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THE ENGAGEMENT PARTY INVITATION SAGA

Our engagement party is less than a month away, and I am relieved to say I’ve gotten (most of) the invitations in the mail. The lesson I took away from the process is: If the rest of the wedding planning is going to be as time-intensive and complicated as simply putting these invites together, I should have given myself two years to plan the actual wedding.

If you had told me getting to this point might give me an aneurysm… I probably still would’ve done it. #bridezilla

I used Postable to harass loved ones for their addresses, which was a lifesaver in staying organized, and a huge timesaver in not having to learn Excel. Every bride should use this site; you create an account, they give you a custom link, you send it to your invite list, they enter their address, and Postable alphabetizes and organizes it into an Excel spreadsheet for you. (The only downside is people who have an allergic reaction to effort, and simply reply to your email with their address instead of clicking the link and doing the exact same thing. So, you might have to enter a few yourself while binge watching The Bachelorette.)

Another major timesaver? Buy a personalized ink stamp with your address on it! 

The invites themselves were where things got complicated. Since Tony and I live in L.A. and work in Hollywood, it was important to us to have the party here; we’re having a destination wedding in Lake Tahoe next summer that not all of our friends will be able to travel to, so we wanted to be able to have a celebration close to home. And we wanted the invitations to reflect the city we love.

I even found these adorable old Hollywood stamps to stay on theme!

So, my mom sent me the cutest vintage Hollywood postcard she found, and our idea was to have a calligrapher write the party details on the back, so we could send the invitation as a postcard. Finding the calligrapher was the easy part; a friend recommended Courtney with Typecast Lettering and not only was she a joy to work with and the kindest human being, she also was willing to go back and forth on designs until we achieved the exact look I’d hoped for, from all my obsessive stalking of Pinterest.

My favorite reference photo for calligraphy.

Printing the cards was where we ran into trouble. A stationary company came recommended to us, and the owner quoted us a price that was in our budget. We committed to working with her nearly two months before printing. And, a week before I needed the invites, the day they were to go to press, she sent me a bill for significantly more than she’d quoted. When I responded in a panic, she said she never gave me the initial quote; when I forwarded the quote (that she’d sent us, in writing), she said she’d made a mistake and if I couldn’t pay what it actually cost, I could go elsewhere. I have never worked with someone so unprofessional; from what I can tell, her business tactic seems to quote low, lock someone in, and then when it’s too late for them to go elsewhere, pull the bait-and-switch. I was livid.

Flip phone fury!

This all happened on a Thursday. 4th of July was on Friday, so everywhere else was closed the next business day for a long holiday weekend. My mom had already sent an email (with me bcc’d) to several of her friends, apologizing for my delay in getting the invites out… I needed those cards. Frantic, I started googling and calling any and every print shop in the greater L.A. area and the wedding patron saint was listening, because I found Gold Image Printing. I told them my sob story, my budget and my dream of having gold foil on the invite. And then mentioned I needed the invites in exactly 7 days, including the holiday weekend. And they said yes.

I was literally corresponding with five different people at Gold Image to make it work in time, several of whom worked late that night to make sure all of the images’ sizing and colors were correct. They were texting samples of gold foil, re-sizing the postcard and lettering, and going back and forth with our calligrapher to get it all perfect in time to print on schedule. Courtney again saved the day, re-sizing all of the calligraphy images that night to make our rush order possible.

Seriously. Gold Image sent things like this on a holiday weekend, when I was out of town and couldn’t come in person to see. SO GREAT.

And look how beautiful they turned out! For every vendor who sees weddings as an opportunity to take advantage of people, there are also companies like Gold Image and Typecast Lettering, who not only behave professionally, but also go above and beyond.

Since so many people from different parts of our lives have generously decided to make a trip to L.A. for the party, too, we decided to make a weekend out of it. Several of Tony’s friends and family members are flying in from Washington D.C. and Colorado, my mom’s gang of besties are caravanning down from NorCal, and my grandpa’s best friend, who is pushing 90, is rolling in from the Bay Area with two pals. Half of my bridal party (several of whom have new babies) are coming from all over California. It’s a lot of time and effort to travel, and we want to make it worth their while, with non-stop fun. So, for all of the out-of-town invites, I found some matte gold paper and printed in emerald green ink a list of hotel, activity and restaurant recommendations. And on the Friday night before the party, whoever is in town can come with us to see our wedding band rock out at the House of Blues. Saturday night, we’re all meeting for an early bird dinner and then going to see Tony perform at Groundlings. And Sunday, the big soirée!

Out of town invite with the gold accommodations & activities insert.

Tony and I blocked off an entire weekend to put together the invitations, put on some Motown, and got down to business. I had purchased navy envelopes and a gold calligraphy pen for the addresses and a navy pen for the names on the postcards. Tony sweetly surprised me with a personalized stamp he had made of our address, and he was in charge of stamping the envelopes in gold ink (which he took very seriously - see below).

The measuring was his idea, I swear!

I drank about twelve coffees over the span of two days, and did my best to imitate this calligraphy sample I found on Pinterest:

And, what ours looked like:

Can you tell my mom is paranoid?

We’re hosting the party at one of our favorite restaurants in Hollywood, owned by a friend of a friend who generously is letting us take the place over for the night. I am so excited. The menu is set, signature cocktails selected, massive dessert bar designed, wine purchased. When I proudly (/stupidly) finished running the party plan past my mom, thinking we were all set, her response was: “But, I want something spectacular to happen. I don’t know what. Something that will make it so no one ever forgets this party.”

Tony’s idea. My mom is not into it.

