Friday, October 29, 2010

Getting Things In Order

Mr. NM and I may have done things a bit out of order in regards to our relationship trajectory (see here), and we may have made some wedding decisions in an order that was a little wonky (see here) - but when it came to the wedding details that I've been *living* for, I was all about creating order out of chaos.  Months ago I put together a wedding planning timeline that clearly laid out the specific tasks that needed to be accomplished during each of the 17 (at the time) months leading up to the wedding.  I did this so that I wouldn't leave everything until the last minute, because I have a real penchant for procrastination.  I also did this so that I could have the peace of mind that comes from looking at a, dare I say, *meticulous* accounting of every possible detail and knowing that everything has been planned for and will be taken care of. 

So what the f*ck happened???  I sat down several weeks ago to begin designing the layout for some DIY cocktail napkins, and I got stuck.  It wasn't as easy as I'd thought it would be so I tried to focus on other things for a bit.  A week or so later Mr. NM began to put together a program design and his ideas were kinda freakin' awesome.  I felt inspired to get back to the napkins until - dun dun duuuun - I went ballistic over fonts.

I didn't know what fonts to use for the napkins... because I didn't know what fonts to use for the programs... because I didn't know what fonts we would use for the invitations... because I didn't know if any of those fonts should match the Save the Date fonts.  My head was spinning.

I purposely put the cocktail napkins earlier in the massive 17 month-long to-do list because I thought they'd be a fun little detail that I could just crank out and check off my list.  It didn't even occur to me that in some crafty-cosmic manner those napkins might be inextricably linked with other projects.  And now I worry that I'm at a permanent stand-still.  My list brought me comfort - made me feel less frenetic and more in control.  I know this sounds irrational, but I worry what will become of me in the time it takes me to retool the list.  Or perhaps there are other options I just haven't thought of yet.

Any suggestions for what I should do at this particular stand-still?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Recommend Unemployment

The ugly-but-somewhat-fortunate truth is that I've had two periods of unemployment within the past year.  I finished my post doc and received my Psychologist license in August of 2009, then I was unemployed for four months while I was looking for a full-time job.  What I found instead of a full-time job was a temporary job that ran from January through June, then I was unemployed again from mid-June through the end of August.  Now I'm working another temporary job that will last until June of 2011, at which point there's a good chance I will again be unemployed from mid-June through the end of August. 

Of course everyone knows the financial downside to being unemployed, and that certainly is true for me as well.  I have a private practice in addition to my 40-hour/week job but it's still growing and isn't yet sufficient to sustain me financially.  So that's the ugly truth about unemployment.  There is a silver lining, though! 

I found that unemployment quickly becomes fUNemployment when you spend some of that extra time wedding planning!  I had a ridiculous number of hours to sift through millions of wedding blog posts, wedding magazines, and wedding books to get *so many* amazing ideas.  There's been ample time to gather craft supplies and practice various techniques to learn what will and won't be a possibility for our wedding crafts.  I've been able to research lots of various options to better understand what can realistically be accomplished within our budget.  Hell, I've even had enough time to plan a whole wedding in my mind and then let go of that wedding in favor of an altogether different wedding style!

As if that weren't enough, here's the biggest advantage I can see to all this unemployement.  In the summer of 2011 (several months before the wedding), I'll have the luxury of mandatory time off work to focus on what would otherwise become last-minute projects!  Seriously people, seriously - how lucky am I?! 

These are the things I remind myself of when I get discouraged about finances, job prospects, and wedding budgets.  So you see, unemployment isn't all doom and gloom if you just look at it from the right perspective. 

What lemons have you been able to turn into lemonade during your wedding planning process?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Two People, Two Rings

OMG it's *finally* arrived.  Mr. NM's ring, ordered for the first time in May, and the second time in August, has now arrived at our doorstep in October.  Whoa-za...  That's a freakin' long time, if you ask me.  But all's well that ends well, I suppose.

My ring has had its turn in the spotlight, so now it's time for Mr. NM's ring to shine.

