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BRIDESMAIDS

{My beautiful bridesmaids}

I recently wrote a Hello Giggles piece on the 10 Friends Every Girl Needs In Her Life, and that got me thinking it was time to write about my bridesmaids, the 6 Friends I Need In My Life. I’m very lucky that I love the family I was born into, and I’m doubly lucky to have the family I chose, too. These are the girls I’m so fortunate to know and love, who will be standing next to me next August 1 (and spray-painting pine cones, weighing the pros and cons of blush vs. ivory and talking me down from yet another meltdown every day until then):


KATIEROSE, my co-Maid of Honor: Like Tony, I met Katierose writing and performing together in The Groundlings Sunday Company and like with Tony, I found a platonic soulmate in her. If you asked anyone in our circle who their best friend is, most would tell you “Katierose” - she’s a seasoned Maid of Honor and, when she gets married one day, will probably have 37 bridesmaids for fear of leaving anyone out. She is hilarious, loyal and puts the needs of everyone she knows above her own; every night, she’s out supporting someone at their show, or taking care of their dog, or home-making the most personal, perfect gift. She’s the person you want to call when you have good news, because no one will be happier for you, or celebrate you harder. She’s the reason I got my first paid writing job in Hollywood (we’re writing a TV pilot together), and remembers to check in after every meeting and audition. Katierose can make the most mundane night feel epic and unforgettable, and finds the funny and the joy in any situation (see: our wedding-scouting trip to Ojai). Tell her your astrological sign and birth date, and she’ll tell you exactly who you are and what your future holds. Every day, she actively does something to improve herself, or get a step closer to her goals, and that’s the type of person you want in your life. She and her boyfriend Matt spent Thanksgiving with my family a few years ago, and she cried with me when I lost my grandpa. Katierose is an optimistic, loving person who believes in and easily finds the good in everyone, and I think that’s why people are drawn to her - a few hours with her will make you feel like the best version of yourself.

{Me, Jax & her perfect baby}

{I don’t know what we’re clutching, or why my mom permed my bangs}

{Prom}

JACQUELYN, my co-Maid of Honor (because she hates the word “Matron” the way most girls hate the word “moist”): Jacquelyn is the closest to a sister I will ever have; she is family, and my oldest friend. We’ve known each other since we were two, and grew up down the street from each other. Our parents happen to be best friends too, and my dad officiated her wedding (and I was lucky enough to be co-MOH with her sister!) Jax has always been as gorgeous as she is loyal; even though she looked like a baby Cindy Crawford, when I had to wear an eye patch as a kid, she wore one in solidarity. When I’d only answer to the name “Dorothy,” she jumped on the bandwagon and went by “Toto.” Her dad gave us our first jobs - catching water bugs at 5 cents/bug, until we had enough to go see Little Rascals (then we quit). We’ve been there for each other through the hardest and happiest times life has thrown at us. Having her show up, and hearing her perfect little baby coo through my grandpa’s funeral, got me through it. The week she got married, I shared her hotel room every night until the wedding, and it was one of the best, most cherished weeks of my life, getting one last bender of sleepovers like when we were kids. She has a wicked sense of humor and the best laugh, and even though we live far from each other and don’t get to see each other as much as I’d like, we always pick up right where we left off like no time has passed, the way family does.

{Ali is far left, I am far right, Jax is the turtle}

{High school graduation. Don’t worry, Jax graduated, she just went to a private school for athletes}

{Me, Julia & Ali at our engagement party}

ALISON: Ali has been one of my best friends since our pre-pre-school days, and was the first friend I celebrated my engagement with (she and her now-fiancé drove all the way to Tahoe on her birthday, she was so excited and such a good friend)! We also grew up down the street from each other, and have performed countless tap routines in regrettable costumes together. She loves Tahoe the way I do, and is part of the crew of families who spent summers at the Big House, where Tony and I are getting married. Ali is a brilliant doctor who was working science flashcards at the same age the rest of us were still mistaking sequins for candy and eating them (that wasn’t just me, right?) Ali is as fun as she is smart, and a party happens wherever she goes (she’s the one who organized the W hotel pool pre-party for all the out-of-town guests before our engagement party.) She’s the best at bringing people together; her Bunko nights were legendary when we were kids, and she’s always the one to organize drinks with old friends when we’re home for the holidays. She’s one of the most supportive people in my life; I’m pretty sure she watched every episode of The Single Life before I did. Ali is one of those beautiful people who has never met a stranger; she’s the best wingwoman and partner-in-crime, because she can work a room like no one I’ve ever seen and leave a party with 12 new besties. And I dare you to challenge her to a game of Name That Tune.

{Awkward prom photo with her perfect new baby}

BARBARA: Barbara is the closest Tony has to a sister, and became family to him when he first moved to L.A. and they started an improv team together. As soon as I came on the scene, she treated me like family, too. Barbara is a classically trained actress who also happens to be classically beautiful, and her inability to do anything without a fierce, passionate, 110% dedication to whatever she does extends to her friendships, as well as her comedy (see: this video she shot with Tony 2 weeks before giving birth, and the fact that the day I asked her to be a bridesmaid, she started a Pinterest board for my wedding to help me plan.) She loves weddings as much as I do, but possesses organizational and decision-making skills where I do not, so her countless hours of listening, advice and pros/cons lists have been invaluable. Her daughter Matisse recently asked me to be best friends, and it was one of the highlights of my life (as was watching Tony teach Matisse the iconic Dirty Dancing dance, doing the lift over and over and over again). Going over to Barbara’s house for dinner and playing with her kids, and remembering that is what life is about, is one of the things that makes living in this competitive, cutthroat city bearable. She’s the type of mother and friend I aspire to be.

