Posts in the 'Robin' Category

Robin’s Good-Bye: One Of Our Fave Contributors Bids You All Adieu

Having transitioned from Broke-Ass Bride to plain-old Broke-Ass Married Person, this will be my last weekly column on this site.  Being on Team Broke-Ass and writing for this delightful audience has been an absolute blast.  This is one of my very favorite corners of the internet.

Do I have any parting words of wisdom?  Basically, I can sum it up as: This is all worth it.  Both the expense (even when you pull whatever strings, play whatever cards, and call upon whatever angels to limit said expense) and the brain-consuming, energy-tapping, emotion-sapping obsession that comes with planning a wedding are worth it in the end.  We need huge happy events like weddings to pull together our people, or we’ll only see all our families when someone has died.  Starting your marriage with the bliss of a wedding will give you the perfect springboard for a happy life together, and having those wonderful gooey memories will help you keep perspective when your marriage gets hard.

Wedding planning can make your relationship stronger.  Wedding planning requires you to mesh your values with your partner’s.  It forces you to interact with each other’s families.  It provides seemingly endless opportunities to practice conflict resolution.  All of these skills will help you have the best marriage you can.

And wedding planning can make you a better person.  You might find a crafting passion you never knew you had.  Or a knack for event-planning that will make you the go-to gal when your office needs a shindig or your best friend wants to throw her boyfriend a surprise party.  You might learn how to budget, how to negotiate, how to barter.  Maybe you’ll just figure out that you look really good in white.  In ways big and small, planning a wedding can be a positive force in your life with benefits far-outlasting your actual wedding day.  Again, this is all worth it!

Before I shuffle off, I once again want to thank Dana and all the other fantastic people at the Broke-Ass Bride for sharing this platform with me, and of course, thank all of you for reading and commenting.  I wish you all crazy-fun, minimally-stressful, completely-affordable weddings, and happy, fulfilling, lasting marriages.

How to Re-use Your Bridal Ensemble for Halloween

Halloween and weddings are surprisingly similar.  Both put a lot of pressure on us to be crafty and clever, and force us to wear potentially very weather-inappropriate clothing.

Halloween can provide a bounty of things to re-use at your wedding.  For example, the fabric from my costume last year (the Statue of Liberty circa 1890) became the top of our wedding chuppah:

And then of course there’s the bonanza of items for a silly photo station you can cull from friends and family’s Halloween costumes, or from the closeout sales at those pop-up Halloween stores the day after Halloween.

So it’s only fair that your wedding can provide materials to reuse for Halloween.  Here’s some ideas for how to repurpose your wedding duds as Halloween costumes.

If your dress is trashed or you are willing to trash it:

  • Runaway Bride. The classic, of course. Pop on some running sneakers and a sweat band.  For an added touch may I suggest a falling-apart up-do?
  • Bridezilla.  Sure, it perpetuates one of the most obnoxious stereotypes about weddings there is, but there is something undeniably fun about pairing a fancy white gown and rubber lizard hands and a monster mask.  COUPLES COSTUME BONUS:  Have your partner dress up as a half-destroyed skyscraper that got in your way.
  • Miss Havisham.  For you literary types, the ultimate bridal gown re-usage is emulating Dickens’ jilted bride who never took her dress off.  Age makeup, a few cotton-batting cob webs, and a general air of despair complete this look.  Make a piece of moldy cake out of styrofoam for the perfect accessory!

If your dress is too precious to expose to the wilds of a Halloween costume, you can still re-use some of your bridal accessories.

  • Dye your veil black, put on your best LBD, let some mascara run down your face in faux tear tracks and go as a Sexy Widow.  COUPLES COSTUME BONUS: Have your partner dress up as a ghost. It’s a Halloween classic!
  • Disassemble your brooch boquet, arrange the pins all over a black turtleneck with handwritten price tags, and go as a Jewelry Case in a Vintage Shop.
  • Garter as headband + Goodwill formal wear with wine stain + microphone with which to make a mortifying speech = Drunk Best Man/Maid of Honor.  If you celebrate Halloween the way I do, you won’t have to do much acting to sell this costume.

