Saturday, August 28, 2010

Skipping out on Tradition

The time has come for the inevitable "traditions we are skipping" post.  There may need to be amendments made down the line, but as of now, we are pretty sure we're ditching these:

1.  Veil:  I hate veils.  I hate, hate, hate veils.  I hate the history behind them, I hate the way they look, and I hate the way they cover me and  my lovely dress up!  Basically, I hate their very purpose.  There may be some cool-looking veils out there.  My friend tried one on that was emblazoned with tiny pearls and rhinestones that was pretty cool, and Spanish veils can be awfully pretty, and while I couldn't wear one, I think some birdcage veils look really good, but on the whole, I am definitely in the anti-veil camp.  I'm not wearing one.  Even if my hatred abated down the road, I think of this as an unnecessary expense.

2.  The Garter Toss:  I don't know why I totally want to do the bouquet toss but really find the garter toss misogynistic, but I do.  Maybe it's because 80 people do not need to see Daniel sticking his hands up my dress.  Garters are also an unnecessary expense.  We're not doing it.  However, I'd be cool with Daniel throwing something else if we could come up with something good.

3.  Traditional Ceremony:  I'm an atheist, and Daniel's a non-religious Jew.  Traditional ceremony of any sort wouldn't really capture us.  We'll probably do what many a blogger has done and write our own ceremony.  We also really want to have a friend officiate.  Haven't quite decided who yet, but we're pretty stuck on that idea.

4.  Not Seeing the Bride before the Wedding:  Don't like this veil either.  And I wouldn't be able to sleep the night before without Daniel, so we'll definitely be sharing a room, and we'll probably have to do a fair amount of set-up together the day of.  However, I am still hopeful that we won't see each other all prettied up until the actual ceremony.

5.  Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue:  Where did this even come from?  I just don't care.  I didn't even know about this tradition until later in life, so it has no sentimental value for me.

6.  Traditional Wedding Band:  We're still deciding between a few rings, but neither of us will have a traditional-looking wedding band.  No solid bands or little diamonds here.  We want something a little more unique.

7.  Addressing Invitations by Hand:  Um, we don't have great penmanship, and I am not paying someone to do this, so yay for printed labels!

8.  Throwing Rice:  Yeah, I'm not a bird-killer.  But perhaps bubbles...

9.  Wedding on the Weekend:  Don't know for sure about this yet, but there is an excellent chance that we will have the wedding on a Monday to cut costs or avoid crowds.  We've definitely visited venues where this would be necessary financially, and since most of our guests are OOT, it wouldn't be much of an inconvenience to them.

10.  First Dance:  Oh we're doing one all right, but it won't be traditional.  Other than that, I'm going to have to leave you hanging, sorry!

11.  Bridal Party:  Each of us is going to have a member of our bridal party who is the opposite sex.  I want my brother standing by me, and Daniel wants a close female friend from college.  We don't want our people on the other person's side just because of their gender, so there will be a little mixing in our lines.

I'm sure there are more, but I'm going to leave it there for now because so much is still uncertain.

What traditions are you chucking?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Weddings That Might Actually Be: Catalina

Guys, guys, I'm so excited!  And not just because I'm finally moving back to California!  I'm looking at a venue that I really think might work out really well for us.

OK, you need some background.  There is an island off the coast of California called Santa Catalina, and I have been going there with my family every summer since I was born.  I think I may have mentioned this at some point, so sorry if any of the information repeats.  Anyway, obviously since it's an island, it has awesome ocean views, and it has deep sentimental value for me.  Many, many amazing memories.  At first I didn't mention having the wedding there because I thought it would be too unequal for us to get married somewhere that was so very a "me" place, but eventually I started looking into it just cuz why not, and when I mentioned it to Daniel, he thought it was a great idea!  So then I started looking into it for real.

Now,  Catalina basically has two towns, and I'm using "towns" to denote "places that people live" because while Avalon is a real town, Two Harbors consists of one restaurant, one quick-stop eatery, a small general store, bathrooms/showers, and one small hotel.  That's about it.  My family hates Avalon on principle as it is super touristy and against the entire point of getting away to the island.  So naturally, I wanted to have my wedding at Two Harbors.

I'm sure you can see how this could be a problem.  Tiny town plus 80 guests = what do I do with them all?  So when I first looked into Catalina weddings, I looked to Avalon because I knew they could accommodate us.  That was way too expensive.  Not happening.

