Monday, March 30, 2009

Blah Blah Blog...

Photo Credit: Michael Karshis

Blogging is often about expression and validation. Finding people out there that mirror yourself in terms of thoughts, ideas, feelings. That's why it was nice to find a post by Meg of "A Practical Wedding" today that described more or less how I have felt, at times, about all the wedding blogs out there.

In fact, Meg's post motivated me to write about so many of the things I have been feeling after months of reading the many wedding blogs and DIY sites, that I think I will need to do it in at least two parts...


In essence, her advice was to curb your obsession with scouring the wedding blogs, and take careful note of when they are helping--or in some cases hurting--your planning process, or even your self esteem. Take them with a grain of salt, basically. Don't judge yourself based on what everyone else is doing or making. And for gosh sake, when you feel yourself feeling worse about your own wedding because of what you think other people are doing for their wedding--STOP. TURN THE COMPUTER OFF. Go have a drink or watch a stupid movie. Get perspective.

I admit, in the early stages of planning, I was scouring the wedding blogs like mad. I never even knew all this stuff existed. I was like a drug fiend who was never satiated. I wanted more links, more resources, more stories, more everything wedding. I had so many random thoughts and emotions afterwards, I needed a place to let them out. So I started my own wedding blog, adding to the Internet wedding overload. OY!

But it is true that you have to take these things with a grain of salt. I know that the following thoughts may not be well received, and may even offend a few people, but I gotta say it. What I have found is that so many of these blogs and weddings try so hard to be unique or DIY that they go totally overboard. While I think letting the Organized Wedding Mafia get the best of you is a bad idea, I also think that turning into a DIY bridezilla is just as bad. And what's worse--sometimes I found that by reading about all these other wedding bloggers--those that spent hours searching out the perfect spool of ribbon from etsy with which to use on their completely handmade, multi-textured, paper-based invitations, or those that described the process of knitting all the [personalized] [color coordinated] yarmulkes for guests from vintage silk yarn purchased on Ebay--well, they just made me feel like a hopeless underachiever! Even though I didn't even want to do any of those things for my wedding.

Yes, I want my wedding to reflect me and my partner. And I definitely love doing as many crafts for the wedding as I can, because that is what I enjoy doing and because it saves money. But there is a difference between making sure that elements of our personality are incorporated into our wedding and being so self centered about everything that our big event seems to scream ME ME ME to anyone who will listen. Personally, I don't see the difference between a Bridezilla who has meticulously, obsessively hand made everything in her wedding to one that has paid a helluva-lotta money to have someone else make everything exactly to her detailed specifications. Ok, well I do see a difference, but I think each scenario is problematic in its own way.

That's just me. After reading so many of certain types of wedding blogs, I started to feel like a DIY sellout if I did not incorporate every single special thing about Jake and I into our wedding. Or like I was being a bad crafty bride if I took the guests' considerations into account, rather than make decisions based solely on what I wanted. Or what Jake wanted.

And while I acknowledge that people forcing their opinions on you is obnoxious/wrong, I don't demonize people for expressing themselves or asking questions. Yes, people challenged some of our decisions. But that's OK. Jake and I are direct enough to stand up for what we think. I don't really get upset when people challenge us, if it's done in an appropriate way, or well-intentioned...I try to take it in stride. Unless, of course, it comes from people who we have specifically asked to lay off. Uh, yeah, then I may go off on a slight rant. To them.
Truth be told, I even had a few "aha" moments after a friend or two "challenged" my thinking on some things. Months ago I was going on and on to a friend about wanting people to walk down this path in the park (where our wedding is going to take place) which happened to be gravel. Then I told her how I wasn't going to offer beer in addition to wine (our venue does not allow cocktails, just beer & wine). I also told her I didn't want to bother with chairs during the ceremony--it was only 20 minutes long, what's the point? After respectfully listening to me go on about a few other things I wanted to do, she politely said, "You know, it's funny. They always tell you it's your day on your wedding. But the truth is, you are still the host. The host of an event that revolves around you."

