, even if it meant arriving just a few days before Dave comes back home, making the need for a visit less...well, urgent. 

I wasn't alone in my travels.  His brother Chris made the trip out with me, a person with whom I realized I travel extremely well.  Mainly, this is because Chris and I discovered that we are both total attention-whore-divas.  How did we make this random realization, you ask?  Well, since Dave had to work during the week of our visit, Chris and I found ourselves on our own as tourists in Edinburgh.  Channelling our inner cheese-ball, we made our best effort to hit every tourist trap we could fit in, along with sporadic searches down sketchy alleys (known as "closes" in Edinburgh) for hidden bars.  With every tour we went on, we somehow managed to steal all of the tour guide's attention from the other tourists.  At the Museum of Scotland Chris was given a private lesson on the history of bagpipe design, while my learned instructor and I had a chuckle at the disembodied head of a Pict slave carved into a Roman gatehead.  At the Scotch Whiskey Heritage Center, we demanded to be told the history behind 60% of the nearly 4,000 bottles in the collection (NOT an exaggeration...this room might as well have been wallpapered in whiskey bottles), while our co-tourists resignedly gagged back their Scotch in the uncomfortable shadow we cast over them.  At the Edinburgh Dungeon, we giggled as the actors threatened to disembowel and devour us while still somewhat alive.  Even out on the town we demanded special treatment, refusing to settle for cocktails on the menu, opting instead to give the bartender step-by-step instructions on how to make a drink more suitable to our tastes (in our defense, neither of us thought of dirty martinis as exotic, and quite frankly it's irritating that no one, not even at the swanky restaurants, knew how to make them...I mean, COME ON! who uses black olive juice?).  The point is, we couldn't get enough attention.

At first, I attributed my newfound sense of diva-hood to my thirst for an educational experience.  With each tour I had questions that needed answering, and if no other tourists would ask these questions, then gosh darn it, I would!  However, what seemed like an insignificant event at the time would bring me face to face with my ugly, inner Joan Rivers.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I need to back track a little to tell the story properly.  I received an email from TheKnot.com, as I'm sure many, many other brides also did, asking me if I wanted to apply to be on a wedding show.  I've seen the program before, and understand the basic premise of the show is to compete with other brides for the title of "Best Wedding", and the winner gets a free honeymoon to someplace with sun and a beach.  Dave and I have been somewhat stressing over the expense of wedding planning, so I thought why the hell not?  I know a girl from high school that had appeared on the show, and if she could pull it off without looking like a total ass, then why couldn't I?  They'd probably never pick me anyway...

Wrong.  I got an email from someone from the network apologizing that they couldn't move forward with the process because my venue doesn't allow filming of their facilities.  HOWEVER, would I be interested in applying for another show where Dave and I would exchange vows in Times Square LIVE on air with two other couples?

The next step is for Dave and I to interview on camera at their offices in NYC, I guess to determine if we're easy enough on the eyes.  I hiccuped and giggled the details via Skype to Dave, absolutely giddy with excitement.  So excited was I, in fact, that I failed to notice the look of panic and dread in his eyes.  Apparently, a Times Square wedding broadcast live to "Keeping Up With the Kardashians"-enthusiasts isn't the small, intimate affair he'd envisioned for us.  He slowly explained that he's not comfortable being the center of attention even in small groups, but I ignored his pleas and insisted we proceed with the interview-- just in case there's "awesome free stuff" they'll give us for participating.  After all, a free honeymoon is all I'm really interested in, right? 


I don't know anymore.

I haven't responded to the last email yet.  The woman there informed me that this weekend, the only convenient time Dave and I have to travel to NYC for the video interview, won't work for her.  She needs us to come in on a weekday, and as previously mentioned getting time off work is not an easy task for me.  Nor will it be for Dave, who's returning from a three month sojourn abroad and needs to get back into the swing of his life here.  She requested that I offer another time to come in, seeming to indicate that she genuinely is interested in having us on the show.  The question now is how do I respond to the last email?  How badly do I want this that I'm willing to disrupt my whole life (and panic my poor boyfriend) just to have my happy moment televised to the whole country?  More importantly, why do I even want this?  Am I that desperate for 15 minutes of fame?

