Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Traditions: The Rehearsal Dinner

Honestly, I can’t even remember the only rehearsal dinner that I’ve attended. Methinks I must have been at one for my Aunt Jana’s wedding way back in the day—also my only participation in a wedding, as flower girl—but I was about 4 years old, so I don’t recall if it was a fancy affair or not. What I do remember are my sister Rach's bangs, eegads.

I assume that, like all aspects of wedding madness, the rehearsal dinner is another potential stressball and money-suck for most people. Eric and I didn’t budget for a dinner, but when his parents offered to host a rehearsal dinner, we took them up on it, grateful to pass the buck to someone else. We agreed that the campground would be a great place for a casual dinner after the rehearsal. The campground didn’t really have any gazebos to rent, so Mel and Rick just rented an extra campsite and set up an event tent that they bought for the occasion, all while entertaining the evilest dogs west of the Mississippi.

The fellas set up the tent in the morning, whilst I picked flowers for all the peeps with E, my mom and Mel. After a short breakdown in Elizabeth’s apartment and a subsequent argument with Elizabeth about gun control (that’s how high tensions were), I started randomly honking at people in my truck to release some of the stress. Thank God for my peeps, who helped me forget my troubles by wholeheartedly contributing to the Bridezilla/Momra joke.

Arriving fashionably late to the rehearsal, I found Eric had gallantly already started organizing our peeps. After a really good run through (what a relief), we piled into the cars and caravanned the three miles to the campground. On the drive over, the sky opened up and torrential rain dumped down on us all the way to the campground. My peeps and I hung out in my truck until my brother ran up with some garbage bags for us to fashion into ponchos. They didn’t help that much. But once we were out of the truck, all hands were on deck to put up the sides of the big tent to provide some crowded shelter for the early arrivals.

Like most summer storms in DC, this one just had to scream and cry hard for a few minutes and before it gave way to a cool, purple evening—perfect grilling weather. Mel and Rick's longtime family friend Mr. Wright manned the grill.

The Wright family were there in full force for wedding festivities. My mom said it best: We'd be very lucky if we all had friends like the Wrights. Look at the bike setup they had to help with our Just Married Bike Parade.

With some food and beer in our bellies, we started to mingle and dry off. The spread was great—salads, chips, burgers, veggie burgers, chicken and lots of sweets. As evening fell, lights came on in the tent (thanks to Eric’s sister Ramie’s decorating) and all of a sudden our picnic-style rehearsal dinner started looking like a very classy affair.

Eric’s parents put on a slideshow of pictures they put together for us, and after a while people started filtering back to their hotels, apartments and campsites. The women in my family started assembling the flowers for the big day, and Eric and I and all of our peeps were off to do last-minute preparations before popping half a Tylenol PM. We had a big day ahead of us.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Vendors: Photography

I’m tired of talking about my wedding. Are you tired of hearing about it? Although I’m sick of it, I feel like I need to give props to the people who helped us, and sing the praises of the vendors who went above and beyond. I hope my research, trial and error will help direct people planning similar events, especially in DC. Now, on to it. Let’s finally give my photographers their due. The only picture I have of all of them is from the disposable cameras.

I found Lara Swanson and her peeps at A Softer Image through an ad—where else—on the Offbeat Bride site. I halfheartedly looked through Craigslist ads for photographers, and found a lot of online portfolios filled with hokey-looking portraits. The most telling thing in ruling out these photographers was that the wedding pictures—as “journalistic” as they were in black and white, focusing on detail—looked nothing like the wedding I envisioned. I knew these nuptials looked like what I didn’t want (which, as we found out, can be its own theme-ish).

Thus, I count my blessings for seeing Lara’s ad on our underground site, touting photography in the DC area. Her contact info said she wasn’t above haggling, and she wasn’t kidding. Lara was always enthusiastic about the details that everyone else was giving us shit about—riding bikes in, that’s right, dresses—and I basically told her what I could afford, and she told me what she could do for that amount. We contracted for five hours, with an understanding that I could ask for more hours for a specific rate per hour. I did end up asking for two more hours, methinks to make sure Lara caught the cake-cutting. It was well worth the money.

