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.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thank God for Cepacol

We've been a pair of sickies for the past week or so.

It started off with Sharon's bad cough. Every morning, she has struggled to get to work, coughing (or "barking," as I lovingly call it) and muttering in a sea-hag voice "I gotta save my time off for the wedding!" (Even though it's at least a year away.) It's amazing what people will do when their jobs offer comprehensive leave (i.e., a sick day counts the same as a vacation day). Soon, I got into the act, making sure I had Kleenex boxes appropriately scattered throughout the house.

Apparently we're not alone, as a friend of mine recently asked Twitter the difference between throat lozenges and cough drops (and surprisingly got 8 responses). There is a difference, at least in my mind. Cough drops prevent coughing, and lozenges help ease sore throats. Let me tell you, those lozenges are a lifesaver in the morning. They can be the difference between making it to work and falling back in bed, defeated.

It's fair to say that we both miss our California weather. The worst of the winter appears to be behind us, but we can't wait for April!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nordstrom enters the wedding world!

Weddings can be super stressful. Nordstrom prides itself in customer service. What's a better combination?

I've been a Nordstrom junkie since my mom and grandparents first took me to a mall. I even joined the teen Fashion Board at my local store in high school. And I worked in both women's clothing and the spa during breaks from college. There's just something about getting a quality product with impeccable service that will never go out of style.

So when I loaded the Nordstrom site last night to check out the latest shoe sale and saw this, I squealed:

(all screenshots via

Even before the engagement, I knew from my obsession with this site that Nordstrom stocked off-the-rack wedding dresses, better described as whitish evening gowns, and for a more casual, designer-doesn't-matter gal like me, that's a great fit. But you had to get lucky searching through the occasion dress section and hope something ivory popped up, like one of my favorite Weddingbee bloggers did.

But this new section is a one-stop shop. The mini-site is organized by wedding role (bride, groom, mothers, etc.) and within that has links to all the necessities (undergarments, shoes, attire, etc.). Once you pick your category, Nordstrom's usual awesome search features let you sort by price and even narrow by size or color.

 Not to mention, how cute are those shoes?

What sets this apart from just your usual shopping experience is that there's also a fabric guide to consider how things would feel and look, a wedding FAQ page to get everything answered at once, and best of all, a list of in-store wedding specialists. OMG, I would DIE to have that job! Even if you're not near a stylist, Nordstrom touts that there's one available via online chat or over the phone.

And the best part about using Nordstrom as a wedding resource is that if you don't like it, you can return it in store or through the mail. No hassles, no pesky restrictions. The company makes it really that simple.

And isn't simple what you'd love to hear while wedding planning?

Do you love Nordstrom as much as I do? What do you think about department stores getting in on the wedding game?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Counterpoint: Invest in guests (and chairs!)

Greg just argued that the type of chairs a wedding has shouldn't matter to the couple. While I agree that overly minute details shouldn't be stressed over, I find that making guests feel special is a must. You already feel awesome because it's one of the happiest days of your life.

First off, being a guest can be hard work. In our case, we'll have a good chunk of out-of-town guests who have to coordinate getting time off work, paying for a flight and hotel, and navigating around a new city. Though some may scoff at this notion ("oh, it's no trouble," "we love you and we'll be there no matter what"), there is a tendency to "make it worth their while" with the couple still having a fun (and not budget-breaking!) time. For many couples, a holiday weekend wedding seems awesome because the time off is already built in, but for guests who may already have plans, it could be more like:

P.S. We don't plan on doing this.

Secondly, most of the time it boils down to balancing practicality with pretty. Sure, you can have the finest silk for your tablecloths and napkins, but most guests won't care; I agree with Greg on this. But I have different reasoning: Yes, colored linens add to the pretty factor and can dress up a table, but guests' interaction with linens is minimal. They're supposed to get dirty; it's not like you're taking one home as a souvenir.

That could also be said for a chair, but think about all that a guest has to sit through: dinner, toasts, cake, breaks from dancing. And if you're anything like me, when you want to sit, you want to be comfortable. And there's no denying that sometimes a plastic chair just doesn't feel right:

And as for the pretty factor, fancier chairs could save money by adding a stylish touch. Below, the top pic features ho-hum folding chairs dressed up with chair covers and sashes. The other photo is of the coveted chivari chairs. Sure, each chair costs more, but unless the venue includes the extra linens for the first ones, those could take a chunk of your budget, too.

