Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ring-A-Ding Ding

The ring was quite a point of contention for awhile. We were unoffically engaged a long time. So, long I concieved, incubated and gave birth to a new person. I became self concious of "ring lookers". I walked around with my newborn and my tiny stature, I'm sure being mistaken for a teen mom. I knew Mike wasn't dragging his heals out of fear of committment, but rather a perfectionist need to "do it right." It's no less annoying when that's the reason by the way.

My mom sent me my grandma's ring the previous Thanksgiving. It's a beautiful ring and it was my mom's engagement ring. I wore it when I was fearful of ring lookers or just needed something tangible. I offered to let Mike hang on to it and propose with it, but he wouldn't hear of it.

My grandma's ring.

Mike and I had a long talk about what kind of ring I'd like and even visited some jewerly stores together. I knew I didn't want a diamond solitare that just didn't appeal to me. Not that there's anything wrong with diamonds, I happen to think they're beautiful. My favorite stone is emerald and in our reasearching we found a jewelry store that specialized in emeralds. I loved this one:

It was in a jewelry store called Queen Emerald. All of their beautiful natural stones were from South America. The man who worked there was incredibly nice. He taught us all about the color and clarity scale and talked cuts of stone with us for a long time. I had hoped Mike would return for that ring, but he wanted to buy loose stones and his own setting (of course).

Here's the ring he proposed with:

My Engagment Ring:
The stone is a round cut emerald, which we learned are pretty rare in this size. Isn't it beautiful? It came from Queen Emerald of course. It is flanked on either side by small pear shaped diamonds. No idea where those came from, we looked at daimonds all over town and NO ONE was as nice as the Queen Emerald guy. The setting may be upgraded to platinum someday. I was just so happy to finally have a ring.

Here's the wedding band I like. Told you I like diamonds. I want an eternity band, sue me, I am a girl. I love the cicles alternating with the eye-shape. We looked at these at one or two stores once upon a time. I hope I can still find something like it.

My wedding band:
Beautiful, isn't it? Sigh.
I'm not opposed to the idea of substituting some of the diamonds for emeralds. It would certainly make it cheaper and it would match my engagement ring better. I really like it this way though. I guess we'll see where we land on that once we start paying for things.

Originally, Mike said no stones in his wedding band and I picked out a beautifully hand-engraved palladium ring for him. I love the idea of him having a palladium ring because that is used in all kinds of technology. I can't find any good images, but trust it was nice. After he saw it in person he told me he didn't like it. He also changed his mind about wanting stones (like so many grooms I know!). Here's his pick:

He says it "reminds him of Zelda". Something about the triangles. I like that the stones are inlaid and we would match. Honestly, I'm still secretly pouting over the original ring he rejected. Plus, having a vague sense what the stones for my engagement ring cost I told him we would never be able to afford this.

He said "Don't worry, I don't need a natural emerald we can get a lab grown one much cheaper. It isn't that important for mine. My ring is only a sold tag, anyway."

Monday, May 30, 2011

First Thing's First?

We did things all "out of order." The song says first comes love, then come marriage and then comes a baby in a baby carriage. In fact, that was the plan from the start. I would move in with Mike, we'd get engaged, we get married and then someday there'd be a baby. Simple.

Except nothing ever is. The song doesn't account for Mike becoming a young dad only to abandoned by his wife when Isaac was under a year. The song did not account for the recession or back surgery, either.

I'm not much for unsubstantiated "have to"s. These days I'm not the only one either: (excerpts from my post on The Hedgehog Blog It's called Love, Baby Carriage...Marriage?)
"Here's a statistic I read while pregnant: "60% of all couples in the United States live together before they get married and 1/3 of them have babies first."Don't get me wrong I'm not arguing that everyone's doing it, but in my opinion that has been a lot of people's argument for marriage. I'm simply saying we have choices and people seem more aware of them than in the past.

