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26 January 2015 @ 12:23 am
The Wedding Plans  
October went by in an almighty blur. Our wedding was November 1 and as the date got closer, I became more and more grateful that I had done a lot of the research, planning, and item procurement in the early summer, because the days just flew by. I'm a big planner and details are important to me, so I had everything planned out exactly and had a Plan B and usually a Plan C for everything. Unfortunately, it is good that I had those levels of planning since there were a bunch of things that would go wrong immediately beforehand or on the day of. Looking back, there are definitely some things that I wish had gone differently and some things I wish we had done that just didn't happen, but I'm surprised at how well I was able to just roll with the punches and I'm overall pretty happy with the way the day turned out.

I made a website through weddingwire.com and teffan helped set up an electronic Save the Date website that was hugely helpful in collecting the addresses of guests. I felt sort of cheesey about doing an electronic save the date, but since we were taking about six months from engagement to wedding, we didn't really have the time to send out two separate mailings. We ordered the wedding invitations themselves from Ann's Bridal Bargains, which again sounds cheap, but they really did have just the thing we were looking for, even after spending an inordinate amount of time looking at and ordering samples from some of the high-end stationers. Our invite was in a style called "Playbill" but it looked very much like wrought iron which completely fits our gothy style. They were seal-and-sends with an attached reply card, which I really liked because we pre-stamped them so replying was super easy for people - I always hate it when I misplace the reply card or don't have a postcard stamp! The invites were meant to be sealed with three seals - two clear ones along the sides and then either another clear one in the center or a seal of your choosing. Unfortunately, all the "wedding" seals made me want to barf, so I went looking on etsy and found just the thing. An artist had a simple but sweet seal with two spiders on a web with one spider handing a little red heart to the other. Adorkable.

The wedding was held at the local Masonic Center, which is this huge, beautiful building from the early 1900's, which fit well with our Victorian-Steampunk-Nightmare before Christmas sort of wedding theme. There is a beautiful theater upstairs that we used as a ceremony space and a large ballroom for the reception/dance. This being Wisconsin, there was always the chance of Serious Weather, so we absolutely wanted an indoor location. With Madison's "special" parking challenges and traffic patterns plus lots of out-of-town guests, we were thrilled that we could offer a combined site so no one needed to drive between the two or pay for parking twice. (Even better - one of the nicest hotels in town was about 2 blocks away and so many people were able to just walk over - you literally could not get lost, since you could see the hotel from the site and vice versa!) We also wanted a space that felt sort of "churchy" without actually being a church. Both whymc and I were raised Catholic but we have both diverged from organized religion quite substantially and trying to get married in a proper house of worship seemed heretical. The theatre was a huge open space with beautiful turn-of-the-century details like giant brass chandeliers and velvet stage curtains and dark stained wood throughout. They even had a really awesome marble-looking thigh-high podium that we used as a little ceremony-space designator. We put an assortment of gourds and flowers on the podium and around it on the floor. We were not allowed to use real candles in the theatre, so we got some very realistic-looking LED remote control candles and placed them on a glass plate, surrounded by dark black river rocks. We put one on each step of the stage, a few on the podium, and one on either side of the entrance. We used some gold cord and little signs to designate reserved seating form the immediate families, the videographer, the flower girls, the readers, and one of our "audience plants" (more on that later), but otherwise allowed everyone to sit wherever they wanted.

Not getting married in a church also opened up the question of who we were going to get to officiate. I really wanted it to be someone who knew us both, at least a little. G had a friend who is clergy and who he would have liked to have officiate, but the friend was not able to attend the wedding, so we had to think creatively about an appropriate option. After some serious thought about who we knew who was the right flavor of churchy-but-not-judgey, able to project, with good stage presence, and who could handle a crowd if things went off the rails, we decided on Lori, better known in my crowd as Bridei. She is a good friend of mine from the SCA and has known us both for at least 15 years, probably more. She is a co-owner of the local games shop and was the first queen of Northshield, so she is well familiar with how to handle freaks, geeks, and weirdos as well as high maintenance customers. We wrote our own vows and provided some themes and ideas for the ceremony, which she fleshed out with some very sweet talky bits. Of all the wedding-related decisions, I really could not be happier with our officiant and I think this was one of the places where we absolutely made an excellent decision.