So, like, no pressure or anything. I thought about it for a while after we hung up, and have come to the conclusion that the only thing that would really achieve this in her brain would be to have a celebrity show up and hang out with her in front of all her friends. So if you know one, hit me up and let’s cut a deal.

Do you think Bill Murray likes dessert bars?

She called back later to say, while we’re brainstorming all things surprising and spectacular, we should also make homemade party favors. It then occurred to me that my dad’s worst fear had come true; we are, essentially, hosting two weddings. One this summer, cleverly disguised as an engagement party, a test-run for the main event next August 1, 2015.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see if there are any YouTube videos on how to make homemade marshmallows for the party favor my mom has dreamed up…

OUR BIG FAT POSTABLE WEDDING

Tony and I are super excited to announce we’ll be working with Postable for our wedding! (Well, if you read my previous post about Postable, you know I was already working with them. Now, they’re just working with me, too!) I’m going to be writing about them from time whenever all-things-invitation come up, since they are the site I’m using to stay organized with addresses and wedding stationary (and also to hang on to the last shreds of my sanity. Invitations are stressful.)

The thought of creating an excel spreadsheet gives me hot flashes, cold sweats and nightmares about my days as a Hollywood assistant, when I could never figure the damn thing out (I ended up taking my old sorority’s templates for Contact Info and Who’s Dating Who, deleting all of it, and re-entering whatever info my boss needed. I was a bad assistant.)

So, you can imagine the relief I felt when I discovered I wouldn’t have to drudge up my old Who’s Dating Who template to use for my wedding guest addresses. Instead, I’m using Postable. Here’s why:

It’s free.

All you do is create an account (which is 100% private), and Postable creates a custom link for you to email to anyone you’re inviting to the wedding. They click on that link and fill out their information and voila, you have an alphabetized address book!

You can download all of your addresses in an Excel spreadsheet they create for you. Or, they can organize them into labels so all you have to do is hit print or email to your calligrapher.

They will even mail your Thank You cards for you; they have a super cute selection of cards, you type personalized messages (or a mass one, if you have no manners), and they print, hand stamp, and mail them for you.

Of the guests who actually opened the email with our customized Postable link, I kept hearing back from people, “I wish I’d known about this site.” This was generally from newlyweds or friends who love sending holiday cards; I hate to generalize, but nearly all our bachelor buddies just replied to the email with their address. Instead of clicking on the link to write the exact same thing. Note: You don’t have to create an account to share your address. You just enter it. It requires same amount of energy as replying to the email. I wish there was a way to get that across to people… But, that’s not so much Postable’s fault as it is the psychology behind someone reading the email and thinking “Don’t make me do work for your frickin’ wedding! I already have to chip in for a frickin’ Vitamix! I will not click that frickin’ link! Enter my frickin’ address yourself! FRICK!”

I also wish there was a way to stay on top of RSVP’s. Like the Stages of Grief, there are many stages of RSVP, and it would be nice if the site could help you cope with all of them — who are you still waiting on to send you their address, even though you’ve emailed them 3 times? Who entered their address late, after you already sent the invites? Who has RSVP’d yes, who has RSVP’d no, and who has RSVP’d that they will RSVP the morning of the event when they’ll “have a better idea of [their] schedule?” It would be cool to have a way to keep your master guest list on the site, so you can cross-reference the above-stated madness.

We’re in the process of mailing out our first round of nuptials-related paper (the engagement party!!!), so I’ll keep you posted on how it all shakes out (Postable pun intended!)

A Brief Note on Brands I Write About

Like every bride, I was thrilled to be engaged; like many, I’ve dreamed of my wedding for my entire life; like most, I had no idea where to begin. This blog is so important to me, and is a reflection of my relationship, taste and what we’re doing for our wedding, so I’m only writing about companies I’m actually using as a bride myself. I’m going to write about these websites and brands only from the perspective of how they’ve helped (or annoyed) me in my planning process. The majority I find through my obsessive stalking of Style Me Pretty, Martha Stewart Weddings and every wedding-related magazine ever published; others I find through word of mouth and friends’ recommendations; and some find me. I love my readers and will only be sharing things I think will make their wedding planning a little simpler, or more fun, too!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!

Me & my dad.

Today is my dad’s birthday and I thought it was appropriate to write a public birthday card to him here, because the first main man in a girl’s life is her father, and I happened to win the dad lottery. Whoever I was going to end up with (Tony, as it so happens), was going to have tough shoes to fill because my dad Murry (or MurMan, as Tony affectionately calls him) is simply the best.

He is a lawyer and winemaker hailing from Abilene, Texas. He loves golf, chardonnay, Cheetos, fancy chocolate, Frito pie, traveling, the Dallas Cowboys and making my mom happy. He’s the definition of a family man.

Dad & his kids. I was rebelling by wearing a “skank” top and zero UT gear.

He volunteered in my classrooms as a kid, figured out how to braid hair and put together an interesting take on a bun when he was in charge of prepping me for ballet class or tap lessons, and drove carpool in the morning and countless field trips. Because he made zinfandel, his hands were stained purple from the grapes; everyone knew our car was the fun one, because it was stocked with Cheeto Puffs and had wine barrels rolling around in the back.

And when my dream of getting into the Groundlings Sunday Company came true, he and my mom drove down nearly every weekend (6 hours each way, with their giant dogs in the back seat), for 6 months so they never missed a new sketch I wrote. My dad always loved them, even when I wrote things that would make most dads ashamed, like my personal favorite, a haggard, busted-up stripper relegated to the lunch shift. Despite my debatable life choices, he was always so proud. (And, because Tony and I met performing in the Sunday Company together, my dad saw him many times before we started dating; he could never remember his name, so he always referred to him as “the strong one.”)

