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!