January 2012

Last Year on SuperNoVABride

by Melissa on January 31, 2012

Here are some of my favorite posts on SuperNoVABride from January 2011!

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(Yet Another) Open Letter to Wedding Vendors

by Melissa on January 31, 2012

mailbox

It’s been several months since my first open letter to wedding vendors. And I had initially started drafting this post before my wedding, but I just never had a chance to finish it.

So, here goes. From a bride’s perspective, this is what I would like to tell vendors.

Use just one e-mail address when you communicate with me.

This is something that happened to me SIX (6!) times when I was contacting ceremony musicians and makeup artists. Let me walk you through this.

On a hair/makeup artist’s website, I find the e-mail address listed so that I can contact them for additional information. Let’s say it’s contact@companyname.com. I provide details about the wedding in an e-mail, ask them for an estimate, and then click send. E-mail, it’s amazing, right? I contact several vendors in rapid succession using this method.

About an hour later, I get an e-mail from jasmine.smith@email.com telling me congratulations and she would love to discuss hair and makeup options.  Who the heck is she?  She apparently received my request for makeup services for my wedding day, but I have no idea what company she is from!  Nothing in her signature, nothing to indicate the company she represents.  There was no “reply” traffic for me to track down the answer.  I know Gmail is convenient.  But seriously, use your company e-mail address. 

I’m a bride. But that does not mean I’m an emotional wreck.

I realize that some brides are emotional, fragile beings that need their hand held the entire step of the way. But the fact that vendors work under that assumption from the very beginning irritates me!  Like, when my wedding dress got lost, and the first thing that the dress store tells me is “Don’t worry, don’t panic, weddings are so stressful!”  Fuck that. I wasn’t panicked or stressed. I just wanted to know where the eff my wedding dress was! So, when I ask you specific details about my wedding day,  I do not want to be told “Don’t you worry about that. We’ll see to it that everything will be taken care of on your wedding day.”  I need to know the specific details of how you’re doing that.  I also do not want to be told, “I can get you a great price on that.” I want to know the price you can get me so that I can do some research on my own.  Do not worry about overwhelming me with details. 

Having a good phone pitch and excellent electronic materials is indispensable.  

Early in the wedding planning process, we met with a few wedding vendors in person. We realized almost immediately that this was a complete waste of time. We were taking time out of our weekends to meet with folks that we would’ve realized from a simple phone call that we were not compatible with. From that point forward, we realized that a preliminary phone interview would be our primary interview method. But, for some reason, many vendors push the whole meeting in person thing. They wanted us to "look at their sample albums" or "view their binders of music listings." If you can’t send that to me electronically, that’s a deal breaker. Oh, and by "electronic materials, I do not mean a scanned version of your printed brochure. Vendor fail. 

Picture Source

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An absolutely amazing photographer.

I looked long and hard for a great photographer. And we found one. And I am still on an absolute high after receiving our wedding photos about two weeks ago. They are stunning.

An amazing photographer can make even a simple, inexpensive wedding look like a million bucks. Conversely, if you spend all your money on food, decor, a wedding dress, etc., and then skimp on a photographer, your wedding can look cheap, regardless of how much money you spent to make it look amazing.

Our photographer was our biggest wedding expense of $3210 – more than we spent on food, and more than we spent on our venue. And now, we have these incredible photos to last us a lifetime. Much, much longer than any food or decoration!

Something unique and fun

For us, this expense was board games. Yes, we had board games at our wedding. Why? Well, a few reasons. 1) Prior to taking dance lessons, Ken and I never liked to dance. That made weddings, especially ones where we didn’t know many people, very awkward for us when we were guests. We wanted to make sure everyone had fun at our wedding, even if a guest didn’t like to dance or didn’t know anyone else at the wedding! 2) Of the 147 people that RSVPed to our wedding, 33 were kids! We wanted to make sure they had fun at the wedding too! So, we bought about $300 in board games, decks of cards, and poker sets. We also had LED frisbees and small Nerf footballs. (We wanted to rent a moonbounce too, but our venue wouldn’t allow it). As I look through our wedding photos, I practically cry with joy seeing how much fun people were having playing those games. Grownups, kids, teenagers … they were all having a blast playing games. And seriously, how often do you see a teenager having fun at a wedding? This was a great expense, and made the wedding memorable for our guests! 

So, pick something fun and unique and trust me, it will be a worthwhile expense!

A few, high-impact decor pieces.

As brides, we tend to get weighed down with the “details.” And how can we help it. All those shots of “details” on Style Me Pretty and in Martha Stewart Weddings! But … details are damn expensive! So, instead of individually wrapping all your silverware sets with twine, or tracking down the best prices on striped straws to and mason jars for your signature lemonade cocktail, just focus on a few big impact decorations. Perhaps huge pieces of muslin fabric draping your ceiling. Or an amazing lighting scheme. Focus on the big picture items, and the details won’t matter!

 

What was your most important expense for your wedding?

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You’ve Decided your Wedding Venue. Now What?

by Melissa on January 26, 2012

Having a big DIY wedding? Want to make sure that you plan everything the best you can? After you decide on your wedding venue, if you can, go back for a second visit. When you’re there, bring the following items:

1) Pen and Notebook (or better yet, a Smart Pen!)

2) Measuring tape or laser measurer

3) A measuring wheel. Seriously, this was invaluable for us at our campground venue since everything was so spread out.

4) Camera. Take photos of everything. And not just a few quick shots. Take a panorama of photos of the entire venue. Zoom in, and take another panorama. Take a wide angle shot. Take close up shots of the tables and chairs. Shots of the kitchen facilities. Shots of the ceiling. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I referred to the photos of our venue, for any number of reasons. For instance, I sent pictures of the pavilion to tent rental companies when I inquired about having plastic walls installed on the sides. Ken used pictures of the ceilings when he was trying to figure out where he could hang a lighting fixture. I used the pictures of the ceilings to figure out how I could possibly drape fabric between the beams. Even if part of a venue seems inconsequential, TAKE A PICTURE OF IT.

