Monday, November 8, 2010

Our new bundle of joy

Meet Apollo! He's a very spunky kitty whom we invited into our life about a month ago.

I've had more exposure to dogs than cats, while Sharon has never had a pet before, so there was a bit of an adjustment period at first. But he's doing great now. He loves to rip out all the feathers from his toys, and he is easily amazed by such standard household appliances as water faucets and printers.

The week we got Apollo, construction began outside our building to remove some pipe deep in the ground. I'm sure he's loved dealing with that while we're away at work.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hitting it off with our photographer

For those who don't know me that well, I'm kind of superstitious. I wish on clocks when it's 11:11, think it's funny that Greg's area code is the same as his birthday, and will buy almost anything when it's the last one in my size. It's some combo of  fate + kismit + meant to be.

So when I was hunting for a photographer and found Sean Walker, it was only fitting that he started his business after a stint in minor-league baseball. And loyal readers will know how much we love baseball, and it seems to love us back. He got injured after a few years and decided to make the hobby he'd developed on the road into a new career. (He's been booked every weekend this summer and into October!)

The phone calls I've had with Sean start out with poking fun at our Washington Nationals, hoping the best for his San Diego Padres and eventually talking about shooting the wedding. When we finally met him for our engagement photos, we could tell that his personality was a great fit. He's energetic, spunky and down to earth. When he blogged about our session, he even extended an invitation to a game. (Alas, we won't be back in SD until Thanksgiving.)

His ease with making us comfortable in front of the camera could be chalked up to him having been there before; he and his wife, Brianne (who will be our second shooter), were models for a Jessica Claire photography workshop this year in SoCal. :)

Aren't they adorable?!

And when you couldn't think things could get bigger than being a baseball player then starting your own business ... Sean and Brianne are expecting their first child! They had the most genius idea for finding out whether they're having a boy or girl, and it involved this:

Seriously, the coolest idea! (source)

You must check out the result (and more fun pics) of their gorgeous party on their personal blog.

Greg and I wish Sean and Brianne the best of luck with what life's got in store and can't wait for them to shoot the wedding!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Love and baseball schedules

We've been anxiously awaiting the release of the 2011 MLB schedule, which finally came out tonight.

About halfway through this season, we bought full season tickets for the rest of the year at Nationals Park, which came after my mostly-in-jest battle with the Nationals ticketing office and Sharon's discovery that she has a favorite baseball team. Between then and now, we've acquired about 12 Nationals T-shirts (Sharon has one each for pitchers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard and yet another urging the Nats to Let Teddy Win), five or six ballcaps (one of which Sharon got Clippard to sign during a blood drive), two balls I caught during batting practice (one of which Sharon later got pitcher Doug Slaten to sign when she spotted him in plainclothes in the stands during his suspension), two or three songs from iTunes that the players use when they come to bat (the full list is here; my favorite is "Prrrrum" for Alberto Gonzalez, despite the fact that Cosculluela appears to be wearing a Pirates hat in the music video, though I am also partial to Pudge's early '90s "Check Yo Self" goodness), numerous gross-out moments from Adam Kennedy's disgusting habit of spitting his chewing tobacco into his hand and then tossing it into the outfield after reaching base, and various other Nationals knick-knacks.

So, yeah, we've grown to like the team a fair bit.

We're definitely going to renew our season tickets for next year, but we haven't decided yet between the full or half season plan. One big consideration was whether we'd have to miss a bunch of home games around our June 4 wedding in San Francisco (and also have to find a way to dispose of the tickets). We were planning to get to California a few days before and then maybe take a weeklong honeymoon.

Turns out, the Nationals will be on an 11-game road trip (their longest of the season) at precisely that time. Sharon noticed this and was blown away. Then I pointed out the cities where the team would be traveling: Phoenix (where Sharon first worked out of college and where she got her surprise proposal), San Francisco (Sharon's hometown and our wedding locale), and San Diego (my hometown and unanimous best city in America). Not to mention that NL East teams only visit each NL West team once a year, making the scheduling fluke that much more unlikely.

I'm not usually one for signs, but this coincidence makes me incredibly happy. I can't wait for another season at the ballpark with my all-time favorite seatmate.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Behold, the vanishing white tie!

Creative Commons photo from babiegirl on Flickr.

Sharon and I noticed a trend when looking through various wedding blogs and suit shops: a lot of grooms dig the white-tie, white-vest, white-shirt combo.

Check it out for yourself on Google Images (it was the least biased way I could think of demonstrating this); at least half the guys have white ties. Here's another example (full post) from a wedding that our photographer shot.

Each time, I think: where is the tie? Oh, there it is! You just have to look very close.

I understand that weddings are extremely bride-centric, and that, yes, the man's all-white ensemble does technically match the white dress, but it all makes the groom fade into the background.

Some alternative ideas that I'm exploring:

(1) Match your tie to your suit (example picture and full post), and have the groomsmen wear a different color tie.

(2) Match all the ties to the bridesmaids' dresses, and have the groomsmen wear a different color shirt (example picture and full post).

