Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In the Beginning: "The One" Part 2

Today, I'm feeling a little better. Keeping my neck covered and guzzling lots of tea has helped plenty. Yay!

In my last post, I failed to mention just what I was looking for in a wedding gown. It would probably put some things in perspective. My requirements: soft and flowy material, no embellishments, no ballgowns, straps a plus. I really, really wanted to wear lace 'cause I'm old-school like that but things didn't work out. *sniff, sniff*


My next visit (which took place two months later) was to Gabrielle's Bridal Boutique. Los Gatos is such a quaint town located near my birthplace, San Jose. Random side note: On our way to the salon, my Mother pointed out that the hospital both me and sister were born was nearby. Because I happen to be a brat, I said to my Mother in a mocking baby voice, "Awww. Are you getting a little nostalgic since we're going to look at bridal gowns for me." Silence. Oh snap! I hit a cord, so quickly shut my mouth. This was a little weird for me since my family shows no emotion.

OK, back to the store.

Three words: quaint, chic, personable. It was here that I was able to try on dresses that I didn't think would be possible. Gabrielle's service was one-on-one, honest(!), and friendly. Her gowns are not stored in plastic but out in the open for you to see and touch. Gabrielle's was small but had a better selection than the first huge bridal salon I attended earlier in the Spring. With all of the gowns available in her open layout, Gabrielle helped me pick out 8 (or maybe it was 10) gowns for me to try on. Junko Yoshioka, Melissa Sweet, Vineyard, and Anne Barge were among the candidates. Gabrielle clearly knew what she was doing and didn't relegate me to yards of poofiness. Her tricks for me trying too small gowns: first, step into to the gown to see if goes past thighs then if that didn't work, she put the gown over my head instead. Voilà. I managed to try all but 1 gown using those tricks. Ultimately, it came down to 4 gowns - 3 Melissa Sweet (Carrie, Dora, and Sidney) and 1 Vineyard (Sophie). Two of them - I'm not quite sure what kind of crack I was on but it must have been good and one - I flirted with the idea of completely changing the material. Ultimately, I didn't purchase my gown from this salon. Special note: She price matches.

My third and often, forgotten visit that same day was to The Unique Bride in Burlingame. I went here for 2 reasons: Christos and Amsale. Instead I came back from reality: only one of their samples fit me. Their samples were really small, like a street-size 6. It was pretty disheartening. My consultant, Sheila, was pretty understanding and didn't make me feel bad about it but I felt it was a wasteful trip. I was only able to try-on one gown, a Marisa number, and that was for appeasement to my bruised ego. The owner did send me note after I wrote a review on Yelp which was nice but the experience still sucked. Oh well. I did discover one thing though: lace made me look matronly. Actually according to my Mom, it made me look older than her. That was her payback from earlier. Oh, and the gowns are stored in the back and you can't take pictures but since they have to get the dress from the back you can definitely sneak some in.

Amsale Tyler

Christos Hannah. My Mother's revenge.

Amsale Bali. With the girls, this dress would have looked inappropriate (read: skanky).

The fourth and last visit: well it happened. I bought my gown. I visited Alexandra Bridal Salon in SF during my 3rd visit up North with the intent of checking out their Priscilla of Boston and Romona Keveza collections. I found nothing but I did come out with a gown I had coveted before. Truth be told. I was going to purchase the gown from Gabrielle's (I had set-up a special appointment and everything) but this salon gave me lower price offer than what Gabrielle's had matched earlier. I was sold. My friends thought that I should have started a bidding war between the 2 salons. Oddly enough, I didn't feel right doing that. So I came out of the salon triumphant. I found my gown and even saved some dough. Me likey.

The dress to be revealed later, granted it's not much of a secret to others. Shhh.

Monday, December 29, 2008

In the Beginning: "The One" Part 1

Some women have been dreaming of this day longer than the wedding itself. It's the one time when a woman is waited on hand and foot like a princess in waiting, searching for "the one" that will define her individual style and self-worth. What will make her feel beautiful, glorious, and like "she's worth it." Oh yes, you guessed it - wedding gown shopping.


And yes, the buzz has kicked in.