MICHELLE: Michelle and I were bestie-roommates in college, and now just besties in life (sadly, we have to be grown-ups and live with the boys we’re marrying now). We have been known to shut down restaurants, gossiping for so long the valet brings our keys to the table because he’s going home. In college, our favorite pastimes included drinking wine on the floor, watching Love Actually on repeat and walking to our favorite Mexican restaurant for guacamole and margaritas after (okay, sometimes before) our finals. Today, those are still our favorite pastimes. We met in a TV class at USC’s film school, and bonded over our mutual love for, and belief we would one day marry, John Krasinski (things worked out for the best for all of us, though. Perhaps best of all for Emily Blunt.). One of our proudest accomplishments was spending the week after our college graduation in Tahoe, where we wore the same sweats for 5 days and survived solely on cookie dough, wine and wedding magazines. Michelle can liken any life experience to an episode of Friends (and can recite dialogue from any episode with Rainman-like ability). Just try her. She’s one of the hardest-working people I know and, because of that, is now a fancy, internationally jetsetting Hollywood executive making the next generation’s version of Friends. She loves weddings with the same rabid ferocity as I do; in college, we always dreamed about being engaged at the same time and planning our weddings together and, like in the romantic comedies we love so much, that dream came true - I can’t wait to stand next to her as a bridesmaid in January.

{Prom}

{Perhaps the only brunette photo in existence of Julia?}

{The engagement package Julia made me}

{Julia’s baby shower}

{Julia and our good friend Kristen at TONANNIE}

JULIA: Julia and I were cheerleaders together, and she is one of the most bubbly, silly, loyal, genuine, funny, selfless and supportive people I know. She’s driven hours up to L.A. for every TONANNIE show at The Groundlings (even when she was 8 months pregnant and technically on bedrest). When I got engaged, an engagement celebration package arrived on my doorstep almost immediately. We hated high school with the same passion and my dad’s office happened to be across the street from school, so every Friday he’d get us burritos and Jamba Juice, and we’d escape our torturous teenage existence and fantasize about her marrying Rob, her high school boyfriend. (They are a real-life Disney fairy tale; after winning homecoming king/queen and prom king/queen every year, they did get married! And had the most perfect daughter! And they’re all blonde, and live by the beach!) Julia’s knowledge of and love for pie knows no bounds, and she can talk about it the way Bubba can talk about shrimp and I can talk about weddings. Next to my mom, she is the most proud of and excited for even the smallest of my career accomplishments and has such enthusiastic belief in me, talking to her can pull me out of my most melodramatic slumps. Like her love story with Rob, Julia is the type of friend you usually only see in movies, but I get to have her in real life!

All of these women come from different parts of my life, and all of them have shaped the person I am. I am so lucky to have their love, support and friendship and, as a way of showing my thanks, I hereby publicly and solemnly swear not to make them wear hideous bridesmaid dresses. I love you ladies!

THE 5 STAGES OF GRIEF & WEDDING PLANNING

{My happy place, and also the cover art for my to-be-written-when-all-my-time-isn’t-sucked-up-by-wedding-planning book, THE 5 STAGES OF GRIEF & WEDDING PLANNING}

Not to be melodramatic, but coming to terms with the cost of a wedding is not entirely unlike the Kübler-Ross model for the 5 Stages of Loss and Grief: 1) Denial and isolation - There is no way flowers/a dress/frosting costs that much! If I just buy it and don’t tell anyone how much it costs, we’ll figure out how to budget around it later. 2) Anger - WHY DOES EVERYTHING COST SO MUCH?! MY BUDGET IS REASONABLE! I HATE THE INDUSTRY WEDDINGS HAVE BECOME! I’M JUST GOING TO ELOPE AND SPEND THE MONEY ON A DOG RESCUE RANCH WHERE I’LL LIVE OUT MY DAYS AS AN OLD MARRIED HERMIT. 3) Bargaining - I can make this work. If we serve no food or alcohol and cut the guest list to 7 people, I can afford that dress and those flowers. This can work. All is not lost. 4) Depression - I don’t love weddings anymore. All is lost. 5) Acceptance - I want to marry Tony and have a fun party to celebrate that commitment, without going into debt. It’s going to be great no matter what, because we’re getting married. Find something that works with the budget and move on.

I preface my story about our catering tasting with this because, next to wrapping my head around the price of a wedding gown, the cost of wedding catering was the next financial journey for me. Like any feverishly obsessed bride, I trolled Style Me Pretty for vendors with the fervor of a CIA agent on HOMELAND searching for terrorists. I put together a list of caterers Martha Stewart would be impressed by, all in the Lake Tahoe and greater Bay Area, and started with my top pick.

{Sub Nicholas Brody for Style Me Pretty}

I’m not going to tell you their name, because they were lovely, kind people. I will say, they appear on Style Me Pretty all the time; clearly, plenty of non-famous “normals” contract them to cater their weddings. (A lot of famous people contract them, too. There’s a reason I loved them. I have the tastes of a modern-day Marie Antoinette.) But I was clinging to the fact that they also cater to average pedestrians like myself! If those schmucks can afford them, it’s not unreasonable that I might be able to, too!

They quoted me $700/guest.


Denial and isolation. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. Don’t worry, Dad, they will not be catering my wedding!


I’ve come to the realization that most people whose weddings are published had a budget that could have alternatively afforded them a small private island, a jet and/or several mansions. But, more importantly, I’ve also realized you don’t have to spend like the #richkidsofinstagram to have a beautiful, happy wedding. It’s possible. I went to one of the most perfect weddings of all time last weekend, planned by a bride who has her head screwed on much straighter than I do.

{I mean, really. How can it NOT be the best day of my life when I’m getting married in a place that looks like this?}

After a lot more research, I found D’Lish Catering, a local Lake Tahoe vendor. The chef and owner, Lee, used to be executive chef/partner at one of our favorite restaurants in Tahoe, Sunnyside. Marsy, the director of operations, is friendly, detailed, responsive and professional. While they have the most d’lish menus, they’re excited to adapt family recipes and re-create dishes from the couple’s favorite restaurants. And, just to really seal the deal, they happen to have a burrito bar at their catering office (if I wasn’t trying to squeeze into a wedding gown in less than a year, my diet would solely consist of burritos, sushi and frosting.)