Alright, enough individual shining.  My ring just had to get in there for some smoochy-rings-together pics!

{perched on Mr. NM's Giants cap}
{repping our team and our city}

{atop our lovingly hand-painted dog treat jar}

{the "f*ck up jar," into which we make frequent contributions}

{elegant finial + lovely rings = breathtaking}
What did you use as props for your ring photoshoot?

Friday, October 22, 2010

How to Clean Your Bling

After getting my engagement ring, I attempted to clean it with every possible cleaning instrument I could find around my house - an old toothbrush, my Clarisonic Mia, old tiny makeup applicators - you name it!  I was also engaging (ha! a pun!) in this ritualistic cleaning about every other day.  We've all been there, right? 

Well, now I have a better system.  I got some great tips from a guy who seriously knows his jewelry.  That guy was our appraisor, and he shared this sage advice with me when we went to have the ring appraised for insurance.  (Sidenote PSA:  Have you had your ring appraised and added to your insurance yet?  If not, stop reading right here and now, and don't begin again until you've had it done.  I mean it.  It's that important!  *ahem*  And now we return to your previously scheduled programming.)

He told me that the best way to clean my ring was to use a baby toothbrush and regular handsoap plus some warm water, and to do that no more than once per week (so as not to loosen the stones).  And man-oh-man was he right!  So here's a little pictorial guide to cleaning your bling!

First, gather your supplies - baby toothbrush, handsoap, warm water.  And don't forget to close the stopper in the sink!

 Bonus points if the cheapest baby toothbrush was on sale for 99 cents and it happens to light up!

Put the handsoap on the toothbrush.

Clean the top and sides of the ring.

Then put the toothbrush inside the ring and clean underneath.  (This is the part a regular toothbrush or a Clarisonic or whatever just didn't excel at.)

Because the underside of my ring has so many nooks and crannies, I pay special attention to getting the bristles into all those tiny crevices.

Rinse under warm running water.

Dry off with a towel.

And then I've noticed I have to blow slightly towards the bottom of the center stone because water collects there that can't be reach by a towel.  (Please excuse the closeup of my camera!)

And we'll let the evidence speak for itself!

    Before                                                                       After

Who else has tried crazy methods of jewelry cleaning?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why Are We Fighting?

I get really sad thinking about this topic, but I'm sharing it here because I committed to myself that I would be honest about the ups and downs and in-betweens if I was going to blog about our wedding planning process.  This is most certainly a "down."

To provide some context, I'll just remind you that we were actively planning our wedding *long* before we were officially engaged.  During that time, we had never (in my memory) fought about anything wedding-related.   After the engagement there was the most loverly period where everything felt rosy and magical...  I loved those days. 

Then everything changed.

I don't recall the first fight - what it was about or how it got started.  It was an anomaly, something we'd never done before and something I think we both assumed was a one-time thing.  Then it happened again...  and again.  There were nights we stayed up into the early morning hours trying to work through and move past some argument that began over dinner.  We were always able to come to an agreement about each and every silly fight we were having, but not before we had put in many, *many* long and tearful hours.  (And I do mean *many* - remember we're both therapists.  We really know how to process the sh*t out of things.)

At one point I was so hurt and disillusioned that I suggested perhaps we should rethink the wedding.  Things were fine, even great, before we started to seriously work towards a wedding, so why not go back to how things were before.  I don't think either of us could believe that option was even on the table.  But this arguing was unlike anything we'd ever dealt with before in our relationship.

Eventually we created some rules that helped us to contain, and sometimes minimize, the fights.  We worked hard to identify our needs and wants in regards to weddings conversations.  We both tried to make changes to better support the other.  We figured out some of the reasons we approach these conversations differently.  One of the changes I made around this time was to start my blog.  Mr. NM and I talked about how I didn't have many wedding outlets in my life and how perhaps it wasn't fair for me to depend on him to provide all my wedding support. I had already been considering becoming a blogger, and these conversations provided me with some additional momentum to actually get started.