Lara brought two other photographers and her husband, who is also a photographer. They caught so many classic shots, it’s impossible for me to name a favorite. But I have to say that some of the most memorable ones are the portraits, which were the pictures I was most scared about. People so often look awkward, cheesy or both in portraits—but I think the best photographers (like my good friend and peep Amanda) can make you look your best on film, and Lara and her team most definitely did that, as you can clearly see.

I knew after meeting Lara last November in Alexandria that she was the right one for the job. She was always in touch, always interested in our traditions and anti-traditions, and just good company in general. She studied marriage traditions in graduate school, and lauded our efforts to cut out the sexist traditions that we found offensive. I’ve never met someone who knew more about the meaning behind the traditions, and it was awesome to have that insight.

On the big day, Lara and her peeps didn’t just blend in to our festivities—they were a positive presence, interacting with our guests, strategizing about when the best photo ops would happen and complimenting our playlist. They told Eric and me that ours was one of their top five favorite weddings, which is a terrific thing to hear when you’ve spent months preparing for a hugely stressful event. We finally felt like we pulled it off, and the best compliment anyone can give us is that they had a great time.

As many of you know, the day after the wedding Lara already had a slideshow of pictures ready to view, set to a song that she had noticed was on our playlist (The Moldy Peaches “Anyone Else But You”), the quintessence of thoughtfulness.

After the insanity died down, I chose a few pictures for Lara to edit for us, including some antiquing (a certain number of edits was included in our package). I’ll let her work speak for itself here. We were thrilled with these.

And after reading Lara’s blog and seeing the amazing work she has done at births, I’m considering hiring her if Eric and I ever have little ones. I never thought that’s something that would appeal to me, but check out these incredible pictures. She also captured the same couple’s wedding.

We can’t say enough good things about our photography team, and we’re not the only ones. Everyone who comes into contact with Lara and her peeps fall in love with them. So if you have a life event that needs to be captured, give her a call. Or, just ask her to hang out with you.

Marathon Man and Woman

Eric and I ran our first half-marathon last month at the Baltimore Running Festival. Inspired by my coworker Gibbs on one of our glorious springtime lunch-runs through Teddy Roosevelt Island, Eric and I started training pretty soon after the wedding.

We had a running partner in Alli, and all three of us ran the half and did really well. Eric and I qualified for the National Marathon by running the Baltimore Half in under 2:30—a feat I was very skeptical about accomplishing in the weeks leading up to the race. But we did it, and it felt awesome. Alli also qualified, so she and I have decided to train for the National Marathon, which is in March here in DC. Eric will probably do the half at the same race.

Alli’s parents, Elizabeth and Brynne were good enough to come cheer us on in Baltimore. We three definitely took the cake for the best signage. Check it out.

We took several weeks off after Baltimore, but we’re back in training mode—Wednesday will be a seven-miler. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

To all the haters

Courtesy of Junebug and Callie.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Come, crush a cup of wine

The wine and champagne at our wedding was extremely well-traveled, my droogs. Although you know me to be a liberal of the bleeding-heart variety, when my Nana mentioned that her friend from the Arizona Republicans owned a local vineyard with good wine, I was all about using the connection. After some research, I found that the Chandler, Ariz. vineyard, Kokopelli, offered good variety (such as I know it, but to me Trader Joe's has plenty of wine variety. I'm a beer person, myself) at a better price than the Shenandoah vineyards I had been researching. Sourcing from Kokopelli meant that we were still purchasing from a small, locally-owned (local to Arizona, that is) business, plus we were getting a little West-coast representation in the mix.

But the best part about the choice was that it wasn't something I had to worry about after I made the initial decision of how many bottles of which wine and champagne to get, because my mom made all the arrangements and then trucked the boxes of wine over on my parents' cross-country drive to the big event. Thanks mom and dad!

After consulting Alli the chef, we decided that we'd buy four bottles of wine, two red and two white, plus one bottle of champagne, for each table. I sent my mom and Nana on the chore of all chores - to go to a tasting to decide which whites and reds to choose. We ended up with the merlot, the pinot grigio and the raspberry champagne, Imperial Kir. The Kokopelli people threw in some extra bottles (any comm major knows that it's all about who you know), and a specially decorated bottle of champagne for Eric and I to crack open on our first wedding anniversary.

If you were in attendance, you may have noticed this little one, Alison, whom I babysat all through college in Arlington, coming around to your table to collect corkscrews.

