Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fab Dresses for Fab Bridesmaids

Like most brides planning out-of-town weddings, I have learned to seize opportunities in which I can accomplish big chunks of tasks. As Mom Octopus is an elementary school teacher, MOH/Sister Lauren is a college student, and I am a graduate student, we all had two weeks off for the December holidays. I gleefully pounced on and claimed several days of their time off, and scheduled us all for another jam-packed road trip to Pittsburgh!

One of the major tasks for this trip was finding dresses for my glorious bridesmaids! I have known for a long time that I wanted everyone to choose their own dresses, as I have six ladies, all with different taste. They also vary widely in height and figure, and the thought of picking out one dress that would flatter them all equally and make everyone comfortable and happy gave me the cold sweats. Popular opinion was that we should stick to one major retailer and have everyone pick a dress in the same shade. Also, as three of my bridesmaids are college students and one is a mother who is paying a mortgage, I wanted to be as cost-conscious as possible. With those criteria in mind, MOH Lauren, Bridesmaid Clara, Bridesmaid Erica, Mom Octopus and I all rolled out to Alfred Angelo and David's Bridal.

At Alfred Angelo, the girls tried on a whole heap of different dresses. We realized pretty quickly that the top contenders all had a chiffon overlay; Mom O also liked the "matchiness" of having everyone in the same fabric and color, rather than just color. By eliminating all the non-chiffon dresses and combining everyone's favorites, we figured out four different options that we thought would make everyone, even the non-present bridesmaids, happy.

MOH/Sister Lauren models her favorite dress. I like this picture because Mom Octopus and I, reflected in the mirror, look like the panel of America's Next Top Model.

Expert modeling of another contender.

Then, we headed right across the street to David's Bridal, where we were met with icy and unwelcoming customer service. The store was almost completely empty, but we were told that there were not enough dressing rooms or attendants to accommodate us, and if we wanted to try anything on, we would need to make an appointment to come back in several hours. We did look around and combed through the racks a little bit, but didn't find anything special enough to make us want to come back again in a few hours. Alfred Angelo it was!

So, in one breezy and painless afternoon, we determined our bridesmaids' dresses! After each girl looked over the options, three girls picked one dress, two girls picked another, and MOH Lauren picked a third. They'll be wearing Alfred Angelo's "claret" color, which is a rich cranberry red.


Pretty!!! I'm going to continue the theme of "you pick, because you're all fabulous and have great taste" by having them choose their own gold shoes and gold jewelry. I really think it's going to look great.

What are your bridesmaids going to wear? Was the choice an easy or a tough one?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hotel Block: FAIL

Once we locked down Heinz Chapel as our ceremony site, I assumed that we would create our block of hotel rooms at the Holiday Inn directly across the street.

See that awesome location? Less than a five-minute walk to Heinz Chapel! Also, it's a very, very easy walk to many great attractions in the lively Oakland/University of Pittsburgh area, including the University's main building, the Cathedral of Learning, the super-awesome Carnegie Museums of Art and History,
and lots of great, busy bars and restaurants, including the Holy Grail of Pittsburgh foods, Primanti Brothers' sandwiches:

Fluffy Italian bread, tomatoes, cole slaw, grilled deli meat, melty provolone cheese, and a big handful of FRENCH FRIES. I get mine with roast beef and nix the tomatoes and slaw for optimal artery destruction. I have literally dreamt of these. (Source.)

Earlier this week, I called the Holiday Inn to inquire about blocking off our rooms (a month ahead of schedule, according to my wedding planning book, no less!), only to discover that the Society for Botanical Artists (?!?!?!) is having a convention in Oakland that week (?!?!?!?) and already scored all the rooms. Mental reaction: "*#!%&!!!"

So, okay, I am a resilient bride. I rebounded, and decided to go instead for the Marriott very close to our reception site, the Children's Museum, which is about fifteen minutes away from Oakland. The overall neighborhood is not quite as fun and easy to navigate as Oakland, but it's still cool. It provides easy access to the Warhol Museum, a few bars, the Carnegie Science Center, and Pittsburgh's two major sports venues, PNC Park (home of the Pirates) and Heinz Field (home of the Steelers).