Have a happy Halloween, folks! Do you have any more wedding ensemble costume ideas?  Share in the comments!

The Big Kiss… or the Big 51 Kisses

Something you need to understand about wedding planning is that it is OK to shamelessly steal from other people’s weddings.  You NEED to steal other people’s wedding ideas.  In the world of weddings, there is nothing new under the sun.  Don’t waste your energy trying to be original.  You are going to need to conserve that energy just to pick exactly what wedding ideas you are going to steal.

My favorite stolen wedding idea? It wasn’t my brooch bouquets or any other material detail.  It was something we did with our ceremony that was lifted directly from Collin’s twin sister Carrie’s wedding:  instead of waiting for the grand finale of our ceremony to kiss, we kissed each other whenever we felt like it during our ceremony.  Which means we kissed AT LEAST 51 times during our wedding ceremony (it’s possible I missed a few due to edits in our wedding video).

When I saw Carrie start her own wedding by kissing her almost-husband, I knew that I’d be doing that on my own wedding day.  It wasn’t just that it was a sweet moment that wins over the hearts of the crowd, even though kissing before the universally-expected kiss cue absolutely does that.  I realized that like Carrie, I’d be unable to hold myself back from expressing my love with a kiss when I get to the end of the aisle.  And moreover, at that point I already expected to be marrying Collin, and Carrie and Collin are as much alike as you’d expect former wombmates to be, so any chance that I could restrain myself would be made moot by Collin’s enthusiasm for kissing.  [I mean, seriously, 51 times people.  In about 10 minutes.]

Kissing during your ceremony lets you express yourself, and gives you a release for the intense emotions of being married that isn’t breaking down in attractive sobs.  And maybe the greatest gift of all?  It takes so much pressure off “the big kiss” at the end.  Why agonize over having one perfect kiss in front of all your family and friends, a perfectly-timed kiss that strikes exactly the right balance between passionate and family-friendly, when you can give yourself 51 chances (or more!) to hit that mark?

As an added bonus, your photographer gets more chances to get this sort of money shot:

Can you see yourself kissing your partner all throughout your wedding ceremony? Or will you be saving up your kiss mojo for the big finish?


The Speed Dating Portion of Your Wedding Reception

Ah, the table visits.  The part where your wedding reception starts to feel like a  round of speed dating.  Visiting every table during dinner service is a great way to be sure to spend a little time with every one of your guests, which is part of the reason table visits have almost universally replaced the receiving line.  But it’s still tricky business: you don’t want to get stuck at any one table for too long, and you want to be sure that you don’t miss your own meal (especially because you’ll most likely be knocking back one or seven…teen drinks that night), but you don’t want your guests to feel like they’re on “The Gong Show” either.

Now, to be fair, I’ve only had to do this one time, so my claims to expertise might be a little undeserved.  But Collin and I ROCKED the table visits.  And we had 30 tables.  Here’s how we did it:

