Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Preferred Blog Server?

So I've been thinking about the future of my blogging after the recaps and wedding stuff is done, and I need your advice.  I'd like to continue blogging, but I think I'm going to start a new blog about non-wedding stuff.  After all, the "princess bride" doesn't really lend itself to non-wedding talk.  This opens up some options, particularly about where to blog.  I like Blogger, but I know there are other sites out there like WordPress that people like a lot too.  And so I come to you with this question:  what is your favorite blogging site?  How do you feel about the options out there?  If you could remake your blog, would you stick with Blogger?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Things Start to Go Wrong

One of our biggest challenges in the weeks leading up to the wedding was issues with our venue.  Specifically, with the event coordinator.

I am all for booking your wedding somewhere cheap that doesn't do a lot of weddings to save money, but I learned via our event coordinators that there are consequences.  Places that don't do many weddings tend to not really know what they're doing.  They don't put as much effort into it.

They also apparently cannot keep an event coordinator.  At least, ours couldn't.  We had four different coordinators in the 9 months leading up to our wedding.  The person we originally talked to was gone before we even booked.  The next one we had for most of the planning stage.  When she left, no one even told us, and we just happened to stop by the venue and ask for her one day and found out they had just hired someone new.  That person we never even spoke to, for she was quickly replaced by a fourth coordinator who our coordinator for the day of the wedding.

This was the only real problem we had with Guayma's.  The lack of consistency was ridiculous.  The fact that they didn't inform us of the changes was, frankly, unacceptable.

So we were pretty nervous when we met with the final coordinator for the first time a mere two weeks before our wedding.  But what seemed like a disaster turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  Rachel was great, wayyyyy better than the person we had been working with before.  She was organized, efficient, knowledgeable, and most importantly, she understood how important this day was to us, something we had not gotten from anyone else at Guayma's.

We were glad to have her, but we really wish we had gotten to speak with her sooner (too bad she hadn't started working there until about three weeks before the wedding) because a bunch of things changed once we did.  We had to redo the seating chart and couldn't finalize it until a week before the wedding because they weren't sure how many tables would fit how many people.  We didn't know what time we could come to set up until the day before the wedding.  And we couldn't go over things with her as much as we wanted because she was gone for three days right before the wedding.  We literally only had the day before to go over everything, and there were definitely things I forgot about at that point that were done wrong.  I really wish we had been able to get it all done sooner.  Some of the things that went wrong that wouldn't have if we had had more time still bug the crap out of me.

Even though things mostly worked out, they would have gone much, much smoother if we had been able to plan with the coordinator farther in advance.  Though your venue probably won't have as high of turn-over as ours, experience is definitely something you should think about when booking a venue.  Because if we had had one of the other coordinators, things definitely would not have gone as smoothly even if we had had months to plan.

We wouldn't have picked a different venue.  We didn't have the money, and doing the venue cheaply allowed us to do so much more.  But if we had had the money, it would have been nice to perhaps hire a wedding coordinator or something to make sure everything got done right.

Did you have bad experiences with any of your vendors?  Was your venue everything you thought it would be?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Scheduling Nightmares or Why I Do Not Want to Run a Business Myself

For me, the worst part of the two months before the wedding was scheduling.  Scheduling bridesmaids, scheduling groomsmen, scheduling parents, scheduling vendors, scheduling other random people helping us, and above all else, scheduling ourselves.  I feel like I spent half of my days in July emailing people (and I swear I did spend 4+ hours a day doing this on wayyyyyyy more days than I and the people I was emailing would have liked).

This is what would have made having a wedding planner worth it to me.  Having someone else worry about how the flowers were going to get to the ceremony and who would put them up and letting said person know when and how to put them up would have been so worth the money if we had had it.  But we didn't, and I was the only person who knew everything that needed to happen, when it needed to be done, and who was going to do it.

It was maddening.  I couldn't sleep without first going over a million details in my head.  In fact, I didn't have a full night's sleep for almost two months before the wedding, and this was the biggest reason why.  I let it get to me way, way more than I should have.