I was really optimistic about this choice, and then I spoke to the sales person on the phone. Surpriiiiiise! Given that the hotel provides immediate access to Heinz Field--home of the Steelers--and my wedding is in late September--the opening of football season--they will not reserve a block of rooms for us until after the Steelers' schedule for 2010 is released. In April. Five months before the wedding. And if there is indeed a home game that weekend, not only will they not provide a discounted rate to our guests, they will in fact jack the rates up so high our guests' noses will bleed. Mental reaction:

All is not lost--these aren't the only two hotels in Pittsburgh, obviously. But they ARE the only two hotels that are in such easy, convenient locations to either the ceremony site or the reception site, and also provide a nice surrounding atmosphere for guests to partake in if they so choose. Other hotels in Oakland are a rather annoying distance (as in, not at all walking distance) away from Heinz Chapel, and definitely not in the midst of the fun of the University neighborhood. There aren't really any other hotels on the North Shore, where the reception is. The next closest one is in a whole other neighborhood, over a bridge.

So now I'm not sure what to do. What would you do? Suck it up and wait for the Steelers' spring schedule and keep fingers crossed we can score the best hotel, or book something that's not in a convenient location to either place? Maybe find out the cancellation policies on the less-desirable hotels? Any Pittsburgh brides out there? I'd love some other suggestions!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

If I Could Strike a Word From Our Language....

(Source.) would be bridezilla.

I do believe that there are women out there who act inappropriately and unkindly to their friends, relatives, and vendors during the wedding planning process, but I don't know any personally (and I also suspect that women who behave badly throughout their engagements probably weren't super-pleasant to begin with). I also recognize that we all have moments of intense emotion, irrational reactions, loss of perspective, and perhaps less-than-perfectly-charming behavior. Heck, I've used the word myself, to refer to myself (and the reaction I will have if my relatives try to stand behind the photographer while we're doing portraits and take pictures with their own cameras, causing everyone to look in different directions--this is an extremely justified fear, by the way). But I think the use of the term "bridezilla," overall, has gotten way out of control.


I think the usage of bridezilla has transitioned from being a word that describes genuinely not-okay behavior to one that is casually tossed around, both in the media and in personal life, to demean and mock the general population of engaged women. It seems to me that you're liable to be called a bridezilla if you feel strongly about anything, think your wedding is important, are willing to spend money on any extra details that will beautify or personalize your wedding, actually enjoy wedding planning, expect that things will be generally be carried out the way you planned (and paid for!), feel stressed out by any aspect of the entire process, and aren't planning on giving in to every single opinion and request you receive.


I also find the word quite sexist. Mr. O had a very strong opinion about where our wedding ceremony should be held (Heinz Chapel) and made his opinion clearly known--is there a word that was made up specifically to insult him because he's engaged, he really wanted an aspect of our wedding to be a particular way, and he spoke firmly about it? No.


I like to think of myself as an intelligent, reasonable, assertive, and altogether sane person, and I don't believe those traits were wiped from my brain the second Mr. Octopus slid a ring on my finger. So you know what? Yes, I own a wedding book, a whole stack of wedding magazines, and have tons of wedding inspiration pictures filed away. I have a slew of spreadsheets and documents on my computer, and an organized binder full of contracts and information. It's not because I'm a bridezilla, it's because I'm a visual learner who finds organization helpful, and I would tackle any major project in the same way.


Yes, I cried while having a discussion with my parents about the guest list, and you know why? Because deciding who to invite is an emotionally fraught and difficult process, not because I am A Crazy Bride.

Yes, I expect the vendors we hire to perform their services accurately and correctly. And that does not make me a princess, selfish, or spoiled. It makes me a person who expects service providers to fulfill their contractual obligations and do the things they were specifically hired and paid (LOTS OF) money to do.


So there it is. I have a lot of problems with the term "bridezilla," and the contexts in which it's used. How do you feel about it?

P.S. All the images in this post come up on the first page of an image search for "bridezilla"!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

True Medical Confessions

Hey, so guess what? I have a major issue with cold sores.

Here's why I'm sharing this with you: because both my primary doctor and Dr. Google tell me that cold sores--which, yes, are just a polite term for oral herpes--are actually really common. Since I've been doing battle with this condition for over a year now, and am really hoping to avoid dealing with it on my wedding day, I thought it might help those of you who are similarly afflicted if I shared my tips on avoiding those dreaded outbreaks.

From what I can tell, the cold sores I get are actually pretty mild--they're usually just a small bubble on my lower lip. I'm lucky in that respect. However, for about six months after I had my first outbreak, I got a sore every single month. It drove me nuts, both because of the unsightliness of the sores and the discomfort they caused. By now, though, I think I've got the outbreaks mostly kicked (knock on wood). If you, like me, have cold sores that are the bane of your existence, I can offer you some suggestions. Keep in mind that I am not a medical doctor; these tips are only drawn from my personal experience!

