Thursday, January 29, 2009

We've been married a year!

Technically speaking anyway, yesterday was our one year anniversary. I've mentioned before that we were married before our wedding so that I could hop on P's health insurance. It also made other stuff that we did last year easier--like buying a house and generally combining finances.
While getting married at the courthouse in Sacramento is a very anticlimactic occasion (lots of filling out forms and listening to them talk about STI's and genetic defects in children), we still took some pictures and dressed up a bit.

My parents got married in the same spot when I was a baby (so they could get into family student housing...we're a very practical family), so they came along to be our witnesses. Did you know that you have to pay to have a witness if you don't bring your own?!? Sort of crazy.

Actually, I think that the hearts everywhere were just up because it was close to Valentine's Day, not for general wedding decor. When we went in I was sort of nervous that they'd think we were crazy for dressing up, but there were several other couples there and a few of them were in wedding gear. One woman even had this giant poofy 1980s wedding dress on!

While my parents took us out to dinner last year, we're feeling the whole recession thing right now so we stayed in last night, made dinner, and drank a bottle of nice wine that someone gave us as a wedding gift. Not a bad first anniversary (and we get another one in September!).

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Because our wedding was at a home, we had limited space for parking on site. One of the many dilemmas of having a backyard wedding.

Since shuttles from hotels weren't in our budget, we decided to ask the elementary school just down the street from my parent's home if people could park there. Honestly, I wasn't very hopeful. I can't imagine that it's great for liability to have a bunch of people parking on school grounds who will be attending a big party. But my mom asked, and surprisingly they were totally fine with it. They even put it on their office calendar in case any teachers showed up that day and were alarmed by the number of cars in the lot.

(School bus photo via Elizabeth Anne Designs)

When we sent out the invitations they included a quick note about where to park and mentioned that those who couldn't make the short walk were welcome to park in my parent's driveway.

All in all this worked out well, and might be a good option for some of you having an at-home wedding (or really any wedding with no on-site parking and a large parking lot nearby that you know will be empty on weekends).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Budget Dessert without Compromising Quality

I posted before the wedding about our decision to serve both cake and pie at our wedding, but thought I'd do a quick recap of how we vastly over-ordered on dessert and still felt like we got a great deal.

First, you probably won't need near as much dessert as wedding websites and cake bakers would like you to believe. We had 100 people, and we kept hearing that six 8-inch cakes and six pies wasn't going to be enough.

I hid one pie for the next day, but we ended up having two full cakes left, and most of another pie. Our caterer cut everything up into those tiny slices and people didn't realize they could take more than one of them so that didn't help the matter much.

But I can't say I really minded having leftover cake and pie, so go ahead and over-order if you're like me! Do keep in mind that some venues won't let you take your leftovers home. It has to do with liability and often isn't negotiable, as my cousin found out when they dumped half her wedding cake.

But even with rampant over-ordering, having lots of individual desserts was much cheaper than ordering a wedding cake (even a simple one). Twelve desserts ended up costing at total of $270. And they weren't discount desserts either. The cakes we had are from the best bakery in Sacramento. I was afraid to even ask what their wedding cakes cost--I'm pretty sure they are at least $500 and up for the number of guests we had. Which really makes no sense if you consider the amount of cake we had. And all we sacrificed was the appearance of a big custom cake! And the pies were special ordered from a woman who used to bake for Chez Panisse, and made with fresh, local ingredients.

I'd highly recommend going this route if you are on a budget and looking for quality cakes. Just keep in mind that you might end up eating cake and pie every meal for a week afterward!

Details: Creating an outdoor seating area

Paul and I had a very lazy weekend. He's been busy lately so he swore off work for all of Saturday AND Sunday. No work emails, no checking his blackberry, nothing. I was pretty impressed that he pulled it off. We spent the time going on a hike, cooking semi-elaborate meals, having friends over, and other odds and ends.

None of that is at all relevant to what I'm about to post, except for to say, that I've had a good excuse for not posting in a few days!