Also, I should have put more on Daniel's plate so that I didn't feel the need to do everything myself.  Or maybe delegated some of the figuring out of stuff to our parents or something.  It didn't really occur to me.  Of course, I wasn't all too happy with how behind on his stuff Daniel was at the time or with the "it'll work itself out" attitude he had toward this kind of stuff (it totally DID NOT work itself out, btw), and he was soon dealing with his own personal Hell, so I would have had to do it in the end anyway.  But it was bad.  Really, really bad.  And not just for me but for the wedding party as well.  I sometimes emailed them 3+ times a day and felt horrible about it, but it was necessary because things STILL went wrong when the day finally came.

This is the one thing that really sucked but I don't think I could have done much differently anyway, apart from trying to figure out scheduling farther in advance.  Somebody had to know everything, and it was me.  Our coordinator probably could have helped, but, well, we'll get to that soon.  For now, let's just say circumstances beyond our control were involved.

If I learned anything from all of this though, it's that I never want to do it again.  Thus the not wanting to run my own business.  Scheduling is a nightmare.  When there are more than a few people involved, all with different schedules and priorities, it's even more of a nightmare.  And if you can get someone else to do all this for you, do it.  Seriously.  It's worth it.

Did you/will you have to schedule everything for your wedding yourself?  Was it a nightmare for you?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Actual Getting Married Part

Through all of the planning for the wedding, it can sometimes be easy to forget about the actual getting married part of getting married.  And so it was a month or so before the wedding that we realized that we actually needed to get a marriage certificate.

It was not hard.  The only kind of weird thing was that we had to go in to the county clerk together to do it.  We brought our check for $79 and our application for a marriage license and left with this:

Personal Photo - Why Yes, I Am an Expert of Taking Photos of Myself (who needs tripods when you have short walls?)

A real, genuine marriage certificate.  All we had to do now was have a ceremony, get some signatures, and send it back to be officially married.

This is the sort of thing that I would expect to take forever, like a DMV line, but we were in and out pretty quick.  I think the key is to go in the morning right after everyone's gotten to work (between 9:30 and 10:30 ideally).

Also, if you're having a friend officiate, we found the Universal Life Church to be the easiest way to get them ordained.  You can do the whole thing online, and it's super fast.

Getting the actual marriage certificate was definitely a little weird.  It was around this point when I started thinking, "Do I really want to do this?"  To me, it's the legal aspect of marriage that makes it real.  But when the day came, I had no lingering doubts, thankfully.  But we'll get to that.  For now, we had done nothing more than check a small but important thing off the list.

What made marriage real for you?  Did you get cold feet at any point?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Nom Monster (A Tutorial)

I never did get to tell you guys about my pride and joy, my favorite wedding detail, the one, the only (um, or not) NOM MONSTER (nom, nom, nom, nom, nom)!

 Personal Photo

I love him.  I love him so much.

I got the idea for him from the infamous Nom Monster of OffbeatBride:

 At first, I was planning on doing mine very similar to this one.  However, I'd also seen card boxes like this:

I couldn't quite get the idea of doing a book with a "secret" compartment for cards out of my head, especially since reading is such a big part of Daniel's and my relationship, and it hadn't been reflected in our wedding much.  At first, I thought I'd combine the two by slapping some book covers on a mailbox, but then it occurred to me:  why not make a nom monster out of a book?

I've always wanted a book with a secret compartment (and while we're on the subject, I've always wanted one of those book cases where you pull out a book, and the wall turns to reveal a secret room.  Why yes, I do spend too much time reading fantasy novels, how did you know?), so I sat down to make one.

In retrospect, this is one of the wedding details I probably should have let go, or at least done differently.  I could easily have bought a book with a secret compartment instead of making one, and it would have saved me hours and hours of work.  Nonetheless, I do enjoy having it, and I've always wanted to make one myself.  At least I got to cross something off the bucket list.  Besides, it's way cooler if it's a real book.

For the most part, I followed this tutorial to make the secret compartment book.  The only thing I would suggest you do differently is not to bother with drilling holes.  They really did not help.

The hardest part of that was cutting in a straight line so that you don't end up with bits of page that don't get cut off.  If you're going to do this, push down on the pages that you're cutting to help keep them still, and try hard to cut along the previous line you cut.  Going slow can save you a lot of time in the long run.  Also, if you mess up, don't worry too much about it.  No one's actually going to notice.

