Invitation Beginnings!

April 26, 2010

So, we’re hoping to build our invitations on our own to save a bunch cash. Like significant amounts of cash.. Like close to $500. Anyway, I’ve mentioned before my love for the website Cards and Pockets. They have a really great DIY invitation kit including pocket folds, mats and everything else you need. I bought a sample kit and some samples and I’ve been playing around with it. And then I found this website: and they sell paper punches. So, I bought these!

Those are leaf shaped paper punches! And those are the multiple different papers I punched leaves out of as soon as I opened it! Yay crafty stuff!

Then I ran out of good paper to punch and really get a sense of how it would actually look like, so my fabulous fiance bought me this!

Yes, that’s construction paper. So, once I got some leaves punched out of the construction paper, Paul decided to play around with branch images. Here is what we’ve come up with for our invitations. Obviously, we haven’t printed any of the actual invitation, so no text, but here’s the what it might look like. The tab on the front would have our monogram on it. And I’m probably going to defy tradition and put Paul’s initial first, because then we get P+S, which is totally cute! Without further ado…

The three cards on the side will probably have the headers ‘Destination: Hudson Valley’ which will have accommodation and local stuff to do on it, ‘Directions’ and ‘RSVP’ with the envelope.



Creating an Atmosphere

April 25, 2010

So, lately, Paul and I have been talking about the kind of atmosphere we want to create at our reception. Our venue looks a lot like most other venues inside, except for the fact that it has nice big windows overlooking the Hudson River. There are certain things we don’t love about the space. The carpet for one, but we’re hoping to dress up the room and make it look pretty amazing.

One of Paul’s key jobs for the wedding is lighting. Paul has worked as a lighting tech and really knows how to light a space and make it look beautiful. When I come home, I turn on the overhead light in our apartment. When Paul comes home, he usually scolds me for just turning on the overhead light, then turns that down, and turns on the china ball light, the lamp on his desk, the lamp higher up on his desk pointing up towards the ceiling and sometimes, the lamp over the china cabinet that reflects off the glass and mirror and cast a really interesting glow. Turning out all the lights at the end of the night can be a task. But I appreciate it, because I know he’ll take the same amount of care making our reception really special.

We’ve talking a lot about we want to do to create and atmosphere. One of the reasons we ended up booking the venue we did was that the owner really understood what Paul wants to do in terms of lighting. He followed Paul when he was talking about volts and electrical outlets, while I stood there waiting to ask about vendor meals (never got a chance, whoops). And he also pointed out to us that when renovating the space, he put in drop ceilings, so it’s possible to hang things from the ceiling.

That really stuck with us, so we’ve been talking about the possibility of hanging china balls aroun

d the room to light the space and possibly drape tulle to mute the lighting. One of Paul’s goals is to eliminate the need for flash photography, while still creating a mood. One of the reasons I’m excited to have our ceremony outside is so we can avoid having a beautiful, romantic space and moment ruined by dozens of flashes! I really hate that. Paul wants to carry that over to the reception. I think we also want to do that, because I have seen so many pictures during wedding receptions, taken by the professional photographer, of dancing where everyone is full lit and clearly seen and you know that the photo was taken with flash and you have zero sense of the atmosphere of the space.

The picture here is sort of an idea of what we’re thinking of. I know Paul wants to make the space a little bit brighter, and the recessed lighting will probably help with that. And also the fact that we’ll actually have lit up china balls.

But the other thing I was considering is maybe centering the china balls over the table and dropping them down, to essentially use the china ball as a centerpiece. I’ve been wracking my brain about centerpieces. There are so many things that you can do to decorate the table, ranging from elegant to really really tacky. I know I definitely don’t want to do tacky, but figuring out elegant is hard.

I don’t think I want to do big floral displays. First off, big floral displays cost money. The other thing to consider is that if you do a big floral display, you need to do it up high, so people can see each other around the centerpieces. I also considered doing something with pillar candles, but on their own, it’s not enough. My sister-in-law did a feather thing with a candle, I think, for their wedding.

I also wanted to incorporate our colors into the centerpieces. So, I thought that maybe I could do tall clear cylinders with flowers in water with floating candles on top. But if we do the china ball, we probably don’t want to do something too tall. So, then I started thinking about doing something lower. I really like the way floating candles look. I was thinking about doing something similar to the picture here, except with a white or ivory candle, or maybe multiple candles, and red and orange berries instead of the crabapples here. I was also thinking about using cranberries in the dish as well, especially since cranberries float. I was also considering incorporating leaves into the centerpieces, but I don’t know if using real leaves is a good idea and I don’t know if I could get realistic looking fake leaves or preserved leaves for a decent amount of money.