  1. Yichud noshing.  It’s a Jewish tradition for the bride and groom to spend a short amount of time (about fifteen minutes) in solitude immediately after the ceremony.  Originally this time was used for consummating the marriage. Awwwww yeah.  The modern/polite approach to yichud is that it lets the bride and groom have a moment of serenity to fully absorb the emotions of their union.  We sort of failed on both counts.  We used our yichud to sign our marriage license, update our Facebook relationship statuses, and CHOW DOWN on the tray of hors d’oeuvres our wedding planner had sent up for us.  It was more than I eat at most meals.  You don’t need a yichud to have an excuse for post-ceremony snack time.  Have your venue set aside some of the passed snacks for the bride and groom, and put it wherever you go to sign your marriage license.
  2. Get started as quickly as possible.  After having refueled post-ceremony, you won’t be so eager to wait at your table until the first course is served.  So you can start visiting tables as soon as your guests are seated.  The sooner you start, the sooner you finish!
  3. Musical chairs. As awkward as it is to have a series of drive-by conversations with everyone important in your life, you really do need to keep each table visit brief if you want to get them all in.  A good way to keep track of time is to listen for song changes.  Every new song means another three or four minutes have passed.  I’m not saying you should treat a song switch like a speed dating buzzer forcing you to move to the next table, just as a monitor for how long Aunt Louise is droning on about how pretty the flowers are.  Plus, a new song is often a great…
  4. Exit strategy.  As in, “Oh, the DJ is playing The Boss.  I gotta go talk to my Jersey Girls!”  Or, “I see Uncle Nick flagging me down!” Or, “Oh, our dinner was just served! I don’t want to let my crab cakes get cold.”  Be ready to abruptly end any conversation that is going on too long.  No one will think you are being rude if you say it with a smile.  You’re the bride, you get a lot of leeway.
  5. Don’t say goodbye.  Goodbyes take forever.  This is the beginning of the night.  Most of your guests will track you down before they leave to say goodbye.  It’s easier to cut and run to the next table with a promise to see them later.  “We’ll talk more after the cake cutting!” “We’ll do the twist together later!

Two more vital pointers:

  • You still need to eat dinner.  Even with your crucial post-ceremony snack to tide you over, you’re going to want to eat your dinner.  A lot of venues have a designated server for the bride and groom’s table.  Ask him or her to flag you down when your food is served and to not let your plates be cleared if they are untouched.  If you don’t have a designated server, have a bridesmaid keep an eye on your table for you and come get you when it is chow time.
  • Have your photographer follow you around.  This is a two birds-one stone strategy.  If your photographer does the table visit circuit with you, you’ll have at least one photo of almost everyone at your wedding.  That way you won’t waste valuable photography hours having the photog make her own table visits when she could be shooting the celebratory hijinx on the dancefloor.

Anyone else have any tips on how to speed through table visits?

Day-Of Planning Tips: Surviving the Wedding Day Photo Shoot

No matter how you break down your wedding day schedge, there’s almost definitely going to be some time that is solely dedicated to photography. For some camera-shy people, this is a nightmare, but a necessity if you want to have a Christmas present for Grandmammy this year.  For other people, posing for photos is a fun side adventure on the wedding day where you can circuit through nifty locations and explore unique photo setups.  For complete lunatics, like your humble blogger here, posing for photos is a fun way to spend a random Saturday afternoon.  My insane hobby of amateur modeling gave me a huge advantage in organizing and executing the photo shoot portion of my wedding day, and now I pass that wisdom on to you.

Logistics, logistics, logistics

The first thing you need to figure out is your timetable.  How much time do you have to devote to posed photographs, and at what point in the wedding schedule will you be taking these pictures?  Talk to your photographer about how many shots she thinks she can get within this time.  Once you’ve worked out time, you need to work out your shot list.  Again, talk to your photographer about her usual shot list, and sit down with your partner and make a list of every iteration of family and bridal party you want together in photographs.  Is the number of must-have shots you have way over the figure your photographer gave you regarding your timetable? If so, begin the brutal cutting process (no, you don’t need solo picture with every single member of your wedding party, especially if there are eleven of them).  Or are you lucky and have oodles of extra time?  Well you, my friend, can start to think about LOCATION.

If you are going on a photo tour…

Brides who hate the idea of a wedding day photo shoot, brides who don’t have a lot of time with their photographers, and brides who like keeping things simple can all ignore this section and move on to the next.  For the lunatics who remain, who are planning on being photographed in multiple locations on their wedding day, I have one suggestion I URGE you to follow: Do a dry run of the whole location circuit.  On the same day of the week that your wedding is, at the same time of day.  Get a feel for the traffic.  Actually driving from place to place will give you a much more realistic idea of how many places you can go in your timeframe than the Internet will.  Figure out where everyone will park.  Assess the crowds.  Will you spend a lot of time waiting for the background to clear before the shutter can click? Are you going to be one of five bridal parties vying for time in front of [insert photogenic landmark here]?

