May 162009
 

(The happy couple at our own wedding. Photo by Punam Bean.)

As I type this, my beautiful and talented sister-in-law is marrying her beloved on a glacier in Alaska. They have to reach the spot by plane — how cool is that? And Mr T is there as a Bridesman.

I wasn’t feeling brave enough to fly a 2-month-old all the way to Alaska (we try for zero-crying in public, and that’s a lot of hours to keep a baby happy), so Wallaby and I are at home missing all the fun.

But Punam Bean is taking the photos, and I’m anxiously awaiting her next blog post!!!
Mar 222009
 

One year ago today, we stood before family and friends and pledged to love one another whatever life may bring.  Just a few weeks later, life brought changes we never could have expected.  Thank you for taking it all in stride, and for holding me close when I could not do the same.

After all that has happened, I love you even more than I did last March 22.  And I pray that every year we will be able to say the same.  Happy Anniversary, Mr T!
Feb 152009
 

My grandparents, Dudley and Shirley Wilber, married in 1942.  There were real challenges at the start — both barely out of high school, family opposition, little money to their name, and Dudley was off to military service just a few weeks after the wedding.  For the next two years, Dudley was moved every few months.  Shirley followed closely behind, finding a new home and new job at each new post.  The couple saw each other only on weekends, but at least it was a chance to be together in the face of the constant threat that Dudley would be deployed overseas.  When their first child was born, Shirley returned to her parents’ home to raise her alone while they waited for Dudley to go to war.  The couple didn’t begin a “normal” married life — living in the same home as a family — until the war ended just before their 3rd anniversary.

(Grandma and Grandpa served as witnesses to our wedding. Here, a 1942 photo on display. Photo by Punam Bean)

After 66 years, Grandma and Grandpa remain genuinely in love.  In fact, Grandma recently told me that their relationship has taken on new depth in their old age, as health troubles cause them to rely more and more on each other’s support just to manage daily life.  Grandma’s advice for keeping a marriage strong over 66 years?  “Hang in there.”  No marriage is always easy — couples inevitably face rough patches — and when troubles happen, “You just have to hang in there.”

In light of their long history, I think of my grandparents whenever I hear Bruce Springsteen’s beautiful ballad “If I Should Fall Behind.”  Though the song mentions an upcoming wedding, I believe it speaks even more to a couple who has dedicated the time and the effort, the love and the care, to travel side by side over decades.  On this day when we celebrate love, it never hurts to remember that the grandest love stories may be the ones happening around us every day.  Happy Valentine’s Day, Grandma and Grandpa — with love and thanks for your inspiration.

We said we’d walk together baby come what may
That come the twilight should we lose our way
If as we’re walkin a hand should slip free
I’ll wait for you
And should I fall behind
Wait for me

We swore we’d travel darlin’ side by side
We’d help each other stay in stride
But each lover’s steps fall so differently
But I’ll wait for you
And if I should fall behind
Wait for me

Now everyone dreams of a love lasting and true
But you and I know what this world can do
So let’s make our steps clear that the other may see
And I’ll wait for you
If I should fall behind
Wait for me

Now there’s a beautiful river in the valley ahead
There ‘neath the oak’s bough soon we will be wed
Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees
I’ll wait for you
And should I fall behind
Wait for me
Darlin’ I’ll wait for you
Should I fall behind

Wait for me.
Aug 272008
 

My friends, the time has come.  Our wedding is over, the recaps have been posted, and it is time to bid a fond adieu to Weddingbee….  Though it’s sad to leave such a vibrant, intelligent, and supportive community, I recently discovered something that instantly makes weddings a thing of the past (a/k/a, the ultimate cure for PTWS):

Pregnancy.

Yes, Mr. Tulip and I have a bun … or, should I say Bulb? … in the oven!

(This is a real book.)

Trust me, it was a bit of a surprise to everyone involved!  I am ancient (37), have been on chemo (which destroys fertility), and am in terrible health.  Just after our honeymoon, I decided to stop the Pill for a while to see if it contributed to my migraines.  Sure, it was a bit of Russian Roulette on the baby front, but pretty safe for an old lady with dead eggs, right?  6 weeks later, the EPT was pink.  And we’re due ONE DAY after our first wedding anniversary!

Want to know more?  There will be updates on my personal blog.

