Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekend Deliciousness

The last three days have included good friends, awesome food, super-good sales, baking madness, and plenty of fun. I call that a successful weekend!

To follow up on my last post, our Wii Fit arrived. We have both had a chance to do the fitness tests and play a few of the activities. So far I love the non-trainer games the best: aerobics and balance. The strength training activities are difficult for a beginner as they incorporate balance so heavily. The yoga is nice when I want a break, plus it's actually not too hard to learn the moves and do them correctly (yay!). I got a solid half-hour work-out this morning and feel awesome. It was fun!

Friday night included dinner and girl time. The Man had a couple of his friends over. After fish sticks and rice, a cheap but filling Lenten meal, the guys played video games while the girls made cupcakes and watched a movie. We made pink petit-fours-esque cuteness using a couple new icing techniques I'd never tried before. French vanilla batter and pink vanilla frosting. Everyone really enjoyed them.

We went grocery shopping on Saturday morning before heading up to Tigard for the weekend's big shopping adventure. I dragged The Man into a JoAnn's Superstore where we walked up and down just about every aisle. The fabric section there was as big as the entire JoAnn's store in Albany, and the cake/cupcake/brownie aisles had mountains of things I'd never seen before. Even the wedding section was twice the size of anything I've seen around these parts. I didn't even come close to spending my $20 budget, which was nice, and I still got three things I really wanted.

After JoAnn's, we mosied over to Washington Square where we encountered the insanity of faaaar too many people not knowing where they were going, not knowing what their children were doing, not knowing which side of the aisle to walk on, and what store they were in. Seriously, the desire to spend-spend-spend on Chinese crap was more than evident. We had our fill of the madness and went over to JC Penney's furniture store. Miraculously no screaming babies in strollers with zombie parents over there. We didn't see anything to buy (in our price range, d'oh!).

After a while, The Man's brother met up with us. The three of us joined E & D, my college roommate and her husband, for dinner at Gustav's. We ordered fondue, spaetzle, sausage, salads, and plenty of pop. All of the food was good, though the sausage was excellent. Great conversation and lots of catching up. I miss having friends I can talk to so openly... it's one thing to talk to my own husband, but it's nice having someone else to talk to as well. As wonderful as The Man is, he just doesn't get some things. He also doesn't have a psychology degree like E. ;)

We got home at a decent time, so we broke out our other new Wii game (that The Man got for $5!!!). We played the new Super Mario Bros. until 10pm when I went to sleep. I was exhausted.

Sunday has been relaxing. I did a considerable amount of research into the Wilton cake decorating kits. I've narrowed the list down to one or two kits that will make a more-or-less complete set for my purposes. The kits aren't quite in my budget, but with coupons and a really good sale, I might be able to get what I want by Christmas. Breaking into a new hobby always means start-up costs. Plus I don't feel I need to be eating so much cake, so I'm not sure I really want to do any of this anyway. The research was very helpful.

I made a loaf of bread this afternoon, did five loads of laundry, edited some photos, and cleaned the kitchen top-to-bottom. I even wiped out the refrigerator, something I'm told most people only do twice a year, yuck! We have dinner, Mass, and a movie to get through tonight, so the weekend is not yet over. Thankfully.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wii are gonna be Fit!

Our Wii Fit finally arrived today!

And I'm baking cupcakes tonight for no good reason other than I had a bad week and, dammit, they sound wonderful.

I can't decide what kind of cupcakes, but I think I have devil's food, carrot, white, yellow, milk chocolate, and funfetti to choose from. The last one sounds the most festive after a crappy week. Frosting flavors include vanilla, cream cheese, and chocolate fudge. Perhaps lemon or mint if I'm feeling like some extract-induced tastiness. Oh, the choices!

You may or may not hear from me this weekend: we're off to the Big City tomorrow for dinner out with friends, shopping, and then Wii Fit to burn off all the cupcakes. ;) Yay for dinner out, good friends, video games, and cupcakes.

Especially the cupcakes friends.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In a Funk

I am not having a good week. Work has been frustrating lately for several reasons, none of which will I get into on my bloggy. Happily, though, it looks like I'll have enough work to keep me busy for two whole hours tomorrow, yay! *sigh*

We veered away from our meal planning this week, so I've been having to think on the fly again based on what we have in the cupboard. Blah. At least the suffering has only reinforced that we were doing the right thing.

The Man and I are getting along okay. We've just been running on different wavelengths this week, so it feels like we aren't connecting. Not not connecting, just worried about things and having our own interests and being our own selves.

I've been lamenting our lack of funds for our hobbies lately. The Man would love a few new video games, and I'd love to have a run through several craft stores. Such a spree is not in the cards it seems.

I also feel like my loyalty is constantly being tested lately, and I don't take kindly to that. Small moments of kindness are followed by random acts of malice, so I'm feeling disheartened. When I turn to loved ones for advice, they only look at the present, "walk away, just walk away," and don't include the story's full history which doesn't really allow for a "walk away" approach.

My consolation tonight is that there are only eight very long hours left in the week, that this weekend includes friends and free food, and that hopefully I will feel less like in a funk.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

We've been waiting for Lent for a while!