{Ready to TASTE}

Marsy provided us with a proposal that fit our budget, and we planned our tasting for Labor Day weekend. Because we’re getting married on my turf, we wanted to incorporate some Virginia delicacies to honor where Tony is from, and generally do an upscale take on comfort food… Because if you’re going to spend that much, it might as well be on stuff people love to eat, and not go fancy just for the sake of fancy. We sent a list of our favorite family recipes and restaurant dishes for Lee to adapt. However, at the last minute, Tony had to work and so my faithful Maid of Honor Katierose stepped up to the plate to help decide on the menu. It was some of the best food I have ever had in my life.


{Brie & cherry tartlets}

{Mini fried green tomatoes with homemade pimento cheese & tomato relish}

{Lobster corn dogs}

{Virginia ham biscuits with honey butter}

{Watermelon, tomato, avocado, crispy bacon, feta & herb vinagrette salad}

{Spice rubbed tri tip with zinfandel demiglace & horseradish cream}

{Katierose taking the tri tip in}

{Truffle macaroni & cheese}

{Yukon gold potato gratin}

{Crispy brussel sprout leaves with pomegranate-balsamic glaze & candied pecans}

{Corn fritters}

{Corn pudding}

{Pan-seared mahi mahi with coconut-panko crust & pineapple beurre blanc}

At this point, we had to take a break from tasting to go outside and stretch.

{Katierose & my mom}

And pose.

Back to eating.

{Fried chicken}

{Sliders on Choux buns with white cheddar and aoli. AND sweet potato fries.}

I’d like to say we didn’t eat for a week, but that’s not true. D’Lish generously let us take leftovers home, and we had them for dinner less than 2 hours later. And the pastry chef was out of town, so Tony didn’t completely miss out - he and I are going back up to Tahoe soon to taste treats for the dessert bar and late-night snacks!

{Or maybe Katierose will come back and continue the food streak with me. Because it was SUCH A FUN WEEKEND. Sorry, Tone!}

So, things worked out for the best (as they tend to). I’m thrilled, and feel so lucky, that D’Lish will be catering our wedding and I can’t wait to shovel all (okay, some - I have that budget to think about!) of the above dishes into my face again when I’m cinched into my big white dress and the wedding diet is officially over.

STEPH & STEVE’S WEDDING

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{The happy newlyweds}

Tony’s stepsister Steph got married to her sweet love Steve this past weekend, and Tony and I had the best time of all time. The ceremony was at a ranch in Swan Valley, Idaho they happened upon through Priceline (Steph gave a hilarious shout-out in her Wedding Welcome Itinerary to William Shatner for dealing them such a sweet hand of fate), and it became such a special place to them, Steve proposed there. The ceremony and reception were at the ranch, and the after-party was at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in nearby Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was perfect.
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{Pre-ceremony posing}

I’d been lucky enough to get to perform in the BAD COMPANY show at The Groundlings the night before we left and, true to form, waited to pack (and finish work) until after we got home from that around midnight, so I was running on 2 hours of sleep and roughly 9 coffees by the time we rolled into Idaho Falls Friday afternoon. Tony anticipated this, and prepared a playlist of “happy music” to get us to Swan Valley, which primarily consisted of Taylor Swift and Christmas music. This was our rental car:
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It was one of the most fun, beautiful drives of my life.
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{The Barn accommodations at the ranch}

We descended up the Hansen Guest Ranch, which had been joyfully taken over by Steph and Steve’s families. This place is incredible. This was the view from our porch (porch!!!):
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These were my best friends for the weekend, Annabelle and Callie, who live on the ranch full-time:
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{I don’t think she’s enjoying this as much as I am.}

I was challenged to be a real outdoorswoman, “roughing it” by sharing a bathroom and going without television. There weren’t even keys to lock our doors, this place was so remote! There were also bikes available to ride around the property, but I never got that adventurous because I haven’t ridden a bike since I was 10 (unless Soul Cycle counts). And I got super nervous when I saw this sign posted at the entrance to the hike:
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And I got even more nervous when we heard gunshots while hiking and crazy nervous when we encountered two hunters on the trail, shooting their rifles from the trail like it was no big deal. (#merica.) And I made Tony give me a piggyback ride through the water part of the hike. So I guess, in retrospect, I wasn’t as outdoorsy as I thought. It was still awesome.
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And I would show you a picture of the cheesy grits I shoveled into my face every morning, but I always forgot to take a picture because I was too busy eating. The owners of the ranch made the best breakfasts I’ve ever had - I got up at 8am every day to eat, which is saying a lot (I’m a monster before 11am and at least two coffees). I even got out the door without smearing my face in make-up, for fear of the grits running out before I got there! I’m also pretty sure they make their french toast out of cinnamon rolls; in any case, we drizzled frosting over it. But I digress.
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{Tony, Steve the Groom & Tony’s brother Nick}

Friday evening was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, Saturday was the wedding and Sunday was a rafting trip in Jackson Hole. Steph and Steve wanted a small, immediate-family only wedding, and so we were among the lucky 14 (including kiddos) guests who got to be a part of their intimate weekend. This made the wedding so incredibly special, because it was focused solely on what a wedding should really be about: the love between the couple and the two families coming together to celebrate this new family they’re creating.
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{Family rafting trip}

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{Tony giving the Tetons a run for their money}

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{More rafting}

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{Seriously. How magnificent is this rafting trip?!}

The wedding wasn’t about using the most sought-after wedding photographer, or splurging on a couture gown, or inviting everyone you’ve ever met to witness your lavish party. In short, it was about the marriage and the love, not the industry that weddings have become. Everyone there had a special role in making the wedding happen: Steph’s mom made her gorgeous, one-of-a-kind dress. Tony’s dad officiated the ceremony. Steph and Steve wrote their own vows (which made Tony weep like a baby. I’m talking full sobs and body shakes from my manly man). Steph’s sister-in-law Nikki gave her a mani-pedi while I did her hair for the wedding. Instead of shelling out thousands on a photographer, they bought a really nice camera they’ll be able to use on their honeymoon and hired an incredibly talented local action-sports photographer off Craigslist, and Tony and I put together a shot list for the wedding photos. Steph’s brother-in-law videotaped the ceremony. And Steph and Steve, both hugely talented musicians, designed their own playlists for the ceremony and reception. The only non-family elements were the caterer and florist.
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{Me & Tony’s nephew Beckett, becoming good friends after I let him eat my wedding cake}