So one of the things that I knew I wanted at our wedding was an outdoor seating area. Couches, floor pillows, a fire pit, the works. Since our wedding was in my parent's yard, they offered to let me drag their living room furniture outside. Have I mentioned that I love how flexible my parents are?

I was given a Crate & Barrel gift card from my old office as an early wedding present, so I used that to buy a rug and some floor pillows that I knew we'd reuse in our house. And I lugged up a big chair I love, because I thought it would look cute in pictures (and I'm going to admit that is a crazy reason to bring a hundred pound chair anywhere).

We set the lounge up on the pool deck, which was located just close enough to the dance floor to be a good place to take a break and people watch, but just far enough away from the DJ to carry on a conversation.
After dark we lit torches all around the patio and floating candles in the pool, got the fire pit going, and people sat around on the couches and curled up in quilts on the rug. One of the great mysteries of our wedding is how there isn't a single picture of it! I've put out a request to my friends in hope someone has one that they've been hiding from me, so if something shows up I'll be sure and post it here.

Having the seating area was a great, super easy addition to the wedding (particularly since we could use stuff we already had on site). People don't really want to sit at tables after they are done eating, and it gave them somewhere to be if they didn't want to dance. I have no idea how much this would cost, but I was at a wedding recently where they primarily rented couches instead of tables and chairs. They did have a few tables for those who needed or wanted them, but in general it was perfectly fine, and a lot more comfortable for seating once people were done with their food.

My brother-in-law & his girlfriend at the couch-seating wedding.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Since I'm done recapping...

Now that I've got the general recap posts out of the way I have a bit more space to write about the details of the wedding, the diy projects, and some other odds and ends.

I can also respond to M&M's post tagging me (though I'm not going to tag anyone else).

Rules - List 5 Obsessions/Addictions that you have, and tag back to the person(s) that gave you the award. Post the rules and tag and additional 5 people.

1. Taking pictures. After my nice camera was taken in Argentina, I've been living with a camera that runs on AA batteries. It's not my favorite, but I'm dealing since we can't afford to buy me a dSLR right now and I'm holding out for that.

2. Blogs. Obviously, I guess. I've had one since I was in high school. That's about ten years of blogging now. Pretty wild. I blog about my life outside my wedding here.

3. Traveling, but particularly hotels. Not necessarily swanky hotels, but I love seeing how different hotels, b&b's, hostels are run, who stays there, etc. My obsession grew when I worked as an innkeeper.

4. Food, but particularly cooking people breakfast. After working as an innkeeper, I became an expert breakfast food cook. I love having breakfast parties and cooking for groups of friends. I'm learning to become more confident cooking non-breakfast foods. Food is also very political for me. We try and eat locally as much as possible and I've cut back my meat consumption to just grass-fed, free range stuff.

5. California. I've never lived anywhere else and it's really hard to imagine doing so. It's diverse in every way--the climate, the politics, the landscape. We've got big cities and wide open spaces. Very conservative areas and San Francisco. It's endlessly fascinating.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can big be done on a budget?

Someone emailed me recently to ask how big my wedding was, hoping that I wasn't saying I'd planned a 10k wedding for fifty people.

Nope. We had just around 100 people there. And we'd actually invited around 130 and budgeted for 115, knowing that some people wouldn't show up. And, going against all wedding advice, we did tell some people that they could come, but that they wouldn't necessarily get chairs and that we might put them to work. They were friends of my sisters, and we wouldn't have been able to invite them otherwise, so they understood and it ended up working out so they could even eat :)

We ended up having a bit of extra money because a few less people came than our budget allowed for, which we used to help pay for the B&B we stayed at with our wedding party as a thank you to them.
Edited to add a link to our budget (per a request).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recap: They've got moves

Paul and I love to dance, so having good dance music at our wedding was very important to us. While we originally thought that having a band was a priority for us, as we thought about it more we realized that with our budget and our mixed group of friends, having a DJ who could play a diverse selection of music would be a better idea.