Is it weird to be excited to give something up or to be extra penitential for forty days? The Man and I had to be creative this year. We don't have extra money, don't have many (any?) vices to give up (forget caffeine, I'm down to two cans a day and that's far enough), and we can't exactly give up more food or clothes. Short of switching to only store brands, we can't even give up the quality of our food. Thus, there was nothing we could think of to "give up."

We've decided, instead, to give of our time. The Man volunteers at our parish now, and sometimes he stops in to help or visit at the local Newman Center. Together, we dedicate about half an hour each night to reading something either motivational or thought-provoking about our faith. We're currently reading the Lenten prayer book provided by the church, and we're devouring James Martin, S.J.'s autobiographical In Good Company: The Fast Track from the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Seriously devouring. His writing style is perfect to read aloud to each other, and we take turns reading part of a chapter at night. We'll probably finish Martin's book before Lent is even half over, so we made sure we have several more books to help us stick to our plan.

I wish I could volunteer at the church, too, but work gets in the way. Between teaching dancing lessons, cooking, and housework, I'm out even more time. And I refuse to give up my fifteen minutes of solitude every day ("me" time, necessary decompression), so time is indeed precious. We feel like a half hour every day is a small sacrifice, and we both feel glad and proud that we can grow together in our faith this way.

Are you celebrating Lent? If so, how are you honoring the season?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Goodbye Ugly Sheets, Hello Curtains

I briefly mentioned in yesterday's post that we finally bought curtains. While curtains aren't exactly a huge and momentous purchase like a car or house, they're a big deal to me. When I moved into my apartment two and a half years ago, it only had mini-blinds. While blinds are fine and dandy, they're not very dressy. I elected to purchase some cheap sheets from Ross and turn the fitted sheet into pillow cases for the futon that then matched the flat sheet curtain. The blue, green, and mustard striped sheets looked great for a while. They were fine while I was dating The Man. Around our wedding day, I decided the sheet curtain made me want to puke. It was functional, tidy, and oh-so-ugly. The bedroom window is covered by blinds and a solid white sheet as well, simpler and less vomit-inducing, but still annoying.

We found curtains and sheets on sale at J.C. Penney this weekend, finally something worthwhile to spend our wedding gift cards on. We also picked up a new set of sheets for the futon. I could buy actual futon covers, but a double-size fitted sheet is easier to replace and wash, plus it's about 75% less expensive. I settled on a jade 300-thread-count set, so I get the fitted sheet and two pillow cases, plus a flat sheet should anyone ever stay over. They're really nice sheets! The curtains are a crinkled sheer panel that more than touches the floor. We chose a rich plum color to accent the jade futon. The couch pillows have a lavender and plum floral pattern on a white background, so now everything matches. :) Two curtain panels and a new sheets set totaled about $50, and it completely changed the look and feel of the living room. YAY!

Now if only I could find curtains that match the quilt The Man's grandmother made for us. Matching a quilt is impossible. Thus, the white sheet stays for now.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wii've been busy lately!

The last week passed nearly uneventfully. We got our Wii, and I've gone from not really knowing how to control my character on Mario Kart to being able to successfully win several levels and unlock a few new levels, cars, and characters. I even beat my husband once, shhh, don't tell.

Our wedding photographer finally gave us our long-awaited wedding album. While the quality of the print job and the durability of the binding is superb, I was disappointed that the album looks like it was composed on Snapfish or Shutterfly. There is a sterility of the modern printed photo pages that makes me sad. I like having texture and depth and the traditional feel of a real photo album. SO! I waited for a couple awesome sales and purchased a leather-bound scrapbook album, some black and white printed paper that matched our wedding theme, and printed dozens of pictures on my own printer. $35 later, I have myself a stupendous curl-up-in-a-cozy-chair-to-view scrapbook of our wedding. It tells the whole story from our engagement to our honeymoon complete with captions and shiny things. I was able to put in 40 12"x12" pages with as many pictures as I wanted in whatever layout I desired... the same thing on Shutterfly was $99.99. Who says DIY is overrated? Job well done, I say!

We had a friend over for pizza and a movie last night, and he splurged on a dessert pizza. It was all super yummy, and the movie was even good, too.

We've submitted our wedding announcement to two local newspapers (finally), ordered our wedding prints, and ordered my long-awaited cut crystal wedding ring stand, so now I have a special place to set my ring down when I go to sleep at night (it catches the sheets and scratches if I don't take it off). We bought more picture frames using leftover gift cards, so now we have pretty frames for the walls. We also bought some new curtains for the living room window. The sheets have finally disappeared for good, thank God.

I spent four hours in the kitchen yesterday whipping up homemade soft pretzels, a new recipe that The Man loooooooooooooves. I think I'm his favorite person at the moment. Just wait 'til he finds out I ate his leftover pizza. ;)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wedding Rant: Week Recap

Wedding Rant Week seemed to go over pretty well. Quite a few people said they agreed with me (yay!), and several politely disagreed. I respect those who were polite about their disagreements and thank them for being brave enough to share their opinions with me.

