Monday, August 30, 2010

photography hindsight

When we first started discussing what we wanted to get out of our wedding photography, the subject of candid versus posed photos was quick to enter the discussion.

As we poured over the dozens of photographers in our area, I kept feeling like everything was too stodgy, too stiff, and quite frankly, it didn't look like fun. Some of the formal shots, or more posed couples portraits looked awkward and uncomfortable to me.

And since I'm already a shy person who was having concerns about how comfortable I'd be when I was being stalked by a photographer on my wedding day, uncomfortable posing was the last thing I wanted.

As for Mr. FP, well, he's not the most photogenic person in the world. Don't get me wrong, he's a handsome man, but if you put him in front of a camera, somehow his handsomeness doesn't translate well. Why? Well, because when he's staring down the barrel of a camera, he gets this awkward, fake smile on his face that causes him to look as though he were insanely uncomfortable when the photo was taken. Want a better visual? Watch this video.

You could easily replace Matthew Perry with my husband and achieve the same effect.

Not the ideal situation for a wedding day, right? A bride who is actually uncomfortable and a groom who looks like he's uncomfortable simply to be alive.

So, we made it our life's mission to find someone wouldn't put us into awkward positions where I'm trying to jump around in a wedding dress, pose us with my veil over our head while we kiss, or arrange the bridesmaids bouquets on the train of my dress (seriously, how could that ever seem remotely natural?).

But as adamant as we were to avoid the posed photos, well, that's all our families wanted. My mom didn't even understand the meaning of candid photography. When we showed examples of what we wanted, our families were confused. Why would we want detail shots of our decor or of the books we were using for ceremony readings? Why was it important to have a photo of the groom in converse and the bride in bare feet?

Overall, the sentiment seemed to be that candid photography was a waste of time when we were spending so much money on a photographer. And speaking of money, neither set of parents seemed to understand the need to spend upwards of $1000 on a photographer when there are people in the city who will do it for $250.

Once again, I found myself doubting our choice. (Shock, I know.) What if we really didn't need to pay so much for photography? Do we really need shots of the minor details? Maybe the more traditional style of photography would be better? Maybe formal is better, I mean, after all, it is a wedding? Couldn't we forgo the idea of a photographer all together and stick with disposable cameras used by the guests?

Thankfully, I regained some sanity and realized that we were making the right decision. Although it would take up a large chunk of our budget, photography was and always will be our number one priority. I'm a photo person. I have millions of them. Photographs are a huge source of nostalgia for me and being an extremely sentimental person, the idea of having wedding photos that were of poor quality simply wasn't an option for us. I mean, really, who wants to look back 20 years from now and see stuff like this? Not us, that's for sure.

And as happy as we are with our decision, looking back there is one thing I would change. I would be more open to the idea of formal portraits. I was so against them and although we'd always planned to do them to satisfy our parents and grandparents, I didn't think anything of them. But now that we have our photos back, I'm extremely glad we have them.

Don't get me wrong, I love that our couples portraits weren't done in a formal fashion. There was no jumping. No awkward hugging. There was, however, some veil over the head action. Only to mock the ridiculous practice of trying to make a couple kissing under a veil look natural, of course. Here's how ours turned out.

Romantic, right?

Um, no. But it was funny to take and it's funny to look at.

And so were the rest of the photos. It was fun. It wasn't scary. It wasn't stressful. I didn't feel awkward and Mr. FP actually looks like he wanted to be there. They were romantic and we were happy to be there because our amazing photographer made us feel at ease. We knew she wouldn't make us do anything strange. She just let us be and only gave us direction when we needed to switch it up a little. We were thankful for that, actually, because she's the one who knows what looks good, not us.

It's these photos that remain my favorite but I'm glad our families pushed us towards the formal portraits. We have awesome photos of us with my parents, his parents, my grandparents, our siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and my favorite photos are the ones where we got all members of the 4 branches of our families for a photo with us. If we wanted our wedding to have any sort of theme, it was that of a family reunion and these photos reflect that. How often do you get the chance to have all the people you love together? And how often is there a professional photographer there? Unless you're lucky enough to have one in the family, probably not very often. And as awesome as candid photography is, I think the formals are the best way to capture the faces of those closest to you.