I think I've made up my mind not to move forward with this experience, and to be content with my originally planned intimate affair.

But DAMN it would've made a GREAT story to tell the kids!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date!

I wasn't quite expecting the backlash of anger from people upset over the way I ended my last blog.  So to calm your anxiety, dear friends...here's how the wedding date decision went down.

When ideas of marriage first entered my head a few years ago, long before an engagment ring would actually make it onto my finger, I pictured myself having a summer wedding since summer is afterall my favorite season.  Plus, I'm a teacher so I already have my summers off to travel on a honeymoon time-restraint-free. 

However, as I came to fall in love with New England, the season of autumn really began to grow on me.  My friend Colleen had a wedding in October in western Massachusetts, and I remember that to kill some time since we were there too early, Dave and I decided to drive around.  We came across the entrance to a park reservation with an unpaved driving road running through it.  As we drove along through the reserve, instinctly we both became incredibly quiet, lost in looking through the windows as the gold and red leaves dropped and fluttered around the car as though God was casually throwing confetti on us.  My friend did not have an outdoor ceremony, but from that point on I started imagining my own Fall wedding outdoors.

When Dave proposed on Thanksigiving 2010 and everyone immediately began demanding to know when we would seal the deal, my gold and red ceremony vision skipped its way from the back of my mind to my vocal cords, and I began to tell everyone that I would be a Fall bride.  There was one problem though.  I wanted my father to walk me down the aisle, and I'm pretty sure that if I told him I wanted to get married just five months after my sister's wedding his wallet would have exploded in fire and brimstone and the poor man would have dropped dead right then and there.  Plus, there is a lot going on for me with her wedding as well that I need to be on my game for.  I've never been a maid of honor before, and my little sister is only getting married once.  I want to enjoy planning the bridal shower and bachelorette party without having to worry about financial suffocation because I would have my own wedding looming right around the corner.  She's already done too much wedding planning stuff without me since I live four hours away, so the stuff that I can be there for and help with I want to be 100% totally focused on.

So as far as we knew when Dave boarded the plane for Scotland, our wedding would happen sometime in October of 2012, over a year after Stephanie's wedding.  I checked a calendar for 2012 and saw that both Rosh Hoshanah and Columbus Day provided long weekends during that month, which would make travelling for our MA guests a little less of a burden, so these were the weekend dates I armed myself with when asking questions at the reception hall appointments.  I also knew that I needed to have a Saturday night wedding since our travelling guests would be too pressured to make it in time for a Friday night reception and too tired to drive back after a Sunday party.

As I continue to plan I am now learning that the second you think you are settled on any one detail, be it a minor one like the type of flower you'll use in your bouquet or a major one like the date of the actual event, the second you begin saying it out loud to people you will immediately start second guessing your decision.  As I began hinting to those who asked that we were leaning towards an October 2012 wedding, all of a sudden October 2012 seemed really, really, really far away!  Impossibly far away!  I would grow old and die before October 2012!  The sun would burn itself out and the world would end before October 2012!  How could we possibly wait that long?

Suddenly, although I'd been obsessed with the idea of a Fall wedding, other seasons were now seeming much more appealing.  I began pondering other times of the year that would be convenient for me and my travelling guests.  I have a week off in February which could be somewhat extended for a honeymoon, so that was an attractive option.  But alas, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it could never work.  For one, although I laughed a little at the thought, it would just be way too cruel to give Dave so many dates (a future anniversary plus Valentine's Day plus my birthday) to worry about all in one month.  More importantly, though, I couldn't risk a winter snowstorm stranding my guests in MA and Brooklyn while Dave and I sat alone and downhearted by ourselves at our wedding in Long Island.  February was out.