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{Tony & Beckett, playing in the sunset}

This made the wedding even more beautiful and special, because we all got to be a part of their day; I was overwhelmed by how happy and honored I felt, that Steph wanted me to do her hair, which will be in her wedding photos for the rest of her life. She never uttered the words “It has to be perfect,” and nothing was chosen in hopes of landing on Style Me Pretty or to be Pinterest-worthy; she chose the things she liked and moved on to the next thing on the list (I think it’s safe to say Steph never had nightmares about the wrong color flatware being delivered). She was utterly unflappable; when her niece decided she didn’t want to be a flower girl, Steph laughed it off and her nephew threw the rose petals instead. Every decision she made as a bride was based on what would make her, Steve and their families happiest, and because of that, it was one of the most unique, perfect, Style Me Pretty and Pinterest-worthy weddings I have ever been lucky enough to attend.
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{The after-party in Jackson Hole}

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{Dancing to a real-live country band}

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{Celebratory cigars}

And because this was the tone Steph and Steve set, the weekend was a non-stop blast. We all piled into the van for the best fried chicken I’ve ever had at the rehearsal dinner, got muddy on hikes and became avid (amateur) wildlife paparazzi:
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{Buffalo}

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{Tony testing my new iPhone lens while photographing buffalo}


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{ One of about 6 bald eagles we saw while rafting the Snake River}
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{A baby snake crawled under our car while we were taking pictures of the buffalo}
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{Moose on our hike!}

And the food was insane. We snuck away for the world-famous Rainey Creek square ice cream a few hours before the ceremony. We tried homemade huckleberry donut holes from the bakery down the road (which was run out of the owner’s home). And Tony had the best barbecue he’s ever tasted at Big Hole BBQ:
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{Tony, after eating a full rack of ribs, an order of pulled pork AND a side of mac & cheese. He passed out as soon as we got home.}

And, perhaps most importantly, Steph and Steve got to actually enjoy their own wedding. They didn’t spend the night allotting 87 seconds per guest to be able to greet and thank each person for coming; they sat down with their family for dinner, danced and played with their nephews and niece. They didn’t have a wedding planner barking at them that they were behind schedule; they had me barking at them to climb up on a fence post and kiss for a photo op. They got to go dancing at a real-live cowboy bar with a real-live band, and all of their guests fit in one car, so the ride was as fun as the after-party.
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{Steph & Steve, following instructions to climb a fence post for a photo op}

Our destination wedding weekend getaway was not only relaxing and rejuvenating; it was also a much-needed reminder of what a wedding is really about. As a bride who has recently been caught googling “cost to ship anemones from South Africa” at 3am, it was a lovely slap across the face to stop obsessing over the things that, at the end of the day, don’t matter. Steph was the most beautiful, happy, in-love bride and her wedding was gorgeous, relaxed, fun, hilarious, happy-tears inducing perfection.

DUFF’S CAKEMIX DAY DATE

{Our wedding date cake!}

This weekend, Tony and I were finally able to use the gift certificate he got me for Valentine’s Day to decorate a cake at Duff’s Cakemix. My sweet fiancé knows the way to my heart is through frosting and pretty things, so this gift was a home run on all fronts. (Plus, he knows that when I’m feeling intense emotions of either happiness or despair, he can find me in line at this place for a large cake-in-a-jar.)

{Me, on my birthday this year.}

I wrote last week about creative off-registry wedding gift ideas and included this on the list because it’s a perfect way to spend time together and play around with wedding cake decoration styles. (You will also gain a new appreciation for your baker. Did you see my handwriting skills in the pic above? It’s harder than it looks!) If you want to get hardcore, you can even sign up for a professionally-geared decorating class next door at Duff’s Charm City Cakes and learn how to do your own wedding cake - I signed up for one with my friend Christie in October!

{Legit wedding cakes, next door.}

They do not mess around at Charm City. This was the cake we had in our peripheral vision as we decorated at Cakemix:

{I’ll probably be able to do this left-handed in my sleep after my class next month.}

Even at Duff’s Cakemix, however, the bar was set high. Here were a few of the “samples” they had displayed to inspire you:

{Cakes people with skills and artistic talent made.}

I will never understand how people given the same tools Tony and I received came up with cakes like that. As mere pedestrian, non-fondant wizards, Tony and I had a hard enough time (but so much fun) creating our cake, even if it doesn’t look like it was designed by a professional. (Or, more accurately, it looks like it was done by a professional who had several bottles of wine prior to decorating it.) Here’s how our day date went down:

{The entrance to happiness.}

Upon our arrival, we had a series of decisions to make. Did we want to decorate cake or cupcakes? Which flavor? With fondant or frosting? Which color for the frosting accents? And candy decorations? Did we want to splurge on edible glitter? Or the assistance of a staff member?

{Our “before” pic.}

Tony and I went for cake, waffled between the Flavor of the Month (chocolate peanut butter, my favorite) or chocolate-vanilla swirl (the cake-in-a-jar flavor we always get), and ultimately decided to go for the ol’ standby. We chose frosting over fondant because we figured that is what would taste better while shoveling forkfuls of it into our faces in the dark while we watched a HOMELAND marathon, and chose frosting, candy, and fondant decorations in shades of blue, yellow and white, so we could do a “Blue Moon”-themed cake in honor of our wedding date, which falls on a blue moon weekend. Of course we splurged on edible glitter (because who wouldn’t?!) And we seriously over-estimated our cake-decorating skills in declining to pay extra for the artistic advisement of a Cakemix pro.

