Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Dress Browsing Experience

Yesterday was the first time I had ever looked at bridal gowns in real life since getting engaged.  I think I may have looked at them only two times beforehand; one time was when my aunt was getting married and my cousin and I were 2 of her bridesmaids, and the other time was just in passing.  Since my dad needed to go to the Jersey Gardens Mall before we had dinner, I had the opportunity to check out GroupUSA with my mom.

It was a sudden visit, so I didn't have a chance to write down the dress styles that I liked.  The ones that I saw on the website that I considered were as follows:

Empire Waist Mesh Grecian Strapless Dress ($449.99)


Haltered Chiffon Gown with Beaded Halter ($349.99)

I really don't know what would look the best on me, and I actually like many different styles (recently I've liked the Greek goddess look with the empire waist).  The things I do know for a fact is that I like the look of chiffon gowns over the look of satin (don't know taffeta or organza to really comment, but some dresses that are taffeta had a stiffer look that I didn't like).  I like the flowiness.  Plus, it looks like it'd be easier to go to the bathroom!  Haha, I know that sounds odd, but that's one of my main concerns!  A friend from college just got married in a rather large gown, and she said that she only went to the bathroom once in 14 hours because it was such a hassle and she needed help!  Um, no thanks.  I'll use the restroom myself.

It helps to know what I don't like either.  The things I really would prefer not to have are the buttons on the back or the corset ribbon thing.  I just don't like the look.  To me it seems too high maintenance for me.  However, if I love a dress and I love how it looks, the buttons or corset back aren't going to push me away entirely.  It just might help in narrowing dresses down.

As for necklines, I'd prefer something that goes straight across just because my mom's doesn't like cleavage.  Plus, I'd probably be more comfortable showing as little as possible if students will be at the wedding!  I also would prefer to have straps or a halter.  If I find a strapless that I like, I'd probably add straps to it.  I'm not entirely comfortable with strapless although now that I know Howard and I aren't having dancing, I guess it's a possibility.  I just don't like the way my shoulders look either.

Lastly, I don't like trains.  I would be very concerned with the fact that the train would be touching so much of the floor and picking up so much dirt!  Yuck.  A shorter train on a chiffon gown wouldn't be as terrible though because I imagine it'd be lighter.

Oh, and let's not forget the cost.  I'd like to find a dress that's under $300, but I think I'm willing to go as high as $500 if I find something I really love.  Haha, what a difference from the $5000 budget on Say Yes to the Dress!  There are, of course, Maggie Sottero dresses that are close to $1000 that I love, but I can't see myself spending that much on something worn for only a few hours.

Anyway, all that just so that you have an idea what I'm looking for!

As mom and I approached the store, I actually got a little nervous.  I was glad that the first time we were looking at dresses was casual.  We didn't have an appointment, and we were just going through the dresses on the racks without having anyone try to help us.  The dresses on display on the mannequins were actually ivory, and they looked a little yellow in the light.  But we were able to find white dresses in the mix.  I wish that they had every dress on a mannequin!  It'd make it that much easier to see the detailing and how the dress falls instead of in the clear plastic garment bags on the racks.

There were a couple of dresses that were okay.  However, they weren't all very well-made.  Of course, the less expensive ones weren't as well-made, and some of the beading looked like it could be pulled off.  I made comments for each one that I saw, which cracked mom up.  "This one looks like a tablecloth."  "This looks like an art project (as if someone glued on sequins)."  Better made dresses just weren't my style; I'm sure the dresses would be good for someone else, but for me, I just did not like them.

I did find the halter one, but I didn't like it enough to try it on.  The funniest and best part was when my mom found a strapless dress that she thought was really pretty with intricate details on it.  Then she saw the price tag of $600!  I was kind of happy about that because when I initially told her about a month ago that I liked a Maggie Sottero dress that was about $950, she was appalled at the price!  She kept thinking it'd be easy to find a dress for $99 at David's Bridal.  I know it is possible to find an inexpensive dress due to sales, but yesterday just wasn't the day for it.  I made a comment that all the dresses on sale there had "better be on sale" considering how they looked.  Even then, they were still close to $500, just not the kind of money I want to put down on a dress that's only okay.  At least now my mom understands that the dresses that look better are going to cost a little more.

Well, we walked out of the store empty-handed, and I didn't even try anything on.  Of course, I felt a little dumpy in my denim shorts and my Cleo crocs, so it wasn't exactly the time to try on dresses!  I didn't expect to be looking at wedding gowns.  Of course, I also didn't expect to see a current and former student (brother and sister; they were there for the sister's sweet 16 dress) and their parents at the store either! The mom came up to me and said, "Who's getting married?" and I turned around thinking it'd be a sales person, but it wasn't!  Despite my feeling messy, it was nice to see them.  I love that family so much, so I was eager to show them my beautiful ring.