Late April was a safe bet for a snowstorm-free wedding.  Plus, it was way cheaper than the Fall wedding I'd originally hoped for.  Even better, I had a week off in April where I could extend for a honeymoon.  There was one unavoidable obstacle though...Shakespeare Festival.  What is Shakespeare Festival you ask?  It's a Renaissance Fair the 8th graders put on at my school in early May that takes a month and half of planning and long hours of hard work.  It's actually the most stressful time of the year for me, and the thought of tying up loose ends for a wedding while working my butt off for a showcase of the Bard made my back hurt and my eyelids feel heavy.  I wouldn't even be able to feel excited for my own wedding because I'd be too stressed out about work.  April was out.

In the end, we decided to go with early June.  School is still in session, but my major units will be over and the days will consist mostly of field trips, graduation assemblies, and watching movies (with educational value of course).  My summer vacation just a few short weeks later is a stress-free and flexible time to take a honeymoon.  The weather will be warm without being overwhelming, and the garden beyond the glass doors of our ceremony area will be in full bloom.  Was this late Spring wedding what I'd ever imagined for myself?  No...but that's okay because in the end it was right for us, and I'm happy with the decision.

Pencil me in: Saturday, June 9th, 2012.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Snowstorms, Venues, and Vomit

Greetings from South Boston, where streets are plowed and neighbors, while territorial about their parking spots, will do nice things like anonymously shovel your walkway when it snows while you're out of town for the holidays (thank you kind stranger, whoever you are!). 

As many of you already know, I spent most of the last week in Brooklyn visiting my family with Dave, who was home from Scotland for just one short week...a week that felt even shorter due to climate-related impediments.  Dave was scheduled to arrive early evening on December 23rd, but because the Brits sit down and flail their arms and cry whenever it snows in the UK, he missed his connecting flight in Heathrow and had to wait an entire extra day to fly into Boston.  So Dave made it into Logan at around 6:30pm on Christmas Eve.  Unfortunately, his bag (with all of the Xmas gifts in it, I might add) did not arrive until around 10pm.  He was fall-down-drunk by the time I picked him up, having exhausted the British Airways club lounge for all his business class ticket was worth, but I'd missed him so much that the slurred speech with intermittent sessions of snoring was more adorable than annoying.  By the time we made it into Brooklyn, it was 2am; dinner and gift opening were already over, and we basically missed out on Christmas Eve festivities.  It could have been worse, though...he could have missed Christmas entirely, so I'm grateful he was able to make it back at all.

The plan was to return to Boston on the 27th to visit with Dave's family and our good friends here in New England before heading back to BK for New Year's Eve.  Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg also apparently sits down and flails his arms and cries whenever it snows (but he masks it in a way that attempts to convince us there's nothing at all amiss and our panic and anger are unfounded), and we were stuck in NY for an extra day waiting for the streets to get plowed adequately enough to get to the highway and drive home.  Granted, it could have been MUCH worse.  If my car had been parked in my parents' driveway instead of on the avenue, then I would have been stuck there for days.  Still though, it threw our entire time table off, and the rest of the week felt extremely rushed.  Dave just flew back out on Sunday night, but I feel like he was here ages ago only because it went by so fast.

In spite of Mother Nature's interference, we were still able to handle two very important wedding planning details while Dave was home: we picked a venue and booked a date!  Before I reveal these most important of details, let me provide you with the background information.

The weekend after Dave left for Scotland, I headed to NY for some venue hopping with my mother and sister.  In fact, within a few days after getting engaged, my sister had emailed me inquiring what venues I was interested in checking out.  Before I knew it, I had two days of back-to-back appointments planned out for me.  Feeling a bit guilty, I pointed out that she should be worrying about her own upcoming nuptials (April 30th...very close!), but Steph impatiently explained that all of her arrangements were already made and she was currently in a state of wedding planning withdrawal.  Apparently planning someone else's wedding is just what she needs to slowly wean herself off of the habit.  Thank goodness for her or I'd still be staring at my ring going, "Wait, I'm engaged?"