Just last night, Ali and her mom Sheree gave us this awesome trivet, which Ali and Sheree made using the Kokopelli corkscrews from our wedding day. Isn't that the coolest thing? So don't toss those special-event wine tops. Reuse them for a trivet or corkscrew bulletin board.

Even the wine snobs, who shall remain nameless, complimented us on the wine. Although I was afraid we'd run out of drinks, we had probably 10 or 12 bottles of wine left over, and Eric can tell you about what happened with all the leftover beer.

But one word of advice, my droogies, if you're planning a big ol' stressful party: put someone in charge of cutlery, plates and corkscrews. That's what we had the most trouble with at our party. The devil's in the details, and I think we handled the snags like pros, but it would have been nice to have a functioning corkscrew or five. Elizabeth heroically bought a few at the campsite's store, but they broke after a while. I have no idea where my mom found another one.

I'll let Eric elaborate on the beer, since he's the expert. But I have to give a little ink to the non-alcoholic drinks, including the Keystone and Coors that mysteriously appeared on the drink tables. I'm not naming names (Ramie). Hey, at least it wasn't diet soda. I swore to Eric that no diet Coke would pass that threshold, and to my knowledge none did. If you know otherwise, don't tell me. I'd like to keep that fantasy alive. I really hate NutraSweet and aspartame. That's all my mom's fault. Plus, I was hypnotized not to drink soda. Seriously. By this guy.

Anyway, we did have some drinks for the kids and non-drinkers in the crowd. Obviously, we had water. But we didn't want to buy a bunch of bottled-water, because of the litter and expense. We thought about getting a Water N Ice-style cooler (they have water stores at every corner in Tempe, but the only one in practically the whole DC area is in Bethesda). But we came up with a really good idea, if I do say so myself. We bought a Brita faucet filter, and just affixed it to the kitchen sink at the reception hall. That worked marvelously, because we were able to fill the water coolers, and use purified water to make other drinks.

Mom and Mel were in charge of the other drinks, and they looked awesome. My mom brought this awesome Western-style (at least I always associate it with backyard family pool parties in Tempe) drink dispenser for the lemonade. The mamas bought lemon juice concentrate - with some sugar already in it - at Costco, added water and ice and some sliced lemons. It looked very awesome, and tasted good on a hot June day. The mamas also made iced tea - with plain black tea bags - and put some ice water out in these really cute drink dispensers. I got to keep the yellow one.

Mel and Rick donated some leftover drinks from the rehearsal dinner, and I think it's safe to say that everyone's thirst was well-quenched. Some more than others, if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Happy four-year kissaversary.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Vendors: The Food

Having started a slow journey onto the local-foods train last summer (thank you Barbara Kingsolver), I was determined to source everything for the wedding as locally as possible. In general, it's always better to support local businesses and buy things that haven' t had to travel across the globe or country to get to you, whether it's a sweater, an apple or a cup of milk.

But the cards are stacked against us, my droogies, and there were times I was willing to throw in the towel and just order food from Boston Market. Not that that wouldn't have been delicious (mmmm macaroni and sorta-cheese). But with a little research and a lot of help from friends and family, we ended up with the perfect mix of delicious, elegant and home-made food.

First things first. Upon arrival to the reception, guests found a beautiful cornucocpia of fruit, vegetables, nuts, crackers and dips courtesy of Gail's Vegetarian. I found Gail's by googling "vegetarian catering D.C." on a whim, after realizing that free-range meat was going to be far too expensive to manage. When I filled out an inquiry form through their web site, I received a prompt call from Gail herself, who talked me through their options. I credit Gail with talking some sense into me about structuring the reception. She was all about my laid-back approach to the day, but she helped me realize that people were going to have expectations no matter what, and that I needed to let them know what to expect, and give them some benchmarks.

After a lot of thought, Eric and I decided that since we wanted to source our own entrees, salads and bread but that we still wanted to book Gail's for the cornucopia. Gail was very cool and helpful with that, let us know what she needed from us the day of (a table and linens) and that was that.