{Ready for action.}

I don’t want to get melodramatic here, but I quickly learned that we wouldn’t just be taking home a cake, we’d be taking home some life lessons. Duff’s challenges you to trust your gut and make on-your-feet decisions (when there’s a long line behind you, you don’t have time to ponder the pros and cons of frosting vs. fondant! You just have to pick!) You’ll be inspired to think about whether or not you want children, as you dodge kids on your way to the decorating station and snag a star-shaped cookie cutter before any of them can get their grubby little paws on it. You’ll briefly daydream about your bachelorette party, as you observe the pack of women decorating cakes together. (Taking a cake decorating class prior to going out and celebrating? Genius. Each girl has her own entire cake to eat at 3am!) And you’ll be forced to work on your communication skills with your partner and confront trust issues as you tackle the marital challenge of decorating a cake. Together.

{The Cavalero Glitter Technique.}

Tony and I were on the same page that the glitter should go on first, but that turned into our first marital cake-hurdle when he decided I was being too heavy-handed with my glitter sprinkling. He took over the task and invented what I like to call The Cavalero Glitter Technique, which is basically just dipping your finger in edible glitter and blowing gently so it sprays evenly and delicately.

{My uber masculine man.}

Like in any good marriage, we compromised and Tony allowed me to attempt hands-on decorating again. We both acknowledged my frosting-writing skills were still sub-par, however, after I scrawled out our wedding date over a fondant moon and the letting “Once in a blue moon,” and Tony took over once again while I handled the more idiot-proof task of rolling out the fondant and cutting star shapes with cookie cutters.

{A birthday cake I once made for Tony. He was right to take the frosting tube away from me.}

We learned that I’m good at the creative vision and task-delegation (i.e. I am the bossy one), and Tony is good at executing it (i.e. he humors me and has the motor skills to write with frosting). Our day date at Duff’s further proved what we already knew: We make a good team.

{The “after” pic.}

With Tony’s military school background, he’s also really good at cleaning up:

{Waste not, want not.}

Then, they boxed our cake up and we were on our way!

Since I still need to work on my decision-making skills, it took a lot longer to decorate than we anticipated and Tony had to go straight from Duff’s to perform in his Groundlings show. I dropped him off, and then my Maid of Honor Katierose came over and we did what I do best: Eat.

{Katierose took this picture right before we annihilated that thing.}

Tony is amazing at coming up with fun dates that mix up the usual dinner-and-a-movie standby, and we had the best time. Only once in a blue moon do you find someone as perfect for you as Tony is for me, and I’m so excited for our blue moon wedding next August 1, 2015!

WEDDING GIFT IDEAS

Sometimes, you accidentally wait too long to send that wedding gift and the registry is cleaned out. Or worse, all that’s left is that turkey baster you know the bride’s grandma made her register for. Or maybe you simply want to send a surprise, something personal and unique! Tony and I are calling this “The Year of The Wedding” (by the time we walk down the aisle, we will have watched 12 - and counting - couples we love take the plunge first), and so I’m starting this new series of off-the-registry gift ideas. Here are a few of our favorites we’ve given and received:

All marble, all the time. My girlfriend Christie recently came over on a Sunday afternoon for cocktails and snacks, and these made a quickly thrown-together spread seem so much more elegant:

{Cheese dome and 2-tier server}

Museum gift store treats. Many even offer registries! It’s a great way to support the arts and local and smaller artists whose work isn’t carried by a major store. We received these beautiful coasters from the Art Institute of Chicago:

{Beaded Edged Glass Coasters}

Cake decorating class. Tony gave me a gift certificate for us to take a class at Duff’s Cakemix together as a Valentine’s Day present to get me even more excited about wedding cakes, and we’re finally doing the class this weekend! It’s the perfect gift for any dessert-loving couple, or as a bridal shower present.

{So I can learn to do a better job than I did here for Tony’s birthday in 2012.}

Aperitivo glasses. For all the fancy dinner parties we’ll be throwing now that we’re (almost) grown up and married!

{Paola Navone Italian aperitivo glasses}

Light up their life. Candles are a classic gift for a reason. My Maid of Honor Katierose swears by Candle Delirium, my mom is obsessed with Jo Malone, and we always love candles, especially these gorgeous gold candle votives:

{Similar votives here and here}

A “Wedding Date” pillow. My sweet bridesmaid Julia had this made for us! It makes me happy every time I see it.

{Personalize yours here}

A date night. A gift card to their favorite restaurant, or better yet, your favorite restaurant that you know they’d love! My parents’ friends treated us to an incredible dinner at Katsuya, and our friend Jonathan gave us a certificate to Terroni, an Italian restaurant we’ve been wanting to try forever - this is the perfect excuse to finally go.

A cooking class. My friend Jason is an incredible cook, and I was thrilled to see this on his wedding registry! I, of course, gave this selfishly so he can invite me and Tony over to eat more of his delicious food. Check your local Sur la Table calendar for classes, or if you’re in L.A., learn how to make pizza at Mozza or jam at Sqirl.

{Or make your own mozzarella at Murray’s Cheese if you’re in NYC!}

The cutest salt & pepper shakers you ever did see. Our friend Brandi (who also got us my favorite mug) sent these and the tray to us:

{Kate Spade salt & pepper shakers and tray}

Party cups. Functional, fun and beyond adorable.

{Mason Jar Tumblers Party Kit}

A lovely ring holder. So pretty, it serves as room decor, too!

{Similar ring holder}

Lanterns. We can’t wait to decorate our house and wedding with these!

{Beautiful lanterns}

A cookbook. For my Matron of Honor Jacquelyn’s bridal shower, we all brought our favorite family recipe and made her a cookbook. A friend also recently sent Tony and me a s’mores cookbook, and wrote her own personal recipe for delish S’mores Bites on the front page!

{Yum}

Calligraphy lessons. A perfect engagement or bridal shower gift that keeps on giving when the bride can learn how to address her own invitations/write her own escort cards, and save on the astronomical costs of a wedding. I’m dying to take Jenny Sanders’ class, next time she offers it in L.A.!

{Jenny’s beautiful work}

What are your favorite wedding gifts (to give or receive)?

THE ART OF THANK YOU CARDS

Tony and I were intent on making it clear that NO GIFTS were expected for our recent engagement party. In fact, I broke the cardinal bridal sin of deviating from Emily Post’s etiquette rules by actually writing this on the invitation. It was important enough to us that our guestsknow not to worry about presents on top of coming to the party, that we were tacky enough to actually write on the invitations: NO GIFTS! Your presence is present enough.