Concessions and amendments:
-Flip flops are still out of the question, but I'll agree with Skunk that nylons are optional for the bride. Some girls just don't fit in them, they're itchy and hot, they're not comfortable, and they don't keep women warm. They're expensive, delicate, nearly unwashable, smell weird, and don't really do anything but make the legs look the same color all over (some unnatural shade, of course). But the groom better wear socks in those rental shoes, yuck!

-1 Corinthians 13: I still don't like the passage at weddings. Allow me to clarify my thoughts. In the passage, St. Paul gives several examples of Godly love. We, as humans, can strive all we want for the perfection of this type of love, but we will undoubtedly fall short. I'm not saying St. Paul doesn't give a good picture of love (or God), but that expecting perfection from a human--a spouse in this case--is setting yourself up for failure. Furthermore, I think the passage paints too rosy a picture of love. In the same way that God isn't always nice when he's being just, I don't always have to be nice to love someone. If The Man and I are arguing, it doesn't mean I don't love him. Disagreeing with him, even outright fighting with him, doesn't mean love isn't fully present. In fact, I'd argue that our love is stronger when we overcome moments of injustice and meanness and, yes, loathing the very existence of the other. Godly love never fails, but we, as humans, fall short of that glory. Our human love can fail.

-Wedding announcements in the newspaper: what exactly is a "double ring" ceremony that I keep reading about? Does that mean that both the bride and the groom receive a new un-worn ring on their wedding day? Does it mean the bride gets her second ring and the groom now wears his ring? Does it mean the bride gets to now wear two rings (regardless of the groom's ring status)?

And would our wedding be a "double ring" ceremony? I got an engagement ring that IS my wedding ring: I took it off just before the ceremony and then got it back during the ceremony. The Man wore his wedding ring as an engagement ring before the wedding: He took his off just before the ceremony and got it back later just like me. We both wore rings before the wedding and now wear the same rings as married people. The only difference is that now the rings are blessed. And we're married. But doubly? You tell me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wedding Rant: The Little Stuff

Wedding Rant Week has finally come to a close. On today's menu, a smattering of little rants that didn't fit in any other categories.

Flip flops are not appropriate wedding attire for anyone, especially the wedding party. Unless the wedding is literally on a tropical sandy beach, keep the flip flops in the closet. Seeing the bride or groom in flip flops makes me think they either ran out of money or don't take the day seriously. I know it's "just footwear," but that's my point: wear shoes. Wear nylons or socks. The day (hopefully) happens only once in a lifetime. Show up dressed like you mean it.

Wedding invitations should be sent out between six and eight weeks before the wedding. Anything earlier than that should be a "save the date" card or postcard (not magnet with your ugly mug on it!). Anything later should include apologies for the delay or complete lack of etiquette. The timing of wedding invitations has been a long-held tradition for a reason.

RSVP does not mean "respond if you feel like it." If someone sends you an RSVP card with postage attached, send it back with your reply. If they tell you to go to their website and reply, DO IT. Even if you have to call the couple a week beforehand and look bad, call them. Call their parents or siblings. Send an e-mail, a Facebook message, a smoke signal. RSVP promptly if you can, but respond anyway if you're late.

If you do happen to purchase one of those DIY wedding invitation kits, take the time to trim the perforations off the edges. Nothing screams cheap like perforated invitations.

Ribbons are for babies, little girls, and presents. Do not, do Not, do NOT put a little ribbon on your invitation. "Hi, I'm trying to be crafty but I don't really know how to be crafty, so here's a little ribbon accent to show my complete uncraftiness. I had my thirteen year old sister tie them on. I bribed her with alcohol. Sorry the ribbons don't match either the invitation or our wedding colors, it's all I had in my drawer."

And finally, drinking too much. It's one thing to be festive on your wedding day, but keep it together. Life is just beginning anew, so there's no reason to binge the night away. If there is reason to binge, it's probably not a good thing. Start sober. Start with respect and dignity, not puking your guts out on the wedding night. Enjoy your new spouse away from the porcelain god.

Happy weddings to all! Okay, happy well-prepared, indoor, un-overburdened, non-sand-ceremony, no long waiting, anti-1 Corinthians 13, no throwing things, that-you-can't-help-but-spend-a-fortune-on-because-the-chips-are-stacked-against-you wedding! :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wedding Rant: Reception Annoyances

Every girl is a princess on her wedding day, and every groom a prince. They dress up in extraordinarily expensive clothing, participate in sacred vows, and then get to oversee their minions at the feast with eighteen of their closest friends. Then they get to dance wildly late into the night.

