Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy 366th day!

1 year = 365.242199 days.

I just had a lengthy conversation with Jake regarding how many days technically exist in a year, and about precisely what day/hour/minute/time we are on right at this very moment in 2008.

All I can tell you is I now have a headache and understand little of what Jake had carefully attempted to explain. It's not that I'm an airhead--I'm actually quite capable. But numbers make my head spin, especially fractions. So I will continue with my (possibly ignorant, incorrect) statement that today is the 366th day of the "old" year. I'll leave it up to some non math-phobic person to correct me, should they be so inclined. So...without further ado: Happy 366th!

Ahhh, the "new" year. It's incredible all the expectations we place on this evening and the following day. As if instantaneously the calendar flips and jumps confidently forward, and so must our lives. But nothing transforms magically, and chances are that whatever efforts we put into the last year will undoubtedly seep into the new one. Seemingly, our past good, bad and questionable deeds inevitably improve or inhibit our abilities and accomplishments for our next set of 365.24 days.

While some New Year's Eves prove disappointing or bland, others are truly special and magical enough to make you deeply appreciate the transition of one year into the next. I have been lucky enough to experience such a night only a handful of times, typically when I am far far away from home.

About 10 years ago, I spent New Year's Eve in Japan. Though it was long ago, I remember it well. For various bizarre reasons, I found myself alone at the strike of 12:00 a.m., in the streets of Tokyo, attempting unsuccessfully to navigate the Japanese rail system, speaking not a lick of Japanese, and rather lost. It was wonderful. The New Year's holiday in Japan (正月 shōgatsu) is like no other, and is one of the most important holidays observed there. It is not merely a celebration, but a festival, and it is marvelous. The Japanese, who generally tend to be soft spoken and somewhat reserved, really let themselves go and enjoy this special time. Their joy is evident and contagious, genuinely spiritual and joyous.

As I stood outside in the cold that night, wondering which way to turn, I looked at the people around me and was warmed by their cheer and enthusiasm. Suddenly, I became aware that I was in a foreign country, with no one to rely on but myself. It wasn't frightening or lonely; it was invigorating. I remembered a quote from one of my favorite books at the time: "My mind is my friend," and at that moment, midnight struck. I did eventually manage to navigate my way back to my hotel (if you have ever travelled in Japan and do not speak/read Japanese, you know what a challenge this can be) and contently fell asleep recalling images of rejoicing and playful Japanese couples and teens. I awoke the next day with the kind of clarity, drive, and freshness that I often longed for on past New Year's Days. That morning, the possibilities seemed endless, exciting, and attainable. My fond memories of that spontaneous night and meaningful quote continue to be a source of strength for me to this day, just as Japan has held a special place in my heart ever since, and is somewhere to which I have returned as often as possible.

That year was definitely a year of growth for me, both spiritually and emotionally, and I do believe it had to do, in part, with my attitude about the future as I awoke on the first day of the New Year. I learned a great deal on that trip to Japan, as it was my first time in Asia. It was then that I became further motivated to incorporate crafting into my life consistently, since I was positively influenced by the Japanese people's well known appreciation and high regard for aesthetics, art, and paper craft.

Japanese crafts are an important part of the New Year celebration. Some people make their own cards for the occasion, choosing to draw/paint an image on special paper or use stamps to create a unique postcard for friends and family, while others purchase beautiful ready made cards, postcards, or envelopes to distribute. The following New Year, I made my own New Year's Day postcards for friends and family, using little colored and patterned paper squares positioned to create various patterns which I glued to card stock, and special New Year-themed stamps with nice pictures or messages, all of which I purchased the year before at my favorite stationary store, Itoya. I hope to incorporate some of the techniques, materials, and ideas I learned about and use, into our own wedding decorations, invitations, and crafts.

As for my travels to Japan, never would I have guessed that over 10 years after my magical moment in the streets of Tokyo, I would later find myself in that very spot standing next to the man I now plan to marry. Life is a series of circles, after all. Very few of us navigate life in a straight line, but rather return time and time again to places, people, and thoughts we once had. To me, that is the beauty and the curse of time.