Watch in wonder as my silhouette goes from this:


(Shut up, those are totally my abs. As pictured on FitStep.com.)

to this:


(Fertility goddess, borrowed from this blog.)

Cheer as our nursery-to-be morphs from this:

 

to this:


(Artist’s approximation, courtesy of re:place.)

Or, just stop by and say hi.

It has been a pleasure and an honor to be part of Weddingbee these past months.  Cheers to Bee, my sister bees, and the fantastic Weddingbee readers for building the best wedding resource on the Web.  And thanks for being our virtual wedding guests!

With warm wishes to each and every one of you,

Mrs. Tulip

Jul 162008
 

There’s an interesting thread on the Weddingbee boards at the moment discussing what it means to have a “budget wedding.” Some say the term means sticking strictly within a defined wedding budget. Others believe it’s a synonym for “inexpensive,” especially if you are able to pull off something that looks more expensive than its actual cost.

In our case, I’m not sure how well we did with #1. We spent what we spent, and I made some unwise and even wasteful purchases. But I’d like to think #2 came out well. Everyone has different definitions of “inexpensive.” But Mr. T and I were married in an extremely expensive area, with a celebration that included everything we cared about … for $8,800.

Here’s the breakdown of how we spent that sum, along with some tips for other would-be “budget” brides. (And some last favorites from Punam Bean’s wonderful photos!):

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Ceremony Venue = 6%

The Athenaeum cost $150/hour, plus $100 to become a member of the nonprofit arts group that owns the property.

Tip:  Charity-owned venues can be relatively inexpensive. And your fees support a charity, so it’s win-win!

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(The big entrance. Mr T and the bridal party came through a side door, so these enormous double doors were thrown open just for me. Dramatic! And so glad I was wearing a slip!)

Officiant and Wedding License < 1%

Just $30 for the wedding license. My father officiated.

Tip:  If you know a licensed officiant, or if your state grants temporary licenses or allows the Internet-ordained, consider having someone you know officiate. You won’t have to pay a stranger, and the ceremony can be even more touching when the officiant knows you personally.

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Bride’s Dress and Accessories = 4%

Bought a $240 dress off eBay. Shoes, parasol, shawl, veil, undergarments, and bag also came from eBay. Already owned my earrings.

Tip:  Ebay, secondhand stores, sample sales … work every discount source you can think of! Borrowed items are good too — they save you the purchase money and bring a special bit of luck and good cheer from the lender.

Bride’s Beauty = 0

Thanks to a kind stranger who covered my wedding-day beauty expenses. And the fact that I ran out of time for a mani/pedi the day before!

Tip:  Consider a beauty school for hair and/or makeup, or a retail cosmetics counter for your makeup. They don’t charge the exorbitant fees of official “wedding” beauticians.

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(Poor Mr. T served as de facto wedding coordinator in the hours before our ceremony. Here, he’s working the cell while reserving parking for an usher.)

Wedding Planner / Day of Coordinator = 0

Sure, it would have been nice to have a knowledgeable person take on part of the load. But we didn’t want it enough to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the service. A number of family and friends pitched in to help with decorating and day-of details. Their help meant the world to us, and they said it meant a lot to them to help create a special day.

Tip:  Friends and family are happy to pitch in. Really! Also, if you want someone to handle the day-of details but can’t afford to pay, consider trading services with another bride-to-be.

Groom’s Attire = 2%

We bought a tux-like Theory jacket at a local designer discounter, a BCBG tux shirt off eBay, and a TJ Maxx tie that coordinated with the groomsmen’s (Donald Trump Collection, baby!). He wore pants and shoes that he already owned.

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Transportation = 0

Sure, a classic car would have been fantastic. But we just didn’t care enough to pay for it. The “Getaway Scion” got us from place to place just as well!

Favors = 1.5%

Our lavender sachets, vintage handkerchiefs, and Gocco’d cookie bags were technically unnecessary. But they were memorable touches, and we wanted to offer a useful keepsake to the guests.

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(SIL has a booooyfriennnnnd! It was sweet to see them so crazy for each other.)