Luckily, when Paul was in college he spent a year managing his college radio station. One of the perks of him basically living in the radio station basement for a year, is that he can forever use the DJ equipment and pull from the radio station stacks. We put together a list of suggestions for his friend (who also DJ'd at the radio station with him) and then left the rest to him. What he came up with was an awesome selection of music--from funk and soul to hip hop to electronica pop dancy stuff. It was a good time.

Starting out the night. We didn't do a first dance because nobody needs to watch me sway around with P. for two minutes. We had the DJ set up on my parent's hot tub deck, which doubled as a way to mask the hot tub from looking ugly.

The jacket came off pretty fast, and I'm already not wearing shoes.

We had some amazing kids at our wedding. I couldn't imagine not having young folks there. Their parents were all ready to leave way before they were!

After a bit of dancing, and I think for a lot of people, more of the sangria, the dancing got a little crazy (and hilarious).

There was apparently an unofficial, off the dance floor party, going on as well.

My husband's step-sister isn't near old enough to drink sangria, but she had insane moves. She challenged my sister's boyfriend to a dance-off, which turned into several of our friends and relatives break dancing (which, unfortunately, nobody really got a great picture of).

I think P. is pretty dang sexy when he dances. I, on the other hand, look like a crazy fool...
My dress kept coming unbustled, so I tied it in a knot.
Our friends changed into their jeans and converse, because why not?

And my hair came down...
And suddenly it was a good idea to get down on the floor to take a picture.
And I don't even know what happened here...
My friends are going to love me for posting these pictures on the internet!

The night ended around midnight or so. In part because some of our guests were camping in my parent's yard and had started to go to bed, and in part because I was really, really tired. We'd thought about going to a bar to after party, but we ended up just heading back to the B&B for sleep.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Details: Food (yum!)

I've been so unmotivated to post the last few days that I've actually had this post written and just didn't log in to stick in the pictures and hit the post button! But I have a few posts half written and the husband is out of town this week, so I'm sure I'll be posting more than usual.

Before the wedding we went back and forth about having our wedding catered versus doing it ourselves. I know many, many people who love to cook (myself included) so I knew that we could pull off a home cooked meal. However, I wanted my parents to be able to enjoy some of our wedding reception. And since the wedding was at their house, I knew if all the food was on them, they would be occupied a whole lot more than they needed to be.

Our compromise was to have the main dish done by a caterer while a group of us did the appetizers and sides ourselves. Finding a caterer to do that was actually much easier than I thought it would be. There aren't many caterers in Redding, so we ended up going with Roots Catering, out of Chico, CA. They use local foods as much as possible, they are family run, and they were cheap.

For appetizers we decided to go relatively simple. I ordered goat cheese from a local goat farm, we bought fruit from a farm stand near my parent's house, and crackers, nuts, olives, and dried fruit from Trader Joe's. I roasted some of the almonds with sugar and lavender, but everything else was just as we bought it. The day before the wedding we put most of the food in the bowls and covered them for the night. And right before the ceremony, my younger sister and mom set everything up on the table in just a few minutes. It was plenty of food, easy to do, and cheap.

For dinner, we had our caterers do two simple main dishes--Mediterranean chicken and mushroom polenta--and then a side of grilled vegetables. Again, we wanted to do something quick and easy to prepare, so the two salads we made were a caprese salad and a simple mixed green salad.

For the caprese we combined cherry tomatoes in a variety of colors from the same farm stand as the fruit (she gave us a deal for buying several flats of them), the small mozzarella balls from Trader Joe's (no need to even cut them up!), basil from my parent's garden, chopped garlic, and olive oil.

The green salad was going to just be mixed greens, pecans, dried cranberries, and goat cheese with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice over the top, but in throwing everything together in the kitchen, some tomatoes were put in too.