It's been about two months since we've been implementing these changes, and things are definitely better than they were before.  I wish I could say that everything's fine now - that we figured out the problem and solved it completely - but we haven't.  Arguments are much less frequent, but when they happen they're still (usually unecessarily) intense.  We're working on it.  We haven't given up and we have hope that sometime soon we're going to find our wedding equilibrium. 

I just hope it happens before the wedding.  T-minus 13 months...

Have you and your significant other had to deal with any heated wedding-related arguments?  How did you work it out?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Make Believe Budget

How do you create a wedding budget?  No, seriously, how in the world do you decide how much to spend on your wedding when you have no idea how much weddings cost, how much you can afford to spend, or what needs to be included in the total?  Frankly, I have absolutely no freaking idea.  This budgeting tale of ours that I'm about to spin is by no means a "suggested method" of creating a wedding budget.  It's just the random, kinda messed up, pretty-useful-but-not-perfect way that we went about it. 

Back before I knew anything about the world of wedding blogs (and life was dark and dreary), I started the budget research in the same way I assume lots of other people do - at The Kn*t (arguably my least favorite element of the WIC and so much less satisfying to me personally than wedding blogland).  Apparently, to effectively use those budget calculators you need to first know how much you want to spend.  Well, there was only one other person we'd known who'd gotten married in a quasi-similar location and we thought we had a general idea of how much that wedding cost (although we had no idea how "all-inclusive" or not that number was).  We then decided that number was much too high for us, so we reduced it by 1/3.  Based on what, you ask?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  We arbitrarily slashed a budget total amount by 1/3 because we wanted to.  Thus our entrance into Make Believe Land.

I took this make believe number and plugged it into the budget calculator, which yielded many smaller numbers attached to discrete categories (attire, accessories, jewelry, gifts, ceremony, reception, officiant, etc. etc.).  Again, with the whole not knowing what the hell our wedding was going to include thing, I made some totally arbitrary decisions to cut certain categories and move some of the money around.  In particular I focused on the two categories most important to us - photographer and ceremony/reception costs.  I allocated 75% of our make believe budget to these categories, figuring that I'd just magically be able to find photographers and venues that would work within those budgets and that there's no way we'd spend more than the additional 25% on all those other weddings costs (coz, ya know, I'm gonna do everything myself...  And also I was living in Make Believe Land). 

{okay, not this Make Believe Land}

Related to these arbitrary decisions I made, a controversial wedding budget topic I often see talked about is what exactly gets included in the budget.  Do you wanna include engagement ring(s), honeymoon, rehearsal dinner, other wedding weekend activities?  The list goes on and on.  In my particular Make Believe Land, it only felt necessary to include the *really big* wedding purchases - the ones where a lot of money would come due all at the same time.  I also had strong feelings about what should not go in the budget, namely things that other people might contribute to (like the honeymoon, because we'll have a honeymoon registry), things we didn't yet know what we'd do for it (like the rehearsal dinner or other wedding weekend activities), and things we would re-sell after the wedding (like candy buffet jars or linens).  In my mind, this is a totally reasonable way to approach our budget - 1) because we're having a long engagement so we have significant time to both save and spend money, 2) because smaller costs would just get rolled into our regular monthly credit card bills so we'd never really notice the difference, 3) because we could decide at a later date what we could afford for all the things we didn't include in the original budget, and 4) because money we spend and then re-coup later doesn't feel like money spent to me.

Unfortunately (for me), Mr. NM approaches budgeting very differently.  For him, budgets should account for every dollar spent on anything wedding-related - things that are outside the realm of our regular purchases.  Mr. NM was not a fan of Ms. Meticulous' Make Believe Budget, no-sir-ee.  How is it that Mr. Not Meticulous was so... meticulous! when it came to this budgeting stuff??  Thankfully, meticulousness is something I can respect and I can work with.