Bridesmaids, Groomsmen, etc. = 5%

We bought our bridesmaids’ dresses (eBay) and also gave them World Food Programme bags as gifts. The groomsmen wore their own suits; our gifts were matching shirts and ties, which also helped pull together the overall look. And I paid for a night’s lodging and beauty preparations for my mother. Overall, we spent more on this group than on my own wedding dress and accessories, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We greatly appreciated all they did for us.

Tip:  Don’t forget the bridal party in your money-saving plans! Consider inexpensive bridesmaids’ gowns from eBay, Internet sales, or mall stores. And do your groomsmen really need to rent a tux, or would same-color suits do just as well?

Ditto for the costs your guests will pay. Is that block of rooms a good deal for people on every budget? Or would you do better sharing Travelzoo deals on your wedding Website?

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(Filling out our detailed guestbook, which asked for a drawing, a favorite memory, and the name of our first child and/or next pet. And “someone” collected anniversary cards for our first anniversary…MOH? Care to take credit?)

Invites, Paper Goods, and Crafts = 9%

We overspent in this category, thanks to my obsession with paper goods, my purchase of mucho craft supplies we never used, and my long-time determination to own a Gocco. An inexpensive store-purchased invitfation and regular stamps would have saved time, money, and energy. But this was another category that I really cared about. (And now I have a Gocco!)

Tip:  DIY does not always mean less expensive. DIY if you enjoy it; but if you’re most interested in saving money, the cost comparisons may surprise you. Also, consider “non-wedding” items for objects like your guestbook and thank-you cards. Anything made specifically for weddings can come with a substantial markup.

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(You’re never too young to appreciate tasty crabcakes!)

Reception Venue, Bar, Catering, Cakes, and Service = 40%

Our venue had a $2,500 minimum for the rental, which our final total didn’t quite meet. We kicked in an extra $200 or so to reach that amount, but figured that wasn’t bad for a “site fee.” Service fees and 10% taxes added almost $1,000 to the total above and beyond the food minimum.

Tip:  Consider a restaurant venue. You won’t have to pay a site fee or rent seating, linens, glassware, etc. Rather than a pricey multi-tier wedding cake, try a number of smaller cakes or a dessert buffet. Don’t feel you need to serve an unlimited bar — beer, wine, and a signature drink or two (plus yummy nonalcoholic options, of course!) leave guests just as happy.

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(Our “videographer” — MIL with a digital camera that shoots video. We wouldn’t have paid for a pro, but it WAS nice to see the moving version in addition to photographs.)

Photography = 20%

In the grand scheme of things, this was our biggest elective splurge. It’s about twice the average percentage that people allocate to photography. But it was worth it in the long run because now we have stunning memories of every aspect of our day. Punam’s photos turned our budget shindig into something extraordinary!

Tip:  Look for someone who is talented but just starting out. (Punam Bean is well-known now, but we were the second or third wedding she’d ever booked.) If your locale is unusually expensive, consider flying someone in from elsewhere; we actually imported an NYC photographer for less than the cost of established DC locals. The WPJA website is one excellent resource for finding photographers all over the country.

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Flowers = 5%

We used silk flowers from Save-on-Crafts for bouquets, corsages, and boutennieres, and Peruvian lilies and garden roses from FiftyFlowers.com to decorate the ceremony and reception spaces. Of course it would have been easier to work with a florist, and I don’t have any experience with florists to know how much money we saved. But I suspect we saved a lot.

Tip:  This is an area where it’s easy to put things together yourself. It’s hard to go wrong with flowers — they look pretty no matter what you do to them! Silk flowers are sometimes less expensive than real (depending on flower type), can be put together far ahead of time, and can be re-used or re-sold after the event.

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Decor = 5%

Because restaurant venues have decor of their own, we could have gotten by with very little. But I was attached to the idea of hanging lanterns, and couldn’t resist certain other purchases as the months went by.

Tip:  Make full use of decor elements that are already at your venue. Avoid “wedding markup” by re-purposing everyday materials (for example, we used sari fabric as an aisle runner). Resist the urge to make impulse purchases. Buy second-hand decorations from other brides. And if all else fails, look for double-duty items that you can re-sell, donate to charity, or use in your home after the wedding.

00057

Music = 0

Free, thanks to the wonder of the iPod. In our case, we “got what we paid for.” But I still believe iPod weddings can be ideal under the right circumstances.