5) Sample decor items to see how they look. For instance, order one or two colors of some tablecloths or runners, or bring some sample centerpieces to get an idea of how they fit with the venue.

Record the following information at the visit

  • Dimensions of the room. When you measure the dimensions, be sure to take note of any nooks or things that might jut out, like a fireplace or emergency exits.
     
  • Length or diameter of tables (if they’re provided). This will be invaluable when you’re playing with floor plan ideas. We used Microsoft Visio to plan our layouts.

Floorplan

  • Dimensions of dance floor. And don’t fret if it’s too small! I read a few months back that a huge dance floor is not necessarily a good thing. A smaller dance floor will feel more intimate, and plus will encourage folks to dance and interact, because the smaller dance floor will create the illusion of more people dancing.
     
  • Distance from seating area to nearest restrooms. This might not be a necessity for everyone, but at our venue, the restrooms were actually quite the walk from our reception. Perhaps 200 feet or so. We wanted to be able to communicate this to our older guests before they game.
     
  • Location of power outlets. This is CRUCIAL. It can completely drive your floor plan. Are you having a slideshow? Well, you need an outlet to plug in your television. Are you having a deejay or an iPod wedding? Either way, you’ll need to know where all that equipment can be located.
     

What do you think? Am I forgetting anything?

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T-2 Days: Part 1;   Part 2Part 3

T-1 Day: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4

Wedding Day: Part 1

My dad and I brought the breakfast plate to my mom. I was surprised she was awake. It was about 8:30AM, and she had just gotten back from the hospital at 5:00AM, when my grandmother was admitted. I gave her the breakfast plate, and reminded my mom that the hair stylist would arrive at the hotel by 9:45.

There was a weird look on my mom’s face. She told me that my grandmother could be released from the hospital at noon because my grandmother was demanding to be released. And since my grandmother was lucid, the hospital could not force her to stay. I knew that everyone, including me, was tired and in no mood for a confrontation, but I nearly flipped the fuck out. My mom said that if my grandmother was being released at noon, that my mom would have to leave around 10AM for the hospital so that she could be there for all the discharge instructions and everything.

I said, "We have been to enough hospitals with enough people to know that getting discharged from the hospital NEVER happens on time. In fact, it can take hours! Which would lead us right up to the start of the wedding ceremony."

I felt badly, because I could tell my mom was really torn about what to do. I said, "Can you just explain to the hospital that today is your daughter’s wedding and see what they can do?" My mom told me that the hospital had asked a couple of time’s about her power of attorney over my grandmother and had asked her for documentation of it. My mom told me my grandmother’s lawyer’s name and asked me if I could find the lawyer’s contact information online. 

I reminded my mom, again, that the hair stylist would arrive at 9:45, which was just over an hour from then. I had no idea whether my mom would be there.  I went back to my room, where my laptop was, to track down the lawyer’s contact information.

Ken called a few minutes after I got back to the hotel room and said he had gotten things set up at the venue and was on his way back to the hotel. I went back down to the buffet and fixed him a plate of food so that he’d have something to eat since the buffet would be closing in just a few minutes. He called me again about 10 minutes later, asking where I was because I wasn’t answering the hotel room door and he had forgotten his key. I told him I was in the lobby at the buffet, and he was surprised, saying he had just been down there. We must’ve passed each other on the elevator! 

Ken came to the buffet in the lobby, where I was, and ate some breakfast. We talked for a few minutes and then he had to leave to go get a shave at a barber right by the hotel (Ken is a terrible shaver, so I made, er asked politely, that he go for professional shaves for both the wedding and our engagement photos six months earlier.)

Right as Ken was about to leave, I saw the hair stylist from a distance getting in the elevator. I yelled out her name, because I knew there would be no answer at our door if she went up to our room.  But she didn’t hear me. So I said goodbye to Ken and went upstairs to meet with the hairstylist, who was about 15 minutes early.

When I got upstairs, she was waiting outside my room, and it looked like she was about to call me on my cell phone. I let her inside the room so that she could set up her gear on the desk area. We rearranged chairs in the hotel room so that the folks getting their hair done would not be sitting in such a high-back chair.

I called my mom to let her know that the hair stylist was there early since my mom was scheduled to go first. My mom has extremely short hair, so I figured she would have less of a concern of her hair like "falling down" or not looking as fresh for the ceremony. But my mom hadn’t even showered yet.  UGH.

Right around that time, Ken’s sister stopped by my room to say hello. She was staying just a few doors down. I was thinking maybe she would be ready to have her hair done first, but when she came in, her hair was soaking wet, and the hair stylist was very clear that wet hair would lead to additional charges. It still wasn’t quite 9:45, the time that the hair stylist was scheduled to start, so I wasn’t all that concerned.

While we were waiting, I filled in the hair stylist about all the drama that happened the night before. I also commented on how glad I was that the room was quiet and that I was able to relax. I stood up and poured myself a glass of white wine from the found wine cube. Box wine in a plastic cup at 9:45 in the morning on this girl’s wedding day? CLASSY!

Ken’s sister came back to the room with her 2-year-old daughter. Her hair was dry and ready for styling. She had a picture of the style that she wanted, and the hair stylist got to work. Her daughter was being good and patient while her mom was getting her hair done, and I found some Elmo games on Sesame Street’s website to keep her occupied.