A few things before I begin:

1. Princesses answer to some kind of authority.
2. If my wedding gown defines me as human being then my parents failed.
3. I'm still prone to irrational behavior.
4. Dress shopping is kind of daunting, therefore, 3 posts will be dedicated to it.

Back to the dress task, I dreaded it not because of the array of choices or the cost but rather cause of my size. I have no shame in revealing my weight (221 lbs. - what!) and the only problem I have with being a size 14 is that it's never around during sales which happens to be the time I shop the most. Boo. How many times have you heard a small framed woman whine about how fat they felt because they couldn't fit into a sample size gown? And God forbid they have to order a size that is larger than what they normally wear because bridal industries off-sizing charts - the horror! Since bridal salons carry samples that most smaller girls can't even fit, an average-sized girl like myself was tad bit scarred of trying to fit a too small dress on her larger frame. Now sense comes in. Clearly, I can't try-on fitted gowns.

Le Sigh. Not happening.

Instead I focused on A-line gowns - soft, romantic, but slightly modern types. It saved me time and sanity.

The budget? Well, that's where the irrational part comes in. Err, for my ego the budget (if you can call it that) was $3500...according to my id it was $5000. If there is any consolation, I did manage to have Mr. Jessebel agree to remove the entire bridal attire amount out of the overall budget because lets face it: between the dress, veil, shoes, hair, make-up, and any other accessories, the amount the bride spends is going to outshine whatever amount the groom spends, no matter how much you cut back. In my personal opinion, the bridal and groom attire should be left out of the overall budget because that is not a communal effort like the ceremony and reception. The attire should be left up to the people who are wearing it. With that said, I may end up selling my dress, you know, to appease him...in my mind.

When the time for shopping came, to prepare myself, I researched possible salons on Yelp and Project Wedding before setting up my appointments. Bridal salons have a less than stellar history when it comes to customer service but think about it - these folks are not in a business were you have repeat customers so why be nice? I have read nightmares of girls not being helped due to their budget being "too low", being ignored because their appearance or told they are fat. Needless to say, I was a bit frightened, not about getting my feelings hurt, but in case I embarrass my Mother 'cause if someone gave me attitude, well, I would have to turn into my stereotype and that ain't pretty. See. I used "ain't."

My first bridal salon experience was forgettable. I visited House of Fashion in Sacramento. Why is a SoCal bride checking out gowns in Sactown? Easy cause she's from there (represent!) and she may hold the gown hostage at her Mother's house. The store boasts the largest collection of gowns in Sacramento which, lets face it, is no big feat. I visited the salon almost 10 years ago for my high school prom (um shudder) and remember the store being completely the same only with far less clutter. Judging by their website, the list of designers is quite impressive - too bad I can't say the same thing for the selection of gowns, that's if I could find the ones I wanted. Alas, that was the best part about House of Fashion, I could find them myself. I have an aversion to salons who hide the gowns in the back. Lack of organization aside, I didn't find my gown here but the visit wasn't a complete waste. No one called me a fattie for not fitting into to some of the gowns. My consultant was friendly and helpful but she was also absent for most of my visit helping 2 other brides besides myself...at the same appointment...first thing in the morning. I got to pick the gowns I wanted to try on. You can take pictures(!) and the appointments aren't timed (at least what my consultant told me). Also, I learned to bring my own strapless bra. Besides being gross, communal bras are not accurate to your size which is a fairly important aspect because it can change the shape of the outfit. House of Fashion didn't suck but it did leave much to be desired.

Next up the rest of my bridal dress adventure.

Some Holiday Notes

- Christmas is becoming a chore. I think it has to do with age 'cause my excitement for this holiday has waned over years.

- My big gift to Mr. Jessebel was ruined this year. I insisted that he open his aunt's gift first. Unbeknownst to me, she had given him a Wii game. I was mortified 'cause the man is no dummy and my gifts are kind of predictable. Turns out his father told his sister about my purchase but failed to warn me. Ugh. My consolation prize: Mr. Jessebel has been using the console every day since then.

- I was a productive ant on Saturday: the Christmas leftovers have been banished, the bookcase doesn't look as ridiculous, and my lifestyle mags have been boxed up to allow more room (I'm a slight pack-rat) all with The Real Housewives of Atlanta on in background (go NeNe). All afternoon I was doing the happy dance until...

