Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Our At-Home Cake Tasting

One thing people frequently told us after we got engaged was that the only perk of wedding planning is the free cake tastings.  Personally, I think there have actually been a lot of perks (like, for instance, blogging for all of you!).  But I do love me some cake, so I was looking forward to that perk in particular.  There was a wrench in that plan, though.  We wanted to save money in the wedding cake department, which is why we opted to go with a dessert buffet rather than a traditional multi-tiered wedding cake.  We wanted the center cake on the display to be a small, "top tier"-esque cake.  Just enough so that we could have the fancy wedding cake experience without actually having a full-on multi-tier cake.

{like one of these side cakes}
cake by Cater It Simple, image via the Cater It Simple Flickr page

cake by For the Love of Cake; image via their Flickr page

Well what we found out is that when you want to have a really small, really cheap fancy wedding cake then places don't readily offer free tastings.  We considered skipping the tasting experience altogether, but we just couldn't shake the feeling that $100 was still a lot of money to spend on a cake that we'd have no idea what it was going to taste like.

Luckily, after many an email, we found a woman who offered to prepare a $12 "tasting box" for us that we could try on our own prior to ordering with her.  And that, my friends, is how we ended up doing our cake tasting on our living room couch.

As you can tell from the picture, we were so excited to dig in that we were halfway through with the flavors before I remembered to pull out my camera. In case you were curious our flavor options were red velvet, salted caramel and toffee, citrus, vanilla and fresh strawberries, devil's food with mocha, chocolate with coconut and ganache, and chocolate with rasberry jam and fudge.

I'm so very glad that we got to do this tasting because we ended up with a flavor that we never would've chosen otherwise.  If we'd had to pick off a list, I would've preferred to go with something safe that I could be sure we'd both like.  Maybe the vanilla and fresh strawberries, because anything more exotic would have been too big a risk.  But because we got to do our at-home tasting, we learned that the unusual-sounding salted caramel with toffee is delicious!  I absolutely cannot wait to see how our little skyline cake will turn out, and how it will look surrounded by all of our other desserts and topped with our custom cake topper (which I will totally show you once I have it).

Moral of the story: if something is important to you (like a tasting), don't be afraid to keep asking (politely, of course) if you're not initially able to find what you're looking for.  Hopefully it will only take you a few tries before someone says yes.

Has there been anything you've had to ask for because it wasn't offered at first?  Were you eventually successful?

Friday, August 26, 2011

When Procrastination Pays Off

For over a year now now Mr. FW and I have talked about having a photobooth at our wedding.  First we considered DIYing it like so many fabulous bees before me have done.   Seriously, if you are considering going that route, check out those tutorials for a near-exhaustive rundown of all the various ways you can DIY a photobooth.  With so much information out there, I was sure this was a project we could take on.  Then, the days and months kept ticking by and the the list of projects kept mounting, so that finally at some point we decided we better look into the cost of hiring someone to make our photobooth dream come true.

But having seen so many DIY photobooths in blogland, I was dead set on avoiding the old-school photobooth that could only seat a few people on a bench.  Instead I wanted a massive booth that would easily hold a whole group of people.

{like Hot Wings and her crew}
image by Eric Dos Santos via Weddingbee

{also Coconut and her crew}
image by Jason Angelini via Weddingbee

Unfortunately, those booths generally come with a pretty high price tag - probably because they're operated by actual photographers rather than remote controls.  Completely understandable.  But still multiple hundred dollars over what we'd allocated in our budget.  So... having seen those price tags, we procrastinated some more.  We still really wanted a photobooth, but we were starting to think we wouldn't be able to afford one.

We literally had not talked about the photobooth dilemma for the last month.  Then, out of the blue this morning we both received an email from Amazon Local Deals (which I assume is a new Groupon-type service that Amazon is offering).  It was for a photobooth company offering a package that had *everything* we were looking for, all for hundreds less than our budgeted amount.  They might not be able to squeeze fifteen full-bodied people into a frame, but they can handle a group and that's good with me.  We called them right away to be sure they were available on our wedding date, and they were!  So you better believe we purchased that deal with lightning speed and then immediately confirmed our date with them.

