Friday, November 26, 2010

I Have Issues With Themes

Before delving into this next post, let me warn you: the badly drawn stick figure illustrations continue. I'm doing this because a) I had fun making these, and b) I'm a genuinely horrible artist, and Microsoft Paint is an excellent way to showcase my utter lack of talent. But I digress. On to the heart of the matter...

Along with colors and flowers, my online wedding website planner thingy says I should be considering a theme. I find this mildly annoying, since the online planning thingy follows this up by asking asinine questions like "What's your wedding's mood?" (I don't know; ask my wedding. If you wake it up from a deep sleep to inquire about its mood, though, it's probably going to punch you in the face.) I'm fairly bewildered by the very idea of finding a theme, though, because it never occurred to me that I'd need to throw a theme party in addition to getting married.
Given my dearth of theme party experience, I decided to do some research on this. As it turns out, theme suggestions abound. Seasonal themes, beach themes, fairy tale themes, literary themes...the list carries on. Some of them, though, piss me right the hell off.

Take, for example, the literary themes. Now one would think, being the horribly bookish mega-nerd that I am, that I'd love this. But here's the problem: the most oft-mentioned literary themes are The Great Gatsby and Romeo and Juliet. Seriously? Did the people who suggest this shit not complete 10th grade English? Here's a quick flashback to high school: The Great Gatsby is a story about the American Dream gone horribly awry; it involves extra-marital affairs, tragic deaths, and a constant undercurrent of loneliness, cynicism, and moral decay. As for Romeo and Juliet, let's review its genre: it's a tragedy. It's not the greatest love story ever told, it's a fucking tragedy. Romeo and Juliet both wind up dead. And, just to add to the shittiness of their situation, their deaths could've been prevented if they hadn't been so stupid and impulsive.

So tell me: why would anyone want either of these works to be the over-arching theme of their wedding?
The issue of fairly-tale themes also grates on me, but for different reasons. I've always been a bit of an odd bird, so when I was growing up, I never wanted to be the princess in the Disney films I saw. (For the record, though, I did rather adore Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The villagers all described her as being "different from the rest of us" because she always had her nose stuck in a book. I could relate.) Belle aside, though, I wasn't down with being a Disney princess. No, I wanted to be the evil witch. Those women were badass. I thought it was awesome.

In first grade, when all the other girls were dressing up as fairies and princesses for Halloween, I wanted to go as Malificent from Sleeping Beauty. My mom made me a magenta and black cape. I carried a DIY sceptre. I got to wear eye shadow. It was glorious.

So, the bottom line is that I don't want to be a fairy-tale princess. Princesses are wholesome and sweet, and I'm neither of those things. So unless a fairy-tale themed wedding can accommodate Malificent - an evil ne'er-do-well who occasionally morphs into a fire-breathing dragon - as the blushing bride, it's a non-starter for me.
My all-time favorite theme suggestion, though, can best be described as 'douchiness.' It's quite possibly the most absurdly over-involved, unnecessarily complicated, and utterly horrifying scenario I can think of. A case in point, taken verbatim from the website:

A grand wedding invitation -- for example, a vintage cigar box invitation, replete with a custom monogram and label -- will establish the vibe of the whole event. Tie it all together with a tented table number and favor tag that coordinate with the wedding invitation, and have your groom match the theme with a silk woven dot bow tie. Lastly, give your guests a wedding favor that is both old and charming. Vintage cordial glass adorned with velvet blue ribbon and filled with flowers like delphiniums and green pom-pom mums are the ideal send-off.


Once I picked myself up off the floor, I started deconstructing the various absurdities of the above suggestion. First, I have no idea where the hell I'm supposed to come up with 200 vintage cigar boxes. I don't even know where one would acquire a single vintage cigar box, let alone enough to use them as invitations. (And relatedly, what would be postage costs be for sending a bunch of cigar boxes? Those things aren't exactly suitable for letter-size envelopes.)

