Friday, September 30, 2011

How My Fiance Met His Better Half

Ah, the ol' "how we met" story. I get asked this story a lot, along with the proposal story. Frankly, I'm sick of telling both of them. Every time I tell either of the epic sagas, my narration gets shorter and shorter. I kid you not, my answer to "how did he propose?!" has now become "he took me to watch the sunrise by the lake and then asked me to marry him." The poor guy planned an elaborate proposal complete with soundtrack and mini muffins, and I reduce the event to a single sentence?? How rude!

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Now if someone asks how he proposed I can just say "clearly you don't read my blogs--check it out." So now I'm writing a "how we met" post so I can nip that question in the bud as well. Because I would so much rather communicate through blogging than have actual human interaction, apparently. So here goes:

The first time I laid eyes on Mr. Unicycle was June 23, 2006. It's strange that I remember the date, but it's because it was the date of my university's pre-orientation, and also because our wedding is on June 23, 2012. I love it.
The orientation involved a lot of this.

We were in the same informational group with our parents, and the group leader made us go around the room and say something interesting about ourselves. Am I the only one who has a negative Pavlovian reaction to the phrase "go around the room"? It makes me nervous just typing it. And am I also the only one who never has anything interesting to say about themselves? Why do people make us do this??

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I foam at the mouth at the mere though of speaking in front of a room.

Mr. Unicycle's interesting fact was that he's an Eagle Scout (hot). When it was my turn I copied him and said I'm a Gold Award recipient. For those of you who don't know, the Gold Award is allegedly the Girl Scout equivalent of becoming an Eagle Scout. Except I've heard it's way easier and less prestigious. Anyway, I sounded like a total tool telling a room full of people that I'm a "Gold Award Recipient." Doesn't that just sound like a tool-y thing to say? To top it off, I'm pretty sure I winked, nodded, and/or thumbsed up in Mr. Unicycle's direction (à la Fonzi) after I said it.

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The two of us didn't actually meet that day. We met exactly 2 months later, on the first day of real orientation. We were once again in the same discussion group, where we bonded because we were both physics majors and we both lived in the same dorm. But at this point, we weren't hardcore crushin' on each other yet. I thought of him as the nerdy Eagle Scout who liked Sci-Fi, and I'm guessing he thought of me as the girl who looked like she belonged in 7th grade, even besides the fact that she wore pigtail braids to college orientation (yeah, I did that).

Stay tuned for Episode II: We meet in Physics Class!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Ugly Duckling Bride

Okay, hive, it's time to get real. I don't often write serious things because they're boring, but I figured I should get this off my chest: being a bride makes me feel damn ugly. (If you're tired of hearing girls complain about their looks, you should probably click away now.)

Screenshot from YouTube
Hot chicks complaining about their looks is the worst thing ever.

Every wedding plan I make somehow reminds me of my looks. There are the obvious things, like dress shopping, looking for photographers (and thus thinking about how I'll actually look in the photos), and booking a makeup pro. But other things are worrying me too. Like am I gonna look fat in our wedding video when I'm doing my sweaty rendition of the Cha Cha Slide? Will I have a hunch back while we say our vows and everyone's looking at me from the side? Is the next vendor I meet with going to think I look like I belong in the 8th grade instead of in a wedding dress? Are my teeth too yellow? Is my skin too pale? Are my arms too fat? Are my feet too big? Are my nails too small? (answer: yes. I have perfectly circular nails. It's strange, and every time I've ever gotten a manicure, the manicurist has taken one look at my nails and literally said "oh, my!")

What is it about this wedding that seems to have wiped out what little body confidence I once had? When I look at brides in magazines all I think is that I'm not pretty enough or thin enough to be a bride. I also don't look old enough, and I'm not fancy or glamorous enough.

When I tried on dresses at David's Bridal (which I'll discuss in another post) my consultant or whatever they're called was about my age, except she was thin and pretty, and as she helped me into the dresses (some of which wouldn't even zip) I got embarrassed. I started thinking "how dare I try on a wedding dress when I look like this." Why couldn't I look like this waif of a bridal consultant instead? Then I started feeling bad for Mr. Unicycle that he has to marry someone who looks so childish/frizzy haired/fat armed in a wedding dress. I even felt bad for Mr. Unicycle's parents that their son has to marry an ugly duckling. I wanted to issue a huge apology to the world--to Mr. Unicycle (and his parents, for that matter) for not being the bride they pictured when they pictured his wedding, to my photographer and videographer for not having better looking subject matter, to the bridal consultant who tried to be tactful when she slipped that little piece of "modesty fabric" into the back of the dress that wouldn't zip.
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See those clips on the back of the dress? I didn't need 'em.