He used to rock a mustache, until he made an ill-fated bet with my mom that, if he lost, he had to shave the ‘stache. (He lost.) (I’m considering making a similar bet with Tony, who hasn’t had his hair cut in months, in what I’m sure is an attempt to look like Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall.) He loves Hawaiian shirts and short, brightly colored shorts to garden in; he used to have a pair of burgundy ones that I remember him wearing most weekends for most of my childhood. I think my mom “accidentally” threw them away.

My dad, rocking his favorite look.

His grandparents owned a cafe and his grandmother got her family through the Depression by baking cakes; she was that good, that even with the economy in tatters, people still bought her cakes. My dad inherited her cooking skills and makes the best fudge and lemon bars you’ve ever tasted. My mom passed her great obsession with the Academy Awards on to me, and the day of the Oscars, she and I would park it on the sofa first thing in the morning to watch coverage all day long, and Dad would cook treats for us and serve them on trays with bottomless champagne glasses full of Martinelli’s for me.

My dad’s dad, who showed him how to be the best dad, is in the background.

He used to dress up as Elvis every Halloween and, every Christmas, as Santa Claus for the country club’s holiday party. His best friend Snowman would roll up to our house in his golf cart, dressed like an elf, and together they’d ride their “sleigh,” sippy cups full of chardonnay in hand, to the party.

I don’t think this was a Halloween look, I think it was just a fancy party.

He officiated my best friend and Matron of Honor Jacquelyn’s wedding, who I’ve known since I was 2. On Halloween, he and Jacquelyn’s dad Burt would drive us around the neighborhood in Burt’s golf cart to trick or treat, whipping us past the neighborhood pond as they told spooky stories and my dad snuck the candy my mom didn’t want to have from my bag. (He always kept a candy stash in Burt’s golf cart when my mom had him on a diet, which Jax and I took full advantage of when we were kids.)

At Jacquelyn’s wedding.

People always tell me I look like my mom, and I know I inherited a lot of personality traits from her, too — including my love for animals and bold choices when it comes to bringing them into the family. When I was four and my little brother was a newborn, my mom decided I needed a baby to take care of too (probably so I’d stop harassing her), and she got me a kitten. And (much like Tony, when I surprised him by adopting a puppy while he was in Vegas at a bachelor party), my dad let me and my mom keep Daisy the green-eyed baby cat.

My dad’s law office was across the street from my high school. Every Friday, he let me invite whoever I wanted over on our lunch break, and when we arrived, he’d have the patio set up with a smorgasbord of Jamba Juice, burritos, donuts and whatever else we could think of. Every week.

Before senior prom.

He loves classic rock, and used to be in a band. At our wedding, he wants to perform a song with Tony’s dad who, coincidentally, also used to be in a band. (Tony and I are worried if we allow this, they will never get off the stage.)

He’s a better writer than me (did you read his tips on how to throw a $100 wedding yet?!) and has always supported and believed in me, even when I didn’t. Hollywood lives up to most of its nasty cliches, and my dad is always there to let me vent and offer advice and encouragement.

He was the type of dad who always told me I was beautiful, even when I rocked looks like this one.

And, my dad (and mom) are generously giving Tony and me the wedding of our (my) dreams, which makes it all the more important I put in the public wedding blog record how special he is. A few weeks ago, my mom and I were talking about music for the wedding and what all of the significant songs should be, and she suggested “Turn Around” by Harry Belafonte for my first dance with my dad. Somehow, I’d never heard it, so we found it on YouTube. And both started full-on weeping. There’s no way we’re playing that, everyone will be sobbing!

So, I asked my dad what song we should pick. He thought long and hard, and then eagerly, genuinely suggested: “Hey! How about Chumbawamba? That Tubthumper-something one? You used to love that song, we listened to it in carpool every day!” That alone, I think, sums my dad up. He’d dance to Tubthumping in a tux, in front of everyone he knows, if he thought it would make his little girl happy.

Father’s Day, 2014.

Happy birthday, Dad! I love you!

WEDDING ADVICE FROM 20-NOTHINGS’ JESSIE ROSEN!

Jessie Rosen, the hilarious voice behind 20-Nothings who just feels like your best friend, recently walked down the aisle, said “I do” and became a Mrs! And, luckily for the rest of the internet, she’s sharing her hot wedding tips for brides-to-be everywhere. She was kind enough to let me shoot her all my pressing bridal questions, so read on for her insight on how to survive the long walk down the aisle, from getting engaged to getting married…
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Jessie & R, married! With sparklers! Dreams coming true!

A: Jessie, you made it through the trenches of wedding planning victoriously and are officially a married woman (congrats, Mrs!!!) Can you take a walk back down memory lane to those innocent, naive days when you had a shiny new ring on your finger and didn’t know traumatic facts like how much it costs to procure anemones in August for your bouquet? Please share some words of wedding wisdom on what you didn’t know (but now wish you had) about planning the Big Day?

J: Oh the things I wished I’d known… Truth is when that sparkler goes on that ring finger, the wedding planning freight train leaves the station. I don’t blame any bride (including myself) for, say, spending five hours online the night she got home from her surprise engagement weekend, picking her dream wedding venue and not bothering to inform her family that it was pretty much a done deal in her mind. I do wish that I’d been able to be slower in that process and gathered info on family hopes, guest list numbers and wedding budget facts before totally plunging. And yet, what can an engaged girl do?  