Finally, lest any of you question my fashion sense, let it be known that I've been rockin' the sexy ever since high school, as the below photo attests.

Monday, August 16, 2010

On being a bicoastal bride

I'm not a numbers person at all, and weddings are all about them. Set a budget. Decide on a guest list. Add many numbers that didn't seem necessary at first. Then alas, break the budget. But for this Type-A crazy girl? My evil number is 2,813.

E.g., the number of miles separating us from our venue/San Francisco.

It's definitely more of a marathon than a sprint. (source)
With the power of technology, getting the nitty-gritty decided is really not that bad. I made a trip to San Francisco early in the summer and used my five senses to truly check out some venues (which we'd already nitpicked at extensively online) and we chatted our photographer's ear off, but in the end, requests were made over the phone, the contract tweaked in e-mails and money exchanged via PDF or snail mail.

When it comes to decorations, photography and all the other inanimate objects, it's fairly easy to make a decision. It's when you get people and events involved that things get a bit foggy.

Greg and I are pretty laid-back people with fairly simple needs. We'd usually opt for a no-frills day together over getting gussied up to sip tea with our pinkies out. I keep in touch with friends across the U.S. thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, video chat and the good ol' telephone.

So when "bridal shower" and "bachelorette party" come in one ear, all that comes out my other is "airfare."

Greg moved to D.C. more than three years ago, so we've come to grips that flying to California is a permanent part of our regular budget as long as we're here. We've sacrificed some holidays to save cash, and we're considering ending that dry spell this year. Adding even more trips to the possibly longer holiday itinerary scares me and my credit cards.

I love the fun traditions, and lord knows I miss my California family and friends. But then practical Sharon on my other shoulder wonders if these wedding events can be crammed in with holiday parties, and then I get a headache.

Despite the 17-month engagement (which has now passed the 10-months-out mark!), it doesn't seem like there's enough time for everything.

Then I wonder if my view of "everything" is a little bloated, or that I'm just too cheap to celebrate something that'll only happen once in my life.

Has anyone else dealt with having a long-distance wedding and/or lifestyle? Any advice on my money vs. life-experience debate?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rewarding you with photography news!

OK, OK, so I know I vowed to be a better blogger, but some (good!) things happened in the past month that have severely cut down on blogging time. First, I've started a new job that's keeping me busy, and it feels good to be back in a newsroom-type environment. The real time-eater: Greg bought tickets for the rest of the Nationals' season. And it's all good because I'm a fan, ya know. ;)

Because you've waited so long for an update, I'll tell you about our engagement photo session!

Photography is high on our priority list since pictures last forever (and we can show them off to everyone, haha). I browsed San Francisco area photographers, but the people I liked couldn't give me a lot for my budget, so I looked outside the area, knowing I'd have to add travel costs.

I considered someone in D.C. so we could have all the monuments, cherry blossoms, etc., in our engagement photos, but the cost of flying someone to Cali for the wedding was too much to handle.

I looked in Greg's hometown of San Diego (since we'd be making a trip there sometime) and found Sean Walker. I checked out his site (auto-starts with music, FYI) and blog, and I was intrigued. He was able to tweak his pricing to quote us both a fabulous package AND travel costs for him and his wife — all within budget. No matter what stage you're at in life, those are three words that make things better!

We did the shoot last month when we were flying to San Diego to hang out with Greg's family and catch our very first LA Dodgers game. I spent hours picking outfits; we did a casual look and a dressier one. Sean picked out places for us to pose, and off we went. (It was basically two hours of public kissing, hehe.)

I'll expand on Sean's background and our interaction with him more in another post, but I know what you're waiting for: eye candy!

Sitting pretty in downtown La Jolla.

Being book nerds by the ocean. Kindle and Harry Potter, for the win!

I am so glad I was able to afford the engagement session. We got to see how Sean operated, were able to get comfortable in front of a camera and now have some great (non-iPhone) photos of ourselves! He even included an online gallery where you can see the rest and buy prints, if you're interested (after registering for free).

It was so fun getting to have some fun photo time with Greg, and from the looks of it, he really enjoyed it, too. :)

If you're not sick of looking at us, here's the link again to the online gallery. :)

What do you think of our engagement photos? A worthy investment?

* All photos copyright Sean Walker Photography and used with permission.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fourth of July wedding inspiration

We return from San Diego only to be welcomed by a holiday weekend! We might not be close to family, but it'll still be a fun time with friends.

And of course, I can't let such a party weekend pass by without thinking about some Independence Day traditions that would make great wedding details.

(1) Fireworks

Whether you love 'em, think they're too loud or get worried about their environmental impact, there's no denying that there's something magical about bursts of glitter in the sky. The wedding world caught onto this within the past couple of years, and sparklers have held the spotlight, as Hello to Hitched recently profiled. They're easy to hold, photographers know how to make 'em look hot, and I'm all for some childhood fun. :)

Fun photography that glows - too cute!
Sparklers are also a great way to get guests involved, and using them as part of the evening sendoff is popping up on blogs all over. My pals Joey and Chelsea, who got married in San Diego in January, did a sparkler exit, and it was so fun!