One of the trade-offs of using the location we chose was that we were tied to using their caterer, which meant we had limited options to choose from. We wanted to do a buffet with multiple options so that there would be choices for our multi-allergy, multi-sensitivity, multi-weird-special-snowflake-diet friends to choose from. (We know people who claim to be everything from obligate carnivore to vegan and pretty much every stop in between.) We were disappointed that the kitchen would not make a chicken tikka masala because "it wouldn't keep well on a buffet" even though it is a staple of Indian buffets everywhere and we even offered to provide the spice mix. I was even more annoyed when we discovered that their "Cajun chicken" was chicken pieces in a tomato base. Really? You can't stir in some yogurt and some spices to make the bride happy? Apparently not. Anyway, we ended up choosing the "cajun chicken", a roast beef, and a roast pork, along with two (count them TWO!) cheesey potato options (au gratin and parmesean), as well as a variety of forgettable vegetables and salads and relish trays.

The cakes I wanted to be simple, but classy affairs - just a simple leaves and vines design out of the same frosting that the cakes were frosted in for a nice monochromatic look. We had them made by the local highly recommended cake maker - Carl's Cakes - instead of by CostCo, since G wanted more interesting flavors than the chocolate and vanilla offered by CostCo. We decided on a giant chocolate layer cake from CostCo as the decorated wedding cake and sheet cakes from Carl's as the serving cakes, since we were more interested in deliciousness than having a giant tiered monstrosity. It just is not easy to have a cake that is good, stable, and will serve 200. :P We decided on three full sheet cakes - one carrot with cream cheese, one chocolate with raspberry filling and mocha frosting, and one with chocolate cake, ganache filling and ganache frosting. The cutting cake was from CostCo, just off the rack, and decorated with a Jack and Sally (Nightmare Before Christmas) topper I constructed from purchased figurines and clay. As a bonus, I purchased and brought one of those cakes to my grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary party about two weeks before the wedding - I figured it had to be good juju to have the same cake served both places. The cakes caused me a moment of panic about two weeks out from the wedding when I was calling around to confirm the various orders and details with the vendors and Carl's initially could not find my order. Luckily, we were still in plenty of time to get the order in since we were just ordering sheet cakes, and I confirmed the cake types as well as the leaves and vines and maybe pumpkins design for the frosting. Whew! Crisis averted, right?

The rings were actually a funny story. I knew I needed a lot more shopping time than G, so I spent a few afternoons looking in jewelers' shops. Some of them clearly didn't believe me that I was wedding ring shopping on my own and didn't buy that a girl would accept a blue sapphire instead of a giant shiny diamond. Anyway, it mostly just meant that I could shop in peace. I decided I really liked the pretty simple milgrain-edged bands - they are pretty without being fussy and don'th ave any deep nooks and crannies to catch crap in. G and I agreed that we were looking for a silver tone metal and that we probably wanted titanium or similar instead of silver or white gold, since I am sort of hard on jewelry. Shopping for rings with G was actually a hoot. The salespeople kept trying to pressure G into getting the diamond-encrusted monstrosities that I "really wanted" or tried implying to me that I should go big on this since it was going to be "the most important day of my life!" *eye roll* The other concern was that I have TINY fingers - like size 4.5 or so - and none of the jewelers could get a titanium band that small, since they were mostly meant for men, since girls clearly couldn't want a durable plain band. Ugh. So, intartubes to the rescue! We did some googling and some Amazon surfing to find that G could have exactly what he wanted for a very reasonable amount and I could too, if I was willing to spend considerably more because of my unusual size. And, just to be clear, "reasonable" translated to about $7 and "considerably more" to about $75. :P We had some anxiety over whether we were being TOO cheap, but eventually decided that, regardless of the absolute cost, these were the rings we actually most wanted, so that's what we ordered... Nothing wedding related is ever that easy, though, and over the following weeks, while G's ring fit perfectly right off the bat, I went several rounds with several different jewelry stores to try to get a ring to fit. The 4.5 at one store was too big, but that was their smallest size. The 4 of exactly the same model at a different store was too small. They didn't have a 4.5, so sent me a 5, which was a bit too big... and exactly the same size as the "4.5" the first jeweler sent me. By that time, we were very close to the wedding and I decided to just use the 5 and wait for the 4.5 to be in stock in December. I figured the engagement ring could hold it on as a temporary measure. (Turns out the 4.5 is out of stock for an extended period of time, but as ling as my hands are not cold and dry, the ring stays on OK. I have to be a little careful in taking gloves off, but we can make it work.)

