Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Practical Bride's Guide: Part 3

While not everyone's experience as a bride-to-be is the same, I bet many can relate to the feelings and observations I had leading up to the wedding. Planning your big day isn't the most difficult thing you'll face in life, but it definitely is unique in the many moving parts that you'll be dealing with coming from all directions. You're joining two people, two families, two sets of friends, all while planning a major event. So don't worry if you feel just a little crazy!

-You will obsess over superficial things.
Some may argue that all of this wedding stuff, other than the marriage, is superficial. In a lot of ways, I agree with that. But I'm talking about the mostly beauty-related, very superficial aspects. For example, nail polish color. I have a master's degree and I spent weeks, maybe months, trying to decide what color of  nail polish to wear on my wedding day. Granted, I probably have an honorary master's in indecisiveness, but still!  It's really not that important, and I KNEW that, yet I still made it a concern. The way I finally decided was to narrow it down to a few choices, then each time I got a manicure in the weeks leading up to the wedding, I would get one of those colors. I chose the one I liked best, which just in case you're curious, was GelColor by OPI Funny Bunny with a transparent shimmer on top. (The ring below is the BEAUTIFUL "right hand ring" my mom got me as a wedding gift. She chose the green amethyst (prasiolite) stone because it was one of our wedding colors.)

-Not everything goes as you had imagined in your wedding fantasy land.
Think back several years and imagine how you pictured your engagement. You're probably in a constant state of bliss, working out every day, getting super skinny, spending all your time reading wedding magazines while you sip champagne, you're getting facials every few weeks, your hair and nails look absolutely perfect, your arms are really toned and your skin is beautifully bronzed and blemish-free. Cue reality. You have a job, your life does not revolve completely around wedding planning, you don't have nearly as much time to exercise as you thought you would, you're having breakouts, and you haven't exactly stuck to your wedding diet. Or maybe that's just me. But the point is, you will not have an endless amount of time (or even motivation) to become Wedding Barbie. And you don't need to!

I kept saying I was going to go on a wedding diet. I never did. I do have to admit I trained for and ran a half marathon a month before the wedding. And every time I train for a race, I lose a little weight, so I guess that was my "wedding diet". But I didn't have nearly as much time to run/work out in that final month as I thought I would. I did my beloved Pure Barre up until two days before the wedding, and that was for my sanity as much as it was for my body. But logging a bunch of additional workouts? That just didn't happen. Do what you need to to feel healthy and fit, but don't drive yourself crazy.

Pure Barre Bride-to-Be

On the beauty/skin care front, I promised myself I would be religious about using my face cleansing brush (knockoff Clarisonic), start my teeth whitening trays a week or two before the wedding, and get few facials. Seems simple, right?  In reality, I just didn't happen exactly as planned. I did my best. But what I did do was upgrade my skin care products a few months before the wedding. Most importantly I got a stronger retinol that I would highly recommend whether or not you are getting married: Paula's Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment. I got it while Paula's Choice was having a retinol sale and got a boatload of free samples as well. I'm really liking this line lately; the prices are much more affordable than many other skin care lines and I have loved everything I've tried.

Bottom line: Step up your beauty and fitness routine a little but don't obsess. Plus, it's amazing what anxiety can do for your waistline and airbrush makeup for your complexion ;)

-You will spend several hours on a wedding website and pack it with information and people will still ask you where to stay, where the venue is, etc.
I'm not all that crazy about wedding websites, but I thought it was a good idea for our wedding because we had so many out-of-town guests. I wanted to not only share the details of the wedding weekend, but also travel information and some recommendations for local spots. I'm technologically-challenged, but I spent a lot of time putting our website together. Apparently many people didn't use it, because I got tons of questions which would have been answered by a quick click on the site!

-Little things will drive you crazy.
You will inevitably have family drama and fights. Some people may mistakenly think your wedding is somehow more about them than you. Others will share their unsolicited opinions and advice. This issue was more challenging for Max and I because our station decided to have us do stories about our engagement and wedding. That meant the whole town of Sarasota wanted to know all the details. If I had a dollar for every time we got asked, "When are you getting married?" I would have paid off the entire wedding! People mean well and it was very sweet that they cared, but it can get overwhelming. Also, you will probably have stupid fights with your fiance, speaking of...

