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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.

DREAM DRESS REALITY CHECK

image

Found this INSANELY GORGEOUS dream dress on Pinterest. Inquired about it. Was told it was “outside my price range,” even though I never told them what my price range was. Pointed this out. Their reply?

"It’s made with real diamonds."

OF COURSE IT IS. BECAUSE SO MANY WOMEN CAN AFFORD DRESSES WITH DIAMONDS SEWN ONTO THEM. IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO HAVE A DIAMOND ON YOUR ENGAGEMENT RING. YOU NEED THEM ON YOUR GOWN, TOO.

Le sigh. Of course I sniffed that out, and fell in love with it. It’s as if my eyes have laser beams designed to find things I can’t afford. (My fiancé will attest to this. “Sushi” is a category in our budget.)

So, the search for the dress continues. Preferably for one that doesn’t have Kay Jewelers’ entire inventory sewn onto it, or cost more than the Dream Home I’ve also been designing on Pinterest. (It just occurred to me that perhaps the real lesson from this is that Pinterest is the devil.)

Looks like it’s time to cinch up my sweatpants, strap on some elbow pads and fight my way through another bridal sample sale, where perhaps I will find my dress AND still be able to afford to eat (sushi, if we’re being honest). That would be a real win.

Crawling back to reality, I spent Labor Day in Lake Tahoe with my parents and Maid of Honor… Lots of wedding updates and drama to fill you in on! Follow ALTARED on Facebook for all the latest updates!

EAT CAKE FOR BREAKFAST

{A motto to live by.}

The first gift from our wedding registry arrived!!!! Our friend Brandi generously bought out all of the Kate Spade china items I registered for at 2am a few months ago. (It was a particularly stressful day of wedding planning, so after a few glasses of wine, I decided to do a “fun” wedding task, like registering. Even though, at the time, our wedding was over a year away. I’m not skilled at prioritizing.)

More and more frequently, happy little moments keep happening that remind me this wedding is real, not just a fantasy, and that package showing up on our doorstep was one of them. I felt like I was starring in Father of the Bride.

We deliberately put NO GIFTS! on our engagement party invitation, because we want our loved ones to look forward to all of our wedding-related events and not feel like they’re a gift grab. And, more importantly, because our engagement party was in L.A., that was a “destination party” for half of our guest list, and so many people traveled such a long way to be there — not to sound like a cheesy Hallmark movie, but having all the people we love in one room really was our gift.

Despite this, a few friends gave us the most beautiful things, and all came from such a place of love and knowing us so well, because I was too embarrassed to post my crazy, haphazard registry anywhere (I don’t know how Brandi sniffed it out! I bet she wondered why I registered for 6 macaroon-making trays and a lot of forks, but no plates!) I can’t wait to share those gifts, too, because each and every one of them is personal and perfect, and great if you are a wedding guest and are looking to give something special that isn’t on a registry.

I’ve had my coffee in this mug every day since it arrived. It makes me happy, because it reminds me that I’m getting married soon(ish.) And, if you know me, you know I consider frosting a food group and cake is at the top of my food pyramid, so this mug really speaks to my soul. Also, we had so many red velvet cupcakes left over from our party, I HAVE eaten cake for breakfast pretty much every day since… Practice what you preach, you know.

MOM’S NAKED INTERNET VIDEO

Every parent’s worst fear is that their child will put a naked video of themselves on the internet. Turns out, it’s also every child’s worst fear that their parent will put a naked video of themselves on the internet, too. I know this because that fear came true for me last night.

Tony and I were catching up on Ray Donovan just before midnight, Tony also scrolling through Facebook on his phone because he can never do just one thing at a time, when all of a sudden he muttered, “Oh God. Oh no. What?! Babe, did you see what your mom just posted?”

Of course I didn’t, I was too focused on the magic that is Jon Voight dancing to be trolling Facebook.

Tony paused the DVR and held up his phone, on which a 21-second clip was playing of my mom’s attempt at an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. She was in the shower, it was framed far enough below her shoulders that she appeared to be naked and she was soaking wet, giggle-slurring “I’d like to nominate my beautiful cousin Monica, my beautiful friend Elizabeth, and my beautiful sister Carolyn.” Then she started laughing so hard I couldn’t understand what she was saying, and then the video stopped. THAT WAS ALL THERE WAS.

Frantic, I called my mom to ask what the heck was going on up there. This was past her bedtime! Five hours earlier, she’d been upset Tony said the word “d**g” (sounds like “pong”) in his ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video, and now she’s naked in hers? How many glasses of chardonnay had she had? And why did the video start after she’d clearly taken the challenge?!