The first seated course was bread. Baked goods are probably the easist foods to source locally, because all you have to do is find a...bakery, duh. We've enjoyed bread from Takoma Kitchens at our year-round Takoma Park farmer's market since we moved there, so that was an easy call. Eric dropped by their shop on Riggs & East-West Highway in Hyattsville to order and pay in advance (cash only), and Grant picked up the goods the day before the wedding. We decided to have three types of bread at every table: asiago, sun-dried tomato and sourdough for my dad (a.k.a. Tim "taste buds are my enemy" Moulton).

Our bread dip was inspired by the free bread that Mama Lucia's (more on them in a few) serves at their restaurants. I picked up a megaton of olive oil from Costco, and Eric picked up some garlic, red pepper and local parmesean cheese for the dip-making. Elizabeth and my droogs made the dip the day before, and let the chopped garlic infuse. The cheese went in right before it was served - in shallow pie-tins from the 99 cent store all the way up Georgia Avenue.

Mine and Eric's peeps were in rare form during the bread and salad prep. They heated the bread in the oven and served it up like pros. Elizabeth was our sous chef for the day, managing the kitchen goings-on.

E's skills were never more apparent than in the salad-prep department. As previously blogged about, I sourced the salad greens and vegetables from our CSA farmer, Allan Balleitt. Using 4 ounces as the standard serving size for salads, E and I multiplied it out to get rough poundage of greens versus veggies. Allan gave me 12 pounds of salad greens, and 2 pounds each of cucumbers, pea shoots, radishes and peas - all grown, in Allan's words "biodynamically, without chemicals, GMOs, etc." Not to mention local. The salad stuff travelled only a hundred or so miles to get to your bellies, all for under $2 per serving.

So we have some produce. That's all well and good, but there's still work to do. Eric and his peeps picked up the schtuff from the farm on Friday, and delivered it in CSA-borrowed coolers from Farmer Allan to E's and Alli's place. While I picked up my dress from the vintage-cleaners (yes, the day before the wedding - hey, that's just how I roll), my peeps got started on making the dip and making a red-wine vinegrette from red-wine vinegar, olive oil, cheese, garlic and some spices. We had to jet to the rehearsal festivities, but my peeps and I were right back at E's apartment later that night to wash all 20 pounds of salad stuff, which was harrowing and messy, let me tell you.

I should also mention that during this wet nightmare of greens-washing, E heroically coordinated with a co-worker of ours, who delivered a voucher for a serious discount at the UMD Marriott, where Eric and I were going to stay the night of the wedding. Thanks to E and fellow TUer Big Dave, that effort was victorious and would have surely fallen through the gaping holes in my brain, so focused was I on getting through this damn thing rather than planning what I was going to do after it was over.

Suffice it to say, after a half-hourish of making seemingly no dent in the huge fucking cooler of salad greens, we got a lot less meticulous about picking only the best leaves. We called it a night at around 11:45 p.m.

Flash forward to the morning of the wedding. KB and E set to work in the kitchen, chopping and assembling the 20 pounds of salad while Amanda helped me out in the ballroom. It looked beautiful, especially the pea shoots and the mandoline-sliced radishes. Mel and my mom bought some ranch dressing for the non-adventurous types (ahem, again, old "no tastebuds" Moulton) and Mel donated some leftover dressings from the rehearsal dinner. Bravo to my peeps who worked tirelessly in the kitchen, and who served all of our guests, and to Grant, who served while being "so damn cute," according to Mel.

The salads were served on the buffet, along with the entrees, which were various types of pasta, delivered from Mama Lucia's . Eric and I have spent many a special occasion at this place. So after we dismissed a few ethnic food options (Eric's never had a taco in his whole life, if you can believe that), we decided to go with the catering menu at our favorite Italian place.

I emailed the catering director Sandra, and chose five entrees and split servings down evenly among those. We chose their ravioli rose (a huge hit, there was nothing left for leftovers, much to my chagrin), spaghetti with meatballs on the side, fettucine alfredo, eggplant parmigiana and lasagna (with meat). I set up everything with Sandra well in advance, including one special order of gluten-free pasta, which the owner made himself. It tasted awesome (I tried a bite) and he made double the amount I requested, just in case we needed more.

People seemed to enjoy the pasta, and it made for some really awesome leftovers. For any event you're planning, I highly recommend going for the catering menu at one of your favorite restaurants. It's usually way cheaper than going through a catering company, and you'll get food you know you'll enjoy. For our low-key affair, this was a great option, especially because we preferred buffet-style serving to the more formal (and more expensive) hiring of a wait staff. In general, we didn't want any strangers at the wedding and we wanted to keep things as personal as possible. Mission accomplished.