"I have a baby. I am not married. Believe me there are people who wanted me to rush to a court house the minute the test showed two lines. I, however, do not own a time machine and in my opinion being pregnant before you're married doesn't change if you have a marriage license before anyone finds out. Also, pregnancy was not a good enough reason to make that kind of commitment especially in a big rush."Again, it's great when everything goes according to plan, but sometimes it doesn't. I had my beautiful girl at the only time it was physically possible. God, knows what he's doing. Now that the window of opportunity for having babies is closed and our "blended family" is complete:

"It seemed more important to be validated and have some ceremony and contract...shouldn't I get a big party in honor of the partnership I was already committed to?"So, now I'm healing from the surgery Riley is approaching two and were settled into our new home. Just as my brain allowed the wedding planning thoughts out of the basement where they were locked away, events unfolded that gave me pause: (excerpts from another Hedgehog Blog post called If Love Were an Airplane Nobody'd Get On)

"Recently, some couples close to me split up. Married people with families...I suddenly felt hopeless. They had it all together, they were happy and they didn't make it. I'm a disaster and we're always working through things. Our odds must be negative numbers." Getting married wasn't a decision I came to lightly, but when I did I held tightly to the success stories.

"The news...over and over that people I thought had the answers are calling it quits...From where I sit they were what I aspired to. They had love, children, friendship and it seemed to me that had...the immunization against the statistics...If I could find the answers they [we'd make it]." I even thought once or twice, "but they did it the right way." The right way being: dated for a long time, got engaged, married and then had babies. I've got a bit of a complex about doing things the right way, but in the end there seems to only be the way they happen, for better or worse.

"I often think if we can work though this issue we'll be ready or if we get past that we'll get married...I don't think you're supposed to get an A+ on being a couple and then earn the gold star of marriage. Maybe the idea is you get married and agree to spend the rest of your lives getting it right." I hope I'm right about that last part. I can't imagine promising before God to love Mike forever, but I can certainly give it all I've got on a day to day basis. Maybe, it's a holdover from school, but I keep thinking if I do the right things in the right order I'll be rewarded. It's been so hard for so long I think I deserve some easy, happy times.

It's not studying for a final and then the class is over. It's forever. It's hard now and it'll be hard later too, but there will some happiness in there too. We're just signing up for more of what life has to offer, together. Sometimes it feels less like "Happily Ever After" and more like "Once More Into the Breech..."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fairy Girls

So, over the years of being unofficially engaged, officially engaged and then postponed I started joking that I "had to grow a flower girl first." Even before Riley was born I pictured her being pulled down the aisle in a flower filled wagon wearing a pair of fairy wings.

Something like this image from my wedding notebook. (Thanks, Lara for photographing my notebook for the blog.) The baby is so tiny the wings are the length of her entire body. So, sweet.

We're past the point of needing the wagon at this point, but I'm so excited that my flower girl will be my beautiful Riley. I also decided I want her to share the job with her best friend Boo. They love each other so much. Now I picture them holding hands down the aisle and tossing petals. My beautiful girls.

Boo and Roo at the zoo (18mos). My little flower girls.

This was the dress I had to have in 2008:

Watter Girls collection, style #45970. I called about it the other day (after showing the picture to Boo's mom) and they told me it was discontinued in January 2011. I was so bummed. I hope it's not the first of many consequences of postponement.

The flower girl dress was the only attire I wasn't flexible on. Seriously, even my dress I have more of an idea of how it should look more than exact plan. I was completely deflated. However, I called Boo's mom to break the news and she said "oh, Katie you're going to find something better." She also confessed she found the dress a little plain for the fairies I'd described.

Shortly after the pep talk I found this dress :

It's also a Watters, style#46231. Having two flower girls, one who isn't my biological child, I hesitate to fork over $200 per dress. So, I'm looking for something similar or at least similar fabric. I love the color (they call this green apple), the spray of flowers above and below the sash and the tulle. Picture it on the two prettiest 2yr olds you ever saw with ballet slippers, fairy wings and flower wreaths on their heads.
This is the flower wreath I'm after. Maybe I’ll do one with lighter purple and one with darker purple flowers. Beautiful.

