Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Eclectic, Efficient, Elegant, and... Elvis!

So, this weekend was the Venue Visit extravaganza. As you may recall, the plan was supposed to go something like this: venue, food, venue, brewery tour, venue, venue, vodka.

Be proud: we stuck very close to the plan. So without further ado, here are the venues we visited (WHICH COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER!), in a few words and a few pictures each.

Our first stop was a modern art museum, which had three possible spaces - turns out only one of which might be viable for us, since two of them are for functions of 75 people or fewer, and we're pretty sure we'll have more than 75 people on hand for the big day (we ARE thinking relatively small, but relatives alone = more than 75 people). This museum was badly damaged in Hurricane Katrina; construction is still ongoing, but what is already finished is beautiful and interesting, with lots of natural light.
  • The Oh, Yes Factors: We both loved the look and feel of the place; there's an entire separate structure included for "bridal party prep"; the location is accessible and scenic; windows everywhere = amazing outdoor feel, indoors; the rates are reasonable; we can bring in our own catering and bar, with no venue-imposed rules.
  • The Big Red Flag(s): As a museum and not an event-driven venue, there are no "extras" included; we'd have to do all our own set up, rental of tables/linens, and handle all arrangements with outside vendors. Woof.
  • The Pictures:
Nice view, huh? Also the venue is nice ;-)

One end of the room we would be in
The other end of the room we would be in

The center quad in the museum campus. Fiance provides scale.

LOVE this exterior staircase!

Exterior Party Courtyard, adjacent to the interior space we'd use.

We picked up D's parents, then headed to the second venue. I was a little nervous about this one-- only because D had mentioned it to his best friend, who said "Oh man, I went to a wedding there once. Total crap hole." Luckily, turns out this friend was thinking of a different place (he drinks a lot at weddings). This place was really lovely and impeccably kept, and all they do is weddings. It's a big hall with a stage and a dance floor, plus a gorgeous covered courtyard with a pretty fountain. Here, weddings are their business, and business seems to be good.
  • The Oh, Yes Factors: For one fee, this place covers just about everything: the space, the tables, the chairs, the linens, the A/V set up - you can even order the catering and bar through them, if you choose (although those are separate fees). Lots of light. Huge space. Very professional.
  • The Big Red Flag(s): This was the most expensive venue we viewed. It's also sort of off the beaten path, and while the space itself is great and very functional, there's nothing around it... like, at all.
  • The Pictures:
Pretty Fleur de Lis wall decorations
Outdoor Patio. Clearly where The Smokers hang.

One end of the courtyard. No, dude wasn't peeing in the fountain.

FOG scopes out the interior space
Having already made it through a three hour drive and two venue tours, it was high time for lunch. And a brewery tour because, hey, they stopped tours after 2:30. 

Priorities, y'all.

The brewery was small, but the tour guide was enthusiastic, and it was nice to have a brief and 100% stress-free intermission.

Also, beer.

We had to look at one hotel, right? There are plenty of pros to utilizing a venue set up not only to host, but also to house. We chose to explore this one, which was a little off the beaten path but adjacent to a golf course and set in a beautiful, tree-filled residential neighborhood - and, its real claim to fame? Elvis vacationed at this hotel, every summer, for seven years. There's even a Love Me Tender suite. Yep.
  • The Oh, Yes Factors: The staff at this place was awesome; very friendly, very knowledgeable. The hotel rooms were small but nice, and the rate for wedding guests is awesome - and they throw in a free room for the bride and groom, the night of the wedding. The ballroom had one side for dining, and one side for dancing, the huge bonus being you could do both at once. They do all set up and breakdown, security is included, custodial is included. Pretty much as efficient as the last place!
  • The Big Red Flag(s): The space was all-interior, and pretty dark, not necessarily in a good way - no natural light whatsoever. It's also sort of retro, not in the best of ways. But the biggest red flag (other than Elvis freaks showing up): in addition to their fees, the hotel requires all beer/wine/liquor be purchased through them, and while the fees weren't crazy, the limited selection was. Like, it'd be a Bud / Bud Light / Bud Lime Wedding.
  • The Pictures:
Front-side view of guest room wing. Also, kind of a rear view.

Our great tour guide, plus the dance floor

Dance floor / Dining floor (Yeah... that carpet...)