I definitely have plenty of time to figure out what I want to do and I’m looking forward to the two weddings I have coming up this year. I just found my friend Sasha’s wedding invitations and I realized that I had basically stolen their idea when I was looking at invitation ideas! I look at dozens of magazines and websites, but I think the best place and way to get ideas is to see them in person. Not that I’m going to stop looking at magazines and websites though!

I think the real thing we need to do is figure out what we really want to say with our wedding. As I’ve mentioned before, we’re trying to do a destination in the Hudson Valley wedding. Far enough from home to be a destination, but close enough to get there in a day. We want people to spend the whole weekend with us! So, maybe what I really need to do is spend some time in the area and really get a feel for what it’s like during the Fall. Find things that stand out and incorporate those into the whole celebration.

When I first thought about getting married, prior to actually getting engaged, I thought about the venue, I thought about the dress and I think that’s about it. I already had the guy, so that was a big piece of the puzzle figured out! But I don’t know that anyone ever tells you just how many decisions need to be made.

And yeah, when you really think about it there’s a lot more that goes into it. You need to pick out the menu and invitations and flowers. But even that is small beans.

I’m talking about the nitty-gritty, itty-bitty details like, will I have an aisle runner? What should go into my centerpieces and how can they coexist with any decoration from the ceiling we may have? How should I do my hair? How should my bridesmaids do their hair? Do I need a makeup artist? Do my bridesmaids need a makeup artist? Will I wear my glasses to the ceremony? Should there be a leaf theme throughout or is that too over the top?

I have 18 months to plan my wedding, and I have to be honest, I’m finding some of the details a bit overwhelming. I do, in fact, stay up at night thinking about random wedding details!

I think a big part of the problem is that even though most of these decisions will be decided with my fiance, he’s not going to remember that we need to register for everyday glasses and wine glasses and juice glasses. Paul’s a big picture kind of guy. He sees the whole wedding. I see the pieces of the puzzle.

And I suppose that’s probably the healthiest kind of relationship there is. We complement each other. But when I’m trying to decide whether our colors should be red and brown or red and orange or red, yellow and orange,  or can you do four colors? Having him say, “Shana, we’ll figure it out.” really isn’t helping as much as it should.

So, now that the venue is booked, there are details that I don’t have to worry about for at least six months, probably closer to a year from now. The best part about getting married in the Hudson Valley is that when your caterer says “Trust me.” you almost always do. That’s because our caterer and almost every other caterer in the area is trained at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park. So when they tell you to trust them, it’s because they know what they’re doing. I’m looking forward to choosing a menu. Okay, if I’m being honest, I’m looking forward to eating a TON of really yummy food in hopes of narrowing dow a menu. The cake is part of our package and I believe is done by a bakery in Cold Spring, so we’ll get to go taste those too. And cake flavors shouldn’t be too hard. Cake decoration will though. Another detail to consider, do we need a cake topper??

Ultimately, the thing I need to keep reminding myself is to take it one step at a time. Stop freaking out about the little things, because I will figure them out. The next step is to find a dress and luckily, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m looking for there. I doubt it’ll be easy to find the right dress, but hopefully it will be fun.

Wedding Dreams

April 17, 2010

No, this isn’t about what my dream wedding would be like. This is about dreams I’ve had that have to do with weddings. Seriously. Am I going to have to deal with this for another 18 months? Oh boy..

It’s been two so far. The first one was short. I was in a dressing room while other people were trying on wedding dresses. That one also had a pool in it. Not at the same time as the wedding dresses, earlier. Very strange.

The second one, which was this morning, was probably inspired by the fact that I was looking up RK Bridal before going to bed. RK Bridal is a warehouse like bridal shop in Hell’s Kitchen, basically the antithesis of Kleinfeld’s. You look through the dresses yourself and figure out what you want. The “consultants” are really only there to help you get in and out of the dresses.

In my dream, I was visiting RK Bridal, only it was outdoors. So there are racks of dresses, set up kind of like you’d see at Target, outside, under trees and on grass. Because grass and wedding dresses go together like- Well, they don’t go together (even though I’ll be walking down a grass aisle!). Anyway, I get in and I start looking at dresses and it’s really impossible to get a good sense of any of them, because they’re all really bedazzled and slinky, hanging on hangers without any shape to them at all. I’ve probably spent the last twenty minute trying to find an example of what I mean and I will now have nightmares from all the horrible tacky weddings I’ve found.