I figured I'd just wait until I got back to CA and just went on vacation at Two Harbors before talking to the coordinator there since their email address isn't listed on their website, but my mom beat me to it, and they sent me the menu and pricing info.

And you know what?  Getting married in Two Harbors is cheap!  Like, seriously cheap.  I'm so amazed at how doable it is for us.  Now, granted, we'll probably have to rent out the Banning House (the hotel) and we have to get everyone there and back neither of which will be cheap, but still, I'm so excited that this is at least possible!

So now I'm waiting to hear back from the coordinator to see if fitting 80 people on that island is actually feasible.  And I'm not 100% sure I want to deal with the greatly increased stress/chances of things going wrong that would come with an island-based wedding.  But the excitement I feel at the prospect of getting married there is making me think I'll take the risk.

Pretty picture time!  I don't have a ton of Catalina pictures with me, but here's what I do have:

All Personal Photos

That's all Fourth of July Cove which is not actually where we would get married, but it's close, and it all looks pretty similar.  Here is more or less the view we would actually have if we got married at the Banning House:

Right?  Right?  So awesome, so very awesome.  I really hope this works out!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Got Furniture?

OK, normally I wouldn't try to use this blog for non-wedding purposes, but I'm desperate, and I know at least one of my readers actually lives in Chicago.  Sorry!

I need to get rid of furniture.  Here is the Craigslist ad:  Everything must be out by Aug. 30.  Thanks!

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Just so you know, I am in the process of moving back to California from Chicago and have every intention of going on vacation as soon as I get there.  Thus, I will be pretty MIA for the next few weeks.  HOWEVER, please do not abandon me as I will try to post a few times while in the moving process, and when I get back to CA, I will FINALLY be able to make some real wedding planning progress!

 Photo by Laura

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How Not to Make Your Own Wedding Cake

Long ago, in a strange faraway land called Berkeley, there was a Nicole who had to walk by Barnes & Noble on her way home everyday.  Now in this bizarre land, strange and magical things could happen.  Impossible ideas became reality.  Tiny, independent used book stores like Pegasus put big, fat chains like Barnes & Noble out of business.

And when Nicole saw that her Barnes & Noble was having a "going out of business" sale, well, what could she do but go in and help them dispose of their unwanted books at ridiculously low prices?  And so she did...everyday for about a month...and several times after that.

And that is how I ended up with a book on how to make wedding cakes.  Now, Daniel and I definitely were not engaged at this point, but we were living together, and I could see a distant future in which marriage was a very realistic possibility.  I have always enjoyed baking, and I figured learning how to make fancy awesome cakes would be a lot of fun.  Hell, maybe I would even get good enough to be able to make my own wedding cake!

Yeah, not so much.  The first and only cake I made using that book was actually pretty decent for a first try, but the fondant was a pain in the ass, and I was just not up for the intense amount of work it would take to learn to make a cake that looked professional.  I set the book aside.

Fast forward to a few months ago.  As I've said before, one of my coworkers recently got married, loves to talk about weddings, and made her own wedding cake.  Naturally, we've discussed wedding cakes (extensively), and I figured I'd try making a fondant-covered cake again.  I had found the traditional fondant recipe difficult to work with, so I thought I'd try her marshmallow fondant recipe, supposedly much easier.

Let's just say I got some interesting results.

The following is what I have learned by trying to work with fondant (and if you are thinking of making your own wedding cake, and you are not a professional cake-maker, you WILL be using fondant).  My coworker's suggestion for making your own cake is to buy fondant and any decorations you want, but if you insist on doing it yourself, this should help you get started.

I won't tell you what cake or frosting to make because if you're going to tackle this, I assume you have enough experience with baking to know what you want.  However, I will advise you to keep your layers small to support structural integrity and that it will taste better if you coat the cake in a layer of frosting before covering it in fondant.

Also, I really ought to have cut off the top and sides of my cake to create a less lumpy shape.  I was in a hurry and figured the fondant would cover up most of the imperfections.  That did not so much happen.  The fondant really forms itself to the shape of the cake, so just be aware of that.

Here is my coworker's fondant recipe:

1 bag marshmallows (good ones)
1 bag powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 T. water
A smidge of butter flavor (recommended)

Melt marshmallows by microwaving in 30 second intervals and stirring after each interval.  Stop when marshmallows are just melted.

Combine marshmallows, vanilla, water, (butter flavor), and 7/8 bag powdered sugar in a large bowl.  Mix thoroughly.  Kneed the fondant for several minutes.  Wrap tightly and leave out for at least 2 hours.  DO NOT refrigerate.