Here’s another pro tip: pay attention to the sunlight.  This is where doing your dry run at the same time of day you will on your wedding day becomes important.  The weather was fantastic on my wedding day, and I’m not complaining, but boy was the sunlight intensely in our eyes when we went to the Mount Washington overlook.  It was basically impossible not to squint, and when our photographer suggested we close our eyes until the moment he took the picture, the results were even more terrifying.

Enlist a whip

Ok, so you’ve worked out a realistic, doable schedule of shots and locations.  Now you need someone to keep you on that schedule.  Depending on your photographer’s personality, it could be him.  But some shooters get lost in their art and forget that you have, you know, your own freakin’ wedding ceremony to get to soon.  You need someone to make sure that things keep moving.  If you have a wedding planner or a day of coordinator, they’re an ideal candidate for the job.  If you don’t, get someone in the bridal party to be the task master.  Just don’t leave it up to yourself to keep things going smoothly.  It’s too much stress to take on, and few bridal ensembles include a watch.

Even with a whip to keep things moving, you should be prepared to cut locations or shots if things run long for reasons outside of your control.  Which means you need to take care of the most essential shots first!

Keep it light

Ok, so you know the ridiculously ubiquitous wedding shot of the bridal party mid-jump?  I have some strong love-hate feelings about the jump shot.  But something that must be said in its favor is that it gets people laughing and loosened up.  This makes them look better in photos, and it also makes the photo shoot portion less of a drag than it would otherwise be for your less hammy bridal partiers.  You don’t have to accomplish this by making everyone jump for a photograph, but try to break up the monotony of “Mom you stand with the Groom. Ok now Groom and Dad. Ok now Groom and Mom and Dad.” ad nauseum with some goofy and irreverent photos or even just with JOKES in between the posed pictures.  It’s your wedding day, have some fun!

[Photos by Lou Stein]


Do you have any tips for how to make a wedding day photo shoot go smoothly?


Any Excuse to Wear a Sari

I’ve covered the experiences of the engaged wedding guest and the about-to-be married wedding guest.  This weekend is my first go at being a married wedding guest.

I would have worried about going to a wedding only a few days after my two month anniversary dredging up unpleasant comparisons and regrets about my own wedding, were it not for two things: 1) My wedding was the miggity miggity mack of weddings 2) This weekend’s wedding is an Indian wedding, and everyone knows that Indians have the best weddings.  Each culture in the world can claim indisputable bragging rights on something they do better than everybody else—Brazilians are the heavyweight champs of serving meat on swords, the French are the best at being improbably thin, and Americans are the best at triumphantly chanting the abbreviated form of their country’s name.  Indians are the best at weddings.  Don’t even try to deny it.

I tried so, so hard to avoid being an Ugly American as a guest at this Indian wedding, but there were times I couldn’t help but gawk at the spectacle (I was not alone, the two hotel towers surrounding the courtyard where the ceremony was held were dotted with onlookers peering out their windows).  It’s not just that the customs are different (of course, they are, and I’ll get to that in a paragraph), it’s that the scale is so much bigger than any wedding I’ve ever been to.   I’ve been to uber-fancy weddings where every possible chance to demonstrate opulence is exploited to its full gold-plated potential.  I’ve been to huge weddings where everyone from third cousins to the first grade teacher of the bride was invited.  But I’ve never been to a huge, uber-fancy wedding… with a full three-day itinerary of events.

Today’s schedule of events included the wedding ceremony proper, Anand Karaj. Even though I’ve never been to a Sikh religious service of any kind, I can honestly say I was no more confused at this wedding than I am at any given Christian wedding service.  Sure, I don’t speak a word of Punjabi, but it was easier to figure out when to stand and when to bow than it is for me at Catholic weddings.  And whereas at a Catholic wedding I have to respectfully decline the snack because I’m not baptised, at this wedding the priest handed everyone a lump of sacred cookie dough at the end!