I know there are a lot of you out there that cringe at the mere thought of your wedding day not being only your day. But this does not make me cringe. I think there are different degrees of self-centeredness, and I am only willing to go so far before I start to feel like a brat. I actually really appreciated what my friend said. I had been thinking of only myself. I had been following (some of) the wedding blog mantra telling me not to listen to anyone else's opinion; to ignore what others wanted; to focus only on what me and my fiance wanted and forget the rest. In short, I got carried away by my own desires and visions.

But what about the few guests that are in wheelchairs and have to navigate the gravel? And what about the people (like my fiance's brother), who don't enjoy wine but who would be eternally grateful and delighted by the option of drinking a nice cold beer with his meal, on a hot July afternoon? How comfortable will the guest with the bad back or bad knee be while she/he stands up during my ceremony?

This does NOT mean that I immediately drop all my ideas and cater to others' needs. It did, however, make me realize that just maybe I should consider the effect of some of my choices, on others. What I appreciated about what my friend said was that she reminded me that I really was the host of this event, as well as the guest of honor. And I might need to consider both sides if I want a truly community-oriented, happy day. The funny thing is--what I consider unique about myself, or at least a good quality of mine, is that I do consistently take others' feelings and needs into account. That's what makes me a good friend, a good daughter, a good lover. I don't want to change that, I want to use it to make my wedding fun for me and fun for guests too! Reading through some blogs, taking all this into account almost made me feel like a traitor in the anti-big-fat-wedding community.

So I agree, for my own reasons, that overdoing the blog reading can be harmful. It can cause you to stray from your true self, and instead encourage you to compete for the best, most unique, most outlandish, most "authentic" experience. This will likely cause you more stress than it's worth, and make you feel bad. While I don't profess to know what is right for you, I can only encourage you to learn from my experiences, and to be true to yourself. You certainly don't have to answer to me, or any other bride out there. Just yourself.

So step away from the Macbook or PC, brides! While the Internet is awesome for so so so many things, YOU have many great ideas on your own without it! I'm sure of it. Don't worry if you don't sew every tablecloth or emboss every handmade save-the-date. Just enjoy this exciting time and maintain perspective. Unplug and let the creativity flow. At least every once in a while.

Or just grab a beer, sit back and read a juicy novel. Just make sure the main character isn't getting married.

(next up--Part II: Tips on how to use the Internet effectively when you do scour the blogs. At least some things I found helpful for Jake and I in our planning.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

When The Going Gets Tough, Fantasize!

Photo Credit: Ira Mejías

You know those days/weeks/months when you start to wonder how you--a practical, down to earth, fun-loving woman--got so obsessed with planning your wedding? Those are the days/weeks/months that I wonder if it's all worth it. Not in a whiny, helpless, pity myself sort of way. Just in a holy sheesh this takes a lot of work/energy kind of a way.

That's when I allow myself to fantasize freely about weddings, marriage, unions and other matrimonial mirages. The fantasy varies depending on the week and the extent of my surrounding chaos, but as with most of my fantasies, it usually involves a deserted beach of some sort and some good old fashioned hippie love. And there are times I think (or say aloud to Jake): Let's elope! Jake usually nods his head enthusiastically, and we start giggling about all sorts of silly ways to get married on the quick, cheap and fun. Of course, sometimes--only minutes later--one of us will start talking about the wedding we are actually planning and the other gets re-excited and energized again. So it's all good.