But then I was all "hold up, grrrl. You're apologizing for not looking good enough? That ain't right." (yeah, I got ghetto fabulous again.) How could I not be pretty enough to be a bride? Mr. Unicycle proposed to me, which means he likes me just the way I am. I've worked for years to accept my physical appearance--going through the big change helped a lot--and I was finally getting to be pretty okay with my looks by the time I got to college. Why was this wedding bringing back all those feelings I thought I'd worked through?

Here's the skinny--or the fat, or the ugly--the wedding industry is an industry, which means it exists to make money. Liposuction, airbrush makeup application, bridal boot camps, eyelash extensions et al. all cost moolah. The bridal industry and the cosmetic industry realized they could team up and prey on the insecurities of brides who want their "special day" to be perfect. This isn't exactly a ground-breaking realization, and yet I need to point it out because even someone as cynical and "with it" as me fell prey to this manufactured self-discontent.
Personal pic

This is a pretty ugly picture of me. I have a double chin, gaps in my teef, and virtually no eyes. And you can't tell that I'm dressed as the late, great Amy Winehouse, so that faux birthmark just looks like I have food on my face or something. But I love this pic anyway because Mr. Unicycle and I just look so happy. I hope that if I do look ugly in my wedding pics, at least it's this kind of ugly.

So did my a-ha moment erase my insecurities and make me realize that I'm friggin hawt and any wedding dress would be lucky to hug these curves? I'm still worried that everyone's going to think I look like a child bride, or that I'll look more "cute" than "sexy" in my wedding dress, or that I should have lost a few more pounds before daring to walk down the aisle. But I realize now that it's just the wedding industry telling me these things, and I'm going to try to remind myself of that every time I have one of these thoughts. Because really, all brides look beautiful (they're friggin brides, for Pete's sake), and there's no reason that I should have to change myself just because some dude put a ring on it.

Weigh in: Do you think the wedding industry puts undue stress on brides to look perfect? What's the best way to combat these feelings?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Candy Buffet Mock-Up: Do I Have Enough?

A few posts back, I showed you the candy buffet inspiration photos I’d been squirreling away. So what will my candy buffet look like? Well, the table will be covered with gray and white polka dot fabric (the same fabric as my engagement pics dress, which I'll show you later), and I’ll fill mismatched jars/vases/glass containers with bulk yellow candy--yellow gumballs, M&Ms, rock candy, and maybe my favorites, Mr. Goodbar!

I wish this photo were mine (because that would mean I had a vase full of Mr. Goodbars in my house) 

I also bought a bunch of miniature frames from the dollar section of Michaels, which I will use to label what each type of candy is. Here’s the mock-up (without frames):

All personal pics

This one’s my favorite:

 No wait, this one is:

I put these 2 on a box to give the buffet more dimension. Obviously I will not be using a cardboard box for the actual buffet:

 Is that a thrift store price tag I see? Why yes, it is. And yes, this badd boi was only a buck!

I might superglue some of them to these candle sticks from the dollar store. I think it makes them look purrrty:

And here it is with the frames included:

I think it looks really busy, actually. But keep in mind that all the containers will be cleaned, label-free, and filled with monochrome candy, and the frames will all be painted one color, most likely white.

Most of the containers were unearthed at a St. Vinny’s in the Dells. The most expensive one I bought there was $4, but most were only a dollar! I got a few at the Dollar Tree, also for a dollar, and a few from Home Goods. I think I might buy more from Hobby Lobby or Michaels because I’d love to hop on the bandwagon and buy one of these fancy-looking ones:

Plus, I have a gift card for both places. And I’m not sure how much candy I need for a 200 person reception. I guess that should dictate how many glass containers I buy, not just whether I have all the different pretty shapes, huh?

What do you think of my buffet set-up so far? Do you think it looks too busy? And more importantly, do you think I need to buy more glass?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

How to Book a Wedding Photographer

In the last installment of the Finding a Photographer saga, I talked about the lovely Google doc I'd constructed to organize the dozens of eligible photographers to choose from in the Chicagoland area. After I'd filled in a bunch of photographers (from companies like Timothy Whaley & Associates to individual photographers like Victoria Sprung), I started to realize there wasn't really a need to do any kind of statistical analysis like I did for our venue search. I didn't have to assign a value to each pro and con and calculate which photog would be the approximation of perfect for us because they were mostly...not even close to perfect for us. The ones we could afford didn't offer what we wanted, and the ones who would do what we wanted cost an arm and a coupla leggz.

