Friday, August 3, 2012

Was It Worth It?

Our first anniversary is fast approaching, and as it does, I reflect upon the experience and upon a simple question that I have been asked.

Was it worth it?

As you've probably figured out from all of my complaining, this wedding was a pretty stressful experience for me.  I put a ton of work into it, and for the last two months, I didn't sleep, I lost weight, I was constantly thinking and worrying about it, trying to get it all together the way we envisioned it.  Several people have asked me whether it was all worth it, whether I'm glad I sacrificed all those hours to create the wedding I wanted, the wedding we wanted.  Well, now that it's been almost a year, I've had enough time to reflect and produce an answer.

The short answer is that nothing is ever worth putting yourself through that kind of stress.  But that's more of a problem with me than anything to do with the wedding.  I get stressed out easily and often for things that aren't really worth it.  I also get stressed out intensely for things that I care about, and for something that lasts as long as planning a wedding, it's even more brutal because the end is such a long time coming.  AND you have to enjoy it when it gets there which just adds to the pressure.

So you see the problem in the way that I think.  I've been fighting the stress monster for a long time, and no matter what kind of wedding we had, that was going to be an issue.  But if I was going to do it again--and I so dearly hope I'll never need to--I'd try to be more relaxed about it, both the planning process and our plans themselves.  Then again, I've already had the wedding I wanted, so it wouldn't be such a burden to do it again...and so lies the problem with weddings; they only happen once.

But my problems were always going to be my problems.  Whether I should have worked harder to abait them does not necessarily tell us whether the wedding we had was worth all that went into it because those problems would have been there for any wedding I had.  There is a greater question to answer here:  was the work I (and I say I instead of we not because we didn't put in a lot of work but because Daniel doesn't need to dwell on this question) put into the wedding worth the result?

That answer is much more complicated.  Obviously, stress is a pretty strong deterring factor here, but it's not the only factor.  I spent hours and hours planning and preparing this wedding, hours of research, hours of projects, hours that could have been spent on more enjoyable endeavors.  Then there's the money factor too.  We didn't spend a ton of our personal money on the wedding, but $5,000 is still a lot when you're not making much.  And of course we made our friends put in time and money as well.  Was it all really worth it?

I think most of my friends and family will be surprised to hear that I think it was.

Yes, it was stressful and time-consuming, but the result was the best party I've ever been to, and we loved it.  While it wasn't perfect, nothing went terribly wrong, and that was largely due to my strenuous logistical planning.  While there were things we didn't have and things we would have liked if we could afford them, I don't think there's any object or piece of decor that we felt was missing or inadequate.  The wedding looked and felt very much the way we wanted it to.  Everything ran fairly smoothly, and the things that did go wrong probably could never have been avoided.

When it comes down to it, we never could have had the wedding we wanted without all of the planning and time we put into it.  If I did have to do it again, I wouldn't feel like I was making up for anything significant because we couldn't afford it or didn't have time for it the first time around.  When I think back on my wedding day, I think of it as one of the best days of my life.  Not the best, but it's definitely up there.

That's important to me.  Being not only happy but also satisfied about the way it turned out, that makes it all worth it for me.

So the long, emotional, and complicated answer is "Yes, it was worth it."  The planning sucked at the end, the stress was awful, but at the end of the day, it was only bad for two months.  I will look happily upon my wedding day for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wedding Expenses

When I was trying to create a wedding budget, I found it very difficult to estimate costs.  Some things it was easy to get an idea about, but a lot of little things were difficult for me to judge, having no reference as a guide.  And so, I give to you our budget--our entire budget--so that wedding planning may be a bit easier for you.  Keep in mind that I spent a lot of time trying to find low prices or ways to do things cheaply.  But most of these prices are exact.  A few things we did at the last minute we left off our expense sheet, but for the most part, it is very accurate and complete.