I’m sorry.  I’m trying so hard not to be horrifically disrespectful here.  But being a guest an Indian wedding really brought home to me how strange wedding traditions can seem from the outside.  Sure, I was bewildered to see how much mischievous joy the bride’s family got out of stealing the groomsmen’s shoes (and how disappointed they were when the white American guys in the bridal party gave up their shoes without much fight).  But I’m guessing if I grew up Indian I’d be pretty confused at a Western wedding when the bride and groom shove dessert into each other’s faces, or when the bride dramatically hurled an expensive flower arrangement at a throng of screaming women.

But there are certain things that are universal when it comes to weddings. An inescapable feeling of joy and community.  Love between the bride and groom that is almost palpable.  Pride and gratitude from the happy couple’s families.  The religious and cultural differences are completely eclipsed by these similarities.  Weddings are a heady magic no matter what form they take. Love and best wishes to the happy couple, and gratitude for welcoming me and Collin to this fabulous wedding.

Have you ever been to a wedding with traditions from a culture unfamiliar to you?

{Provocation} Leave Some Stuff For the Last Minute

The week before your wedding is generally an insanely stressful time.  So you’d think you’d want to have as much done as possible heading into Hell Week.  And you do want to be sure that everything VITAL is taken care of well before your wedding, and everything that is even a little important is squared away a week or two in advance.  But I think last-minute DIY projects are an underrated tool for keeping yourself sane in the days before your wedding.

Maybe that sounds backwards to you, but think about it this way.  In that last week, you’re going to be preoccupied with thoughts about the wedding.  No matter how much you prepare, you’ll be stressed.  If you have some mindless crafting to do, you’ll have a productive way to focus and burn off all this pre-wedding energy.

The key is to only leave last-minute projects that don’t actually have to be completed, in case you get too wrapped up with inevitable last-minute problems and the built-in family and social obligations of Wedding Week.  Try to make the last minute projects fun and easy too, and preferably some combination of mindlessly repetitive but imprecise.

My last-minute DIY savior was decorating the take-out boxes for our cookie table.  Collin insisted this was the least essential thing left on the to-do list and should therefore be punted.  It turns out he was oh-so-right: all the cookies got eaten at the reception, so the boxes were good for nothing but looking pretty next to the cookies.  And they’re not even that pretty.

BUT: the week before my wedding, when I was basically out of my mind with anticipation and nerves, having a big project like punching out hearts from leftover cardstock and gluing them onto hundreds of cardboard boxes was an invaluable distraction.

Even better, this project was easily made collaborative.  I dragooned a bunch of friends into my cardboard-decorating, and later on my sister, and without their help I never would have finished.  Spending a night surrounded by friends, laughing and drinking beer and listening to music while tangibly getting more ready for my wedding was absolutely worth it for my sanity, even if the finished product was, in the end, totally unnecessary for the success of my wedding.

You can also use last-minute projects as an excuse to GET AWAY from people, if that is what you need.  Sick and tired of playing catch-up with your forty-three first cousins and their SOs? You can always politely excuse yourself because you absolutely must be getting home to put some finishing touches on wedding details.  Then again, you can always lie to family with that excuse even if you have finished everything ahead of time.  But then you’ll just go home and feel guilty for lying your your family and not have any project to distract you from your guilt.

So what do you think: is it reckless and stupid to leave any DIY for the last days before your wedding?  Or do you find having tasks to complete helps you with last-minute jitters?



Scrimping That Was Worth It

Last week I listed some of the things from my wedding that I didn’t mind spending extra money on.  This week, I’m going to give Broke-Ass Nation what it REALLY wants: reassurance that you’ll have no regrets about taking the cheap route.

I can honestly say that there isn’t a single thing I wish I had spent MORE money on for my wedding.  I’d bet a dollar that’s true for the vast majority of wedding veterans, so that’s something to keep in mind whenever you’re debating whether to scrimp or splurge.

But of all the ways I saved money for my wedding, I think the best was not having any flowers.

