Friday, July 30, 2010

Dresses, Rings, Invites, Oh My

I have this little wedding planner we bought at the bookstore, The Bride's Book of Lists. It's portable, which is the big reason we bought it, but it's also very handy because it has pockets in the front and back covers, a business card holder with a couple of slots (I wish it had more, but it was either buy a book I could stick in my purse, or buy a mammoth book with all the slots I'd want), and a lot of lists and questions to ask prospective vendors, all in the name of guidance. It is actually helpful - Maria had recommended I pick one up, and I'm glad I did - because most of these questions never would have occurred to me to ask. The checklists are clearly not meant to be applicable to each and every bride, but said exhaustive lists are helpful because at the very least, it gets you thinking about what you might want; you obviously don't have to get everything. (I refuse to get a balloonist; I'm not eight.)

Some of these things just make me giggle, though. Since I've purchased this book, I've seen other lists, and they've all consistently recommend seeing a travel agent to book the honeymoon. I'm highly entertained by this, insofar as I'm not sure I've seen a travel agent more than once - and that was only because I had only cash to pay for a ticket, no debit or credit card; I'd already researched the flights and fares online and could tell the travel agent which flight I'd wanted and what the fare quoted. I've had a passport and have been traveling internationally since I was 7, and I'm marrying a pilot; I think we've figured out how to travel.

Today I visited three bridal shops: I Do! Bridal Utah, A Bride Beautiful, and the dreaded David's Bridal, which I've only set foot in once before. Once again, Ed came with me for moral support and to surreptitiously note gown designers and model numbers. We were the only customers in the first two stores, so we could take our time and rifle through the gowns, get some personalized attention, questions answered, etc. I found a few nice gowns: nothing I loved, but some that were lovely. Upon entering David's Bridal, Ed got this saucer-eyed "Yikes!" look. We were immediately pounced upon, given catalogues, and directed to the back of the store, where the "women's sizes" (as opposed to the duck sizes, I guess) were kept. I found two dresses I especially liked, although of course they didn't have my size, but we made notes of their style numbers, took surreptitious photographs, and scuttled out.

The David's Bridal lady did say something interesting: She said that they (David's Bridal) prided themselves on not being a small boutique gown shop; they stocked gowns that fit actual women. I saw right through this: In each of the previous three wedding gown shops we'd visited, I was assured (and I think honestly so) that of course the gowns could be altered, however I'd wished. None of the other shops made me feel that I could not buy a gown, no matter my size.

Today we'd also went to a local jewelry store to see if we could differentiate between white gold and platinum, since that's the material we'd like our wedding bands to be made of. We couldn't really tell the difference, and since there seemed to be a several thousand dollar price difference, we opted for the white gold. This is not to say we're going to be buying our wedding bands at a jewelry store, though, because that's just stupid.

Instead, we bought our rings tonight on - wait for it - Amazon. We'd gone to the jewelry store to get an idea of the difference between (for example) a 4 mm ring and an 8 mm ring, and how such differences affect our own ring sizes. The two rings we bought are matching, bought from the same company online, and combined cost less than one ring at the jewelry store would have cost.

We've been also looking into invitations. We'd stopped off at Tabula Rasa last week; Williams-Sonoma had given us a 10% Off Invitations coupon, so we thought we'd at least take a look to see what was out there, get a feel for what we liked, etc. Invitations are mighty expensive, though. Prices varied, but if we'd wanted invites and RSVP cards, we priced what we'd need at about $3,500, which, as much as we want something nice, just isn't worth it (especially considering who but us will ever be saving the invites). We both really liked the possibility of handmade paper; a Google search led us to Paperfish Designs, from whom we ordered a few samples, and they're nice (and with all the additional stuff we'd want, like matching programs, would be maybe quarter the cost).

The Internet is truly a glorious thing, and I can't imagine getting suckered into paying thousands of dollars for the same thing that can be bought online for less. I feel like a marketing ad, but honestly.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Wedding Dress Search Begins

This afternoon I had an appointment at a small wedding gown store - Dani's Bridal, essentially just a quick Google search away. It was my first appointment and experience, and I was really all worked up about it, but it turned out to be a really positive experience, much to my (and I suspect Ed's) relief.

Because I am...erm...a size that's not usually carried in stores, I had visions of going to multiple bridal gown stores and being told that if a gown wasn't on the rack in my size, it simply could not be provided. I've never been too keen on wedding gowns to begin with, so this compounded my irritation at finding not only one that would fit, but one that would look halfway decent. I do not want a sleeveless gown, for example, nor one that has spaghetti straps, or those weird shoulder pad-type things, or tiny jackets that only hug your shoulders. I wound up spending about 45 minutes with the owner, however, who was very low-pressure, was able to steer me towards gowns that would suit me more (no one wants to see a heavy person in a clingy gown, not even me; not even Ed if it's me). I was able to describe a bit of what I liked, which helped, and there was, in fact, a quite lovely
Alfred Angelo gown that, while it would not be in my size, does seem to be one that could be altered. And indeed, The owner was able to describe exactly what would be done, and altering a gown seems to be very common and not an issue at all. This made me feel immensely better. In a nutshell, if I find a gown I love - and when I choose a gown - even if it's not available in my size, there are things that can be done to alter it such that it can fit.

