Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Meaning of Marriage: Part 1

Preparing to eat Thanksgiving dinner with Mr. NM's parents gave me an opportunity to reflect on relationships and family - more specifically, how relationships shape how we define family.  I've casually referred to Mr. NM's family as "my in-laws" for a while now, probably since the time everyone started taking for granted that I would be included in his family functions.  This year as I was about to tell someone, "We're having Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws," I stopped myself from using that term, instead changing it to "dinner with Mr. NM's parents."  In that split second I recall thinking that they would be my legitimate in-laws in less than a year, so I should reserve that term for the time after we're officially married. 

The phrase ricocheted around in my mind for a second longer than it should have before I realized why it felt so uncomfortable.  We spent the majority of our relationship knowing that "officially married" is something we couldn't have.  So for us, and I imagine for many other queer and/or non-traditional couples, not being able to (or not wanting to) get "officially married" means that there's no hard-and-fast moment when a relationship moves from dating to committed.  So when do you call your partner's parents your in-laws, when does your partner become an assumed member of family photos, when do people get to feel okay asking you about whether you'll have kids, etc. etc.?    Basically, when do people see you and your partner as a family rather than just a relationship?  And how does that timing relate to when you and your partner see yourselves as a family?  Like it or not, in this society the act of entering into a marriage adds legitimacy to your relationship - in your eyes, in the eyes of your families, and in the eyes of the law (at least for heterosexual couples, and for some gay couples in terms of state law only).  And weddings are the way we mark the moment we enter into a marriage.  So marriages/weddings answer all those questions and so many more.

Mr. NM and I have known for at least the past three years that we were in it for the long haul.  Our relationship was entirely legitimate to us and we saw ourselves as a little family (or a pack, as we call ourselves and our dogs).  But I know I wasn't prepared for how much other people's views of our relationship would impact how I felt about it.  Even though my immediate family has gotten better about acknowledging the long-term nature of my relationship with Mr. NM, I can already feel the way our wedding will change a lot of little things.  For instance, after we got engaged it felt like my relationship seemed more "normal" to people - they knew how to relate to it and they had a social framework for understanding it.  I was engaged, which meant I'd then have a wedding.  Everyone knows what those things are and what they mean.  So after we get married, that means Mr. NM can have a stocking at my mom's house for Christmas, he will be included in the holiday name draw at my grandma's house, and he can be in family pictures.  All these little things add up, and they make me feel like people are actually beginning to see Mr. NM and I as we've seen ourselves - as a family.  Before I had these little privileges and assumptions, I didn't realize I was missing them.  But now that I have them, I'm aware of how much more serious our relationship feels... to me.  Not that it wasn't serious before, just that it's even more serious now. 

I'm not sure if that resonates with anyone else, but for me I know that being engaged and planning a wedding have shown me meanings of marriage that I hadn't before known and/or considered. 

Can you relate to this at all?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Forgotten Inspiration

We made the final decisions about our wedding colors exactly a year before we got engaged.  Yep, you heard that right - wedding colors first, engagement ring second.  That's how we roll!  I happen to know for certain that it was a year before we got engaged because my inspiration board document is dated May 30, 2009 and we got engaged May 23, 2010.  How *crazy* is that?!  I think my purpose at the time for creating an inspiration board was to gather together images representing both the colors and the mood we were going for.  Just for kicks, let's take a look at that board shall we?

{my sincere apologies that I don't recall the sources for any of these pictures}

It's so interesting to look back at this picture and think about how our wedding style has both evolved and remained constant over the past year.  For instance, I remain head-over-heels for all of the attire I included on this board - wedding gown, suit, wedding party dress, shoes - everything!  I'm still crazy for the anenomes and the mix-and-match black/white patterns make my heart skip a beat.  I'm not so sure about the Moroccan-style lamps, the feathers, the white linens with blue sashes, or the ornamental cake decoration.  And clearly we were thinking that we'd have more of a general paisley theme than we're going for now. 

Looking at the board as a whole, the overall style feels a lot less modern, doesn't it?  I'm so very much in love with the wedding that lives in my head right now, that I hope it doesn't go through many more changes in the next year.  Maybe that's wishful thinking...  But since I'm pretty sure I won't be making another inspiration board, at least I won't have photographic evidence of any changes that do happen!

How did your wedding style evolve over time?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pefect Palette

You've seen hints of our color scheme here and here, and you heard me name the colors here, so I thought it was high time for me to put together an honest-to-goodness pallete picture because...  umm... because I've seen other people do it?  Oh, stop laughing!  You know you've succumbed to the "all the other brides are doing it" pressure at some point, too.  Kinda like when I made that inspiration board - which I've never really looked at again since the fateful day I spent about 6 hours working on it.  But that's a post for another time.