First and foremost: learn to recognize when a blister is on its way. It took me a looooong time to pay attention to my body and notice the warning signs. Once you have a cold sore, it's not easy to make it go away. You can do things that will clear it up a little faster, but for the most part, you're staying, for several days, in Herpes City. So learn to cut it off at the pass. If I notice a sharp pain pinpointed in one spot on my bottom lip, or if I feel a little bump, I am now very proactive about treating it before it turns into a full-blown blister. Which leads me to.....

Arm yourself with treatments that work for you. I have three things that I always have in stock to help head off the cold sores.

Treatment #1: Valtrex


This is a prescription medication that shortens the duration of outbreaks. You can't ever cure or rid yourself of the virus that causes them, but Valtrex helps it become dormant (i.e. stop screwing up your pretty lips) faster.

Treatment #2: Abreva


This is an over-the-counter medicated lip balm that is very, very, very helpful for me in preventing the early twinges of a blister from becoming a full-blown outbreak. As soon as I notice that little pain or bump, I start slathering this stuff on the spot. It really works. It also helps to shorten the duration of the outbreak if you don't catch it fast enough.

Treatment #3: Neosporin Lip Treatment


I use this stuff for the pain the sores cause, which tends to be anywhere from "annoying twinge" to "sudden, searing pain that makes my eyes water." This lip balm numbs the pain very effectively.

Drink lots of water. I have no idea if this actually helps. However, after three years of living in the desert of southern Nevada--land of the chronically dehydrated--Mr. Octopus and I both believe that having a glass of water is a magical, restorative cure for everything from sunburns to sinus infections. Now, I just drink a lot of water when anything whatsoever is wrong with me, including cold sores.

Now, I have a few questions for you. What other suggestions do you have for avoiding cold sores on the wedding day? And this is a big one: can anyone recommend a lip balm that actually improves chapped lips, rather than just covering it up for a few hours? Having chapped lips tends to trigger outbreaks for me, and I haven't found anything that REALLY works!

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Will Have to Get My Fill of Twirly Dresses Elsewhere

Flower girls (and their outfits) are completely adorable, right?

Tutu Princess and Sassy Face found here.


JCREW SRSLY STOP IT!! You know gold is one of my wedding colors!!

However, despite all the cute twirly dress potential, we won't have any little kids bringin' the precious to our wedding party. The reason behind this decision is actually a good thing: we are lucky enough to have an overabundance of candidates!

Check out this laundry list: Mr. Octopus is the doting uncle of four beautiful nieces, ranging in age from three to nine. I have a five-year-old cousin who, in addition to being cute beyond belief, is also the fanciest girly-girl in town. Rounding out the potential flower girl pool is Bridesmaid Clara's gorgeous daughter, who will be just shy of her second birthday by the time the wedding rolls around. Grand total? Six children who would all make outstanding flower girls.

Now, you may disagree, but in my opinion, six flower girls is liiiiiittle bit of overkill. I feel like they'd look like a (cute) small army coming down the aisle. Also, more practically speaking, there is no way we could manage to fit six pomanders/flower petal baskets/whatever into the floral budget.

If I could throw some math at you, an average quote of forty-five dollars for something like this x 6 = Hell. No.

Mr. O and I were absolutely not willing to pick one or two of the girls and leave the rest out, so we made the call: no kids in the wedding party at all. I think a few people were a little disappointed at first, but everyone was very understanding and supportive of our rationale, so it all worked out okay.

The good news is, we are inviting children to the wedding--and there are a lot of children on our guest list--so hopefully we will make up for no cute-flower-girl photos with lots of excited-kids-dancing photos:

(Sources here and here.)

Did you decide to have flower girls (or ring bearers), or not? What was the rationale for your choice?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Photography Fears

I have a fear that keeps creeping around in the back of my brain, and it has to do with our wedding day photography. No, it doesn't concern Corey Ann--she's going to be fabulous--but I am worried about someone else who will be heavily involved in the pictures taken on that day in September.

The person who raises a couple of red flags for me is Mr. Octopus.

Why? Well, instead of giving you an elaborate explanation, let me offer you the following exhibit which demonstrates his favorite and instantaneous reaction to having a camera in his presence. Believe me when I say that the following collage is just a tiny fraction of the body of evidence showing the way he responds to having his picture taken:

Maybe you were wondering if he also enjoys striking ridiculous poses in front of the camera? The answer to that, too, is a resounding yes:

Okay, so I actually think this hobby of his is kind of hilarious. I laughed the entire time I was compiling those pictures. Honestly, I won't mind if he goofs around in (....some of) the portraits, because it is just so, so, so, so him. I am also reassured by the fact that he does manage to smile appropriately sometimes, and looks quite handsome doing it.