Not my pals, haha. Just another super-cute couple — on a tandem bike, too!
(source — Their vintage wedding is worth a click.)

Unfortunately, I'm not 100 percent sure if sparklers would be possible at our San Francisco wedding, seeing as my family had to head down the peninsula to light our safe-and-sane fireworks every Fourth of July. And I'm not the only one being let down.

(2) Pie

I used to not really like pie — then again, I would sometimes only eat chicken nuggets for years of my childhood, so I'm no foodie — but now that apple pie has my seal of approval, it's a real treat. And even more sweets at a wedding? Yes, please.

What my mom usually whips up...

Sitting pretty at a country wedding's pie bar. PIE BAR?! Mmm.

However, cake will always be the winner in my book, mostly for the heaven that is buttercream. I'm always the kid to snatch the corner piece, even quicker if it has those big roses. I's gots ta have my frosting!

(3) Red, white and blue

This one is the easiest and the most fun tradition to make your own. I've found that some brides using this palette tend to shy away from the true shades of red and blue, leaning more towards mahogany, orange-red, cornflower or cerulean. How's that for some Crayola color knowledge? ;)

The save-the-date design below is one of my all-time favorites. It's by Hello!Lucky, a super-cool stationery studio based in San Francisco. I love the cartoon feel, and there's another ironic detail in the sample that tickles my fancy. Can you guess?

What holiday traditions do you think would be fun at a wedding? Happy Fourth of July, and a big hello to our family and friends around the country!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A much-needed update

Almost a month since my last post? Yikes, I've been a bad, bad blogger, and I'm sorry. Greg and I have had a very busy June on the job, social, baseball and wedding planning fronts! I'll expand on those later as I get pictures uploaded and posts brainstormed.

 We are le tired.
(Photo by Greg's brother, Grant)

But I can't leave you hanging just like that, so I will say that regarding all things wedding: (1) We set a date for next June, (2) we put money down on a venue, and (3) we decided on a photographer!

A very big clue for No. 2 can be found here (video — clean version, of course) or here (if you prefer to read).

As for No. 3, we're heading out soon to hang out in San Diego, catch a Dodgers game in L.A. — and meet with our fab photographer. :) Squee!

Despite having three big details decided, there's much more in store for this wedding bonanza...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sharon has a favorite baseball team

When Sharon was in high school, one of the moms gave her group of friends tickets behind the dugout to a Giants game. The girls, generally apathetic to baseball, spent the afternoon tanning and reading magazines.

Fast-forward to last night. We grabbed dinner at Fuddruckers in Chinatown. Sharon was shaking with anticipation, encouraging me to eat as quickly as possible.


To which I wryly replied, "You don't have to pretend to like baseball for my sake."

You see, last night was Stephen Strasburg's major league debut. He's the most hyped pitcher I've ever seen. He struck out 14 batters, a Nationals record. The little scoreboard that tracks the K's ran out of room and just had a little button that said "plus 12 more." I've never been to a game where the whole crowd stands up every time there are two strikes, or where "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" is completely drowned out by people chanting the pitcher's name.

These days, Sharon sometimes watches the Nats when I'm not home. Or pleads for us to go to the game on the weekend. Every time we go, she insists we take a picture with Teddy (there's even a picture on this blog of Little Teddy rockin' the ring). She runs up to the railing to cheer on the racing presidents in the middle of the fourth.

The other day, I said, "You know, Sharon, you actually have a favorite baseball team now." She thought about it for a moment, and then said I was right.

She's come a long way. It's nice to share an activity that we both genuinely enjoy (though I'm less in it for the mascots and hot relief pitchers).

Baseball has one final element in our lives. Often, Sharon will ask me to put on the radio broadcast of a West Coast baseball game when she heads to bed. She's always asleep within the inning.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Everyone's growing up!

My apologies for the blog delay; you know how life gets in the way sometimes? Being a grownup with all the work, appointments, apartment cleaning, phone dates and exercise is hard work!

Not to mention all the other big life changes going on. I've known people from my high school years who did the wedding thing and baby stuff way before me, but the social norm seems to be that the mid-20s to early 30s is when things all start happening fast.

One Weddingbee blogger's fridge — full of save-the-date magnets! (source)

I see wedding photos of college acquaintances getting posted on Facebook every couple of months. A few people from my old job in Arizona have gotten married with another recently engaged. Many of my journalism pals have shuffled around to new jobs, with one from Arizona just this week taking a job at The Boston Globe, where our friend from college is covering sports! (Zuri also recently blogged about the "how I got here and where I'm going" conundrum that Greg and I are facing.)

After being dorks and finishing college early, we were all about the "careers first" route, which took us through the ups and downs of journalism, him into the challenge of grad school, and me through the hecticness of unemployment, job searching and moving across the country.