My mom arrived shortly after Ken’s sister started getting her hair done. I think it worked out well that way. I could tell my mom was warm having just gotten out of the shower, and I think she enjoyed some time to just sit down in my hotel room and relax. Clearly she was there in the room with me and hadn’t left for the hospital to pick up my grandmother, but I still wasn’t sure what was going on with all of that. 

Ken arrived in the room after getting his professional shave. He commented that this barber was pretty good, compared to the barber he went to for the engagement photos. He had previously said that the barber he went to for his engagement photo shave had actually hurt and burned a bit as they were shaving him. I liked seeing his face so cleanly shaven! It almost never happens! He got in the shower.

The hair stylist finished Ken’s sister’s hair and it was my mom’s turn. I asked the stylist how long she thought it would take to do my mom’s hair so that I could let my sister know. The stylist said she would be done with my mom’s hair in about 20 minutes. So I called my sister to let her know that the hair stylist would be ready for her at about 10:45. When I called, her husband answered, and asked him to relay the message to my sister who was in the shower. I heard my sister in the background. 10:45??? It was supposed to be 11:15!!!!  I told him to tell her to just relax and come up when she was ready. I figured since the hair stylist had given me very precise appointment times, I couldn’t be penalized for someone not being ready early. 

So, I just sat on the bed in the hotel room, continued to drink box wine out of a plastic cup, and the hair stylist just took a quick break and ate a granola bar.

Ken was done in the shower and had put on some regular clothes and left for the venue. There was a knock on the door five minutes later. It was Ken. He had forgotten his suit (and his dad’s suit) to change into at the venue!!  Oops!  He departed again, this time with the suits. Right around the time he departed for the venue, my mom got a phone call, although I’m not sure if it was from the hospital or from my grandmother. My grandmother would not be released from the hospital that afternoon. I breathed a long sigh of relief knowing that she would be well taken care of in the hospital and would not be released (again) against medical advice.

My sister arrived and the stylist started her hair. My sister told the stylist that she wanted her hair flat ironed. I continued to sit on the bed and just mess around online, checking twitter and pinterest.  At one point I glanced up, and the stylist was curling my sister’s hair. There was no mirror over by the desk, so my sister couldn’t quite tell what the stylist was doing. I thought to myself, "oh, my sister said she wanted her hair flat ironed, but maybe there’s some special way to flatten hair with a curling iron, just like you can actually curl hair using a flat iron."  But my sister’s hair was looking pretty curly.

So I interrupted.  "You wanted your hair flat ironed, right?" And my sister responded, "yes." Then the stylist looked confused and said she must’ve misunderstood my sister. Do, she started over, this time with a flat iron, not a curling iron.

At this point the stylist was running pretty early, and I was starting to get a bit concerned. The photographer was not scheduled to arrive until noon, but I definitely wanted to make sure that the photographer was able to get some shots of me getting my hair done. My plan was to ask the hair stylist when she was about 20 minutes from being done with my sister’s hair so that I could change into my wedding dress.

Oh right, I don’t think I’ve mentioned that story. When I went for my final dress fitting just two weeks earlier, my dress was a really awkward/tight fit over my head. Since the dress had sleeves, I couldn’t just "step into" the dress. I had e-mailed the stylist and asked her opinion about putting my dress on before having my hair done as long as I put on a long robe over the dress. She replied that that would probably be a good idea if my dress was a tight fit over my head. But, she warned me that since I would be sitting for so long, my dress might get wrinkled. I mulled this over about a week before the wedding and decided that I’d rather have a wrinkled dress than a messed up hair style, especially since I’d have my steamer at the venue for the day-of-coordinator to de-wrinkle the tablecloths anyway. Since it was the same steamer I saw at the tailor’s house, I knew it would be safe on my dress. 

Anyway, the stylist was done with my sister’s hair, but I was determined that I would not have my hair started until my designated appointment time. So I waited until the stylist was completely done with my sister’s hair, and then got dressed. Right around the time that the stylist was done with my sister’s hair, my mom’s cousin stopped by my room. My mom was getting her cousin all caught up on the drama with my grandmother. So once my sister was done, I grabbed my spanx and bra and headed into the bathroom. I put on the spanx and bra and then came out.

It was time to put on my dress! 

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The Story of Our Wedding Venue Hunt, Part 1

by Melissa on January 19, 2012

For our wedding, Ken and I rented a campground for three days. For those three days, we paid $1620. The rental rate was $540 per night. It was an amazing wedding venue. But, it took us a long time to find it.

We had to kiss a lot of frog venues before we found our Prince Charming venue. 

It occurs to me that I never told the story of our wedding venue here on the blog.

There were a couple of reasons for not talking about it. 1) Sometimes I can be overly paranoid about privacy; 2) I didn’t want to talk about venues and dates that I was loving and have another bride find my post, and think, “Hey, that’s a great venue and date!” and then manage to book the venue before I did. Weird, yes, I know. 3) The venue we ultimate chose had some unusual application timeframes, so once we applied to our venue, we had to wait nearly three months before we found out if we actually got the venue. I’ll explain all of that in the next few posts about how we found our venue. And 4) I didn’t want to blacklist myself from finding a venue or caterer by blogging about every asshole I encountered. So, let’s get started.

We first started wedding venue hunting in the DC area in early November 2010. Very early readers of SuperNoVABride may even recall the overview I provided of the venues we visited during those first two weekends of our search. After visiting several venues, it was a toss up between two different DC area venues:

The Pavilions at Turkey Run and Glen Echo Park.

The Pavilions at Turkey Run

The Pavilions at Turkey Run Park was not a traditional wedding venue per se. I had been contacting venues for weeks, but they were all either too expensive, or just to … blah. So I tried to “Think outside the box.” I used different types of search terms to help me find a venue. But then I recalled a lovely picnic area at Turkey Run Park in the Northern Virginia area where the company that I formerly worked for held their annual picnic. 

