Friday, March 30, 2007

What about the children?

My fiance (well, I guess I'm getting used to calling him that) and I are old. We are 37 and 43, pretty far along to be getting married for the first time. You could say we were waiting for the perfect person to come along. I have other thoughts on the validity of that, but maybe I'll save them for a blog when I'm grumpy about romance :-).

Since we are old, many of our friends are already married, and many of them have children, even more than one. When we worked up the preliminary guest list, we counted something like 25-30 children under the age of 10. And my fiance loves kids, being something of a big kid himself. Whenever we get together with his extended family, he can usually be counted on at some point to have disappeared under a pile of kids. He flirts shamelessly with small children in restaurants (a few weeks ago in a Tibetan restaurant, a small girl pointed at him, and then at the picture of the Dalai Lama behind him. We all agreed there was a striking resemblance: he may never hear the end of it).

So, I assumed he would want kids at our wedding, but he surprised me. He said he wasn't likely to play with kids at his wedding, all dressed up in his monkey suit, and instead he wanted an evening party with an open bar and great music.

Fast forward a month and a half and a large deposit later, and now he is starting to rethink it. As I make plans for a fairly formal evening affair, he's starting to realize he wants something more relaxed and casual, and that may include kids. I actually think it would be nice to have kids; they lighten the atmosphere. Our venue can certainly accommodate them, space-wise, so that's not a problem.

It does create some logistical problems, though, particularly with childcare. And, to be honest, I can't remember a wedding I've been to that had kids, since all of my friends got married young, before anyone had them. So I don't even know that parents would want to have to think of their children at a wedding. So, I guess I will ask you parents out there:

Would you expect or even want to bring your children to a wedding that runs from 4:00 to 10:00 pm?

Would age make the difference; for example, should we invite only children over 5?

Would you be comfortable leaving your children with an onsite babysitter, who could entertain the kids in a separate room? Would you expect there to be a babysitter?

Instead of a separate room, should we instead set up kids' tables in the main reception room? If we did this, would a babysitter even be necessary/workable? I would think being in the main reception room would make it much more difficult for a babysitter to keep an eye on the kids, who would naturally gravitate to their parents. Maybe I'm wrong about this?

Any other thoughts?

We haven't made the decision yet, and probably won't have to for many months, but it would be good to start thinking about it now.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Quality, Value, Convenience

I am the first person to laugh at QVC. There are plenty of cheesy, tacky, remarkably ugly things on there. So much polyester and velour. Cubic zirconium galore. Parades of “miraculous” skincare products. And the phone calls! Odd little old ladies (and if they’re not old, they sure sound it) calling from all over the country, crazily excited to talk with their favorite hosts. They sound lonely. I wonder how much money they’re spending shopping on TV.

On the other hand, I watch it quite a lot. It’s perfect background noise for knitting or cooking because it does not require you to look at the screen. And there is a certain fun in watching all these clothes and jewelry march by, asking you to buy. It’s the browsing fun of shopping without having to go out. And, mock me now: I totally think it’s better than HSN, which shows you how far drawn into this I am, that I even have an opinion about this.

Nevertheless, I don’t buy a lot. It’s pretty stuff, often at decent prices. But….how much jewelry does one need? I don’t like polyester, I don’t wear track suits, so I never buy clothes. I’m not going to buy shoes without trying them on. And skincare/makeup? I have more products unused in my bathroom than I could possibly need.

Is that enough caveats? Can I reveal the real topic of this blog entry without sacrificing my street cred now?

Here it is:

This was the Today’s Special Value one day last week. It’s 18K gold plated, shaped like a ginkgo leaf. I’m very fond of ginkgo leaves, and had been toying with the idea of incorporating them into my wedding, perhaps in the jewelry, but I hadn’t seen anything that really spoke to me. But when I saw this, I knew it was worth a shot. Besides, even if it didn’t work the wedding, it’s a piece of jewelry I love, and will wear a lot in my everyday life. It’s not red rhinestones, but it looks pretty nice with those earrings, dontcha think?

Here it is on a cheap multi-strand beaded necklace, which I like somewhat better than the gold satin cord it came with.

I think that I might experiment with some red ribbon, too. I’m not definitely going to use this, but it’s a pretty strong contender!

Monday, March 26, 2007

My love is like a red, red rose

On Saturday, I visited a florist.

I know, my wedding is eleven months away, and I'm already talking to florists! But things seem to get booked up pretty quickly in NYC, particularly anything affordable, so it behooves me to get started. Besides, it's not like I'm thinking about anything else, anyway.

So, I went to see a florist. It was this cute little shop in Jersey City, across the Hudson from Manhattan. I really liked the flowers on her website, and when I called and told her my budget, she didn't laugh. This seemed promising.