Let's bring it on back around to the point of *this* post.  I know you're waiting with baited breath (btw, what does that even mean?!  Sounds disgusting.).  So without further ado, I give you our perfect pallete.

We are really drawn to monochromatic color schemes with bright pops of color.  As proof, please witness our bedroom:

The only reason we didn't go with the black/white/yellow palette for our wedding was because it's everywhere right now (for good reason, I might add - it's fabulous!), and I wanted something a bit more unique.  I adore me some gray/hot pink and gray/purple combos, but I knew Mr. NM wouldn't go for those hues.  I also love black/gray/red together, but coming from a Georgia Tech family, there's *no way* I would ever even hint that there's one iota of Georgia Bulldog in me, so that was out.  Looking around the house Mr. NM and I decorated together, we realized that we always gravitate towards cool colors, particularly the colors of the sea.  We both can't get enough of the ocean, so our initial thought (oh, about 2.5 years ago) was to use green as the accent color.  I was down with that at first, but lime green really is Mr. NM's favoritest color ever, and eventually I realized it felt like I wasn't reflected enough in the color scheme.  So then we turned to cobalt blue, and we never looked back.  It's fresh, it's bright, it's different, and it will look great with my eyes.  Oh, I kid! no i don't. I kid!  At long last, a perfect palette we can stick with! 

How many color schemes did you go through before you finally stuck with one?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mad Hot Ballroom

(Did you see the movie?  So good!)

When I revealed our venue here, I mentioned how we're hoping to create a non-"traditional ballroom reception" reception.  I wanna elucidate on that a little bit.

So what do I mean by traditional ballroom receptions?  Here's what I picture when I hear that phrase.

Clearly there are so many ways to be "hotel ballroom" lovely.  And yet, as you know, my eye wanders to these very non-ballroom images.

Notice any similarities amongst these pictures?  If you said "outdoor weddings," then you win the prize!  Yes, the style of decoration that we love the most is primarily found in outdoor weddings (or at least blogland pictures of outdoor weddings).  If your answer to the above question was "colorful!" then you also win the prize.  All these fun handmade details are saturated with color, color, and more color.

Yet we're having a hotel ballroom wedding with a color scheme of black, white, charcoal gray, light gray, and cobalt blue.  Indoor wedding---muted color scheme.  Almost sounds like a description of those top photos, huh?  Therein lies the rub.  We're trying to work out how you seamlessly integrate all these different features in a cool eclectic way rather than a randomly thrown together way.  In my mind's eye I can totally see it all coming together brilliantly, but it's ridiculously hypothetical at this point.  2+ years of trolling wedding blogs has not yielded many images that realistically illustrate how we could use the decorative elements we love in a venue like ours.  But as you know, I'm stubborn and perfectionistic to my very core - so I can't be stopped!  We're gonna make it open, just you wait and see.

Anyone else have a hard time envisioning how the decorations you love will translate into the venue you chose?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What To Do With My Face

As you may have noticed in my previous posts, I have two facial piercings.  There's a tiny diamond nose ring I've had for about 5 years and an eyebrow ring I've had for 10 years.  (Yes, I am aware that *no one* has an eyebrow ring any more.  That's part of my dilemma...)  In general, I am completely oblivous to them.  And just for the record, I am not "alternative," at least appearance-wise, in any other way.  No tattoos, no zany wardrobe, no brightly colored hair.*   I work a professional job and no one has ever asked me about them in a job interview or any other work setting (take that, Mom!). 

{both piercings on display, albeit a larger eyebrow ring than I have now}

A few years ago, on a total whim, I decided I'd outgrown my eyebrow ring and I took it out of my face for the very first time ever.  And I freaked the eff out!  I didn't recognize my face anymore.  I started crying, and I called Mr. NM to ask for his help in putting it pack in (a story in its own right).  After that experience I've twice decreased the size of the ring to make it less conspicuous, and I'm pretty happy with how it looks now.  (The nose ring is so teensy that most people don't notice it anyway, so I hardly ever think about it.)When I ask my friends about it, they all tell me that they love it, they can't imagine me without it, and that it's super unique and "Ms. M-esque" because few other people have eyebrow piercings right now.  But I've always had the nagging sense that someday I'd feel "too old" or "too professional" or "too uninterested in piercings," and I'd take it out for good. 

I never considered that I might feel "too bride-y" for my eyebrow ring - but I kinda do.  Although I have no idea of the kind of image I want to project of myself on our wedding day, I'm not positive that an eyebrow ring will fit the image.  On the other hand, I honestly can't imagine taking it out and not having that very visible piece of myself present on such a big day.  I mean, I literally don't have a single picture of myself without my eyebrow ring since I was... wait for it...  19 years old!  How would I react to having ALL of our wedding pictures feature me without the eyebrow ring?