Where does that leave our budget?  Good question, to which I have a less make believeish but equally fantastical response.  Right now our budget exists as what I might call a 3-tier system.  The first tier is the original budget I put together all those many months ago.  The second tier is less researched and less specific, and it consists of estimates for those bigger ticket items not included in the first budget.  The third tier is the most frequently updated, where I'm keeping track of every single penny spent on anything remotely wedding-related no matter how small the purchase ($5 for photo printing, $2 for ribbon).   The hope is that, as our wedding date nears, we'll have an up-to-the-minute totaling of *all* our expenses from which we can base our decisions about those second tier items where we have some flexibility.

{3 tiers, full of goodies more palatable than budget items}

For sure the final budget is not as pretty as the make believe budget, it's way more complicated than it probably needs to be, and it will likely change as time goes on...  but it's working for us.  For me, for now, that's enough.

Who else began with an idealized budget that morphed into something less attractive over time?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Partying with the In-Laws

I love my future SIL.  Not only have she and her husband given me and Mr. NM the most amazing niece ever (just in time to be a flower girl, no less!)...

{a picture I took of Flower Girl S, just a few hours after she was born}

... but she organized the sweetest engagement dinner for us shortly after we made it all *official.* 

Just to clarify - this would've been amazing no matter what, but it's particularly meaningful because it was the first time I truly realized the emotional big deal-ness of this whole engagement/marriage thing.  I guess I thought that because we'd been together for so long, and because everyone knew we were in it for the long haul, and because it doesn't seem like the marriage part of our relationship will concretely change anything about our day-to-day lives, the engagement would just feel like normal life except we would have rings on our fingers and I could be more unabashedly open about our wedding planning.  But I was so wrong.

{Us, With Team Member BIL S}

{Team Member BIL S with Flower Girl S}

{Team Member SIL S with Us}

{FFIL, FMIL, and Flower Girl S}

I don't know the words to describe the feeling that washed over me during that dinner, but all I can say is I became aware of this...  beautiful emotional weight...  the heaviness and the awe of this historically-valued institution of marriage that so many before us have entered into.  And I felt so very, very loved. 

Among other thoughtful gifts (*yay* for a big stack of weddings mags, that I wantwantwant but need like I need a hole in the head), my future SIL (aka Team Member SIL S - because she's one of "Team Mr. NM") organized other family members to provide us with individualized "words of wisdom" cards that were both touching and hilarious to read aloud during dinner. 

{"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."  - Mignon McLaughlin; from Team Member SIL S}

{To keep your marriage brimming with love in the wedding cup, whenever you're wrong, admit it.  Whenever you're right, shut up.  - Ogden Nath; from FMIL}

{Realize that your spouse is looking at every situation the two of you face with completely different eyes than you.  If there is any area of agreement, it's usually a mistake and you need to embrace the mistake and treat it as you would a rare flower, for it may not come your way again.  - FFIL}

I am so lucky to be marrying into such an ah-ma-zing family. 

When did the the historical and emotional weight of marriage hit you for the first time?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Our First Big Wedding Expense!

After a gigajillion wedding conversations we've had over these past several years (plus or minus a few kilobillion, of course), there are only two wedding day elements that have consistently reigned supreme in our list of really-super-wanna-haves.  In no particular order, those elements were location and photography.  I don't think those priorities are so abnormal.  What's strange, I think, is the order in which we ticked those two items off the list.  Your average person would probably choose the location first - get that wedding date nailed down in the preferred venue before putting down deposits for other vendors.  So sensible...

But sensible we were not.  Nope, we totally signed on the dotted line with our photographer for our preferred wedding date without a *clue* what our venue would be, what time our ceremony and reception would occur, or whether our venue would be available on the day we'd hired the photographers for.  Why oh why would we do that, you ask?  Good question, I say, and one I'm not totally sure I know the answer to.  If I had to guess, I'd say it's because we were crazy overwhelmed by the number of venue choices and our eyes were swimming in the dollar signs required to make that decision. 