The next stop will probably be a David's Bridal.  I know it seems early to be looking for a dress since we don't plan on getting married until March 2012, but if certain things work out and we can start planning earlier, we might actually be aiming for an April 2011 wedding!  Oh, maybe I should have started this blog entry with that tidbit first ... whoops!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Growing Guest List + Post-Ceremony Plans

Although Howard and I will not be getting married until March/April 2012, we've started to do general planning so that we can have a better idea of what the wedding day will include.  One of the things that needed to be done was put together a guest list.  The size of the guest list would determine what exactly we would do after the wedding since we're not really into the whole reception idea.

It seems strange that we wouldn't have a reception, but I've read about how it's more common for couples not to do that; some just have a cake or dessert right after the ceremony.  I also talked to my aunt after the engagement, and she said that she didn't have a reception either.  Instead of having a sit down meal, she had a cocktail hour type deal with hor d'ouvres on passed trays.  That sounded enticing right away.  It would cost a lot less!  Plus, a reception situation would just feel awkward for us because we wouldn't want to have dancing, and it'd be uncomfortable, in my opinion, to just make the rounds and mingle for a bit before moving on to the next table.

Well, since we knew we were going to have appetizers and dessert after the ceremony, we tried to decide what to do.  We could get it catered by a restaurant or just order trays of food from our favorite places, especially things we like to eat like southwestern eggrolls from Chili's!  Yum.  It'd definitely be more fitting for us because we're a rather laidback couple who likes eating getting "To Go" orders from chain restaurants and relaxing with some Travel Channel at home!

The guest list affects this though.  We started wondering if the family members would have an issue that we were having such a casual event instead of sitting down to have a meal.  Also, I have many students (including students who have graduated) who are expecting an invite (or saying they'll crash the wedding if they're not invited because they really want to be there).  Would that mean we'd have to get that much more food?  How do we tell them, "No, you can't come eat the food."

This led us to the idea to have our reception an hour away at the nearest Cracker Barrel!  If you followed the beginning of our April 2010 trip report on DISboards, you would have seen just how much I was obsessing over Cracker Barrel!  We ate there on the way down to Florida and on our way back home.  It's a restaurant that fits our personality especially since we'd actually love to move down South to Georgia!  I could definitely be a southerner, and I wouldn't mind getting an annual pass to WDW, but that's a whole different story!

The cost of a CB "reception" would be very minimal.  Think about it for a minute.  Going to a fancy place might cost a good $80-$120 per person.  Um, hold up ... that better be a buffet of food for each person then!  However, even if everyone ordered whatever they wanted from the CB menu, it could average about $20 per person.  Score!  Howard and I were very into the idea for quite some time, and neither of us could think of anything negative.  Of course, this was before it was mentioned to my parents.

My mom understood why we wanted to do that, and she said that she'd be okay with it.  However, family members might not understand it in the same way.  She didn't want us to feel uncomfortable by that.  We wouldn't be uncomfortable by that because we have the "if-this-bothers-you-don't-come" mentality.  As we began thinking more and more about the CB idea, we started leaning towards having a few things to eat after the ceremony and a smaller group at CB with us (not even including the whole family, more of our cousins and church friends that are our age).  So then it brought us back to the post-ceremony cocktail hour idea.

Seriously, we came full circle!  As we compiled the guest list, we realized we already had about 150 people.  That's extremely funny since we both say we don't have many friends!  Compared to my cousins, for example, I don't know that many people.  But family members already make up almost 75 of that number!  Whoa.  I just talked to my high school friend's mom (she helped us find the engagement ring!) who said that my friend's wedding was only 75 people total!  That wouldn't be possible for us because we can't cut out family.

On top of blood family, there's our church family.  Then after church family, Howard has a few co-workers he knows he wants to invite, and I have more than a few.  I have 15.  I work at a small private Christian school, so it's not possible not to invite all the people who work there.  And the thing is, it's not even out of obligation.  I really WANT them to be there.  My co-workers being at the wedding was one of the reasons why I actually didn't want a destination wedding.  They've supported me so much over the past 3 years as I learned how to be a teacher.  They've supported me when our family dealt with financial issues with the loss of jobs and health issues when my dad had cancer.  I leaned on some of them almost on a daily basis.  I cried to many of them as well, and so many of them prayed over me.  How could they not be at one of the happiest days of my life?

Of course, something I would love is to have my good DISboards friends there too.  Too bad everyone lives all over the place!