Here's a photoshopped before-and-after I did so you can see what my gorgeous face looks like without my statement piercing:

{before and after}
 So my wedding question to you is, do I stick with the face I've known for 10 years, or do I take the plunge now so I can get used to it before the wedding?  And if you've had a similar question for yourself, how did you ultimately decide what to do?

*Not that there's anything wrong with having an "alternative" appearance, obviously - even in a professional setting.  I'm sure as hell alternative in other ways and couldn't be prouder of that!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Crafting the Card Box

The wedding blogosphere indicates you need a cardbox.  Some people in our lives have questioned this, but when I googled "Do I need a cardbox at my wedding?" much of the web evidence points to "yes."  We decided to use a gray box we already had (a gift box from some shaving stuff Mr. NM received last year) because it was the perfect size and, yes, free.  While I was taking a post-wedding-meltdown nap one day, Mr. NM put his spin on our cardbox.  He said to me, "If this were just my wedding, this is the way I would do the cardbox."

He was afraid I would post this picture here to make fun of him, but I'm really not.  I post it as evidence of what our strengths and weaknesses are in this relationship.  Mr. NM's strength has always been functionality.  He took a box that had a lift-off lid and he used painter's tape (in our wedding color!) to create a "hinge" on the back of the box.  It works like a dream!  Then he used my craft machines and paper to make the letters. 

My strength is aesthetics. 

And here's the tutorial:

First I used my die cutting machine (the Big Shot) to cut out the skyline image, which I then backed in white.  Use an adhesive eraser to remove the excess adhesive showing in the windows or around the edges. 

Then I used Mod Podge (gloss finish) to secure it to the box and seal the top.  Using a foam brush, I painted Mod Podge onto the box, stuck on the syline paper, and then painted more on the top.  I did about 4 layers of Mod Podge without waiting for it to dry in-between.  When it's wet, it's white like this.

After it dries, it looks like this.

I was surprised how much the color of the paper changed in this process.  On the left side is the Mod Podged paper, and on the right side is the black paper beforehand.

And so you don't make the same mistake I did, make sure to prop your box open before applying the Mod Podge.  Otherwise you will have to use an Exacto knife to pry open your box, like I did.  Which I "fixed" with a gray marker.

Then I moved on to the ribbon border on the lid.  I cut the ribbon to length and sealed the edges with a flame.  I then attached it to the back "hinge" on the box with hot glue.  I ran dots of hot glue about 1/2 inch apart, a few at a time (so they wouldn't dry before I could put the ribbon on). 

Next I assembled the "striped" ribbon, layering a thin black ribbon on top of my silver ribbon.  I cut two lengths to do the left and right sides of the lid, sealed the ribbon edges, and attached them to the lid. 

For the top and bottom edges of the lid, I cut my lengths a little longer than the lid itself so that I could wrap them around to the bottom side, which creates a more finished look.

Now the box just needs a sign.  I created the digital layout for the cut file with the program that my Bosskut Gazelle uses. 

I cut out two pieces, backing the blue paper with white so there was a border and the letters would clearly show through.  I attached it to the lid with minimal adhesive so that I could easily take the sign off later and reuse the box for other purposes.

In order to prop up the lid, I "cut" a length of wire (from a wire hanger) by bending it back and forth repeatedly in the same spot until it snapped.  This is easier if you use a pair of pliers to hold the wire still.  Coloring it black with a permanent market made it blend in better.  I made an L-shaped bend on both ends, hot gluing one bend to a bottom interior corner of the box, then the other to the bottom of the lid.  I only put the minimal amount of hot glue necessary to hold the wire because I want to later take the wire out and allow the box to close fully again.

Voila!  There you have it.  A DIY-chic-unique card box that cost almost nothing to create and can be reused for other purposes in the future. 

Where do you stand on the cardbox / no cardbox issue?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Negotiating Holidays with a Newly Bi-Coastal Family

My entire extended family (4 grandparents, 10 aunts and uncles, 15 cousins, 8 cousin's spouses, 5 cousin's children) all lives within a two hour radius of one another.  Until now, this had made the holiday season a relative (ha! relatives - get it?!) no-brainer.  My father's side of the family gets together every Christmas eve, my immediate family does Christmas morning on our own, and then we go see my mother's side of the family for the afternoon of Christmas day.  It's been this way since before I was born and our tradition is practically etched in stone. 

{mom's side of the family, from several years ago, and we've grown since then}

Mr. NM, on the other hand, has an extended family that's more spread out.  His immediate family lives in San Francisco (although his sister has now moved to Maryland), and his extended family is spread out from Los Angeles to Toronto and multiple cities in-between.  When he was younger his immediate family went to LA for the holidays, but then they began to stay in SF.  They have their own holiday traditions, but nothing as jam-packed a routine as my family has.

So far Mr. NM and I have not spent a Christmas together, instead spending the holiday with our own families.  Then we would use New Year's Eve as "our Christmas." 