*Gag, Barf*

Head tables are overrated. I don't necessarily mind the idea of a head table for the bride and groom, a table set elevated or aside for the two of them. It's the mile-long table that bothers me. I can't stand it when the bridesmaids and groomsmen have to sit there looking bored, waiting for their speeches, waiting to go back to when the bride and groom weren't the most important thing in their lives. Furthermore, I hate it when people get separated from their loved ones at weddings. I'm going to put the head table concept into terms of my own wedding so it makes more sense what I mean:

Our head table consisted of my sister, myself, The Man, and his brother. Both my sister and his brother were single (until right before the wedding when my sister met a great guy). All of our other attendants are married already. Instead of putting Bridesmaids 2 and 3 up on the stage with us, thereby separating them from their husbands--who knew NO ONE, we elected to have them all sit at a table together. Groomsmen 2 and 3 sat with their wives as well. My sister's new boyfriend sat with both sets of parents at their table, and we didn't force my sister to sit on the stage throughout the reception either. It was incredibly important to me to not make those accessory individuals be left out and bored, and we wanted our closest friends to be with their husbands and wives! I consider the only possible exception to this rule as sibling privilege. On my sister's wedding day, she can ask me to sit next to her and her groom without The Man being at the table. Friends might get mad and back out, but siblings HAVE to stick it out. It's a rule.

I generally dislike DJs and big flashy sound systems next to cheap pull-apart dance floors. For an average, ordinary wedding they're fine! But for dancers, DJs and pull-apart floors are awful. DJs typically don't understand what music can be danced to and what can't. Those floors hurt feet, catch toes, pinch flesh, and are a huge pain to dance on. They're only an improvement above gravel. Speaking of dancing at weddings, the bunny hop, Macarena, money dance, and conga lines can all be done away with. I've never seen any sober human being actually enjoy doing these dances.

Lastly, the receiving line. The order for a receiving line is really up to the couple, but it should only include up to six people: the bride, the groom, and their four parents. Step-parents shouldn't be in the line unless they are hosting the event. Sorry, that's just the way it is. Look up the receiving line etiquette if you don't believe me, but I can't stand shaking that many hands.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wedding Rant: Throwing Things

It seems that several things get thrown at a wedding. I'm not really sure where the tradition of throwing things started, but the list is long and varied: rice, confetti, bird seed, bubbles, firework popper thingies, silly string, cake, flowers, and the garter.

Many churches have banned many of the things that get thrown at weddings. Some churches don't allow flower petals to be thrown down the aisle before the bride's entrance. Some churches don't allow rice or birdseed due to clean-up and the potential for an elderly person to slip on it. Some churches don't allow the biodegradable confetti as it creates a mess for a few days until heavy rains set in. I did read of one church that even banned bubbles because they can lead to a sticky, sudsy sidewalk. Furthermore, the newlywed couple either gets the thrown crap down their clothes or bubbles stuck all over them (cleaning bill for that, plus it can ruin some fabrics--not something a couple should have to deal with on their big day). I'm a firm believer than all of the throwing of things can be done away with as the couple leaves the wedding or reception. Ring small bells or whistle or clap... less cleanup, plus much happier in the end.

The Man and I agreed before we even got engaged that there would be no cake throwing or smashing on our wedding day. How rude is it to smash cake in your new husband or wife's face? Seriously, I want to smack people when they do this. Way to start a new life with tenderness and respect!

Flowers weren't made for throwing. Have you ever been to a wedding and seen the single women clamor to catch the bouquet? Not when it's being tossed, but just to go up and stand in the clump of other single (read: loser) women? I don't know any woman who wants to catch the bouquet. The notion that the woman who catches it will be the next to get married is complete crap. Often a flower girl happens to dive for it, a four or five year old girl. She emerges victorious with visions of herself in a flowing white princessy gown tossing a bouquet of her own. Next year. Yeah-freakin'-right. What about the weddings where there aren't many single women? Should the two women who are single be forced to fight it out? What about women who are there with boyfriends or fiances? What about widowed women? I can't stand this tradition, and I'm very thankful we "forgot" to do this at our wedding.

Aaaaaand the garter toss. All of the eligible bachelors line up to catch the bride's garter in the hopes that they might "get lucky" tonight. I am pretty sure that any of the married men in the room stand a better chance of "getting lucky" than any of the guys who end up catching the garter. What if a ring bearer happens to catch it? How is his mother or father going to explain what that means? Again, thankful that we not only "forgot" the garter toss, but I didn't even wear a garter on my wedding day.

Nothing says "Happy Wedding" like catching a relative's lingerie. *shudder*

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wedding Rant: Love Sometimes Fails

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

How many weddings have you been to and heard or read this passage? Most of them? All of them? It's an incredibly popular bit of scripture at weddings. And I am sick and tired of it!

Sometimes love isn't patient, kind, or slow to anger. Sometimes love is boastful and jesting, doesn't believe everything, and comes across as horribly rude. But it's still love. The passage from Corinthians seeks to define love, yet it merely describes some hopeful aspects of love. Love, by definition, is an indescribable emotion. It is a choice to some extent, a happenstance that two people enjoy each other at the same time. Love becomes inflated, looks out for itself, and, indeed, fails every once in a while. I can love someone to death: that doesn't mean they'll love me back.

Furthermore, the qualities St. Paul describes in his letter to the Corinthians don't require love to be true. I can be patient with someone and never love them. I can be kind, humble, reserved, thoughtful, and encouraging without ever so much as seeing a person in the flesh. These emotions and gestures are exclusive of love. Love can sometimes include kindness, and often does, but kindness is not a requirement of love. The same goes for all of the other items St. Paul lists.