Expense Total Cost
Ceremony Site Fee 500
Ceremony Chairs and Arch 339.55
Book for Officiant 15
Reception Food 4075.12
Bartender Fee 194.63
Drinks (all) 1800
Cake Cutting Fee 52.5
Cake 242
Speakers 319.23
Music 7
Nicole's Dress w/ Alterations 1350
Dress Shipping Costs 51.56
Nicole's Undergarments 184.91
Nicole's Shoes 39.14
Nicole's Hair/Make-up/Nails/Wax 150
Daniel's Tux 132
Daniel's Shoes included
Flower Girl Dress 54.99
Flower Girl Basket 10.91
Flowers (all) 749.15
Vases 71.7
Photography (w/ travel) 1690.13
Photography Prints ?
Videography 0
Paper Necessities  
Invitations (w/ Thank You Cards) 159.28
Place Cards/Guest Comment Cards 20
Book for Guest Comment Cards ?
Nom Monster 26.07
Directions to Reception 10
Rings 430
Marriage License 79
Hotel Room 400
Tulle 23.65
Attendant Gifts 350
Parent Gifts 100
Miscellaneous 226.76
Honeymoon paid by registry
Rehearsal Dinner 0
Totals 13854.28

Actually, looking at it now, this seems off.  I think we spent more like $15,000, so some stuff may be missing from here.  But anyway, it should give you a pretty good idea of what we spent on what.  Hope it helps!

Did you/will you keep extensive records on your wedding expenses?  If you're still planning, does this help?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Yeah Mun: Things to Do in Jamaica; Shopping, Botantical Gardens, and Dunn's River Falls

Our entire trip planning experience in Jamaica was basically built around brochures and packages at the hotel.  This is perfectly opposed to the way I normally travel.  Most of the time, I have everything figured out ahead of time, my own transportation everywhere, and have researched the most efficient and cost-effective way of doing things.

With the wedding planning, I had no time for any of this and frankly no patience for it either.  It was nice not to have to worry about this sort of meticulous planning for once.

Nonetheless, I did miss having a car.  Our resort was removed from the town and pretty much everything else, so taxis and trip buses were the only way to travel, and taxis were beyond ridiculously expensive (I wouldn't pay those prices for a taxi in New York City let alone a country whose economy is shit compared to ours).  If I went back, I would rent a car.  I think it would be worth it for exploring purposes.

Anyway, we wanted to get into the town a bit and burn some cash, so we decided to go on a tour that included shopping and Dunn's River Falls.  We had planned on going to the latter anyway, and adding shopping was fairly inexpensive.  We figured the shops would be overpriced but that we didn't really have other options.

We were right.  I'm sure the tour guides knew the shops they were taking us to were overpriced, but at the time, we didn't see any other option.  We really wanted to buy rum cream.  If you remember, I had fallen in love with this tasty Bailey's alternative at our hotel and desperately wanted to take some home.  We bought two bottles on our shopping trip.  Little did we know that we would find the same bottle $7 cheaper at the airport on the way home.  Anyway.  We bargained for our other souvenirs, and I think what we paid was more reasonable for them.  But the whole experience was rather taxing.  I hate bargaining with a vengeance, but as I said in the last post, I hate getting taking advantage of.  I feel like buying anything in a not-first-world country creates nationality-related problems, and there are times when I'd rather just not buy anything to avoid the experience.

But at least we got our rum cream :).

The fruits of our bargaining labors.

We were surprised to discover that our trip included a visit to a botanical garden which ended up being quite a pleasant experience.  Our guide was...let's say, very local.  We're pretty sure he had no idea what he was talking about, but he was entertaining nonetheless.

Look at him.  He's so cute I could just eat him up!

We did get to see some pretty cool plants regardless of whether the information we received about them was accurate.

I don't remember what these red things were called--Cat's Tails maybe?--but we were all in love with them.

Daniel getting eaten by a banana tree.