- I realized I had missed my 10am hair appointment. D'oh. I totes forgot to put it in my iPhone and since it was for conditioning it slipped my mind. If was for a touch-up, believe me, I would have remembered. So embarrassed.

- Now I'm sick. I can't hang because as a child, I rarely came down with anything. Now, I get sick at least twice a year. What's up with that? The only good thing about getting sick is the buzz DayQuil gives me after consumption. Yes, DayQuil gives me a buzz and I like it.

Time for me to get on with it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cautionary Tale

I'm all about reading people's experiences. Reviews are so useful, convenienent, and even voyeuristic. These are one of the many reasons why Yelp was the first application I downloaded on to my iPhone and why Amazon was such a major source for wasting time back in the day. There is nothing like reading and avoiding other people's failures, right? With all that said, I do like to try things myself in order to make thoughtful judgements, even if it may suck. Crazy, I know, but not everyone is going to agree. Unfortunately, when it comes to wedding planning, you only get one chance to try to them out so making a sound judgement is pertinent to finding the right vendor for your wedding.

I'm writing this because one thing I find that bridal reviews lack is that most never cover, in detail, their meetings with possible vendors. You can learn so much from what others have sought and accomplished or failed in that first initial contact 'cause let's be real here: This is your first time planning a wedding. You don't know anything. I didn't know anything. And even if this is your second time planning a wedding things have definitely changed since your last go-around. Reviews on such sites as Project Wedding, WeddingWire, and (a lesser extent because of the advent of the previous sites) knottie bios are the culmination of months of communication and planning. It's a little naive to think that one's conceivably closer relationship with a vendor will be the same as a first meeting and/or random email correspondences. For all we know, the bride may have been a little uneasy about the vendor the first time but went with them because they worked with the quote or the vendors came highly recommended or she had a hunch or her coordinator received a kickback - we really don't know which why reviewing the initial stages of contact including the all important quote is so helpful. Not to be so crass but, shit happens.

A big reason why people never reveal stuff: the budget. Privacy would be the PC excuse for keeping it to yourself but the non-PC reason is because you don't want anyone to judge you on how much you're spending or plan to spend. Screw the judgement. People are going to do it regardless. I get judged for getting married, you think I care? Nope. I graduated from high school over 8 years ago and never planned on going back. So move on. At a recent get-together with other former and current brides, the topic of money came up. Many agreed that seeing the actual numbers of past budgets is quite helpful during the planning process because it gives you a general idea of what to expect - I agreed. It would have saved me and Mr. Jessebel from some arguments (yes, engaged couples still fight - it's normal). For that reason, I will most certainly display the amount of money that we spent on certain items with Mr. Jessebel's approval. (He doesn't want his family to find this information on the net. I don't see how that is possible but if it makes him feel better so be it.) I will, however, most certainly post the floral budget. Floral has so many different factors going on that rates can be all over the place but there are ways a couple can manage and plan their budgets accordingly.

Don't be surprised if names pop up, cause they will. My intent is not to smear vendors but rather to give people options on how to best deal with them or anyone for that matter. There were some vendors I met with who are obscenely popular that I found less than stellar while others I considered are diamonds in the rough. Still, there are some vendors that were all that plus a bag of chips, at least character-wise so to speak.

I guess my point is maintain an open mind, do your research, don't be afraid to ask questions, oh, and it's about time to go into the nitty gritty.

Monday, December 22, 2008

When I'm not procrastinating...

I mull over inconsequential details like this: my shoes

Object: Find a pair shoes that can be worn again.

Hurdle: Shoe shopping makes me cry. Thanks Dad for the flat feet.

Back story, I found these banging shoes on Zappos.

I ordered them. Got them in record time. Loved them but...

They didn't look too hot my feet. (Do you really think I would post those pics?)

Kept them anyway. You know - just in case.

So. Sassy.

Found these lovelies from J. Crew. Not really a fan of the color, but love the style of the shoe.

Bought them. Waited for almost a month since they were backordered.

Got 'em. Still really love the style but not too hip about the color.