Brooch bouquets can get expensive, but I made mine as cheaply as possibly by designing them to have fewer pins and recycling wire from my sister-in-laws wedding and jewelry from my mother-in-law’s stash.  They definitely cost less than professionally-arranged flowers, but they’re still as beautiful as they were on my wedding day and will be for years to come (mine is in a box right now, but I fantasize that someday I will have it displayed on my dressing table.  You know, when I’m a grown-up and I have a dressing table instead of just an overstuffed closet. But I digress).

[Photo by Louis Stein]

We scrimped even more when it came to our non-floral centerpieces.  We had 30 tables of many different sizes, because we got married in a restaurant.  We used simple, minimalist centerpieces:  ivory candles inside spherical glass bowls lined with spirals of silver and copper wire.  These did all centerpieces really need to do: they filled the empty table space without detracting from the overall look of the room.   And they cost less than $10 a table. We bought the materials on the cheap at a wholesale retailer for florists, and my mother-in-law and I assembled them all in one afternoon. If there’s anything better than cheap, it’s cheap & easy.

[Photo by Mike Rubino]

Do you think I’m right that there’s hardly ever something you wish you spent more money on in your wedding budget? What are some of the ways you’ve scrimped on your wedding that you’re most proud of?


Splurges That Were Worth It

In wedding planning, you’ll find you spend more money than you planned to on a lot of things.  Sometimes when you get to the bottom line, you just feel like a bad Broke-Ass (like I did after our DIY invitations, or makeup shopping).  But sometimes the things that you spent more money on than you intended feel, in the end, completely worth it.  Here are some of the splurges I have zero regrets over:

1. Donuts.

[Photo by Mike Rubino]

A big part of our budget strategy was to completely disregard things we didn’t want to spend money on.  That’s why we didn’t have flowers, and that’s why we didn’t have a cake.  Collin and I don’t really like cake, and the idea of spending several hundred dollars on one just because that’s what you do when you have a wedding made me want elope.  So for a long time we planned on having no cake, and relying on the Pittsburgh tradition of the cookie table to give our guests dessert.  And I marveled over the little $0 But then we found out that our venue has a donut machine, and we could have fresh donuts and a topping bar for $3/guest.  $3/slice is mid-priced wedding cake in our area.  Having donuts meant not saving any money on dessert, which was one of those things I always knew I was going to be able to save money on.  But… donuts!  I am powerless against them.

But I have no regrets.  The donuts were really, really delicious, and our guests loved watching them made and topping them.  The donuts were not only tasty, but fun and interesting to our guests, so even though having donuts cost the same amount as having a cake, the value was greater.  Absolutely worth it.

2. Extra time at the reception

At some point in the reception, my notoriously early-to-bed husband said, “This is almost over and I don’t want it to end.”  So we started calculating costs on an extra hour of partying.  We’d have to pay the DJ for an extra hour and the bartenders for an extra half hour, plus the cost of whatever extra drinks were ordered in that time, all told, about $200.  A caution: Making decisions in the middle of your wedding about spending more money is a terrible idea.  If you are already over budget before your reception begins and you can’t afford an extra dime, enlist someone in your bridal party or your family to be stern about ending the party when it is time to end.

[Photo by Louis Stein]

That said, I’m really grateful that I was feeling good about the total costs of our wedding when we went into our reception, because I loved that extra hour of partying!  It was great to not feel rushed out the door, or that we were missing more fun.  It gave us more time to say goodbye to all of our guests while still leaving plenty of time for drinking and dancing.  And that last hour, where your hair is falling out and you really don’t care, and everyone is drunk and sweaty and playing air guitar without compunction, is always the most fun.  I loved the extra hour of our wedding so much I think you should build in extra reception time into your wedding budget if you can. If the party is already petering out when it is supposed to, you can end at the regular time and feel like you are saving money.  It’s win-win.

3. My dress.

I already wrote a whole post about this.  But can I just say again that I love, love, love my dress?

[Photo by Louis Stein]

Have you made any so-so-so worth it splurges?  Don’t they kind of cut the sting of all the times you spent money you didn’t want to and didn’t have much to show for it?