oh yeah? my brigadiers can beat up your maids any day

Like many who mostly eschew wedding tradition, I feel uncomfortable referring to the girls in our wedding party as “bridesmaids.” There’s such a servile connotation in that term. They are not going to be meekly following me around all day, delicately dabbing my face with Kleenex, fetching me drinks, helping me pee, holding my train. I’m not going to even have a train, unless we’re talking about a real locomotive, and in that case wouldn’t it rule to roll up and make the grand entrance to your ceremony by disembarking from a train? Or even get married on a train? *

Diversion alert: has anybody noticed the unintentionally hilarz connotation of the abbreviated form of “bridesmaid” that is frequently bandied about on the wedding boards and blogs? “BM.” My girls are not maids, and they are definitely not BMs.

Anyway. So if not bridesmaids, what are they then? I had to think long and hard about that one, but it finally came to me. The groom has a best man, right? These girls just so happen to be my best ladies. And so it follows, they will be known collectively as my “Best Lady Brigade.”

There. Now they don’t have to worry about waiting on me. They will just be themselves. Although I have to admit, I hope they will still bring me a drink every now and again… mama’s gonna need it.

* I suppose this is what people had to do before there were 24-hr Graceland-themed Vegas wedding chapels.

un petit diversion

The other day someone asked if I’d given any thought to what I want in a dress. I kind of surprised myself by answering no. I’ve seen countless dresses on the blogs I troll, but they all sort of just whiz over my head. Details are background noise; I’m too focused on finding a venue right now. Somehow I feel like: if we just get the venue and date nailed down, that’s half of the work right there. I mean, as long as we had a predetermined place and time for people to congregate, we could show up in our pajamas with a few cases of Little Debbie snack cakes to pass around. And some two buck chuck. Right? *

Yet, I’m not made of stone. Sometimes I see things (details!) that give me little thrills, and I promptly File Away for Later.

Like these light bulb vases I spotted hanging in the windows of a custom frame shop:


The glass I photographed them through was a bit dirty and smudgy, but you get the drift.

I can totally imagine a few dozen of these strung up around our reception (or ceremony!) site, filled with bright and colorful wildflowers. Plus: how incredibly cheap are these? What we couldn’t collect from our own house and purge from our friends, we could make up for by buying at the dollar store. For (obviously) $24/per 24 pack.

What gets me excited are the possibilities. We could change up the shapes of the bulbs—using a mix of regular, chandelier, globe, outdoor, etc. (but ONLY with incandescent bulbs; fluorescent or halogen = danger, Will Robinson). We could hang the vases using ribbons or twine instead of wire. We could paint the outside of the bulbs, too—but I’m usually more of a fan of the simple clear glass look.

Here’s a pretty specific how-to that walks through the steps of making these, in case anyone else is interested.

Until later, vases…

* Someone needs to do this and release the pictures into weddingblogland.

whither the resources

OK. Sometimes the internet sucks. More specifically, searching for venues on the internet sucks.

First of all, you have your big-hitters. The guys that always come up at the top of the search engines. These sites largely function like white pages but with more features. I gave them a shot first, because they were right there.

The worst site by far was the Gathering Guide. I searched for wedding reception venues within 50 miles of Santa Cruz, CA, and the first several hits on the page were located in San Ramon, Los Gatos, Fremont, San Francisco, San Diego, Atascadero, Livermore, Menlo Park, and Beverly Hills. Please tell me what the hell kind of sense this makes. Adjusting the distance yielded arbitrary results. The first hit when I searched within 25 miles of Santa Cruz was in Half Moon Bay; the first hit when I searched within 10 miles was Pala. Just for the record, neither of those is located inside the specified distances.

Maybe wedding planning just drains my IQ points, but it took me a while of playing around with the results to figure out that the first dozen or so hits on each page must be paid placements. It was only after I clicked on a half-hidden Santa Cruz link at the very bottom of the page that they showed me actual venues located nearby—again, hidden far beneath the paid placements. And none of these venues that were actually anywhere near Santa Cruz had pictures of the site, and most lacked full information. Totally useless.