Were they awkward? I'm not going to lie, yep, a little. Did I enjoy standing in the same spot for 20 minutes while people shifted in and out of position? It wasn't the worst thing in the world? Did I just want to leave to take photos with my new husband and to get the freakin' reception started? Um, yes.

But were they worth the annoyance and slight discomfort we experienced?

Hell yes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

DIY: candy buffet + guest favors

I know, I know, it's been almost two months since our wedding and I'm still working on the DIY project posts that I didn't have time to get to before the wedding. Ridiculous.

(personal photo)

A week before the wedding, the favor boxes were assembled in all their glory but we had to wait to purchase the candy because we didn't want it to go stale. And a few days before the wedding, we found ourselves in the bulk food store and I was dying to buy up all the candy I could.

After months of looking up different ways to put together a candy buffet, I knew I was ready do it for our wedding. I had tons of inspiration photos. Tons. Some featured candy buffets with upwards of 20 different kinds of candy, some were color coordinated and some looked like fairies had assembled them.

Ours was none of these things. But guess what? We still loved it.

With only 3 days before the wedding, the last thing on my mind was the beautiful collection of inspiration photos I had gathered. Neither of us had the energy to make sure that the candy was color coordinated or that the shapes of each type of candy we selected was proportionate to the others. We picked what we wanted (and what we knew our guests would like) and left the rest.

Screw color coordination, screw picking candy that tastes disgusting simple because it looks pretty, screw making sure we have at least a half a pound for every guest attending... basically, screw caring too much about candy. It's not a centerpiece. It's not a piece of artwork. It's not holding together our wedding. It's candy. People will eat it and then... well... you know what happens to food after it's digested.

All in all, we went for a variety to make sure that everyone from the tiniest kiddies to the people with dentures had something to eat and we ended up spending about $60 on the candy alone.

As for the containers, well, my mom had been kind enough to collect quite a collection of vases over the course of our engagement so we had more than enough when it came time to set up the candy. Most of the vases were from the dollar store and in total, we probably spent around $20 on them in total. (Added bonus, the vases can now either be sold or reused in our apartment... sweet!)

Finally, since candy buffets aren't exactly a mainstream wedding component in our families, we needed a sign so people would know what the hell all that candy was doing there. If you google "candy buffet sign" or "candy buffet poem", you will come up with a lot of cheesiness. Seriously, a lot. Who knew there could be that much cheese associated with candy? Being the anti-cheese couple that we are, none of this seemed to work. So we made a variation on a frequently used candy buffet saying and came up with this:

(all photos by our photographer, unless otherwise stated)
(click to enlarge)

Quick, to the point, and it doesn't rhyme. Perfect for us.

Making the sign was uber simple. 5 minutes to type up and print it off in a nice shade of blue was followed by another 2 minutes to cut and glue it onto a piece of cardstock. Add a frame from the dollar store and voila! you've got yourself a candy buffet sign.

So we transported everything to the cottage (very carefully) and assembled them the night before with the help of some friends and family. The biggest stress of the whole process? Getting the stupid price stickers off of the vases. We also decided to cover them with saran wrap because they'd be outdoors and unattended for a short period while the ceremony was happening. We didn't want to attract bees. Silly mother nature.

Oh, and another key component that I almost forgot to mention: scoops! If it weren't for my mom, I would have completely forgotten to buy something for people to scoop the candy with. Duh. She found two set of 3 at the dollar store and also purchased a pair of plastic tongs for the candy that was too sticky to scoop (like gummie worms).

Needless to say, the whole thing went over exceedingly well. When we made our way around to the tables halfway through the reception, most people had already filled their containers and were munching on the candy. We received tons of compliments on it and most importantly, the eyes on the kids at our wedding looked like they were going to pop out of the heads they were attached to. Those children could not get enough and since many of them were involved in our wedding, we were happy to see them decent upon the candy (more than once or twice, I might add).

(guest photo)

Months ago, I was scared about how much this would end up costing. I'd heard stories of people spending upwards of $500. Not $500 total. More like $500 just on candy. Crazy!