-You will do a lot more work on your wedding than your fiance. This will annoy you. He will ask what he can do to help. You will be apprehensive about leaving a task in his hands and realize it's probably easier for you to just do it yourself. 
But...there are guy-friendly assignments! For example, we had to put together an Excel sheet of our our guest addresses for our invitation place. I don't do Excel well on a good day much less a stressed-out one, so I assigned this task to Max. He wasn't too thrilled, but he did it.

-Weird things will happen right before your wedding.
I haven't been sick in YEARS (knock on wood), but the Monday before my wedding, I woke up with a minor cold. Really? Luckily it wasn't much more than a stuffy nose and itchy throat, and I could tell it wasn't going to turn into anything serious...but still. My skin started breaking out, we had last-minute scheduling issues with our rehearsal, my phone fell in the toilet at my bridesmaids' luncheon, heavy snowstorms hit just about everywhere we had guests coming in from, including Texas! A freaking plane slid off the runway at LaGuardia two days before the wedding causing a ripple effect of cancellations across the country, including one of my bridesmaid's flights. She and her family (her kids were the flower girl and ring bearer) got stuck in Charlotte, had to re-route their travel plans, and were left without luggage for two days. We had friends and family experience medical emergencies. And the list goes on. Just expect the unexpected!

-It is difficult to balance enjoying your wedding reception and greeting guests.
I have absolutely no advice for you on how to do this successfully. I had heard from friends they regretted spending their entire reception talking to guests instead of having fun. Yet I felt like I didn't have a enough time to spend with our guests. You'll be very busy, it goes by quickly and there simply is not enough time to do it all! 

-You CAN actually eat at your reception.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, told me, "You won't eat at your wedding." I told them I surely would eat at my wedding because you really don't want to see me with a low blood sugar. They tried to convince me you either won't have time or your stomach will be in knots. Wrong. We had a sit-down dinner, so well, we sat down and ate. All of my nerves were pretty much gone at that point. What was there left to be nervous or anxious about? It was much harder to choke down food at the rehearsal dinner because I still had a nervous stomach at that point. What I didn't get to eat were the desserts. Everyone snatched them up in a matter of minutes! And then by the time they served us our slices of cake, we were dancing and taking some photos with our photographer. I saw my piece from afar sitting on the table, and I still regret not going over there and at least grabbing a bite.

-You won't notice much of what happens during your wedding.
And this is coming from a very observant person! People mentioned all these things that happened during both the ceremony and the reception that I had no idea about. I think I had tunnel vision about what was happening right around me, and I just couldn't process anything else. I just have to laugh when people want to ban guests from using phones or cameras. People could have been doing flip flops behind me during the ceremony and I would have never noticed!

-You will still have a to-do list after the wedding and your house might be a disaster.
There will be many thank you cards to write, gifts to put away, suitcases to unpack and boxes of wedding decorations to go through. Depending on your situation, you may also be combining households and bank accounts and changing your name. I had family staying at my house for the wedding, so I scheduled to have it cleaned both before and after the wedding. Anything you can do to save your time and sanity, is a good idea. (Another tip: Start writing thank you cards immediately for gifts that come in before the wedding.)

-Planning your honeymoon may present its own challenges.
Traveling is expensive, so if you're planning a honeymoon, you have to take that into account alongside your wedding budget. When you hear "honeymoon," you probably think of a trip to an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. But if you don't have the funds, don't like the beach or are getting married during hurricane season, you should probably look elsewhere. It's always been easy for Max and I to plan trips, so I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to choose a honeymoon destination. We literally looked at places from Canada to South America!

Downtown Santa Barbara

Speaking of the Caribbean, we got married in March, which is the high (read: expensive) season there, so we didn't exactly feel like spending thousands of dollars in airfare alone just to go do most of the things we can do here in Florida. So we started to look just about everywhere and strongly considered places where we could fly for free on air miles. At one point we had thrown out Napa as an idea, so I started looking at resorts there and found a chain that had properties all across California. One was in Santa Barbara. Suddenly a light bulb went off! I had always heard people rave about Santa Barbara. We could do wine AND the beach. We could escape the Gulf Coast for the West Coast and explore Southern California. We could fly to LAX for free. Done.