{Emily Post, the authority on manners.}

And we meant it. If you read my recent engagement party blog, you know that for more than half our guests, the weekend was more like a destination wedding than a casual celebration of two people announcing their decision to spend their lives together. (We also threw the party nearly 8 months after getting engaged, so we had a lot of time to plan something that spiraled into the realm of over-the-top/out-of-control/this should really be a wedding/maybe now we should elope.)

{A visualization of my elopement fantasy.}

But, you may have also read about the night I indulged in a few too many glasses of vino after a particularly stressful day of wedding planning and started our wedding registry at 2am - I registered for roughly 17 decorative trays and exactly 0 plates. It’s on my To Do List to fix, somewhere below  FIGURE OUT WHERE ANEMONES ARE IN SEASON IN AUGUST and BATTLE MOM ON THE GUEST LIST.

{What my Wedding To Do List looks like in my brain.}

I didn’t post our manic excuse for a registry anywhere or share with friends, but a few people found it anyway, and others blatantly ignored the NO GIFTS! rule and gave us thoughtful, personal gifts they thought we’d love (and they were right.) Which brings us to the art of Thank You notes!

{A card a very honest bride might send.}

I am not an organized person. As evidence of this fact, I’m publicly shaming myself with this picture of my “chairdrobe”:

{Sorry Mom. I’ve failed adulthood.}

Which is why I am obsessed with the website Postable. I’ve written before about how it saved the day collecting addresses for our engagement party invitations, and now it’s changing the game with Thank You cards.

It’s easy. You use the address book you already created to send your invites, pick a card from the myriad of designs the site offers, type it in their “real handwriting” font, and the kind folks of Postable will print, stuff, stamp and mail them for you. It’s like having a futuristic robot personal assistant save you the trouble of buying cards, driving to the mailbox and prevent you from getting that gross blister on your middle finger from holding your Gelly Roll pen in a death-grip.

{You can also use the site to attack your Save the Dates, invite a gal pal to be your bridesmaid or congratulate a recently engaged friend!}

At first, I was skeptical - I’d already betrayed Emily Post once, and didn’t want to deviate from her rules again by doing something as gauche as sending an “online” Thank You card. But, it’s not like it’s firing off an impersonal Thx so much!!!! email; your loved one still receives a beautiful card in the mail. And, more importantly, my other wedding idol, Martha Stewart, endorses it as a socially acceptable time/hand-saver:

If you’re absolutely set on writing them yourself, you can even order blank cards from the site, after you’ve personalized them. There are so many designs to pick from. If you’re obsessed with your engagement photos, upload them!

Or, incorporate your hobbies/favorite things so your card screams “YOU!” For example, if you love birds:

Or sitting:

Or trapping hearts and bottling them in artisanal jars:

They’ve got you covered. They even have cards for French-speakers:

And ironic hipsters:

This next one is my favorite. I had the best time working with an art deco, Old Hollywood design theme for our engagement party, and we’re having our wedding in such a rustic location, the Thank You cards seemed like a fun way to incorporate a clean, modern look into our wedding. (If you couldn’t tell, by the time I walk down the aisle, I will have taste-tested every design theme possible. I’m not good at making up my mind.)

I personalized it with our names, and after much deliberation, selected “Baby Boston” for the font:

I typed up our note, clicked “Next Person,” rinsed & repeated. Brides, this task is so simple, you can even move it over to your groom's To Do list and rest easy that he won't screw it up (like that time you asked him to buy cheese for fondue, and he came home with a package of Kraft American slices. But I digress.)

Done & done! Time to move on to my next order of business, reasoning with my mom as to why that couple from Canada she met on a cruise a few years ago should be cut from the guest list…

OUR ENGAGEMENT PARTY!

When Tony and I were torn between getting married this summer or next, my Maid of Honor Katierose had the brilliant idea that we throw an engagement party this year, and the wedding next. My dad’s response? “It sounds like you’re asking me to pay for two weddings.”

That is exactly what happened. For all intents and purposes, we just had a wedding (except for, you know, the getting married part). We called it an engagement party, though.

In the heat of a recent wedding “discussion,” my mom said about our wedding: “This isn’t about you.” And at our engagement party, in the best way possible, she was right: It was about all the people we love. When we first started planning the party, my dad thought perhaps one or two of his and my moms’ friends would travel down from northern CA; nearly 50 did, most of whom have known me since I was a baby.

{Two of my parents’ best friends, with Katierose’s boyfriend Matt.}

{More lifelong friends, with Tony’s mom Nancy.}

{More friends. The surprise guest in the middle is a long story. More on that later.}

{My mom made all her friends strut down the patio staircase with her, Scarlett O’Hara-style.}

My grandma came, and just writing that makes me cry again. She’d had the hardest few weeks leading up to the party that would wipe anyone out, and she still came. My Uncle Rolf drove her down and she got to see our house for the first time and stay with us, have her first vacation in years. It breaks my heart that my grandpa couldn’t be there, but he certainly was in spirit, and my grandma was the guest of honor. One of the most special parts of the night was seeing how many of my friends took the time to sit down with her and chat, treating her like the bell of the ball she was.

{Grandma & Mom at the engagement party.}

{3 generations}

Tony’s sweet, wonderful mom Nancy flew in all the way from Washington D.C., with her chihuahua Astro Boy in tow. His brother/doppelganger Nick came in from Colorado, taking time off from the very busy business he owns and his generous wife holding down the fort with their two kids at home so he could be there. It was the first time either of them had ever met my family, and they both worked so hard to make it out so that could happen.