Cover your hands, a rolling pin, and a large, flat surface with remaining powdered sugar.  Roll out fondant until it is about 1/4 in. thick.

Supporting the fondant with both of your arms (and you may want someone else's arms as well), place the fondant over the largest layer of the cake.  Cut the excess away using a sharp knife.  Repeat with remaining cake layers.

Sounds easy enough, right?  Well, here's what happened when I tried it....

Now, in my defense, I was screwed from the beginning because I thought I was supposed to use a BOX of powered sugar instead of a BAG of powdered sugar.  That would have made a really big difference.  It also would have saved me from this:

Can you say sticky?  I sure could.  In fact, I couldn't quite figure out how to get the paste (for paste it was at this point) out of the bowl, so I had to resort to this:

Yeah, so I was pretty concerned at this point, but it's supposed to congeal a bit while it sets, so I had some hope.  It did help, but not enough.

So rolling that out was an interesting experience.  I basically ended up kneeding the rest of the box and another quarter box of powdered sugar into the fondant which made it possible to work with if still a little runny.  However, when I ran out of powdered sugar, I was at a loss as to how to roll it out.

At this point, I was getting pretty desperate.  This had taken a lot longer than I was counting on, and I was supposed to go to my first Cubs game in about five minutes.  After frantically opening and closing all of the cabinets in my kitchen, I came up with an alternative destickifying agent.

Butter!  Haha, and this made up for the butter flavoring I did not include in the recipe in the first place.  It actually worked exceedingly well though God knows how many calories I added to the fondant by covering my hands, my cutting board, and my rolling pin with the stuff...multiple times.

So in the end, I succeeded in rolling out the fondant and getting it onto the cake with a little help from Daniel.  At this point, I really needed to go, but the fondant was looking a bit... melty, so I did the thing you should never do with fondant:  stuck it in the refrigerator.

Turns out, refrigerating it was fine, and I'm glad I did because it seriously would have inched its way off the cake otherwise.  Nonetheless, the combination of not smoothing out the cake in the first place and less-than-sturdy fondant required me to do a little decorating before I was comfortable showing this cake to my coworkers.

I cheated and decorated with store-bought icing, but it looked a lot better once I covered up the edges, and everyone really liked the fondant roses I made.

In the end, it could have been worse, but I definitely have a renewed and unflinching respect for cake makers.  I would not want to make my own wedding cake.  There are just too many things that can go wrong.  And that was my coworkers advice to you all as well even though she has been making awesome cakes for years.

However, if you decide to DIY, just remember to use a whole bag of sugar ;).

What DIY projects have you abandoned?  What made you decide it was too much?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Daniel and I both love dogs, and after seeing some totally awesome "wedding dog" gear, I was totally into having my dog be our wedding dog.

I mean really, aren't these adorable?

Wedding Dog Bandana

All right, so Yeller would never actually abide being dressed up like that--particularly because he's a boy--but I still think it's cute.

Anyway, aside from the cuteness, Yeller has been an immensely important part of my life.  We got him when I was seven and volunteering at an animal shelter.  Up until that point, I had always thought of myself as a cat person (I've had six cats in my life and had three at the time), but Yeller completely changed my mind.  He was always there for me when I was sad, was always sweet and caring and sensitive to others' needs before his own.  I know everyone thinks their dog is the best dog in the world, but he really was special.  He is the best person I have ever known.

I'd love to have all of my animals at my wedding, but I would just feel weird not having Yeller there.  He means much more to me than many of the relatives and even friends that will be attending, and I can't imagine going through such a big step in my life without him.  So I've been on the look out for ways to incorporate him into the wedding.

I'd tell you about the ideas I've had except it doesn't matter now.  He died on Sunday.

Once I had stopped crying for a bit and become coherent enough to think, I started thinking about the fact that he won't be there for my wedding.  That got me thinking about all of the other people/pets who have passed or just won't be able to come.  Between the two of us, Daniel and I have three grandparents, three dogs, five cats, and who knows how many guests who will be absent.  I would like to be able to honor them and make their presence known somehow.

So I'm thinking about doing a small table with pictures of people (used loosely) who we wish could be there, so it will seem a little more like they're there in spirit.  I think this would mean a lot to our families, and it might make us feel a little better about the souls we wish could come.

Other than that, we'll just have to hope they're there in spirit.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


All right, I'm breaking down and doing a life post.  Because frankly life matters more to me than the wedding right now.