This is actually an ad for a photographer. Her wreath is all baby’s breath, but I love the shoes. It's a great picture of the sweet little flower girl surrounded by the bride's skirt.

It turns out Riley's already practicing for the shot:

(photo by Lara Coughlin) I didn't have a sweet little face peering out from under my skirt when I bought it. I think I like it better this way.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Un-Just Deserts

When we started planning our wedding the first time we had lots of company, my best friend and Mike's sister were both planning their weddings. It was fun to have people to discuss wedding plans with. Sometimes we would even visit vendors together. The girls all got together for lunch one afternoon and went to see the florist. It was a lovely time, but the next attempt at a group visit a wedding vendor went over like a lead balloon.

We decided to make the cake tasting a double date. I made an appointment at what I was told was the best place for wedding cakes in town. Mike's sister and her fiance met us there and from the minute we walked through the door I knew we were in trouble.

Again, maybe tv did me a disservice because I thought all bakeries were like Charm City Cakes just ready and waiting for the next challenge. Ace of Cakes made this place look like an IRS office. It was a decidedly more somber feel. The dusty display cakes were all very traditional white tiered things. The woman who greeted us was another troll. This time in temperament only, so it caught me off guard. Why do so many of them go into wedding related businesses? Or does working in weddings turn you into a troll, neither of the ones I encountered were spring chickens.

She asked us to wait in a curt manner unbefitting our unbridled enthusiasm. I don't know what we did to rub her the wrong way right off the bat, but she clearly sized us up and found us wanting. When she was ready she carried the samples on a tiny paper plate over to a round table with a white table cloth.

Now, Mike and I had a miscommunication and I got all chocolate samples, but he wanted flavored white cake. When we inquired while tasting chocolate if they had white cake they could flavor mint chocolate her dislike for us intensified. We hadn't meant to "waste her time" it had simply been a miscommunication. I can't imagine it doesn't happen all the time since in most cases the bride and her mother plan vendor appointments and men always have strong opinions on food. She informed us with annoyance dripping from her tone that they couldn't do that.

Having been in a position many times where I want something that's hard to come by and having worked in sales I waited for her to offer alternative options. She simply sat. I decided to take a new approach at this point. I didn't have a clear picture of what I wanted for the design of the cake, but I knew I wanted it to be asymmetrical.

I can't be the only bride because there are some perfectly conservative wedding cakes that happen to have off kilter layers.

She looked at a picture I brought of a topsy turvy cake and said, "we don't do that." I was floored. Was this woman the worst salesperson on the planet or did she just hate us? She went on to explain that they didn't work with non-edible elements inside the cakes which is what you would need to support such a cake. Um...huh. So, I asked if we could at least have tiers in a shape besides circles. She told me they would do square or hexagon shaped tiers. It took her a while to find an example in her book at my request. Their books seemed pretty out of date in general featuring large cakes with plastic columns separating tiers and tiny wedding parties on staircases leading down to the table. There was even a cake with a fountain on it. Hello, 1985 wants it's cake back, thanks.

It didn't get any better from there. Being a problem solver Mike got out a pencil and tried to sketch something asymmetrical that could support itself. She shot down three or four of his suggestions without offering any alternatives. I was starting to get depressed. Was what I wanted so weird and impossible? Was the whole wedding planning process going to be this way?

In the end they didn't have a flavor like what we were looking for and the best they could offer designwise was hexagonal tiers stacked facing different directions. They didn't have anything with climbing vines as the decorative element to show me and we didn't press it. She barely mumbled goodbye and I'm sure was relieved to see us go.

In the car the depression turned into rage. How dare they treat us that way! My requests weren't unreasonable. I shouldn't be made to feel bad because I don't want what most brides want. GRRR... Maybe with more research I would have known they only do uncomplicated, conservative cakes there and I would have gone elsewhere from the beginning. They lost not one, but two weddings that day (not counting the brides deterred by the scathing post I left on knot warning others).