I can't remember what this means.  It was something akin to "I love you," I think.

Finally, we left the foliage for Dunn's River Falls.  I must say, as far as value goes, this was the best thing we did on the trip.  It was pretty inexpensive and amazingly cool.  It is also something I wish we could have done without guides.  They slowed us down, and we would have liked to climb the falls more than once and try some trickier routes.  But anyway, it was pretty cool.

You hike up the falls.  Literally.  It's a long, lazy waterfall, and you climb up it.  It was awesome.  Daniel and I are both of an adventurous nature when it comes to this kind of stuff, and after getting our footing, we decided to go the hard way as often as possible.  Daniel actually climbed through a crashing cascade of water at one point.  We enjoyed it immensely.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures since we didn't have a waterproof camera, but this should give you the idea:

And that was our outing.  I'm glad we did it even though there were awkward/frustrating parts.  I still would have liked to have a car, but that would have been an extra expense we didn't really need too.  Next time perhaps.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Yeah Mun: Things to Do in Jamaica, Mystic Mountain

The best things we did in Jamaica were our excursions.  I'm so glad we ended up having money to do something outside the hotel almost every day.  I think we would have gotten really bored otherwise.  Usually on vacations I'm all about go go go and screw the hotel, but for our honeymoon, we figured we'd want to spend most of our time relaxing anyway, so we didn't plan much ahead of time.  It was nice for the first few days, but I definitely got antsy by the third day.  I can't be somewhere and not explore it!  I just don't work that way.

Anywho, we ended up getting so much money from the wedding that we could pretty much do whatever we wanted.  We still kept price in mind but not so much as we usually do.

Our first excursion brought us to Mystic Mountain.  We went for the Jamaican bobsledding, but there was a lot of cool stuff to do there.

First, we took a really long chair lift up the mountain.  It went straight through the jungle and was totally awesome!

Even though the main purpose of the chair lift was to get us up the mountain, it was one of our favorite things about the whole trip.  It was so long that we really had time to savor the jungle and the ocean views.  Highly recommended.

Once we got up there, we entered a whole different world.  There was live music, dancers, and an array of fun touristy activities.  We checked out the Jamaican museum.  I'd never seen a museum outside before, and it was pretty cool if small.  Daniel was particularly pleased to learn that there once were TWO Jewish pirates in Jamaica (I think he's about ready to submit his application to become the third).

We checked out the mountain top waterslide which was pretty cool even if we were the only adults in the pool.  The views were gorgeous.

We're pretty sure this is our resort.

Downtown Ocho Rios

We engaged in various other activities that may or may not have been for adults.

Then is was time for the main event:  Jamaican bobsledding.  This was pretty much the greatest rollercoaster I have ever been on not because it was extra fast or had a crazy track but because you could control it yourself.  The thrill is so much greater when you have the power to go at full speed and decide when it's time to break.  It was awesome!  Plus, you really can't not like a rollercoaster that goes through the rainforest, so close to the trees that you can touch them (why no, I would never do that, I kept my hands and arms inside at all times, yep, that definitely happened...).

OK, so these were taken after we got down the mountain, whatever, you get the idea.

After that thrilling adventure, we embarked on another and ziplined down the mountain.  I had done a zipline before in Hawaii which was a little cooler, but this was still tons of fun.  And I think it was longer and faster than the one in Hawaii, so it definitely gets points for that.  Our guides were funny.  They were laughing and joking with each other the whole time and gave us all a scare when they pretended we would have to zipline straight down.

Ready to Roll

After a leisurely ride back down on the chair lift, our Mystic Mountaining was at an end, but the adventure wasn't.  We still had some time before our bus got back, so we ventured across the street to explore a bit.