Secondly, custom monograms and labels? Am I supposed to have as much disposable income as your average rock star? Since I don't, my budget can support something hand-written in Sharpie in place of a custom monogram and label. Does that work as a reasonable facsimilie? No? Shit.

Next, if I asked my Betrothed to wear a silk woven dot bow tie, I might as well ask him to get a sex change. Seriously, I can think of few things more emasculating than a silk dot bow tie. I wouldn't be able to take him seriously. At all. We'd wind up having to repeat our marriage vows without the silk dot bow tie accompanying him, because I'd just giggle the entire time.

Lastly, the vintage cordial glasses. This is a cute idea, but again: where do I find 150-200 vintage cordial glasses? They don't sell them in bulk at Hobby Lobby, which makes me think it will turn into a Holy Grail-like quest to find that many vintage cordial glasses. They'll find me in a back corner of the Georgetown flea market, shaking and twitching while curled up in the fetal position and begging for my mother.

And so, after reviewing all the possible options, my Betrothed and I settled on the perfect theme for our wedding: marriage. Yes, you read that right: the theme of our wedding will be marriage. It's nice and self-explanatory. It won't require extensive coordination, bow ties, or questionable literary references. It's cost-effective. For this Malificent, it might just make me so happy and relieved that I'll never again morph into a fire-breathing dragon.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Grand Floral Strategy

I really like flowers. Like most women, I get really happy and googly-eyed when my Betrothed brings me a pretty bouquet. I get only slightly less happy and googly-eyed when I buy them for myself. Flowers are awesome.

So, when I started working on wedding stuff, I thought this would be fairly straightforward, and possibly even fun. But I certainly didn't expect to be up to my damn neck in floral insanity. (Please pass the Zyrtec.) Per the usual, I turned to my online wedding planner thingy. Per the usual, I was totally put off, if not totally horrified, by the veritable laundry list of things I should be thinking about.

Apparently I'm supposed to devote hours upon hours to thinking about this. I should be meeting with florists, envisioning my theme, colors and preferred motifs, and mapping it all out perfectly into a Grand Floral Strategy:

Your flowers will be one of the most heavily photographed elements of your wedding. As a result, it's important to pick centerpieces and bouquets that truly fit your wedding style.

Well then. No pressure or anything. Really, though, I have a hard time believing that the photographer will spend upwards of 50% of their data space on flowers. They're nice and all, but aren't the people more important? I'd much rather have pictures of my best friend dancing to Lady GaGa than I would of some uber-detailed shot of my bouquet from 8 different angles. I'm just sayin'. So, for me at least, I don't feel like it's necessary to fret about whether or not I can produce bouquets and centerpieces that will be the floral equivalent of an international supermodel while they smile and look pretty for the camera.

(Because I'm feeling particularly punchy tonight, I've decided to flex my decidedly atrophied, if not downright hideous, artistic muscles and make some badly-drawn illustrations to accompany my wise-ass writing. I thank Allie Bosch at Hyperbole and a Half for the inspiration to draw funny shit in Microsoft Paint.)

Once you've made a decision on the flower arrangements you want, you should find a florist who can make it all happen. Be sure to bring pictures and examples of wedding flowers that you like. Before you talk with your florist, make sure that you have your ideal centerpiece ideas and bouquets in mind - as well as your wedding flower budget.

I see no problem with finding examples of things that I like, but really? I just can't bring myself to devote this much time and energy to developing and deploying a Grand Floral Strategy. I don't have a clue what my "ideal" wedding flowers look like. All I know is that, since the bridesmaids' dresses are red, I should probably find colors that don't clash with it. And I don't want them to be overly ornate. Beyond that, I ain't got shit. And, as for my budget? Cheap. As cheap as possible, in fact.

While I can certainly see the value of knowing what one wants and having examples to illustrate it, working with a florist to create the perfect bouquets and centerpieces is an ordeal that apparently requires its own language. No joke. Said language isn't the least bit based in horticulture, either. According to The Knot, I should describe my venues, the architecture of the church and reception cite, level of formality, season, and the style of my dress - all to ensure that the Grand Floral Strategy is implemented with minimal casualties.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I present...