We have a photobooth!  That we can afford!  That will be almost the only thing at our reception we won't have to build, store, and set-up ourselves!  That was handsdown the easiest, least stressful decision we've made in months!  I know I shouldn't be an advocate of procrastination because, as a procrastinator, I am well-aware of the adverse consequences.  But just this once, it totally paid off.

Don't you just love when things are easy?!  Have any of your wedding decisions unexpectedly fallen in your lap?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lobe Indecision

My thoughts about wedding day earrings were along the same lines as everything else when it comes to this wedding: "I'm not sure what I'm looking for, but I don't think this is it. I'm certain I'll know it when I see it." I've concocted a fuzzy mental image of the earrings I'm looking for, but as far as I can tell they're not anything that's ever been manufactured in the history of the world. Freaking out that my indecision would result in bare lobes, I sucked it up and bought some earrings that I knew weren't "perfect" but would probably be "perfectly suitable." Today they came in, and they're quite lovely.

Generally jewelry isn't really my thing, but I love earrings and I like them BIG. So I'm just not sure these baubles are as... ostentacious? distinctive? statement-y? as I want them to be.

{ignore the post-gym attire and just focus on the bling}

At this point, though, I've exhausted all of my best interwebz researcher skills. I just don't know where else to look, which means these might be my final decision by default. So indecisive...

Hive, help me out! Do you know of a place I could look for big sparkly earrings?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

When DIY Is Exactly What You Want It To Be

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but we've done (and continue to do) a lot of DIY for our wedding. Even with the multitude of projects we've undertaken, I will be the first to admit that DIY doesn't always mean cheaper or better. (Goodness knows it never means easier or faster, but I suppose that's the natural and expected consequence of 'doing it yourself.') Yet I do think in the long run there's some kind of even trade-off that happens - either you are able to save a little money on a project because you've invested your own time and energy, or you end up spending the same (or more) money as you would've to buy something in a store but you feel like the end result is more personalized and perfect.

Well folks, today I feel like I completed the holy grail of DIY projects. Something that saved me money, gave me exactly what I was looking for, and was unbelievably fast and easy to boot. I can't wait to share it with the hive because I just know there are a handful of you out there who will want to attempt this project for yourself.

Okay, before I tell you what I'm talking about...

Alright, now that it's just us I can tell you that my little DIY project has to do with what I'm going to be wearing in my hair / on my head. For someone who hasn't been all that into the attire portion of our wedding day plans, I've been surprisingly certain I wanted to wear something sparkly in my hair. When I looked for inspiration on Etsy, I quickly stumbled on a few gorgeous headbands that really caught my eye.

white headband - Etsy seller Gracefully Girly - $54; black headband - Etsy seller LiveInStyle - $27

I liked both of these and several others, but I didn't want to shell out the money to order multiple ones just to test them out. And the longer I looked at them, the more convinced I became that I could make something similar if only I could find beaded decorations that I liked. A quick eBay search (keywords: black or white beaded applique) yielded options nearly identical to those above, and they were cheap enough to order both. When they came in and I compared them in my hair, I knew instantly that I'd found "the one."

The process to get it from an applique to a wedding-ready accessory was super easy and took right at an hour start to finish. First I gathered my materials: applique, headband (thin, fabric-covered headband from Target for $1), felt, scissors, pen, and a hot glue gun. I had all the materials except for the applique and headband, so the total cost of this project was less than $10 (less than $15 if you count the second applique I ordered). Score!

I decided to back it with some felt to make it less transparent and smoother along the bottom. I thought I'd like the black felt, but once I saw it on the white I really loved how it made the black rhinestones pop.

I flipped the applique upside down and very lightly traced it onto the felt. Once I had it all cut out to the right size, I heat singed the edges to get rid of stray fuzzies. Then I hot glued it onto the applique.

Next I cut out a felt circle and glued part of it onto the middle of the applique, inserted the headband, then glued the edge on the other side. I left this wide gap for the headband so that I could try it on and shift the applique to the exact location I wanted it prior to permanently gluing it down.

Once I had it in the right place, I glued the ends of the applique onto the headband and added a little more glue under the center circle.

And that was it. So are you ready to see the final product??? Oooooh... I'm ready to show you!

