Friday, May 26, 2006

Top 6 Cost-Cutting Decisions

I feel bad that I haven't posted in a while. I really want to write a wedding and honeymoon recap, but every time I think about it, I get this feeling of dread. It seems so daunting! I'll see if I can write a little at a time at work, so I'll eventually get part of it posted.

Anyway, I posted this on IndieBride, and I thought this would be something good to post here too. I hope this is helpful to someone! (Or at least interesting...)

From thread titled: Your Top 5 (or more) Cost Cutting Decisions

Our end total (not including honeymoon) was $6300. For Southern California, I think we did really well! Here are our top 5 (okay, 6):

1) Having the reception at a restaurant - We only had around 50 people at the reception, so the back room of a local restaurant worked really well. I liked that I didn't have to go hunting for both a caterer and a location, but it wasn't a "wedding factory". The cost was only $18 per person, and there was no site fee! So including cake-cutting fees, taxes, gratuity, and $700 bar tab, the entire reception cost us just over $2200. (The manager wasn't as on top of things as I would've liked, but it all turned out okay)

2) Costco/DIY flowers - Since I didn't need gobs and gobs of flowers, I couldn't take advantage of some of the free shipping offers. I also wanted rose petals, so I either needed more roses (and then deal with their minimum quantities) or a package of petals. So I bought 14 dozen roses at Costco for $120 the day before the wedding, pulled off the petals of some, and arranged the rest into bouquets and bouts the morning of the wedding. I even had leftover flowers too!

3) No DJ/iPod - We don't like a lot of contemporary music, and don't like cheesy DJs, so we did the iPod thing. Since we received some wedding present money early, we used some of it to buy a refurbished Klipsch iGroove dock off of eBay. It cost just under $180, but it didn't actually cost us anything, since we used the gift money. Incredible sound, comes with a remote control, and we absolutely LOVE that we now have a cool iPod stereo for our own personal use.

4) eBay - I got the best deals on eBay. My dress, modeled after a $900 Maggie Sottero, cost only $264, including shipping. I received so many compliments! I got the iGroove, my crinoline, and lanterns for centerpieces (10 for $50) there too.

5) Having the wedding near Easter - My wedding was May 6, so our church was still decorated for the Easter season. There were tons of flowers and swags of white cloth draped from the rafters. I actually meant to make pew decorations, but I ran out of time. I don't think any of the guests felt anything was lacking, and the church looked gorgeous. And most of my guests thought that I had put up all those decorations myself, so I got lots of compliments!

6) Photographer through Craigslist - The most basic packages in our area are well over $1000, but we found a fantastic photographer who charged $750 for 6 hours of unlimited pics, a DVD of all pics, touch-ups and artistic things (black/white, sepia, etc.), a wedding album, and I think 500+ prints. We negotiated out the wedding album, so it only cost us $650.

Things that upped my costs:
~ Church fees - I ended up paying $805 in church fees. Because I wasn't a parishioner at my church, the "suggested" donation for using the church was $500. (But they wouldn't make you give that much if you didn't have much money) The church-provided ceremony coordinator and altar servers cost $155, and the pianist charged $150 for coordinating the music and playing at the wedding. Other musicians (instruments or vocalists) would've been an extra $100 or so, but I had my brother sing, so that was free. Our officiant doesn't accept monetary gifts, so we'll be giving him a gift basket and a thank-you card. And our ceremony was beautiful and perfect, so I think the $805 was well deserved.

~ Rings - DH's ring was purchased from a Zales outlet store here in town for about half the price ($430 instead of $800+), but that's still a lot of money. Mine was even more - $590 from Linda Clifford Celtic Jewelry online, including shipping from Ireland (Mine's the two-tone one with the sapphires). But they kinda match, they're gorgeous, and we absolutely love them, so we felt it was worth the splurge.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Vendor Review

We're back! Puerto Vallarta was gorgeous and so much fun! We were totally and utterly spoiled over the past 8 days. It was the best vacation I've ever had, and just the greatest honeymoon I could ever ask for. Recap to come later, since it will likely be long and involved... ;)

Lots of brides on wedding forums provide vendor reviews for the wedding, so that brides in the same area know who was great and who wasn't. Most of the brides reading this won't be in the area, but I found during my planning that reviews give good ideas on what to watch out for or ask about. So here are my thoughts on my vendors...