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Granted, my idea of an arm is like, $10. A leg is maybe $15. I'd pay you to take my first born.

We went from having too many photographers (fo' realz, we had about 40) to no photographer at all. I found myself telling Mr. Unicycle that it was kind of ridiculous for us to expect to get a decent photo package for under $2000. "We're kind of being cheapskates," I told him. "Looks like you just can't find anyone that cheap anymore." (Yeah go ahead and roll your eyes. I know I was an idiot. I mean, that's almost what I spent on my car.) But we kept looking and filling in our Google doc, still not finding anyone under budget. Until...
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We found one that was cheap n' easy (as I like to say)! She had a cute website with pretty pictures (they passed Mr. Unicycle's test, anyway), her price was well under budget, and she met every single one of our requirements. That photographer was Jennifer Shaffer Photography, so go check out her site (after you finish reading this post, of course). Here are some of her super cool pics:


I was ready to book her on the spot (you'll notice I like to do things without thinking them through too much, {like the time I purchased Bump-Its [no, they don't actually work]}) but Mr. Unicycle convinced me that we needed to meet her first. We met up with Jenn at a Starbucks and talked to her about her wedding packages, her photography style, business philosophy, etc. She showed us some wedding pics she'd taken and went through each one to explain what she liked about it, how she framed it, why she chose the location she chose, and a bunch of other photography lingo that I just smiled and nodded along with. This meeting made me realize just how important it is to meet with vendors ahead of time:
  1. Instead of just looking through Jenn's portfolio and seeing beautiful brides and pretty shoe close-ups, I was able to hear directly from her why she took the pictures she took. You are most likely not as surprised as I was to discover the amount of thought that goes into each shot. When I take pictures I just hold up the camera and press the little button thingy.
  2. We also learned that Jenn was a really nice, outgoing person, which was a column we hadn't even thought to add to our Google doc. But having a photographer you get along with and like being around is so important (It's true--I've read it on legit wedding blogs before, like this one).
If we hadn't met Jenn first, we wouldn't have learned either of those things! In the car on the way home from Starbucks, I was once again ready to book her on the spot. Mr. Unicycle thought we should try meeting with other photographers first just to make sure we were making the right decision. "But she's perfect!" I whined. After about 3 seconds of me whining, Mr. Unicycle had one of those "oh duh, you're right" moments, and we decided to book her for our wedding date!!!

Do you make impulsive decisions like me? Are you cheap like me? (I had to throw in a little more self deprecation. This post didn't have enough.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to Find a Wedding Photographer

After booking the reception venue, finding a photographer was the most important/stressful task on my wedding to do list. I'm an extremely nostalgic person (just thinking about how there will never be a new episode of Charmed again makes me tear up), so I know I'll be looking back at our wedding pics all the time after it's all said and done.

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My 2 fave things: weddings and Charmed. By the way I kind of love her dress.

I'm also worried about PWD--I took a quiz in Brides magazine to see if I was susceptible and I am!--but I think having lots of amazing wedding pics to peruse after it's over will help a lot with that. They're the only tangible thing leftover from the day (actually that's not true at all--what about the dress that you can never wear again, the favors that guests left behind, the dying centerpieces, the freezer-burnt top tier, and all the other junk I'll have to haul back home and figure out what to do with?) so they're pretty important.

Personal pic
I don't want to be making this face after the wedding!

To begin this part of the wedding planning, I turned to Google docs, natch (no, they don't pay me to promote them. But they should! I could do so much for their exposure! [that was sarcasm]). The tab was artistically titled "Photographers," and it included cells for name, email address, website, date contacted (very important for all Google doc spreadsheets for vendors!! Especially if your email client deletes things at will!), and a bunch of other cells.

I blurred out the names in case some of my data was incorrect, or if they've changed their policies since I created this doc. There are a lot of question marks in this spreadsheet so I didn't want any vendors to get pee-issed at me. 