A: I recently had a pretty heated conversation with my mom over whether or not to rent Porta Potties for my outdoor wedding (there were tears involved, I won’t tell whose.) How did you find a way to peacefully compromise all the different visions for the wedding: Yours, your fiancé’s, your family’s, and his?
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J: We ultimately found a way to compromise because we made very clear to our families on both sides how important certain elements of the wedding and wedding weekend were to our overall goals. We envisioned a very specific kind of celebration for specific reasons (specifically – one more time – a small town take-over in a rustic setting because we love that look/feel and wanted all of our guests to enjoy a weekend away). It did take some finesse to get all parties on board, but honesty was the best policy. It goes something like, “this is really important to me Mom/Dad/Sister/Brother/Etc. and I’d love your support in making it possible.” That said, there will always be issues that require compromise on the part of the bride and groom because the day is about more than just two people.

A: What did you find was the silliest waste of money, that your wedding could have done without? What are you #superproud of saving money on? What are you glad you splurged on?

J: I’m #superproud to say that I can’t think of an item that was a super waste of money! Well, maybe the crazy expensive hair extensions that I insisted I needed for crazy full wedding day hair… Otherwise we were on an incredibly tight budget and we stuck to it! Oh, but we did splurge a bit on the welcome party drinks right after our more intimate rehearsal dinner. I maintain that it was money well spent – the perfect chance to gather everyone before all the hub-bub sets in.
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This is not Jessie OR her hair extensions.

A: I feel like every time I make a decision (on wedding colors, The Dress, what passed appetizers to serve at cocktail hour), I see the complete opposite on Pinterest or in a bridal magazine, fall in love with it and question everything. How did you stave off “buyer’s remorse” and not end up with a wedding with every color in the rainbow, 7 gown changes and a sushi-BBQ-taco themed menu?

J: Ugh girl, tell me about it! This was hard for me because I love so many different styles. In the end I let the venue really dictate the décor. Our rustic/industrial setting just wasn’t right for every look, so I stuck with the feel that made sense with that overall vibe. And once that was set I avoided Pinterest like the plague.

A: Let’s talk guest list. What do you do if you want a small-ish wedding, but your mom sent you her list of her non-negotiable 125 “best friends” the morning after you got engaged, and your mother-in-law-to-be wants to invite your fiancé’s ex-girlfriend, whom she’s still very close to? How did you decide how many people to invite, who to invite and who gets a +1?
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J: This was probably the hardest part. We took a very specific approach to mitigate stress, and I’d like to think it worked. We picked the venue, determined how many people we could fit and afford at said venue, and then divided by 3. Each group (my fiancé and me, my parents, his parents) got a set number of invites to dole out as they saw fit. We were happy to discuss with our parents but ultimately the number was theirs to divvy.

A: On that note, you can’t invite everyone you’ve ever met to the wedding. Where did you draw the line? Did people write you out of their lives if they weren’t invited?

J: I can’t say if people wrote us out of their lives quite yet (fingers crossed they didn’t…), but we had a few blanket policies that helped like “no co-worker invites” or “only +1 invites if it is a long-lasting relationship.” That certainly helped but there are always people left out. Here’s hoping they understand that you can only fit so many bodies in the room…

A: There’s an overwhelming amount of decisions to make. Did you follow a timeline of when you needed to commit to certain choices (the photographer, band, florist, etc), or was there anything you wish, in retrospect, you’d figured out earlier?
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J: I followed a loose timeline, yes, but to be honest we had very few vendors (only DJ, photog and florist) because the venue was a full service restaurant and event space. That said I used a Knot.com check list and timeline to give me a sense of major milestones I should be hitting.

A: What did you DIY? In hindsight, was it fun and worth it, or bridal party slave labor?

J: We DIY’d all the vases and flower holders (12 hours over a weekend with my entire family helping), additional candle holders (probably 6 hours that my mom handled herself), our invites (printed invites through a company but added embellishments (probably another 12 hours total), menus (again, 12 hours maybe?) and a whole host of other little paper goods and décor items. It was hard work, yes, but well worth it in terms of price. I just started very early and employed loving friends (who may or may not currently love me back).  

A: My fiancé and I are having a destination wedding. The upside is that it’s like you’re going on a fun vacation with everyone invited to your wedding; the downside is that you’re asking a lot of your guests, financially. In this case, I’ve read in etiquette books you’re supposed to invite everyone to the rehearsal dinner, or host a welcome party, or leave gift bags in their hotel rooms. What did you do for your destination wedding, to make your out-of-town guests feel welcome and special?
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Kate Bosworth’s wedding welcome bag!

J: We also had a destination wedding for all guests. While we didn’t invite everyone to the actual sit-down rehearsal dinner, we did invite all to a welcome drinks party directly following that dinner. I spoke to a number of people who said it was absolutely not expected but very, very appreciated. Plus it kicked the weekend off with a bang.

A: Were there any wedding apps/websites/books that saved your life/wallet/time?

J: I wish I could say yes but the truth is, no. I have a good friend who is a wedding planner – Annie Lee, Daughter of Design, and she really gave us the inside info that we needed to get ‘er done. I found the web tools mostly overwhelming. That said I totally creeped on Style Me Pretty, Brooklyn Bride, Ruffled Blog and more to be sure I wasn’t missing something majorly genius.

A: We’re getting married at a family friend’s house, which is my dream come true. But, it means we’ll have to rent everything, down to napkins and a generator for lights and music. Did you get married in a space that was wedding-ready, or did you go rogue like me? What can I not forget to rent, so the wedding is both beautiful and functional?