One thing I did like about this website: it’s the only one I’ve seen that lists “location character” (such as elegant, historic, private, traditional, modern, creative, etc.). Fantastic idea! But you can’t search by character. Pathetic execution.

Other search sites fared better. I liked how Here Comes the Guide seems to have plenty of details, and I like how on Wedding Book you can narrow your venue/caterer options by maximum budget—not to mention BYO, outdoor space, venue type, and so on. Yet every time I filter my options, I get a handful of paltry pickings before the list dissolves into venues whose profiles haven’t been completely filled out. If you really want to know more, you have to Google the venue name and look it up for yourself, which leaves you wondering what the *#%@!$ point of using these neat all-in-one search sites is in the *#%@!$ first place.

After I tried the big guns I turned to local and city websites for venue listings, with mixed results. No site is ever going to be totally comprehensive, of course, but it seems like each online resource I try has a shallow depth of return and/or a frustratingly inadequate lack of information. It’s making me want to throw my laptop out the window and run shrieking down the street. Is it just us? Are we facing more search frustrations than other couples because we chose to look outside of the city in which we live? That can’t be right.

Amusingly, the best venue resource we’ve found so far is actually on a catering site. The list is pretty much limited to venues in and around Monterey, but still, we were able to find a few places that we actually want to go see.

And that’s all I want. I want to just go see. Because the internet sure as hell isn’t telling me much.

a day on the calendar

I’ve long been a fan of autumn in general, and it so follows that I’ve long thought autumn would be a nice time of year to have a wedding. My mom reminded me of this when I first told her that the boy and I were looking at dates between the end of August and October of 2010. “I just can’t believe you’d consider getting married in August. You always said you wanted to get married in the fall!” she said.

Um, Mom. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but the end of August is getting preeeeeetty damn close to fall*.

Semantics aside, I was honestly way more stoked about the idea of having an October wedding than an August or September wedding. True confession: when the boy and I first started tossing around the idea of getting hitched, before we even got engaged, I played around with the calendar. A lot. JUST LOOKING. You know? You ever done that? No?? Guess it’s just me. Anyway, I had my eye on October 9, 2010, in particular. I liked the symmetry of it. Ten nine ten.

Fast forward some months. We’d just gotten engaged. We sent an email out to all our friends to announce this. One of our friends, who had already been engaged for some time, wrote us back and said, “Hell yeah, congrats! By the way, be sure to save our date. It’s 10/9/10!”

Insert sound of needle skidding off record here.

Now, I knew there was absolutely no reason to be upset about this. They had gotten engaged over half a year before we did, and besides, it’s not like they could have divined that we were going to get engaged and want the same date. Yet there was more to it than just some numbers on the calendar. The fact that we shared the same large core group of friends made things more complicated. I didn’t want to put an undue hardship on our guests by making them arrange time off of work, travel, hotels, gifts, etc., for two weddings in the same short span of time.

After much discussion, we figured that it wouldn’t be discourteous to our guests or our friends if we held our wedding at least three or four weeks apart from theirs. Trouble was, moving the wedding target date back a few weeks wasn’t going to work, and moving it up a few weeks was going to interfere with my job’s annual conference, which is always at the beginning of September. And I didn’t want to leave my coworkers hanging.

Yeah, California has autumn leaves too
Yeah, California has autumn leaves too

I was beginning to think an autumn wedding wasn’t in our cards, period. I was beginning to think we’d have to plan it for summer 2010 or spring 2011. And that was making me upset. And I’m not the kind of person to be upset. The fact that it was wedding-related convoluted the situation. I don’t want to be one of those kind of people. That kind of “bride.” Not to mention that we’d only been engaged all of three days, and I was already having a moment. WTF?

It ended up working out, of course. I tentatively asked my boss about the scheduling, and she advised I focus more on getting married and we can sort out the conference issue as needed. The weight was lifted.

So October is out forever, but that’s life. We know now that we can aim to book a venue from the end-of-August through mid-September range, and that’s a good compromise. It’s almost-autumn. And that’s good enough for me.

I’m sure my mom will come to grips with it, too.