Obviously, we had no desire to spend that much, so here's our real world, non WIC world cost breakdown:
  • ridiculous amount of candy from bulk food store: $60
  • containers: $20
  • sign: $2 (frame from dollar store: $2, cardstock I already had: free!)
  • scoops and tongs: $5
  • take-out boxes: $30 (pack of 3 from dollar store x 30)
  • stickers from Etsy: $22
Total cost for candy buffet and guest favors: $139

Woohoo! It may not have been color coordinated and it wasn't exactly a piece of artwork, but it was cheap, cheerful, and a great way to say thanks to all of our guests. Who doesn't like a good sugar buzz?

The only downside? By the end of the night, there was no candy left for us. Sad.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

our wedding: the reaction

As I mentioned before, we did our best to create a wedding that was authentically "us". We removed things that we didn't like and we emphasized the things that were important to us.

It all sounds so easy, right? Well, it wasn't. Even though we had decided early in the process that we wedding was about us, we still encountered plenty of resistance to this concept.

With the dozens of different views and beliefs we were surrounded by, it was difficult to resist the ideas that didn't fit within our vision of the wedding. Both of our families maintain a fairly traditional view of marriage and weddings which meant that ours would be something that many of them had never experienced before. I can't remember the last wedding in either of our families that didn't include a church ceremony, a banquet hall reception, a cake cutting, a first dance, and a grand exit.

This was disconcerting for us. Although it was important to us that our wedding be an honest reflection of us as a couple, our friends and families were a huge part of our big day and we wanted everyone to have a good time. Being the people pleasers that we are, we certainly didn't want our wedding to be thought of as the weird one of the family. Okay, I'm a big liar. The people pleaser thing is all on me, I don't think Mr. FP could have cared either way.

But with a cottage venue, a groom in sneakers, a cupcake tower, a photo booth, and a lack of dancing, I kept thinking about how weird this would probably be for most of our guests. I mean, not only did we make a few alterations to the traditional wedding formula, but we chucked almost the whole thing out. I mean, literally, almost the whole thing. Other than the fact that we were getting married and that there would be food, our wedding had very little else in common with the other weddings in our families.

Of course, by wedding blog standards, our wedding was going to be perfectly normal. After spending so many months reading about weddings like ours, I almost feel as though the collective community of "offbeat couples" have re-written the formula for weddings.

If the traditional wedding formula dictates that a wedding include a church ceremony, grand entrance, banquet hall reception, sit down dinner, cake cutting, bouquet/garter toss, and a dance party... offbeat weddings usually include an authentic ceremony, a unique decorated reception, a photo booth, a pie table, and a dance party.

Although the very nature of the anti-wedding industrial complex movement is opposed to the concept of any kind of wedding formula because each wedding is unique to each couple, the latter seems to be considered more acceptable by the wedding blog community.

But our families aren't exactly as immersed in the offbeat wedding movement as we were, so how were they supposed to know that photo booths and cupcakes were normal. Wouldn't they just think this stuff was weird? Would they think our wedding was lacking because it didn't follow the flow of weddings they had attended in the past?

Honestly, in the weeks before our wedding, I thought that most of our family would probably think our wedding was weird. But because we were so determined to have an honest and authentic day, we didn't care. Weird or not, this was the wedding they'd be attending.

As it turns out, they didn't think it was weird at all.

I was shocked.

Everyone was so happy to be there that no one seemed to notice the lack of a grand entrance, first dance, and bouquet toss. And if they did notice, they didn't seem to care. Everyone was elated by the location, the food, the do-it-together flowers, the tissue paper poms, and the cupcakes amongst other things. Even though it was a different experience for most of them, some of the best compliments we received were given because of the unique elements we included. And even better than the compliments on the details was the amount of love we received from our families and friends who were thrilled to join us at our wedding.

Although I'd been told that the elation of family and friends usually overcomes any differences of opinion concerning the formula weddings should follow (especially from the Wedding Graduates over at A Practical Wedding) but I don't think I was ever able to truly believe it. I wanted to. Oh hell yes, I wanted to believe it more than anything. But I was convinced that our wedding would be too far outside the box for most of our family members.