Ceremony Location: Padre Serra Church - A
Firstly, I realize it's a little weird reviewing a church, but I did pay many of the people who worked with me there, and I gave them a rather large "donation", so I figure they're just as much a vendor as a country club. Anyway, they were fabulous! The church itself is gorgeous and I got so many compliments on how beautiful it is. What's more, it was decorated with tons of flowers and large swags of cloth for Easter, so I didn't need to decorate the church at all. (I had intended on adding pew decorations, but I didn't have time) Vivian, our church coordinator, made the ceremony flow smoothly and the procession (as far as I know) flawless, so everyone knew when to go and how to walk and everything. Dan, our music coordinator and pianist, worried me at first with how little he communicated with us, but he and my brother went over the music the day before, and it was utterly beautiful. I LOVED the music. The church office took care of the little details too, so I didn't have to worry about sending in my marriage license and kept track of our papers and everything. Just a great experience.

Presider: Deacon John - A+
Sam and I really and truly love this man. He is just the greatest and nicest old man you'll ever meet. All the sessions we had with him for our Pre-Cana process were comfortable and enriching. He was so patient and sweet, and helped me accept the things that were going on with my mother. And he put us at ease during the ceremony with how warm and friendly he was. He came up to us after I reached the altar, chatted and joked with us as the music finished playing, and really calmed our nerves. He gave us big hugs after the ceremony too. He was absolutely invaluable, and made our ceremony so meaningful and comfortable.

Reception Location/Caterer: The Sportsman Restaurant - B-
Admittedly, Sam and I kinda "settled" on this place after a very long and arduous search for a reception place that was close to the church and within our budget. The Sportsman is a nice restaurant, so even though it wasn't swanky, it was a good semi-formal place for just 50 people to party in. First, the good stuff: The food was incredibly delicious, and really filled us up. The waiters, at least, were pretty friendly and on top of things. And they weren't strict about anything. They didn't care if we had a lot of candles (which can be an issue with some indoor venues), and ordered the linens in several different colors. They didn't charge us a site fee, and it was so affordable at $18 per person. And even though we had a bar tab, we either didn't reach it (which seemed pretty unlikely because many guests got drunk) or they just stopped counting, so it was free all night. So that was pretty cool. That said, here's the bad stuff: I had asked for 8 tables - 6 for our guests, one for gifts, and one for placecards and guestbook pages. We got the tables for our guests, and that's pretty much it. My MOH and family put the gifts on a pool table in the corner (you can see it in the background of this pic, but they didn't have room for placecards, so they were put on the tables. The guestbook pages were placed on a small bar table in the back of the room, and I feel like some people didn't know about them. Thankfully, my friends alerted most people about them. Also, we had asked the manager for a dance floor, but when we got there, there wasn't any dancing space whatsoever. He had assumed that since we weren't having a DJ, that we weren't having any dancing, even though we had specifically asked for one, and we told him that we'd be bringing our own stereo. He said he'd clear some space near the bar for us by removing some tables, but it still wasn't done by the end of dinner, so I had to track him down AGAIN to get him to clear the space. Also, even though we were having a private party, he let other customers sit at and around the bar really close to us, and I heard the other people were pestering my guests. I don't mind that they were there, but I feel like he should have made more of an effort to close off at least part of the bar area for us. I also heard (since I didn't drink much) that the drinks were kinda bad, and the bartender wasn't very nice. I felt like the customer service there was really lacking. I regret not writing out everything I wanted in detail beforehand.