When we got home, Ed whipped out his Google Fu and found the dress available to purchase online for about a third of what it had cost in the store. Having the gown customized would cost more, of course, but even with the customization, the gown would cost less than half the price. Further alterations are a given even if the gown were to be bought in the store, but if I go with that gown, I'll still wind up paying half or a third of going through a gown shop.

I'll wind up going to a few more bridal shops to get an idea of what's out there - perhaps I'll find something I'll like - but even if I don't, I have a few genuinely pretty gowns bookmarked online that either come in my size or can be altered easily. Gone are the days, I think, in which you could only get your gown altered at the store from which you bought your gown; we found a few independent alteration places that will do wedding gowns.

The irritating part? After our foray into bridal gown shopping, we took care of tuxedo rentals for the groomsmen. This was an amazingly painless process, and took about as much time as my one visit to the bridal gown factorium. At least that's one item we could cross off our list.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Status: Engaged

A week ago Friday night, Ed proposed. It's taken me a week to blog here about the event partly because it's been such a busy week, and partly because it's taken me that long to wrap me head around the implications of getting married.

It was lovely: We went out to dinner to the local hibachi / sushi joint, and saw Despicable Me (which, by the way, was very much with the funny). When we got home, Ed mysteriously sent me upstairs while he lit some candles out in the backyard; finally he gave me permission to come back downstairs, took me outside, and gave me a wrapped box, which I opened to discover was full of strawberry ring pops. We'd had a joke previously that because I'd been ambivalent about getting an actual engagement ring, a strawberry ring pop would be the way to go. Once it dawned on me what was happening, he told me how much he loved me and how much I'd changed his life, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes, and ever since I've been sporting a beautiful 18k white gold Claddagh ring with diamond flecks in the heart and crown.

But this means, too, that we can't get married in Utah; Ed's mom has a medical condition that disallows her spending any amount of time at high altitude. (Apparently flying is okay, because it's for a very short amount of time, but being at high altitude for days at a time is a bad idea.) Since his parents are currently en route to their new home in Virginia, they have no ties there (yet), and no family, so we've decided to get married in Pennsylvania.

We contemplated getting married in April or May; then I realized that Lent took up the entirety of April, and getting married during Lent might be difficult, so we pushed the wedding back to May. I called the church that Mom and Dad got married in, and talked the priest into agreeing to let us marry there on May 14th. (He seemed a bit confused as to why we'd want to get married at his particular church, and not the church Mom is currently a parishioner of. The most recent church I'd been registered at had been in Long Island, and while I had been a member of St. Ann's as a child - and had been confirmed there - it's not an especially pretty church, and I haven't been a parishioner in over a decade, despite having gone to services there for the past several months. There are simply more family ties to Sts. Simon & Jude's Church in Bethlehem - and it's prettier, too.) I got various details, including the number of the organist, whom I called today and booked. I'd have loved a piano or a cello and a soloist, but the organ apparently "pops" more, and I haven't even begun looking for a cellist or soloist yet, and I think I'll just be happy with the organist at this point.

We've also organized our wedding party: Maria as Maid of Honor; four bridesmaids (Cheng, Bronwyn, Ciara, and Ed's goddaughter Mac); Ed's friend Alex as Best Man; four groomsmen (Justin, Aidan, our friend Jason, and Ed's friend Randy); and Ori as Flower Girl.

We've been scuttling around trying to find a reception site: One place was not to my taste, but we put in a request for information and availability; two places already had a wedding booked (one place said they had the next day available, if our date was flexible); and one place most likely is available, and I'm expecting an e-mail from the Event Coordinator at some point with details. This would cover the catering and the cake, which would be helpful.

I've put in some calls to a couple photographers, and we've been researching flowers, but we still have to look into entertainment, a wedding gown, bridesmaids dresses, tuxedos, and transportation, as well as research hotels for the out-of-towners. And we have to update the wedding website, which we're not making public yet because there's no useful information to be shared at this point.

The alleged budget we were meant to have created caused some tense moments so far. We bought a few wedding planner books and wedding magazines, and the general consensus is that: (a) one needs a budget; and (b) depending on the source, a wedding will cost $15,000 or $75,000. Obviously, we recognized that the cost of a wedding depends on where you're getting married, the size of the wedding, and various configurations of options, but advising us to create a budget is like telling someone who's never set foot inside a grocery store to create a food budget. Without knowing the price range of what anything cost, we couldn't make a budget, but after doing some fairly intensive investigating this week we got a better idea of the price of things and what's important for us to have, and things won't be as bad as we'd originally thought, financially speaking.