00088

Lodging = 2.5%

Two nights at the Hotel Monaco in Alexandria, at a great rate thanks to a grand-opening special on Travelzoo. Spending the night before and the wedding night in relative luxury, utterly pampered by the staff, made this expense totally worthwhile.

Tip:  If you’re on a budget, there’s never any reason to pay full price for a hotel. Commit to finding a certain class of hotel (say, four-star) rather than a specific property, and then check out Travelzoo, Expedia Special Deals, Priceline, and Hotwire to see what’s on offer.

Other / Not Included

We did not “go budget” on our rings, on the theory that we will have them forever and wear them daily. For my engagement ring, Mr T did work with a jeweler to copy something we loved at Bulgari, without the designer price tag. But my wedding band is from Bulgari itself (had to compensate them somehow!) and Mr. T’s is from Cartier.

 

Mr T’s parents threw a lovely rehearsal dinner — a traditional 10-course Chinese banquet. This helped make up for the fact that we refused a Chinese banquet for the actual reception. And my Midwestern family LOVED it!

We were broke by the time our California honeymoon rolled around, so that was on a strict budget. (Travelzoo hotel deals, yet again….) But it was nice just to have a lovely spot to relax a bit after all the activity. And now we have Bali/Greece/Insert-Exotic-Destination-Here to look forward to on a future anniversary!

 

What are your favorite “budget” wedding tips?  Anyone else clocking in below $10K, and how will you do it?

 

Jul 152008
 

Even though we still have half a house to unpack, Mr. T and I have at least put most of our wedding gifts to use. It’s so much fun having all these new things!

There are certain items that everyone has heard of. You don’t need me to convince you of the glory of Le Creuset pans, for example. But here are some lesser-known sources and/or items that are worth a look:

Yamazaki Flatware from The Silver Superstore

Epoch5pc
My grandparents made us a wonderful offer to purchase flatware as a wedding gift. After lots of research (much of it on Amazon.com, which has extremely useful product reviews), I narrowed the ideal down to two brands: Yamazaki and WMF.

Unfortunately, both brands average around $50 per place setting, and we could never ask our grandparents to pay that. But here’s where The Silver Superstore came in — they have many discontinued and otherwise discounted lines. Our beautifully simple, mirror-shiny Epoch pattern was only $120 for a 65-piece service for 12! Dad made the purchase, and, though he’s not nearly the Internet shopper his daughter is, he reported that the customer service was excellent and it was an easy transaction all around.

Eclissi Glass Dinnerware from Target

31R0J76QKRL._SS384_We decided early on that we wouldn’t register for fine china.  And most stoneware strikes me as a bit too … stoneware-y. So eventually we settled on glass dishes. We have a fancier version on our future wish-list (Aino Aalto for Iittala, designed in 1932 and utterly timeless), and these Eclissi dishes from Target filled in for everyday.

It’s hard to tell from the photos, but Target hit a home run with these dishes. They’re made in Italy from thick, tempered glass, and the shape is an unusual hybrid of a square with rounded edges. Basically, everything we serve on these dishes comes out looking like a magazine shoot. Which is particularly impressive, considering that most of what we serve involves cereal, pizza, and/or Chipotle burritos.

A Couple of “Green” Options, via our Alternative Gift Registry

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Before the wedding, I talked up The Alternative Gift Registry as a perfect place to register. You can link to any item on any Website, describe something at a local store, or even request intangible gifts like family photos or wedding-planning assistance. I believe there’s at least one other link-from-anywhere registry in operation (anyone used it, or at least know the name/info?), but I particularly trust The Alternative Gift Registry because it’s run by a nonprofit.

In the end, only a couple of guests used our Alternative Gift Registry, and they were among our most Internet-savvy friends. Even the people who bought gifts over the Internet seemed most comfortable with our traditional registries (Macy’s and Target). But I’d still use the Alternative Gift Registry again, in part because I believe in its parent organization and in part because we really love the stuff we got! Two of our favorites are a gorgeously sculptural rack for holding our newspaper recycling ($50 at the MOMA Store) and a red bamboo dishtowel ($6.50 at the Bibelot Shop). There were serious discussions chez Tulip the other night because the beloved bamboo dishtowel was in the laundry and I had replaced it with something pretty but useless!

Are you registering at any unusual sources, or for unusual items?  What unusual gift excites you the most?