And just how smashing does it look on me? You'll have to stay tuned to find out. :-)

When has DIY gone right for you, and what's been your most rewarding DIY project?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Even The Easy Things Aren't So (Or, How I Over-Complicate Everything)

Last night on our way home from running some wedding errands Mr. FW noticed, "We're taking turns breathing heavy sighs." And once he said that I realized I, too, could hear the sounds of deep, controlled inhales alternating with unsatisfactory exhales. For the first time it was really starting to weigh on us just how how little time is left before our wedding day and just how much needs to get finished during that limited time. We are working on wedding projects constantly at this point, and days are flying by at breakneck speed. Yet it never seems the list gets any shorter. In fact, for every one item that we start or complete, at least one other item gets tacked on. So we both get ridiculously giddy when we find a project that seems like it will be quick and easy to cross off the list.

The ring dish should've been one of those easy items - "should" being the operative word here. Mr. FW spent an hour or two combing Etsy to find a few good options, one of which we both agreed would be perfect for us.

image from Etsy shop Cats Paw Pottery

One dish for the wedding, one to go on my nightstand right away. Affordable, patterned but simple, our choice of colors, and the seller would create a hole in one of them so that we could tie on the rings. Perfect!

{the color is more silvery and shiny than it looks in this picture}

When the box arrived I was so excited to see how the dishes turned out, and I knew that this project would be SO EASY to finish once I tied on a little ribbon. Uh huh... I pulled out some stand-in rings and my bag of ribbon, then the over-complicated, over-thinking, annoyingly-Goldilocksish mentality set in.

{"This one is too simple."}

It all started there, and it moved on to this...

{Top L-R: too unattractive, too strange, too pretty, too big; Bottom L-R: too busy, too overpowering, too much, too many bows}

After several hours of ribbon tying, what-oh-what did we end up with?

{"Just right."}

If you guessed "right back where you started" then you win the prize. Yep - Mr. FW really liked the simplicity of that one. By this point I kinda hated all ribbon, nothing looked good to me any more, and I was desperate - desperate, I tell you - to just finish this project and go to bed. So, simple blue ribbon is "just right" for us.

Finally this project was done. But more than that, the point was clearly made that I really, really need to put a lid on this over-complicating tendency I have or we're never going to finish things in time for the wedding.

This should have been so easy...

What Goldilocks wedding moments have you experienced and how did you finally reach your "just right" solution?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Embracing the Non-Fancy Footwear

I bought my wedding day shoes, and they cost $16. Mmmhmm... True story. Well, at least that's the true gist of the story, although it was a smidge more complicated than all that. (When is that not the case for me? Seriously.)

Sometime around the fall or winter of 2009 I decided that I really liked shoes from Aldo and I was planning to purchase a couple of pairs online. As I always do, I checked the clearance section before I placed my order - you know, just in case there were any not-to-be-missed deals. Now, you'll recall that we'd already finalized our wedding colors by then, which is why the sapphire blue flats caught my eye. I always knew I'd wear flats for the wedding because, as much as I love heels and even find they can be comfortable for limited periods of time, there's no way I wanted to risk having aching feet on our wedding day.

Okay, so... these shoes caught my eye, they seemed like they'd be the right color, and the price was certainly right - so I bought them. I figured I could return them if the color was off. Or, if I eventually decided not to wear them for the wedding, then I'd just have some cute blue flats for everyday wear.

Over the almost two years I've had these shoes (and yes, they're still brand new) I've mentioned them to a couple people, and it always seemed to me that people thought they weren't fancy enough. I don't know if it's because they're flats, or that they're simple, or that there's nothing glittery or blingy about them. Whatever it was, it eventually had me worrying that I needed shoes that were more 'special' or 'fancy.' So these shoes just sat in a box in the closet because I was feeling a little embarrassed that I ever thought $16 casual flats would be suitable as wedding shoes.

Then about a week ago Mr. FW's amazing wedding shoes came in and we both love them, especially when they're paired with his wedding socks.