I contacted them to see if they allowed weddings. They said that they did, and they actually sent me some photographs from a wedding that had just been hosted there. It looked beautiful! To make matters even better, their food was “reasonably” priced, at just $30 per person, and you got a significant amount of food for that money. And it was normal, picnic-style food, just like Ken and I wanted. As an added bonus, they had an entire catalog of activities that could be selected, including a moon bounce rental, and a rock climbing wall. I was pretty much in love with that venue.  But, we still wanted to shop around.

Glen Echo Park

Glen Echo Park is a popular wedding venue in the DC area, and it was, relatively speaking, very reasonably priced and within our budget.

On our second weekend of venue hunting, we went to Glen Echo Park, a venue I had been secretly eyeing up even before I got engaged. Ken and I immediately fell in love with the Bumper Car Pavilion at Glen Echo Park. And the entire park itself was just so unique. We could have the ceremony in one part of the Park (we liked the Cuddle Up Pavilion) and then the reception in the Bumper Car Pavilion. Best of all, the venue was reasonably priced compared to other venues we had found. 

Glen Echo Park has a limited selection of preferred caterers that you can choose from. Some of the caterers had pricing listed right on their website, and I could rule out right away as too expensive. One of the caterers, Matters of Taste, seemed like they would be more reasonably priced, so I e-mailed them for an estimate.

Although I had to follow up with them a few times to get a response to my estimate request, I was impressed when I finally talked to them on the phone. The woman was really nice at first. She apologized about our estimate being delayed, saying she was slammed with holiday party catering estimates. After speaking with them, she quickly turned around an estimate for food, and it actually seemed like it was going to be in our budget! 

However, the estimate left out a few things. Specifically, bar service, alcohol, and table and chair rentals.  I followed up with her by phone. (There were a few issues experienced in between, like bounced back e-mails). She said she would update the estimate and get it sent back to me. However, she told me that I should go ahead and take advantage of Glen Echo Park’s two week, no deposit hold they have available. The caterer warned me that “engagement season” would be kicking off (this was the week before Thanksgiving), and that I might have difficulty booking a date if I waited much longer.

Taking the caterer’s advice, Ken and I placed the two week hold on the venue.

There was just one problem. Matters of Taste never called me back or responded to my e-mails with the updated estimate. I contacted Glen Echo Park for advice. They just said that was very unusual for that caterer.

FINALLY, in early December, two days before our no-hold deposit was going to run out, someone answered the phone at Matters of Taste. I asked to speak to the person I had been trying to contact. In a curt voice, the woman on the phone said, “It’s the holiday season and it’s SNOWING out.” I was completely taken aback. After all, I was simply waiting for a few additions to the estimate. I had already been provided with the estimate for the food!  And what the fuck did snow have to do with anything?

I said, “I have been waiting for a return phone call or e-mail for TWO WEEKS. Now, either have her call me back, or you’ll just be missing out on a sale.  Plus, you all have been giving me this “holiday season” excuse for more than a month now!” The woman told me she’d have my point-of-contact call me back that afternoon. I never received a call back.

I was really pissed.

So, Ken and I contacted Capital Q BBQ, another one of Glen Echo Park’s preferred caterers. The prices on Capital Q’s website seemed very reasonable, so I e-mailed them with the details and asked for an estimate. I still had not received a response by the end of the day, and I was getting panicked because our two week hold would expire in two days. I followed up with Capital Q by phone, and they said they would e-mail me an estimate. You might remember what ensued after that, but the short story is that their estimate to me was about five times what was listed on their website. When I asked them why their estimate differed so much from the prices on their website, the man said, “Well, that’s for corporate catering, not for a wedding at Glen Echo Park!” The tone in his voice conveyed a huffy “You silly woman, how could you think we would charge such a low amount for a WEDDING!”

I hung up on him.

I was furious.

I talked to Ken. I said that maybe we should just put the deposit down on Glen Echo Park and hopefully we would hear from Matters of Taste soon. The most we would lose from the deposit was like $250 I think. So if Matters of Taste was in fact too expensive, we could just break the contract and lose the $250.

But then I realized what was likely happening. The caterer was just playing games with us. They were probably assuming  that we loved the venue so much that we’d put the deposit down without having a firm catering estimate, and then they’d be able to charge us whatever they wanted. 

I wasn’t going to play that game. I contacted Glen Echo Park and told them they should not expect our deposit. I told them the entire story, and included a link to a review I had written about Matters of Taste on Yelp documenting the whole saga.

Glen Echo Park was really nice and apologized and said they would contact the caterer for me, but I had had enough. I was not going to deal with it.

So, we would not be getting married at Glen Echo Park. More than two months after our engagement, and we were still venue-less.

I was so sad. Sad about how I was treated, about how everything had to be some huge ripoff just because I was getting married. I had spent the last several weeks envisioning our wedding there, and now, it wouldn’t be happening.

It was time to start over from scratch.  

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Wedding Day Recap, Part 1

by Melissa on January 18, 2012

T-2 Days: Part 1;   Part 2Part 3

T-1 Day: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4

I’m not sure where November 10 ends and November 11 starts. Sure, there is the 24 hour clock. But there’s also your circadian rhythm of sleep and awake that defines your day. Because we had not gone to sleep yet, I consider all the craziness with my grandmother to have taken place “the night before” the wedding, even though it was nearly 1:30AM when she was finally transported to the hospital.