You see, we are getting married on February 17. Unfortunately, it is close enough to Valentine's Day that flowers are still going to be extra expensive. Furthermore, I want my color scheme to be primarily red. Red is the Chinese color for weddings, and it just so happens I love red. However, red roses around Valentine's Day are as in demand as, oh, World Series tickets, and just as expensive.

This is a problem, because in winter, roses are the cheapest flower around. If you're not getting married around Valentine's Day.

The first florist I called suggested I cut costs by doing nothing but roses in my bridesmaids bouquets and centerpieces. Then she sent me a proposal that was about $1,000 above my budget, $400 of which was delivery charges.

The second florist, the one in Jersey City, suggested using other flowers, and didn't sneer at my budget. I went in. We looked at lots of pretty pictures of amarylis, ranunculus, tulips, anemones, ilex berries, and all kinds of lovely red flowers that were not roses. She said she would send me a proposal. I am waiting with bated breath: I hope she still thinks she can do it on my budget after talking with me.

Today I called a third florst, who basically told me there was absolutely no way I could do anything on my budget; all flowers are insane around Valentine's Day. Maybe I should do candles for centerpieces and spend my budget on the bouquets.

I hate candles.

I am, as with the wedding in general, torn. I love flowers. My sweetie gives me flowers all the time, and they always make me happy. I just love their beautiful graceful shapes, their delicate texture, their bright colors. I think they are the ultimate extravagance, and I would love to have a wedding overflowing with flowers (would that I were marrying in the spring and could have an abundance of peonies, dogwoods, magnolias and lilacs!).

But on the other hand, they are so fleeting. I have a hard time spending thousands of dollars on something I will enjoy for only a few hours. Even though I love flowers, I do not remember the centerpieces at any wedding I've ever been to. These flowers would really be only for my pleasure; no one else will really notice. It's hard to justify.

I sometimes feel the same way about the wedding. My sweetie and I could use the same amount of money to travel around the world. But...I love weddings, and I think the ceremony, the public celebration, is important. I don't want to just go down to City Hall, spend the day in line, and then sign a paper and be done with it.

Well; let's see what the florist has to say.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Ignorance of the Urban Gardener

A brief break from wedding minutiae to pay homage to my tomato plant.

This is a “black plum” tomato plant. Black plum is an heirloom variety which produces dark maroon tomatoes, about the size of a cherry tomato, which taste almost tart. I bought the plant on a whim last spring, sometime mid April, at the farmer’s market. I’ve occasionally toyed with growing things myself, but of course since I live in an apartment, my space is limited. And you can get pretty much anything in a store, so why bother?

But tomatoes….there are few things which are genuinely, noticeably better when fresh picked instead of store bought. (Tomatoes and corn: if I could grow corn in my apartment, I would, but that’s beside the point) So, I figured, why not try it?

Since I bought it on a whim, I did not research tmato growing beforehand. My mother grew tomatoes when I was a kid; I remember the spicy smell of the plants, and the sweet juicy tomatoes. Her plants were, I guess, some sort of bushy variety, because they never got over a few feet in height. I just assumed that’s how tomatoes are: low bushy plants. My plant was four feet in about two weeks. It quickly got out of control.

It did not produce a great many tomatoes—I’ve harvested maybe 15 or 18—and it produced them basically one at a time, so I could never get enough to make anything with them. I developed an antipathy towards it. My sweetie hates it, because it blocks the door to the balcony :-).

In the winter, it looked quite sad. I kept planning to throw it out, just as soon as that last tomato was ripe. But it kept having ooooone lassst tomatooo….all the way through the winter. By the time I picked the last one this week, it was too late:

It’s got eight new springtime flowers on it.

Who knew tomatoes were perennials??

Monday, March 19, 2007

Something old

My mother keeps her jewelry in a large cardboard shirt box, buried in a blanket chest. It’s not anything fancy—some costume stuff from the 60s and 70s, my parents’ wedding rings (neither of my parents wear them), some inexpensive jade. My mother rarely wears jewelry. But every now and then when I was a kid, she’d pull out the shirt box and show me the things in there. I thought it was all so pretty—glittery and very adult. I particularly loved these earrings:

They’ve been in this little Marshall Fields (RIP) box with that shriveled piece of fluff for as long as I can remember. They’re absolutely fake—whatever their posts are made of rots my ears from the inside out—but when I was a kid, I thought they were the epitome of elegance. The bright gold color and the deep sparkly red, the snazzy modern design: what more could you ask for?

Here they are on: see how they make that cool loop?

I still love them, and I would love to wear them in my wedding.

There are two problems with this plan. First, the aforementioned rotting ears. I can only wear real silver or gold in my ears: anything else makes the pierced holes very unhappy, itchy and sore and, well, seepy. It’s gross. I doubt I could wear these for the several hours of my wedding without some unpleasant results. I am hoping a trip to the Diamond District will solve this problem.