J: We were at a fully-outfitted space but considered something similar to what you are doing. The number one thing you cannot forget to rent is LIGHTING. Whether it’s lanterns all around to give the space a glow or actual spot lights so your guests can see where they’re going, light is imperative when it gets dark and is often overlooked in outdoor events that don’t come with a package lighting deal. Often DJs can handle this for you or your catering company will have a partner lighting group they work with.

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A: I’ve heard horror stories of bridezillas who make their bridesmaids spend $1,000 on their bachelorette parties, shell out $hundreds$ on matching dresses, shoes, and jewelry, and insist on bridal showers at 5-star hotels. What were your bachelorette party and bridal shower like? What did you do to not break your bridesmaids’ banks and make sure you were still friends by the time your wedding day rolled around?

J: We both kept things pretty simply for our bach and bachelorette. My (now) husband used a friend’s family house in Park City, Utah for a ski weekend and I did a total Jersey Girl Atlantic City night with my crew. There was flying involved for some people but we tried to keep the costs down in terms of dinners and other activities.

A: Did you do photos before the wedding, or after? If you do before, you get them out of the way and don’t miss your own party; but, you also miss the moment of your groom seeing you for the first time when you walk down the aisle. How did you decide?

J: We did photos before the wedding, and it was absolutely the right decision for us. I would have been too stressed waiting until the aisle moment, and neither of us wanted to miss a portion of the cocktail hour. It was also really special to have a “first look” that was between the two of us and no one else, and I enjoyed having that special photo time with family from both sides before the big moment.
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A: What are some of your favorite wedding traditions you incorporated into your wedding? What were you happy you threw out the window?

J: My favorite thing that we did was a combo Horah (for Robby’s jewish side) and Tarantella (for my Italian family). Such a fun way to kick things off! Ceremony-wise we were non denominational but each incorporated readings from the religions of our respective sides of the family. We also did a marriage contract (what would be a Ketubah in the Jewish faith) in English and had two witnesses sign it live during the ceremony (instead of in a private ceremony before, as would be done if a Rabbi handled it).

A: Inevitably, something will always go wrong on the Big Day. (Remember when Hilary Duff chipped her tooth hours before her wedding? Or do I need to get a hobby to fill my brain with things besides facts like this?) Did anything not go according to plan on yours? How did you cope?
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J: Omg we FORGOT the glass that we were supposed to break to make the marriage official (as tradition goes). The judge marrying us was like, “and now, finally, as is tradition…” and I turned to him and whispered, “we forgot the glass to break!!!” and he just went, “KISS THE BRIDE!” It was hysterical because no one knew we missed it! Then after we all processed out the wedding party met in the “green room” where we were getting ready originally, and we broke the glass among that small group. It was actually such a wonderful alternative. We have a little video of it too!

A: I know the days surrounding the wedding are slammed with finalizing every detail, but they’re also the best opportunity to spend time with loved ones who traveled so far for your wedding. Did you plan any fun group activities with out-of-towners, or do something special to celebrate your bridesmaids?

J: We did a few things in that vein. Robby had breakfast with his best friends from high school while I had breakfast with my best friends from college on the actual wedding day. Robby played golf with his dad while I had a special dinner with my parents. We brought both sets of parents along to get our marriage contract at the little town hall. A whole list of little things that ensured we had time with the people who made the day possible.
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A: Everyone has an opinion and loads of advice. How did you tune out the noise, stop second-guessing yourself or feeling guilty about your decisions, and focus on what was most important to you and your fiancé?

J: This was tough but luckily Robby and I were SO on the same page about everything that we used each other as sounding boards for all that questioning. “So and so says we should be doing this….” I’d say to him, and he’d say, “well do we want to do that?” And then we would agree that we did or didn’t and move on from there. We really kept it close to the hip, and that made it so that the day was everything we wanted, collectively.

A: And in a similar vein, while everyone who loves you wishes you the very best, sometimes weddings have a way of bringing out the crazy in people. Did you have any experience with passive aggressive jealousy in girlfriends, or wild behavior like another engaged friend buying a wedding dress identical to yours after you showed her the picture? How did you deal?
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J: I am so thrilled to say NO. Or, at least, not that I know of…

A: Did you write your own vows, or rock it old school? If you wrote them, how did you sum up all your feelings and emotions and happiness into something both cohesive and personal (so you don’t end up rambling for 20 minutes like Kanye West reportedly did at his wedding)?


J: We did an alternative to the write-your-own-vows thing but still spoke at the ceremony. These little “speeches” we’ll call them answered the question, “why I’m marrying _____.” We each had five minutes to “make our case.” It was such a fun way to express these deep feelings in front of our friends and family but with a direction to the little oratory. We did not share these with each other before the ceremony but we did have a friend read them to be sure they followed a similar enough tone.
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Cool vow idea for foodies?

A: The wedding itself goes by so quickly, and everyone wants face time with the happy couple. What did you and R do to make sure you two were able to take a moment with just each other, and celebrate what counts — that you two just committed to spending your lives together?

J: We planned in time to spend together, literally. We put 15 minutes of time in the timeline directly after the ceremony to just be together, alone, in the green room. Then we had another 10 minutes just before our first dance. And then we had another 10 right before we ran out to do our sparkler send-off. Best decision we made.

A: Did you leave for the honeymoon right away, or did you host a post-wedding brunch and take a day or two to unwind and spend time with family and friends in town?

J: We did a post wedding brunch/open house at Robby’s family home the day after the wedding (they were somewhat local), which was a great way to see everyone before they all took off. Then the very next day we left and DROVE ACROSS THE COUNTRY (NY to LA, specifically). It was aggressive, but I would do it all again.
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A: Are you keeping your last name, or taking R’s?