But some brides and grooms are making good on their fantasies, as I discovered stumbling across this article:
"Many couples are not only down-sizing, but they are attempting to spare their friends and family the expense of attending a big wedding," says Mary Beaty, a Brooklyn chaplain who arranges elopements around the city through her Web site
Christina Petrozella Norman, 29, of Florida was planning a wedding at a huge Victorian house in North Carolina for last fall. She and her husband, Gary Norman, 34, were going to invite about 50 guests to the bed-and-breakfast.
"And we were just having some problems with the budget," she says. "We just decided that we didn’t need the stress and we didn’t want to spend all of that money on a total of maybe four hours. And we would have rather have done something fun and different and get a honeymoon out of it, too.
"I had seen an article about a couple who eloped and hired a photographer to take iconic pictures around New York. So we decided to do that," she adds. So the couple contacted Beaty and were married in Central Park on Nov. 28. There were no guests, so their photographer served as their witness. "I was nervous that it wouldn’t feel like a wedding," Petrozella Norman said. "But in fact, there was something really special and intimate about it. It was unexpected."
"It was the best thing," says Tracey Steinberg, 37, of Jersey City, who decided to wed Sid Lipsey, 38, on New Year’s Day.
They held the ceremony at the Benjamin Hotel in Manhattan two weeks later. "So many people I know are so stressed on their wedding and worried about what the color on the bows on their favors will be. We didn’t do any of that. I was just able to really enjoy the significance of the day," she says.
Beaty recommends choosing a setting that’s right for you, whether it’s the clerk’s office, your apartment, or more romantic spots like the Brooklyn Bridge or on a horse and carriage. She suggests avoiding noisy tourist traps like Times Square and the Rockefeller Center skating rink. "It’s better to have your ceremony in a quiet spot, and then go visit those places for pictures," says Beaty. And there’s no need to spend a fortune on a dress or accessories.
"Buy flowers from a local deli or go to the Chelsea Flower market," Beaty says. "Buy ribbon and pins from the dollar store. You can find many lovely sample dresses and other retro and vintage dresses in New York City. Men can rent a tux if you’re feeling formal, but a nice rose in your suit jacket and a new tie bought from a street vendor is just as fun."
Living in New York and knowing firsthand of all the marvelous, gorgeous and picturesque places in the city, I think the idea of ordering a car and driving around with a photographer (or better yet--photographer friend) sounds like a blast! Definitely a day to remember. With just you and your honey, I bet there are a lot of special and unique moments created between the two of you that only you will share together and treasure. Yep, I have definitely fantasized about that one...

Originally uploaded by Ryan Brenizer

So go ahead and fantasize! Nothing wrong with blurring the line between fantasy and reality sometimes. You never know where it will lead you.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

If You Sprinkle, When You Twinkle, Use My Sweetie, To Wipe the Seatie.

Despite my last cheery post, I want to report that the full-fledged cynic in me is alive and kicking. And I found her only a few clicks into my morning.

Having (finally) gotten over (knock on wood) a two+ week nasty virus, during which my bed, my thermos, and my Robitussin DM Max quickly became my most cherished companions, I awoke this morning feeling there was much to be done (i.e., catch up on).

Jake and I are almost done with our Save-the-Dates--which I will happily share with you soon--and were contemplating the next big paper project: The Invitations. We recently visited Staples to check out some of their cardstock. Not to buy, just to feel it and see which color combos, textures and paper weights we like (which I highly recommend before buying online, by the way). As a follow up, I figured today I would check out my online resources, such as the one mentioned here, and decide on a color and style. Maybe even order something today or tomorrow and be done with it.

Well, as often happens on the internet, one click leads to another, and soon I was looking up how to make napkin rings out of toilet paper rolls. There was a connection somewhere along the way from paper --> toilet paper --> napkins, but I can't really say how I made it and why. Maybe I just drank too much coffee and held it in too long. I don't know.

But regardless, a quick google search rendered the following results:

The first hit was one I had remembered seeing before, and was actually trying to find. Good job google! And you can find the simple tutorial here if you, too, find toilet paper roll napkin rings to be an interesting project potential.

The second hit: "Bride & Groom Toilet Paper Rolls"? Well, you just know I had to click. 

They weren't joking.

Wedding toilet paper, meet my readers. Readers, meet the Next Big Thing. This is right up on my list of things to buy for my wedding as soon as I order my wedding garbage bags, so people can also think of me as they throw away their dirty napkins and baby diapers on My Big Day.

Yes, my friends, now you too, can have your wedding guests happily wipe their asses with your special day in mind. Only $10 for a pack of two rolls. You and your soiled loved one will cherish those memories for years to come.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The "Truth" About Marriage?