Looking back, I should have given our families more credit. Although our wedding was unlike anything most of our guests had attended in the past, the love we received from them was just as powerful as it would have been if we'd hosted our wedding in a banquet hall. I should have realized that from the beginning, but I was too consumed by my need to live up to the expectations of our guests.

From where I stand now, I only wish I could have set aside these worries long ago and realized early in the process that our family would be able to appreciate our wedding for what it was... an expression of our love for one another.

So stop worrying yourselves. You know who you are. You're the ones who spend hours agonizing over the traditions you know you want to ditch but don't because you're afraid of what your families or friends might think. So I hope that you don't spend too much time worrying about the reactions of others.

Instead, I hope you remain true to what you and your partner need and want. Keep in mind, it's your wedding, not theirs. Yes, they are a part of it, but you and your partner are the center. People will accept and embrace the changes you make to the wedding formula so don't think otherwise.

I tell you this in spite of the fact that I know that you probably won't be able to truly listen or understand until your wedding is over, until you have experienced that joy.

Here's to hoping you figure it out sooner rather than later because you could save yourself some worrying and heartache.

If I could go back 3 months and clear my brain of the space that worrying about others occupied, I could have made room for a brooch bouquet and wedding bunting. Dang.

Monday, August 9, 2010

our wedding: more tough stuff

After all the family drama on the Mr.'s side, his brother didn't end up attending our wedding. We're still not really sure why, in fact. His mother contends that it's because his brother didn't feel included enough because he wasn't a member of the wedding party and because he wasn't invited to the rehearsal dinner. I'm not sure what to think about that, and at this point, we don't really care. Well, that's a lie. Mr. FP isn't a robot. He's upset that his brother wasn't there, but there's nothing he can do about it now and he's just done dealing with his brother for the moment.

And because his brother didn't attend, Mr. FP's mother wasn't in the best of moods that day. And that's putting it lightly. His father was so much help and my parents did a ridiculous amount of work setting up at the cottage, but we didn't see his mother until the night of the rehearsal dinner for a two hours and then half an hour before the ceremony started. And that reading we asked her to do? Well, she passed it onto Mr. FP's father. She told us... actually, no, Mr. FP's father told us for her, that she thought she would be too emotional during the ceremony to do it. I'm not sure what to make of that. I'd like to believe that she couldn't possibly still be so bitter about the guest list situation that she would refuse to do a reading at her son's wedding, but I never really know how she works. On the day of the wedding, she said all of two words to Mr. FP and said absolutely nothing to me. She was cordial to our guests and seemed to be enjoying herself, but we didn't get to enjoy any moments with her because she was acting so distant.

Honestly, these things could have ruined our wedding. A cold mom and an absent brother has some serious wedding ruining potential, let's face it.

But thankfully, it didn't put a damper on our day. Once we realized that his mom wasn't going to set aside her differences with us and be happy for us on our wedding day, we decided to save ourselves the heartache and stop trying to force some sort of meaningful connection.

To make matters worse, when we returned from our honeymoon, we found some messages that Mr. FP's brother had sent him on the day before our wedding. In a previous conversation, his brother had invited him out for drinks before the wedding, but since we were going to be at the cottage that night, Mr. FP declined but told his brother that they could get together after the honeymoon. The message his brother sent the day before our wedding simply said "don't do it" and was followed up a few hours later with a second message that implied that Mr. FP was too young to be married and that he hadn't experienced anything in life yet.

Needless to say, we didn't take that too well. I don't think I've ever seen Mr. FP so angry about something, actually. Understandably so. Although I'd like to say that I'm not surprised because his brother has been an ass before, I was shocked. Floored. The day before our wedding? Really? And what's with the preceding invitation to have drinks? Was he going to try to take Mr. FP out of marrying me, to leave me at the altar? Not the most pleasant thoughts to have to deal with the day after the honeymoon ended, I admit.

I don't bring this situation up to complain, because I want sympathy, or because I enjoy pointing out the ways in which our lives seem to parallel the story lines of mid-afternoon soap operas. Nope. I bring it up simply because this is how it went for us. I desperately hope that no one else has to deal with something like this during and/or after their wedding, but the reality is that some may have to.