Ken and I went back to our hotel room after my grandmother left for the hospital, and I was frazzled and wide awake. A big difference from just an hour earlier when I could barely keep my eyes open. We turned out the lights and tried to fall asleep. I could tell that Ken fell asleep after a while, maybe close to a half hour, by the way his breathing changed. But I just tossed and turned. And tossed and turned. My heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest and my stomach just churned with jitters. I knew I had packed a small wine cube box to take to the hotel so that I could have a few drinks if I needed to relax, but I had no idea where it was and I didn’t want to wake up Ken as I looked for it.

There were a lot of things running through my head that I realized I forgot to do that day, like:

  • Move one of Ken’s friends to a different table on the seating chart
  • Post our Virginia liquor licenses
  • Ask how long I should hold my bouquet during the ceremony
  • Who was going to escort Ken’s grandmother down the aisle (remember, since we didn’t have a bridal party, we had no formal ushers or anything).
  • I had put all of our board games in a box to be taken out to the pavilion, but I wanted a few left behind in the Mess Hall.
  • Where was Ken going to go for his shave

But, I didn’t want to get out of bed to get my little notebook and write them down for fear of waking Ken. So instead all of the last minute to-do’s bounced around in my head uncontrollably. If you’ve ever read David Allen’s Getting Things Done, he stresses how important it is to clear mental clutter and to just record your to-do’s just to get them out of your brain and into a central repository on paper.

Ugh, and I could really use a glass of wine.

At some point, I fell asleep for about 90 minutes or so. When I woke up at 4AM, Ken was awake too.  We started to talk about all the things running through our heads. We both had a very productive cry. It wasn’t a sad cry or anything like that. It was a “holy shit, we have been working so hard for this the last 13 months and it is finally here and I hope nothing goes wrong but if it does we just need to accept it and I wish we could get more sleep but we’re really just too excited and jittery” type of cry.

I got out of bed to go to the bathroom and my eyes were all red and bloodshot and there were heavy dark circles under my eyes. Glorious. Absolutely glorious. I hope I brought enough concealer. But I wish I had brought eyedrops too.

Ken said that he would leave for the venue in a few minutes so that he could get a few last minute things set up, like our DIY deejay equipment in the pavilion (he hadn’t wanted to set up the outdoor equipment ahead of time), his lighting kits, and make sure that the DIY photobooth was ready to go. All stuff only he knew how to do and therefore could not be left up to our day-of-coordinator. He was originally going to leave around 6:30 for the venue, but since it was about 4:30AM by now and we were both wide awake, we decided we would both feel better to just start getting it done. I mentioned the box of wine and that I couldn’t remember where I packed it. Ken said he remembered seeing it when he unloaded the car the previous night but left it in the car because he thought it had gotten thrown into the car by accident.

I wondered how my grandmother was doing, but didn’t want to wake anyone with a phone call. So, I figured a text would be safe. Quiet enough not to wake anyone, but loud enough to hear if they were, in fact, still awake. According to my text message history, I texted my sister at 4:56AM to see how my grandmother was doing. She replied that doctors admitted her to the hospital and that she and my mom were on their way back to the hotel.

Ken laid (lay? lain?) in bed for a few minutes longer and I got up, opened my laptop, and pounded out this blog post. I felt a million times lighter after writing that. It just felt so wonderful to get all those thoughts and feelings organized and on paper (er, computer) and to freeze that moment and emotion forever. I can’t remember if Ken left while I was still writing it or after I was finally done writing the post. But after I was done writing and after he left, I got in the shower.

Lesson Learned: When nerves start to take over and you’re feeling nervous, never, ever underestimate the power of a great hot shower. I must’ve stayed in that shower for 30 minutes.

I got out of the shower and started to get things organized in the hotel room. Since I hadn’t gotten to the hotel room until so late, contrary to my original plan, things were still in suitcases and boxes.

I unpacked all my makeup (including my makeup mirror that I brought from home, as well as a small fan to use in case I started sweating while doing my makeup) and put it neatly on the desk in the hotel room. I unpacked all my nail polish supplies and got together all the clothes I would need to get ready, like my spanx and bra. I packed a “backup” bag of stuff, including an extra bra (one time right before an important work presentation my bra strap broke. I have never forgotten that and I now always have an extra one on hand on important days), different accessories in case I wanted to switch around necklaces or whatever, and I compiled everything I would need into my little clutch, like my driver’s license, health insurance card, extra lipstick and lipgloss, and some tissues.

Then I called down to the front desk to see if they could send up someone to make my bed. I didn’t want a messy, unmade bed in all of my “getting ready” photos after the photographer arrived. They said they couldn’t do that outside of normal housekeeping hours, so I just made it myself.

Once I was finally done gathering stuff and rooting around in bags and boxes, I figured it was a safe time to paint my nails, something I had wanted to do the previous night. I gathered all my manicure supplies and painted my nails, albeit with a shaky hand from the jitters. Luckily I still managed a clean manicure!

While my nails dried, I cranked up the heat and laid down in bed. By that time, it was around 8:00AM and I still had 1 hour and 45 minutes until the hair stylist arrived. I thought maybe I could get in a good nap. But instead, fearing that I would faint during the wedding if I didn’t eat anything, I decided to go to the lobby for some breakfast before the restaurant closed at 9AM. I brought my car keys with me so that I could grab the box of wine out of my car after breakfast.  I didn’t want to call anyone to join me for breakfast, like my mom or sister, because I assumed they’d still be sleeping after such a late night at the hospital. So I went to the lobby by myself and made myself a plate of the least greasy food I could find at the buffet. The winner? Home fries, fruit, and a big glass of water.

I wasn’t hungry at all, but I forced down every bite. I knew that I had to. I knew that no matter how NOT hungry you feel, you still need to eat when you’re nervous. I ran into some family friends at the buffet. I think they may have felt bad for me. I was makeup-less, wearing slouchy lounge pants and an oversized t-shirt. And I was by myself. On my wedding day. Apparently they had already heard about my grandmother’s first trip to the hospital, but not the second. I gave them a quick recap of what had happened the night before.