Cake: Siblings Bakery - A-
These people are really friendly. They were the ones I missed the first time around and had to reschedule with, and they were so cool about it. They gave nice-sized portions for the taste testing and even gave us a big hunk of cake to take home with us. The cake we got was DELICIOUS!! And huge! It was supposed to feed 60 people and we ended up with about 52. But at the end of the day, we had two whole tiers left over, and most people had second servings. Granted, the servers cut the cake slices small, but don't all wedding cake servers cut them small? And it's not like we were going to save the top tier, because they give us a free small cake on our first anniversary. So I gave my family the top tier, and we took the middle one. And it's still moist and delicious now, even after sitting in our fridge while we were on our honeymoon. Two disappointing things: 1) The cake wasn't decorated the way we had gone over it. It was kinda close, and had the right colors, but it wasn't what we had discussed. Don't get me wrong - it was still pretty and I got some compliments on it. And I feel like I'm being nitpicky, but it really was quite different from what I had shown them. If you remember what I posted as my model a couple months ago, the flowers were bigger and more prominent, right? But the cake did end up being very cute. Just not what I expected. 2) The cake was supposed to have fresh strawberries and Bavarian cream in the middle. We got the Bavarian cream, but there were VERY few strawberries. I think some of my guests ended up not having any. In fact, I'm glad we didn't end up serving the middle tier, because we've eaten nearly the entire thing, and we haven't found a single strawberry in it.

Photographer: Joannessa Clawson - A+ (so far - pictures not back yet)
So far, I really love her. She was so professional, and I felt like she acted as more than just a photographer, but kind of as an impromptu wedding "coach" or something too. She helped me relax before the wedding, set up a lot of fun and cute formal shots, guided me during the cake cutting (I didn't know what to do exactly...), and made sure her assistant stayed for a while after she had to leave so we could have candid dancing photos (we were running really late). I felt at ease with her around, though I did feel bad that she was sitting around for a while because dinner ran long. I feel pretty confident that the pictures she took will be gorgeous too.

Dress: Cinderella Bridal on Ebay - A-
As I said before, my dress was gorgeous, and almost exactly how I imagined it. The cloth was really high quality, but I got it about a week later than expected without much explanation or assurances as to when it would be done. Also, it was much longer than it should have been. I gave them the correct hollow to hem measurement, but about 5 inches had to be removed from the bottom by the tailor. That's a lot for a custom dress. And a seam ripped a little while I was putting it on at the tailor, but I'm not sure if that was bad sewing or my freakishly enormous ribs. I didn't fix it, but barely anyone noticed.

Tailor: Flavio's Tailoring & Alterations - B-
First, let me say that they really did do a good job with the alteration. They did have to take off a lot of material from the bottom, and - unless you looked really hard - you wouldn't be able to tell that it had been altered. However, as I mentioned before, they were really bad at getting the job done when they said it would. They said it'd be done by Friday, called to say it'd actually get done on Tuesday, and then actually got it done by Wednesday. It's not even like they did it to just me. My cousin got her bridesmaid dress altered there too, and it wasn't ready until the day before the wedding! And they barely made any apologies for their being late with my dress! Really unprofessional customer service.

My Ring: Linda Clifford Celtic Jewelry - A
I love my ring! It's gorgeous, and it fits perfectly! Exactly as described. And the customer service was fantastic too. Very easy email communication, they were very quick to reply, and when I was having trouble with my bank card, they accomodated me really well with no fuss at all. They were really friendly too. Highly recommended.

Sam's Ring: Zales Outlet - A
This was a really easy purchase. We had gone in there a couple times to try out rings for him, he found one he really liked, and it was a great price. Beautiful ring! And the salespeople weren't very pushy, and were actually even pretty friendly.