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Burst Bubble

After many, many years watching A Wedding Story on TLC and later a myriad of other wedding shows I had some rather, grandiose ideas for my wedding. On those shows they refer to any wedding budget under $30,000 as small. That is why my original wedding budget of $25,000 sounded perfectly reasonable on paper

My original budget was generous; I put hundreds of dollars into categories when I wasn't sure. The scale of things I originally pictured was huge. Over a hundred people in attendance, lavish decor, multiple photographers, custom dress and gourmet food.

The wedding shows never show the bride and groom toiling away the first years of their marriage to pay off the party. Maybe those couples have parents footing the bill or horrible credit. When I blew the dust off my wedding notebook I found not one, but three budgets front and center. The first of these was a worksheet from the knot.com I made in late April 2008. I remember finding their "advice" on the sheet interesting, but that it was difficult to customize it efficiently. The second one was a plain old excel spreadsheet I did a month later, but it's covered in handwritten notes of things forgotten prior to printing. The last budget made on Martha Stewart's wedding site (which was by far my favorite wedding budgeting tool) in September 2008. It has estimated costs at $24,222 (and that's after the bargain dress). After a few years of a not-so-great economy, being out of work recovering from surgery and having a baby that number seems pretty laughable. I guess it's time to start a post official engagement, feet on the ground budget.

The things I thought I couldn't do without turn out to be largely dispensable. Why go for the $4,000 dollar venue at the expense of everything else when the venue under $1,000 is beautiful and less restricting. Why not cut the guest list down to the nearest and dearest? Intimate ceremonies are more romantic, anyway. A professional photographer and videographer would be amazing, but we have relatives who are pretty good with a camcorder. And so it goes...

I'm happy with a smaller guest list and eyes on the "plan B" venue. I know what's important to me now. I can skip costly engraved invitations (most of them will end up in the trash anyway), a bachelorette party (I'm not a drinker), multiple pairs of shoes (one comfortable pair will do), a veil (I’d rather wear flowers in my hair, anyway) and at least one DIY project worth of supplies. It will be the kind of day I want just scaled back to something within reason. It will be meaningful, unforgettable and so “us”.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fractured Fairy Tale

I want an outdoor evening wedding. In a botanical garden so that it can be decorated like an enchanted forest. Not like cheesy kiddy cartoon magic forest, but like Midsummer Night's Dream enchanted. Even if it were an indoor wedding I would want lots of greenery. When I started planning all those years ago I choose emerald and ivory as my colors. I'm not sure what will change from my original plan, but I'd still like it to hold true to the central idea.

Here's the "inspiration board" I made in paint shop in summer 2008:

You'll recognize the dress I designed online in the center and the image of the tree bride from my blog background. The little girl in the bottom corner is wearing the flower girl dress I want. I have the standard beautiful nature and rustic lanterns every bride adds to the mix in the early stages. Also note the glass slippers, not sure if those are practical. This a bride in a soft green gown with vine embellishment who looks trapped in her veil, in a playful way. Midsummer Nights Dream posters with sleeping lovers surrounded by fairies. I love the idea of painted rocks for place cards, but I think I'm over the "wish tree" idea. It got super popular for a while and I don't have anything new to add so I'll skip it.

So there to have the aesthetic in a nutshell. Feel free to leave your thoughts and offer ideas I'm starting from scratch again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Groomzilla Episode

I have to start by saying that Mike is an artist and equipped with the required temperament. He becomes extremely passionate and perfectionistic about things he really cares about. He was very excited to discuss wedding plans from the beginning. Listening aptly to my ideas and then expanding on them. Sometimes so much so that I had to reign him back in. It was good though, because we felt it was our day. The day to celebrate us as a couple so we'd plan it together.

So flashback to nontraditional little me letting the groom accompany me dress shopping on the first time out, who knew that would spell trouble? That magic day I found the dress I sneakily borrowed cash (it was under $100) from someone, purchased it and sent it home with someone else. I was super ninja.