The second problem is what to wear with them? I would like to wear a necklace which matches, something red and gold and glittery. Something pretty substantial (not simply a chain with a pendant) since my dress is fairly low-cut. The earrings’ geometric design and bright red color precludes the sort of delicate white rhinestone-and-pearl stuff that is usually aimed at brides. Something with red beads just won’t work, because the red crystals in the earrings are prong-set. I want then to match.

After many fruitless Google searches (for very generic things like “red crystal necklace” and “red bib necklace” that turned up lots of beaded items), I finally stumbled into the world of vintage rhinestone jewelry. I’ll be honest: I never thought of these earrings as “vintage,” but of course they are. Duh.

Here are some choices currently on eBay:

I like the middle one (with the horizontal rectangles) the best. The third one appeals to the exhibitionist in me, but I think it’s a bit too ornate, both for the occasion, and for the earrings they’re meant to match.

What do you think? The other option, I suppose, is a necklace that is substantial, but only gold, making the earrings the sole color star.

Have I mentioned that I’m obsessed with the fun details that really don’t need to be taken care of right now?

Mark your calendars

Well, we have a date: Sunday, February 17, 2008. Almost exactly eleven months from now. I'm excited and nervous!

The 17th is the Sunday of Presidents Day weekend. It will be one year and one day after we got engaged. It will be appallingly close to Valentine's Day, to my sweetie's chagrin. It is also a holiday weekend, which is both convenient for those folks who want to come but don't want to take a day off work, but also inconvenient for those people with kids (of whom we know a great many) who take a vacation that week because their kids are off from school. To them, I apologize: I hope you will still come to our wedding!

Here are some more pictures of our venue, Battery Gardens Restaurant:

Where the ceremony will be (and we will have a sunset)

The back of the reception room, where the DJ and dance floor will be set up. And you can just see the wood-burning fireplace, very cozy for a winter wedding!

Battery Gardens is in Battery Park, at the very southern tip of Manhattan. It's between the Staten Island Ferry terminal and the terminal for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. My sweetie thought the view of Ellis Island would be nice for his 90-year-old grandmother, because his grandfather came through Ellis Island. I find this rather amazing: as a Chinese-American whose parents came to the US via the West Coast, I think of Ellis Island as something from the 19th century. When I was a grad student teaching freshman comp at UCLA, I once asked my class if any of their families had come via Ellis Island, and only one student in a class of 25 raised his hand. I won't wax philosophical about America's melting pot (or "salad bowl"), but I always find it interesting how different my sweetie's and my backgrounds are. I guess we will see how it works out--but so far it's pretty good.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Black hole

So, I am realizing that wedding planning is a black hole. Here I am, 11 months out, and I already have a pretty good idea of which invitation I like and what bridemaids dress I prefer. I'm thinking about flowers and favors. I am investigating photographers and DJs. I'm wondering if live music is the way to go for the ceremony. I have begun setting up a wedding information website and designing a cute save-the-date card. I'm thinking about where to book blocks of hotel rooms. I'm fretting about officiants. I'm thinking of where I can hang lanterns in my venue.

In short, I'm thinking of very little else.

And there's no need--I have plenty of time. Those invitations I love don't need to be ordered for another five or six months. The save-the-dates don't need to be mailed for another four or five months. My bridesmaids certainly don't need to have dresses hanging in their closets for 11 months. Favor frenzy does not need to happen for, oh, eight months, I'd say. It's ridiculous.

But, well, it's fun. I'm starting to see why women get caught up in all the details. I'm not obsessed with making it perfect (....yet), and you won't catch me going bridezilla and demanding my bridesmaids all cut and dye their hair to match (I think my bridemaids would not be shy about telling me to shove it if I do), but the allure of finding just the right touch is very compelling. No one wants their wedding to be generic, and so you start to think about things you can do to personalize it, and it snowballs from there.

And the Internet is your enabler.

You can find anything on th Internet, if you're persistent and you look hard enough. That invitation, for example, was the result of an exhaustive Internet search over several days, and came in the end not from a Google search but a suggestion on a forum. You never know where ideas will come from, so you have to look everywhere.

Oh yes: I scare myself.

But, really, the invitation, the bridesmaids dresses, the favors, the lanterns, the save-the-dates are the easy parts. The DJ and the photographer and the officiant--those are the hard things. Those are the things I actually need to be doing now. Those are the things for which I need active participation from my sweetie, and fairly soon.

So, naturally, I am procrastinating. I guess it's good to know my character hasn't changed that much :-).

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A place

My sweetie and I went to look at places for the wedding on Saturday. Right now it is 20 degress outside, but Saturday was beautiful, in the 50s and sunny. A day for remembering that spring will come.