Exhibit A:
Cymbidium orchids, calla lilies, and French tulips come to mind for"chic" weddings - in addition to a generally modern aesthetic and simple, sleek arrangements such as clear acrylic containers. When meeting with florists, describe the visual details of your wedding (for example, your location's architecture, your wedding colors, or your gown's design): "The semi-formal reception is in the courtyard of a Spanish-style boutique hotel." Or "A posh dress and a black-tie wedding in summer, on a rooftop in the city, with an all-white color scheme."

Exhibit B:
The word "romantic" presents florists with a wide variety of ideas. Some think of peonies and garden roses in clay pots, while others imagine a cascade of red roses placed in silver urns. Because there are so many interpretations of romance, you'll need to give lots of details—such as feel, location, formality, and season—when communicating your version of the word: "A relaxed daytime reception in early summer, on the lawn of a seaside cottage," or "An upscale, 200-person fete at a historic estate in winter."

No disrespect to florists, but...GOOD GOD. I'm exhausted after reading this. If I have to do all this stuff in real life, there's a good chance I'll lose my mind. Or die of flower-induced exhaustion. My aching body will simply give out under the strain of wedding pressure and floral fatigue.

I also wonder how much, exactly, all this costs. The more I research, the more my stomach cries out in anguish. None of this stuff is cheap. The "deluxe" options usually start at $350, whereas the "budget" options are between $100-$250 per item.

Now, there's no way to put this delicately, so I'm just going to say it: there's no way in hell I'm going to spend $100 for five bridesmaid's bouquets, $100 for a junior bridesmaid/flower girl bouquet, $100 for my bouquet, and $100 for centerpieces to be placed at no fewer than 15 tables. At a minimum, we're talking $2000.

My budget cannot, in any way, allow me to allocate 2K for flowers. My student loans have already left me unfathomably broke, so I'm unwilling to become even more broke in order to purchase some fucking flowers.

Even if I had the money to spend on this, and despite the fact that I get all googly-eyed over flowers from my Betrothed, I'm not sure I could abide paying a lot for them. Bouquets wilt. They're not planted in your garden. They'll be all parched and sad within the week, and who wants sad flowers?

Is it really worth paying that much money for, not to mention devoting absurd amounts of time to thinking about, a bunch of bouquets that will be moribund 5 days after the wedding?

Upon looking around for, like, 30 seconds, I realized that there's a preponderance of really cheap and really nice flowers out there. There's a dude outside my office who sells bouquets for $6. Another dude by the Metro who sells roses for $7. On a recent trip to Sam's Club, I decided to scope out the flower prices to see how they compare to the $100 "budget" bouquets I've read about online. Behold...

Cheap flowers! Beautiful, glorious, magical cheap flowers! I wanted to hug them, but decided against it because a) they wouldn't do well when squooshed in my embrace, and b) I'd look like the craziest person in the store, which is really saying something when you're at Sam's Club or Wal Mart.

While, for some people, thinking about and paying a lot for flowers is totally within the realm of possibility -- hey, to each their own -- it's definitely not for me. I have, instead, devised a Grand Floral Strategy that relies on my staunch adherence to the principles of frugality and sticking it to the MIC whenever possible:
Step 1: Sam's Club, Costco, or a wholesale flower company.
Step 2: Flowers that go well with red, for $10-$20 per bunch.
Step 3: Scissors.
Step 4: Ribbons.
Step 5: Done.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Much Ado About Colors

My online wedding planner thingy tells me I should be choosing colors. My immediate response to this was "Colors? We don't need no stinking colors."

But it turns out that you do need colors, and they must be clearly defined down to the most minute of shade variants, and I must carry paint samples in my bag to ensure that everything is perfectly coordinated.

None of this is anything I'm particularly inclined to do. Obviously.