She swore up and down that she’d only had “one” glass of vino with “lots” of ice because she was nervous about filming with a 24-hour deadline, and she was actually wearing a bathing suit but wanted to look naked to “out-funny” Tony being in his underwear in his video (and it was totally appropriate, anyway, because you couldn’t technically see anything, and also she was in the shower where people go naked all the time!) She also shared that she filmed a 2 minute-long video that showed her doing the challenge, but it was too big for Facebook to upload and she forgot to nominate anyone. So, sopping wet, she filmed a second video with her nominations, uploaded just that one, and called it a night.

She texted me the first, 2-minute long video. It was even worse/more amazing.

She’d styled her hair and was wearing dangly, formal earrings. Still seemingly unattired. Still seemingly drunk. She was speaking in a very slow, serious tone, like you might if a cop pulled you over for drunk driving and you needed to convince him how sober you were. It takes her about 15 seconds to spell out ALSA.org. Then, she explains that California is in a drought, so she’s going to get ready for bed using her ice bucket. She brushes her teeth. Cracks herself up as she rinses until she foams at the mouth. Covers herself in soap, which she has trouble with because she’s completely dry and it’s not spreading easily. Then she takes my dad’s wine bucket, which is full of ice and water, douses herself, and moans like she’s been hit by a dump truck. That’s where it ends.

I asked her what she was thinking and she said, “Your father thought it was great! He said, ‘That’s a wrap!’ and went to bed.”

Even if my mother is telling the truth and she wasn’t inebriated, my father was clearly in no state to make this judgement call, or he would not have allowed this to happen.

She really thought it was a good idea to leave it up, but I explained that strangers might not understand what a hilarious jokester she is (which she is - obviously) and they’d think she filmed it seriously, and it would probably end up on BuzzFeed or a late night talk show. She explained that she thought only her 58 friends, who know she’s funny and would never ever get naked online, would see it. Then, she asked, “Do you think Kim Kardashian had second thoughts about filming her video?!” I said, “Sleep on it.” Then I logged into her Facebook and took it down.

I’ve never felt more mom-ish, and if this is anything like what parenthood is actually like, I don’t want it. I can’t handle the stress. It makes wedding planning feel as zen as a yoga class in comparison.

I checked in this morning, and Mom was feeling slightly more reasonable, and decided it was best to keep the video private. Why? Because she felt that with her uncontrollable giggles, she didn’t want to even hint that she was making light of a very serious subject - she still wasn’t worried about appearing naked. (She’s really owning that one.)

In case you think I’m exaggerating, here is a screen grab:

{Imagine shrieking violins from a Hitchcock horror film here}

Whenever I have a bad day, I’m going to watch that video. It is the best/worst thing that has ever happened to me.

***Addendum, from Mom: The current copy is in a vault and will only see the light of day if it raises a million dollars for A….L….S….A….dot….org, because my daughter assured me this is the most horrifying shower scene since PSYCHO.

NINE INCH NAILS @ THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL

Our sweet friend Mark got the sickest box of all time at the Hollywood Bowl for last night’s Nine Inch Nails concert, and generously invited Tony and I. I thought this would be a good look to blend in:

I also thought a NIN concert would be the perfect opportunity to try that cute upside-down braid-bun I saw on Style Me Pretty:

{You can put a girl in a NIN concert, but you can’t take the girl out of the girl. Or something like that.}

I was wrong. I did not blend. Most of the people looked like this:

{My fiancé. His shirt has howling hybrid animals on it and he’s wearing sensibly comfortable shoes, not pictured.}

Regardless of my poor wardrobe choices, we had the best seats in the house and the best night ever. NIN is Tony’s favorite band of all time — he loves them as much as I love cake and lavish vacations. (Which is a lot.)

{Side note: Trent Reznor is super jacked. Tony pointed this out first, so it’s okay for me to admire.}

My Maid of Honor, Katierose, raged better than anyone:

{Do you see why I love her?}

And Tony and I got to enjoy an end-of-summer date night… The weather in L.A. lives up to its hype and it’s pretty perfect here all year long, but there’s something about that time of year when kids are going back to school and work is getting crazy again… Last night felt like a beautiful escape from all of it, at the prettiest outdoor music venue I’ve ever been to.

{Happy to be out with him, he’s happy to be thisclose to Trent Reznor.}

And it was even better, because we got to spend it with some of our best friends.

Tony’s dream of having NIN play our wedding might not come true (I think his other wedding dream, of having a Wang Chung cover band, is probably more realistic budget-wise - not sure which is a worse idea, though), but last night got me even more excited to dance all night with the people we love most in the world at our wedding. (Hopefully to a live band that we can both agree on, whose price doesn’t send my dad into cardiac arrest.)