As you can see, before you can decide who would make a good photographer, you have to decide what you want in a wedding photographer. Here's what I (we!) wanted:
  1. The entire package had to be $2,000 or less.
  2. We needed 10 hours of coverage, from getting ready to our send-off at the end of the night.
  3. We wanted 2 photographers, or at least the option of adding a 2nd shooter (while staying under budget).
  4. Similarly, we wanted an engagement session, either included or tacked on for a price under budget.
  5. I also wanted rights to the photos because I wanted to be able to edit them, post them all over the innanet (like here, for example), and most importantly, print them at the cheapest photo printing place I could find (Hi, Walgreens! Hey there, Vistaprint! Wassup, Shutterfly?)
  6. Surprisingly enough, we didn't want prints or an album included. I'd much rather get a cheaper package without any actual prints or album than pay more for an overpriced photo book that I could make myself for cheaper (be prepared to hear a lot of that nonsense throughout my posts, by the way). I've heard of people spending more than $800 on a wedding album! While I get that those albums are extremely well made, and I did just rhapsodize about how important photos are to me, above, I don't really care that much about the quality of the album (at least, not $800 worth).
We also included cells in the Google doc for our opinion of the person's photos. This is most people's main concern when booking a wedding photographer, but to be honest I didn't have much of an opinion about it. Most wedding photography looks the same to me as long as it's done professionally, and I usually just get caught up in the content of the pics, rather than the photographer's composition/skills/what have you.

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This is my idea of a bad wedding photo. Then again, if the bride weren't riding the groom like a damn animal, the pic might be quite lovely.

So this was more of Mr. Unicycle's domain because he is really into photography from a photographer's standpoint. He likes to take pics of flowers and spiders and junk, so he knew what to look for more than me. (True story: when we finally met our photographer, I asked her if her black and white pics were shot that way or if she photoshopped them. Mr. Unicycle laughed at me because apparently you don't take digital pics in black and white. Who knew? Uh, everyone except me, apparently.)

So after I scoured The Knot, Wedding Wire, Weddingbee, Google, and even some old fashioned magazines for photographer listings, emailed everyone, and filled in my precious Google doc, it was time to figure out who met enough of our criteria to warrant a meeting...

(the ellipses mean "to be continued.")

What is/was most important to you in a wedding photographer?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Top 6 Reasons Weddings Suck

Have you ever noticed that most people kind of hate weddings?

Old people hate weddings because that dang music is just too dang loud.

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"Back in my day..." etc. etc. blah blah blah

Children hate weddings because they have to "behave themselves," whatever that means.

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I hate this kid more than he hates weddings.

Teenagers hate weddings because they are the most awkward people on the planet and they're not allowed any liquid courage.

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"You expect me to dance at a wedding? Please. I'm an angsty teen."

Bridesmaids hate weddings because they have to shell out their life's savings on a fugly dress and wear it while wondering if they'll ever get their own "special day." (There's nothing worse than lamenting your singleness while wearing a hideous dress.)

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"Will I ever find my prince? Why am I wearing this? What is 'is'? "

Married people hate weddings because they remind them of how happy they used to be, and how different they feel now.

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"Remember back in the day when we actually liked each other and didn't have to pay the bills by posing for erectile dysfunction ads?"

Divorced people hate weddings because they have to restrain themselves from grabbing the bride and groom, shaking them, and exclaiming "Don't do it!"

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Like this. Goth makeup optional.

Babies hate weddings because they interfere with breastfeeding. Okay, so maybe babies aren't cognizant enough to hate anything, but they do usually look pretty damn angry.

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"The Electric Slide? Really? You asses gotta be kidding me. Give me my effing formula."

The bride and groom may love their own wedding, but not the 300+ days leading up to it. You know why? Because weddings kind of suck sometimes:

Top 6 Reasons Why Weddings Suck:

1. Everything is more expensive. A white dress from the prom section would be a couple hundred bucks at the most. A white dress from a bridal shop? A couple hundred bucks at the very (very) least. Want a sweet updo for prom? Only 50 bucks. Oh it's for your wedding day? Make that $100. Taking 200 people out to dinner and buying them unlimited drinks is expensive (and would probably never happen since I'm cheap) but at a wedding reception, its super expensive. Like tens of thousands, people! And somehow I'm paying for this even though I'm cheap.

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If I only had a savings account...

2. It's your special day. There are so many things wrong with this sentence. First of all, it conjures images of "exquisite wedding receptions" in 90s-themed hotel ballrooms. Second of all, it's usually pushy wedding dress salespeople and cheesy DJs who say things like that. They want you to feel special so you'll say crap like "when else will I have a special day, all to myself? I'll splurge!" and "this guy really cares about my wedding day. I should book him." Third of all, you think no one else is getting married/celebrating a birthday/giving birth/being awarded the Nobel prize on the same day as my wedding? This isn't just my day--other people have some stock in it too. How dare they, but seriously.