Similar to my experience that night over a decade ago, I feel motivated to face the year ahead. It will be a year of change, a year of challenge, and the year I will wed.

Whether you also will be getting married this year, are already married, or single, I hope 2009 will be as wonderful, healthful, successful, and full of love as you hope it to be. Whether your New Year's Eve this year is as fulfilling or meaningful as you envisioned, I hope you have a memory of a special New Year's Eve past which gives you strength to face the future with positive anticipation. And may your efforts and dreams from 2008 positively affect your triumphs for the next 365.242199 days of your life.

Happy New Year!

Photo Credit: midorisyu: A 2008 handmade postcard for the New Year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Diamonds are a girl's woman's:

Photo Credit: Swamibu

1) ❒ Best friend

2) ❒ Worst nightmare

3) ❒ Lowest priority

4) ❒ Acquaintance

While not technically part of the "wedding planning," I thought this topic was nevertheless worthy of discussion, since many of us address it at some point: the question of the engagement ring. Do I want one? What does it mean to me? Can he/she/we afford one?

For about as long as I can remember, my opinion on the matter was that engagement rings were a waste of money, unnecessary and superfluous. But mostly, I didn't care to think about it, and so would have likely checked 3) above.

Years later, when the question was directed at me by the man I actually planned to marry, well, my responses sounded more like, "Can I have an engagement trip instead?" or "How about an engagement camera lens?" I suppose I was demonstrating my no-nonsense, pragmatic side to my future husband, just in case he hadn't gotten the message during the last six years of our relationship. Jake, of course, appeared satisfied--albeit amused--by these answers, and took them in stride. I figured we were pretty much done with the engagement ring chat. Every so often, Jake would inquire again, to make sure I hadn't changed my mind. I hadn't, though I did vary my responses with different objects; engagement road trips, engagement restaurant meals, engagement houseplants, and so forth. One never wants to be too predictable. But overall it was clear that a ring was not exactly on my list of priorities. Hell, it wasn't even on my list, period.

At least, that's what I felt at first.

As more and more couples find themselves making joint decisions about marriage and weddings, they also tend to consult one another on marriage-related issues that past generations left undiscussed. The engagement ring is one such topic that is potentially hashed out by modern marrying couples. Some brides-to-be don't want a ring along with a proposal, and prefer something more meaningful or less traditional. There are many reasons why an engagement ring is not right for some, including:
  • Feeling the money is better spent on financial obligations.
  • Wanting to focus on the personal commitment of marriage rather than a material object.
  • Finding rings uncomfortable to wear.
  • Women commonly propose to men who may not want to wear an engagement ring.
  • Wanting a more personal expression of love/commitment than jewelry.
  • Not being really into jewelry.
  • Wanting to avoid questions from (nosey) others that a ring often provokes.
  • Not feeling comfortable with what some feel an engagement ring signifies (ownership, materialism, etc.).
Pendants, tiaras, custom designed tattoos (better hope she/he says yes!), piercings, matching earrings, down payments on a home, good wines, and baskets full of hand picked meaningful goodies, are all popular alternatives to an engagement ring. Many simply pop the marriage question empty-handed, or openly discuss and mutually make the decision to marry together with a partner.

As for me, I was down with all of the above, and confident that I was uninterested in receiving a ring as a token of Jake's commitment to marry me. I remember reading this excellent article and having to restrain myself from screaming "Amen!" and "You go girl!" at the computer (I was at work at the time). And so it seemed, my mind was made up.

But then, I remembered.

I don't own fancy jewelry or gems. Most of the jewelry I wear is either from my travels abroad, jewelry I've made myself, or jewelry that friends made for me. Except for one piece of jewelry.

About five years ago, for our one year anniversary on the day we met, Jake got me a bracelet. In hindsight, we didn't know each other that well at that time, and this was one of those first joint celebrations where you are hoping and praying that you get your partner the perfect gift--the one that makes him/her think, "Wow, they really do know me!" Despite his frugal ways, Jake had little savings at the time, having just started a new job. He was shyly apologetic that the gems in this bracelet were "only" cubic zirconium (I wouldn't have known the difference, believe me). Jake gathered I was not too into (fancy) jewelry and yet he wanted to give me something I didn't have, something different for me, something new, a gift I would not think to get for myself. (Seems like with today's commercial online wishlists and registries we forget that some of the best gifts are true surprises!)