The thing is, I have very strong feelings about colors themselves. More specifically, I'm in love with them. I've had a sustained infatuation with color for as long as I can remember. I love deep reds, vibrant yellows, tranquil blues, and all shades of purple. I also rather unabashedly love pink.

With this in mind, one would think that I'd be all about choosing a color scheme for my wedding. But I'm not. I'm not because the process by which one is supposed to do this seems so formulaic, whereas every color scheme I've created up until now has been largely intuitive. Or, depending on one's perspective, utterly devoid of logic or planning.

Since I was a kid, I've loved decorating each bedroom/dorm room/apartment I've lived in, and I often confuse people with my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants method of decorating. As a case in point, when I was 17 we moved from Colorado to Pennsylvania - and, as compensation for moving across the country the summer before my junior year of high school, my parents gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted with my new room. They'd subsidize the paint, curtains, and all the supplies. I could decorate to my heart's content.

The room had dormer walls, so I decided to paint the lower portion lavender, the upper portion yellow, and the windowsills a deep blue. My parents, God love them, were flummoxed. They scratched their heads in befuddlement when I told them what my plans were. But they bought the paint, and I painted for hours (I nearly asphyxiated on paint fumes in the process, but that's not the point). The color scheme made no sense whatsoever, but in the end, it looked great. I loved the hell out of that room.

So it was with more than a little bit of angst - ok, it was actually pathetic, child-like whimpering - that I began reading about how to choose one's wedding colors.

Oh sweet Jesus, is it ever overwhelming. Now, to be fair, I get that many brides are under tremendous pressure to make the wedding into one day of utter perfection and total harmony. If that's a factor that weaves itself into every aspect of wedding planning for so many people, I can see how the most basic of decisions would be scary as hell. Thus, I can also see how one would need a wedding planning website to navigate what must feel like a minefield.

But the websites turn a presumably simple process into the nuptial equivalent of neurosurgery. Instead of making color choice into a quick and easy decision - like, say, a quick algebra problem in which you isolate and find the value of x - the advice turns it into a differential physics equation:

Determining your wedding colors is one of the first decor decisions you need to make. Before you do that, though, determine what your wedding's style will be. The style you choose will impact the wedding colors you pick. Figure out what emotions you want your celebration to evoke: A tranquil, Zen-like retreat? A high-class, romantic affair? A bumping, energetic party? For example, a vibrant summer yellow mixed with brown (i.e., sunflowers and bees) is perfect for a country-chic wedding -- but add gold to the palette, and the combination becomes more reminiscent of regal France.

I don't know what I want the vibe to be. I don't have the faintest clue about a unifying style or theme. (For that matter, what the hell is country-chic?) All I know is that I want it to be fun and inexpensive. I'm utterly uninterested in making it feel like a Zen-like retreat (would we all wear robes and not speak for hours while pondering the sound of one hand clapping?), and re-creating 16th century France seems like an exercise in beheadings. Clearly I'm already failing at this endeavor.

Figure out what color combinations that you like, whether browsing art galleries or reading through some home, fashion, or interior design magazines for inspiration.

Ok, that I can do. I spend an inordinate amount of time in art galleries (irrefutable proof of my nerdiness: my favorite places are bookstores and art museums), and I know what color combinations I'm drawn to. The problem is, this still doesn't narrow it down very much. The only colors I don't like are brown and puke green. Shit.

In choosing the precise hue of your colors, you can collect fabric swatches or paint chips of the colors you like. This way, you'll be able to get specific - so that when you decide to have green as one of your colors, you'll be able to tell if it's sea-foam green, lime green, forest green, or Kelly green.

Gak. I've only done that when painting a room that I plan to live in, but I plan to use these colors for exactly one day. I'm trying hard to actually want to collect various paint samples for the wedding, dice. My give-a-damn's busted. Bridal fail, here I come.

Lighting can make or break a venue. Be sure to talk with your event designer or a lighting expert about colors you can use to accent and bare white walls in your event space.