It was one thing to get a little feedback right off the bat, but now I had the dress, my dress. It was going to be top secret from now on. I was over the moon having found a dress when I least expected it for so little money. I thought I would go home and report my resourcefulness and my groom who be would be thrilled that the budget was intact and the to-do list slightly shorter.

Wrong. He listened, shocked, to my news and then his face twisted into an expression of anger. He felt left out! I was stunned. I was at a complete loss. As outside the box as my thinking is I still very much believed the dress is the bride's project.

Soon he was yelling and I was crying (when I wasn't yelling back). This was supposed to be a happy day because in any other house it would be good news. It turned into something like this:

Are you saying you don't trust me to pick out my dress?

No..I..just you can be...influenced

Influenced into WHAT?!?

I don't want you to have a bunch of stuff you don't want.

I won't. I can't believe you have so little faith in me.

I thought we were doing things together.

We are, but this is the one thing that's mine.

But you're talking to my mom and my sister about it, but not me.

Because you are the GROOM and they're going to help with alterations.

(He huffs and puffs some more)

Honey, you're in charge of the engagement ring and proposal and I get final say on the dress.

This is bulls**t.

In the end he cooled down and I agreed to show him the dress per-alterations if he backed off the dress issue. By the time I showed him the disputed garment he was unconcerned and unimpressed. So, the dress is my project in the end.

Yesterday, I took possession of my dress again (my dad had been holding it for safe keeping since I bought it). It was a good to see it again after all this time. I asked Mike if he had anything to say on the subject of my dress before I started the alteration project, with his mom and sister (for real this time). He laughed, but when I remember that long ago fight I still tear up a little.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What to Wear....

Let's talk about the dress, shall we? I thought it would be simple because I knew exactly what I wanted. Let me tell you, wedding dress shopping and simple don't exist in the same universe. I wanted an ivory ballgown with a fitted bodice and a floor length skirt with ruching on one side and no train. Something like this:

I decided finding a dress was priority number one because whatever I bought would need a lot of alterations. I had high expectations for dress shopping. I brought Mike (told you, I'm non-traditional) and his sister who's one of my bridesmaids. She bought her camera and got some beautiful pictures. The sales lady was skeptical about my budget, my far off date and my size. I was struck with dread as I browsed the plastic bags hanging on the racks. They all looked poofy, over complicated, and a few sizes too big.

The sales lady was rather troll-ish in stature, demeanor, and appearance. I asked her if she had any dresses without trains and she looked at me like I had three heads. After a long pause I was informed that she didn't have any samples like that, but any dress could be altered that way (with a tone that implied I was nuts). Here's the three dresses closest to what I was looking for at David's Bridal in summer 2008.

Dress One: Very plain bodice with a green sash and tons of ruching.

Dress Two: Sparkly bodice, less dramatic ruching on skirt.

Close-up on dress two. This is by far favorite picture of the day. I look like a princess who was just asked to dance.

Dress three: Boning and embroidery on bodice and full ruched skirt. This one made me cry. I also like the veil with tiny pearls in it.

Needless to say, I didn't buy one that day. I continued my search that summer at a more upscale boutique, but still came a way empty handed. The old adage about finding things when you aren't looking for them held true for me:

I was at the thrift store on half price day and among my treasures I had a wedding planning book. One of the employees of the store saw the book and informed me they had wedding dresses. Familiar with the usual yellowing 80's atrocities hanging in the dress section, I nodded dismissively. She sensed my hesitation and added "a boutique went out of business and donated all their remaining stock." I perked up, but what were the odds two wedding dress retailers with thousands of dresses didn't have anything, but Goodwill did?

I meandered over to check the rack and found this beautiful Alfred Angelo dress in the right silhouette in a small-ish size. It was marked WAY down and half price so I figured even if it wasn't perfect it was a good starting place for alterations or at least good material in the worst case scenario.

The dress.

Closeup on the bodice.

The back.

I have pictures of me in it, but I'll save those for before shot when I get into the alterations. I love the design on the bodice that looks like a Celtic knot, but there are too many sequins. Also, the train has got to go and I need a bit of green somewhere. Love the raw potential.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I'll never fit in. For the most part, I gave up any hope of it in High School anyway. Apparently as of 2004 90% of woman in this country changed their name when they married. NINTY PERCENT?!? Woah. I just don't see it.