Photo Credit: dickuhne

If you have read any of my posts here, you probably have already picked up on the fact that I tend to be a bit cynical.

One thing I take with a mountain size grain of salt is advice. I don't mean the advice you get from your best friend who has known you for ten years, or your sister who always seems to pick up on your mood, however slight. I mean advice from strangers. Who assume things which may not, in fact, be true.

You know--those people who don't know the ins and outs of your personality or your partner's and the history [sometimes baggage] that has made your relationship what it is today? I'm talking about the kind of advice that is based on some generic principle that should work in theory, but often doesn't because it's not detailed or relevant enough to your specific situation? That kind of advice.

This type of proselytizing is commonly endured by riders of the New York subway [like me!], who have to listen to endless opinions on infinite topics daily. But if you don't have the pleasure [and aforementioned pain] of living in NYC and thus being exposed to the infamous in-transit let-me-tell-you-what-I-think-even-though-you-didn't-ask rant regularly, you likely find this kind of advice rampant on, say, the internet, in self-help books, or in certain newspaper columns. So I'm sure you don't feel left out.

But [taking deep breath] once in a while [rolling eyes], the cynic in me subsides and I take heed of the above mentioned seemingly general help and find it...useful. Just a bit. And in such rare instances when I find such words of wisdom to be more helpful than harmful, I like to share.

If you have a yahoo account like I do, you probably noticed all those annoying ads for articles and products all over the header page. One especially procrastinational [yeah, that's a made up word] day, I glanced over at that evil section and saw this heading and accompanying link:

"Seven Things No One Tells You About Marriage"

Secrets? Seven of them? That no one has ever told me? I mean, I have some pretty open and talkative friends...who are married...[!]

I'm not sure what state of mind I was in at that moment, but I was likely upset about one thing relationship/wedding-wise or another and I CLICKED.

It wasn't so bad! This was like the marriage advice written by a cynic. Definitely swallow-able. While it wasn't mind-boggling information, it was just...well, a nice read. Pointing out the basic tenets of respect. Who can't use a healthy dose of that once in a YEAR?

And although this was advertised as marriage advice--it applies to any relationship, I think. Marriage is just one [optional][for some] phase of a relationship not the end-all be-all. Personally, I believe that marriage should not really change much in your relationship in terms of core things, in that the foundation for a good [decent, spectacular] relationship should already have been laid way before the proposal or engagement. I think it is dangerous and possibly delusional to believe that "everything will be different/better/change" once you are married. That's just my two cents.

But enough of my opinion! Here, I bring you the first 3 "secrets" [that makes me laugh, but it got me to click, didn't it?] from the article. If you don't hate them, you can read the full piece here.

You're smart. You know life is no storybook. But admit it: Somewhere deep in your subconscious lurk romantic visions of Cinderella, or maybe Julia Roberts. The images may be sketchy and a little outdated, but you can still make out the silhouette of the bride and Prince Charming riding off into the sunset.

In real life, sometimes your Disney fairy tale ends up feeling more like a Wes Craven horror flick -- and you're the chick who keeps falling down and screaming for her life. I've been there. Let's face it, marriage is not for the faint of heart. You want to believe your pure love for each other will pull you through. And it does. But it ain't always pretty.

1. You will look at the person lying next to you and wonder, Is this it? Forever?
When you get married, you think that as long as you pick the right guy -- your soul mate -- you'll be happy together until death do you part. Then you wake up one day and realize that no matter how great he is, he doesn't make you happy every moment of every day. In fact, some days you might wonder why you were in such a hurry to get married in the first place. You think to yourself, "This is so not what I signed up for."