At first, I didn't think too much of it. It was nice. I thanked him, put it on, and moved on. I wore the bracelet on occasion, when I was feeling a little "dressy." When I did, friends would compliment me on it, "Ooooh pretty! Where did you get it?" I caught myself smiling when I told them, as my eyes lingered over the details of the bracelet. People often seemed to notice the tiny bracelet, and would ask me about its unique pattern. This soon led me to examine the bracelet more closely myself, looking at the design Jake chose, wondering what made him select the little curlicues, delicate yet funky. I could imagine him, a solid looking "guy guy" at the little jewelry counter, asking a salesperson to show him these tiny bracelets one after another. He undoubtedly made a big effort and took his sweet time to pick out this special bracelet for me. He had never bought jewelry for anyone else, so this was special and new for him too.

© All Rights Reserved Wedding Thrift

I came to really enjoy putting the bracelet on for special occasions; birthdays, parties, anniversaries. And I started to detect a shy little spark in Jake's eye whenever I wore it. He clearly took pride in the fact that I enjoyed it, pleased that he was the one to have contributed to my pleasure in some way. It wasn't until years later that Jake and I talked about the bracelet: How much it came to mean to me, how he had won me over with such a sweet and surprising present, and how much thought he put into it, having chosen a design he felt matched my personality.

This memory got me thinking about what an engagement ring--another piece of jewelry--might mean to me; what it would represent in terms of my relationship with Jake. Would it be like the bracelet; carefully and thoughtfully picked out, making me smile to myself when I wore it, reminding me of the connection I had with someone else?

I hadn't wanted an engagement ring because--in theory--to me it represented materialism, mainstream-ism, and manufactured emotion. Now I was pushing myself to look beyond this stereotyped notion I invented for myself. Maybe I had been scared to admit that some (sentimental, sappy) piece of jewelry would mean something to me? Maybe I had just been defensive--even self-conscious--about Jake spending his hard earned money on such an extravagant gift for me? Perhaps I hadn't adequately considered Jake's desire to treat me to something unusual and indulgent? Or...maybe I just quite possibly over analyzed the whole darn thing (no, not me!).

Next time Jake mentioned it, I hesitated before answering. "Um...maybe, it could be cool." That was good enough for him, I saw it in his grin.

But, but but. There were a few buts:
I didn't want to pick it out or be involved. I trusted Jake to make the right choice.
I didn't want the ring to be so big that I felt the least bit uncomfortable or self-conscious riding the subway.
I hoped the ring would be modest and delicate. I'm not one to flaunt jewelry and have tiny fingers.
I didn't want Jake to spend too much money on it. Cubic zirconium was a-OK as far as I was concerned.
I wanted to be able to put on gloves over the ring without a large "lump" sticking out. That would annoy me and interfere with my obsessive glove-wearing (as an always-cold person, this was important to point out).
I wouldn't be wearing it every day, no matter how much I loved it. I prefer to wear jewelry as an expression of my mood, rather than habit. I wanted it to be special each time I wore it.
I didn't want the ring to become the focus of the engagement, but rather a nice peripheral bonus.
Jake listened carefully to my requests. Then we moved on to more important things, namely, "What's for dinner?"

At first Jake was worried that this might be too big of a purchase for him to make without my input, and risk my not liking it (we are definitely not big spenders). But I reassured him that I trusted him, and that the ring itself was not as important as what it represented. Soon Jake regained his confidence, and enjoyed the process of choosing something special.

In the end he made the absolute perfect choice. Modest, simple, classy. It did turn out to be a diamond ring, primarily because I've never owned one (a diamond, that is). Jake knew I liked the Funky Bracelet which was diamond-like, and he thought a clear stone would attract less attention (yay!) than a colored stone (probably true). This is the only diamond I ever plan to own, and that's the way I like it.

