Tag Archives: wedding advice

Wedding Advice: Planning Marriage

In a new installment on The Daily Batch I will share wedding advice, tips, creative ideas and answers to some of the more difficult wedding questions that the magazines “gloss over”.  If there is an issue you want me to tackle, tell me in the comments!

You’ve planned every element of the big day, and now it’s time to plan the marriage, and prepare for what happens after “I do”.

Together Mark and I planned our wedding, he was the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and I was the CCO (Chief Creative Officer).  Together we also planned our marriage.

Prior to getting married, or even engaged, we discussed our finances, our careers, our ambitions, our faiths, our practices, our families of origin and the family we would create together, where we would live, what holidays we would celebrate and how… we planned our life. We poetically wrote those plans into our ketubah, and on our wedding day we shared sweetly simple vows from our officiant, Cantor Debbi Ballard.

Less than 9 months after we said “I do” we got our first test to vows.  On Wednesday, September 15, 2010, two days after returning from India, Mark woke up at 7am blind in one eye.  To contextualize this, he has always had weak vision in his left eye and has never relied on it, so the blindness in his right eye left him completely without vision.

Together we managed to get to the emergency room. My adrenaline and his memory of Northern Virginia is the only way we made it there.  And so began a series of questions, blood tests, and CAT Scans, when those proved inconclusive we were sent off to an eye specialist.

When that visit also proved inconclusive, we were sent back to the emergency room, with the early diagnosis of optic neuritis, the inflammation of the optic nerve, which typically has an 86% recovery rate.

The first 24 hours of any drama are the worst, because in those hours, you have no answers and only questions.  The questions come from doctors, nurses, and interns, they come from very helpful and supportive family and friends, but the loudest and scariest questions are the ones you ask yourself.

They are practical and short term: What is happening? What is the treatment?  What is the recovery?

And they are long term: Will he be able to drive, work, surf, snowboard again?  Will he ever see me again? Will he see the faces of our future children?

For the next five days we made Mark’s small hospital room at the end of the hall our home away from home.  We had visitors, homemade foods and snacks, take out from a favorite restaurant, flowers audio books, and cheerful texts, phone calls and emails.

Everyday there would be new tests, visits from a vampire between 3-4am to collect blood, scans, and visits from doctors and nurses with giant flashlights and the question, “Can you see me now?”  The answer was always “no”.

Together we were realizing the meaning of the vows, “in sickness and in health”.  When Mark and I first started dating we called ourselves “Team MC,” and in those days in the hospital, and as Mark’s vision in his left-eye strengthened, and the 8 months of doctor visits, trips to Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the Mayo Clinic, that followed, our being a team and partners is what got us through.

His resilience, my perseverance. 
His calm, my questions. 
His steadiness, my ability to cry in the other room – we made the room a no cry zone.

Mark’s right eye did not recover as originally projected.  A year later the cause of this is still unknown and is somewhat of a medical fluke.  The right eye that was completely dark, now filters in some light and shadows.  His left eye has grown stronger, and he works, drives, surfs, runs, does yoga and lives his life like nothing ever happened.

This morning when I told Mark I wanted to write about the past year and what happened he said to me “make sure you write about the fun stuff…”

That is the essence of Mark, he is the most fiercely determined person I know, his energy knows no limits, and he finds the beauty, strength and purpose in every moment.

On the first night in the hospital we stepped away from his room and went outside.  It was still and quiet, and calm.  The moon was bright and high over our heads and Mark couldn’t see it.  And in that moment he recounted how everything was going so right in our world; careers, our new marriage, and exciting opportunities and until this.  It’s the only time Mark ever complained.

Reflecting back on this part of the past year sometimes gives me a lump in my throat.  However, it is an ongoing reminder that we can plan our marriages, and our lives, down to the second, but things will always happen and when they do the timing is never right.  There is no time to waste before beginning the next great challenge or adventure.  The way you overcome the surprises or struggles in life is not by planning for them but finding the right people to overcome them with.


Wedding Advice: To See or Not to See

In a new weekly installment on The Daily Batch I will share wedding advice, tips, creative ideas and answers to your most difficult wedding questions based on the issues and questions I am asked about in real life. If there is an issue you want me to tackle, tell me in the comments!

You’ve lived together for two years, you’ve seen each other through everything, but you can’t quite decide if you should see each other before walking down the aisle.