When two people get married, I don't think they really understand love. I know my idea of love has changed so much since my wedding day four months ago. The Man and I love each other so much more now than ever, but we've also battled, warred even. We're learning what 'making love' means, to make a decision every day to love, to foster love, to harbor and store up love, to give away love. The things St. Paul lists aren't the things that have helped us as much as forgiveness, trust, wisdom, and faith in each other and God. (We both have stubborn streaks, so patience for us is simply waiting until the other person gives in. Not exactly the admirable 'patience' we need.)

Perhaps the scripture could be better written as:
Love is not always patient, but the virtue helps. Love isn't always kind, but kindness can lead to love in time. Jealousy, a haughty spirit, and rudeness are parts of loving someone so much that you will lose sight of kindness and selflessness, but being blunt isn't always a bad thing. Love sometimes rejoices in defeating the other person, though that may end in someone sleeping on the couch. Love bears most things, believes in some things, and endures rarely. Love, whether we like it or not, sometimes fails.

But love--and loving-- means always hoping for the best.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wedding Rant: The Waiting Game

Hands down my biggest pet peeve when attending weddings is waiting. I don't necessarily mind waiting for the wedding to start if it kicks off on time. My rant is about the waiting time between the wedding and reception. Part of the problem for me is that, under ordinary circumstances, there is no reason why a newlywed couple should cause their guests to wait longer than ten minutes.

The biggest cause for waiting is photography. For some antiquated reason, couples believe that the groom should not see the bride before the wedding. Some people want the groom to get all teary while at the altar when he sees his virginal bride come forth, face shrouded and arm chained to her father. For even the most conservative couples today, the idea of the groom not seeing the bride at any point before the wedding is ridiculous. Any of the reasons for the tradition are thoroughly void. The woman isn't a piece of property to be given by her "owning" father, and in many cases, isn't a virgin on her wedding day (not judging on that regard, just observing). For the sake of not having to rush through photography, capture photos earlier before the ceremony. Those few people needing pictures with the couple can wait until the reception when the couple has relaxed a bit.

Wedding guests often travel some distance between buildings or even locations. The bride and groom can be the last to enter a particular room, but to make guests wait more than ten minutes shows incredible narcissism. Guests understand receiving lines taking a while, sure, but hours of additional photography or meeting and greeting shouldn't be tolerated. The couple should make sure bathrooms and food are available if they force guests to wait.

And please, for the love of weddings everywhere, guests should not be forced to watch videos or look at pictures rotating on TVs or computer monitors of the couple as children. Nothing says "thanks for sharing in our day" like being surrounded by pictures of the people making guests wait. These slide shows are more appropriate off to one side where guests have the option to view them.

To correct this horrible tradition, guests should give the couple a reasonable amount of time to emerge from the church and join them. If more than half an hour has passed and no food has been served, it's time to stop waiting and simply leave.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wedding Rant: Ceremony No-Nos

The wedding ceremony is a highly customizable part of the day. Couples get to pick from the entire Bible what readings they want. They can choose to not have scripture readings and instead have ancient stories or family stories told. The couple can choose to have a short vows-only ceremony, and other couples can have an entire Catholic Mass (a whole hour, the horror! *sarcasm*). I have three ceremony rants: very young wedding attendants, the bridal entrance, and the sand ceremony.

Unless the flower girls, ring bearers, bridesmaids, or groomsmen are siblings or the couple's own children over the age of five, they should be wedding guests only. Everyone I've talked to finds it "so cute" to see a toddler waddle down the aisle with big doe eyes of embarrassment or not understanding fully what their job is. These poor children are almost guaranteed to make mistakes, forget their place or duty, and end up either not going down the aisle at all or running full-bore down the aisle into mommy's arms. Who, at three years old, wouldn't have immediate stage fright when walking down a church aisle flanked by big, scary people? The task of flower girl, ring bearer, bridesmaid, or groomsman belongs to someone capable of filling the shoes. It's a performance, not a circus. Leave the job to kids between five and ten years old, please!

Growing up, I always dreamed of walking down the aisle to Pachelbel's Canon in D. That was, until I realized that every wedding I've been to included this HORRIBLE song. The Man and I were afraid to discuss the music options for our wedding with our musicians because we figured they'd demand this song. We were so (thankfully) wrong! Our musicians were thrilled to not have to play the same eight notes over and over again! Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring is right up there on this awful list, as is Wagner's Wedding March. I can't stand these songs at weddings! There are millions of other songs out there... pick anything else, lest I have to stick my fingers in my ears and hum loudly.