© All Rights Reserved Wedding Thrift

I realize better now, that I tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to anything "conventional" and am always looking to buck tradition in some way. But what is right for me, and what is right for others may, coincidentally, be identical at times, and that's OK. Some traditions are worth keeping, if they are meaningful. What matters is being honest with yourself and your partner about what you want, without being afraid that you are falling into some stereotype that others have defined or may judge.

Same goes for my wedding. I'm not looking to make a statement or do something no one else has done before. I'm just looking to make choices based on who Jake and I are, and what we love. No doubt it's been done before. And that's totally OK by me. What will make our wedding unique is that it's Jake and I getting married. And what makes my engagement ring unique is that it was exchanged between Jake and I, with words that no one but us will ever know.

Just the way it should be.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Know What You're Getting Into!

...and I don't mean in terms of marriage.

I mean in terms of what is required of you wherever you are planning to have your wedding ceremony or reception.

Because let me tell you, there are some wacky weird nutty and plain old non-sensical rules out there, just waiting for some bride to forget to read them.

I discovered the fine print in the wrong order: After I had started getting excited about one of the possible locations for my own wedding, and fantasizing about checking that (huge) task off my list. Just as I was about to cartwheel away from the computer and perform my "happy dance" for Jake, I happened to stumble upon the long list of no-nos at my chosen location. That's when I realized I may need an attorney just to interpret the rules and explain the consequences of (gasp!) breaking a rule or two in the contract.

In case you can't tell, I am not too fond of rules or being told what to do. I'm not even all that great at taking advice, (though I try!) even when it comes in a nice, logical, and friendly package. I tend to be stubborn about doing things my way to my own detriment. The time I INSISTED on making 230 Halloween cupcakes from scratch for Jake's entire class, comes to mind. In my defense, the idiotic idea arose because it was his first year teaching and I wanted him to be liked, and I decided that sugar was the way to the kids' hearts. I refused any and all help and swore I could do it "on my own," a phrase I use often, which inevitably turns into my "famous last words." Eight hours, six store-bought overpriced-because-I-was-desperate muffin tins, four trips to the grocery store, two blisters and one screaming match later, the damned things were done. But I won't be doing that again anytime soon. Or ever. I (gulp) learned my lesson, yes. Well, I mean just in terms of the cupcakes. I certainly don't apply the moral of that story to other like experiences. Call it blind dumb determination.

The point is, if you are anything at all like me, you better check the fine print of your beautiful, inexpensive, too-good-to-be-true dream location, sooner rather than later. Some of the rules at these places simply do not allow for any flexibility to have your wedding your way. Seems sort of counter-intuitive? "Let us make your wedding special and long as it's not too special and unique."

The rules come in many forms. There are crazy rules and then there are rules that make things downright inconvenient, annoying, unrealistic, or cost more money on top of already costing a lot of money. Brides beware!

In case you're curious why I am getting my feathers ruffled about this topic, here are some examples for your bride/groom-to-be enjoyment:

"Only one ceremony is permitted on Saturday and one on Sunday at 9 a.m. Ceremony must be completed by 10 a.m., when the grounds open to the public. No exceptions." I am not a morning person, and I tend to be late. Cramming a ceremony into a one hour time slot? Too rigid for me.

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet
"Ceremonies are all stand-up. No chairs, tables, decorations, flowers, balloons, rice, or birdseed. No food is allowed. No excessive noise." Is smiling allowed? Can you imagine negotiating this one? Please please can I have just a tiny little bouquet to carry with me during the ceremony? Sounds like a drag.

Photo Credit: John Mayer
"Chuppahs must not measure higher than six feet in height and four feet wide." Are you kidding me? My groom is 5'11"! Is he supposed to crouch through his own marriage vows? And about that width--are we supposed to huddle throughout our ceremony just to make sure we fit inside the canopy? Dare I say, I think they just don't like Jewish weddings!