To me, trying to get someone to give me a good reason to change my name is like trying to find a smoker who can give you a good reason why they started. I've never been the kind of person to do something just because everyone else does it. I need to know why. I have had my name, which I am incredibly fond, of for almost 30years I would like a good reason to abandon it.

I have plenty of reasons not to change it. I have been credited professionally under this name. I love the sound of it. I am one of two daughters born to an only child so the name dies with him if we change it when we marry. We have spent all these years in a committed monogamist relationship with our own names, why rock the boat? Why, is it assumed that I should change my name, but never even considered that he could change his? I was a step mom from the beginning of our relationship and it has never caused a problem that Mike's son and I don't have the same name. My daughter has my name so I'm not the lone weird-o sporting a different name in the house. It just doesn't seem necessary.

The name issue seems archaic and arbitrary to me. It should be a personal decision Not a social mandate. Here's an article that sums it up well.

I'm lucky my intended has no huge ego about his woman having his name (maybe because he already has a son with his name). We have contemplated all changing our names so that we match and have neither original surname, but the longer we have half the family with his name and have with mine the more that seems silly. The only time I ever feel irritation is when I can't just sign the Christmas card "the ___________s" and be done with it. That doesn't seem like a good reason to make the change though. I'm open to it if anyone has one of those.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Aisle

As you may have noticed we got engaged in December of 2009 and it is currently May 2011 and we're not married yet. In fact we don't even have a wedding date yet. Life just kept relentlessly, well...happening.

We knew we would get married before the official proposal, but first the economy went south and then SURPRISE! I was pregnant. It was a difficult pregnancy and I spent most of it on bed rest (and in the end delivered 6weeks early). I didn't bounce back from pregnancy very well and when Riley was 8months old I had spinal fusion surgery. It's a procedure where they insert a rod into your spine to keep it straight. Fun stuff. It was an absolutely horrific ordeal and requires 2years for full recovery. Once I was well on my way to my old self, minus the debilitating back pain, it was time to leave the house our family of four had out grown. So, now we're settled and my thoughts have returned to the big day.

The show must go on...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Very Serious Hedgehog (the proposal)

It was Christmas Day 2009. We were at the family brunch. Three month old Riley was sleeping in the Snugli on my chest. Santa gave me a present, the last of the day. Be sure to watch my sister on the couch once the ring comes out her reaction is great.

The poem said: (Outside of the box) With each year, there must come an end we share with family and with friends. It's a time of comfort, a time to be jolly, for careful thought and sometimes folly.

(Biggest Hedgehog) It's a wonderul time to make a new start. There's a chill in the air, and there's warmth in your heart. There's a story within, you can't wait to write. And it's unfolding around you, each star-filled night.

(Second Hedgehog) These people around you. They are good and kind and care about you. They all know the type of tale you tell, the breath of the flute the clang of the bell.

(Third Hedgehog) Each year, every girl and boy wishes for their favorite toy. They each send off their Christmas list, and not one wish-not one-is missed.

(Fourth Hedgehog)Once every year, the magic brings to the many children many things. This year there is a gift for you. I hope you like it,
I know...

(Last Hedgehog) I do. (and the ring was in there)

Go to the Proposal tab for still photos

Friday, May 20, 2011

Expect The Unexpected

As I mentioned in the About the Bride tab, I am not your average bride. I'm a tiny, disabled woman raising two kids after a spinal fusion who never aspired to be married. However, I am often wrong and when you're this committed why not have a big party and make it official?

While I do want to discuss details of the planning process here I also what to record deeper thoughts on the convention of marriage in general, the challenges of planning a wedding with a toddler under foot, finding the right fit when you're small of stature and disabled and where all these crazy traditions come from.

This will not be just another cookie cutter wedding blog. I am, however, a DIY bride, on a budget with some very strong opinions that often buck popular opinion.