* yes, fall technically begins September 21, but sentimentally, it begins after Labor Day.

great expectations

So we decided to concentrate our venue search in and around the Santa Cruz. Well, really, the area from Big Sur up along the coast to Pacifica. Which sounds like quite a large swath, but… a lot of that is devoid of civilization, too.

And we haven’t ruled out the Bay itself or more northerly environs. We haven’t ruled out anything, really. But we need a place to start. And we like the Santa Cruz area because it is pretty, has some character, and is relatively cheaper.

And lo, the internet searches have begun.

Lookin' in Santa Cruz
Lookin’ in Santa Cruz

The searching, of course, has led to thinking about what we’re looking for. Ideally, our venue space would:

  1. have a space for us to get ready onsite (if not stay there altogether)
  2. feature a gorgeous spot to hold the ceremony in the sun
  3. possess an indoor/outdoor reception space nearby
  4. permit liquor on the premises
  5. allow us to supply our own booze
  6. agree to let us to select our own caterer
  7. be within reasonable walking distance to a range of hotels and motels
  8. be within reasonable walking distance to a cool bar for the after party
  9. be freaking unique and awesome in general
  10. oh yeah, and of course be affordable.

Clearly, it’s just a matter of time before we find this dream venue.

Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! Sorry, couldn’t keep a straight face. I mean, it’s all well and good to have identified aspects that are important to us, but we’re definitely not going to find an utterly flawless location. In fact, in the brief yet rigorous time we’ve spent searching out venues, we’ve yet to find one that meets even half of that criteria.

Bottom line, it’s just a process. We’re in the car, getting hauled up the track to the top of the wedding planning roller coaster. You never really know what’s after the crest, but you can guess it will involve ups, downs, and loops. This screwy ride will lead us to shift, sort reevaluate, change, adapt. That’s they keyword of this process, I’m willing to bet. Adapt.

where it’s at *

First post-engagement decision: to not get married in the city in which we live. For one, I’m not particularly attached to Santa Barbara; I didn’t grow up here and neither did the boy. Which leads us into an unsurprising point two—neither of our families live here (where they do live is another matter all together; let’s just say that several states and time zones are involved).

Third, our friend base has dwindled substantially in the past few years, as the boy’s old group from college has slowly but surely fled south to L.A. and north to the Bay Area in seek of larger job pools. We have just a handful of pals left in the area.

The last consideration—arguably the most important of all—is price. Now, I’ve developed a well-worn cynicism towards the inherent living expenses associated with residing in a beachside vacation mecca. Don’t talk to me about rent or even, god forbid, the price of a freakin’ jack and coke at the bars downtown. Yet I was woefully unprepared for the realities of getting hitched here until a friend’s fiancée clued me in. “Don’t bother looking,” she said flatly. “This town is insanely expensive for weddings.”

O-kay. So between a prohibitive price tag and our general lack of roots, it’s easy to put the ixnay on the Santa Bizzle. Great. Fantastic. Glad to get that sorted out. Ok, so, if not here… then where?

We know it has to be California. A sizeable chunk of the people we’re inviting live in this state, and we want to make it easier for them to come. But California is a pretty big state. And while we can probably automatically rule out, say, everything north of Redding and the inner valley, that still pretty much leaves us with a wide swath of options running from San Francisco to San Diego. Oh, maybe Santa Rosa/Napa could be nice. And wait, wouldn’t Lake Tahoe be kinda cool?

Choice is equally as paralyzing in the wedding world as it is the grocery store. That’s what the industry thrives on, after all—your inability to choose from just one of eight hundred million dresses, color palettes, invitation designs, floral arrangements, *insert retching noise here*. So you just consume more. And I’m not even there yet. Determining the details is not even a headspace I am remotely near inhabiting. All I want is a freaking venue. You can tell by the stringency of my italics.

How to pick just one place to get married when you can choose from a seemingly endless array? I’m not entirely sure. I do know we need to just focus. Tune out what’s not important. Leave things to chance. A jack & coke won’t hurt, either.

* I got two turntables and a microphone **

** No, I don’t. But if I did, I suppose I’d have the whole DJ issue resolved.