I'm supposed to call a fucking lighting expert to help me figure out what colors the napkins should be? Is this a joke? I haven't even done that for places I've lived, let alone spaces that I'll be renting for a few hours.


The freak-out had almost commenced (again) when I realized I was supposed to be spending hours considering colors and weighing variables like lighting. I had almost started hyperventilating (again) about the fact that I'll never, ever be able to measure up to this level of involvement and specificity. My stomach almost started churning (again) when I thought about how I'd failed at this planning shit before I'd even started, because the bar is set way too high. But then, I decided to take a deep breath and gain some perspective.

A few seconds later, I realized (again) that I don't have to do it this way. Just because the websites say that I should, it doesn't mean I have to. The fact is, I trust my own judgment. I trust that I don't actually have to put such a Herculean effort into picking a color scheme. I trust that when I see colors I like, they're not going to involve neon orange paired with florescent pink. (I rolled that way circa 1991, when I rocked the layered neon socks like woah. However, 19 years later, I'm disinclined to repeat the color choices I made when I was 10.)

Besides, knowing me, the probability that I'll adhere perfectly to a strictly-defined, specific palette is slim to none. And that's when the odds are good.

So I decided to just let this color thing unfold as it will. If the invitations aren't the exact same shade as the napkins, fine. I doubt that someone is actually going to hold the invite up to the napkin to compare the two. If someone does and they're appalled and/or personally offended by the discrepancy, I'll simply look outside, note the fact that the sun hasn't stopped shining, and tell them to find a hobby.

As luck would have it, the next day I was perusing Target's selection of bridesmaid's dresses. (I'm determined to make this as inexpensive as humanly possible for my bridesmaids, and Target, ever the purveyor of all that is fabulous in the world, has an awesome selection of bridesmaid's dresses for $30-$50.) A co-worker had just been a bridesmaid in a wedding for which they'd all worn wrap dresses designed to be wrapped and twisted into different styles, and lo! Target had an exact replica on sale for $23.

It was available in black, red, and purple. I liked the red and the purple. There were more sizes available in red than in purple. Decision made. Operation Red Dress was a go.

And that, friends, is how I chose my colors.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ruminations on Bridezilla

Bridezilla. The very word conjures up images of brides gone mad, frothing at the mouth like a rabid tyrannosaurus rex bedecked in a strapless A-line dress as they try to tear people limb from limb. According to Wikipedia (motto: "What do you mean, I can't cite this in an academic paper!?"), the term Bridezilla was first cited in 1995 -- but since then, Bridezilla's fame has grown far and wide.

While I've been lucky enough to not personally encounter a Bridezilla (thank you, friends whose weddings I've attended or been in, for being so thoroughly sane and awesome), stories about Bridezilla antics are legendary. And they're legendary in the same way Mexico is legendary for dysentery, which is to say: not good. And I'd wager that both can give you the shits.

I was curious about what a real Bridezilla looks and acts like, so I went to the website for WEtv's Bridezillas. In the name of research, I watched a preview clip.

OMFG. These women are batshit crazy. They should be locked away forever and never permitted to interact with humanity ever again. I'm not kidding.

The fact remains, though, that Bridezilla is a cultural icon. The image of the bride who freaks out about minutiae, relentlessly berates people, micromanages every aspect of Her Special Day, and generally acts like Josef Stalin -- if he had been both obsessed with weddings and on steroids -- is pervasive throughout American culture. You can barely mention the word "wedding" without Bridezilla being brought up shortly thereafter. There's an entire show devoted to these meltdowns, for Chrissakes. The entertainment value of Bridezilla and her antics is off the charts.

Part of this, I think, is due to the fact that it's funny as hell -- and therefore gets a lot of attention. Watching Bridezillas on TV or reading Bridezilla stories online is phenomenally entertaining. For real. I derive immense enjoyment from things like this. (Please don't judge me.) It's just like reality TV or celebrity gossip: it's entertaining, if not hilarious, to watch these women make asses of themselves. It's funny when they throw tantrums. It's great TV when they go nuclear over some minor detail that nobody would've noticed had it not been for the fallout spewing from the bride's mouth. It's a riot when the wedding dress is 1 millimeter off from the measurements taken during the final fitting, so Bridezilla's skin peels back from her face and a red light shines out of her eye sockets before she melts the tailor with the sheer force of her anger.