Anyway, I drove into New York specifically to look at venues all weekend long.  Some of you may be wondering why I'm getting married in NY if I live in Boston.  For one, I dropped everything to move to New England to be with Dave, so he owed me one.  Two, we did a rough draft of our guest list, and there are about 120 New York guests, and about 30 from Boston.  Three, I knew that I wanted a venue that could alleviate a lot of my stress by handling all of those reception necessities--catering, open bar, linens, chairs, tableware, etc--for me in a packaged deal we could afford, freeing my time and energy to work on some of my quirkier ideas (we'll get to those in a future blog, don’t you worry!), and I knew that every venue I’d ever been to in NY offered those kinds of packages.  Also, food is a key part of any celebration in Italian culture, and I needed a venue that could cater to my family's very large appetite.  And there's no denying that in order to have a big fat Italian wedding, you need to go to where the big fat Italians are, and I'm sorry but we are in greater abundance in New York!

My sister booked me five appointments for that first weekend looking at halls: The Fox Hollow, Crest Hollow, Dyker Beach Golf Course, Westbury Manor, and El Caribe.  The first two were in Long Island, so we had to leave early to drive out and make the first appointment on time.  Unbeknownst to me, however, my sister had gone out and gotten herself obliterated the night before.  When I first saw her in the morning, she was hanging over the toilet, alternating between giggling and spewing (BEHOLD! My classy maid of honor!) while my mother just shook her head and tried hard to look disappointed instead of amused. 

Steph was still too drunk to follow the original plan in which SHE drove and I relaxed, but she assured us that she would be fine once we got into Long Island.  My mother took a heavy duty plastic bag with us just in case.  Later, we would come to be very grateful for my mother’s foresight.  It didn’t take too long for the giggles to wear out and Steph’s face to start turning green.  Somewhere around when the banquet manager was going over the menu options during our first appointment, my sister abruptly stood up and demanded to know where the bathroom was.  Her job for the remainder of the day was to inspect the quality of the bathrooms at all the venues since she was capable of doing little else.

It was strange searching for a place without Dave there, but I knew that we both wanted a place that had some character instead of just a run-of-the-mill ballroom setting.  Also, I knew we were both leaning towards having an outdoor ceremony.  We’d both been to the Fox Hollow before, which is actually what inspired all of these interests in the first place.  We knew the food was good, the venue itself had a vintage garden look, and the grounds were gorgeous.  However, when my family and I arrived for our walk-through I was disheartened to learn that my guest list was too small for their big room and too big for their small room.  They were in the middle of building another edition, which was just the right size and was being offered at a preconstruction price, but I would be committing to a room I’d never seen before and wouldn’t be able to see until April.  Furthermore, the option to get married outdoors was only available to clients who’d booked one of the other two rooms.  Bummer.  On the other hand, the new room would be walled in on one side by floor-to-ceiling French doors that looked out onto a pocket garden, so it would feel like being outside.

Crest Hollow came next.  Even in the winter, their grounds were spectacular, and I almost teared up at the thought of getting married surrounded by the brightly colored flowers under a clear blue sky.  The sprawling greenery was also visible from the floor to ceiling windows that completely covered the walls of the reception room I was interested in…and there were A LOT of reception rooms to choose from.  Eventually they started to swim around in my head, and it was hard to concentrate with all the people milling about the place.  The building was only accessible to guests through the main doors, and with multiple receptions going on at once it seemed that there was a constant crowd of people perpetually streaming through the door and loitering in the front lobby.  However, as I pondered all of these factors I was nibbling at some ridiculously delicious desserts drenched in chocolate made in-house.  If there’s anyway to change my mind about a place, it’s through chocolate, but I still wasn't quite ready to give up the intimate affair I'd envisioned.