When they saw me sit by myself, they asked me I wanted to join them. I told them no, that I just needed to eat quickly, and that I hadn’t wanted to wake anyone to join me for breakfast because I was hoping everyone was still getting some sleep.

While I was eating my breakfast, my dad came down to breakfast, and then Ken’s sister and 2-year old niece, and my dad’s cousin joined after a while too. My dad asked me to make a plate of food for my mom so that he could bring it up to her (he doesn’t move around too well anymore). So I made her a plate with some food and we tracked down a small cup with a lid to put some pancake syrup in. 

I had a few more bites of food and then my dad and I left to take the plate of food up to their room, which was a different room than the one they were in last night. Luckily the hotel was able to give them a different room considering the odor in their original room after my grandmother’s accident.  My mom was awake and was going to tell me about the trip to the hospital with my grandmother.

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Lie #1: “We’ll work within your budget!”

The translation: Instead of listing pricing information on my website, I will use that phrase to entice couples to contact me so that I can woo them and convince them my services are essential. And when they resist my pricing, I will show a good faith effort and lower my price 5-10%.

How to handle it: Let me explain what “we will work within your budget” actually means. It means that a caterer might be able to lower their price from $110 per person to $95 per person. Does that help any of you all out? Hells no!  When communicating with vendors, let them know how many guests will attend and what your overall wedding budget is, not just your budget for that particular vendor. That will let that vendor know immediately what they are working with, and whether they’ll be able to actually “work within your budget.” Reality check for brides: Don’t ever expect a $110 per person caterer to lower their price to $20 per person.

Lie #2: A “Budget” wedding dress will cost you at least two grand.

The translation: You are a bride. Therefore I can assume you have seen at least two dozen episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress.” Therefore I can easily convince you that $2000 is considered a budget wedding dress.

How to handle it: A budget wedding dress is not $2000. You can get very inexpensive wedding dresses. I bought my ceremony dress for $175 from Ebay, and my reception dress from Macy’s for $139. You can order dresses from China. You can buy used wedding dresses. You can do a lot of things that do not involve $2000 wedding dresses.

When you try on dresses, tell them that your wedding dress budget, including alterations, is $500 max. Do not waver. Do not apologize. If they can help you out, they will, by offering you sample gowns, or letting you know when their next trunk sale is.

Lie #3: “You need a day of coordinator if your wedding day will run smoothly.”

The translation: I will instill fear and panic by convincing you that EVERYTHING CAN GO WRONG on your wedding day if you don’t hire a day-of-coordinator. I will leave out the parts about how you, your friends, and family can help out.

How to handle it: Okay, okay. We all know that I had my own issues with our day-of-coordinator. And if you’re not an organized person or think you might have trouble executing your vision, then by all means, hire a day-of-coordinator.  But a day-of-coordinator is not a necessity. Instead, enlist the help of a few friends the morning of your wedding and go to the venue and set things up! This is not brain surgery. Have a detailed task list for each person, organize the task list in chronological order (for instance, tablecloths go on tables before centerpieces go on tables) and execute it!

Lie #4 “Oh, your guests will really prefer …

(insert idea here: having transportation from hotel to venue, having hors d’oeuvres before dinner, having a full bar instead of wine and beer).”

The translation: I am a salesperson. I am trying to sell you things. I am trying to make you feel bad by telling you that your guests will think you’re inconsiderate if you don’t buy my services.

How to handle it: Throw this ridiculousness back on them. “Wow, really? My guests are coming to the wedding to celebrate our marriage, not with expectations of [Getting shuttled around, having expensive h’orderves, etc.].  How silly some people must be to think they need those things!”  The end.

Lie #5: You need to book wedding vendors very far in advance

The translation: I am a small business owner. I would really really like to be able to project my cash flow far in advance and have bookings far in advance.

How to handle it: I got married on a very popular wedding date, 11-11-11. So, I was in a huge rush to book vendors like our photographer. But other vendors, such as ceremony musicians and hair stylists, I couldn’t decide on, so I waited probably a bit later than I should. But I couldn’t believe it! Even two months prior to the wedding, I was able to book vendors for a popular wedding date with no problem!  I had no trouble at all getting my preferred choice of vendors. What does this say to me? Brides are serious procrastinators, and the wedding industry just tells you that you have to book everything really far in advance. And brides don’t listen to that advice. So, carry on and don’t panic when a vendor tells you that you have to book them ASAP.

Like #6: Bridal shows are a great way to find and book vendors!

The translation: Vendors have to pay a lot of money on marketing, so this is a great way to let a lot of people know about their business at once.

How to handle it. There’s a lot of debate on whether bridal shows are beneficial. I went to one, and didn’t like it. Vendors spammed me afterwards, and some even sent countless follow up e-mails. But, there were some yummy food and cake samples, and a few fun pieces of schwag, like pens and canvas bags. But I did not, under any circumstances, find a vendor there that looked promising. So, make the decision for yourself. Weigh the cost of the bridal show against the potential benefits (while realizing they might be minimal).

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T-2 Days: Part 1;   Part 2Part 3

T-1 Day: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3

By about 11:30PM, I had sobered up and we were done with everything we could get done. Ken and I got in our cars to drive to the hotel, something I was supposed to have done about 9 hours earlier. However, as we were about to leave for the hotel, we realized that we didn’t have the address to the hotel. Oops. After we left the venue and were able to get a cell signal, we looked up the address on our iPhones.  But when we entered the addresses into the GPS, neither my portable GPS nor Ken’s built-in GPS could locate the address. Great. We pulled over in a shopping center to confer (since we were driving separate cars) and to enter in some different addresses. I had a very general idea of where the hotel was located, so I just told Ken to follow me. And since the Google Maps app on our phone had the address, I just used that as a less-than-ideal navigation system. Nearly 11PM the night before our wedding, and we’re navigating our way to the hotel using Google Maps on our phone. We later found out that the hotel is very new, and was built on a new road. That’s why we couldn’t find it!