Photographers, on the other hand, presented more limited options.  Limited not because San Francisco doesn't have its more-than-fair share of spectaculous wedding photographers, no no.  But limited because we like a very specific photography "look," and we needed to find that look within our budget.  The look we love?  Noticeably post-processed gloriousness!

We don't mind - in fact, we crave! - pictures that look like they've had a little work done.  I know it's not everyone's thing, and I can totally respect that.  I love taking pictures myself, and there is something wonderful about capturing a true, beautiful moment exactly as you saw it with your eyes.  But to us these post-processed pictures look and feel more like art than just photos, and we want art! 

I was able to come up with 4 photographers for us to meet with who might fit our artsy/budget-minded requirements.  At our very first photographer meeting with the uber fabulous Paco & Betty (aka Whitney and Marcellos), we were shown a sample guest book album that was so So SO *flash*bang*wow* and pick-your-jaw-up-off-the-floor that we just couldn't get over it.  Not only did we have to have those pictures, we had to have those pictures in that album, with those photographers and all 4 of their amazing creatives eyes - end of freaking story!  So hopefully in only 14 short (ha!) months, we'll have heartbreakingly beautiful pictures of us that look something like this:

{above photos property of Paco & Betty @}

For only $200 over our budget, we're getting an engagement session (no photographs included), 8 hours of wedding day coverage, a disc with 600-800 images, and a 7-8 minute slideshow set to music.  Our package doesn't include the album, and we decided we're okay with that since the album we fell in lust with was more affordable than the traditional album.  We plan to get it for each other as our holiday gift that year - totally worth it and best gift e-vah!

Decision made.  Deposit paid.  And so it was.  We were now photographer-deep into our wedding with absolutely no other plans.  Feelin' good!

Anyone else take a risk by booking vendors before they had confirmed date at a venue?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Great Weight Debate

Ugh... Okay, I'm gonna be real here.  I'm not super thrilled about this topic.  More than just the whole superficial "what woman wants to talk about her weight" thing is the fact that I have incredibly mixed feelings about this issue. 

On the one hand, I have spent a significant portion of my life fighting for my self-esteem in the face of having a lifelong struggle with maintaining a healthy weight.  Professionally I work with people in developing a more positive attitude and belief system around  body image no matter their size, culture, age, ability level, health status, or anything else.  I don't just believe in this as a theoretical construct - I live it!

On the other hand, I am human.  More than that, I'm a woman living in America.  (I can't speak for other countries, though I know that some are more progressive on this issue than others.)  Although I may do my best to be personally and professionally insulated from the unhealthy and often offensive images of women that exist out there, I am certainly not immune. 

And the wedding world (blogosphere and otherwise) is a part of that culture.  Being the over-researcher that I am, I'm constantly inundated with images of beautiful, dreamy, "I want that!" weddings.  But I've been hard pressed to find images of brides in those weddings that look like me.  Is it because they don't exist?  Unlikely.  More likely is that they aren't as prominently featured in blogs, advertisements, magazines, etc.  But seriously, who wouldn't want this:

So here's my dilemma...  It's hard to have a foot on both sides of this argument.  Trust me, I've tried.  I can tell myself I'm losing weight for my health, and that wouldn't be a total lie.  Or I could tell myself that I'm making an important personal/political statement by staying exactly as I am right now, and that wouldn't be a total lie.  Both are true, yet neither is the whole story, ya know? 

Here is a current pic:

Me (right) and Mr. NM

And here I am 4 years ago:

in lovely Hawaii... aah...
And here I am 6 years ago:

random camel in a cruise boat casino

As you you can see, this is not my first ride on the lose weight/get healthy merry-go-round.  It's hard work - mentally, physically, and emotionally - for me to stay on top of my weight, but I recall it feeling amazing.  In the past few years I've foregone that hard work for other kinds of hard work, specifically my career and my relationship, and seeing those things succeed also feels amazing. 

And that's where I find myself.  No clear and simple answers.  Just the eternal struggle to be true to myself.  But how to do that when "myself" is such a contrary mix of thoughts and feelings. 

Can anyone else relate to this?