It was really lovely to spend the day with him, walking around with our coats off in the sunshine, thinking about getting married and sharing the excitement of the planning. The day reminded me of how really, really happy I am to have him. We work really well together, and we complement each other in ways that I don't always expect. I guess he's a keeper :-).

We saw three places on Saturday, one of which was too small, the second of which was a bit too expensive (although, situated on the corner of 14th St and Fifth Ave, it has gorgeous and quintessentially New York City views), and the third of which was just right:

It has something I really wanted, huge windows, and something my sweetie wanted, a view of the water. And, yes, the Statue of Liberty, which you can spot in this picture if you squint really hard, but which is unmissable in real life. This is the downstairs room, where the cocktail reception would be.

This is their much more professional shot of the upstairs room, where the ceremony and dinner would be:

I love it. I think a wedding there would be beautiful. I think we would have so much fun. I love the idea of coming back on our first anniversary and having a romantic dinner. I can't wait!

More after we sign the contract, because until then, nothing's written in stone (or on paper!).

Friday, March 02, 2007

Omigod, I bought a dress

So, my sweetie and I got engaged two weeks ago. We have not yet set a date, nor have we booked a venue (though we will be seeing some places tomorrow). It's still quite early in the game. I swear, I am not going to be a bridezilla. I know every bride must say this, but the idea of obsessing over every little detail (are the chairs the right style and color? Do the plates match my color scheme?) just exhausts me. I am not detail-oriented.

One thing I do know, however, is that getting married in NYC is an expensive proposition. So it behooves us to save money where we can. For exmaple, on the dress. I mean, my stingy soul finds it hard to imagine I would ever spend $5,000 on a dress anyway, but given the circumstances, it's even less likely. The only problem is, I'm a fiber snob. I hate the idea of getting married in polyester. Heck, I hate the idea of, oh, going to work in polyester. But a silk dress usually means a designer dress, and that means $$$$$.

So, this morning, my friend Laura and I went to the annual Running of the Brides sale at Filene's Basement. I did not expect to buy anything, but I thought, hey, if I can get a designer silk dress for a few hundred bucks, I'm ahead of the game.

Many other brides were thinking the same thing. Maybe you've seen news footage of the original Filene's in Boston and their bridal sale: crazy women in catsuits undressing in the aisles and fighting each other for dresses. The New York store was much like that, though I suspect not as crazy. Laura and I were there at 7:30; the doors opened at 8:00. Hundreds of women, many in packs of four or five wearing matching hats (or Easter bunny ears), the better to find each other in the mayhem, poured into the store, ripping gowns off the rack, basically at random. After about five seconds of attempting to actually look at the dresses and selecting ones I liked, Laura and I fell into the pattern and just grabbed. Inside three minutes, we had a pile of seven or eight gowns, and retired to the side to try them on.

Luckily, we retired to the side in front of what was usually the men's dressing room. As I disrobed, in true Filene's bridal madness fashion, a store employee came out of the dressing room and said, drily, "You know, you can use the dressing room." So, we did. It was a haven of calm in the frenzy.

At first, I thought I was safe: every dress in that first batch was polyester, ugly, heavily beaded, or too small. I figured that was the way it was going to go, and I was OK with it: I was here bascially on a lark anyway. Laura headed out into the fray to fetch me more. The scene out there was apparently quite bad. When Laura attempted to take some dresses another woman had rejected, that woman demanded that Laura provide a dress in trade for each one she was going to take. This was the order of the day, as the friend of the woman in the dressing rom next to me came back empty-handed and complained that everyone wanted something in trade. Laura is made of stronger stuff. She said, "I'f you've tried it on and you're not considering buying it, you don't actually own it." She brought me another armful of dresses. And another, and another. In all, I probably tried on over two dozen dresses.

Somewhere in that second batch, I started to see some lovely simple silk dresses from one of my favorite wedding dress designers, Romona Keveza. Alas, each one was too small. I was disappointed, but OK with it: I was here on a lark. And then, and then--I found it. A Romona Keveza 100% silk column dress with a dramatic fishtail train. In my size. In pristine condition. And it cost $700, not $5,000.

What could I do? I bought it.

Here it is, hanging on the back of my office door. Yes, I went to the sale before work. When I brought it in, everyone made me try it on to show them. I complied, until the mail guy walked by and looked at me funny. I bet he thought I was a bridezilla!

Here's the bodice, a simple crossover v-neck with an empire waist.

Here's that gorgeous train. I ask you, did I have a choice? None. None, I say. It will need a few minor alterations, but it won't need to be cleaned (assuming I can keep from taking it out and trying it on every week until the wedding), so all in all, I got a great deal. It was meant to be, right? I mean, we had no method: we were just grabbing any dress we could lay our mitts on. Yet in that haphazard pile was this dress, the One.

No, I won't post pictures of me with it on: my sweetie might see :-).