Question 1: My fiance and I can’t decide whether to see each other before we get married.  My photographer suggests that we do, but I am just not sure…  I’m not really superstitious about it being bad luck, but I just wonder if it takes some of the specialness away from the moment when I walk down the aisle… – Mr. and Mrs. Surprise Love

Answer:  Today, I am fully supportive of the first look, and I admit I did not always feel that way.  When I first heard of this concept, I thought it might be a little too cheesy (even for me), or that it wasn’t quite so magical as it appeared in photos.  I was wrong. (8/10/2011 – 9:45am)

Early on, when we started planning our photography with the amazing photography wife-husband duo of  Ashley and Philip at 1313, we planned to have a first look session primarily for practicality:

  • I was pushing our ceremony until as late as possible, but before sunset – that’s about 5:58pm – leaving little time for well-lit photos after the “I-do’s”
  • We wanted to have a consistent flow from ceremony, to cocktail hour, to reception
  • The majority of our guests had traveled from out of town and we didn’t want to miss out on spending any time with while they were partying, and we were take pictures

Like most practical wedding decisions, eventually emotion crept in.

I spent the day with my mother, sister, friends and family getting ready at one hotel.  A block away, Mark was with his friends also getting ready.  Ashley and Philip arrived to take my “getting ready” photos, and then they left to take Mark’s.

Then Ashley and Philip coordinated my arrival to Mark’s hotel, via limousine, to find Mark for our first look.

He was standing at the middle of a courtyard, by himself, with his back towards me.  It seemed as if time stood still.  I didn’t hear anyone, or see anyone.

First Look: 1313 Photography

I was walking, and walking and walking…

First Look: 1313 Photography

And then, I arrived.

First Look: 1313 Photography

I touched his shoulder, he turned around, and then it was all shock and awe(some)…

First Look: 1313 Photography

What was the most special about the first look moment for me, was that as soon as it happened it became “our wedding day”.  The planning was over.  The license was signed.  We were going to be moving forward from that moment, through the rest of the day, and our lives as partners, as a team and as husband and wife.

That may seem like a lot to capture in a photograph, but that’s how I feel.  That look in our faces is as much of “I can’t believe today is the day” as it is “I can’t believe how lucky I am.”

In the planning of a wedding there are lots of opportunities to lose sight of each other, the intimacy of moments, and the magnitude of the marriage versus the wedding.  By securing those first few moments, just for us, without our friends and family I feel like we were able to connect, release any lingering stomach butterflies, and smile like husband and wife.

Also, to calm any fears that this moment, the first look, lessens the significance of the second “first look” your partner has when they see you walk down the aisle, I will say that’s simply not the case.   When you walk down the aisle it is music, theatrics, flowers, families, flash bulbs, and ironically, you won’t hear a beat, see a face you recognize, again you will only see the face at the end of the aisle.

Do you agree or disagree with this advice? Let me know. And, if there a wedding related issue you want advice on or just some tips – leave a note in the comments.

Wedding Advice: Planning for Plan B

In a new weekly installment on The Daily Batch I will share wedding advice, tips, creative ideas and answers to your most difficult wedding questions based on the issues and questions I am asked about in real life. If there is an issue you want me to tackle, tell me in the comments!

You consulted a numerologist, checked the calendar and picked the perfect wedding date and the perfect wedding venue for your perfect wedding day. But sometimes, something is less than perfect. Let’s plan for less than perfect.

Question 1: My fiance and I are getting married in August in Florida. Our ceremony and reception will be on the beach so our guests can enjoy a starry night. However, the meteorologist says a stormy night is also possible. What do I do?- Mr. and Mrs. On the Beach without an Umbrella

Answer: Picking your wedding date and location involves a number of factors: schedules, budgets, sentimental value, and seasonal availability, among others. What it should also include is the weather.

There is nothing wrong with getting married during hurricane season, snow season, heat wave season, or heck, even football season, but you’ve got to have a plan.

Rainy Wedding Day, via Pinterest

Well in advance of your wedding, map out the environmental (weather patterns, storms, high heat, low temperatures) and logistical issues (road closures, construction, Oh, the Super Bowl is in your town?!) and prepare so that on the day of your wedding your biggest decision is between a mimosa or a bellini.