The flowers were another place where we did some economizing. We got a few quotes for what we wanted and they were all just crazy expensive. I'm sorry, but I just could not see spending $3K on FLOWERS that would be dead in less than a week. We were still hunting for a Plan when I ran across some little ceramic haunted houses at the Dollar Store. They also had little gargoyles and trees and fences that were just perfect. I thought we could put the fences and trees around the base of the cake to make it look like the graveyard where Jack and Sally finally get together (adorkable!) and that the haunted houses could be incorporated into the centerpieces. teffan helped by getting more little trees from Minneapolis when I exhausted the Madison supply. whymc and I thought about what we wanted for the rest of the centerpieces and came up with a base that was a shallow, shiny black bowl from IKEA filled with pea gravel from Menards with the little haunted houses illuminated by tiny LEDs and surrounded by "trees" of little thorne tree sticks. We were trying to think of how to incorporate some color beyond the little pumpkin beads I'd found when Deena found Just The Thing - she literally garbage-picked some tiny pumpkins out of the burn pile at the university. I had never seen such a thing, but they were tiny, perfect little pumpkins on a stick, about two inches in diameter each. They are apparently actually little eggplants! In any event, I searched high and low and, after identifying what they were, was able to pick up a few bunches at the Trader Joes and they became our color for our centerpieces! :D


We carried the Halloween theme through to our seating chart and wedding favors. I ordered some Halloween-themed glass beads from Oriental Trading and Fire Mountain Beads - We had black cats, bats, monsters, ghosts, mummies, and candy corn for the babies. Then the groups each were assigned a color by the ribbon they were strung on (i.e., red mummies, blue cats) and I tried to arrange the tables so that like-minded folks were seated together (drunks by the bar, immediate family close to head table, families with young children near the kids' activity table. Since we were having so many short people attend, I made arrangements to leave 1/3 of the hall open (in addition to the dance floor) and had a table full of kids' activities - coloring books, crayons, paper, color-your-own masks, scratch-off masks, glow sticks, some other small toys. y There was even a craft opportunity for the adults - I put out cords so people could turn their seating token into a necklace and some black fishhook earrings in case someone wanted to scam extras from the table and turn it into a matching necklace and earring set.

For signage, programs, and menus, I scanned the invite and then adjusted it with MSPaint to create a border and then used Publisher to create the internal text. We printed off the menus and other informational signage on paper that matched the invites, mounted them on black foam core, and that completed the decor.

whymc was primarily in charge of the music, since that really is more of his thing. In recent years, he has spent a lot of time DJing friends' weddings, even once being the Best Man and the DJ at the same wedding, but happily he was not crazy enough to think he could be the groom and the DJ at once. :P His friend Trae familiarized himself with the AV equipment and ran the sound effects for the wedding and the reception.

We had not wanted to spend tooo much on a photographer, but after looking around awhile, we realized that if we wanted photos in a style that we liked, we were probably going to have to spend more than we had planned. After awhile, though, we decided that it would be worth it, since it would be the lasting part of the day. We found a photographer who we liked personally and who's work we liked and pared down his basic package to pretty much just the time shooting the day of, no engagement shoot, no giant prints. Chris was a very interesting and engaging guy and I was comfortable that none of this was going to faze him at all - he was tattooed and loud and would fit right in with most of our people. He was amused by a lot of the details he heard in advance and seemed to be flexible to roll with the sorts of things we wanted. As a bonus - he and his wife work as a team, so there would be two shooters throughout most of the day, meaning even more of the day would be covered. I was particularly pleased that they were willing to do a shot that I dreampt up - we didn't want to do a receiving line because we were going to have a huge attendance and G's mom was really not going to be able to handle that sort of press of people. Also, while greeting each person individually is nice, we are big on the ideas of community and chosen family and didn't want to make people stand in line when they could all be downstairs getting their party on. Sooo...it occurred to me that the theater has stadium seating and it was possible to get all of the attendees into one section, therefore, in lieu of a receiving line, we would ask everyone who wanted to join us to be in a giant group portrait. :)