{Forgot to take pic}

Started thinking about its more subtle sister, blush. Set those feeling aside.

Really wanted something hot pink and/or with bows but couldn't find anything I liked. Fiddle-dee-dee. Since I couldn't find them, how about create them myself (i.e. pay someone to dye it)? Purchased these Stuart Weitzmans.

Sending them back....soon.

In typical fashion, I was shopping for myself one day when I discovered J. Crew had a sale going on. Bought 2 sweaters (ahem, on sale) and those blush colored peep toes at 30% off plus free shipping. Thank goodness for sales...and chance...and boredom.

Now I'm waiting anxiously. Please, don't be ugly.

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In The Beginning: Venue That Could Have Been

After leaving it hanging for almost 2 months, I think it's about time to follow-up on the venue search. Procrastination has been a constant theme in my wedding planning for the last few months.


Random note: As I mentioned in my last post, my office had it's annual holiday luncheon at Comme Ça. Well, seated adjacent from my table was none other than celebrity wedding planner Mindy Weiss. The only thing cooler than seeing her was driving by the Monique Lhuillier boutique on the way back from the restaurant. Le sigh.

Back to my wedding planning narcissism.

It's ironic that the runner-up was an all-outdoor venue considering that was my major no-no. I foresaw ugly pictures with a squinted, oily face just like my graduation photos from college. So not pretty but I'm working on it.

Villa Amodei is this gorgeous private estate set among lemon orchards in Somis. It's an all outdoor venue that boats a bridal suite with all the amenities a hair/MUA needs, valet service for guests, and lots of places for pictures. Just gorgeous. It would have been perfect for our wedding. When I saw this wedding, I just sighed. Even Mr. Jessebel was quite smitten with the place and that says a lot cause he couldn't care less about that stuff. Sadly, things didn't work out for 2 reasons:

1. They have guest minimum - 150 people. Um, I have never heard of a guest minimum. Food and beverage minumum? Yes, which makes sense. Requiring a couple to have a certain amount of people seems strange to me... Anyway, our wedding cap is 100 people. Sometimes coming from a broken home has it's advantages. I kid...sort of.

From Left: The front of the property; the only picture that featured the ceremony area to be held undneath the huge tree in the background.

2. Their site rental was going to increase to $6000 for 2009 weddings and there was no way to lock in the current rate at the time (which was around $4000). They said it was because their caterer was going to increase their rates but Mr. Jessebel still found it quite odd (he went in depth why at the time which involved his trusty Excel sheet and lots of numbers....he lost me) but the gist was something isn't right so he didn't feel comfortable going with them. He also wasn't a big fan of paying $6000 just to have the wedding there. Even with food starting at $65 person it just wasn't a good deal.

Mr. Jessebel's hunch, was right. It's safe to say we dodged a bullet albeit a pretty one.

A sista can still dream though, right?

The Cocktail Hour/Reception Area

This article didn't help matters. If only we waited...or not.

I'll live.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Saga Continues

I'm finally back from Sactown and to this sad little thing called a blog.

Physically, I've been here since Sunday - November 30th (don't judge me) - but today, my mind has finally caught up.

My visit back home included:

- Seeing 2 accidents take place on the drive up north. Crazy.
- Excepting that my little sister (whom I can recall was the source of my Mother's constant morning visits to the bathroom) is now 20 years-old.
- Spending Turkey Day with the family in the Bay Area.
- Witnessing my aunt, once again, add breakfast sausage to gumbo. The stew also lacked crab and oysters. My late Lousiana-bred Grandparents would be appalled at all of the above.
- Eating a delicious omelette at some shack in downtown Sac. OMG, my mouth is still salivating over it.
- Reminiscing with some old high school buddies. Loved the company. Can't believe that I've known them for over 10 years. Time flies.

- Made a major breakthrough with my bridesmaids - the dresses have been picked. Thank God. We also had lunch in downtown at a cute cafe. Midtown proves once again that Sacramento can't be all that bad.
- Spent some time bonding time with the Moms.
- Braved the drive home.

Now, I am scrambling to get Christmas gifts.

I will be eating a free meal today. Unfortunately, it's for my office's holiday luncheon. Ugh.