Actually, it is. You just didn't realize it the day you and your guy were cramming wedding cake into each other's faces, clinking champagne glasses, and dancing the Electric Slide. Back then you had no idea that "for better and for worse" doesn't kick in only when life hands you a tragedy. Your relationship mettle is, in fact, most tested on a daily basis, when the utter sameness of day-in/day-out togetherness can sometimes make you want to run for the hills. That's when the disappointment sneaks in, and maybe even a palpable sense of loneliness and grief. It's not him. It's just you, letting go of that sugarcoated fantasy of marriage that danced in your eyes the day you and your beloved posed in all those soft-focus wedding photos. You're learning that marriage isn't a destination; it's a journey filled with equal parts excitement and tedium.

Waking up from a good dream to face the harsh morning daylight may not seem like a reason to celebrate. But trust me, it is. Because once you let go of all the hokey stories of eternal bliss, you find that the reality of marriage is far richer and more rewarding than you ever could have guessed. Hard, yes. Frustrating, yes. But full of its own powerful, quiet enchantments just the same, and that's better than any fairy tale.

2. You'll work harder than you ever imagined.
Early on, when people say, "Marriage takes work," you assume "work" means being patient when he forgets to put down the toilet seat. In your naivete, you think that you will struggle to accommodate some annoying habit, like persistent knuckle cracking or flatulence.

If only it were that easy. Human beings, you may have noticed, are not simple creatures. Your man has mysterious, unplumbed depths -- and from where he sits, you're pretty complicated, too. You have to learn each other the same way that you once learned earth science or world geography. And getting married doesn't mean you're done -- it just means you've advanced to graduate-level studies. That's because every time you think you've mastered the material, he'll change a bit. And so will you. As two people grow and evolve, the real work of marriage is finding a way to relate to and nurture each other in the process.

"It's like losing weight," says Andrea Harden, 45, of Buffalo, NY. "You want it to be a one-time deal. You lost it, now just live. But then you learn it's a lifestyle. That's marriage. The effort is a forever thing." So don't be too hard on yourself -- or him -- on those days when you feel like you're struggling through remedial math.

3. You will sometimes go to bed mad (and maybe even wake up madder).
Whoever decided to tell newlyweds "Never go to bed angry" doesn't know what it's like inside a bedroom where tears and accusations fly as one spouse talks the other into a woozy stupor until night meets the dawn. If this scenario sounds familiar, I've got three words for you: Sleep on it.

You need to calm down. You need to gain perspective. You need to just give it a rest. I've found that an argument of any quality, like a fine wine, needs to breathe. A break in the action will help you figure out whether you're angry, hurt, or both, and then pinpoint the exact source. Maybe the fight that seemed to erupt over the overflowing garbage can is really about feeling underappreciated. Could be you're both stressed out at work and just needed to unload on someone. Taking a break will help you see that, and let go. Or maybe you really do have a legitimate disagreement to work out. Without a time-out, sometimes a perfectly good argument can turn into an endless round of silly back-and-forth, rehashing old and irrelevant transgressions as you get more and more wound up.

Even when you do manage to stay focused and on topic, there are some fights that stubbornly refuse to die by bedtime. And if you stifle your real feelings just to meet some arbitrary deadline, your marriage will surely be the worse for it. "This was a huge lesson for me," says Andrea. "As women we've been trained to make nice. But the whole kiss-and-make-up thing just to keep the peace was eating me up inside. I'd let things build up inside me until I just exploded. Now I wait a while to get hold of myself -- let the emotions settle a bit -- and state my position. Even if that means reopening the fight the next day."
I LOVE the part about not going to bed mad. That may work for some of you, but I recall oh-too-many nights of shaking Jake awake by his shoulders while I demanded he work out some deep, carefully crafted, perfectly articulated plan for how to avoid arguing about something in the future. Didn't work for me. Or him. And it didn't help matters when we both went through our jobs like angry zombies the next day. "PHOOEY," I say to the have-to-go-to-bed-happy rule! Sometimes you gotta wait it out til your mouth is actually able to say what it means and not the devilish things it wants to say...

I hope there are lots of cynics out there, and I hope you too found this useful.

P.S. This post is dedicated to a friend who has a long, tiring bus ride back home after a much awaited event and will undoubtedly need some light and peppy reading material to keep him company on his i-phone. Here ya go buddy. Cheers!