So enough about chairs: My point is that guests matter a lot, and you want things to be functional and pretty for them — and therefore yourself because you'll be at the party, too! :) When looking at my budget, I'll put the group (venue, food, drinks, music, decor - to some extent, etc.) before things that only affect me (dress, primping, etc.).

Have any tips for negotiating being practical and pretty for a wedding? Where would you cut back?

Point: Chairs are important (so I'm told)

I am learning all about chivari chairs, thanks to Sharon. Apparently, chairs are a big deal. One venue Web site we're looking at (a secret for now!) has a three-sentence description, and somehow the type of chairs warrants a mention.

I mostly agree with some of the post titles linked at Weddingbee, such as "Could I Be Obsessing Over Anything Sillier?" and "Stupid Things I Think About." The former talks about how rentals of chivaris will up her chair budget from $200 to $1,000.

I wonder if brides place more importance (and therefore spend more money) on certain elements than they need to. Sure, they want quality everything, but at an otherwise beautiful ceremony, will people remember the chairs, tablecloths, and napkins? Maybe it's best to skimp on these items and spend more on the venue itself.

A counterpoint from Sharon is forthcoming.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mixing at the Punk Rock Bride party

The magical aspect about blogs is that you can read one post and somehow find yourself linked to sites you now love but you would have never found on your own. That's how I came across A Foxy Wedding, written by Jessica, a local freelance writer with a wealth of wedding knowledge. She was hosting a giveaway of free passes to a party launching the 2010 collection by Stephanie of Punk Rock Bride here in D.C. I tried my luck, and it paid off; I hopped on the bus Thursday night, and it was tons of fun for this bride-to-be.

Disclaimer: I realized once I got there that my camera battery had died, so sorry for the lack of photos, but I'll link you to the eye candy. :)

The party was held at the Punk Rock Bride studio on Capitol Hill, complete with an industrial feel and a huge graffiti mural along one wall. At first, I was surprised that the five models wearing the new designs were just towering over me standing around, but they were super friendly and let everyone examine the gowns, feel them and ask about how it felt to wear them.

Despite knowing that a designer gown probably isn't within my budget, I couldn't resist drooling over one of the five new designs, Grace, which A Foxy Wedding followed through the production process. The brocade fabric was intricately beautiful and substantial enough to hold up to some San Francisco weather. And I liked that it was still elegant with no thoughts of "I look like a stupid cake topper."

The rest of the two hour party was spent meeting fellow brides interested in Stephanie's designs and many wedding planners and vendors. It was a great experience to sip on champagne and be able to talk to people who live and breathe weddings. Thanks again to A Foxy Wedding for picking me to attend this party!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Back on track after some bridal burnout

It's been awhile since my last post, but I swear I'm making progress, which can be called a blessing and a curse.

The good news is that I've been corresponding tons with potential venues and vendors. I won't ruin any surprises or jinx myself, but let's just say there are some strong contenders. I'm still focused on San Francisco spots but contacting others throughout the Bay Area to at least get numbers for comparison. It's crazy how booked places get for next spring/summer and it's more than a year away.

And then the bad news — I officially had my first bout of wedding-planning breakdown this week. I realized that at some points, I'd become kind of a zombie — talking, texting, reading, e-mailing about it in every spare moment. I felt lost and overwhelmed in a sea of ideas, opinions, spreadsheets and MATH (ugh).

I get pouty over rain or "Sharon being a wet blanket."
(personal photo)

Some of my more conservative readers are probably wondering why I'm telling you all this, but (1) I find it therapeutic and (2) it really shows the nature of being engaged. I've grown a lot to get to this point in my life, and now all I've learned about negotiation, communication and compromise are being put to the test. This is not easy stuff, but I know it'll all pay off and I'll feel so proud in the end.

And of course, the bright light through all my stress is probably the reason I'm still a sane (enough) person to begin with. Being the brilliant fiance he is, Greg stayed awake until 4 a.m., listened to me moan and groan about all that was ailing me, said all the right things and brought me back to reality.

I'm learning to relax and regroup, thanks to my best buddy.
(personal photo from recent trip to Mexico)

I'm fortunate that this happened after only being engaged a couple of months; I've gained a lot of perspective on the beast that is weddings and the beast that is (sometimes) me. And knowing I have someone so compatible helping me along the way doesn't just make me happy that I'm planning our wedding, it makes me ecstatic that I'm getting ready for our marriage.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010