{New Year's Eve/Christmas of 2006}

Having moved to the Left Coast several years ago (and being the only person in my familiy to have moved away), I've had a lot of time (and reason) to think about how I would want to spend holidays in the future.  Even though it pains me to think about giving up my family's holiday traditions, I don't like the idea of traveling with kids over the holidays, and it feels really important for me that my children have Christmas in their own home.  So I'm in the process of trying to work out alternate times for my extended family to get together in future years.  It's tough, for sure.  But it's the future.

Oh but the right now.  Well...  Because Christmas is such a big deal in my family, no one has ever gotten married without bringing their significant other to at least one year's gathering (and usually multiple years).  I didn't even notice this fact until I was engaged myself, and I realized that it wouldn't be kosher to send invitations to family members who hadn't met Nr. NM.  We should just go to Georgia for Christmas then, right?  But going to Georgia for Christmas to see my family means Mr. NM would have to miss Christmas with his family, take extra days off work, and we'd have to shell out the money to pay for his ticket - not to mention that I'd be introducing him to my family without any sense of how accepting they will be of him or of our relationship. 

The debate on this topic raged intensely in our house for a couple weeks, and in the end it was decided that we will be going to Georgia together.  It wasn't an easy decision and there's a part of me that worries it will be a tough trip.  Yet there's also a bigger part of me that's hopeful my family will be loving and supportive (or at least silent if they're not supportive) and that Mr. NM will get to see firsthand the kind of magical holiday experience I've held in great esteem for as long as I can remember.

How do you negotiate the holidays between you and your SO's families?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oh Venue, Our Venue!

We scheduled an appointment for the Parc 55 Hotel in downtown San Francisco and met with Daniela, the director of catering.  Initially she showed us around several event spaces on the lower floors.  I don't have pictures of most of these (sorry, I kept forgetting my camera for these site visits!), but there were several smaller rooms where Daniela told us we could have our ceremony.  Then there were some larger rooms where she said we could hold the reception.  After viewing all these rooms, I aked her on a whim whether they had any spaces with unbelievable views, even if the room wasn't technically an event space.  She led us up to the Club Lounge on the 30-somethingth floor.  The room is small and awkwardly laid out, not all of ours guests would be able to have a seat, and there are some elements of the room we would definitely need to camouflage. 

That said, ohmystars - the view!  Just... breathtaking!  The room has a panoramic feel, with windows on several sides overlooking downtown San Francisco and the bay.  Mr. NM and I were floored.  We stood there quietly staring out the windows together, taking in the unspoken agreement beginning to form for both of us that we really wanted to get married in that.very.spot.  In my mind I was trying to picture what those windows would look like at night, full of city lights.  Going back to the site a few nights ago, here is what I found:

{Forgive the terrible quality.  But even with it, you can see the awesomeness, right?}

Ahmazing!  We love, love, love it!  Of course, like any space, it has its challenges.  The view from the entry door is strange:

{ceremony location on the other side of this built-in marble table}

There are some cabinets, a tv, and a breakfast prep area that I'd like to conceal:

{Any idea how we could cover these?}

And... the thing I hadn't given all that much thought to, the lighting issue:

{oh hello, strange lighting scheme and uninvited reflection}

If you notice in this picture, you can see that the lighting scheme consists of overhead recessed lighting (not on because it's bright) and several floor lamps (awkward for a ceremony, yeah?).  Also, and this is the dealbreaker for me, the lamplight is being reflected in the window!  Yes, in the window that would be our ceremony backdrop!  I want pictures of us in front of the city lights, not us in front of reflections of floor lamps.  So we're going to send some of these pictures to our photographers and ask for their input about how to tackle the lighting in the room. 

So that's the unique little space where we're going to hold the ceremony.  Then everyone will traipse downstairs to the ballroom, where we will use 2 of the 3 ballroom sections.  Here is one of the sections set up conference-style:

{let's just keep this set-up, shall we?}

*FYI*  I am not a person who is generally compelled by pictures of traditional hotel ballroom receptions.  This is probably somewhat due to the fact that we're not having flowers, we're not using round tables, we're not having a dj, etc etc...  ya know, all the things that are usually associated with hotel ballroom receptions.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with those things, of course.  They just don't represent the look or feel that we're going for.

I'm putting everyone on notice right now, then, that we are absurdly committed to having a non-traditional "traditional hotel wedding/reception."  The first step was choosing an offbeat ceremony location.  The next step is to successfully decorate the ballroom in a way that conveys our Fun-DIY-Chic--Modern-Unique style.  I already have a lot of ideas, but of course it's the execution that counts!

And there you have it - our venue at last!  As well as my promise to you that I'll share all my decor ideas and tutorials in case you, too, would like to put your own stamp on the hotel ballroom wedding experience!

Did you look at hotels in your venue search - why or why not?