Tuxedos: Men's Wearhouse - A
I was a little nervous ordering everything out of a binder with pictures and cloth samples. After all, you don't order a wedding dress without trying on a sample, right? But it all turned out so well. Sam looked so handsome! (His groomsmen looked good too.) What was even better was that the whole out of state groomsmen thing worked really well. I picked out styles and colors for them (Tim, the best man, in violet to match Nimalee's dress, and Miguel, the groomsman, in a silvery blue to match Ciara's dress), and Men's Wearhouse put that information in the computer. Then the groomsmen just had to go in to their local Men's Wearhouse in Chicago to get fitted, and they picked it up here at our Men's Wearhouse the day before the wedding. After the wedding, we returned them back here, so the groomsmen didn't have to mess with putting them in their luggage or anything. Very convenient. (Yes, that's Sam dancing with his brother. I'm comfortable with it!)

Bridesmaid Dresses: David's Bridal - A-
The first time we went in for a fitting, it was mostly for me, and we got great service. Our salesgirl was very prompt and helpful. But the second time we went, for the bridesmaids, they were distant and not very helpful at all, even though they weren't as busy. At any rate, they had a wide selection of dresses to look at on the catalogs, but their range of sizes and colors were a little lacking. If we liked a color, they didn't have it in stock. If we needed a particular size, it was really hard to find dresses that we liked in those sizes. In the end, I got the dresses during their clearance sale, and they thankfully had them in my bridesmaids' sizes (or very close). $50 each! I think David's Bridal is a good deal when they have a sale (which is quite often). And my girls looked beautiful!

Honeymoon hotel: Dreams Puerto Vallarta Resort - A
Absolutely the best vacation I have ever taken! Loved the all-inclusive package. Through Orbitz, we got a great deal - $850 per person for 7 nights stay including airfare, all meals, all drinks by the glass, 24-hour room service, mini-bar, and most activities. Unless we were tipping, we didn't have to take out any money at all. It's right on a secluded white sand beach, with 3 pools and hot tubs, 2 bars, 5 restaurants... The food was delicious, the drinks were great, the rooms and property were clean... We loved this place! Only complaints were the beds were pretty hard, and the restaurant service (especially during lunch) was very slow. But we probably saved $1000 on food and drinks alone, and we have never stayed anywhere so beautiful or been so pampered in our lives! I bet we would have spent easily as much on a "cheaper" room in Las Vegas after food and drinks.

I've been working on this for a while, so I'll go pay attention to my new husband now. ;)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Did I Dream All That?

I'm a married woman!! Woooooo Hoooooooo!!!!

Truthfully, it hasn't even hit me yet that Sam and I are married now. It really and truly feels like a dream, like my brain hasn't processed what just happened this weekend. I can recall everything that happened, but it still seems like a foreign concept to me. People keep asking me how it feels to be married, and I answer, "Right now, it feels like me and Sam... only with new rings on our fingers."

I'm not sure I'll go through an entire recap of the past few days, cuz that would be LONG, and I need to go shopping for our honeymoon (Puerto Vallarta, here we come!!), but here are some reflections and things I've learned about weddings:
  • Almost nothing went exactly as I planned it. Seriously! We had major problems printing the programs, I didn't end up making lots of things that I wanted to make, the guests all arrived at the reception place an hour early, the dance floor wasn't set up at the reception... But it still all turned out wonderfully! Sure, I noticed these things, and they bothered me a little, but we worked around them, and I doubt my guests cared or noticed a thing. And I'm hoping that I didn't look too bothered by them, because I really wasn't - I just went with the flow and was actually rather amused by it all.
  • Choose your maid of honor wisely. For me, the decision was a no-brainer, but boy am I glad Nimalee was my maid of honor! She stayed up nearly all night with me on Friday, when we were trying to finish all the projects that I didn't get to finish during the week. She coordinated the set up of all the decorations at the reception, pinned up my makeshift bustle, watched over the iPod, made announcements, stayed at the reception to coordinate clearing out all the presents and decorations and odds and ends, taxi-ed my friends around all over the place since Thursday night, and still managed to make the whole thing fun somehow. I really don't know what I would have done without her this weekend. She was amazing!
  • Speaking of projects, if you have the time in your planning, do as much as you can as far in advance as you can. And if you're planning your wedding in 4-5 months like I did, and don't really have the time or means to do them way in advance, make sure your out of town guests don't bug you during the week before your wedding. My in-laws came into town the Saturday before the wedding, and they wanted to do everything with us. They were frequently hanging out at the apartment, so I couldn't focus on the things I needed to do. Then the rest of the OOT guests started coming on Thursday. And I really wanted to hang out with all of them. So, eat meals with them, cuz you should remember to eat, but leave them to their own devices the rest of the time.
  • Personalize your wedding, your ceremony in particular. I feel like sometimes the point of the wedding day - the ceremony - gets forgotten in favor of the more fun reception. But I'm so glad that I actually put thought into the ceremony because I received so many compliments on how beautiful it was, how they all LOVED the Sand Ceremony (great decision!), and that my brother sang beautifully (which he did!). It was wonderful!
  • I think how a someone feels at their wedding really depends on the person. The emotional part of it only hit me about 15 minutes before the ceremony started, when I heard my brother singing, and all I had to do was wait for everything to start. I was trying not to cry! But the moment I stepped out to walk with my dad down the aisle, I had a huge smile plastered to my face, and grinned my way throughout the entire ceremony without a single tear. I was so excited and happy! I think I grinned through the entire reception too. Sam nearly cried during his vows. It was so adorable.