Once the pages were cut, I had to monsterify the book.  This took some thinking.  I knew I wanted to cover it with felt so that it would look kind of like the Monster Book of Monsters, but how to attach it?  I could glue it, but trying to get it to cover the edges and stay seemed problematic.  Plus, I kind of wanted to be able to use the book as a normal-looking book after the wedding, the kind you can actually hide stuff in.  And then it hit me.  You know those book covers you had to make in middle school?  No, your teachers didn't make you do them?  Lucky.  Well, I had to, and that's what I did for my nom monster.

I took a large piece of black felt and folded down the edges so that the felt was just taller than the book.

Personal Photo

That didn't stay at all, so I ironed it down.

Personal Photo, Again

Be careful ironing felt.  You're not really supposed to, I think.  Do it quick, just a little pat will keep it down well enough.

Then I slipped the folded-over edges over the edges of the covers and pulled them down so that the cover was tight while the book was closed.  I also glued the top flap of fabric to the flap attached to the book so that it would stay better.

And voila, a book cover!

Then, I got some googly eyes and glued them to the cover.

Yep, You Guessed It, Personal Photo

And I got a piece of red felt and cut out a tongue and glued it to the underside of the front cover.

What Do You Think?

I used a stiff piece of white felt for the teeth, so they would stay straight.  I cut out triangles and glued them to the front edges of the covers.

I Think We All Know By Now This Is a Personal Photo

I got large, furry pipe cleaners for the arms and glued them to the space between the felt flaps on the front cover.  Then, I printed out the "Give me your cards!  Nom nom nom!" sign on card stock, cut it out, and glued it to a popsicle stick and curled one of the arms around it so that the nom monster would be holding the sign.

And then my beautiful nom monster had grown into a fully grown terror of cuteness!

Personal Photos, Blah Blah Blah

He was a ton of work, but I love him, so it was worth it.

Ain't he cute?  What project are you proudest of for your wedding?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Really Bad Stuff

Well, now that it's over I can FINALLY tell you about what happened 3 weeks before the wedding.

Daniel's mom has been having trouble for a long time.  She got laid off about a year-and-a-half ago and has barely worked since.  As her financial situation deteriorated, so did her mental state.  This wasn't exactly the start of it.  She's been a hoarder, the kind you see on Oprah and reality shows, for years, and it is my understanding that ever since she and Daniel's dad split up, she's had difficulty coping with, well, life.

But of course without any money, things became much worse.  Frankly, we have no idea how she's survived for so long without income, but suffice it to say that she's borrowed from everyone she knows, and everyone has given up on her except for Daniel.

When she told him that she was not coming to the wedding in early July, things began to change between them.  For the most part, Daniel has tried to placate her whenever they talk, trying to make her feel better about her situation, carefully choosing his words so as not to upset her.  It's exhausting and painful for me to watch; he's always upset after they talk.  But after hearing that his own mother did not want to attend his wedding, Daniel stopped trying to be nice to her and started actively trying to help her situation even though she fought him every step of the way.  He desperately wanted to get her in a mental position where she could come to the wedding, and failing that, wanted to at least get her on the road to recovery.

I was in Catalina, ready to be all relaxed and not thinking about the wedding or the other crap that was going on, when I got a phone call from Daniel.  His aunt had just received a call herself from the police department, saying that they had received an email from Daniel's mom saying that they would find a dead body in her house.  When they investigated (complete with SWAT team and helicopter), they found no one home.

Fortunately, her suicide attempt failed, and she had gone to stay with a friend.  When the police found her, they put her in the hospital.

Daniel immediately flew down to San Diego to help, and he and his aunt were able to keep his mom in the hospital for the weeks leading up to the wedding.  There was a lot more to it than that, but you don't really need to know about that.

Daniel didn't go back to work again until after we got back from our honeymoon.  Between trying to keep his mother alive, safe, and housed until we got back, trying to get things done for the wedding, and studying for the ethics exam he had to take a week before the wedding to get his BAR license, he didn't have time for his job.

It's hard to describe what this was like for me.  It was a million times worse for Daniel of course, and that was my main concern.  Above all, way above the wedding, I wanted to do what I could to be there for him.  But at the same time, I had already moved beyond stress and into the early stages of insanity about the wedding at this point.  It was really good that I was on vacation and didn't have so much as a computer with me when this happened, or I think my head would literally have exploded.  I'm also glad he did not take me up on coming down to help because I would not have gotten through the next 2 weeks without that break.