With all these people, do we really want to worry about having to get trays of food from this place and that place?  Probably not.  Plus, we could make it a bit fancier if we had it catered, right?  Oh wait!  We know caterers!  We realized that we could have 2 of the members of our church cater our wedding.  That's why the guest list was important; we wanted to see if we could get a general price for a certain amount of people.  We would enjoy having them make everything from Chinese to "American" (yes, I call all non-Chinese food American food!).  We could have different dumplings, fish balls in curry, curry puffs, chicken salad, mini-sandwiches in brioche buns, etc.  They even make their own madeleines and marshmallows!  Even if it cost more than ordering trays from restaurants, the food would be much more "acceptable" for a wedding.  Plus, we'd be more comfortable working with people we know and not having to haggle.  We'd like knowing that our money was going towards sisters in Christ and their business!

Basically that's where we are now.  Wedding planning is really not as fun as I thought it would be!  Of course, as a high school student or a college girl, I always thought it'd be at Russo's on the Bay, but I know I'm not that kind of girl anymore.  This is more our style even besides the whole money issue.  So what do you think?  Would you be disappointed if you didn't have a sit-down traditional reception to attend after a wedding?  Or would you be happy that a wedding wasn't taking up your entire Saturday (wedding in the morning, food around lunch time or early afternoon)?  Would you rather have a meal of your own that you chose or would you rather taste a little bit of everything?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Proposal

HRIt's been almost one month since Howard and I have been engaged!  It seems like the time has passed so quickly, yet it also feels as if a month seems so short!  I think the reason for the latter is that we've been talking about getting married for the longest time that the fact that we know we'll be together for the rest of our lives isn't really a new thought!

I wanted to have a description of our proposal here before I started writing about any wedding planning, so here goes:

Howard proposed to me in a place that's very special to the both of us: Tuscarora Inn & Conference Center.  It is the place of many church retreats in the summer and winter.  In short, the location is the place that we got to spend a bit of time joking around together when we first became friends, where we were together when we first started dating in 2005, and where we made the decision to start a relationship again in 2008 (we broke up for 2 years before that).  On the way home on the bus from a retreat, Howard also told me that he loved me.  With the 2010 summer retreat approaching and the knowledge that my boyfriend had the ring in his possession, I was anticipating the trip as I was hoping that he would propose!

Thursday and Friday passed without a proposal.  I later learned that Howard had considered Friday night, but I was too tired to fully appreciate the moment.  Saturday morning was also a consideration since we would meet in the Hillside Lounge before breakfast since we stayed in different areas.  However, there was a guy from another church in the lounge at the time, so we didn't have the privacy.  At the time, I trusted that he would propose at the right time.  Before that, I was still constantly asking him for a time frame since I didn't know whether or not he had talked to his parents yet!

Well, that Saturday was the proposal day!  After breakfast, morning session, group discussion, lunch, and workshop (phew!), we headed to the lounge to play Bananagrams.  Another friend joined us soon after, and we all played for about an hour.  During one of the rounds, Howard had spelled out "will you marry me" within his game, but since someone else was with us, I chalked it up to a joke.

After another hour of playing, we decided to stop since our brains were overworked and I was getting a little chilly sitting by the AC.  Howard asked if I wanted to go for a walk, and I agreed.  We ended up sitting by the deck overlooking the Delaware River.  I was nervously chatting about Disney World since I had a feeling something was going to happen.  I mean, it's not every day that we're sitting on a deck overlooking the beautiful "lake" with a gorgeous view of the mountains!

Howard then said, "You didn't answer my question."  I replied, "What question?" even though I obviously knew what question it was!  He asked once again, "Will you marry me?"  I had waited for this moment for so long and eagerly anticipated it.  Yet with the moment right in front of me, I got so overwhelmed with the weight of everything that I pulled my hand out of his and said, "No.  No!  No!!!"  It wasn't a "no" that meant, "No, I don't want to marry you."  Trust me, for quite a while,  we knew we wanted to marry each other!  It was just so much to handle, especially since I was already nervous!

He was kind, however, and laughed when he said, "No?  Your answer's no?"  I then said, "No!  I mean, YES!"  He had taken the ring (in the big box!) out of his pocket, so he then put it on my finger.  It was such a sweet moment because it finally meant something!  When we had gone ring shopping a month or two earlier, the women at the store would give the ring to Howard to put on my finger because they didn't know that we weren't engaged yet.  This time he was able to do it for the last time because no way was he ever getting that ring back!

What made the engagement even better was that it was just about time for dinner!  We were able to go to the dining hall to see my mom, some of my extended family, and the rest of our church family.  There were a ton of hugs and congratulations as well as a few shed tears.  Though Howard knew that I didn't want a proposal in front of people, it worked out this way that we could celebrate with our brothers and sisters in Christ after we were officially engaged!

It was the perfect proposal!  I can't wait to marry my fiancĂ©.