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It's exquisite! It's sophisticated! It's...your special day!

3. Flowers boggle my mind. I'm sick of thinking about, reading about, and hearing about flowers and centerpieces. They all look the same to me (Bor-ing), they all cost more than I would even spend on a tank of gas, and they're all going to die before I return from the honeymoon. And yet you have to have them at your wedding. 

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I googled "wilted flowers" and this seriously looks the same as every other "rustic-barn-chic-vintage" wedding I've ever seen.

4. Everything is a wild goose chase. I decided I wanted a gray and white polka dot motif for my special day (don't ask why), and since then every minute of my life has been devoted to googling "gray and white polka dot ribbon" and "gray and white polka dot fabric." I've looked for paper, balloons, streamers, favor name it and I've failed to find it in gray and white polka dots. Ditto for yellow shoes, yellow bridesmaid dresses, and many other yellow things. Imagine if I'd chosen a more specific color scheme like "cranberry and apricot?"

This is what appears when I search "gray and white polka dots." As you can see, most of it is not, in fact, gray and white polka dots. This is what I'm dealing with, people.

5. Everyone accuses you of being a bridezilla. Every time I bring up the wedding with someone I have to remind myself that no one else cares about it and if I don't shut up I'm a self-absorbed, wedding-obsessed, full-on bridezilla. I try not to ask for help from friends and family members because I know they're just thinking "there are other things in the world besides your stoop wedding day, ya know." 

Run! It's bridezeeeeela!

6. I am a bridezilla. Fo' realz? There are other things in the world more important than my special day? I seriously doubt it. All I think about and talk about is my wedding. I have wedding spreadsheets up the wazoo. I even have spreadsheets organizing my other spreadsheets. My room and basement are full of wedding paraphernalia, and I've already begun having wedding nightmares. If you don't want to hear about the photobooth props I made last week then don't talk to me. And if C doesn't book a DJ in the next week, he can forget about talking to me too! And if you're a vendor who doesn't use the phrase "your special day" when talking to me, you can forget about getting my Benjamins because you clearly don't care enough about my "vision."

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This is the face you'll see when you don't listen to me talk about table numbers. (Actually to be honest, this is my attempt at a fierce sexy face.)

So let's vent: What do you absolutely hate about weddings? (Or if you're a more positive person than me, what could you do without?)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Eating Candy

There was one thing I knew I needed to have at my wedding, way before I was even engaged (besides the groom, of course. And a white dress. And a videographer. And an open bar)...

Image via Style Me Pretty / Styling by Amy Atlas

...A candy buffet! I’d seen them all over wedding blogs (and all over party blogs too) and they’re always the prettiest part of the whole affair. I found pictures like these, with colorful candy-filled apothecary jars:

Image via The Sweetest Occasion / Photos and styling by Kojo Designs

And candy buffets always have really beautiful backdrops too, which I am just itching to DIY:

Image via Kara's Party Ideas / Photos and styling by Bubbles and Sweet

Image via Kara's Party Ideas / Photo by Ellemenopee / Styling by Candice and Ezra

 Image via Hostess with the Mostess / Photo and styling by KaLice Events

Image via Catch my Party / Photo and styling by Sheek Shindigs

 Image via Ms. Awesome (AKA Ms. Stripes!) / Photo by Amanda Doublin / Styling by Sweet Emilia Jane

Candy buffets are like killing 3 birds with one stone too (if you’re into bird-hunting):
  1. They can replace a favor--and this favor will actually get used, unlike a paperweight with the couple’s monogram etched into it.
  2. Filling up your favor bag counts as an “activity” which I’m all for. I know not everyone is into dancing at weddings, so to keep guests from getting bored, I”ll just direct them to the candy buffet (or the photo booth, but I’ll save that for another post). 
  3. Candy buffets are pretty! (see above) One thing that’s really important to me throughout wedding planning is making sure my reception is pretty. A candy buffet is a great way to add some color (and an amazing backdrop) to your wedding.
I can’t wait to get started making everything for my candy buffet. I wish I could buy the candy now! My guests won’t mind a little stale candy, right? Can gumballs and rock candy get stale?

Are you having a candy buffet at your wedding? Share your inspiration photos!