There was more to the dream, but it wasn’t wedding related. I’m concerned though. I don’t know if I want another 18 months of crazy dreams like this! Hopefully, it’ll stick to dreams and never move over to nightmare. That would not be fun.


Had another one. This time around I was about to go try on dresses somewhere when someone from Robert Bullock Bridal called me and was like, “I thought you wanted to get your dress here…” and I had a defend my decision to start trying on dresses in other place!

Then I was getting a mani/pedi and Paul was there and I asked him to help me pay, so I didn’t mess up my nails reaching for my bag. Strange!

Bridesmaid Dresses

April 16, 2010

I have found since I started planning this wedding that selecting bridesmaid dresses can be very tricky. First of all, there a a lot of bridesmaid dresses out there! This is not something you know about if you’re not involved with the planning of a wedding. Secondly, there are a lot of factors to take into account when selecting bridesmaid dresses; fit, style, color, fabric, etc. And finally, there are five people to take into consideration.

There are a couple of ways to go about dresses your bridesmaids. You can pick one dress in one color and make everyone wear that dress in that color, you can select one color and fabric as part of a collection and ask your ladies to pick any style in that category. Or you can pick a color and say, find something in this color.

The first option, having your ladies buy the exact same dress is probably the most common route taken by most brides. I’m sure many feel that’s the way it’s done, so that’s what they do. But it doesn’t taken into account many of the issues I mentioned before, specifically that you’re outfitting multiple girls in the exact same dress. Unless all your friends are models and a size 2, odds are good they won’t all look good in the same dress.

The last option also seems like a pretty good idea at the time, but it frequently backfires. First of all, asking bridesmaids to find their own dress puts a lot of pressure on them. Anyone who’s had to go out and buy a dress under pressure, much less a dress in a specific color, knows how frustrating it can be. The other problem with this option is that it ends up putting a lot of pressure on the bride. One bride I know who tried to make things easy on her bridesmaid has been bombarded with calls and e-mails from her TWO bridesmaids asking if this a dress would be okay. She’s ready to just cut her losses and pick a dress.

The other option, and the route I’m planning to take, is to select a fabric and a color at a specific company and allow your bridesmaids to pick a dress that best fits their body type. This allows a lot more flexibility in terms of dress style and, I think, creates a more interesting look in the bridal party. Not all my bridesmaids look the same, why should they all dress the same?

But where to get the dresses. I was taken aback by just how man bridesmaid options there are and even more so by the fact that with all the options out there, people STILL get dresses at David’s Bridal! While there are some dresses at David’s Bridal that are nice…ish, the vast majority of their dresses are very obviously bridesmaid dresses.

There are also companies like Dessy Group, TwoBirds Bridesmaid, Anna Elyse and dozens more. But while those dress companies all have a lot of options in terms of color and style, the fabric they use drives me crazy. Okay, let me backtrack briefly. The price of these dresses drive me crazy *considering* the fabric they use. I’ve looked at tons of dresses and when I track down the details about the fabric they use it almost always ends up being a polyester, poly-satin or some other man made material. I really don’t understand why so many companies think it’s okay to charge over $200 for a polyester dress!

I think it’s fair to say I’m a fabric snob. I recognize that polyester is a much cheaper alternative than silk in many cases, but I’d rather pay the extra money for silk. I find that polyester and other synthetic fabrics don’t feel as good as natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk, etc. I also think that polyester doesn’t look as nice. It doesn’t move the same way other fabrics do. Being a fabric snob is frustrating, because SO much is made out of polyester. (Sidenote: On “Project Runway” recently, Michael Kors berated a contestant for using polyester when half of his Macy’s collection is made from polyester or poly-blends. And you know what, Michael, two-thirds of the collection is ugly to. End sidenote.)

Getting back to bridesmaid dresses, the other option, beyond the specific bridesmaid collection out there are the dress options at J.Crew and Ann Taylor. Unfortunately, Ann Taylor doesn’t have the color I’m hoping for in their dress collection presently. But J.Crew does. The dress seen here is the Sophia dress in vintage burgundy. I love the color and the fabric is silk tricotine. Real silk! I bought the same dress in a different color in the silk chiffon and I really liked it.

The best part of the J.Crew collection is that they have four or five dresses in the same fabric and color that are different styles. If one of my friends would rather have less cleavage, there’s a dress for that. More cleavage? Well, there’s a dress for that! I, personally, think the color is stunning and this is the kind of dress I really feel like could be worn again.