There were several parts of the trip during which I felt awkward being a foreign tourist, and this was one of them.  I want to support the local economy, but I hate being taken advantage of.  We walked down the road a bit and wanted to go explore off road by the water a bit, but the one easily accessible place was crawling with locals who wanted to "show us" the area.  In other words, walk us down the hill and then demand money for it.  I hate that.  We ended up leaving because I was so frustrated trying to say, "I want to go down but not with you" without sounding rude or contributing to the ugly American stereotype.  We found another place to go down by the water and then ended up sneaking back to where we had wanted to go before.

Supposedly, this waterfall was in a James Bond movie.

Now, there were actually two reasons I was a little nervous to go off road.  One was the pushy locals, the other was the absolute eruption of these guys when we crossed the road:

I hate spiders.  I hate them.  I do not know why, but bugs really get to me, and spiders are the worst.  These ones sure looked poisonous, and they were fucking massive.  Seriously, there were a lot of big bugs in Jamaica, but the spiders...just, Oh My God!  I was terrified.  Not quite enough to stop exploring but almost.

Our adventure across the road was short-lived.  While we were waiting for the tour bus, we took time to do a few necessary newlywed shots.

And then it was time to go back to the resort (but not before the bus forgot us...don't worry, another came to retrieve the poor, lost tourists).

Mystic Mountain may have been obscenely touristy, but it was a lot of fun.  It was like a Jamaican Disneyland but way smaller and more natural and with far fewer rules.  We had a great time there, and it was totally worth the price.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Yeah Mun: Riu Ocho Rios

So, the big question:  was the honeymoon worth the awful trip there and back?  Short answer:  yes.

Long answer is a bit more complicated.

OK, so we know from my last post that when we finally--finally--arrived at our resort, I was beyond exhausted, I was more tired than I have ever been in my life.  Naturally, I wasn't in the greatest mood.

So when we trekked up to our room to find it dark and rather gloomy, I was not inclined to forgive.  The blankets were super thin which I guess makes some sense in Jamaica, but they were not very comfortable.  The beds themselves were worse.  They were super hard and not at all inviting even in my nearly comatose state.  The colors in the room can only properly be described as "blech," and even with the windows completely open, the room was dark.

I was not happy.  We seriously considered switching to a much more pleasant-looking suite even though it was an extra $150 per night. We probably would have gone for it if the suite beds had been softer.

Granted, I was not in an easy-to-please mood when we first laid eyes on the room, and Daniel didn't mind it nearly as much as I did, but the decor seriously put a damper on the trip for me.

 The only thing I liked about our room's interior was the differently shaped towels they would leave us each day.
Personal Photo

Fortunately, the rest of the resort was far more pleasing.

Riu Ocho Rios

We stayed at the Riu Ocho Rios, a large resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and it was basically what it promised to be.

The view was the best thing about our room.
Personal Photo

We had a view of their wedding gazebo.  We actually saw a wedding there.
Personal Photo

 Couldn't resist a new wrap.
Personal Photo

Being a lover of all things water-related, the ocean access and pools were a big selling point for me, and I was not disappointed.  Though not huge and annoyingly roped off to a shallow area because of the reef, the beach was long, warm, and inviting with lots of trees, chairs, and tropical drinks.  There were only a few people there trying to sell things to you, and it became clear to us quickly that they were not supposed to be there, making them easier to avoid.  The water itself was a fantastic temperature though cloudier than I expected.  All in all, certainly satisfactory.

The pools were better.  Normally, I ditch the pools for the beach when it's right there and the same temperature, but these pools did not want to be ignored.  They were large with fountains, waterfalls, lounge chairs (in the pool!), and the crown jewels:  at least one swim-up bar in each pool.  Heavenly.  I cannot express how pleasant it is to swim up to the bar, grab a Jamaican Smile, and then sidle over to a bubble-filled booth to sip it.  I'd say we spent at least 70% of our time at the resort in the pool.