And now, the part my nephew Ollie couldn't wait for: the cake. Alli the chef got us in touch with her friend Sam, a pastry chef who worked with Alli at Hook. Sam makes cakes for weddings and parties in addition to teaching at L'Academie de Cuisine. Eric coordinated with Sam via email to set up a tasting. I was blown away by how awesome her cake was, because I'm generally not a cake person at all. In fact, I suggested having brownies or cheesecake instead of a traditional cake, but Eric really wanted one and, as it turned out, we had a vintage, family cake-topper at our disposal, so why not use it?

At the tasting, we decided that to serve about 85 people we needed three tiers. Eric made the final call - the bottom and top layers would be chocolate cake with strawberry and vanilla filling, and the middle layer would be vanilla cake with strawberry and chocolate filling. Sam includes set-up in her overall fee, so she came sometime in the morning to set up the cake, which was a buttercream-frosted, lisanthus and snapdragon sugar-flower clad dream topped with my Nana's cake-topper, used at her wedding, my parents' and both my aunts' weddings.

Looking back at the pictures, Ollie is surreptitiously, but patiently, ever-present and waiting in every single cake photo. I don't blame him one bit.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Vendors: The Flowers

One of the easiest aspects of the wedding to keep local and handmade was flower-purchasing and assembly.

For fresh flowers, I worked on a tip from Elizabeth. She had introduced me to a DC farmer's market, Fresh Farm Market. Looking through the list of vendors, I found a flower vendor which, as I saw on their website, hosts parties by appointment to go pick flowers for events. I emailed with Dave at Farmhouse Flowers & Plants to set up an appointment all the way back in February. He sent me a list of flowers that would be in season in June (lots and lots - spring and summer are great times for local flowers) and costs per stem.

June arrived, and in the midst of wedding chaos I schlepped Elizabeth, Mel and my mom out to Brookeville, Md. to pick some flowers the day before the wedding. You all should know me well enough to know that I had no color scheme in mind. I just wanted cool flowers for me, for my peeps (preferably some yellow for KB), and some that we could make into boutonnieres for Eric, his peeps and Shade.

The farm was about a 40 minute drive from Takoma, all the way up Georgia Avenue. Nestled in a hilly, open area, we found the farm - fields of awesome flowers, and a handful of greenhouses. One of the workers showed us around the greenhouses and pointed out what would hold up best, considering the flowers would have to be perky for about 36 hours after they'd been cut.

We walked over to the fields and talked with the ladies harvesting flowers there. We decided on dahlias for my bouquet. We bought some yellow lilies and white hydrangeas for the pillars at the church. I'm forgetting the type of flower I got for my peeps - maybe E or my mom can help remind me. We got the guys some dark red flowers for boutonnieres that matched my dahlias and blood-red snapdragons pretty well.

I came knowing that we needed specific bouquets: two for decoration at the chapel on pillars, three for my peeps, one for me and little buds for the lapels of Eric's peeps and Shade. We ended up with beautiful flowers, as you can see.

My mom, aunts and Nana put together all of the bouquets and boutonnieres with some scissors, ribbon, straight pins and a lot of love.

According to the Bridal Association of America (why there would be such a thing, I have no idea), the average couple spends about $700 on flowers, plus about $150 for the bride's bouquet alone. We spent $105 for all of our flower needs.

Now on to the fakes. We had some flowery decorations at every table. Thanks to the able hands of KB, Amanda, Eric and yours truly, we were able to make our own colorful faux flowers with floral wire and tissue paper. Rick gathered some sticks, and the morning of the wedding Amanda and I hurriedly fashioned the poofs onto the sticks and, voila - easy, cheap, colorful, vaguely southwestern paper flowers.

My sisters Callie and Rachel made the vases - empty Izze bottles with vintage-looking stickers pasted on. It all came together and looked awesome.

The last flowery touch was in your humble narrator's own hair. My peeps and I bought fake calililies and something blue at Michael's, and Amanda put it altogether in a perfect HB-style anti-updo.

All told, the flowers could have been a lot harder without a little help from my friends, and a lot of research on how to be as contrary as possible. But isn't that just like me?