I think that idea is one of the biggest driving factors for brides to consider when choosing bridesmaid dresses right now. Will my girls be able to wear this dress again? I think, looking at some of the specifically designed bridesmaid dresses out there, the vast majority of them just look like bridesmaid dresses. If you’re asking someone to stand up with you and spend their time and money to be a part of your wedding, I think it’s nice and considerate to extend them the courtesy of getting a re-wearable dress.

Being a bridesmaid is an investment. It’s an investment in time and mostly money. While we haven’t started the search for dresses yet, I plan on getting all the ladies together to try on dresses at J.Crew and maybe check out some of these other brands. Hopefully, it’ll be a fun time and we can all decide on a dress designer that is comfortable, affordable and wearable for years to come.

My Ring!

April 15, 2010

Even though this blog was started as a way for me to talk endlessly about wedding stuff so as to avoid annoyingly and incessantly talking my friends, family and fiancé’s ears off, I’ve generally tried to keep an even keel so far. Hopefully, I can work through ideas, describe strategy and analyze the details that make up a wedding.

But I have to be honest. There will be gushing. Because planning a wedding is exciting! And I’m having fun so far! And if you’re reading this, hopefully you care a little bit.

So without further ado, this is my engagement ring! Paul and I picked it out together and he gave it to me on March 9th after surprising me at home with dinner. It’s an antique from the 1930s, with an Old European cut diamond, set in platinum. I love it.

It’s so shiny!

To DIY or Not to DIY

April 15, 2010

Living in New York City, putting together a wedding is expensive. There are venues in the city that, while not too expensive to book the facility, have very expensive mandatory vendors. My brother hoped to host his wedding in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, but found it was too expensive, given that the caterer required by the facility would cost more than the budget they had decided on in the first place. While there are plenty of blogs out there about hosting an inexpensive, indie wedding in NYC, there is always some sort of compromise. Mostly, these wedding are very small, just close friends and family. But the other way to save money? Do-It-Yourself projects.

Theoretically, one could put together a wedding that is entirely DIY. Throw it in your backyard, cook all the food by yourself, bake your own cake. You could make your own dress, maybe the bridesmaids’ as well. Print out your invitations and glue everything together. Have a friend or family member become an officiant and marry you and your fiance. Is it possible? Absolutely. But is it a good idea? Probably not.

A lot of times, DIY projects can save couples a lot of money by investing their time instead of their cash. But when it comes to planning a wedding, time is valuable. And sometimes, the better, and possibly more affordable, optiong is to let someone else do it.

When it comes to invitations, I say do it yourself. Whether you’re inviting thirty people or three hundred of your closest friends, if you have the time to put together invitations on your own, you can save hundreds of dollar. Based on my preliminary research, invitations are expensive. RIdiculously expensive. Think about what goes into an invitation? Obviously, there’s the invite itself and unless you’re trying to save trees, you’ll probably have an RSVP card as well. You’ll need an envelope to mail each invite out, plus an envelope for the RSVP, not to mention any other enclosure you may want to include. Then there’s also the printing itself. Do you want your invites letter-pressed or engraved? That’ll cost more. You want more than one color on your invites? Even more money. Some places will even charge you for the font you use! And if you think you may want to design your own invites and have them professionally printed? You must be nutty, because that’ll cost you EVEN MORE!

On all of the invite websites I’ve looked at have quoted me roughly $800 to let me print my information on designs that countless of other people have already used. Additionally, the invites I’ve seen are single sheet, with the inserts loose in the envelope.

I think most people hear DIY and think it means cheap looking invitations. In reality, there are so many websites out there designed to help you put together really nice, professional looking invitations for a fraction of the cost. The website Cards and Pockets can really help you design invitations that are as simple or as fancy as you like. On that site, they sell just card stock, which can be printed and cut in any way, but they also sell pocket folds. The best part, their invitation kits. What you get is a a pocket fold, a mat background and the invitation, plus card stock for the enclosures and an envelope. You can add an RSVP envelope for a little extra. These kits start at $1.04. Yes, $1.04! What that means is that invitations for a 200 person wedding could be less than $300.

And yes, you’ll still have do your own printing, but when you think about it, printing on an inkjet printer allows you so much more choice in aesthetic. While fancier printing methods only allow one color at a time, meaning it’s more expensive with every pass, inkjet printing allows you to print pretty much anything you want for the cost of printing a single color sheet of paper. I would say though, don’t print at home. It may seem like an easy way to save money, but don’t do it. Your printer sucks. Sad, but true. No matter how good your printer is, you’re going to get spots and streaks and you run out of ink halfway through. Let them do it at the local copy center. It’s not going to put you back all that much cash.