I'm not the girl who always had a million friends.  I'm the girl who always had a few close friends with whom I had cultivated friendships over many years.

Given the length of time I tend to put into relationships, the fact that I move constantly (I have lived in this apartment almost a year which is the longest I've lived in one place since high school) makes life difficult for me in the making friends department.  I've gotten a lot better at it since starting college, but it's still difficult for me to feel close to someone that I know I'm only going to be around for a few months.  Add to that the fact that starting a friendship is like work to me and that I really just wanted to be around Daniel this year after being apart for two years, and you'll see why I've had trouble making friends here.

That is, until recently.

My life is generally ruled by irony.  So of course of the five jobs I've had in Chicago, the last one is the one in which I've met people I really like.  Don't get me wrong, there are some people from other jobs that I've cultivated friendships with and that I still hang out with, but it wasn't until I started working at the census that I really found my niche.

Not that my job is glamorous or anything, but given the current economic suckiness, there are a lot of smart, capable, well-educated people working at the census.  And the people I work with are really amazing.

We get on really well.  We have for a long time, but it wasn't until people started leaving that we all started hanging out together outside of work (See?  See the irony that is my life?).  So now I actually care about these people, and I'm totally going to miss them when I leave in two weeks, and I'm also probably never going to see them again.


And now comes my lame attempt to tie this into marriage.  You see, I'm one of those people who tends to get really wrapped up in their relationship (read:  when I'm in a relationship, I kind of ignore my friends).  I've made an effort to limit this effect since I've been with Daniel because things were always going to be more permanent with Daniel, and I didn't want to look back on my life at some point and realize I have no close friends.

Still, I worry.  During my second year of college, the first year Daniel and I were together, I definitely used him as too singular a source of entertainment.  When we were apart, and I didn't have him to fall back on, I definitely created stronger friendships with other people, one of whom will be a bridesmaid.  But this year I've fallen back to my old ways a little more than I probably should have.

This is actually bad for our relationship.  We love spending time together, so it's easy for us to only hang out with each other.  However, there are some interests that we just don't share, and it's good to have friends with whom we can do the things the other doesn't care for.  And of course it's always good to have friends anyway!

I worry that married life will lead me to not have close friends down the road.  I have reason:  my parents.  Neither of them really hang out with anyone else.  This can be a problem as my dad is gone half the year, especially since I'm not living anywhere near home anymore, and my brother has been the very definition of a teenager since I left, and now he's going to college too.  My mom says she doesn't mind being alone, but she still gets lonely sometimes.

I could easily become that after having kids, and I really don't want to.

So I've made a pact with myself to not let my friends slip away after I get married or even after I have kids.  They're too important for that, and so is having people in my life besides family.

Ah, but here comes that irony again.  As I've said before, I really want to travel.  Traveling means making new friends...that you will never or rarely see again when you come home.  Something I've definitely already experienced.

I'm pretty good at keeping in touch with people long distance, but when you have to keep in touch with EVERYONE that way, it just becomes too much.  You have to pick and choose, and there's still a lot of work that goes into the people you do choose, and sometimes I just can't bring myself to make all the phone calls or write all the letters or emails or whatever (read:  I'm sorry I haven't made contact with you for three months, forgive me, I'm coming home soon!).

It's easy to let the far away people go.

But if you travel all the time, that's everyone.

And it is for that reason that it's probably good that Daniel doesn't want to spend a big chunk of our lives traveling.  Because close, personal relationships are important to me, and the longer I'm away from my friends at home, and the more it pains me to say goodbye to my friends here, the more I think it might be good for me to be grounded.  Because in the end, relationships really do matter more than touching all seven continents.

I guess that's kind of why I'm getting married so young.

People I Miss
All Personal Photos or Friends' Personal Photos

Friday, August 6, 2010


I got my very first free wedding item today.

I have a friend at work who got married about a year ago and is still really into wedding stuff (she DIY her flowers, cake, and a bunch of other stuff), so we've spent a lot of time talking about weddings (aren't you happy about where your tax dollars are going?).  Turns out, she had some wedding stuff left over from her wedding, and she let me go through it and take whatever I wanted.

The result?  I'm trying to downsize on my amount of stuff for the cross-country move I'm about to embark on, but I did take one item that I might use:

Photo by Dana Gerber

Bubbles!  As you can see, I'm rather a fan of bubbles.  I don't even know if we're going to do a "big exit" kind of deal, especially since we're not leaving for the honeymoon the night of or anything, but if we do, I would totally give everybody bubbles to blow at us.  Besides, we're going to have some kids at the wedding, and I'm sure bubbles would help entertain them throughout the night (because I totally won't be dancing with them the whole time instead of my other guests and new husband.... :D).