Photo Credit: Barbara L. Slavin
"Only soft, small, hand-held music is acceptable." This one is just plain humorous. I'm picturing one of those little shower radios in bright yellow, being held by the flower girl, quietly playing classical music that no one but she can hear. This rule is a pretty big buzz kill if you envisioned having music as part of your wedding. Image finding that out...once you have booked the venue?!
"A tent is required in case of rain. Tent not provided. There is a fee for bringing tent into the gardens (it was $250!). Set-up of tent allowed fifteen minutes prior to reception." We have to have a tent, we have to pay to rent it, we have to pay just to let the tent be allowed into this venue, and we have approximately 900 seconds to put this thing together? No thanks.
"Fee for photographer entry to venue ($180)." This one I just don't get. It seems like nothing more than an attempt to make money off of you and your wedding. We are already paying the photographer, why do we have to pay the venue to have the photographer attend? And what if--like Jake and I are considering--we have a friend/guest who doubles as the event photographer? Does that person require a special fee for being a guest at my wedding? Nonsense, I tell you!

Photo Credit: Nicole Cole

"No hats allowed. Jacket and tie required. Shoes must be worn at all times." No option for a casual wedding there. See ya!
"Trash receptacles will not be provided at the venue. You are required to provide a minimum of 8 trash receptacles on site and are responsible for removal at the end of the event." This one is just....gross. Since we are considering having a buffet reception without servers or formal catering, this means I would have to schlep to some housewares store and buy 8 of those ugly 32 gallon monstrosities, schlep it to my wedding, and then schlep it FULL OF GARBAGE home with me once I'm hitched? Makes me wonder what cockamamy thing went wrong for this venue at one of their events to make them require this.
In fact, I am willing to bet that most of these rules came about as a result of an obscure lawsuit that they had to settle for big bucks.
I guess if I was doing an "Organized Wedding Mafia" wedding some of these rules, and others I uncovered, would not have mattered too much. It would be just one more little fee here and there, and I could simply tell the "wedding staff" to take care of some of it. But since we are trying to do as much as we can ourselves--both to save money and to make the wedding reflect who we are and not who others think we should be--and it's basically going to be us and our homies throwing this thing together, these are make it or break it rules for me.

Lessons Learned:
  • Check the fine print asap. It may look nice at the location, but if you later find yourself scrapping some of your favorite wedding ideas in order to accommodate the place's rules...well, what fun is that?!
  • Realize (like I didn't) that especially if you have your heart set on doing things differently, or want to bring in a lot of your vendors (or your super skilled BBQing Uncle Al) to your wedding, you will likely find most location rules rather limiting. The menus alone at some of these places, where you are stuck with only one or two caterers from which to choose, can be a huge turn-off.
Next Steps:
Now, more than ever, a simple, understated park seems like the best choice for the kind of casual-ish, community oriented, laid back, and crafty wedding Jake and I are imagining. The kind of place where the worst rule might be "no dogs allowed off leash."

Ah, the lovely scent of freedom awaits. Somewhere...

    Saturday, December 13, 2008

    Location, location, location.

    Photo Credit: Kevin Hale

    Turns out finding a location isn't so easy or quick. It's more of a process.

    I (re)faced the Internet armed with a list of ideas that both Jake and I had come up with, in terms of what we visualized for our wedding location. Which, by the way, is something I highly recommend to anyone in the beginning planning stages. Luckily, Jake and I see eye to eye on most issues, but you can always count on some surprises once you sit down and really hash out your very personal ideas for a very joint project.

    For example, Jake was slightly alarmed to discover that I envisioned flowers--lots and lots of flowers--at our wedding. He didn't think I was that "girlie." I, on the other hand, was amazed to learn that Jake was not entirely sold on someplace that only had picnic tables to offer for seating. I guess I had overestimated his rustic side. In the end, Jake walked away a little bit more comfortable with the picnic table setting, and I left the brainstorming session realizing that, unless I wanted my wedding to take place at a florist's shop, I may have let my imagination run a bit too wild. Not to mention the expense of the "Re-creation of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens" look I had unwittingly envisioned.

    We had both agreed that a park, garden, or backyard* would be an ideal setting for our wedding.

    On our wish list was:

    Outdoor Setting.

    Naturally beautiful location, not one needing to be "dressed up" to be pretty.