The salads were prepared by my mom, with help from my sister, and my best friend's mom and sister. I think it took them about twenty minutes to put them together (most of that was spent realizing they couldn't find the dishes I'd set out to put them in and scrambling through my parent's kitchen to find bowls).

We also purchased bread from Trader Joe's and served that with butter that my little sister obsessively pre-sliced for people.

In total we spent $1700 on food ($17/person) for excellent, mostly local, organic food. From what I priced other caterers in California to be, I think that's a pretty good deal. The caterer charged us $10/person for what they did (including tip), and our food came out to $700 total. And we did have a ton of food leftover, including about $100 worth of goat cheese that we happily ate for about a month afterward and enough dried fruit that we are still working on it.

Some things that made doing our own food easier included:

-Being flexible. We showed up at the farm stand on Thursday before the wedding and basically bought the fruit and veggies they had. That saved us money and we were able to support a local business.
-Using Trader Joe's. I originally wanted only local food. When I realized that it was going to be cost prohibitive, I settled for Trader Joe's organic. Which isn't really a bad thing to settle for all things considered.
-Not doing anything too crazy. Originally we wanted to make this awesome corn salad, but after thinking about how much work it would be, went with the caprese salad. And nobody missed the corn salad they didn't know they'd missed! Doing simple food for appetizers was also a huge time saver. The most complicated thing we did for that was to cut up the plums.
-Setting up all the dishes ahead of time. I made a box for each portion of the meal (salads, bread, appetizers, etc), with all the serving dishes and utensils in it and directions for each dish. Although the salad box apparently went missing, in general the system worked and I didn't have to worry about setting anything up on my wedding day.

Let me know if you have questions about the food or doing your own food for the wedding. It was a great experience for us, and I'm really happy with the way it all turned out. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Wedding Recap: Dinner & Dessert

On our budget, a day of coordinator wasn't going to happen. Our dj was also a friend of ours, and while he's a great dj, didn't also want to play MC and boss everyone around. That meant that once the reception started, things happened when they happened. No dinner exactly at six or cake cutting at seven on the dot. Things just happened.

I'm going to do a detailed food post later, but our dinner was a combination of do it yourself and a very flexible caterer.
At one point before dinner I walked into my parent's kitchen and found my mom, my sister, my best friend/brideswoman, her mom, and her sister all making salads. While some of you are probably thinking that I shouldn't have had to go in the kitchen, that we all should have been out enjoying the party, I promise that all of these women were more than happy to take a few minutes for the sake of salad. We had a strict, nobody is obligated to help, but we know we have enough friends who will want something to do to make it work, policy.

We served dinner buffet style. There was some attempt to have people go by table, but as soon as people saw the buffet line, they were in it. Unfortunately, that meant that people at the same table, didn't necessarily have their food at the same time, and didn't necessarily eat together.

Although part of the joy of having a very casual wedding was that people who showed up to an empty table just went and sat with another group. Problem solved!

I had no sense of time all day, so I'm not actually sure how long dinner took. I do know, based on our iPod playlists, that we ran out of our two hour and twenty minutes of music (from the end of the ceremony) sometime around the middle-end of dinner. One of our friends ran up and stuck his iPod in for the rest of dinner so our dj could finish eating. I wouldn't have realized that happened except that he was sitting at my table. People are stealthily helpful.

In planning the wedding, P. and I had decided that we wouldn't make a big deal about cutting the cake and pie we had for dessert. But since we'd both been busy mingling for most of the reception to that point, and it felt like we hadn't even really seen each other, we decided to cut the pie together instead of just having the caterer do it. We didn't really make (or even encourage) people to watch us, though it ended up happening a bit. The kids at our wedding were particularly interested in the whole bit--mostly because they were trying to scope out the different flavors we had available.

Since our dinner playlist (that I'd carefully selected to end with dessert music) was long since gone, our friend switched up his iPod to Devotchka for pie cutting & dessert. I highly recommend Devotchka for cake/pie cutting music. I can't tell you how many people came up to us to ask who it was (or if it was Devotchka). Even our photographer was excited. And if you don't know who Devotchka is--for shame! Go listen now!