Everything I read before the wedding assured me that the guest list fights, the disagreements over the details, and the sour taste in our mouths would disappear. Everything told me that people would set aside their scwabbles for the wedding day and would simply be full of joy to see us celebrate our love.

For the most part, this is true. But as far as my mother-in-law and brother-in-law, this wasn't the case. For us, this ended up being reality and while it didn't ruin our wedding by any means, it still happened. When we think specifically about his mother and brother and our wedding, that sour taste is still there. It still hurts and I'm not sure Mr. FP's relationship (or mine, for that matter) with his family will ever be the same.

I, perhaps naively, thought that people would be able to set aside their differences for at least one day, and they didn't. Everyone told me they would. Everyone told us that these things would wash away once the wedding was over. Well, we've been married a month and it's still not sunshine and rainbows. It sucks, but it happens.

And I think it happens to more couples than most people think. It happened to us and something similar is bound to happen to someone else if statistics have anything to say about it.

We've realized at this point that weddings aren't magic erasers. The joy they produce, although amazing, can't always scrub up the deeply rooted issues that plague us in the planning stages. Sometimes those issues leave stains and we're left to deal with them after the wedding.

But no one talks about this. No one says out loud that their brother in law is an ass or that their mother in law acted like a cold bitch on their wedding day.

Well then I guess I'm starting a trend, because for us, it was true. In my experience, most people prefer to act as though their lives post-wedding are full of marital bliss. But that's not always the case. For us, there has been some serious marital bliss, yes. Absolutely. That could not be more true. But in between those moments of marital bliss, there's been moments of tears from both us. There's been breakdowns. There's been an endless amount of discussions about where to go from here. There's been a sparring match in which his parents attempt to justify the message his brother sent to us.

These are stains we can't erase.
These are things we can't forget.
These are struggles that we will likely have to deal with for many days to come.

Nevertheless, these moments help us to become stronger as husband and wife.

Holy silver lining, batman.

So if it happens to you, all I can suggest is that you ride the wave, baby. Because people will behave however they please at your wedding and you won't be able to do a damn thing about it. But don't let it ruin your day, and don't make it second guess the choices that you made that may have upset people. As long as you and your partner are satisfied when the sun goes down on your wedding day, it will have been a success.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

etsy how-to: bridal bouquet

Oh man, why couldn't Etsy have posted this post in their Handmade Weddings series two months ago? The tip to wire shorter stems to longer ones? Genius! And that lace wrap makes me seriously jealous.

If you're thinking about DIY-ing any bouquets, I'd highly recommend that you check it out.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

our wedding: the honesty

From the very beginning of our wedding planning, Mr. FP and I did our best to create an authentic and honest wedding. We always wanted something that was very "us".

But in the modern world of weddings, this concept can be tricky to come across. With couples on The Knot creating only slightly differentiating weddings from one another and the rest of the wedding industry telling us what our wedding should be, it's a rough situation out there for couples who want a truly authentic wedding. Early in our engagement, we spent time worrying about how we were going to pay for all of these things we "had to have". The wedding industry's words, not ours.

And aside from the subject of money, what happens when a couple simply doesn't want to include these things? What if the groom is really self conscience about his dancing skills and doesn't want to have all the attention focused on him during a first dance? What if the bride thinks the whole tradition of tossing the bouquet is a waste of time? What if they want to serve pie for dessert instead of wasting $600 on a cake no one will eat?

According to the wedding industry, those people are weird and their wedding will be lacking in one form or another. The more elements from the traditional wedding formula that a couple cuts, the more the wedding industry loses interest in them. Somehow, because they don't want to include certain elements, their wedding isn't as good as it could have been. If only they had come to their senses and done what they were supposed to do...

Let's face it, when we're planning weddings, we're surrounded by expectations. Even if we manage to escape the fiscal pressure of the wedding industry, we still experience the pressure of the expectations of others. Our friends and families have their own idea about what our wedding should be and they are infinitely harder to ignore.