Now, obviously, putting these together is time consuming. But if you have the time, why not take it? Putting your invitations together is time consuming either way. You still need to stuff and address each envelope. Now, you’ll have to do some glueing as well. There is a nifty little tool out there called a Xyron machine which takes a piece of paper and makes it into a sticker. Invest in one of those and the whole process will be much simpler. In the I end, I think these invites look a lot classier and a few more accoutrements, like a ribbon or a monogram to seal it shut and you’re gold.

On the other hand, when it comes to hosting the entire wedding at home do not do it yourself! Hosting a wedding in the backyard can seem like a really cheap and affordable alternative to renting out a venue. If you’re just looking to have a handful of people for a very casual affair, then it’s totally doable. But if you’re hosting a good number of people, you may not realize just how much everything will actually cost.

When renting out a venue, most of the time you’ll be getting the space, plus tables and chairs as well. Your caterer, as well as providing food, will generally have all the china and silverware necessary. Plus, they’ll set it all up. If you host it in your backyard, you need somewhere for all those people to sit. This means renting chairs and tables. It means setting the chairs up for a ceremony and then moving them again for the reception. It means renting enough plates and forks and spoons for everyone to eat with. And, if you’re handling the catering yourself, you’ll need enough space to cook and serve it. You’ll probably need to hire someone else to serve it anyway.

The real reason I will always recommend against trying to do everything yourself, why do you want to spend your wedding day worrying if dinner is hot enough? The beauty of hiring people to do that sort of stuff for you is that you make all the decisions ahead of time and then let the day unfold. On your wedding day, you should enjoy yourself. You shouldn’t be worrying about the food.

But when it comes to favors? Go ahead, do it yourself! Wedding favors are a tricky thing. The best favors are useful, meaningful or tasty. How many candles have you gotten at a wedding that ended up in the bottom of a drawer? Have you ever really used that bookmark? Probably not. But you enjoy the custom M&Ms. No one will ever turn down cookies. Okay, so the best favors are almost always tasty.

The biggest problem with wedding favors is that they are so cookie cutter, no pun intended (but, hey, it works!). If you go on almost any wedding favor website, you can find the same things over and over again. At The Knot Wedding Shop there is a page for unique wedding favors. Unique? If you’re buying it on The Know, it ain’t unique.

I think the key to giving out good favors is providing something that speaks to who you and fiance are. One of my favorite ideas came from the Martha Stewart Wedding site. There are tons of great DIY favor ideas over there, but I think this is my favorite. All this calls for is buying tea bags in bulk, bake (or buy) some tea cookies and pack them into boxes. The website provides step-by-step instructions. If you and your fiance are tea lovers, this is a really cute favor that everyone will enjoy.

The key here is having the time to put together the favors. If you can commit to it. Go for it. Why not?

Plus, it’s a great way to spend some time with you family or bridal party. Invite your bridesmaids over, order pizza and bake! Put together favor boxes. Make it into a fun time.

Our favor plan.. well, I’m keeping it on the down low for now, but I will say this, it has something to do with food, but is not edible. It’s also not finalized yet, so there’s that!

Another don’t do it yourself, dresses. Most of us are not ready for “Project Runway.” I have a sewing machine, but the most I can produce is an apron or a tote bag. A wedding dress is a lot more complicated than a tote bag. I think people also forgot just how expensive making your own dress can be. The kind of fabric needed for a dress of this magnitude is expensive and delicate. Wedding dresses are many layers of fabric and those yards could add up very quickly.

That’s not to say that you must spend money to buy a dress. I think largely the idea of making your own dress is oversold as a way to save money, when it’s not always the case. One thing to keep in mind, your time is money. While I recommended taking the time to put together your own invites or favors, wedding dresses take it to a whole new level. You can put your invitations together in a day. A wedding dress is going to take much longer. If you have a full-time job, can you afford to take on another? Because that’s what designing and sewing your own wedding dress is going to be.

If a friend or relative offers to make a dress, really consider some of the points I made above. Do they have the time to invest to really make it right? Can they work with delicate fabrics? What do you want out of your dress and will they be able add those the details you want? My sister-in-law’s dress was made by her aunt and it came out wonderfully, but afterwards her aunt made it very clear that she would never be sewing another wedding dress.

There are so many ways to make your wedding personal and save some money at the same time. The key is to decide whether you want to invest the time and energy to make it look good, to do it right. I know I’ll be embarking on plenty of DIY projects in the future, but I won’t be ashamed when I throw up my hands and hire someone else to do it for me.