And, because I'm both petty and infantile, it's fun because it makes me feel superior. (Ok, now you can judge me.) I don't like reality TV, but let me tell you: whenever I'm feeling shitty, nothing perks me up like celebrity gossip. Didn't get everything done at work today? At least I didn't shave my head and take a baseball bat to someone's car. Failed to make it to the gym? At least I'm not a recidivist drug addict who paints "fuck u" on my middle finger and is shocked when the judge notices. When the bar is set really fucking low, it can make a person feel like a damn Nobel Prize laureate just for getting through the day.

Bridezillas work the same way. The feeling of being totally overwhelmed seems to be a universal theme for almost all brides I've talked to. There's tremendous pressure to make everyone happy, have the perfect ceremony, and look utterly resplendent in your perfect dress with your perfect hair and your perfect make-up. It's pretty fucking scary, actually. So, Bridezilla provides some measure of comfort: I might be thinking about details and worrying about getting everything coordinated, at least I'm not freaking out and alienating people right and left. It's not much, but it's enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

But! While watching Bridezilla from afar is fun, dealing with one in real life must be abjectly miserable. They degenerate into screaming piles of tulle, have sustained temper tantrums that put toddlers to shame, and generally act like spoiled brats. Most people don't like that sort of thing.

So this also begs the question: why put up with it?

I know, I know. It's The Biggest and Most Important Super-Duper Special Day of the Bride's Entire Life and blah blah blah, vomit vomit vomit. But seriously, it's not. It's a wedding, not the bride's coronation. Yes, it's a special day and an important milestone in one's life. Yes, it should also feel special. But no, "special day" isn't code for "get out of jail free card."

To be fair, it also seems utterly terrifying to challenge a bride who has become clinically insane and is prone to violence and/or emotional outbursts reminiscent of volcanic eruptions. Even if you don't buy into the whole "most important day of her life" thing, challenging a Bridezilla seems like a death wish. If she doesn't try to kill you, she'll eat your soul, or, at the very minimum, try to rob you off your will to live. It's some freaky stuff.

But I still wonder: what would happen if more people told Bridezilla to shove it? What if people told her that they weren't taking any more of this abusive bullshit, and that she could either simmer down or risk a mass uprising and defection of all her bridesmaids, and maybe even her future husband?

Because let's face it: there's no reason to put up with Bridezilla's tyrannical behavior.

No, seriously. Think about it. If your friend wasn't getting married and she upbraided you for getting highlights that didn't match your dress, it would be totally unacceptable. You'd have some serious doubts about that friend in any other circumstance. If your boss repeatedly berated you for such trivial things as getting your nails painted light pink instead of white (and she explicitly told you that she wanted them to be white!), you'd quit. Or, at the very least, file a big, fat complaint with HR -- because nobody needs to deal with a narcissistic tyrant. If your significant other screamed at you in public for not doing things exactly the way they wanted, you'd dump his/her sorry ass and find someone who would actually be nice to you.

I've started thinking that if more people stood up to Bridezilla, it could help deflate the widespread acceptance of bad bridal behavior. People wouldn't take this sort of behavior in any other context, but they do when dealing with a soon-to-be-married woman. And so Bridezilla carries on, acting like the strung-out love child of Snooki and Saddam Hussein, demanding excess and perfection and destroying all those who stand in her way with a weaponized unity candle.

Maybe I feel this way because I've never had to deal with a good friend turned Bridezilla, but my gut feeling is that they're not worth it. If they are - and you stand up to them and call them on their bullshit - they'll (hopefully) realize the error of their ways. That is, if they're not already on TV, making brides everywhere feel better about themselves.