And the sand ceremony. The sand ceremony, in case you've been lucky enough to not sit through it, is a piece of a wedding where two people pour different colors of fake sand into a glass bowl to symbolize the coming together of their lives. Sometimes they'll even leave a bit of unmixed sand in the side containers to symbolize that they aren't completely giving of themselves and maintain their own independence. Riiiiight, because that's a message I would want to send to my husband on our wedding day, "I'm only committed to this 98%." Many churches won't even allow the sand ceremony as it isn't a fair representation of two lives joining. Unlike a unity candle which can be reused later, the sand ceremony results in a fish bowl full of sand. Should it be tipped, the sand further mixes until a more-or-less homogenous dirt color is achieved. Then the bowl o' dirt gets put on a mantle. Where I think it looks like ashes. Happy wedding, we're dead! If a couple insists on having the sand ceremony, I think it is better suited to the reception where each person gets a little packet of colored sand to pour in on behalf of the couple, resulting in a very mixed bowl symbolizing the coming together of their families. A bowl that will eventually all get mixed up. Hopefully unlike the family tree.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wedding Rant: A Case Against Outdoor Weddings

Tropical locations, manicured lawns, tented affairs with swans on the nearby lake, a backyard event, or next to a golf course. There are many reasons to want to get married outdoors. Some people like to be "close to nature" or reject the idea of a church wedding. But getting married outdoors comes with a price and, usually, a big price tag.

Keeping guests comfortable can be a challenge. Where I live in Oregon, there is a very good likelihood of rain on any given day, even in August. Wind can be a huge factor in other locations, especially near oceans or lakes. Tents can be rented, but "wedding tents" have a huge price markup (saying "family picnic" instead of "wedding" to the rental place could save you some money). In any case, every outdoor wedding should have a back-up plan for inclement weather, even in Hawaii.

The more remote a location is, the more packing in and out that will have to be done. Sure, a wedding can be as simple as people standing around, but after a long trek, many people will want chairs. If it's sunny, some will want more sunscreen. Clean drinking water should be available. Umbrellas for shade in a sunny area are much appreciated. Umbrellas for rain are also nice to have. For a big outdoor wedding, sound equipment will have to be provided and then protected from the weather and theft. There is nothing worse than attending a wedding and not being able to hear. Food will need to be kept hot or cold, covered, and monitored, so extra staff on the catering team are a must. Citronella candles lend a romantic feel, keep bugs away, and lend that obnoxious smell to the outdoors.

I can't discuss an outdoor wedding without addressing the issue of faith. Outdoor weddings are fine if the couple doesn't mind foregoing a sacramental and covenantal wedding. I realize that not everyone is Catholic, but if you are, be warned: it takes approval from the archdiocesan bishop to have an outdoor wedding (not just the local priest!), and the requests are rarely granted.

Marriage is not a simple agreement between two people to enter into a "trial period" before later divorcing. Marriage is a covenant between two people and God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all attest to this fact. Stripping away the church seems to negate the whole "God" part of a wedding. All three of these faiths also encourage weddings to be celebrated within the faith community. To celebrate a wedding at a park, golf course, or beach removes a significant part of the faith-based culture that weddings, being covenants between the couple and God, should have. Without the church, an outdoor wedding is simply a civil union, a legal contract between two people. The wedding of two people shouldn't be a public pageant, but rather should embrace the idea of a private agreement, the covenant bond. Furthermore, God isn't "everywhere all the time" as much as the grace within us that amplifies the sacrament, so an outdoor wedding is fundamentally different than a sacramental wedding. It literally becomes a legal contract, a civil union.

It's a lot of work to get married outside. It takes effort and money, plus unwavering hope that the weather will cooperate. It means giving up a chunk of spirituality that could be had inside a church. For some people, only an outdoor wedding will do. I am cautioning brides and grooms everywhere to take a long, hard look at what's important for their future (not just their special day): stress and worry over weather, planning to keep guests comfortable throughout the day, and foregoing a very special spiritual bond; or zero worry about weather, less stress about keeping guests comfortable, and acknowledging the third person in the marriage.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wedding Rant: The People Problem

Preparing for a wedding is a laborious process involving lots of people. Lots and lots of people. Sometimes lots of people can be a good thing, but as the saying goes, too many cooks...

Wedding planning participants need to recognize that only two people get to make decisions, and unless otherwise told, all decisions go through both the bride and groom. The wedding planner, should there happen to be one, may make suggestions, but ultimately the decisions rest with the couple. Parents or other financiers may make suggestions, but they must be willing to gift their money without demand on how it's spent (if they choose to help pay for the wedding). And no one has a right to get offended if the couple chooses against any suggestions. It's their wedding!

The previous paragraph has a caveat. Sometimes not every decision needs to go through the couple. Sure, colors, flowers, costumes, etc. need to include both the bride and groom, but sometimes a couple will invite people to help them. This creates another problem: logistics. For us, we had a difficult time figuring out how to include people. It's not that we didn't want help: we couldn't find things for people to help with. It can be hard to stay organized if each element is parceled out to different people, even more so if things are spread out geographically.

A big part of wedding organization and even marriage preparation is groom involvement. I firmly believe that the groom should be 100% involved in wedding plans. The whole notion that the wedding day is all about the bride is crap. The groom may not know what a gardenia is or how to select chair coverings, but my money says he'll love cake tasting and registering for gifts. I also think that if a groom skates by and doesn't help plan the wedding, he doesn't get to open any of the wedding gifts.