Now with the end of grad school and his current job only months away, it gets us thinking about what should be next. Do we change the focus and move, perhaps closer to our families and old pals? Do we stick around in a city with tons of jobs, gaining more years of experience? Do we "take a break" and travel to Ghana? (That last one was a serious option in college!)

We have spent many late nights pondering our next steps in life, and the wedding is a definite consideration. We don't want the stress of moving/finding a job/settling in a new town in addition to finishing the planning and having deposits and expenses dent our bank accounts.

Personally, all I really know now is that if we want to shake things up, we might as well do it at this age before we become "makers of tiny humans"** or bogged down with a mortgage.

For those who have jumped over this life hurdle, do you have any advice? And is anyone else in the same boat?

** Brownie points if you know which recent TV show's finale that phrase is from! ;)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another guest of honor: The iPhone

If Greg wasn't marrying me, there's a good chance he'd propose to his iPhone. He uses it to check e-mail, navigate when we're lost, read Kindle e-books, watch baseball games with MLB.TV — pretty much everything except make a call. ;)

I'm not smelly; he does that with his hood when he's deep in thought, hehe!
(personal photo)

Despite no service in Mexico, he brought it along — to read. Hello? Beach?!
(personal photo)

And on our big day, I doubt he'll be able to put it away. I don't mind as long as he knows when to keep it tucked away and when to show it off, like in these gorgeous wedding photos:

We definitely need one of these!

We know our techy friends will have theirs too.
(Christine Remoulet Photography via Google search)

Wedding-day text? This makes me melt!

With the dawn of Apple's newest gadget, the iPad, at least one officiant is getting in on the action, too! Only in the Bay Area, home to Silicon Valley — though I gotta admit, it looks way slicker than a black portfolio.

I love that something so influential in our lives will make an appearance on our big day. Do you agree or think phones have no place at a wedding?

Monday, May 17, 2010

How dorks divide up chores

CC photo from pfly on Flickr.

Sharon and I both hate mopping.

Well, we hate it for different reasons. I hate the moving-everything-out-of-the-way-and-putting-it-back-after part, and Sharon hates the actual-sweeping-and-mopping part. Once we articulated this, the solution was simple: have Sharon do the part that I hate and vice versa.

We divide other chores similarly. I never have to vacuum, and Sharon never has to do the dishes.

Why the rest of the world cares about this, I do not know. But I love her, and we make a great team.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Robot performs wedding ceremony?

It's crazy but true! Greg found this gem this morning at; there are photos too, of course.

My favorite parts of the article are that people get robots to hang out with elderly people or play baseball.

In terms of our officiant, we have a couple of ideas in the works, but now it's time to enjoy a nice Sunday in the city!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Playing the name game

The infamous post-wedding name change is always a hot topic for discussion with brides. It seems I have four (realistic) options. I haven't made up my mind yet — and I know there's plenty of time — but I'll introduce this early as I'm sure the process will evolve.

Something to keep in mind... (source)

(1) Do the traditional change = MyFirst MyMiddle HisLast

This is the most popular choice, and I admit that throughout our relationship, I've doodled my name in margins that way. Of course, it feels funny (a few more letters than I'm used to), but like anything, something that can be adapted to. And beyond the usual symbolism of becoming a family unit, there'd be an added bonus. My new initials would be the same as the code for an airport Greg used to frequent pretty often. And we're all about airports, as the proposal showed. :)

One big downside to me (and I know it sounds petty, but I really despise this) is the bureaucracy and paperwork I'd have to endure to make any change. I hate calling customer service as it is; I get angry and emotionally distressed; it ruins my whole day. This would involve lots of interaction with a lot of (possibly exasperating) people and some fees.

Another part of me holds back because of my past as a journalist. I've written articles under my fairly distinctive name, and I like that when I google myself, the (relevant) results that come up are actually me. I also did some nerdy cool things in college that got me interviews and the like, so of course those would be great to keep on the radar. I'm afraid that if I change my name, I'll pretty much be abandoning all that hard work.

(2) Compromise and hyphenate = MyFirst MyMiddle MyLast-HisLast

Phew. I got tired just typing all that. It's long. I knew a gal in grade school who always had issues with getting back results of standardized tests because she had a hyphenated last name. It was a pain. Though not as bad as couples with unfortunate names, I suppose. (Don't worry, we don't have that problem.)

This would possibly help with recognizing my previous name, though. Future employers could look up my maiden name and see the fun stuff, but there's no guarantee that'd come to mind.

Also, not that we're anywhere near this, but there's the possibility of kiddies to think about. If I go to the trouble to hyphenate, would we have to make another name decision when Greg Jr. or Sharonette comes along? Thinking about more name changing gives me a headache...

Note: There's also a spinoff of this option that I've read about. It's got all the same words, just no hyphen. Brides on blogs and message boards call it having a "communal last name," where both yours and his would go in the last-name box. This is just too complicated for me, so I'll just leave it at that.