Dyker Beach Golf Course finished off that first day of looking.  This one was in Brooklyn, so we were able to drop Pukey off at home before going.  I was really excited to see this one, since I’ve heard good things from friends who’ve been there, and the convenience of a country club actually existing in Brooklyn was almost too good to be true…and it was.  First of all, we couldn’t figure out where to park or how to get into the place, and once we were in we were told to wait in a narrow hallway—standing, mind you!—for someone who could come help us.  I was expecting someone named Donna, but the person who showed up was some dude who looked more lost than I did.  “So you must be Margaret!” were his first words to me, and I knew I was in for a disappointing walk-through.  He didn’t say congratulations on my engagement or ask me my future husband’s name or any other little details that I am currently still dying to talk about all the time.  Instead, he grilled me and my mother on how we’d heard about the place and tried to get our input on how they could better advertise.  Turns out that he is not one of the venue’s two banquet managers, but instead the general manager of the golf course; it seems that both of the people I needed to see were currently nowhere to be found.  This man flat-out told me he didn’t feel confident enough to answer any of my questions, but hey let’s get started anyway!  And he was right…the guy was basically useless.  I couldn’t help noticing, however, that the place was indeed beautiful.  When he opened the French doors and we stepped outside onto the enormous stone patio, my heart picked up tempo as I took in the overwhelming beauty of the golf course.  Had I not known otherwise, I NEVER would have suspected that we were actually in the middle of bustling Brooklyn.  We’d gone out here to take a look at what he figured was the cocktail space, but immediately I wanted to know if a ceremony could be done here instead of the gazebo at the front of the building (the one right on the perimeter…by the street…where you can hear all the traffic).  He looked confused and said, “Um…yeah, probably.”  Probably?  I hated this guy.  I hated him more when he handed me a stack of papers containing menu and service information (as well as indecipherable notes presumably scribbled into the margins by the elusive Donna) and informed me that he couldn’t go through it with me since he didn’t know anything anyway.  Once home, my mother and I examined the stack together and nearly joined Stephanie in throwing up when we saw that this disastrous hall cost nearly double what the other two venues we’d looked at were charging!  Scratch that one off.

The next day we headed to Westbury Manor, another venue in Long Island.  The venue actually is an old gorgeous mansion, as the name implies, with charm and grace and an old world feel.  I was in love the second we walked in.  I was not, however, in love with the banquet manager, who seemed to over-emphasize how long the staff had been on board (were they hypnotized? Held captive against their will?), and seemed to speak to all of them as one who doesn’t really like children might speak to children when he wants other people to think he’s endearing.  Host aside, the place really was gorgeous, and even amid the gloomy weather of the day, the outside gardens (replete with peacocks, ducks, and birds of paradise) really did make me want to jump up and down with excitement.  That is, until he informed me that I could only have the ceremony on-site if I had a daytime reception.  With so many guests needing time allowed for travel from MA, this just isn’t an option.  Further souring my spirits, the larger ballroom was too big for my guest list and the other room was too small for my guest list.  I wanted to cry.

I decided not to go to the El Caribe appointment since I already had my venue narrowed down to two options (I’m not someone who likes to shop around for a long time, especially since more  choices just makes the decision harder, and it isn’t easy for me to get into NY often to keep looking).  I loved Westbury Manor, but cutting my guest list by 1/5 didn’t seem worth it for a venue that wouldn’t even let me get married on-site.  The Fox Hollow was only slightly less spectacular than the Westbury Manor in its vibe, but the thought of booking a room before it’s built made me extremely nervous.  I talked it over with Dave extensively, emailing him PDF files of all the materials both places had given me.  My family and friends were also very patient with me as I struggled with the decision.  In the end we decided to go with…get ready…THE FOX HOLLOW!  Once the decision was made, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.  I’m confident we made the right decision and that further searching would have only muddled the process. 

When Dave came in from Scotland, we traveled back to Long Island (the morning of the snowstorm) with my father also in tow this time, and after both of them gave their in-person approval we signed the papers. 

Okay, I know that I promised you a date as well, but alas! this blog has dragged on for far too long, and choosing the perfect date was another big decision, so that ordeal will have to wait until my next entry.  Thanks for sticking with me and reading this whole thing through; I know it’s become obnoxiously long. 

Until next time!

Oh, and for anyone who's interested, here are the links to all the venues I visited:

The Westbury Manor:  http://www.westburymanor.com/