Okay, I'll stop there as I have to go shopping (for the honeymoon, yay!), and I have to finish eating my breakfast (leftover wedding cake, yay!). I'll have a fuller recap later, probably after we get back from the honeymoon (Puerto Vallarta, yay!).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Not Part of the Solution

I suppose these last few days before the wedding wouldn't be nearly so interesting if it wasn't for some conflict. It's like TV or a book, where something has to go wrong towards the end in order for there to be a big climax. Then it all gets resolved, and the characters live happily ever after. Until the next story, when the wacky hijinks start all over again.

Quite possibly some of the most important details of the wedding are up in the air. I sent my dress in to a tailor to be shortened, and they said it would take one week, to be ready on Friday. The tailor shop calls Thursday to tell me that it won't be ready until the following Tuesday. Okay... whatever. I call Monday to make sure I can pick it up on Tuesday. No answer, so I leave a message. I suspected they were at one of the immigrant-rights rally or doing the nationwide boycott, because they're always there during store hours and they never called me back. Fine with me, so long as my dress is ready on time, right? So I call yesterday (Tuesday) to make sure everything's fine and dandy. It's not.

"It won't be ready until Wednesday morning," the lady says. "I remember because you were asking about whether you have time for dry cleaning."

"Right, except you told me it'd be ready by Tuesday morning. Tuesday. That's today," I say.

"Oh. I'm very sorry, " she replies lamely.

So Sam and his parents are picking it up today and bringing it to the dry cleaners for me to have it pressed, since we'll need all the time we can get to make sure it's done. But that tailor is so unprofessional! Sure, they should stand up for whatever rights and beliefs they hold dear. Prove their worth to the community. Or take a day off, if that's what they were doing. But they shouldn't shirk their responsibilities, especially when their reputation and livelihood is at stake. I'm a paying customer. Their worth to the community is highly questionable when they can't take care of their paying customers. Lord knows I will never take my business there again, and I'll make sure everybody I know doesn't either. So stay away from Flavio's Alterations, everybody! So frustrating... (Ciara, how'd your dress turn out, BTW? Did you get yours on time?)

The weather isn't cooperating either. It was supposed to be sunny on Saturday, but we've had about 5 straight days of cloudy, dreary weather. It might clear up a little, so I'm hoping for just enough sunshine for some good pictures. My ring isn't here yet either, but I looked at the tracking, and it's supposed to be delivering soon. I really can't wait to see it, cuz I have a feeling it'll be lovely.

I've kinda lost steam on this entry, so I'll end it here. Sorry for the rant!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Final Stretch

Phew! Boy, it's been busy! My future in-laws came into town on Saturday, so Sam and I have been running around, being good hosts and everything. And that's on top of everything that I failed to make in advance. And now I just remembered something I needed to do yesterday! Way to go, Kristine... *smacks forehead* I even have things to do at work, which is a shocker. I've been trying to make things easier on my colleague, who will be covering for me while I'm on vacation for 2 and a half weeks. There's so much to do and so little time left!