{Mom & Nancy in our backyard.}

{Tony & Nick at the engagement party.}

{Tony, his sweet mama & her grandfurbabies who love her so much.}

My childhood best friend and Matron of Honor Jacquelyn, whom I’ve known since I was two and is like a sister to me (my dad officiated her wedding!), drove 7 hours to be at the party. Despite having just moved across the country. With an infant at home. Tony’s best friend Rob took leave from INTAC (Individual Counter Terrorism Awareness Course, heavy duty military obligations) to fly in from back east. His other best bud and college roommate, also Rob, took time off work to fly out with his girlfriend from Washington D.C. Another of my childhood besties/bridesmaid Alison, and her fiancé,́ re-arranged their shifts (they’re fancy doctors) to travel in from out of town. My bridesmaid Barbara had her husband stay home with their newborn so she could come, and spent the night taking pictures because she knew I would be too busy to. Julia, another bridesmaid, made sure her husband could take leave from his job in the military so they could travel in. My bridesmaid Michelle told her boss she couldn’t travel for work that weekend. My aunt and uncle flew in from Texas. Heck, my Grandpa’s 90-year-old best friend RSVP’d yes +2, and up until a health issue a few days prior to the party, was planning to drive down from the bay area.

{Aunt Lynn & Uncle Paul, out from Texas!}

{Tony & Barbara}

{Me & Katierose}

{Tony, the Robs & Christine.}

I could write a novel, describing why each and every person who showed up was meaningful. It was the most overwhelming, incredible feeling, to have so many loved ones together, there for us. That, most of all, was what made it feel like a wedding.

{Grandma & her son-in-law, Uncle Rolf.}

It also felt like a wedding because of the grand scale of the whole thing; in the early stages of planning, my mom said, “I want something spectacular to happen. I don’t know what. Something that will make it so no one ever forgets this party.” The fear of letting her down on this one was the motivation driving most of Tony and my decisions. So, instead of an engagement party, it turned into an engagement party weekend.

{Teaching my mom duckface, so she’d be ready for all the party photo ops.}

I kicked it off by forcing Tony to accompany me to the Flower Mart in downtown L.A the Friday before the party. I had the brilliant idea that buying flowers wholesale, and then arranging them ourselves in these cute blue mason jars I bought at Michael’s, would not only save us tons of hot cash that we could spend on more important things (like, sushi or shipping anemones in from South Africa for our August wedding). I was CORRECT. We got 16 dozen roses for $50. (That’s right. 192 roses for $50.) We spent a total of $85 on flowers for the party. Hot tip: Go toward closing. We did this because I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning and out the door, so this was the soonest we could get there; but, because we were so late, we were getting 50% off deals from vendors who simply wanted to unload their inventory before leaving. We scored.

{Flower mart}

I also thought I’d save us loads of dough and channel my inner Blake Lively/Martha Stewart/Cupcakes and Cashmere by making our party favors from scratch. I’d seen these adorable “make your own s’mores” kits on Pinterest and, seeing as that is a dessert synonymous with Tahoe and also my mom’s favorite treat, decided that was the way to go. I ordered these adorable wooden tags on Amazon, used the calligraphy pens I’d purchased to DIY our invites, and enslaved Tony to string ribbons in our wedding colors through them. This alone took hours, and luckily he did it while watching a marathon of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies the weekend before. All we had left to do was put the s’mores together and tie ‘em up! Easy peasy.

{Tags: DONE!}

So, Saturday I put together a quaint little sweat shop. My parents had driven 7 hours the day before with their two enormous (obese) dogs, so they were well-rested and ready to work by 8am! The assembly line of s’more bag-stuffing went efficiently until noon, when we took a break to meet Tony’s mom and brother. Luckily, they are good-hearted people who didn’t mind that we were mostly in sweatpants and had not yet bathed or taken a break to eat. There was work to be done, and they joined in and had s’more fun stuffing favor bags while getting to know each other!

{Only 160 left to go!}

When work like that is so fun, the day really flies by. Suddenly, the sun was going down and it was time to put the s’mores down, take a quick shower and rush over to the Dark Room, where we were hosting passed appetizers, wine, beer and cocktails for the out of town guests before heading over to Tony’s Groundlings show.

{Halfway done!}

Side note: When you’re in WEDDING MODE, nothing can phase you. Not even when the private area you’ve reserved has strangers sitting in half the booths, only two bottles of wine are chilled, no food is ready, and you, your family/servants and your Maid of Honor/servant end up helping pour wine and drinks until your dad mutters to someone who appears to be in charge, “Just keep bringing food and wine it doesn’t matter if we order it or not please just keep bringing it until we are gone I don’t care what it costs just bring FOOD please. Please!” This does the trick!

I also discovered that night that WEDDING MODE is an effective diet. You are simply too busy to eat; you allow yourself to lie once and say you’re going to the bathroom so you can shamefully shovel a piece of pizza into your face in the corner, and eat a cupcake while you’re walking across the street. You don’t need food anyway, your body is eating it’s own anxiety and adrenaline!

Tony’s Groundlings show was incredible. The director came out at one point and asked the audience who was there to see Tony; more than half the theater raised their hands. Most of them had never been to a comedy show before. The director also cheekily mentioned they were taking bets backstage to see if everyone would laugh because they loved Tony, or hold back their laughter in judgement to see if he was good enough for their little Annie. Luckily, it was the former. My dad and I were both grateful none of his sketches featured him taking his clothes off, one of his favorite character choices.

After the show, it was time to rest up for another day of labor. My bridesmaid Ali mentioned they were having a pool party at the W Hotel the next day, before the engagement party, but there was no time for shenanigans like relaxing with loved ones who traveled so far to see us! There were flowers to be put in jars, engagement photos to be printed and put in frames (that still needed to be purchased for God’s sake, Tony!), the menu needed to be hand-drawn… And we still had to finish shoving those f*****g s’mores in their G*****n bags. GET BACK IN WEDDING MODE.

{Get back to work, Dad!}

Sunday, we got up at 7am to get s**t done. My dad and I were on s’mores, Tony was on photos and frames, my mom was on flowers. We took a break to inhale some food. I moved on to menu design while everyone else finished their tasks. Rob and Nick helped Tony stuff frames. When we got an email from the restaurant that their iPod (which they use to project movies onto the wall on the patio), wasn’t working, Tony’s other Rob downloaded movies for us and went by the restaurant to test it.