Dining Hall with chairs/tables (included - another bonus)
Oh, yeah! Other YES factors: Giant Lobby Bell... AND ELVIS.
The final venue we visited was on recommendation from the FOG.* It was a little further out, but just off the highway. Unfortunately, we couldn't get inside to see the interior, but weren't too concerned - FOG has a relationship with the owner and should be able to score us some pictures. Meanwhile, as you'll see, the exterior was gorgeous Southern charm.
  • The Oh, Yes Factors: Beautiful and full of Southern charm - you can just imagine the gorgeous photographs this setting yields. FOG's existing familiarity with the owner and the space is also a bonus.
  • The Big Red Flag(s): This space is the second most expensive - without including the set-up, tables, linens, and everything the hotel or dedicated wedding venue offers for comparable pricing.
  • The Pictures:
Walkway to the front of the venue.
Walkway to the back of the venue. Also awwww.
Whew. A long day, but a good day. The fiance was a total rock star, as were the FOG & MOG. All four of the venues were truly good options (take that, Venue That Already Got Booked). It was both fun and strange to think are we going to get married here? at each place.

None would be a bad choice. And at the end of the day, whatever one we choose is just backdrop. The real point is, we will wind up good and married, wherever it happens.

So. After finishing the Venue Visits, next step was supposed to be Vodka.

It wound up being homemade mandarin orange margaritas, made by my future in-laws.


And speaking of win, now for the fun guessing game: weighing cost vs. convenience, look vs. logistics, and so on... any guesses as to which venue we're seriously contemplating?!

*I'm going to create a glossary soon, to reiterate/permanently record all acronyms used here: FOG = Father Of Groom, and so on. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Venue, Venue, Venue... Vodka.

Tomorrow we're looking at wedding venues all day. I just sent The Fiance a schedule, which looks like this:

8 AM - DEPARTURE (venues are all 3 hours away from where we live)

11:30 AM - VENUE 1


1:00 - VENUE 2


3:00 - VENUE 3

4:00 - VENUE 4


So that's the Super Fun Saturday ahead! Well, seriously, it should be fine. After all, it's like a madcap game of duck, duck, GOOSE, only with venues and vodka. And a brewery tour.

The stressful part, of course, is that we had a 5th venue we were going to view, but it's already been snapped up. So, yeah.

Send good vibes.

Or vodka.

(PS I'll update #TheList in my next post... hopefully the venues/vibes/vodka will all lead to some good additions!)

Friday, July 12, 2013

In Which The Anti-Shelby Starts #TheList

I would like to start this post by thanking my darling friend who blogs over at tessacotton (check her out - she's amazing, and much more visually gifted than I am). When I ranted recently about not being so into "wedding colors," her response included this perfecto clip:

Ah, Shelby. Thanks, Tessa! (Especially since I just saw the stage version of this a week ago, and for real sat in the audience thinking OMG BRIDE-WISE I AM THE ANTI-SHELBY, I laughed all the harder when you found this clip. Brilliant.)

In other good news, I have started a LIST. I know it only magnifies my already unbelievable nerdy-ness, but manoman do I love lists. Pink may not be my signature color, but lists are one of my signature accessories.

(The Fiance & The Off-Season Me)
This list will be a running list, which I shall include at the end of all forthcoming posts, to keep track of where I am with W-Word Related Tasks/Planning. It shall simply be known as #TheList.

When I add something to #TheList, I'll explain it. So here's what we're starting with on #TheList:

A Partner. That would be The Fiance. I have someone who will be waiting when I reach the end of the aisle*. 

Really, that's the number one priority here, in this whole crazy endeavor, so whew-- covered!

Two Men of Honor. We haven't yet figured out or invited the full Bridal Brigade/Groomsguard, but I have already invited two of my favorite people in the whole entire universe to be my Men of Honor. Adam, my brother, is my closest confidante, the most hilarious guy you'll ever meet, super smart, AND HE HAS EYES THAT ARE TWO DIFFERENT COLORS (true story). Noah, my college bestie, has numbered among my favorites ever since we met by literally running into each other our first day of college. He is loyal, passionate, and when we were orientation leaders on campus we had matching WILL & GRACE shirts... AND matching Noah-Pea & Bethie-Poo shirts (ah, college).

Awesome MOB, FOB, MOG, and FOG. That'd be our parents. They all like us, and they all like each other, and after being in lots and lots of weddings, I tell you what - this is a blessing not to be taken for granted. Actually, I'll extend this list item to fantastic family, in general. 

A Tentative Date. Which shall not be revealed until we have things like a confirmed venue. Which is one of this month's major goals: get a venue confirmed.