(3) Get confusing; make your maiden name your middle name = MyFirst MyLast HisLast

I can just see this one being messed up by banks, airlines and the like; I've heard some states don't even let you mess with your middle name. Plus, I am not thrilled with what my initials would be. I have a very common middle name, but I feel like my supershort last name would sound brash wedged in the middle. And I'd have to mention my middle name all the time to make it matter? I think this one's pretty much out of the running.

(4) Do nothing = MyFirst MyMiddle MyLast

A gal's easy way out! No "what if I get googled" worries, no paperwork to fill out, no new signature to practice. Greg tells me he wouldn't mind this, but would I look back when I'm older and care that I have a different name as my husband and, possibly, kids? Would the meaningfulness be lost? Hmmm.

Please feel free to give your input (even anonymously) in the comments; there's no name requirement to post. :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I believe in (Disney) magic

Though I promised in my last post that I'd try to be a grown-up for the wedding, it's very hard since I've been a Disney kid forever. My brother and I grew up amassing the signature VHS clamshell cases and replaying our favorites until the poor tapes would actually start to jump.

 If a Disney movie's on, I'll be up front like Lucky of "101 Dalmatians."

(Now that I'm older, my feminist tendencies sometime impede my love for the princess films. I'm not one to silence myself to get a guy or get married because a law says so. And this social commentary is a bit disturbing but has a point. Then I remember that these ARE stories, and the warm fuzzies of childhood glee return. Anyways...)

Disney has a hold on all things sentimental movie-wise, so it was no surprise when I found myself back in the day beside my pal Christina (hi!) checking out the Kirstie Kelly for Disney line of wedding gowns in our high-school library. Each design is inspired by a different Disney princess, and I love this one based on my headstrong, bookwormy pal Belle.

Style B2810

And logically, Disney gets in on the location game, offering weddings and honeymoons at Disneyland, Disney World and even on its cruises. Don't worry, this was totally nixed by both of us. Surprised? I honestly think that would be overkill, especially being around crowds on your big day.

Besides the obvious, there are ways to integrate some Disney magic into the wedding experience without going hokey or over the top. Case in point: A few days ago, The Wedding Chicks featured a gorgeously adorable engagement photo session by Wildflowers Photography inspired by the Disney and Pixar hit "Up."

I'm not usually a fan of themed photo shoots, but this one is too cute! Fitting for such a moving film.

From the screen...

... to reality!

Check out the rest of the shoot here (complete with grape soda!). For those that have seen the movie, aren't these photos perfection? For those who haven't, get on that!

Are you a Disney fan? Would you be a little weirded out by a full-on Disney wedding?

Friday, May 7, 2010

How dorks pick wedding songs

It's an exciting Friday night at the Sharon & Greg household.

I'm sitting on my netbook, going through songs on my iPhone. Sharon is at the iMac, combing our iTunes collections. We are simultaneously editing a Google Docs spreadsheet to compile potential wedding songs. Every so often, one of us says, "Turn down your music and tell me what you think of this song." We are both sitting in our pajamas.

We've got a good list going, which no doubt will evolve over the next year. I have about nine Spanish pop songs listed at the moment, though I doubt our guests would tolerate that many.

I'm forbidden from giving away much of the list, but I know 1, 2, 3, 4 will make the cut.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wedding venue hunt: A wild fantasy

After focusing too much on gorgeous outdoor space, I became entranced by something I can only describe as a fantasy. Looking back, there was a whimsical quality to it, but it was all just too "me."  It'd be perfect if I were marrying myself, but I'm not, and Greg wasn't thrilled with it. To his credit, he entertained the idea until my parents checked it out and I was ready to pull out my checkbook.

I wanted to have the wedding at the San Francisco Zoo. Check out this photo and tell me that's not magical:

A gorgeous carousel shot by Lilia Photography, another SF wedding photography crush!

I used to ride on that carousel all the time when my grandparents would take me and my brother during the summer, aww! I am also a big animal lover and a kid at heart, so I melted when I found a very special real wedding profiled on Offbeat Bride. Karen and PJ went with the zoo, and the childlike joy of it all awed me. Candy bouquets, more carousel action and ROCK BAND!

Rock out with your ring out!
(click and scroll for a slideshow — source)

And my "everything in one place" requirement would have been met, too. The reception hall is plenty big and has nice high ceilings with a lodge vibe.

I love the exposed wood beams!

You could even use the African Savanna as a ceremony site! Reminds me of "The Lion King.'' :)

My animal friends!

My parents, brother and future sister-in-law took a site tour. I got proposals from the in-house caterer. It would have been within the budget. But...

When push came to shove, I knew it wasn't our place because Greg wasn't feeling the same magic I was. I guess I still long for the world to be a big Disney movie, where townspeople break out into well-written songs and animal friends can solve your problems.

The San Francisco Zoo really is a special place to feel like a kid again, but for our special day I suppose I'll stop letting my 5-year-old self take over. :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wedding venue hunt: The great outdoors

This month, I took advantage of a great airfare deal (thanks Airtran sale e-mails!) to fly to San Francisco and get the venue party started. (And we've almost decided, wee!)