Speak with your event director or venue manager when you go on your initial tours and ask about how many events the venue will book on the same date/time – if there are two rooms and two weddings, you’re out of options.  Ask about the Plan B room if there is bad weather and go see it.  If you hate it, this might not be the venue for you.  Speak with your decorator and florist about their ability to be flexible in case of a last minute change of location/room plans.  Ask your venue and/or your florist what their access is to rental tents, space-heaters, umbrellas, etc.

Be prepared.  I’m sure in your mind, you’ll be getting married rain or shine, but the point of planning is to avoid the stress, rain or shine.

Mark and I got married on January 23, 2010, during one of the worst winters on record on the Eastern seaboard. In the month before and after our wedding there was more than 55 inches of snow in DC, where we live, and in Florida, where we got married, the temperatures were shockingly cold.

It turned out that the weather was just fine the weekend of our wedding.  But, I was also prepared. In the weeks before we inquired about space heaters for our outdoor ceremony and cocktail hour, and soft and warm pashminas for our guests. This would have been an unexpected bump in our budget, but I felt a sense of calm knowing we had a plan.

What I didn’t expect is that on the morning of the wedding the skies would be gray.  Gray, ominous and foreshadowing of rain.  Florida is known for mid-afternoon thunderstorms, but not in January!  So, as we prepped and primped in a hotel, I was on the phone with the florist, requesting to go ahead with the original plan of setting up the chuppah and chairs outside in our Plan A courtyard, as opposed to the Plan B “room”. Again, the point I am stressing is, I had a Plan B.

Again, I got lucky, there was a light mist that magically seemed to stop when the musicians started, and the real rain didn’t come until after midnight when most people had gone home, and the friends who were still out celebrating had celebrated enough all night that the rain didn’t dampen their fun.


Do you agree or disagree with this advice? Let me know. And, if there a wedding related issue you want advice on or just some tips – leave a note in the comments.

Be Engaging

So, you’re engaged.  Mazel Tov!  Now what?

I was once engaged, and now have friends who are or who will be, and maybe you are, or you have friends/sisters/daughters who are or will be.  Here is where I am going to share some frank advice.

When you are engaged to be married, that is the time between “Will you marry me?” and “I do”.  You might have one of these on your finger, or a string, or maybe you’re not a ring kind of girl – hey, Carrie wanted a closet, no judgement.
Ali Fedotowsky’s Neil Lane Engagement Ring via Stylist.com
Anyway, after you move beyond the proposal and calling your parents, siblings, friends and families, there is a lot to do and consider.  The first thing to remember, tell people before posting on Facebook – some news is worthy of a phone call!

Take the time to enjoy your engagement.  Before buying a magazine, looking at dresses (this might be hard to resist), before even booking a date, take time to enjoy your engagement.  

Be silly, take kissy face pictures, talk with your hands more than normal, tell people you’re affianced, introduce your “fiancee”, get a manicure.

Happily Ever After by Essie
Taking time helps get you ready to plan, which can sometimes feel like the other definitions of “engaged” such as:
  • having ones attention or mind or energy engaged; “she keeps herself fully occupied with vendor phone calls and magazines”
  • involved in military hostilities; “she was engaged in a heated battle for the perfectly pink peony bouquet”
  • booked: reserved in advance; “she has engaged a room block at every hotel within a 10 mile radius of her reception”
  • busy; “she was engaged in all the planning, she forgot to work out, see friends, relax”
To the newly engaged meet some of my favorite friends on the Internet:

And when you’re ready to start planning and talking and looking for inspiration, don’t forget to come here!

Something to Think About

A few months ago BrideTide tweeted on a Saturday morning, “Someone, somewhere is getting married today.”  It has stuck with me ever since.  

Obviously someone, somewhere is getting married all hours of the day and everyday of the week (Hello, Vegas!) but generally speaking in the United States wedding day is a Saturday.  Not too long ago I drove past a beautiful old church just as the bride and her bridesmaids got out of the car and began to climb up the steps.  
I was overjoyed. I didn’t know that bride, I had never been inside of that church, but I truly felt so excited for her and them.  I mentioned that tweet from many months ago in an effort to get everyone to share my joy.  Mark nodded along, and then my sister pointed out other major life things happen all the time too: people die and babies are born.

That is true.  Check for the little sister.