And I was reminded, again, that we're not trying to have a super fancy wedding. Sure, there are some elegant and fancy elements of our day, but on the whole there are way more casual, laidback, handmade elements than there are fancy ones. Sometimes I get unnecessarily freaked out worrying that things will looks like a random mishmash of pieces because everything doesn't have exactly the same level of formality. But then I look back at our completed projects and our mock-ups and my photoshopped collages of things and I'm able to soothe myself because I see proof that everything really is forming a cohesive whole. There are certain stylistic themes that are running through every aspect of our day, and one of those themes, in fact, might well be dubbed "fun, not formal." So I'm fully embracing our fun, non-fancy footwear. I think they look great together, and I'm more than a little stoked about that price tag. Now I just can't wait to see them with the dress!

What wedding purchases have you been uncertain about, and how did you resolve that uncertainty for yourself? Is there something you've found that's a helpful reminder for you about the style of your wedding?

Monday, August 8, 2011

The H Word

ring from Etsy seller Kablamindustries

The other day someone asked about where we were going on our honeymoon, and at some point in that conversation I casually said that Mr. FW would be my "newly minted husband."

And it stopped me right in my tracks.

That word. Husband. Hu... husb... (slowly now) huusssbaaand. So weird. So foreign. When I said it there were no warm fuzzies, no contended smiles about this idea of someone being my husband. To be completely honest (and I know this is harsh), it felt icky to utter that word. Sure, it always takes a while to adjust to new circumstances, and trust me when I say that I have a keen understanding of what it takes to integrate new names, labels, and roles for the people in our lives. I get it. But this felt like more than just a lack of familiarity with the H word. This felt like a lack of comfort with the concept, and that surprised me.

I'm not completely sure where the discomfort comes from. What does it mean to have a husband? For that matter, what does it mean to be a wife? Taken to the next level, what does it mean to be a queer person with a husband or a wife? And to really throw a wrench in the gears, what does it mean to be an invisibly queer person with a husband or a wife?

One thing I've been reflecting on is the terminology in our relationship and how it hasn't taken that direct path from dating --> boyfriend --> husband (obviously). Nope, we went from dating --> partner, and we've stayed there for at least the past four years. Many people in our community refer to their significant others as partners for a variety of reasons - acknowledgement that their relationship is treated differently in the eyes of the law, solidarity with the queer community, recognition that their relationship is more significant than just casual dating, etc. For me, 'partner' signified that we had made a lasting commitment to one another - moreso, I guess, than whatever commitment I assumed 'girlfriend' implied.

But I also think it had something to do with Mr. FW's gender presentation. As you know, he was never a stereotypical female, so the term girlfriend didn't seem to fit anyway. (For the record, I'm not advocating using the term 'girlfriend' only when a person is stereotypically female. If someone is butch, genderqueer, gender variant, male, or anything else and they want to be a 'girlfriend' - more power to them. I strongly believe that everyone has the right to pick/change/shun their own labels. I'm just saying that particular label didn't work for us.) Even when we talked about getting married before his transition, I don't think I actively considered the possibility that I'd then have a 'wife,' although I sincerely hope if we had gone that route that I'd have found a way to embrace the term as passionately (and politically) as Ms. Stripes writes about in this amazing guest post on So You're Engayged.

People have different feelings about the term partner, and that's okay. For me, partner is a powerful word, made even more powerful since my exit from the world of visibly queer folk. It's not a perfect word, and yet it's a word that connects me to my community, history and beliefs. It makes a statement about who I am in a way that the H word never will. When gay male couples use the term husband to refer to each other, they take brave steps forward in staking a claim to the important social and political ground occupied by that language. When I use the H word it moves nothing forward. In fact, it feels like that word makes invisible some of the ground I've been able to claim for myself.

Clearly this is all a personal choice, and a culturally-constructed one at that. It's about who you are, where you've been, where you are now, who you're with, and where you're going - together. Me? I'm an invisibly queer woman who grew up deep in the Bible Belt, currently living in the leftest city on the Left Coast. I'm connected by the heartstrings to an invisibly trans man, and we're working to build a future and a family together - a journey that began long before we'll ever be married. Mix it all together, and 'partner' is what I come up with. Does that mean I'll never use the H word? I honestly can't answer that. Right now it doesn't seem at all appealing, so I'm perfectly happy to stick with the label that feels most comfortable to me. And if I change my mind one day I'm sure I'll have good reasons for it, and I'll be perfectly happy with that as well.

