Thursday, February 19, 2009

Procrastinators!! Mount up.

Today, I discovered that there are only 94 days left until the wedding. Whoa.

I kind of want to toss my cookies...

Procrastination and I have been in cahoots for years now. In college, we would start lengthy papers the morning of their due date and hope for the best. This may sound pretty nerdy but rushing to the professor's office to turn in a just completed paper with 10 minutes left was the greatest. high. ever. With wedding planning (not with working or anything important, naturally), I thought, "Oh, this time things will be different. I won't wait until the last minute to do something. This time, I have all the time in the world since it's our wedding," blah, blah.

I was wrong.

I had the best intentions when I started my half-assed timeline in Excel but with no grade or paycheck awaiting for its worth, I never finished it. Our budget is being handled by Mr. Jessebel cause he likes that sort of thing; *cough* and when it came to booking vendors, I just winged it. However, as the date creeps up, I figured perhaps it would behoove me to start a timeline and drop my procrastinating ways for the last time. To my delight, I came across this life-saver on the Martha Stewart Weddings site. To describe it in one word: recockulous. The planning tool's front page greets you with: a wedding day countdown, to-do list, booked vendors, budget, guest count and timeline.

The site even boasts a seating option where you can arrange seating for the reception.

I don't even remember when I did this nor when I saved it. Wow.

I have heard of a program that performs this task as well, but you had to pay for it and now here it is - for free. I like free things.

This tool is very useful if you're not interested in: creating your own templates, need a one stop place for all your wedding-related planning, and like free things. Sadly, it doesn't help my procrastination but at least it's centralized. Beggars can't be choosers, yo.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Keeping It Real? Not Really.

I have to reveal something - I'm Black - well, there's a bit more to it. My Mother is African American while my Father is Nigerian. Some people would think, "Um, so? What's the difference?" It's called culture. Growing up, I have always had strong ties to my maternal family who also happened to be very local. My paternal side? Well, you see where this is going. The last time I have seen any of my Nigerian family member was over 2 decades ago - and the only memory I have from that visit was a large insect on top of my blanket which was on top of me - so the relationship is distant to say the least.

A dazed and confused 2 year-old me in Nigeria.

However, Nigerian culture was not so distant with my aunties and uncles present (a.k.a. my Dad's friends); parties were in abundance complete with food, music and boisterous conversation. While my exposure to Nigerian culture was moderate, I can't say it was always embraced. As a child, I was picked on at school by some of my peers for having a dark skin-tone, natural hair, and don't even get me started my name. Not only did it start with an unusual letter but the pronunciation was butchered so much that I ceased correcting people. In a nutshell, I was ashamed of my background because it wasn't like everyone else. Luckily, thanks to growth and going to a diverse high school, I outgrew that shame and began to embrace those parts that made me unique. Now with the wedding on the horizon, I wondered if I should wear traditional Nigerian clothing as a homage to my background. After some thought, I realized it would be disingenuous of me to do so. I think my Father would have liked to have seen it but I'm not a fan of fronting and do not plan on starting now. I think being a Nigerian American bride having a good time will be sufficient.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Precious: Floral Part 1

I LOVE flowers. Like people, they come in a variety of backgrounds, colors, and types. I adore them so much that the style of the wedding has changed often. If I was marrying myself, the florals would consist of wall-to-wall peonies - yes, I am prone to such egregious behavior. Putting all that aside, I knew the floral search would be a difficult task because of my fluctuating champagne tastes. Flowers die but the dent they can leave in the wallet lingers.

Peonies even make a plain 'ole bucket look good.

Instead going in face first about my search, I will just start on the tips. I have found floral to be one of those areas that most people never go into full detail about...

Or, perhaps I am just really anal.

Before the Floral Meeting

After my first floral meeting, I developed a floral guideline to help me compare florists side by side. Miss. Hot Cocoa also has a similar list that is quite useful. I wish I had done this before that meeting because I suspect things would have came out differently, oh well, life goes on (and the deets will come later).

The guideline consisted of 5 parts:

Style - the look I was going for and the wedding colors
Floral Types - preferred and abhorred
Personal Flowers - bouquets, bouts, corsages
Ceremony - arch, aisle, alter arrangements
Reception - centerpieces, placecard table, other arrangements

All included pictures unlike this post.

OK, Fixed. More peonies.

How is a guideline helpful?