However, you also better believe that I will NOT be the one trying to explain to his grandmother why we have wedding portraits that look like this:

Is your fiance silly in front of a camera? Are you going to try to make sure he gets it together for the photographer?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wearing Ivory to the Wedding

Let me tell you something: I am PALE. How pale? The only makeup I use has names like "lightest ivory" and "alabaster." Once, when I was wearing a skirt, my friend asked me where I had gotten my tights--she thought I was wearing white stockings (ha ha, NOPE! Just my natural skin tone, girlfriend!) I have never in my life gotten a tan, partially because I am basically incapable and partially because I hide from the sun for fear of burns. I could give the Cullen family a run for their money.

Don't believe me? Check out this photographic evidence of myself, Mr. O, and Groomsman/Brother Adam, in which it is clear that I am literally a different color than the two of them:

Or this one of Bridesmaid Clara and me (I choose not to explain anything else about this picture):

When I was younger, I used to be embarrassed about it, but not anymore. I have embraced my ivory complexion. I think it's pretty, and I am definitely not going to try any kind of real or artificial tanning for the wedding. So, now I'm thinking about what kind of makeup would complement my skin tone best. I've been perusing the Internet for pictures of celebrities who, like me, have blonde/reddish hair, blue eyes, and cool (i.e. pink) undertones to their skin. Here's what I've come up with:

Kirsten Dunst


Nicole Kidman


Lindsay Lohan (who is a train wreck these days, but, if you remember, used to be fierce as hell)

(Both from here.)

Amy Adams



Christina Hendricks (who plays Joan on Mad Men and is the object of my most passionate girl crush)


A lot of these pictures have some things in common, like berry/pink lips and using shades of gray to strongly define the eyes. I think it's really pretty, and definitely the direction I'm going to go for my makeup.

How are you going to use makeup to play up your skin tone?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Wedding That Is

When I left off, I was getting myself worked up into a tizzy over the way our wedding would look. I was getting so hung up on the idea of needing to have a distinct motif on which to base all my choices that it was making me feel stressed and pressured.

So I said, "this is for the birds!" and decided to scrap the idea of a theme entirely. It was making me feel unnecessarily flipped out, so I gave up on having some kind of narrative which I could use to precisely match all the different elements of our wedding. Now, I'm just using some basic guidelines to make our decisions.

The colors are jewel tones of red and purple, with accents of gold.

(Sources: here and here.)

The atmosphere of our reception venue is quirky, whimsical, and striking,

(Source: a Flickr stream that has been removed since I grabbed this photo.)

so I'm looking for decor that accompanies that.

I've been thinking about different shapes of bud vases filled with varieties of flowers, as well as these ridiculously awesome votives wrapped with vellum-printed book pages. (Sources: here and here.)

I'm planning to include details that are personalized, fun, festive, and feel like "us."

I love, love, looooove when people display photos at weddings. (Source.)

Having these personalized buttons for guests to pin all over their clothes--which my guests WILL do--slays me with its cuteness. Sources here and here.

Taking this lackadaisical approach to decor/detail planning makes me feel a lot better. I think the combination of following the very basic plan outlined above,
just trusting my instincts, and trying not to get overly analytical about things that, in the grand scheme of things, are pretty minor is a recipe for success. It's all going to turn out fine.

How did you decide your vision for your wedding? Was having a theme helpful or burdensome to you?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Weddings That Weren't

So before Mr. Octopus and I were "officially" engaged, I, ahem, occasionally partook in a bit of pre-planning. I didn't come to any major decisions--no purchases, no deposits, nothing irreversible--but I did indulge in a fair bit of the fun, fluffy stuff. I looked at flowers, thought about colors, researched photographers and venues. Because of that, I was becoming more and more certain, convinced, absolutely positive, that I knew exactly what I wanted for the look and feel of our wedding to be. Once the planning really got underway, it was going to be smoooooth sailing!


Now that a lot of the big decisions have been made and the little-detail-planning is the name of the game, I'd say my ideas for the general aesthetic of the wedding have gone through two distinct transformations before landing where they are now (which is the final version, fo realz!). Wanna see the weddings I'm not having?

Wedding #1

Phipps Conservatory, botanical drawing, invitations, cake, bouquet.

My first idea was based on a venue in Pittsburgh that I love: Phipps Conservatory. It's the stunning building pictured on this board, and it's a big, fabulous garden center. When I was really hoping to land this place, my ideas revolved around, obviously, a garden theme. Sage green, cream, gold, dark pink....botanical illustrations....little twinkly lights and candles.....this plan was cut tragically short when I learned that Phipps's rental fee was substantially more than we were able to pay.