J: I’m keeping my name. See link for why.

A: And finally, because you are the expert… What didn’t I ask, but should I have? Can you leave me with some final words that will make me feel only calm and peaceful about wedding planning, from this day forward?

J: The number one question I get asked now that the planning is done: what do I not need. You mostly addressed that in the budgeting/spending question, but there are a few wedding staples that no guests really care about. They are, as far as I’m concerned: favors (skip them), ceremony programs (write it on something that everyone can see), and cake (unless you absolutely love cake, an alternative dessert is just as appreciated). Other than that simple issue, I think you’re in GREAT shape, bride ;)

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THE CAKE TASTING (& 4TH OF JULY TRIP TO TAHOE)

July 4, 2015. Lake Tahoe, CA.

Tony and I checked an item (several months early) off Martha Stewart’s Wedding Planning Timeline this past weekend… THE CAKE TASTING!!!!! If you know me, you know this is one of the most important elements of our wedding. I am a cake connoisseur. A lover of cake. I consider cake a food group, a meal and, on a particularly rough day, a close friend. We’re doing “Cake in a Jar” as our wedding favor (more on that later).

Every year, my family spends the 4th in Lake Tahoe at Snowman’s house with a big group of my parents’ friends and their kids (and eventually, their kids’ kids… I think that sentence just gave Snowman and my dad a heart attack). Since Tony and I were planning to take the annual pilgrimage to fireworks, burgers and boats on the lake, we figured we should take advantage of being up there to get some planning done and make the appointment for our cake tasting the Saturday after the 4th. We already knew exactly where we were getting our cake from. When Tony proposed, he had a red velvet cake from Tahoe’s Sugar Pine Cakery waiting and it was so delicious, we knew we had to have them bake our wedding cake, too!

Proposal cake on the lake!

Hopped up on sugar-free Red Bull and Sour Patch Kids, we rolled into my parents’ cabin in Tahoe around 3:30am on Friday the 4th, riding high on the dogs’ (and Tony’s) farts, and the fact that we beat traffic, an inescapable nightmare on the busiest weekend of the year at the lake. I’ve never been so happy to see this sign:

(Snowman’s Christmas gift to my dad.)

My parents met us with their two dogs at a more reasonable hour later that morning, and we kicked off the weekend by heading straight down to Snowman’s place, “The Big House,” right on the lake. This weekend had extra special meaning, as it was the first time coming back since Tony proposed there, and the first time being there knowing we would actually, definitely be able to get married there! Dreams do come true!

The lawn where we’ll get married!

Tahoe is my favorite place in the world, and this weekend did not disappoint. We had unlimited access to the snack table in the Big House kitchen:

It was Maggie’s first trip to the lake:

Where she learned to swim:

And also got to go on a daily 2-hour “hike” (slow-paced stroll on flat ground) through the mountains with me and my parents.

My dad, the dog whisperer.

Tony didn’t go on our daily “hike,” because he was too busy running a 13 mile loop up, then back down, the mountain. Every. Day. (The last day, two of the hungover dads went with him. Both fell. Hard. Everyone blamed Tony for tricking them into “jogging” with him.)

One night we asked my dad to take a picture of us. He’d had a few glasses of wine. This is how it turned out. I don’t know what he did. #nofilter

Tony and I also took the boat out every day. Last year, my dad turned 60 and, to celebrate his late-life crisis, he and Snowman decided to go in on a boat together. (Those two do everything together. They are truly Superbad: The Golden Years.) It was the best decision my dad has ever made (besides marrying my mom).

Captain Tony.

The only problem is, you have to figure out a way to get to the boat. You could take the row boat out, but that’s a time-wasting hassle in my book. It’s much easier to make Tony swim to the boat (in the freezing cold water), and fetch me and our bag of snacks from the dock. (We’d load up on candy and some organic knock-off Cheetos that, because they’re organic, made me feel okay about eating Cheetos daily.)

Tony’s long, arctic swim.

We’d drive the boat to Emerald Bay, where there is an island with a castle that some lady used to make her servants row her out to so she could have tea:

(At least, that’s the story my mom told me when I was a kid.)

Then, we’d park the boat by this rock that Tony likes to jump off. Tony would swim, and I would read wedding magazines and eat more Cheetos.

Tony’s diving rock.

Happy place, photo shoot.

We carried on the annual 4th of July tradition of sparklers on the patio, (legal) “fireworks” in the outdoor fireplace, and watching real fireworks from the dock. We always drag the seat cushions off the patio furniture to sit on, wrap ourselves in blankets and listen to the crackly old radio show, which plays 50% static, 30% bizarre Top 40 hits, and 20% on-theme America/4th of July-related music. Then, when the show is over, everyone lies back and looks for shooting stars. It is perfection.

The next night, we played a rousing (drunken) game of Name That Tune, boys against girls. The girls won, despite our tie-breaking guess of The Looking Glass’ song being called “Bandy.” We earned bragging rights, and a bag of M&M’s. Then, we had an epic dance party.

My mom, rocking out.

Tony’s dance off with one of the moms, Susan.

And the last night, we roasted s’mores, my mom’s favorite dessert and a Tahoe staple. My mom feels the same way about s’mores as I do cake, and thus far has suggested we send a bag of them for our Save the Dates, have a s’mores roasting party the night before the wedding, and serve them at our engagement party, rehearsal dinner, wedding and post-wedding brunch. And ask the bakery if they can make s’mores Cake in a Jar’s for our wedding favors. (Full disclosure: I am on board with all of this.)

Tony made me this s’more, so I didn’t have to get off my butt and stop drinking wine for one minute.