Knowing that trip would be the only one maybe until the holidays, I knew I'd have to get picky with visits, so I researched for months with our vision in mind. Here's the fruit of my many hours of labor...

San Francisco has no shortage of outdoor space, thanks to Golden Gate Park, which played a big role in my childhood. My brother and I would ride bikes and rollerblade with my parents on Sundays; the city has blocked off some streets to cars for more than 40 years (and has even expanded to Saturdays!). We'd also often feed the ducks and take long walks around Stow and Spreckles lakes with our grandparents. So the park gets major brownie points in the "meaningfulness" department.

The city offers various sites for ceremonies, such as the Shakespeare Garden pictured below, for great rental prices, and I like that our money would be going toward urban parks, something I definitely support. From what the city's PDF says, it'd be a budget-friendly choice, too.

However, this conflicts with having the ceremony and reception at the same place. Not only does that cut down on inconveniencing guests (especially out-of-towners who would have to rent cars), it's better for the environment (less driving) and keeps the celebration from lulling!

Another obvious choice for the Bay Area would be wineries. While the famed Napa Wine Country would be amazing, I'd nixed that area early on since it'd require a ton of driving and a hefty chunk of my change. A cool alternative presented itself in Casa Real, an event center with an indoor ballroom and gorgeous outdoor courtyard at the Ruby Hill Winery in Pleasanton out in the East Bay.

(source - see more of the venue in the slideshow, done by Choco Studio, one of my SF photography crushes)

Despite it having a huge "pretty factor" with its elegant-yet-rustic Mediterranean look, the minimum they quoted me for a Saturday wedding was too high, driving would again be an issue and Greg and I aren't emotionally attached to the whole wine thing.

While these ideas didn't fit our needs, they are great venues and have beautiful outdoor space. But I'd put too much emphasis on the outdoor aspect and was falling behind in other areas. I had to refine my search more and decide what things we could compromise on.

Am I crazy for counting out these fab outdoor sites? Or would guests' commuting be too much of a hassle, especially in Bay Area traffic?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Dress Stress: It's (practically) over!

As Greg sneaked into his last post, I did indeed buy my wedding dress. Not just *a* dress — as Greg was suspicious of — *my* dress.

I held off announcing this on the blog until I'd told my bridal party (to be revealed later!) when I was in San Francisco this month. They know how crazy I can be, so they weren't too weirded out by my quick decision.

I ended up going the used route, though with some nice quirks that really sealed the deal. First, I checked out what was available in my area and in my price range using the awesome advanced search on Preowned Wedding Dresses. I knew I couldn't just find a pretty dress, buy it final sale and pay for shipping across the country. I luckily found a designer gown that was my aesthetic and my size, and within a few days of e-mailing and calendar-swapping, I took the Metro a couple of stops and tried it on.

Confession: This actually happened before my mother-daughter David's Bridal trip. You know, the time when I still didn't know what was right on me. The time when I was sans mom. Ugh.

For those reasons, I told the seller I had to think about it. She took a few photos and e-mailed them to me, which within seconds were in my mom's inbox. And she was cautiously happy, as was I.

Enter mom's last-minute business trip and David's Bridal excursion. I told her that her presence was "a sign" — yes, I'm one of *those* people — that she had to come see the used dress. Cue angels singing.

 My mom's kind of singing angel - Frankie Avalon as Teen Angel in "Grease," one of our family faves.

The seller had gotten other offers, but she liked that I was local, the first to have contacted her and had cash in hand. We went, we loved, I paid. :)

Having gotten my shopping addiction from my mom, I knew it was really special to both of us for the dress shopping to be a team effort. And the fact that everything just happened to work out — the local seller, the business trip, the great deal — makes the dress so much more special for the big day.

P.S. The dress does need to be hemmed, so that's why I say "practically" in the title. Hopefully there's no stress with that.

P.P.S. The seller had her wedding outdoors in Hawaii — how great is that? What a cool story my dress has...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wisdom from "Say Yes to the Dress"

This weekend, Sharon endured the Dodgers' visit to Washington (two games in person, one game on TV). Since I figured I owed her one, we watched the Season 5 premiere of TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress."

I'm usually pretty opposed to the Exploitation Channel ... errr, I mean, TLC ... with shows about people with too many kids, who are too fat to leave their own homes, or who are barely 4 feet tall as adults.

Anyways, SYTTD did a nice episode showing brides who were in violation of fashion consultant Randy's "rules" for dress shopping, which I'll paraphrase:

(1) Don't keep shopping for dresses once you've bought one.
(2) Don't try on a dress that's out of your price range.
(3) Don't keep secrets from your consultant (such as, "I already have my heart set on a dress I saw at another store").

It's easy to see how any of these three can result in disappointment.

I don't think we've explicitly announced it here, but Sharon bought a dress a few weeks ago. It's sitting in a garment bag in our closet, and I've been admonished not to touch it or look at it in the 365+ days until our wedding.