The groom should be involved, but some people should be left out. One of the hardest parts of planning a wedding for us was the guest list. People need to accept that the groom and bride selected their guest list and likely had to cut some people out. It's not personal. Sometimes a demand by a parent means one person gets added and another must be cut. The result may be beyond the control of the couple. Send a gift if you want, but get over it.

Exclusions come into place in one other part of the wedding: bridesmaids and groomsmen. I've seen some weddings recently with eight or ten attendants each. The limit should be five. Any more than five looks arrogant. Two looks awesome, three is fine, four is full, and five makes photography a nightmare. Are couples unwilling to upset people, or do some couples really have eight best friends each? What role does Bridesmaid #7 really fill, flower girl wrangler? Keep things under five, please!

And finally, one of the biggest people problems of a wedding: the comparing game. Instead of constantly trying to impress people with how awesome or inexpensive or elaborate your wedding was, can't you be happy for the couple and their big day? Comparing between two married people is fine, but don't try to influence the couple by how you spent your day. It's their wedding day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wedding Rant: Marriage Preparation is Lacking

The total cost of a wedding is now in the tens of thousands, on average. The typical length of a marriage barely extends to the length of time it takes to pay off the wedding debt. Does that make sense to anyone? Not me.

One of my biggest peeves with weddings now is that a couple spends more time preparing for their wedding than they do for their marriage. Weddings are a ton of work (I know, I had a DIY affair). But marriage takes longer hours, and many (many, many, many) more tears and unbridled laughter to work.

Our wedding preparations included a few full days of shopping and planning, and I think we could have been done with everything in one month if we squished it all down. Yup, twenty or thirty days of hard work. However, our marriage preparations included Pre-Cana classes for four weeks, battles over wedding decisions, discussions late into the night about what we wanted from each other and in our marriage, and countless moments of hilarity. All told, those moments added up far beyond our simple month of wedding prep. I knew my husband as an acquaintance and "light" friend for four months, a very close friend six months before we started dating, and we dated eight months before we became engaged. Our engagement lasted an additional eight months. It's safe to say that we knew each other on our wedding day. Of course, I'm still learning new nuggets of "what?!" about him now, but that's expected (he likes McDonald's sausage biscuits, but he hates sausage... a new development).

I'm not saying that every couple has to be just like us. I would like the point conveyed here to be that people should spend more time thinking about the future years rather than concerning themselves with a single day, a few infinitely small hours of craziness. In the end, it's not simply a wedding, it's the very first day of a marriage. That fact is something which, in my experience, seems to fall through the cracks.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Wedding Rant: The Wedding Industry

I'm kicking off Wedding Rant Week with a discourse on the wedding industry. As I recently wound my way through the insides of the industry (along with five or six friends), I think I'm a good barometer of what horrors await a new bride and groom.

The wedding industry is huge. It's changed our views of weddings more than Hallmark invented Valentine's Day. The wedding industry includes all of the wedding websites, magazines, florists, caterers, golf clubs, churches, and traditions that influence how we think of weddings. The number one thing the wedding industry doesn't care about? A marriage.

Statistics vary, but most agree that the average cost of a wedding is in the $20,000-to-$30,000 range. That figure may or may not take into account the honeymoon. Costs include the facility rental, attire for the bride and groom, rings, transportation, photography, invitations and other paper costs, catering, flowers, and gifts.

Attire is a huge cost, though no where near the largest of a wedding. A wedding dress can run from an off-the-rack dress around $150 to a designer dress in the tens of thousands. For any other event, an average woman wouldn't spend more than $200, perhaps no more than $50 if on a budget. This is a costume that will likely only be worn once. $600 for one day. Ouch! And the tux rental is another $150 for a base model tux. The wedding industry tells women that they should feel like princesses on their wedding day, so spending the extra money is "worth it" to feel so amazing. Obviously men aren't targeted in the same way, thus the lower price tag.

Photography eats up a budget quickly. The wedding industry has convinced us that we need to spend a fortune to preserve our wedding day in pictures, movies, and streaming on YouTube. We won't be able to get the same high quality from just any schmoe with a camera, oh no, we need to hire a Professional. $500 for a single hour is cheap, and some package deals sound like tuition costs. But unless that Professional has a fancy black camera and blocks people's view of the happy couple, the photography was "cheap" and "not good." And, in the end, the couple won't even own the rights to the photos!

Invitations mean so much. That's why the wedding industry wants us to use handmade papers and get the invitations engraved. They're in cahoots with the Postal Service to create heavy invitations that cost more to send. We are convinced we need to include RSVP cards and envelopes, directions to the church, and a half-dozen other items to further weigh down the invitation. The entire tone of the wedding is set by the invitation, so the industry has convinced us to spend, spend, spend! to let people know what to expect on the Big Day.

Florists are in on the wedding industry racket. A dozen roses at Safeway are $9.99 year-round (except at Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, then $49+), but a dozen roses in a wedding bouquet are $4 per stem. Lilies and orchids can be as much as $10 per stem. Even the average green fern can be $5 or more in a wedding arrangement. The word "wedding" means a price jump for anything pretty. The same goes for any wedding flower accessories at a craft store. Fake flower petals in the wedding aisle at the craft store are $5.99 for 200, but I picked up 300 petals for a dollar at the Dollar Store. Same thing, same color, and the cheaper ones actually looked better!