However, the highlight of our trip was the cake tasting. I know it was (way) early to book that, but it was really important to me that my mom and dad got to be a part of the fun, too. (And, even more important that another bride doesn’t book our bakery before we got the chance.) We thought it would be special to have the same bakery that baked our engagement cake make the wedding cake, too. Not to mention the fact that Allison, the magic behind the Sugar Pine Cakery, makes the best red velvet cake I’ve ever tasted.

The four of us piled into the car on Saturday and realized, when the drive took nearly 2 hours instead of 30 minutes, we’d made a wise choice in not picking July 4 next year for our wedding date. The traffic was so bad, we could have walked there almost as quickly.

Where the magic happens.

The bakery is on an adorable side street just off the lake, and has such an amazing list of flavors, it was hard to pick our favorites… But, we settled on salted caramel with sea salt, coconut, lemon, strawberry with cream cheese frosting, yellow cake with chocolate frosting, pineapple upside down cake, peanut butter chocolate, chocolate chocolate, and red velvet for the tasting, and Allison sweetly (no pun intended) made us a box of mini cupcakes.

We decided to do our tasting back at my parents’ cabin. Tony and my dad got lemon bars for the road (their favorite treat. We also decided to serve those at the wedding, they were so good.)

Caught in the act.

At home, with the dogs as our audience, we split the cupcakes and got down to business. It was such a tough call, as they were all so delicious, but the group consensus was that red velvet, chocolate peanut butter, and strawberry cream cheese were the favorites.

Can we have cake, too?

Groom’s cakes are a southern tradition and I inherited my love for all things chocolate and peanut butter from my dad’s Texan father, so we’re going with a chocolate peanut butter groom’s cake. And how could we not do red velvet for our wedding cake? It’s the cake Tony proposed with, and Allison makes the very best. Maybe we’ll do strawberry cream cheese and s’mores flavored Cake in a Jars? Who knows, I have over a year to decide (again, I was really stoked to make that cake tasting happen ASAP.)

Practicing for the wedding!

If it’s even possible, I’m even more excited for our wedding. I’ve loved our 4th of July trips to Tahoe since I was a kid, but this one was even more special because this time I got to spend it with Tony, envisioning our wedding there. With cake.

I can’t believe we get to get married here.

THE YOPLAIT GREEK 100 WEDDING DIET

The kind people of Yoplait must have read about what exactly my wedding diet consists of, because they generously reached out to see if I’d like to partner with Yoplait Greek 100 to slim down for my gown, and blog about it to help other brides looking to do the same.

I was so excited that 1) People aside from my mother, fiancé and 5th grade teacher were reading my blog! 2) I’d get free food! 3) I’d drop enough pounds that perhaps I wouldn’t need the saleswoman’s help tucking my butt into the sample size wedding dresses bridal salons cruelly force you to try on! (Contrary to the wedding industry’s apparent belief, I didn’t magically become a size 0 as soon as Tony slipped a ring on my finger. But now that I’m jumping on the Yoplait Greek 100 diet, maybe I will…)

The dogs were equally excited about my special delivery!

SO MUCH YOGURT!

c/o Yoplait Greek 100

Side note: Tony has true love for me, you guys. He took all of the photos of me and told me I looked pretty. I can’t wait to marry him!

Back to this super legit wedding diet. When you’re busy planning a wedding (and balancing that with work and life), it can be hard to find the time to cook, much less eat (and then you find yourself in the In-N-Out drive-through at 10pm, telling yourself if you eat in your car without looking at your food, it doesn’t count…) These Yoplait Greek 100’s are great to have on hand to make a mini-meal, or simply throw a package in your purse for an easy snack on the go. These babies are only 100 calories each, which I’ve found to be a nice counter-balance to the number of calories in the cake tastings and catering tastings that I’m enjoying so thoroughly.

How Cupcakes and Cashmere, The Coveteur-esque of me, right??

My hot tips include blending one Yoplait Greek 100 with some ice, almond milk, protein powder, and your choice of mixers. (Vanilla yogurt? Mix with powdered peanut butter, chocolate protein powder, and half a banana! Strawberry Cheesecake yogurt? Mix with frozen strawberries and vanilla protein powder, and you’ve got yourself a guilt-free strawberry milkshake for lunch! Apple Pie yogurt? Mix with chopped apples and honey to make a crustless “apple pie” that will give you the happy satisfaction of a Thanksgiving treat without having to unbutton the top button on your pants.) Or, prep for your Orange Is The New Black marathon by popping a Yoplait Greek 100 in the freezer… Voila, “homemade” fro-yo!

Bonus: If you have a fiancé like mine, who considers blending a protein shake “cooking,” he’ll get on board with this, too. He’d like to share: “I started the Yoplait Greek 100 diet this morning and already lost a pound!”

Here are some DIY-Recipes to complement your yogurting, courtesy of Yoplait: If you’re craving…

Something salty
Two pretzel rods (80 calories) with 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard (15 calories) for dipping

Something cheesy
1/4 cup low fat cottage cheese (40 calories) divided among seven reduced fat wheat crackers (40 calories)

Something chocolate-y
One cup of sliced strawberries (54 calories), one tbsp. of chocolate syrup (23 calories) and 2 tbsp. of fat free whipped topping (15 calories)

Something crunchy
Six apple & cinnamon mini rice cakes (55 calories) and ½ tbsp. of reduced fat chunky peanut butter (47.5)

Something dessert-y
Yoplait Greek 100 Strawberry Cheesecake

On the Go Options:

Something salty
Reduced fat cheddar Frollicks

Something cheesy
100-calorie Cheddar Chex Mix

Something chocolate-y
100 Calorie Chocolate Caramel Chex Mix

Something crunchy
Fiber One 90 Calories Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bar

Something dessert-y
Yoplait Greek 100 Blended Apple Pie

About Yoplait Greek 100
All of the Yoplait Greek 100 yogurts contain 100 calories per serving and at least 10g of protein per serving.