One last note: Wedding timelines are the bane of my newly-engaged existence. They all seem to assume you're not getting married for at least a year, and God help you if you want to get married sooner than that because it simply can't be done. Many had me choosing and buying the wedding gown two months before we got engaged. After pulling out my hair, I decided that most of these timelines were (as the kids would say) whack, so I disregarded them all and found one that's not perfect but a bit more reasonable.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I want to make a few notes of the long weekend that Ed and I spent in Seattle this past weekend before weeks pass, and I forget. We had a really great time, and our going was a rather random decision fueled by my deciding that Seattle might be a cool place to visit, especially because I've never been to Washington state or the Pacific Northwest.

Ed decided we should rent a car, and this turned out to be a really good decision, since everything we wanted to do was spread out. We stayed at a beautiful old hotel that had a lot of history to it, and which came with its own kitchenette. We had late dinner reservations at the Space Needle restaurant, Sky City. We'd thought it would be a hokey thing to do - and it was - but it was also really cool. We had late dinner reservations (9:15 p.m.; our other option was something like 5:30 p.m.), but this turned out to be excellent timing because we saw the sun set over Seattle, so the city went from azure to blinky. We lucked out and even got a window seat, and after dinner we hung out at the Observation Deck, by which time it had cooled down considerably and there was a lovely temperate breeze; the day itself had been fairly warm, even by Seattle standards.

We happened to discover the existence of a Japanese Garden in the midst of Washington Park Arboretum, and contemplated going to one of the Chakais, but by the time we discovered their existence, we couldn't buy tickets online, and in retrospect we would have been underdressed. We did get to sit in on one of the Japanese tea demos, though, which was excellent timing; it was the park's 50th anniversary celebration. We did decide to go on a harbor cruise on Saturday afternoon, which was gorgeous (being on or even near the ocean makes me so, so happy), and settled in with a dozen oysters as part of dinner afterwards.

Sunday was fairly quiet. After Mass we drove 30 miles north of Seattle and went on a tour of the Boeing museum and factory, which was extremely awesome. (I managed to forget my wallet there, and didn't discover that until much later, but thanks to an early morning call and a shout out on Twitter, my wallet was found, with the only real inconvenience being a drive back to the museum to get it.) It's not difficult to get Ed to lapse into aviation geekery, which I like as much as the airplanes.

We also managed to get some shopping in at the Pike Place Market on both Friday and Monday. On Friday we discovered the Perennial Tea Room, where I managed to contain myself and only bought six teas: decaf English Breakfastdecaf Victorian Earl Grey; decaf Earl Grey Extra; organic Orange Spice; a house blend tulsi; and a cooling mint tulsi. They don't sell the tulsi teas online, but I was interested in trying this new type of tea I'd never heard of before. (I did find some information about their tulsi teas on their blog.) On Monday we stopped at World Spice Merchants, where I obtained some really interesting salts (Hawaiian sea salt and black lava sea salt) and tea (sweet chaipeppermint, and emerald mist).

But the big reason for our perusal through the Market had been due to one of the podcasters I follow, Grammar Girl, who had mentioned some time back that when she visits Seattle, she stops at this market, specifically at a store called Market Spice, for a fantastic orange spice tea. I've already brewed the iced tea version of the Market Spice blend (I bought iced tea bags specifically for the iced tea version, although it's caffeinated so I need to remember to limit my intake), and I was very happy with the results.

Picture slideshow

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Last month, I took the Praxis again.

The Praxis is a teacher certification exam, one that must be taken in order to become a certified teacher. It's not a national exam; every state has its own requirements: Some states require the Praxis, while others require different exams. New York, the state in which I attended college, doesn't require the Praxis, but it has its own exams, so while I'm certified in New York State, I had to take the Praxis to become certified to teach in Utah. Furthermore, those states that do require the Praxis have different "pass" scores. Pennsylvania, for example, has a "pass" score of 160, while Utah has a "pass" score of 168. This is one of the reasons taking the Praxis several months ago was so frustrating: Aside from already being certified to teach in New York State, the score I got on the Praxis back in March was 165 - good enough for Pennsylvania, but three points short of Utah's requirement.

And they're expensive exams: $130 for the first exam back in March, and $80 for the June exam. (I suspect the $50 registration fee is waived if you take the exam again within a certain period of time.) And they're always so early! Although there are exams that start in mid-morning, mine always seem to start at 7:30 a.m. - or are supposed to, but they never do start on time. They last two hours from the start of the exam, which means one must be sitting quietly for the duration. A few folks were chatting quietly before the exam, and we were politely but firmly hushed. Nor were we allowed to be reading, looking at cell phones, or doing anything but sitting quietly. One is not allowed to leave the test site before the two hours has expired. It gets rather boring rather quickly. (I fell asleep at the end of the exam back in June; just rested my head against the back wall, and awoke to the proctor carefully nudging me. I hope I snored.)

Which is why I was relieved to learn today that I passed the exam the second time, by an amazing three points. Now I get to officially put together my application for the Utah state teaching license. I thought I had brought copies of my transcripts, but apparently not - at any rate, I can't find them - so I have requests in process.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fourth of July Hoopla

Last night Ed and I went to a performance by the Utah Symphony Orchestra (I don't know why the time stamp thinks I was there at two and three in the morning):