Yet SYTTD episodes continue to clog our DVR. Maybe Sharon is in violation of Rule 1? Even more so the woman whom Sharon bought the dress from; she bought five wedding dresses because she couldn't decide. Such indecision can be expensive, as it's hard to sell a dress, even unworn, for what you paid for it, not to mention the hassle involved. Maybe it's better to do a little more thinking before whipping out the credit card?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sharon's San Francisco trip

Sharon is wrapping up a 5-day trip to San Francisco to scout out a pair of venues and accomplish other wedding-planning chores. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I've been holding down the fort in D.C.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A monster of a proposal

Greg mentioned that I absolutely love mascots, so how could I resist a mascot *proposal*?!

The Phillie Phanatic (of the Philadelphia Phillies) is all sorts of gleeful, and Olympic skater Apolo Ohno is the lucky, lucky groom. :)

(source found via the Phillies' official Twitter feed)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dress Stress: The two-dress debate

I love deals and getting the most use out of everything, so having just one dress for the wedding seems like my logical choice. Fall in love with a gown and milk it for all it's worth; simple, right?

Some brides like to get a separate dress for the reception. It can be a more playful look to match a party atmosphere or a simpler number just to be rid of the pouf and train. Even the most mainstream bridal designers have caught onto this need and offer tons of options for short dresses.

Walk down the aisle... (source)

... then dance the night away! (source)

However, having a seamstress put in a bustle — in which the train is lifted up onto the back of the gown via ribbons, hooks or buttons —  has become the norm in solving the moving-around issue.

In my case, the main reason for getting a second dress is cultural. The traditional Chinese wedding dress is called a cheongsam/qipao (or some variation on those spellings) and is usually worn today by brides during the reception. The dress usually features red and gold, and some pretty phoenix or floral design.

An example of a cheongsam. (source)

A Weddingbee blogger decided on a cheongsam for her wedding and describes the experience very well (complete with lots of photos!). Formerly a co-host of "The View," journalist Lisa Ling even put a modern spin on the look for her wedding.

Making the dress change has been done in about half of my family's weddings (the few I've been alive for). Two aunts and a cousin decided to make the switch out of their white dresses for their Chinese banquets (sorry, no photos since they happened in the days of non-digital film and they're at my parents' house).

And that brings up another question: How often does a bride wear something so traditional if she's not having a Chinese reception? (The traditional-ness of the reception is a whole other issue, but as of now, we're looking into other options.) I wonder if it would look out of place or cheesy.

For now, I'm shying away from getting a cheongsam, but there's also something to be said for keeping some tradition in such a big celebration.

Do you think I should get a second dress and why?

P.S. There is another reason why a two-dress bride you may be, but that's usually a matter of shopping, hehe!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dress Stress: The used route

Even before making the mother/daughter trip to David's Bridal, the idea of buying a used dress had piqued my interest. Gone are the days of having such a thing be a curse on a marriage. Tough economic times have pushed brides to recoup some of their expenses, and there's a sense of camaraderie in making someone else's big day super special with a dress she wouldn't be able to afford otherwise.

A quality dress at a fraction of the cost? I'm game.

Some of the main online marketplaces for dresses are
Preowned Wedding Dresses, Once Wed, Recycled Bride and old local standby Craigslist. The first site is my favorite with the ability to search by street size, dress length, ZIP code, designer and more.

Preowned Wedding Dresses' fab advanced search. (screenshot

In some cases, the dress you get might not even have been worn at a wedding. Many times, newly engaged gals will get overly anxious and snatch up a dress quick, fearing they won't find anything before the big day. Or they'll just change their minds. That's how you can luck out with getting a great dress, new with tags and without having to wait for it to be manufactured. Or salons will try to make way for new styles by selling their gently tried-on samples.

The catch is that 99 percent of the time, the dress will be final sale, with the buyer usually paying shipping costs. The majority of people who are successful through these sites likely have a specific dress or designer in mind and know what size they'd be because they've already tried it on at a bridal salon.

Quality is the biggest concern, and sellers are good about explaining a dress's history, such as if it's had any alterations or if there are traces of dirt. They give measurements, and best in my book, they provide pictures of real people in the dresses! Even if you don't like the idea of used, these sites may be a good resource just to get perspective. Photos of hungry, grumpy models can really turn you off to a dress.

Now it was just a matter of searching around and seeing what higher-end designers I even clicked with...

What's your take on going used for a wedding dress? Too much of a stigma attached? Or does it make simple budgetary sense?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dress Stress: Start at David's Bridal

Edit (3/22/11): I noticed a lot of people come across this post in search of pics of DB dresses. I've got tons more if you're interested - just email me at yepfinleywedding (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sorry for the blog-post drought, but to reward your patience, I begin my dress adventure!

Back in high school, my first inspiration for a wedding dress was very lacy, dainty and had little sleeves. I documented this in an "OMG these are THE dresses for MY wedding!" e-mail I sent to my best pals on Jan. 25, 2002. (The links don't work anymore, but I remember it. I'm seriously wedding-insane.)