A Chuppah Builder. If you're unfamiliar with what a chuppah is, the short answer is "wedding canopy," and a beautiful longer explanation lives here. We won't be purchasing a chuppah, we'll be purchasing construction materials and letting our friend Richard do the real work of building it. Richard is a dear friend, a self-proclaimed curmudgeon (especially when he's hungry - which is something we have bonded over), a marvelous/loyal/book-reading gem of a man, and the most talented theatre professional anyone could ever hope to meet. His set design and construction skills are incredible, and I can't even tell you how grateful we are that he's taking on chuppah construction.

That's the starting point. With less than eight months to go, we have our work cut out for us in filling out #TheList. But we'll get there. With a team like this, how can there be any doubt?

1. A Partner
2. Two Men of Honor
3. Fantastic Family
4. A Tentative Date
5. A Chuppah Builder

*To be clear, an aisle has yet to be procured.

On Jury Duty, Meat Grinders, and Deadlines

This is from a bygone fictional era.
Remember when summer was a time of vacation, sunshine, a beautiful and all-consuming embrace of something called "break?"

Yeah, in Grownuplandia, it's more like vocation, stressful deadlines, and a relentless and all-consuming ongoing attempt to avoid going "broke."

I shouldn't complain, really; things are good. But every once in awhile, you need to let off some steam about the LITTLE THINGS that add up to BIG FRUSTRATION, and that's what this post is all about. Be warned!

So, life's a stubborn beastie, and thus despite the fact that I have all of these incredibly important personal goals (which, yeah, now include planning a wedding - see, this post is totally on-topic), the rest of the world around me refuses to take a chill pill. Life keeps barreling forward. This is not unexpected. But what I was unprepared for this summer is just how many ADDITIONAL, INSANELY MUNDANE things the universe was planning to toss my way, such as:

For realsies.
JURY DUTY. I've been pre-selected to sit on a jury next week. I have no idea what this means, other than unlike everyone else I know here, I don't get to call in and find out whether or not I need to show up (my paperwork says very specifically NOT to do that). I have to be at the courthouse, 30 minutes away, at 8AM on Monday or be found "in contempt."

Yay, civic duty that will suck up an indeterminate amount of time starting Monday!

A MEAT GRINDER. Sounds sort of horror-film-y and interesting, right? WRONG. To make a painfully long story short, about a year ago I got a meat grinder from a credit card rewards program. To anyone who knows my dietary habits, that's a bit silly.

So I sold it on Amazon.com - to some psychopath in New York who insisted on returning it, despite there being nothing wrong with it, and sent me many nasty messages with ALL CAPS AND IN-COLOR BOLDED YELLING TEXT threatening bad feedback if I didn't accept the return and cover all shipping costs (plus return money + original shipping.)

So I was now $40 in the hole on this stupid free meat grinder. After letting it sit in its box for another six months, I decided to try selling it on ebay in May. All went well. Or so I thought. Now THIS buyer wants a return, but has USED THE FREAKING MEAT GRINDER. I will bore you no further with details, but suffice to say it's looking like I'll wind up losing about $75 on this stupid thing. And letting the second buyer just keep it. Meanwhile, this whole debacle has not only cost me $75 but also a ton of time - literally DOZENS of emails, plus a few post office trips. How did I get into this situation? Oh, right. Stupid credit rewards program. I should shred that credit card.. If only I had a meat grinder...

DEADLINES. Somehow, on all work fronts-- all of which were supposed to be relatively calmer, schedule-wise, over the summer --I've had multiple moderate-to-huge-deadlines for the past several weeks. Deadlines associated with clients means deadlines I have to meet, to avoid that aforementioned BROKE fear.

Which means my personal writing deadlines, from this blog to the current novel I'm working on to keeping up with my reading (since you can't be a great writer if you don't read - just ask Stephen King) all get shoved back. It also means turning down other things I'd like to be doing, and feeling generally at Stress Level 10.

All of these things led to last night, when I dragged The Fiance out to a nice restaurant-- not because that's a nice thing to do, but because I had a deadline to write a review of the place --only to find it closed due to some plumbing issue or something. So we went elsewhere, and while we waited on our entrees, in an attempt to explain my mood and be sweet about it, I told him:

"I'm feeling overwhelmed right now. I have all these deadlines and the jury duty and the stupid freaking meat grinder debacle, and I'm behind on emails and wedding planning and house stuff and everything else... the nice thing is, there are a million things stressing out - but you're not one of them. So thank you."

To which he raised an eyebrow and said: "Give me time."

Ooooh, buddy...

(Luckily, he then said the right and reassuring things; he just can't help saying something snarky first. It's like a disease. A communicable disease which I also have, but with me, it's like a chronic re-occurring condition-- with that guy, it's terminal.)