 Pool Bar

Riu is an all-inclusive resort, so we did not have to pay for food or drinks at all while we were there.  I cannot express how gloriously freeing it is not to have to worry about the prices of these essentials (yes, alcohol is essential on your honeymoon).  We ate and drank whatever we wanted and did not have to worry about it.  I left mounds of food on my plate everyday uneaten, and I do feel a little bad about that, but it was my honeymoon, damn it, and I'm not going to apologize for it.  The free drinks were the best part.  Not only did we not have to finish them, but we could try all sorts of things and not have to feel cheated if they tasted bad or if we decided halfway through that we didn't feel like a drink after all.

This is how we discovered rum cream.  Rum cream is an amazing and wonderful substance that I have only seen in Jamaica, and I expect never to find its equal.  It's like Bailey's if Bailey's was made with rum instead of whiskey.  For low alcohol, high sugar drinks fan like me, it was perfect.  My drink of choice during the trip was the Jamaican Smile which is essentially a slushy with rum cream.  It.  Was.  Awesome.  (Btw, thanks Laura for recommending it!)

From reviews, we knew not to expect much from the food, and it was pretty much what we expected.  I definitely had a tough time finding things to eat the first few days because my stomach was all wacked out from the time change, stress, and lack of food I had had in the weeks leading up to the wedding.  I really wanted easy to digest foods at that point like pasta, but there wasn't much like that.  I definitely would not recommend Riu Ocho Rios to vegetarians because you will starve.  The meat was definitely the most edible food.  Anyway, as my stomach returned to normal, I found things I liked.  The jerk chicken was by far the best dish available.  And there were so many things to try that even with the food being less-than-stellar, I gained five pounds by the time we went home.

Now, that was for the buffet-style restaurants.  Each guest was allowed to visit each of the "real" restaurants once during the week, and their quality was vastly superior to the ones open to everyone.  Those restaurants looked classier, had dress codes, used actual servers, and had genuinely good meals.  The steak was good enough that I ate my entire massive portion unassisted even after gorging on rum cream and sweets all day.  I wish we had been able to go to these restaurants for a couple more meals because they made us feel like we were really on our honeymoon.

Overall, we had a pleasant experience there.  You could tell the resort was on the cheaper side, and I don't think I'd go back, but for the amount we had to spend at the time, it served well enough.  It was certainly worth the less than $200 a night that we paid.

From the entrance hall.
Personal Photo

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Yeah Mun: Sojourn to Jamaica

It occurs to me that I never actually posted about our honeymoon.  Clearly, the time has come.

Our flight to Jamaica was a red eye in every sense of the word.  As you may remember, we did not have a ton of money to spend on the honeymoon as we were mostly relying on our honeymoon registry to make it happen, so we had to take the cheapest flight available.

Sunday morning (the day after the wedding), we were still in Marin.  Though our flight left from San Francisco, we had to drive back to San Jose to drop off a bunch of wedding stuff which meant we needed to budget about 2.5 hours for driving that day.  Lame.  I think by the time we got home and did the repacking we needed to do, we had about an hour before we had to leave to relax.

Obviously, I was already exhausted at this point, not having had a good night's sleep for several months but having been particularly busy and not asleep for the past few weeks.  On top of that, our plane left around midnight.  I cannot sleep on planes.  Or any other moving vehicle for that matter.  I'm just really bad at it.

By the time we got to the airport, and that is a story in itself (decided last minute to spurn public transit, tried to park at BART [subway] and couldn't, and ended up having to park in long-term airport parking.  Woops), we were so tired that I thought even I might have a chance of sleeping on the plane, and I think I may have got in half-an-hour or so.  The thing was, we had a stop, so we didn't really have much time to sleep anyway.

We got to Texas (goodbye promise to never use the George W. Bush airport) around 6 in the morning, and something amazing happened.

Now, I don't just have trouble sleeping on moving vehicles.  I have trouble sleeping in dark, silent rooms at night.  That is to say, I have trouble sleeping all the time, so trying to sleep in a bright, busy airport for me is like trying to become CEO of Disneyland.  Ain't never going to happen.