    Spacious, not cramped or claustrophobic. Com
    fortable. Lots of open grass, trees, etc. Enough space for children to feel comfortable (and hopefully reduce parents' stress).

    Down to earth, not showy or over the top.

    Relatively private or somehow sectioned off for intimacy.

    Someplace that offered shelter (or enough room for a tent) in case of rain.

    Easy access for guests.
    We know our invitees will include disabled individuals and small children.

    Somewhere meaningful to us, preferably somewhere we have already been together and enjoyed.

    And on our list of things we wished to avoid:

    Not so big that it would swallow up our smallish size wedding.

    Not enclosed. No four-walled rooms

    No unreasonable, hard and fast rules enforced at the location, which would significantly limit us. We want flexibility to do things our way.

    NOT expensive.

    Not somewhere which forces us to use only one caterer / florist / photographer, etc. We want to avoid that boring "chicken or fish"mentality and steer clear from some of the (Bland! Overpriced!) wedding food we have encountered at other weddings. We love food! We also don't want to be stuck buying flowers from one vendor or having to use the location's one and only photographer.
    These were our initial basic ideas. At this point, we couldn't get more specific because we had not yet decided other aspects of the wedding which naturally tied into determining what types of locations would work for us. For instance, we didn't have a great sense of how many guests we were inviting (excluding the one time we had a bit too much wine and made a "joke" wedding list which included the sweet, chatty parking attendants at the parking garage next door, and our favorite green grocer). The number of people attending would obviously affect our location options (size). Likewise, we hadn't even determined if we were going to provide a meal or snacks; have it catered or make the food ourselves (I know, I know. But it can be done).

    One thing I am learning, is that many of our choices about a seemingly isolated issue (i.e. food) restrict or permit choices in other areas (i.e. does the location have barbecues in case we cook our own food or does it require catering?). So in part, there is no avoiding thinking about a whole lot of parts of the wedding at once, which can be overwhelming. But that doesn't mean that you can't (or shouldn't) focus on them one at a time, in manageable chunks, to avoid feeling out of control.

    Incorporating the lessons thus learned, and applying the "don't even mention the word wedding" rule, we now had quite a few keywords to google:

    Now I was getting somewhere!

    The results inspired me and provided me with many ideas I had not yet considered. The first search returned all kinds of interesting sites to check out. Some were links to articles, such as how to throw successful and fun outdoor parties, ripe with cute little ideas. Others led to blogs with thoughtful tips on issues to consider when having a party outdoors. These resources proved very helpful for me in the early stages of brainstorming locations.

    There were even links to flickr showing images from outdoor events (these were not that useful at this point, but reminded me that I should check flickr at some point for photos of decorations and settings I liked). Still other results led me to sites suggesting a multitude of great questions to ask myself before deciding on a location. I would never have thought of these on my own, so I really appreciated benefiting from someone else's experience and advice.

    The second search also generated worthwhile results, even linking me to something as simple as a list of parks in the area. There were also many examples of public and private events that took place in various outdoor setting in the City, generating even more ideas for Jake and I.

    The third search was the most specific and this is where we got into the nitty gritty of some of the possibilities of holding outdoor events. The most useful for my purposes, was a basic link to the Parks & Recreation website. A few clicks later, and I was smack dab in the midst of how the heck one goes about getting married in a New York City park. Bingo!

    Much of what my searches returned were advertisements for event planners, vendors, several for-profit services, and pages that were clearly designed with the Organized Wedding Mafia in mind. I simply ignored those and went on my merry way to other, more useful links! No problem.

    Ahhhh. At last, google and I were working in harmony. And all it took was a little reflection on my part. And the process continues...I will now compare the new information I acquired with Jake (who is doing his own research using various search terms and will share his results), discuss our findings, and then its back to the Internet drawing board for more specifics. No printing things out on paper yet (we always try to save paper whenever possible), but lots of bookmarking. And, though I can't vouch for them personally, a few of my friends have successfully used this free bookmarking service to compile a long list of their favorite pages, accessible on the Web anywhere, anytime.

    Happy clicking!

    *More on that topic in a future post.