Since we'd had our pie first, while people were finishing up their dessert, we got the dancing started.

Up next in recaps: Break dancing, I get down on the ground, my dress gets tied in a knot, and other legit and non-legit behavior...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

DIY: Dying a Petticoat

Someone asked, so I thought I'd write a quick post on dying a petticoat. You can occasionally find them online, but it was so cheap and easy to make one, you should just go for it.

Step One: Find a white petticoat. Mine was $5 at the antique mall near my house. There are used ones at thrift stores all over the place. They also sell them various places online and I'm sure bridal shops will sell you one for an insane price.
Step Two: Find dye in your preferred brand/color. I used Rit, because I did the dying on a whim and just walked down the street to my local drugstore and that's what they had.

Step Three: Follow the directions on the box. Seriously. I assume they must be different for every brand. Mine basically told me to wash the item in the washing machine with the dye. You let it sit for a bit at the beginning of the wash cycle. Watch the color in that part--that's where you have control over how intense it gets.

When the petticoat is washing, stop it occasionally to untwist it. Wear gloves or you'll end up with colored hands like I did! If you don't untwist it you'll have a crazy, swirled petticoat.
Step Four: Take the petticoat out and dry it. I dried mine in the drier on a low heat with a towel I didn't care about (in case it was leaking dye at all).

After it was dry, I washed the towel in the washing machine to soak up any remaining dye in the washer.
Initially I was concerned that since most petticoats are polyester, the dye wouldn't take. I actually left it sitting in the dye longer than the box said because of that. And I ended up with a super saturated yellow colored petticoat! So surprisingly (to me at least), Rit will dye cheap poly fabric and netting. The only part that didn't take the dye was the lace at the bottom and the elastic at the waist.

Wedding Recap: Reception, Part 1

Very continently, our ceremony was in my parent's front yard and our reception was on their back lawn. They call it their mullet house (business in the front, party in the back). So after the ceremony everyone signed the wedding certificate and helped us move the chairs to the backyard (an easy way to save $100 or so--only rent one set of chairs).

P. and I ended up getting stuck at the fence between the front and back saying hi to people in an impromptu receiving line. I can't really say I particularly enjoyed that part of the night. Taking pictures with an endless stream of people wasn't that fun and we didn't really get any time to ourselves after the ceremony. While it did give us a chance to say hi to some people I didn't talk to again during the reception, in hind site I wish we had ducked into the reception and not waited out there.

(As an aside, I made that path by deconstructing a wood pile my dad was going to get rid of, placing the logs in a path, and then raking the middle. It was very easy, free, and a good way to get people where we wanted them.)

While we were out doing the meet & greet, people were out back having a good time drinking, eating appetizers, and playing with the photobooth.

At some point we made our way into the reception, and I went straight for the food...
My mom arranged the appetizers. She had been insisting she could do it herself, but I was happy to see that some friends stepped in to help set them up and keep them filled and let her enjoy the party too.

That happened with a lot of things at our reception... Since we hadn't hired many official vendors, friends and family were doing a lot of the work. It was nice to see other people step in to help them or relieve them so everyone could enjoy the party.

During appetizers and dinner we'd set up a play list on our iPod so our DJ/friend could hang out with us and eat. That turned out really well and I'd highly recommend the iPod as background music.
I have two younger sisters. While the middle one really wanted to be a bridesmaid (it was the first thing she said when I told her I was getting married), the younger one did not want any part of it. I was sort of sad to not have her around most of the day while we were taking pictures, so we spent some time together at the reception (and you'll see later that I made her dance for the first time in her life...she's a shy one).

While we were all playing in the backyard, the puppies where playing and getting love from our friends...
Hazel (our puppy) doesn't normally look so chubby, but she was getting fed people food left and right that weekend. By Monday morning her poor stomach looked like it was going to explode. She seemed perfectly happy though.

Up next...what we ate.