We made it to the hotel. Finally.

We took all our stuff upstairs on a bellhop cart.  Luckily my wedding dresses still looked fresh and steamed, despite sitting in the car all day. We kept a bellhop cart in the room overnight as a way to hang my wedding dress from something higher than the closet rod.  Although we kept waiting for the front desk staff to call our room and ask us to return the bellhop cart.

I found some quarters in my car so that we could wash our mildew-ridden photobooth backdrop fabrics we had discovered earlier in the day. Luckily my sister had packed a small baggie of laundry detergent so she brought that to our room. I put the backdrops in the washing machine on the third floor and went back to our hotel room. We set an alarm for 30 minutes, when the washer would be complete, because we were so exhausted and worried that we would fall asleep.

I wanted to paint my nails, but I was just too exhausted. I really, really didn’t want to do it in the morning, but I was too tired to do anything else. I quickly sent an e-mail to the photographer, florist, and hair stylist, which were the vendors that would be coming to the hotel. I let them know about the address and GPS situation, and gave them the address of the nearest major intersection so that, if their GPS could not locate the hotel either, then they could just use the intersection address.

We were laying in bed talking about the day and trying not to fall asleep so that we could finish the laundry. (Much of the next few paragraphs are a repeat from this post, written the morning of my wedding, just with additional details).

Suddenly, there was a knock on our door. A frantic knock. I asked “Who is it.” My dad replied that it was him.

I opened the door and the look on his face told me that whatever he was about to say was not good.

“Grammy fell, we need your help getting her up.”

I had a few emotional reactions which all happened in rapid succession.

1) Oh goodness, she fell!
2) Wait, we can’t help her up, we might hurt her even more or hurt ourselves. Did you call 911?
3) Why did you come all the way down here to tell me instead of just calling? (they were 2 floors up)
4) Then, silent anger over the fact that they had checked her out of the hospital a few hours earlier.

We followed my dad onto the elevator and up two floors to the room where he, my mom, and grandmother were staying. As we walked down the 4th floor hallway, I commented to Ken how I thought I was dreaming. You know, those dreams you have where the SAME thing keeps going wrong no matter what you did to fix it.

I will be honest here. My thoughts as I ran up to their room were mostly selfish thoughts and not thoughts of worry. As I sit here (5 days post-wedding that I’m actually drafting this recap), I feel a lot of guilt about that.

I had no idea what condition my grandmother was going to be in when I walked into that room, yet the thoughts of worry were secondary to the thoughts of “Why does this have to happen to me the NIGHT BEFORE MY WEDDING?” All I could think about was how I was mad that I wouldn’t be getting a good night’s sleep the night before my wedding. And how furious I was with my family for checking her out of the hospital earlier in the day. And how furious I was with my sister for not convincing them otherwise. And furious with myself for not taking the damn phone myself to convince them that she should not, under any circumstances, be checked out of the hospital.

As we walked into their hotel room, we were overcome by the odor of feces and there was a large stain on the bed. My grandmother was on the floor in the bathroom. She was not laying down, but my sister was keeping her back propped up by holding her up in a sitting position.  The best we could figure out was that my grandmother had messed the bed and tried to make it to the bathroom and fell either while trying to sit down on or stand up from the toilet. My mom said that it looked like she may have been trying to clean herself up in the bathroom.

This entire situation was very surreal. Until that day, November 10, my grandmother was in perfectly fine health. Of course, she had some elderly ailments like being hard of hearing and some more recent trouble with her vision, but she could move around, stand up, and even walk quickly. She lives by herself and goes up and down the basement stairs regularly to do her laundry. So, to see her on the floor for the second time that day, looking so weak and vulnerable, I almost pitied her. Here she was, not feeling well, and it was evident that she had been trying to clean herself up to avoid embarrassment.

I was quickly snapped out of the surrealness of the moment. My sister was yelling at me to stand behind my grandmother to keep her propped up. I didn’t know what to do! I had this unreasonable fear of my sister and I transferring her weight and that my grandmother would fall backwards and hit her head. So I said no, I would not help keep her propped up. My sister looked upset, but I just kept saying no and was getting upset myself that she was asking me to do it.

I wish I could convey the emotion in that room at that moment. I can’t even begin to describe it. My mom was visibly upset at seeing her own mother in such poor health at that moment. I was yelling at everyone, saying, “WHY DID YOU CHECK HER OUT OF THE HOSPITAL?” and “I BEGGED YOU TO LEAVE HER IN THE HOSPITAL.” My dad started to get visibly upset too. Ken was standing in the hallway because he was so overcome by the smell of feces. Even though he wasn’t engaging in any of the arguments, I could tell he was mad at my family too.

Thinking back to just a few hours earlier when my parents were absent from the rehearsal, I started to have more selfish thoughts. I started to envision my parents absent from my actual wedding day or having to delay the start of the wedding because they were still at the hospital because of my grandmother. I told my mom and dad, “I NEED you at the wedding tomorrow. I NEED you to be there at 3PM when I walk down the aisle.”

My sister had left the bathroom and started out the hotel room window for the ambulance. She said that it was there, so Ken and I left the room to go meet them in the lobby. I was absolutely fuming with anger. We went back up to the hotel room with the EMS personnel. Ken and I sat on the floor in the hallway. There was at least one EMS person in the hotel room with my grandmother, mom, dad, and sister, and there were another two EMS personnel in the hallway waiting with the stretcher.