This was the case for us, no doubt. After a month or two of being engaged, it was easy enough for me to flip the bird whenever the wedding industry told me what we needed to have at our wedding. But when it came to family and friends, the rough wasn't so smooth. In fact, it was down right bumpy.

Although some of the opinions we received came from the right place as our friends and family wanted us to have the best possible wedding experience (like when people told me to lighten my DIY load), it was still rough to deal with opposing opinions. And then, of course, we had tons of people who simply wanted to insert their opinion. Not to be caring or because they were concerned about us but simply because they wanted to say what was on their mind. And even though I knew these comments weren't constructive, I still spent time dwelling on them. More time than I should have. So much so that it's embarrassing when I consider it from the other side.

From the other side, the side of marriage, I can now see how ridiculous all the second guessing really was. I mean, it felt silly at the time, but now I'm flat out angry at myself for letting other people cause me to doubt our wedding. Because in spite of these opposing opinions, our wedding was perfectly "us". We dropped the things we were uncomfortable with and we kept the things that were important to us.

That meant that there was no first dance, no cake cutting and no bouquet toss.

Instead, it meant that our guests were surrounded by the handmade projects we'd poured ourselves into for months.

Instead, we were able to feel truly comfortable at our wedding instead of feeling constricted by a wedding formula we were obligated to follow.

Instead of following the rules, we followed what we wanted, and I could not be happier about it.

That decision, the one we made early in the process, that we do what we wanted, not what other people wanted for us, was the best decision we made the entire time.

Even better than the Mario and Peach cake topper. Yep, it was that good.

Monday, August 2, 2010

DIY: photo booth + templates

In the past year of writing this blog, I've talked about wedding photo booths about a gazillion times, as you can plainly see here.

When we came across the idea for the first time in the crazy world that is online wedding inspiration, we immediately fell in love with the idea. Couldn't get it out of our heads kind of love. I have a giant folder on my computer devoted to photo booth inspiration. We debated the use of props. We weighed our backdrop options. We thought of the perfect place to hang it.

In the end, it wasn't nearly as much work as I'd thought it would be. It consisted of a few simple mustaches on sticks and a backdrop which was fashioned out of our living room curtains. Tie it to a tree and weight it down because it was windy on our wedding day and voila! photo booth.

And thanks to our crazy family and some extra props provided by our photographer, the wedding day photo booth photos are now some of our favorites because they're simple yet hilarious.

(first 2 photos by our photographer; photo booth photos courtesy of Mr. FP's cousin)

We ended up asking a cousin of Mr. FP to man the photo booth with our camera and I'd highly recommend this method to anyone considering a photo booth. If you use a friend, you don't need to monopolize the precious time you have with your photographer on the photo booth. It's entertaining to guests if you plan on doing photos between the ceremony and reception like we did and let's face it, photo booth photos don't require much artistic creation from a professional.

Don't get me wrong, I've seen some very artsy photo booth photos and thought they were divine, but our favorites ended up being the simple ones with the backdrop centered and people standing in front of it. Nothing artsy. Nothing complicated. Nothing someone who has even a basic knowledge of cameras can't help you with. Just crazy people with mustaches.

Speaking of which, I finally compiled all those templates of mustaches like I'd promised and I'm included them below. Just click on the images below to enlarge and save the large, original version. They're sized to print on standard, letter paper but the size could easily be adjusted if you wanted bigger or smaller. (Feel free to let me know if you have trouble accessing them from this post because I could always try e-mailing them too.)



As far as the assembly process, I'd highly recommend that you don't attach standard printer paper directly to a stick because it'll likely be too flimsy and will damage easily. We traced them onto white card stock and glued felt on top, but you could also just cut out the mustaches from the printer paper and attach them directly to card stock if you wanted to forgo the felt.

The mustaches and mouth should be pretty straight forward, but I'd advise that you use extra caution when cutting out the glasses because they're more difficult. I'd highly recommend use a craft knife (I got mine at the dollar store) instead of scissors for those. And the dowels can easily be found at the dollar store as well; check the seasonal or BBQ section of the store because the ones we bought were actually supposed to be used as kabob skewers.

Happy 'staching!