Daniel handled the situation extremely well.  His dad and I were both worried at first--Daniel often doesn't handle stress well--but we were both very impressive by how calm and focused he remained through it all.  At the end of the day, he was relieved that his mom was finally receiving help, and the relief overshadowed all of the other emotions he should have been feeling.  I'm amazed at how much he was able to do in such a short amount of time and that he did not let his mother's absence ruin the wedding.

For the most part, I think I handled it pretty well too.  There is no doubt that I had to shoulder an even greater part of the wedding planning burden because of it, and I made several comments I shouldn't have while trying to get through that, but on the whole, I think I was pretty supportive.  Though I must admit I'm very glad he didn't take me up on the offers I made to postpone the wedding.

But I will never forgive her for what she did to him.  Or me.  But mostly him.  I am far angrier with her than Daniel is.

I understand how much her situation sucks and why she would want to take her life as a result.  To be perfectly honest, the attempt did not surprise me though the timing did.  And if it had been after the wedding, I think I could have forgiven her eventually.  I would be sad that she did it and much sadder for how awful her death would be for Daniel, and I'm sure I would still be angry at her for doing that to him.  But in the end, I would understand why.

But the selfishness of doing it 3 weeks before her son's wedding I can never forgive.  I don't know if she thought about what her death would do to him, and I don't care.  If she was too stupid not to see how much that would affect him, then I cannot forgive the stupidity, and if she did think about it and did it anyway...I cannot describe the anger that boils inside me just thinking about it.  Daniel was already devastated that she wasn't coming to the wedding, and she knew that (or should have given the number of times he told her).  To think that she would upset her son that much more so close to his wedding is beyond my comprehension.

It's sad.  We could have had a good relationship once.  The thing about her is that she really is fun to be around when she's not freaking out.  I liked her for a long time.  Seeing what their conversations did to Daniel and trying to help the fallout pass when he got off the phone had already caused my opinion of her to plummet.  Still, there was hope for a good mother/daughter-in-law relationship before this.  Now, I can't see that happening, not unless she makes some really big changes in her life and sincerely repents everything that she put him through.  But even then, I'm not sure I could forgive her.  You don't mess with my Daniel and get away with it.

If nothing else, I think my insane stress level the last few weeks before the wedding was warranted.

I know we're not the only ones out there with these kinds of problems, so if you know someone whose mental state has deteriorated without substance abuse or a diagnosed mental illness, talk to us, and we'll try to help you.  We know how hard it is to find help or even a place to start in these situations, and we'd like to do whatever we can for you.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Happy Birthday Daniel!!!!!

Wish my husband a happy birthday!  He is officially 1 year away from 30.  Scariness.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Name Change Conclusion

So, I know I have a lot more to talk about regarding the wedding as I haven't even started recaps yet.  However, there are newlywed things that I'd like to discuss as well, so instead of keeping everything in a nice, neat, chronological order, I'm going to go between wedding stuff and post-wedding stuff.  If this causes confusion, I am sorry, but you all are smart, and I'm sure you'll figure it out.

I changed my name today.  Officially.  My social security record no longer says "Thomas" (Woa damn, big name reveal!  Because there aren't over 60,000 other Nicole Thomases out there for me to get confused with).

People keep asking me what it's like to be married or how it feels to be married.  My answer is still, "I wouldn't know."  Because things do not feel different.  Things haven't changed between us, and the only real difference this makes in my daily life is that I say "My husband..." instead of "My fiance..." or "My boyfriend..."  This is different, and it's a bit weird, but on the grand scale of things, it doesn't make me feel different.  It doesn't even really make me feel married.

However, introducing myself or talking about myself as "Nicole HisLastName" does feel different (I'm so not ready to refer to myself as "Mrs."  That's going to have to wait).  And despite all of my complaining about it, it's not all bad.  It's weird.  It doesn't feel like my name yet, and I imagine it will be quite a while before it does.  Daniel and I will have to be together 24 years before I've had his name longer than mine, so I'm sure the adjustment period will be lengthy.