Here’s is how I explained it is different.  Marriage is a birth of a new chapter for two people.  In some ways it is the death of their single lifestyles.  But, more than that, marriage (not the wedding) is an active choice.  It is the moment of “I choose you and I choose to go through life by your side.  Literally, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer – when you look around, that’s me, right by your side.” 
That moment that I caught that bride in, the excitement with girlfriends before the ceremony, the dress shopping, the registry, the ring, the proposal, that is nothing compared to that moment when you make the choice.  Getting married is not being married.  Being married is all that much better.

Check mate for the big sister.

Sign on the Dotted Line

When planning our wedding there were a few things I really wanted for the ceremony: a chuppah, a broken glass and a ketubah (the Jewish wedding contract).  I am Jewish and Mark is atheist and raised Catholic, and so planning a ceremony that reflected our individual backgrounds, and shared future was important.

The ketubah became a pet project for both of us.  If you google search “ketubah” you’ll see endless varieties; Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Interfaith, Second Marriages, GLBT marriages.  And yet, none of these really clicked. Our wedding officiant, Cantor Debbi Ballard was very supportive of us creating our own ceremony that was unique and personal to us, and she encouraged us to apply that same consideration to our ketubah.  So, just like our invitations, the ketubah was written by us and designed by me.

We treated the text of our ketubah like our own vows, and agreed that the it’s text would be the guide for our future.  I am really proud of what we wrote, promised and agreed to.
On Saturday, the twenty third day of January,
Two Thousand and Ten,
joined each other before family and friends
to enter into a mutual covenant of marriage,
and with love and compassion
each vowed the following commitments:
To Ourselves-
To continuously improve our minds, bodies and souls
To push ourselves to achieve goals
To do good in the world
To love life, arts, sciences
And above all to have a sense of humor.
To each other-
To be friends, Partners and Lovers
To be honest and build a relationship on trust
To be kind, to communicate
To be a source of strength and balance for one another
To grow together.
To Our Family
To create a nourishing home for happy and Healthy children
And an open home to all.
Our commitment to the above seals this document

Our ketubah was written with a focus on each of us and us.  It was important to us for the document to guide our marriage and focus on the growth we would want to experience and embrace so that we could continue to grow together over the journey of our lives and our marriage.

We signed our ketubah, and had our best man and maid of honor (Mark’s brother and my sister) serve as our witnesses.  In the Jewish faith the signing of the ketubah meant we were as good as married, so we sealed it with a kiss.

Don’t budge on your budget

For a lot of people, budgets are like dirty laundry, better left unseen and unspoken of. For us, not so much. When planning our wedding our budget was front and center throughout the whole process. I would often joke with friends that our wedding was based on an Excel spreadsheet, funny as it may be, it was also extraordinarily helpful. Planning a wedding for a bride and groom (and their families) is a stressful and often expensive event, the last thing anyone wants is a surprise bounced check, or unexpected vendors fees.

In our wedding planning my husband was our CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and I was the CCO (Chief Creative Officer). I admittedly zone out around spread sheets and cash flow analysis, but am acutely aware of peonies in the perfect shade of strawberries and cream, chivari chairs, bustles and bows, so this is how I saved when planning our wedding, and many of them can be applied to
any event on a budget. Oh, and every event has a budget, some are just more grand than others.