Wedding #2

Hogwarts-y hall, book centerpieces, quill, book invitations, calligraphy invites.

When the garden plan was scrapped, my next concept was kind of a "cozied up in an old library" idea. I tossed around ideas like stacked antique books under the centerpieces, calligraphy, a vintage typewriter for a guestbook. I would look at pictures like these and think, yes! The library at Hogwarts! Edgar Allen Poe! Leather! Dark wood! Fantastic!

Two problems here: one, I couldn't find a venue that would blend with a theme like that. Two, while spending an evening of celebration holed up in a library for six hours sounds absolutely perfect to an EPIC NERD like myself, the inescapable fact is that libraries are kind of....solemn. Quiet. "Victor Hugo scribbling on parchment by candlelight," which is, I swear to you, a phase that actually ran through my mind several times, does not exactly scream "festive." Or "party." Or "Mr. Octopus," at all.

At that point, I had to have a bit of a talk with myself. I realized I was getting way too invested in having a distinct and identifiable theme and motif in my wedding, and it was holding me back, not helping me. While I knew that having colors and a style in mind was helpful in choosing flowers, invitations, and other details, I was too wrapped up in it. I was losing sight of the fact that I am getting married, not set-designing a local theater production.

Next, I'll show you the final direction our wedding is going.

Did you have a hard time deciding how you wanted your wedding to look? How did you ultimately make the decision?

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Times When I Knew

When I was in high school, I never had boyfriends. I dated about two people for approximately ten seconds, and that was my track record. My social scene back then largely consisted of performing in the marching band during halftime of the football games and going to the bowling alley with the other members of the school play. You get the idea.

Daria Morgendorffer and Angela Chase (pre-Jordan Catalano): two girls who hit pretty close to home for me in the high school years.

Once I got to college, though, I found myself with a boyfriend (Mr. O!) almost immediately. Considering how young we both were--I was actually still a few weeks short of my eighteenth birthday!--and how little experience we each had with serious (or.....any) relationships, it really sort of boggles my mind to think about how we got to be here, at this point in our lives, planning our wedding.

I think the process of putting marriage on the table is different for the really-young-when-we-met brides and the the first-real-boyfriend brides (or those, like me, who are both!) than for people who meet when they're a little older and wiser. I can promise you that when I was seventeen, the word "husband" was not, under any circumstances, crossing my mind. So how did I get here? I can't speak for Mr. O, but I can give you my perspective on the major experiences across the years that got me to the point of wanting to be his wife.

Year One: This Guy is Awesome
Like I said, back in the early days, "forever" was nonexistent to me. But I did find myself really, really liking him. Things between us were easy and fun. Something I've always cherished is the absence of drama and conflict in our relationship; instead, it was mellow and calm. Things just worked. We both loved trying new things and having little adventures, and we spent a lot of time laughing.

Year Three: Bon Voyage!
As a junior in college, I had the opportunity to fulfill one of my dreams--studying abroad for a semester (are there any other Semester at Sea alums out there in the hive?!). Mr. Octopus and I were separated for three and a half months, often going for long stretches of time without communicating at all. It was really hard for both of us, but he never said a single unsupportive word. His only message, ever, was how thrilled and excited he was for me. He was so selfless in his efforts to make the experience joyful for me, and I was so humbled by it.

Here are two little doodles Mr. O drew and e-mailed to me while I was studying abroad. It shows him, missing me, with little hearts above his head at Pitt, and me, missing him, with little hearts above my head on the ship. I ugly-cried for about two hours after receiving this.

Years Five and Beyond: Las Vegas
As college was ending, we knew we had to make a decision about where our relationship was going. I had been accepted to Teach for America, and I really wanted to join. We chose: I would accept the offer, and he would come with me. TFA sent us to Las Vegas, and we moved two thousand miles to live together for the first time. We had some really great times, and we had some really hard times. We worked through all of it, the little mundane everyday things, and the big, major, life-decision things. We built a life together. And I still have more fun with him than with anyone else I know.

And that's how I realized: this man is my other half, my best friend, and the love of my life. He's my family. In the first few years, we both went through some brief periods of wondering if this was truly the relationship we wanted, or only the relationship we knew, but as time progressed, I became certain: it's the relationship I want, and I want it forever. Every time we go through something, good or bad, we get to know each other a little bit better, we communicate a little easier, and we're a little more bonded than we were before. Every day of our relationship is a choice, and every day, I choose him. I'm so excited to get married.

How did you know that your significant other was the one you wanted to marry?