Dierberg - Starlane Vineyard

I still have people dumbfounded and asking me, "WHY did you go to Santa Barbara, California on your honeymoon??" I don't know how to answer that. Because we wanted to? I guess it's not your typical honeymoon destination, but it was absolutely perfect. Still dreaming about the Four Seasons, the vineyards, the beautiful weather and the breathtaking views. The company wasn't so bad either :)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Practical Bride's Guide: Part 2

 Here is Part 2 of 3 of some of my suggestions and lessons learned from wedding planning!

-Consider a most-in-one venue.
I cannot stress how much time, trouble and possibly money you will save yourself by choosing a venue where most things are included. This is not to say you shouldn't choose your dream venue that offers nothing more than a field and a beautiful setting, but just know what you are getting yourself into. You will have to secure a caterer and some venues will charge you an often-large fee if you don't use their approved or preferred caterer(s). There's also the bar, the silverware, tables, chairs, linens, and possibly tents and a dance floor. Not only will you have to juggle and coordinate all of this, but each vendor will have their own delivery and set up fees. With deposits and final payments, and vendors preferring different payment methods, just paying these people will take time and organization. If you have a wedding planner, this will be much easier, but if not, you'll be in for a lot of work. Again, not to deter you, but just warn you.

Our venue, the Sarasota Yacht Club, was priced per wedding guest, which included hors d'ouevres, dinner and alcohol. Of course the more extravagant you go on your meal and liquor choices, the higher the price is per head. So you can control your costs by paring down those things (one thing we cut was hot hors d'ouevres) and limiting your guest list. Per-person pricing was also nice because we didn't have to worry about reaching a dollar limit at the bar in the middle of the reception. Whether people drank one or 10 drinks, the price was the same. Linens, tables, chairs, etc. were all included. We were able to bring in our own florist, bakery and lighting company with no vendor restrictions. We did have to pay a fee to rent the ballroom, but we chose to pay a little extra and get a seasonal membership at the club, which covered our room rental (and four months of enjoying the club after the wedding). Other clubs may offer similar deals, and if you have a family member or friend willing to "host" your event, many clubs may give you a free room rental.

Naomi Chokr Photography

-If you have outdoor elements, having a desirable rain plan will greatly reduce your stress.
Life has a funny way of screwing things up, like rain on a date that hasn't historically had showers in 20 years. It's a no-brainer to have a rain plan in Florida, because despite being the Sunshine State, we also get a lot of rain, especially in coastal areas. If you live in a dry climate, you might not put much weight on a rain plan. But you just never know! If you do have a plan in place, it will prevent you from stressing and being a slave to the forecast. Trust me, you will have many more things to worry about the week of the wedding and you don't want the weather to be one of them!

Our ceremony was outdoors near the marina at the yacht club, but our rain plan was to have the ceremony in the lobby of the club. The lobby is gorgeous and expansive, so I would have had zero disappointment having the ceremony there. A venue with an easy rain plan will make your life that much easier!

-Do you have to do toasts and speeches, or can you do them at the rehearsal dinner?
At my sister's wedding, we did all of the speeches at the rehearsal dinner and it was the best idea ever, so we decided to do that as well. Only the people who know you the best will be at the rehearsal dinner, so they are much more likely to understand and care about all the funny stories. Plus, you'll be in a more relaxed environment and not as time-crunched, so more friends and family members can feel free to stand up in a less daunting environment. Also, you won't disrupt the flow of the reception or cut into party time. You may also save on champagne cost if your venue charges you to pour a glass for every guest. Our toasting champagne was actually complimentary, but since we were not doing a formal toast, I asked them to put that champagne behind the bar for guests who actually wanted to order it. There's a good chance when they pour champagne for everyone, many guests won't drink it.

 Love you, Liz!

-Be flexible. Do not fixate on details.
This applies to so many different aspects of your wedding. There is a good chance you've envisioned certain things, and when they aren't available, too expensive or just don't work out, you might be really disappointed. That's why it's important not to get wedded (pun sort of intended) to any small detail. Be flexible and willing to look at alternative options. I didn't suffer from this affliction, but I've heard many stories of brides "sweating the small stuff," and it's just not worth it!