Today, I'm a very clean-lines, non-lace person. I want to look modern yet cheerful on our wedding day. But of course, I have no idea how that can translate into a gown. I have vague ideas about where I carry my weight and what looks good on my 5-foot frame, but in terms of silhouettes and fabric, I'm lost.

Enter David's Bridal, which touts that it stocks actual dresses (not just samples) of all their dresses in a range of sizes. They even have a special petites line for those 5'4" and under -- score! Mom's been in town for business, so I took that as a sign, rented a Zipcar and made an appointment!

Disclaimer: I don't know how Greg feels about seeing pics of me looking awesome in gowns, so I'll use links and unflattering photos for now. :)

I'd taken a look at the site and picked out some fit-and-flare/trumpet dresses. They weren't your usual princess-y look and could make me appear taller. One brought my mom to tears, while another looked like I was a big pile of whipped cream:

The shape is awesome from the front, but looked weird from the side. And the "devil horns" at the top? Ugh! But strapless is nice. (personal photo)

I then tried two dresses with straps, the first romantic and the other minimalistic, but those didn't look right either. Plus, I always have trouble with straps being too long. Too much trouble.

Didn't like the lace or keyhole back, but love the sweetheart neckline. (personal photo)

Gotta love that face ... Next! (personal photo)

I tried on eight dresses during our 1.5-hour excursion, with my mom almost breaking out the waterworks again when my consultant, Ashley, put me back in my favorite dress, made me close my eyes, slapped a veil on me and spouted sappy made-for-TV-movie lines. Does that really work on anyone?

Overall, my trip to David's was a great one because I got to try out so many different styles and have a much better idea of what I like. All of David's dresses are within my budget, but I didn't buy my favorite. I did get "the feeling" when I put it on, but I wasn't ready to commit. Plus, I never turn down more shopping!

Any tips on my wedding dress hunt? See any others on the David's site you think I should try out?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A 'Twilight' inspired wedding

After a hellish week at work, tonight I rewarded myself by watching "New Moon," the latest movie in the "Twilight" series.* Instead of angsty details, I'll show you a grownup way to give a nod to the romantic saga.

One of my favorite wedding blogs, Style Me Pretty, gave readers a Valentine's treat last month, posting a "Twilight"-inspired photo shoot, which included the picture below as a play on the first book's cover.

How cool is that as a placecard?! (source)

The original post features many more photos of the ethereal, woodsy decor and a detailed explanation from the event planners. I like how all the vendors took key features of the series (the woods, the fancy script handwriting, the apple, etc.) and made them fit together for an event in a pretty yet practical way. Who knew you could carve an apple into a votive holder? (And I would totally nab one of the Team Edward pins!)

And yes, the teen vampire series has even more of a presence in the wedding world: Last year, a Weddingbee blogger wrote a post about sketches InStyle sought from world-famous dress designers on a certain someone's wedding dress!

Oh, if only Robert Pattinson could attend our wedding ... I kid! :)

* Yes, I have read all the books after stalking them at the library. Yes, I raced through them like they were "Harry Potter" material and thoroughly enjoyed them ("New Moon," not so much). And yes, I understand that to some, this makes me a bit of a loser. But I don't care. :P

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is it just me, or is Obama's wedding ring way too big?

From when President Obama was filling out his NCAA tournament bracket (see the YouTube video).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Even Stevens (and Sharons!)

When I was little, my mom would insist things had to be kept "even stevens" between me and my brother, who's named Steven. I would take great offense to this, vehemently chiming in, "And Sharons! Even Stevens and SHARONS!"

Steve is four years older than me, and of course, being the typical little sister, I've always wanted to bridge the gap. I wanted to go to prom and graduate from school and get a good job, but when I was ready to take a step, he'd already jumped ahead.

He proposed to my future sister-in-law, Lemery, about five months before Greg's big Arizona plan. They're opting for a longer engagement so they can get married on a day meaningful to them, and with our timing arrangement, Greg and I will have our big day a few months earlier. So for once, I'm going first! And it feels awesome — not because I finally get an edge on sibling rivalry, but because it gives me warm fuzzies to have such camaraderie with my big brother.

 Steve and Lemery at a 2009 holiday party. (personal photo)

We've exchanged texts, e-mails and long phone calls about planning our weddings. He's helped me scope out potential venues in the Bay Area, taking photos and telling me the situation in the no-nonsense way boys use. We've talked guest-list woes and budget worries, and only he can understand my stressed-out sputtering about trying to navigate delicate conversations with our parents.

The best part about it all is that he's helping usher me into the next stage of life. Despite his mischievous tendencies and my resulting whining of our youth, we managed to have special moments finding weird humor in movies and TV shows, taking photos on family vacations and being generally crazy. As I ventured away from San Francisco, our relationship was still playful with perhaps the smallest dash of maturity.

 Me and Steve with G-pa Chin (my mom's dad) in May. (personal photo)

But now, I really feel like we are equals: two adults ready to start our own families. And for the first time, he's not just leading me; we're helping each other figure things out, and I can't wait to give back for his guidance that's gotten me this far.