Anyway, thanks for indulging me in a little vent-sesh. Now it's back to the deadlines, which I've decided WILL include one more post this week/weekend before jury duty begins. Or in a fit of meat grinder madness, I shred a calendar.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Off Season and Off Color

I said it on Twitter last week, and I meant it - metaphorically, at least:

(Willow really did punch Xander, but she was in a
MUCH more stressful situation. Perspective.)
The next person to ask me what my colors are is going to hear me scream "BLACK AND BLUE!" as I (resist the urge to) punch them.

Okay, so I was exaggerating. We know for a fact that I was exaggerating, because I really did post that on Twitter last week, and not two hours later, someone really did casually inquire as to what my colors would be.

I did not scream. Or punch them. I just smiled sweetly and said "I don't know."

Not I don't know yet, just I don't know. Because I don't know what my colors are, or if I have to pick colors, or why I have to pick colors, or when I have to pick colors in order to be sure that the universe will not explode due to my lack of color picking. I mean, that must be a danger, right? That's why everyone keeps asking about it? As in, daily news round-up: what's going on in Egypt, how's the economy handling this week, oh hell we almost forgot to get the latest update -- what are Beth's colors?!

I feel the same way when people ask what my theme is (weddings have themes?).

In all likelihood, my irritation in the face of these questions is directed less at the people asking, and more at what the questions represent (and the various reactions they stir up in me):

1) Expectations I'm not necessarily embracing (why do weddings need to have themes?)
2) The pressure to start making decisions (we should probably choose a theme, huh?)
3) A little chagrin at my own lack of knowledge (seriously - weddings have themes?)

I'm also watching several younger brides-to-be around me take all of this on far more gracefully - more on that later, but for now, suffice to say that they all have themes.

And so, in the face of all of this...

I've been doing a lot of cleaning, baking, writing, and not-selecting-colors... BUT I DID ALSO SCHEDULE OUR FIRST VENUE SCOUTING APPOINTMENT, and will be adding several more to the schedule for that day.

Oh, and we chose a theme: joy.

So that's something, right?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

It's funny how this holiday is usually referred to as the 4th of July. That's the date, yep, sure is - but why do we use that as the moniker rather than it's title? Why not say Happy Independence Day?

We don't say Happy January 1st, or Merry December 25th, or wish folks a joyous 25th of Kislev (that's the date on the lunar Hebrew calendar when Chanukah starts, y'all - it varies on the Gregorian solar calendar, but is consistent on the lunar one - the more you know!).  Those holidays are all keyed in to both a day, but more importantly, to an event or concept. We focus on the event or concept, not the calendar tile.

Muffins for 'Murrrica
Except when it comes to the 4th of July. Then we're all about the date. 'Cause, you know, independence - that whole event, that whole concept, eh, no big deal.

Um, what?

I started thinking about this while I was baking some muffins just now. Some red, white, and blue (fresh raspberries, cream cheese, fresh blueberries) muffins.  Patriotic dang muffins! Muffins for Independence Day... though most people at the cookout will say 4th of July. Which is weird.

I thought about it first in terms of my country, which I do dearly love. I may critique policies and politicians from here to high heaven, but the freedoms we have here allow me to do so and that's a big part of what I love. The right to agree and disagree, to be part of an ongoing conversation.

Then I thought about it in terms of myself, an autonomous individual about to become part of a legally recognized union. And oddly, when I thought about independence in terms of relationships, well - I realized that we put a lot more importance on independence in that context. Think about it. Being dependent is a bad thing; it implies immaturity and moochie-ness. Being co-dependent is even worse, and means you and your beloved crazy probably need therapy. Independence, that's the strongest position. Right?

I've been proud of my independence for years. And when I honestly think about it, it's something I'm a little scared of losing. Self-reliance. Complete autonomy. Having my default become thinking more often in couplets rather than in single lines. It would seem like a huge transition...

...except it's already been underway for so long. Because "forging a new union," of any sort, is not something that happens overnight. It doesn't come down to one moment, or one date. It comes down to a concept. But maybe the real concept on this occasion is something that manages to be bigger than  independence without devaluing it: the difficult but imperative act of uniting.

So yeah, then - as far as emphasizing the date on this particular holiday... well, I guess when we're planning to unite in celebration of independence by having a cookout or doing some poolside sunning, it's just easier to focus on a date rather than on something so much more complex.

Also, muffins! (Happy 4th of July, y'all.)

This plate is for our neighbors. Awww.