Tell me, Hive. How have you grappled with language and terminology during the course of your relationship?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

We Are Ballers... String Ballers

My mom was kind enough to visit us recently to lend her wedding elf services. (Thanks, Mom!) Little did she know she'd be spending her time out here developing an intimate relationship with balls. We're talking large balls, small balls, fragile balls, scattered balls, stacked balls, and everyone's favorite - flaky balls. Oh yeah, we were ballin' out of control, and I'm just dying to show you what we accomplished.

I'm so proud, and so relieved, to to say that this box contains 136 small, black and white string balls. Tutorials for these things are all over the internet, but I'll add my two cents as well. And if you want to see our mock-up of how we plan to use these beauties, just scroll straight to the bottom of this post. I won't be upset. :-)

The materials were incredibly cheap given the visual impact they'll make, but it is a project that requires a lot of time and patience. We started with a box full of small ballons, Stiffy fabric stiffener, size 3 crochet thread, and a glass bowl to hold the fabric stiffener. We experimented with embroidery floss because it's cheap and comes in so many colors, but the resulting ball didn't hold it's shape. And if I had it all to do over again I would get white or clear balloons because sometimes the balloon color rubbed off on the white string.

We learned the hard way that the trick to getting nice, clean string balls that aren't full of glue flakes is to DILUTE the fabric stiffener with a bit of water before you start. I can't stress this enough, and I promise you will thank me for sharing this with you. Even just a little bit of water makes a huge difference. I also suggest 'rounding' your balloons before you get started so your string balls look less balloon-like. Soak your thread in the fabric stiffener mixture and then 'squeeze' out the excess before placing the string on your balloon. I found it easier to soak and squeeze a long length of string at a time so that I could wrap more continuously, but you don't want to do too much at once because the string will knot and the glue will start to dry.

Some tutorials suggest tying the string onto the balloon before you start wrapping, but we found that made it much more difficult to remove the balloon after the string dried. So we just laid the string on the balloon and then wrapped it a few times to stabilize the end of the thread.

By the time I'd made a couple dozen of these, I had developed a wrapping system that was faster and resulted in a rounder shape. It's hard to explain, but imagine your balloon is a globe and the balloon knot is at the North Pole. I started wrapping my string 3-4 times around the 'equator,' then I wrapped it from the North to South pole and pulled the string tightly, which pushes out the air in the middle of the balloon. You'll be able to see it getting rounder. To hold that shape, continue wrapping from north to south all around the balloon. The outcome looks a bit like a pumpkin with vertical lines going all the way around.

Once that shape is formed, you can wrap string to your little heart's content until you're happy with the look. Cut the string and then loop the end twice under another string on the balloon. This will keep it from unwrapping and/or becoming loose while it's drying. To string them up, we poked a paper clip through the knot and hung it on a line running through our house. They're so pretty this way, you might not want to pop them!

Give them 24 hours to dry, then pop the balloons with a straight pin. Some of them will deflate right away, and some will slowly unstick themselves from the string over the course of a few minutes. Hopefully you'll then have a perfectly formed string ball with no unsightly flakes.

Here were our final stats: We were able to get about thirty 3-4" balls per bottle of fabric stiffener and twelve small balls (or three large 8-10" balls) per spool of thread. Once we had a routine going, each of us were able to make about ten small balls per hour or three large balls per hour. Total cost of all centerpieces for twelve 8-foot tables (including string, fabric stiffener, balloons, hurricane vases, and tealight candles) is $202.47 or $16.87 per table. Not too shabby!

If you made it this far, then I'll reward you with a picture of our centerpiece mock-up. The only thing we have in our house that's eight feet long (like our reception tables) is our window seat, so you'll have to forgive the bright back-lighting. Imagine this with a very light gray tablecloth, sapphire blue tealight candles in the votives, and a hurricane vase that's just a smidge taller. If you've got all that in your mind, then you're picturing our centerpieces!

Love. LOVE! Oh, how I adore seeing it all come together like this! It's so satisfying to know that all of our hard work is paying off - both in dollars and in aesthetics. *happy sigh*

What wedding project has been particularly rewarding for you?