Learn more at GreekTasteOff.com

THE VANCOUVER WORKATION

I got home last night from Vancouver, where Tony’s shooting a TV movie for 6 weeks, and I miss him already (*cue the “awww”’s and “ewww”’s, we know how grossly in love we are!) So far, we’ve abided by the Hollywood divorce-prevention rule of not going longer than 2 weeks without seeing each other; I met him in Washington D.C. for his college roommate’s wedding at the beginning of June, and he flew me out to spend a long weekend with him last Thursday. As of press time, the wedding is still on for August 1, 2015, so I can happily endorse this rule!

I’m calling the weekend a workation, because for Tony it was (almost) all work and for me, it was all play. The production is putting Tony up in a 5-star hotel, so while he was busy shooting, I got to pretend I was a #RichKidsofInstagram and lounge by the indoor pool, celeb stalk (one of the X-MEN and a teen heartthrob who recently made you cry at the box office were also staying there) and scarf down all my favorite treats Tony had sweetly stocked the room with in anticipation of my arrival:

Wedding diet food to perfect my bikini bod. Thanks, Tone!

If you read my Dateiversary Anniversary blog, you know Tony spoils me rotten and this weekend was no different. This note was waiting for me in the hotel room next to Canadian money so I wouldn’t have to worry about exchanging mine:

I got to go back to waking up to lattes in bed:

And he’d planned the weekend around my favorite pastime: Eating. We had some of the best pizza (and fried macaroni & cheese) of our lives at Via Tevere, gelato three times at Bella Gelateria (9x if you count how many scoops I had), world-famous sushi at Tojo’s, sushi at a lot of other places, organic sno-cones and chocolate salted-caramel cake at the Whistler farmer’s market, and a delicious dinner at tourist hot spot the Cactus Club, made all the more memorable by a drunken domestic altercation between a Real Housewife-wannabe and her boyfriend/son (they were kicked out before we could figure the relationship out.) And oysters! SO MANY OYSTERS!

Friday, I got to play the part of proud fiance, visiting Tony on set. And I was so proud. Tony’s the hardest working person I’ve ever met, and has more than paid his dues. He was a janitor his first few years in L.A., worked 5 years to get into the Groundlings Main Company, tested for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and has gone on hundreds of auditions. And through it all, he’s remained confident, focused and dedicated. So, it was beyond special to see his face on the side of a van, hang out in his trailer tricked out with a fireplace and TV, and have people come up and tell me what I’ve known for so long: Tony is SO funny!

Not gonna lie, I spent most of the day here:

Craft services.

And here, with these guys:

Actors, acting.

Tony had a photo shoot Saturday, so I helped myself to cupcakes and leftover pizza for breakfast, squeezed myself into a bikini, and spent the morning by the indoor pool. That afternoon, Tony tricked me into working out by promising me more food. We ran from the hotel to our gelato spot. Then we ran through gorgeous Stanley Park to a farmer’s market. Then we ran to Cardero’s, where I ate two cocktails and a platter of oysters. Then, we finished our 5 mile loop by running (me, drunk) back to the gelato spot. (We walked back to the hotel.)

Sunday, we drove to Whistler. We stocked up at a gas station on Canadian delicacies:

Bacon flavored chips. WHAT.

And made our way into the gorgeous mountains. Tony apparently thought I was trying to be a cute “damsel in distress” when I told him of my fear of heights, probably because I gamely took selfies like this while we waited in line:

And pretended we won the Olympics at the top of the first mountain:

(I also learned cool new filters that make it look like we’re in a disaster movie!)

But Tony quickly realized how wrong he was when he insisted we do the “Peak 2 Peak” gondola ride that dangles death in your face, as you cross between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains at 1,427 feet in the air. (It’s the highest lift in the world.) Throughout the trip, I missed views like this because I was either ugly-crying, hyperventilating, or groaning like a cow in labor as I tried not to pass out:

Here’s me trying to smile:

Here’s me, knowing I SURVIVED and feeling safe enough to pose again!

Nothing cute or damsel-y about that. The upside of that traumatic experience was that we got to see bears on the chairlift ride down, the Whistler farmer’s market was in full swing at the bottom of the mountain, and we got to take an impromptu hike (ie we had to walk back to Whistler Village), as I’m pretty sure I would have shit myself if I’d had to ride that thing back.

Tony rewarded me for (sort of) overcoming my fears with 20 oysters, 3 cocktails, and a commemorative hat at Araxi, a place I will visit in my dreams it was so good. He got to watch the World Cup, and I got to shovel complimentary truffle popcorn into my face; it was win-win for us, (if not for the U.S.A. Bummer city.)

When we finally got home, we made it just before closing for more gelato:

I’m homesick for Tony, and I’m homesick for Vancouver… I fell in love with that city. It’s like a perfect combination of all the places I want to live — Lake Tahoe, NYC, and Los Angeles — where people are also nice. The sun doesn’t go down until bedtime, it rains most of the time so I don’t have to worry about soaking myself in SPF, and if I haven’t driven this point home hard enough yet, the food is insane. Like, they serve poutine at McDonald’s. I can’t wait to go back, but even more, I can’t wait for Tony to come home.

Twins! (Taking GROSS to new levels.)