{Mom, rebelling about 2 hours before the party.}

{Tony & Nick, resigned.}

We got ready feverishly! Everyone but my dad left without me because 1) I took too long to get ready and 2) everyone was sick of hearing my voice barking orders! We arrived at Wood & Vine in Hollywood with 20 minutes to set up, and luckily the restaurant staff was waiting outside for us, ready to unload our cars and help. (*If you ever need to throw a party and want it to run smoothly, go to Wood & Vine. They are on it. I love that place so very much.)

{Rushing to finish. Day 3 in those pajama pants.}

We threw the mason jars full of the flowers my mom had spent 8 hours trimming the thorns, leaves and dead petals off of (there was a reason they were $50!) and arranging out on the tables, assembled our framed engagement photos and set up a display at the front with our families’ wedding photos, my mom’s wedding dress (!!) she’d had heirloomed and brought down as a surprise, and plopped down the bane of everyone’s existence, the box of s’mores.

And then guests started arriving! All that work and anticipation, and the party was happening and it went by so fast. My mom insisted on a receiving line (she says this is so we could be sure to greet everyone, but I think it was so she could show off her wedding dress and tell people to ask me why I don’t want to wear it, and I’d have to explain it was because she weighed 93 pounds at the time and it wouldn’t fit over one of my thighs.) But, this ended up being a smart move; we spent over half the party greeting people, and still didn’t get to talk to everyone, which I am horrified by. There were a few people who saw the long line, wised up and went straight to the bar (as any smart guest ready to party would), and I didn’t even know they had come. It was crazy how many people I love, who were packed into one place. If you read the first few ALTARED blogs, you will understand the significance of The Snowman showing up!

Suddenly, it was dark outside and time to give speeches. I snagged a slider on our way out to the patio so I wouldn’t pass out, and was shocked to find that my dad wasn’t speaking first… My bridesmaids were! They completely surprised me by reciting a poem they’d all written together over email. It was hilarious, touching and the most wonderful gift. Not only did I win the lottery when it comes to fiancés, I also won the lottery when it comes to friends.

{My bridesmaids. I am the luckiest.}

Then, my dad gave a beautifully brief speech welcoming and thanking everyone, and brought Tony and I up. I don’t remember what I rambled about; I was on the verge of tears from this beautiful thing my sweet girlfriends had just done for me, and suddenly realized, in the hullabaloo of preparing for the party, we hadn’t prepared anything. I hope we properly expressed our love and gratitude.

{Our view from the speech.}

And then, it was time for my mom’s “spectacular” moment. A few weeks prior, I had gone to the wildest wedding of all time (I’m not exaggerating. It ended up on TMZ, it was so amazing.) One of the many performers was an a cappella group, and one of the vocalists in that group was my insanely talented friend Allie! When my mom heard this, that was her “spectacular.” I reached out to Allie, and she generously put a group together, and they sang The Way You Make Me Feel, You’ve Got the Best of My Love and Over the Rainbow. It was magical.

The entire night was a blur of happiness that was over all too quickly. At the end of the party, I realized that not only had I not tried any of the food (aside from that one slider) I’d spent so many hours obsessing over, I hadn’t taken one picture with Tony! (For real. This picture of me looking like a beast that likely left people wondering if I was pregnant or considering a neck-job before the wedding was the only picture I had of us:)

At that point, my over-sprayed hair had worked itself into one giant, sweaty dreadlock. I didn’t care. That was the most relaxed part of the night, when all the work was done, most of the guests had left, and I could spend a few minutes with Tony and a few of the close friends I see on a daily basis. My incredible Maid of Honor Katierose, her boyfriend Matt and my bridesmaid Barbara also let me know they’d been taking pictures all night… Which saved the day, because otherwise I wouldn’t have captured memories like this:

{Another photo of me and Tony! We’re in focus and it’s an above-belly shot! Thanks, Matt!}

{Us, watching the a cappella singers. My mom and I are twins.}

{Grandma, loving Nancy’s pup Astro Boy.}

{Tony, his sweet mama & Pegge}

In the end, it didn’t matter that the projector screen never worked and the movies never screened against the wall out of the patio. Or that I didn’t really eat any food. Being surrounded by so many people I love overshadowed and outweighed every other tiny detail I’d been losing sleep over. So many people worked so hard to make my dreams for that weekend a reality, whether it was traveling a long way or spending days making s’mores-in-a-bag. It was overwhelming, special, full of love - perfect. I wish I could do it all over again and really be present in that beautiful moment.

{Tony’s sweet family.}

From this entire experience, however, I learned a lot about how I want the wedding itself to go down. So did my dad. The day after the party, in his usual jovial manner, he said “That was a heck of a lot of fun, but I don’t want to do that ever again.” But that’s a different blog, for a different time…

Thank you, Tony, for still loving me after that insane weekend! Thank you, ALL our loved ones, for traveling so far to be there to celebrate us. And thank you most of all, Mom and Dad, for the most beautiful, epic party weekend of all time! Mom, I hope it was “spectacular” in all the ways you dreamed. Dad, I promise the wedding will be totally different (but I can’t promise on all the ways you’re dreaming. I saw an awesome idea for DIY wedding favors on Pinterest that I bet we can knock out over Christmas…)

SWEET SATURDAY SURPRISE

{Love this sign on the wall!}

My sweet fiancé surprised me with an afternoon of pampering at Face Haus today! It’s been a stressful week of wedding planning and playing catch up at work after an extended Labor Day (of wedding planning), and it was the perfect treat to unwind, relax for 30 minutes and have an impromptu day-date. He’s got a sixth sense about when I’m feeling overwhelmed (or perhaps my monster behavior gave me away), and he always finds a way to make me laugh and remember everything will be okay.

It was also a much-needed reminder about what all this wedding madness is actually about: Marrying him, the love of my life, who makes me laugh harder than anybody, puts me before everybody and is constantly finding new ways to show me he loves me. So as long as a wedding happens (wherever or whenever that is), with Tony waiting for me at the end of the aisle, it’s all good.