Clearly, I had never been as tired in my life as I was on that airport floor because I actually fell asleep for a bit.

The honeymoon, for me, was about recovery as much as it was about celebrating our marriage.  I needed a vacation more than I can possibly express.  My airport nap proved that.

I don't think I slept on the plane to Jamaica.  One can only ask so much after all.  It was funny though, as we were waiting to get on the plane, a number of other disheveled newlyweds crept into line around us.  Really makes you realize just how "special" a honeymoon in the Caribbean is.

Anyway, after we had got to the airport and gone through customs and stuff, a shuttle met us to take us to the resort.

Now, I had no idea how big Jamaica was or how long it would take.  Previous experience with this sort of thing lead me to expect about half-an-hour at most.

I think it took an hour-and-a-half to get there.  At that point, I was even more exhausted than I had been in Texas.  How do I know?  I fell asleep on the bus.  Without even trying.  In full sunlight with people around me and massive bumps in the road.  That was truly unprecedented in my life and solid proof that weddings fucking drain the life out of you.  I hope never to be that tired again, but I am kind of proud of myself for falling asleep like that.  It may never happen again.

When we finally got to the hotel, we had to stand in a massive line before getting our room.  It was hot and sticky, and I wanted nothing more than to be able to lay down.  I was too sick and hungry to even accept the cocktails they offered us in line.

Finally, finally, we got to our room, and I basically collapsed onto the bed, not planning to get up again for about a year.

Getting to Jamaica was the worst travel experience I have ever had.  I mean, most of that was because of the exhaustion, but doing the whole red eye and transfer planes thing while taking so long to get to the hotel once we actually got there was pretty awful.  We were traveling for almost 24 hours, and it really doesn't need to take that long to get to Jamaica (it's maybe a 6 hour flight from California).

So the moral of this story is if you can take a non-sucky flight to your honeymoon, do it.  If you can't, make sure you have a week at least wherever you're going because it's just not going to be worth it otherwise.  And trust me, you are not going to do anything in your first 24 hours there, so don't plan on jumping right into activities.

What was your trip to your honeymoon like?  Did you take traveling into account when you planned it?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Six(ty) More Years!

Today, Daniel and I have been together for six whole years.

I know most people stop celebrating their dating anniversary once they get married, but we couldn't quite give the old one up.  When you've had one anniversary for five years, you become rather attached to it, thinking of it as, you know, your anniversary.  The real one.  We may not celebrate it forever, but I think it will always mean something to me, just because we were together for so long before getting married.  It signifies that extra five years on our accomplishment list.

Even without the "length of time we've been together vs. been married" thing though, I think our dating anniversary would still be special for me.  I know a lot of people don't get this, but to me, when we got together is more important than when we got married.

I knew basically from the start that I wanted to be with Daniel for the rest of my life.  It took me some time to be positive, and there were definitely periods when I wavered, but for the most part, I've always thought that we would get married--and stay that way.  The wedding itself was more about logistics and being absolutely sure of our commitment and having dealt with other things first, but it was always going to be just a matter of time.

Of course, we're celebrating our wedding anniversary, you know, bigger.  We're going on a trip and everything then while tonight we're only going to dinner.  But to me, this is the night to really celebrate our time together, to remember how we met and all we've done since then.  After all, we have innumerable wonderful memories from our first five years together.

So Daniel, I'm glad that you're my husband, but tonight I celebrate you being my life companion.  Here's to six wonderful years together.

 06/07:  Our First Summer Together

 07/08:  Tea in London

 08/09:  Disneyland!

 09/10:  Sledding in Chicagoland

 10/11:  Road Trip Back to California though the Grand Canyon

 11/12:  Our Wedding

I love you.

Is your dating anniversary important to you?  Or is it all about the wedding?  What makes you reflect on your relationship?

Classy Wedding by the Sea