  • Pick your season. The first tip any magazine or website will tell you to plan your event “off-season” to save money. Season in most places is April, May, June and off-season is December and January for weather related reasons. In Florida nearly the opposite is true. When planning an event off-season, or on a Thursday, Friday, Sunday night, your date is less vied for and you have negotiating leverage.
Image Courtesy Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Know the climate. This is less about weather, and more about the economy. I planned a wedding in Florida, in January at the peak of the season. Was my budget blown? No way! Florida, and many destination travel cities, took quite a tourism hit in the down economy – knowing this and using this to negotiate is key.
  • Be persistent. I booked two different hotel options for our nearly 70 out of town guests. One was a more budget friendly option at $140/night and the other was luxury hotel that I negotiated to $220. Oh, but wait! I noticed on hotels.com a cheaper rate a few months later, new price $180. Not so fast, then I spotted the price dropped on the hotel’s website to $160! Score for our guests and for being an avid emailer!
Image by Ashley Colhouer Photography
  • Shop around. I found my dress, Milana by Maggie Sottero and fell in love. The store told me it was $1350. This was within my budget and I was all set. In searching for a picture of the dress online to send to friends I saw it offered for $875. I called another local store (online prices don’t count for a variety of reasons) and they had it for $850. I called back the original boutique and they happily price matched. Shop around.
Image by Ashley Colhouer Photography
  • Don’t be shy. My husband loved a tuxedo by Ermenegildo Zegna. We didn’t love the price tag. We found a close contender by Hugo Boss, but the lapel was just a bit wide, and he’d prefer a slimmer cut. We asked at Bloomingdale’s if they did alterations – and wouldn’t you know it, they did and they were very affordable. We’d never have known if we didn’t ask. Oh and the kicker, we bought the Hugo Boss tuxedo, Ferragamo Shoes and groomsmen’s ties on a day when Bloomingdale’s was having a sale for customer’s who have registered with the store. 15% off of a lot, is a lot. The same goes for bridesmaid dresses, tuxedo rentals and the like – ask for a discount when buying multiple items.
Image by Ashley Colhouer Photography
  • Use the Internet. I made my save the date postcards using VistaPrint, and a Vista Print promo code. Total price, $14.00. Major score.
  • Know your talents. I searched far and wide for invitations I loved that were in my price range. This was not happening. Then I got creative. I kept coming back to the DIY (do it yourself) concept, and so I did just that. I did my invitations myself. I bought paper for online wholesalers, made many trips to the Paper Source, set up the text, printed the cards, drew, painted and assembled each one. For a similar style card by a pro the invitation suite would have cost upwards of $7.00/each, mine cost less than $3.00.

  • Don’t be afraid of new talent. Our photographer, the very talented and amazing Ashley Colhouer of 1313 Photography was new to South Florida, and was ready to work with us to make our dream photography fit within our dream budget. She was willing to modify her packages to fit out needs. She and her husband (they work together) were by far our best expense, and the best bang for our buck. I have very happily referred many brides to her, and the raves are the same.
  • Rock it out. We went with a DJ. In the South Florida market this probably saved us between $5,000 to $8,000. This is a pretty personal decision, but our belief was that if it wasn’t going to Fergie singing “Tonight’s gonna be a good night” then it might as well be a recording.
  • Mix it up. Want a grand floral experience? How about half of a grand floral experience? If you’re all about height, save money by doing half or a 1/3 of your table with tall centerpieces and the other half with low centerpieces.
  • Pick a color. With your flowers you’ll get more visual impact with all your flowers in one or a few similar shades then with a variety of colors. Also choosing fewer varieties of flowers allows your florist to order in bulk.
  • Accessorize. You can make a strong and beautiful impact with your decor with candles (cheap!), bold linens (less expensive than those beautiful orchids!), and glass or mirrors that trick the eye and strategically placed lighting in a room. Shop around in unexpected places, we found beautiful glass votive holders at Walgreens – yea for mom’s that know how to shop!
Image by Ashley Colhouer Photography
  • Eat something. You really don’t need to serve filet mignon and lobster, although if you can and must, who am I to stop you? Serve what you like. More and more often I see weddings where the couple serves bbq, tapas, Indian cuisine, Mediterranean mezze or all of the above because this what they really enjoy. Side note, check your menu packages a buffet is often more expensive than a sit down plated meal because the kitchen has to prepare extras.

Cupcakes: Sara Coleman, The Cupcake Shoppe, Raleigh

Photo By: Kellie Kano Photography, Greensboro

  • Read the fine print (and then be creative). Our venue had a surprising $5 cake plating fee if you purchased your cake from someone other than their $7.00/slice baker. $5 x 130 is $650. You know what has no fee? A cupcake tower. Cheaper and sweeter too than a huge cake made days in advance.

In the end keep in mind what matters most; know yourself as a host and know your guests and their needs.

We did away with a lot of “traditional” items – I didn’t wear a garter, or custom Britney Spears “I’m a Bride” tracksuit, my bridesmaid did my make up, we did’t do a champagne pour for the toasts, and yes, we served chicken and fish (because that’s what we eat – chicken and fish).

It was important to us to serve good food so – we upgraded on our cocktail hour, have a good time – so we had an open bar, keep it personal – so we had Italian favors and chocolates and a homemade cookie bar. And at the end of the night had the most memorable, totally us, and under budget wedding!

Image by Ashley Colhouer Photography