I spent much of yesterday evening making my veil. It took twice as long as it should have, mostly because I naturally started off trying to do it the hard way. Here are some lessons I've learned about veil-making.
  1. Cutting tulle cleanly and evenly is HARD. (Either that, or I suck at cutting, which is entirely possible.) For anybody who wants a neat and tidy veil, give yourself extra time to do some sort of edging, or you'll end up cross-eyed.
  2. Cut the tulle over something dark (if your veil is dark). It helps you to see it better.
  3. If you want nice edging (fake pearl string or a rolled edge or ribbon), don't make your veil at the last minute, especially if you have to do it by hand. I was gonna try the fake pearl strings and sew it all along the edge, but I realized how time consuming that was going to be and decided it wasn't important.
  4. Sew the tulle to a comb and not to a barrette. It's a million times easier. (Plus, you don't have to decorate the comb if you don't want to. Decorating the barrette is a must.)
  5. If you're making tiered layers, the shorter layer goes on the outside. (No, that's the inside, Kristine. Put it on the outside!)
  6. If you don't gather all of the middle, make sure the ends on either side of the comb are even, otherwise it looks lopsided.
  7. You can still create quite a lovely veil even if you messed up time and time again while you were making it.

I also finished making the guestbook cards. I made 4 different variations and printed each variation on a different color cardstock, with 2 cards to a sheet. They're very cute, and all I have to do now is cut them out. Yay! I wish I had time to post pictures from home, but maybe I'll take them and post them after the wedding, when I have a little more time. I also bought some stickers from the craft store, and Sam's mom bought us some pens that I wanted for people to sign with, so I'm hoping everybody has fun with them.

I still need to buy disposable cameras, and making the tags for them should be super easy. I can probably do most of the design work for the placecards and programs here at work, if I find the time. What's strange is that it looks like I procrastinated a lot in regards to all the projects I have to do, but it really doesn't feel like I put things off. I've been so consistently busy on the weekends. Maybe I could have done more during the weekdays... Ah, well. No sense in moping about it now. I should make a list of things to do, so I don't forget. I think I'll do that now.

Another To-Do List

  • Finish Sam's witness forms and bring it to Padre Serra ASAP!
  • Pick up dress from tailor (stupid tailor!) and run it over to dry cleaner to get pressed.
  • Make Thank-You list with names of people who sent gifts already and what they gave.
  • Gather up cards received already to put into scrapbook sometime later.
  • Design/print/assemble programs (buy extra long stapler?)
  • Design/print/assemble placecards and table names
  • Make decorations (paper flowers, butterflies)
  • Design/print/cut camera tags
  • Cut guestbook cards
  • Call Jay to see if he got a hold of church music guy
  • Create/Distribute timeline for wedding day
  • Book hotel for Friday and Saturday night
  • Arrange music list and load iPod
  • Pay rent (not wedding related, but it might get overlooked in all the madness)
  • Clean up apartment!!
  • Thursday - Go to Van Nuys to get birth certificate (hopefully...)
  • Thursday - Go to nail appointment with Ciara at 1pm
  • Thursday - Pick up Anne at airport
  • Thursday - Pick up some flowers at Costco; harvest and bag petals.
  • Thursday - Book honeymoon (based on success of certificate retrieval)
  • Friday - Pick up Tom and Judy at train station
  • Friday - Pick up remaining flowers at Costco
  • Friday - Assemble bouquets and boutonnierres
  • Friday - Go to rehearsal early (starts at 4:30)
  • Saturday - If anything's not finished, let it go. It's not gonna get done if it isn't done by then.

Gosh, I hope that's it. That's a lot for one week! Oh, and one thing I must mention - My Christmas tree is still up! It doesn't have anything to do with anything, but it amuses me to no end, and I hope our guests find it amusing too. :)