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Lesson 1: Operation Google

    Photo Credit: beegeye
    After we decided to get married, I immediately began working on my Wedding Phobia Recovery Plan. And I did what I normally do when exploring a new, frightening and unfamiliar concept:
    I googled it.

    After a few hours of searching, I got my first lesson in wedding planning.

    In case you don't feel like reading the rest of this post, or are looking for instant, potentially helpful suggestions, I'll cut to the chase: Once you add the word "wedding" to any search, you better be prepared to shell out the big bucks and limit your options.

    Looking for a location for an event is one thing. Looking for a location for a wedding? Well, that apparently summons the Organized Wedding Mafia (OWM) who pop right into your browser, urging and begging you to spend, spend, spend for
    The Perfect Location for your Big Day. Even when I googled "alternative wedding locations" the results were pretty scary.

    Here are just a few examples:
    1. Golf Club. "Great for photographs." "Some have pools."

    2. Football Stadium. I guess a massive guest list is not a problem here. Just the massive bill.

    3. Zoo. "A memorable day." It sure would be. With all those animal smells and all. And I'm sure it costs only pennies to rent THE WHOLE zoo out for a day (!).

    4. An Island. I live on an island, Manhattan. And that's expensive enough. I can't even afford to go to another island on vacation, let alone pay for guests and all that they require. Oy.

    5. And now for my personal favorite: Castle. As in the castle at the McDonald's Play Land? Because I can't afford anywhere else...

    When I didn't get the type of results I was looking for with the general search, I focused on New York, hoping to hone in on more creative local ideas. But my searches returned all the usual suspects: Various sections of Central Park (booked way in advance, not an option for an 8 month lead), The Boat House ($), Tavern On the Green (), museums, and Botanical Gardens. I'm not getting what is "alternative" about these locations. If even I was aware of them as wedding spots, they are definitely very popular. (The museum idea sounded kind of cool, but I have trouble even shelling out the admission fee at some of our finer cultural institutions.)

    And then it hit me. I was working backwards! Instead of asking myself what I wanted, I was looking to the Internet to tell me what was available. Not even what was available, but what others had done. Others being more financially endowed individuals. Others who may just possibly have been swayed by the ways of the OWM, and influenced by which venues the OWM determined to be appropriate, ideal locations to celebrate a wedding.

    I shut the computer down. And I closed my eyes. I tried to imagine Jake and I, exchanging vows, our family and friends nearby, and what did I see? What did I smell? What did I hear? And it became clear(er). I saw grass and trees. I smelled the fresh outdoor air. I heard the Rabbi's deep voice and the distant sounds of children playing and people laughing. No hotel banquet room smell for me.

    OK, so maybe that's a little, um, cliché. But the point is, I was beginning to narrow down a vision of what I wanted and the feelings I hoped to create on our day. Definitely outdoors. Definitely casual. Definitely grounded. Simple. Comfortable.
    No zoo animals or stadium lights. No golf clubs or exotic islands.

    Initially I thought that the only consequence to adding "wedding" to my google search was that it made the prices skyrocket. Turns out, it also tended to limit the venues, the possibilities and my imagination. I wouldn't google "gifts for mom" to find something special and personal to buy my mom for her birthday. I would first think about who she is, what she enjoys, what kind of a gift might support her hobbies. This was no different.

    Don't get me wrong...the Internet is an amazing resource, and I honestly don't know what we did in the days before google. And in between all the extravagant, outlandish, expensive and typical links that my search returned, there were some real gems. But I needed to realize my own desires before recognizing some of those good ideas. After all, my goal is to choose the wedding, not let the wedding choose me.

    Next steps:

    Make a list of the characteristics I want from my ideal wedding location.
    Ask Jake to make a similar list.
    Share our lists.

    Lessons Learned:
    • Think first. It's OK to dream. No need to bust out the Rorschach Test, but a little introspection never hurt anyone. (Turns out that too much thinking, however, is not so good.)
    • Don't include wedding in my search.
    • Don't get caught up in what has been done. Find my own way.
    I'll be back Google...