Are you doing a grand exit?  What are you doing for it?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ode to Buttercream

Never have I know the true taste of buttercream until now.

If you live in Chicago and have not been to Molly's Cupcakes, stop what you're doing, turn off your computer, and go now.  Seriously.  It's that good.

My first taste of Molly's was a tiny bit of buttercream frosting that had rubbed off on the side of the box, just a small smidgen if you will, hardly even a taste for normal frosting.  But the second that baby taste of frosting hit my tongue, my mouth exploded with flavor.  I could actually taste the butter and the cream, separate entities yet inextricably entwined to create the greatest flavor of frosting I have ever had.  Not joking, not exaggerating, best buttercream I have ever tasted, and I have eaten A LOT of buttercream in my life.

Next to that explosive taste experience, the otherwise delectable cake seemed like a little bit of a letdown...until I realized it was filled with berry jelly.  The mixture of incredible buttercream, moist but strong cake worthy of holding sweet filling, and fresh berries on top, adding a tang to the sweetness, made for the best cupcake I have ever eaten.

This is no light matter.  I have been thoroughly taken in by the cupcake craze.  In every city I have lived since discovering that not all cupcakes taste like lard, I have made an effort to find the best cupcakes available.  And even though I have slacked off in Chicago due to lack of funds and overwhelming options, I am confident in saying that it is very unlikely that you will find better cupcakes than Molly's.

If you are getting married in Chicagoland, especially if you are having cupcakes at your wedding, I WILL hunt you down if you do not at least try Molly's Cupcakes.

Now someone please tell me where I can find cupcakes like this in Southern California!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sustaining the Wedding

Everyone and their mother in blogland seems to be weighing in on the issue of sustainability.  So many couples want their weddings to be eco-friendly!  This makes me really happy.  It's so nice to know that people are actually starting to care enough to make a real effort to help the environment, even on their wedding day!

Environmental issues are deeply important to me.  I love the outdoors and being in nature, and no other political issue is more significant to me.  I've often thought about trying to have a career helping the environment.  Thus, sustainability is definitely something I strive toward in my daily life.

And yet, it's not something I'm going to worry about on my wedding day.

Before you crucify me, please hear my explanation.

I do not have much money.  This last year, I have been living below the poverty line.  And trying reach the peak of sustainability like many of you lovely ladies are doing is not cheap.  If I had been trying to buy all of my food organically and free-rangey, I would have starved or gone into monstrous debt.  I am utterly serious about this.  I graduated college at pretty much the worst time since the Great Depression and had little job experience to begin with.  I. can't. afford it.

I still try to do everything I can for the environment in my daily life.  I never use throw away dishes, I don't leave the water running when I'm doing dishes or brushing my teeth, I try not to take long showers and avoid giving in to baths, I recycle avidly, I avoid the air conditioner and try to make sure that Daniel keeps it to a reasonable level, I pretty much always turn the lights off when I leave a room, I don't drive when walking isn't a problem (unless it's 10 degrees outside; I have limits), I do not litter (I will seriously chase down napkins and such), I can count the number of paper towel rolls we've used in the last year, every time I see the plastic rings from a six pack on the ground, I pull the rings apart (and there are a ton of them around here).  In other words, I'm conscious of what I'm doing and how it affects the world around me.  And if I could shop at Whole Foods every day and make sure that I'm comfortable with the way everything I buy was produced, I totally would.  I'm just not really there economically right now.

As for the wedding, if we had a higher budget, I might make an effort to find a sustainably-minded caterer, buy everything hand-crafted, and make donations to an environmental protection group as favors.  But when it really comes down to it, the wedding is one day of our lives.  In the grand scheme of things, it's not going to make that big of a difference, especially since we are not even inviting 100 guests.  And I want my day to be as close to the vision in my head as I can make it, so doing everything the environmentally optimum way would destroy my budget for a lot of other things I want.  And nothing I do will offset the carbon footprint of getting our guests all in one place, so really the best thing I can do for the environment is invite as few OOT guests as possible.  Do you see how this is a problem?

I definitely admire those of you who make an effort to have a sustainable wedding, I really do.  But I feel like I already do enough (for the time being), and making this one day my day is not going to be the end of the world.

Classy Wedding by the Sea