- Your ideas are focused. It keeps you from going all over the place.
- It gives the florist a clear idea of what you are looking for.
- It makes comparing different floral quotes easier and clearer, and therefore makes negotiating better. Yeah, negotiate. I don't know why no one ever thinks of doing this.
- Don't just use it for the floral meetings. Keep it throughout your planning as a referral for other style elements. It's especially useful when checking out linens.
- Tweak it later for your follow-up meetings and floral trial by adding the quote to the orginal. Less paper to thumb through.

Naturally, if you have no idea where to begin, research would help immensely. There is a helpful post on WeddingbeePro on how floral prices are developed. A really good, uncomplicated way to go about managing your floral budget: determine the amount of items that will be needed by your guest list (read: the number of tables with centerpieces) and bridal party. These two sections make up the bulk of your floral quote. Next, use the season in which you are marrying as a starting point. Google garners lovely results. Besides narrowing down the possibilities, it prevents you from experiencing sticker shock for any out-season blooms you're (still) interested in.

Next is style - romantic, organic, modern - Brides.com has a decent starting point. Check out various florist websites to whet your appetite, save pictures that you like and bring those to the meeting. Often the florist will be able to interpret the style you are looking for. However, please note that this idea will not work for every florist. That's where the guideline comes in handy.

During the Meeting

-Be specific. Ask the florist about the type of arrangement being quoted: is it full of flowers or some filler? What types of flowers will be used? What are the backups if the originals are unavailable? It's completely unacceptable for a florist to not provide any of this information. An experienced florist will know what is available and what items can work in its place. Providing this information prevents any confusion or possible mishaps. Don't allow yourself to get shafted.

-Verify the diameter of the bouquets. Yeah, I meant it when I said anal. I am aware there are different sizing types (posies, nosegays, etc) but I want some numbers damn it. Just because I have a social science degree doesn't mean I am completely afraid of numbers.

- Note the florist's mannerisms during the meeting: are they attentive? Do they understand what you are trying to say? Did they ask you for further explanation? Do you feel comfortable with them? I don't know about you but I'm not down with spending x-amount dollars on someone I don't trust.

After the Meeting

If the florist has not sent a proposal within the time frame given, follow-up with them a few days later. If they fail to send a proposal once again, move on. Why waste time?

Compare the differing floral quotes side by side. Consider not just the price, but the whole package - style, ideas, personality, etc.

Once everything has been considered make your decision. Fin.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Photographer Search Tips

Finding our photographer was total luck at the time but, it's very apparent just how important blogs play a role in discovering new talent. There are other ways to find great photography at a lower price. Some tips include:

- Search the WPJA and WPPI sites for a photographer. Special note: On WPJA's site rates can also be found.

I'm jealous of Michigan Brides.

- Check Project Wedding and WeddingWire for reviews. Keep in mind that not all photographers have reviews, even the popular ones but they do have a healthy list of vendors for you to check-out.

- Still can't find anyone? Go to your local Knot or wedding-related board to ask for recs. I have found wedding boards will have the most info on who to check out but make sure you give the girls a price range so they can better direct you.

- Afraid to ask? Then lurk. We know you're there anyway.

One more from the same wedding.

- Blog Stalk. Get to know the photographers style, get a glimpse of their personality, and the weddings they shoot. Sometimes a surprise arises when you least expect it...

- Like discovering who their second shooter is - another example of the greatness photography blogs possess. This tip does not apply to all photographers as that some may work solo or already have a team in place. However, there are quite a few who use a second shooter from time to time. You never know unless you stalk.


- Forgo the album. We did. Albums usually start at $1000 - that's a huge difference. You can always do the album on your own or purchase it through your photographer at a later date. We plan on getting an album for our one year anniversary.

- Email them. Now don't go off spamming their inboxes with questions, they gotta work! Instead choose 2 photographers whose work you admire greatly and see if they're willing to work with your budget or direct you to a photographer with a similar aesthetic who fits into your price range. Photographers are people too and may be willing to help you.

Ahem. GQ is calling.

- And because some people may find it useful - the price range for Southern California photographers (in my opinion) are a little like this:
Low-range: under $3000
Mid-range: $3000-$5000
High-range: $5000+

Having some actual numbers puts it in some perspective.

Here are some photography blogs that have been or currently in my Google Reader:

A Bryan Photo
Amy Squires, her old blog
Anna Kuperberg
Brian Khang
Cameron Ingalls
Jason Q. Tran
Marisa Holmes
Marlin Munoz
Michelle Waite
Next Exit
Stephanie Williams
Trista Lerit

P.S. Don't forget to check out the list on the right side of this blog.