Nonetheless, there are some things I like about it.  Having the same last name makes us feel like a unit, like a real family, instead of just two people who like each other a lot.  It has that power for me more than the words "husband and wife" do, actually.  Which is nice considering how iffy I was about changing my name.  It makes it obvious that we belong together, that we're more than boyfriend/girlfriend, without needing to say how and without having to prove that we're actually married.

Of course, I haven't started making the long, long list of phone calls to various people and agencies to tell them that my name has changed, and I might be a bit less happy about it after that.  Seriously, we'd better not get divorced because I do not want to do this again (yes, that's the reason not to get divorced right there, not the whole "love and devotion" thing).

But anyway, for now, I'm cool with it.  It's new, it needs adjusting, but I'm cool with it.

Plus, it's easy to sign it, and that's the important thing.

And with that, I leave you with the best reason to change one's name (and one of my very favorite STD videos):

How did the name change go for you?  Or if you didn't change your name, how do you feel about your choice?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Catalina, or How I Got through the Last Weeks of Wedding Planning

It's pretty safe to say that I lost my mind quite a few weeks before the wedding.  The stress was...unfathomable, all-consuming, degenerating.  Bad.  I should never have let it get that bad, but, well, can't do anything about it now.  Anyway, the only reason I was able to get through the last few weeks without taking anyone's head off (or without Daniel dumping me) was my vacation with my family in Catalina.

Officially Santa Catalina Island, it is a small place off the coast of Long Beach, CA.  Most people know it for Avalon, the only real town on the island and a tourist hub.  You might know it from this song:

Cute video, huh?  Not ours, but it has some images of the Isthmus which is pretty cool.

My family and I have gone to Catalina every summer since I was born.  And not the touristy side.  We stay in the one other town on the island (though "town" is an overstatement):  Two Harbors aka the Isthmus or Isthmus Bay.

Two Harbors in its entirety consists of the following:  1 restaurant, 1 cafe (think burgers to go), 1 general store, 1 dive shop, 2 bathrooms/showers, 1 small hotel, a scattering of houses, camp sites, and boats.  That's it.

No computers.  No internet.  No possible way to work on the wedding.  Bliss.  There was barely even phone service until a few years ago (OK, so there's internet now too, but I didn't bring my computer, so I didn't need to acknowledge it's existence).

If you look at pictures of it from the forties, you'll notice it's barely changed, and that is its charm.  It's like a slice of old-world life.  The modern conveniences you have are the ones you bring with you (for the most part).  It's the only place I've ever been where I feel like I can truly relax.

If you remember back to a year ago, Daniel and I seriously considered getting married on Catalina.  In the end, it was just too expensive to get everyone over there, but we ended up going on vacation the weekend we would have done it there, and I couldn't help but think about what it would have been like.

With views like this, it would have been spectacular.  It would have been an utter pain in the ass.  It would have been worth it, but it would have been so much more "me" than "us."  In the end, it doesn't matter because we couldn't do it, we didn't do it, and our wedding was awesome, so it doesn't matter.  Still, stressful as it would have been getting there, I definitely would have been calm once we arrived.

Anyway, I had a really great week with my family.  It was nice to have one more family vacation before getting married, and I highly recommend it if you can get away a few weeks before the wedding.  What's more, my brother actually talked to us while we were there!  That was quite the treat in itself.

I relaxed, I regenerated, I swam, I tanned.  All highly necessary.  AND I got to stay in the hotel with my mom for one night instead of on the boat which I have always wanted to do.  That was the best night of sleep I had gotten in weeks.

But most importantly, I got this:


The chance to say goodbye.

Did you have a stress-reducing retreat before your wedding?  Get to spend any time with your family before tying the knot?

Bachelorette Party #2: The Best Damn 2-Hour Bachelorette Party EVER!

I was impressed by my first bachelorette party and my bridal shower, but the awesomeness of each was not totally unexpected.  Karaoke is always awesome, and my mom had spent so much time telling me how much she was working on my bridal shower that I knew it would be good.

My Southern California bachelorette party, however, I did not have high expectations for.  The girls had less than 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon.  No one could expect much under those conditions.

So the amazingness of my second bachelorette party genuinely blew me away.

Warning:  this post is so not safe for work.

Classy Wedding by the Sea