The conversation we were hearing inside that room was just like earlier that day. My grandmother refusing to go to the hospital, and the EMS personnel doing a combination of trying to convince her to go, at the same time getting some history from my mom. I heard my mom say, “My mother is 86 and lives by herself in a two-story home. She has NEVER fallen, and this is the second time today.”

At some point during the day, we had learned that having a power of attorney over someone does not mean you can commit them to medical care as long as they are lucid. I heard my mom bring up the power of attorney issue, and Ken and I started to talk about it in the hallway. The other two EMS personnel in the hallway overheard us, and said sometimes they can contact the patient’s regular physician and they can force the patient against their will to go to the hospital, at least for a short amount of time, if the physician gives the okay. I was really relieved at hearing that.

My grandmother kept saying things like, “I’m not going, leave me here.” I wanted to march in there and say, “Well fine, then you’re going to die on this bathroom floor because clearly you can’t get up.” It was me being mean to her earlier that finally convinced her she should see a doctor. Maybe if I was mean to her again, it would snap her out of her stubborn streak. It’s weird. I think I have a lot more in common with my grandmother than I would like to admit.

But, I didn’t go in and yell at her.

In a brief moment of hilarity, my grandmother, who sounded really out of it, kept shouting, in long-drawn out words, “I need a DRINK.” It sounded like she was drunk. I think the EMS personnel might have thought she was drunk too. I could hear them ask my mom, “Does she drink often?” My mom, clearly flabbergasted since my grandmother has probably never drank even a sip of alcohol, said “NO! She means water. She’s thirsty!”

My grandmother finally agreed to go to the hospital. The EMS personnel in the hallway readied the stretcher and rolled it into the room. The EMS personnel told my parents that my grandmother would be at the same hospital that she was at earlier that day.

I rode in the elevator downstairs with my grandmother and the EMS personnel. I looked at my grandmother, who was clearly out of it, and I said, “Gram, do you know what tomorrow is?!” She didn’t answer. “It’s my wedding day!” I said.  She looked unimpressed. Even when sick, my grandmother was the same cantankerous woman as usual.

I went back up to my parent’s hotel room. My mom and sister were going to the hospital and my dad would stay behind so he could get some sleep. But since their room smelled so badly, my sister gave her hotel room key to my dad, and told him to go there to sleep. And she would request a new hotel room for them in the morning.

Ken and I walked back downstairs to our hotel room.

I could not believe what had just transpired. I didn’t even know what to say. Neither did Ken.

We walked back upstairs to check the laundry so that we could put the photobooth backdrop fabric in the dryer. We had timed it perfectly. When we got in there, a guy was just taking his laundry out of the dryer. We took the fabric out of the washer, put it in the dryer, and put the quarters in the machine.

We went back to our room. It was time to go to sleep. We turned off the lights. But despite how tired and drowsy I had been just about an hour earlier when we first got to the hotel, I was wide awake. I’m typically such a sound sleeper and can fall asleep so easily.  Not tonight.

After a while, I could tell that Ken had fallen asleep. I really wanted to have some wine to help me relax and hopefully fall asleep, but I had no idea where it was. In fact, I didn’t even remember seeing it yet at the hotel, even though I knew I had packed it in the car when I left the house earlier that day.

At some point, I think I fell asleep for about 90 minutes.

Next week, I will start posting about the actual wedding day itself!

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Our Wedding Photos are Late :(

by Melissa on January 10, 2012

Tomorrow will be our two month anniversary … and we’re still wedding photo-less. If you recall, an amazing photographer was our top priority for the wedding. Our photographer, a professional (read: member of WPJA, expensive-$3500, and reputable. This wasn’t some budget Craigslist photographer) had originally told us it would take 4-6 weeks to get our photos. About 5 weeks into that timeframe, she sent us an e-mail saying she had been very sick, and was going to have surgery the next day, but that it was nothing life threatening. She was going to be late getting our photos back to us.

I felt bad for her. She has a young son and it was the week before Christmas. It must be awful to have something like that happen around the holidays. Admittedly, I was also kind of disappointed that our photographs would be late, but understood that these things happen. When I was 24, I was hospitalized very unexpectedly with an infected gallbladder and was out of commission for about a week after my surgery. Not to mention that I was feeling like crap for nearly a week before I dragged myself to the ER when the pain got unbearable.

We e-mailed her back, told her that we hoped she felt better soon, and just asked if our photos were safe and sound. I started having visions that this was some excuse that she was giving, and that somehow all of our photos had been lost in a hard drive crash or something and she was just waiting to see if the photos could be recovered (seriously, like very detailed scenarios were playing out in my head). What can I say, I’m a cynic. She e-mailed us back (abeit three days later) and said our photos were safe and sound.

I should point out that she returned our engagement photos back to us two weeks early! She had told us it would take about four weeks, but we got them back in like two weeks. And they were amazing photos.

Last week, on New Year’s Day, we e-mailed her to wish her a Happy New Year and to say that we hoped she was feeling better. We also asked if she had an estimated timeframe for returning our photos. She e-mailed us back two days later, saying she was feeling better and was hoping to get our photos back to us next week (meaning this week now). She was very apologetic, saying that this has never happened before, and that it was literally giving her nightmares.

It’s Tuesday, and I’m trying not to be impatient. But it’s tough. I don’t want to keep e-mailing her, because I don’t want her to rush through our photos either. I want to make sure they get all of her creative attention. To further complicate matters, we were hoping to include one of our professional wedding photos on our thank you cards, so now we’re very late sending those out.

Any advice? Should we apply more pressure to get our photos back more quickly? Should we ask for a partial refund? Or would that put us in the real jerk category?

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