Late Edition: Alexandra Bridal Salon

A recent snippet of Alexandra Bridal Salon on the WE series Platinum Weddings (yes, I'm guilty...sometimes) reminded me of some old news: it's gone. Luckily, not gone like those shady stores that close after taking your order and money never to be heard from again. Instead the salon has 'tied the knot' with (a cutesy way of saying bought by) Priscilla of Boston. It now holds the distinction of being the sole Priscilla of Boston store in the west.

Was a sista worried upon receiving the card in the mail?

Yes. I was. Mostly, about being forced to use their new on-site alterations -- something Alexandra did not offer (a major plus). So I called them up. The girl on the phone seemed rather confizzled by my background: Alexandra bride with a dress on the way; will the contract I signed with Alexandra be honored, blah, blah. She asked the person who was near her for some guidance when lo and behold it turned out to be the consultant who helped me during my first visit. I was so relieved to hear Hannah's voice because there was another thing I was afraid of: entirely new people who had nothing to with the order. Everything is good, the only differences are that they have switched locations and their selection is completely biased. Nice for me, but not for future brides looking for variety. If it's any consolation, Gabrielle's (my runner-up) has beefed up her selection of designers.

I will admit, while not a fan of beading or the ballgown silhouette, this POB dress is quite lovely.

I would rock it and look more fierce than the model.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mysterious Ways

After a long hiatus, this weekend will mark my return to wedding planning. Not that I haven't engaged in any wedding related tasks, but after securing almost all of our major vendors last summer, the actual planning of the day has fallen to wayside. One of those meetings concerns a possible ceremony site. Nothing has happened to our venue (our tasting is this weekend, actually) but our intention was to never hold the ceremony there...at first.

The ceremony has been one of the biggest obstacles in the course of our planning. In previous posts, I talked about our hunt for the venue but didn't really discuss our search for a church. Why? 'Cause it was ridiculous. Mr. Jessebel happens to be Catholic so it was important to him to marry in the Church. I'm a heathen. Well, not really. Anyway, not getting married in a church didn't bother me but having the ceremony at Spanish Hills did. I have heard the horror stories from people trying to marry in a Catholic church (on a Saturday!) so we were aware of the usual requirements:

  • At least one individual is Catholic (baptized, communion, and confirmation completed) -- no brainer
  • Being a parishioner -- understandable
  • A "small donation" -- they have to make their money somehow.

  • Only marrying residents of Camarillo -- say what?
  • Must marry in church near your home -- why?
  • Annoyed that a couple is asking questions -- angry, but familiar.

    We knew that having a Sunday wedding at a church would be difficult but those responses really took the cake without even mentioning the date. Eventually, we gave up on the brick-and-mortar church and set our sites on an alternative.

    Active priests do not perform weddings outside of the church without bishop approval, but only for extenuating circumstances. With that in mind, we began a bleak search for a retired/former priest to perform a ceremony at our venue that included Catholic traditions. I say bleak because how exactly does one start looking for retired priests? Interestingly, there are sites such as the commonly touted Rent-a-Priest or the more obscure, Wedding Priest Ministry for folks in our predicament. Instead, we contacted an American Catholic church called Good Shepherd Church who performs weddings that are prohibited from the Church such as second weddings without an annulment or dissolution of the previous marriage or Catholic ceremonies outside of the church. Mr. Jessebel was skeptical since they are not recognized by the Archdiocese, something that they do not hide. However, he really wanted to have some sort of a Catholic ceremony for the wedding day so he called them. He was met with a friendly voice who gave some information including their price tag: $875. Yeah, Eight hundred-seventy-five dollars...for the priest to perform our ceremony....30 minutes at most...but including travel(!). Mr. Jessebel was flabbergasted. For the first time he considered having a Protestant officiant. Then, the least likely person to help in this situation came in: his Nana.

    Remember her? The fickle woman who only makes family appearances for her birthday? Well, she's also very Catholic, like she says her rosary every night and always has a bottle of holy water at whim - Catholic. A deacon from Nana's church visits her every week at home to give communion. In one those meetings, she mentioned to him our search for a retired priest to marry us and asked if he knew of anyone that could help. Well, he went one step above...we may be able to marry at the church Mr. Jessebel's Nana is a member - on a Sunday no less! Whoa. We have a meeting with the priest this weekend to see if it will work (you know, to verify that are indeed willing to marry us, the requirements, scheduling future sessions, the donation fee). In a slight twist, if we indeed marry at the church, Nana will definitely come to our wedding. She kind of has to since it would be at her Church and all. Score!

    The meeting cannot come soon enough.