-But there are some details that really are worth the effort.
In my dreamland where everything is stress-free and gets done early, I envisioned myself doing a few wedding-related craft projects several weeks before the wedding. Me doing craft projects is hilarious enough, doing them early is even funnier. So there I am on Wednesday night hot gluing, bow tying and seriously contemplating ditching the whole thing. But my little Pinterest-inspired, nautical-styled champagne glasses were so darn cute, I made myself stick it out and get them done. I was so determined that even when I ran out of ribbon, I sent Max on a Walmart run the next day so I could finish the final few.

Small additions, champagne glasses for me, maybe something else for you, aren't essential but they add to the overall experience of the weekend. We used them at the bridesmaids luncheon and the day of the wedding. They added a fun touch and made for some cute photos. Most importantly, they made me smile, probably because I was so proud of myself for actually completing a craft project! Long story short, allow yourself to pick a few details that matter to you.

Naomi Chokr Photography 



 #AnchormanWedding Lollicakes? So neccessary.

-Lighting makes a difference.
I give Max all of the credit on this one. I didn't really think much about the lighting until Max kept saying, "I just want those purple lights." I had no idea what he was talking about! Then I realized he meant uplighting. We actually ended up choosing coral uplighting and twinkle lights, but the point is, we added lighting to the room. It really does make a difference, and it's highly-customizeable to your vision and budget. The lighting company we worked with in Sarasota, Affairs in the Air, was willing to do as little or as much as our budget allowed. This is one area that I suggest looking into even if you don't know how much room you have in your budget- even a little will make a big difference.

The Hora!

-Hire the best photographer you possibly can.
No further explanation needed. I love you, Naomi :)

Naomi Chokr Photography

-Have an amazing Glam Squad.
Uber-talented hairstylists and makeup artists are 100 percent essential. Julie Ann and Corinne, you rock my world.

-Think outside the box on bridesmaids' dresses.
Bridesmaids' dresses are notoriously difficult to choose. Not only are you making style choices for multiple people, you also have different height and body types, and some girls may be pregnant or just had a baby. You're also trying to stay with your season, theme and color scheme. If you go to a traditional bridal salon or bridesmaid dress store, it can be overpriced and full of typical bridesmaid-y dresses. Plus, your girls will probably have to send in measurements and go through the store to place their orders. On  the other hand, if you choose the dress from any old store or online, you run the risk they'll be out of stock or won't have all the sizes you need. It's not ideal either way you slice it.

I went to one bridesmaid dress store in Atlanta and found some cute choices, but they were pretty expensive. So in the meantime, I was also looking around anytime I was out shopping and did some online hunting as well. I came across some dresses I liked in the Victoria's Secret catalog, so I called them to check on the inventory. They had plenty of sizes, so I knew that would buy me a little time to run them by the girls and make a final decision. A few days later I realized there was no point in continuing to look, so I had everyone send me their sizes and I placed the order. Four days later they were on my doorstep- done and done. Plus, they were on sale!

Naomi Chokr Photography

-Consider adding some of your own vows even if you don't write a masterpiece beforehand.
Never in a million years did I think I would say my own vows, but having an interfaith ceremony definitely changed things. Since we were basically handcrafting the service along with our pastor and rabbi, there was a lot of leeway in how we did things. In our ceremony, the rabbi was handling the vow portion, and I found out the Jewish wedding vows are very short. I didn't feel like we were vowing a whole lot. So I told Max I thought we should add a little something to the vows to make them more substantial.

I kept thinking I would sit down and write something or at least have something in my head. To tell you the truth, I never really did that. I had so much anxiety leading up to the wedding that I couldn't focus my mind. So as my bridesmaids and I are two minutes away from walking down the aisle, I say to Analisa, "I have no idea what I'm going to say in my vows." And she said, "You really do pretty much know what you're going to say." It was such a simple statement that carried so much weight, that I will never forget that moment. She was so right, you're marrying the love of your life, you DO know what you're going to say because you're going to say what you feel.

Fab 4 keeping me sane before walking down the aisle!

In the end, I was really grateful we said some of our own vows because it added a special and personalized element to the ceremony. Mine weren't TED talk-worthy by any means, but they turned out just fine. (Note: I do talk for a living, so if you are terrified of public speaking, you may want to eliminate this or at least bring a note card with you!)

Part 3 is coming soon and focuses mainly on your mental state, aka crazy bride brain, especially in those last couple of  stressful weeks before the big day!