Wedding = money. The industry around weddings has made life a nightmare for any new bride, especially a bride on a budget. The good news: there are ways around spending a fortune. A savvy bride can knock zeros out right and left if they avoid the traditional routes to a wedding.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The search for a Wii

The Man and I discussed at length our options for our tax return. We knew we'd be saving most of it, but after considering what we wanted and needed most, we've determined we should get a Wii. The decision was easier than we thought it would be as we still have wedding money we can use for clothes. While a gaming system might not sound responsible or "worth it," hear me out.

Even after we purchase the entire set-up we want including the Wii Fit package and extra controllers, charging dock, and a few games, we're still going to be putting over 70% of our tax return directly into our high-interest savings account. We searched and price shopped only to find that Wii consoles never go on sale. They are between $199.00 and $199.99 everywhere. The controllers occasionally go on sale, but the prices are usually within $5 of each other--including online prices after shipping. We considered a few different things, but the gaming system was agreed upon early and without reservation from both of us.

Decision made, we went out this weekend to do some spending! ...Except nobody had Wii consoles in stock. Nobody has MarioKart in stock. Nobody had a single Wii Fit in stock. We only found two controllers, and those didn't include Wii Motion Plus. UGH!

One store clerk informed us that Nintendo is "remarketing" by the end of the month with another big push. They purposely had limited stock for Christmas and the after-Christmas season so that prices wouldn't drop. Now they can put out more stock and not have it go on sale. Meanwhile, we're stuck in waiting mode with our names on a list hoping that a console and balance board come in.

Part of me finds a tiny bit of humor in the fact that I, Queen-of-the-Non-Gamers, am on the search for a Wii and none can be found. I'd take it as a sign, but I'd rather play the games.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Calling all Wedding Rants!

As this is the wedding off-season and none of my friends are getting married any time soon, I thought I'd finally blog a series of posts concerning what I feel are wedding no-nos. At present, I have seven or eight topics to start this rant fest, but I'm looking for more! We all have ideas about what we do or don't like at weddings, and I would love some reader input.

Based on your experiences with wedding planning, wedding participation, and wedding attendance, what are some of your pet peeves? Do you dislike the bride in white? Do you hate hired DJs? Are you fed up with certain traditions? Do you wish people would take weddings more or less seriously? What are your rants?

A few quick rules:
1) Don't pick on a single person or couple. C'mon, a one-time event may not have been what you liked, but allow for a little uniqueness...

2) Don't pick on the institution of marriage. Some people don't like "marriage," and I respect that. But without marriage, there would be no weddings, and thus no ranting. So shhh for now.

3) Feel free to comment a suggestion that you only want me to see. I moderate comments, so if you say "for your eyes only," I'll keep it to myself. I do reserve the right to take your comment or suggestion and, if I agree with it, put it into my own words with my own take on it.

So! Newlyweds, married people, male readers (I know you're out there!), eternal bridesmaids, and still-waiting-for-Mr. Right-brides, post your comments now! What do you dislike about weddings?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

One more reason I love the rain

I get excited when I wake up in the morning, look out the window, and see a steady rain. The rain means fewer cyclists on the road. Perhaps big cities see experienced riders, but Corvallis does not. I don't mind the few bikes on the road in the rain as those riders tend to be the most experienced and least obnoxious. It's the stupid college students who can't figure out how to signal a left turn because oh-my-gosh-my-iPhone-is-ringing-and-I-have-to-answer-it-right-this-second-what-do-I-do! They drive me nuts. One more reason to love the glorious rain.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Married life is always busy.

Our taxes are done, our wedding photos are online, and we're steaming ahead with Operation Meal Planning. What else is new in our lives? Not a whole lot, just chores and other un-fun things that need to be done. I promised The Man I'd get business cards created for him to hand out at interviews, and I'd like to get started designing my own recipe cards. My list of things to do tonight gets longer from there, so I'm keeping this short. Have a great night, blogosphere.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Toxic Ooze

Inside one of the caves at the Enchanted Forest near Salem, Oregon.

Not bad for a blacklight photograph!

Photo taken in August 2009.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Our Wedding Photos are DONE!

We will be putting a link on our wedding website as soon as they are available online. Thanks to everyone for being patient. We struggled each day hoping that we'd get to relive some of the joy on our wedding day, and last night the moment finally arrived. Both of us were asked about the photos dozens of times, so we are glad the pictures are done.

Again, the photos will be posted to a 3rd-party website shortly, so if you're in-the-know, you'll be able to see them soon. A link will be provided to you on our wedding website (not here). Prints can be ordered through the photographer directly. While the prints are a bit pricey, we're told his printer is better than most commercial printers. You will not be able to order prints through us or get the originals to take to a store and order in the store.

Please give us just a couple more days to make sure everything's finalized. You will be able to see them soon. The wedding photos are done, yay!