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008


    © All Rights Reserved Wedding Thrift

    I knew my partner was thinking about marriage when, one day, he added "for a really long time" to our good night ritual.

    "I love you."
    "Love you too."
    "I could love you. For a really long time."

    Soon he was incorporating this sentence into our conversations throughout the day. "Me too," I finally responded. Next, "forever" replaced the "really long time." When I became comfortable with that, it turned into "I want to love you forever."

    Now might be a good time to mention that I never felt super excited about the concept of getting married. It just seemed overrated, and I thought it would be much more exotic to have a "life partner" than a husband. But Jake got the best of me, and I soon warmed up to the idea.

    Still, when we talked about it openly, I got slightly nauseated each time. It's not that I didn't want to share my life with this wonderful man, so what was it?

    Turns out, it was about The Wedding. All the weddings I attended were of the typical, cookie-cutter, exchange corny vows in a hotel banquet room, sit uncomfortably at your reception six top, avoid the videographer, and converse only about the wedding food, variety. The musty smell of the rooms where the ceremonies were officiated reminded me of the conferences and trainings I had attended for work, and made my stomach turn. There was that one wedding that took place at a country-club-like estate, with glamorous gardens, interior majestic staircases, and lavish wood paneling. But once the ceremony started, we were shuffled into yet another one of those hotel banquet-type square rooms. And after the ceremony, we were shuttled by mini-van away from the serene outdoor setting and into--you guessed it--a hotel for the reception party. With that smell.

    These weddings often had the same components:

    • The radio announcer voice beaming "And now, for the first time in public! Please Welcome Mr. and Mrs. X!"
    • Enough pre-dinner food that most guests were ready to hurl by the time the iceberg lettuce with rotten tomatoes and ranch dressing salad arrived at their table.
    • Enough liquor consumption to make even the most sweet, innocent granny attendee look like a raving alcoholic.
    • Floral centerpieces so big I couldn't see the guest in front of me.
    • Brides with so much make-up on, it was hard to recognize them.
    • A point in the evening when all the younger guests proceeded, barefoot, to dance enthusiastically to "Brown-Eyed Girl."
    • Manufactured (in China), useless, indistinguishable, conventional guest favors with the Bride and Groom's names plastered all over them.
    • Guests congregating in their little pre-assigned cliques; gossiping instead of mingling.
    • A chance to actually converse with the Bride & Groom. For about a minute. They looked exhausted and seemed not to eat.
    • An elaborate spread of beautifully decorated and colorful cookies which surprisingly tasted like crumbly cardboard with calories.
    There came a point in the night where I generally crashed the wedding next door (next banquet room over) just to indulge myself in a change of scenery. And to check out if their party favors were any better (they weren't).

    It's not that I think the aforementioned kind of weddings are wrong. They're just wrong for me. It seemed the only other feasible alternative was the polar opposite: City Hall. And those rooms have a funny smell too.

    As you can see, my wedding imagination was severely limited and uninspired.

    So, a wedding for me? Not so much.

    Luckily, Jake, much less prone to emotional breakdowns and rants, and much more pragmatic, snapped my mind into reality: "We don't have to have one of those weddings!" he simply stated, with a chuckle. And thus, I began to get over my fear of the Organized Wedding Mafia.

    After spending hours online reading through inspiring tales of frugal, creative, and quirky brides and their meaningful, down-to-earth wedding days, I am happily and solidly on my way to being a fully recovered wedding-phobic partner!

    The thought of having a wedding can be intimidating, but doesn't have to be. How wrong I was to think that I couldn't plan a wedding that reflected who we are. After all, we frequent supermarket garbage bins after hours to fish out (perfectly good) tossed bread for our lunches. We're avid cooks. Instead of using our dishwasher to wash dishes (wasting water) we use it to store cakes and muffins (try it, keeps them moist) and wash dishes by hand. We walk everywhere we can. We have a storage space jam packed with found furniture and scraps from the streets, waiting to be magically transformed by our DIY project dreams. And we go out of our way to favor local community shops and vendors and avoid the Big Chains.

    No reason not to buck convention now.

    Move over, Martha, I'm getting married!