My initial plan for the dress was that I would have a friend of mine in Minneapolis make me a gorgeous green velvet Victorian gown from the fabric I have had in the basement for 15 years, thinking it would be my wedding dress. However, my mom was super disappointed that she would not get to go dress shopping with either of her daughters (my sister had been living states away when she picked out her dress), so I scheduled some appointments to get an idea of what I might want but really believed I would end up commissioning that green velvet dress. Well, after a few initial visits to bridal salons, I started thinking that *maybe* I did want a proper wedding gown because, really, this was a one-time shot, right? What I initially had in mind was a sleek, net or lace overlay gown - think Downton Abbey ballgowns - but nothing really worked on me the way I had hoped. Mermaid styles were right out - I have a ton of hip - and strapless too was out of the question - I just didn't feel secure, no matter how firmly boned the corset. But then we found just the thing - it looked like a dress out of a Victorian fashion magazine. It was WAY more dress that I had planned on, with a really excessive train and heavy beading and embroidery. It was also WAY more expensive than I would have even considered except that it was a sample dress at an outlet, so it was about 30% of the original cost. I loved it, despite the little bits of wear and damage from being a sample dress that needed to be cleaned up and the fact that it would need straps to be added. My mom insisted on buying it for me and that was that! I was able to layer a chiffon over a silk base to create a strap that looked remarkably like the base fabric of the dress. I ordered some silver leaf trim from online and beaded the heck out of it to make it match the dress. Another length of the trim was beaded (mostly by my friend Roxy) and little toupee clips attached to create a "tiara" that would not slip away on my too-smooth hair. The dress actually reminds me a lot of this one by Worth:

The veil was another item I was uncertain about but, with the traditional gown, I felt like I wanted a traditional veil, but I hated most of the floofy things that were on the market. I also HATE tulle, had avoided it in the dress, and did not really want that much plastic on me on my wedding day. I hemmed and hawed for a goodly long time, looking at silk and cotton tulles, silks, and even entertaining the idea of a little fascinator, before deciding on a super sheer soft silk from Thai Silks. When it arrived, it was very white and my dress was cream, so I lightly dyed it to make it match. I'm big on symbolism, so I used tea (for me), coffee (for G), Scotch (for us), and a tiny bit of a super hot pepper oil we bought in Istanbul (where we got engaged). Nerdy, but it made me happy. I had planned on just doing Eithni's Magic Veil Stitch to roll the hem, but one of my bridesmaids (gflower) offered to bead the edge of the veil to make it lie nicely and to give it a more finished look. Usually I'm a "I'll do it myself!" kind of girl, but I've been practicing accepting help and so happily said yes.

Which I suppose brings us to the cast of characters! Our officiant, as mentioned above, was the Queen Mum of Northshield. whymc and eithni were the principals. My "bridesmaids" were my sister, my first apprentice Denis, and my good friend gflower. G's "groomsmen" were his best frined Ken, his good friend Grace, and another good friend Zach. (It actually worked out well that we each had one gender-swapped member on our parties - we looked very coordinated!) The flower girls were two friends of ours, both in their 20's, and so decades older than flower girls usually are, but it was a fun addition and meant less worry about the ceremony or photo staging. My second apprentice and best friend, Liz, is not comfortable with being in front of crowds (for all that she's been Queen of Northshield twice!) and so she agreed to be the videographer. Our readers were Deena, a long-time mutual friend of ours who had been instrumental in getting us back together, and Jenna, a good friend of Greg's.

So, that was the Grand Plan... Of course, nothing ever goes perfectly smoothly, but those are adventures for another post...

Current Mood: happyhappy
carrot_khan on February 2nd, 2015 03:47 pm (UTC)
Can confirm, sapphire rings make the best engagement/wedding rings. ;)

Seamus and I attended his cousin's wedding in New Orleans not long after we were engaged. There was a high end antique store there (whatever isn't a bar seems to be an antique store....) and the jewelry cases were _loaded_ with diamond/sapphire rings. Apparently at the turn of the last century, that was the fashion for engagement rings. Fits well with your vintage wedding.
eithni: Bustlingeithni on February 16th, 2015 03:47 am (UTC)
Awesome! I didn't know but am pleased that it works with the theme!