Love Love Letter

Planning Love Fest 2012 in NYC, taking it in stride.

Turning That Frown Upside Down

I’ve been a little melancholy lately, and melancholy does not lead to good blog posts. Things have been tough in the Love Love Letter household. It’s been feeling like things are just kicking our collective butt every time they get a chance, and we can’t catch a break. And through the butt-kicking, it’s hard not to bicker. A lot. And through the butt-kicking, it’s also hard to keep up with the little things that would make life sweeter if only I could. The fridge is empty, the laundry needs doing, drawers need to be purged and organized, trips need to be planned, doctors appointments need to be made. The bigger things, though, are sapping energy needed to do these smaller things. The subletters in our old apartment are some of the worst characters I’ve ever come across who are refusing to pay rent; I’m applying to one after another job, and waiting with baited breath to hear something back is exhausting…. I could go on, but it feels petty to whine about these things. In the end, none of this will matter much. So I’m just trying to get through each day being happy until the job situation smooths out (it also, of course, involves our business that is currently going through major growing pains), and the horrendous tenants move out on October 31st. Next month is their last month, and we already have rent for then, so we’re left with little we can do but wait it out. With the hope to focus on the good, here are some things I’m excited about:

– Traveling! We’re off to California for over two weeks next month, during which time we’ll be going to two weddings, and staying put for some quality time with my aunt, uncle and cousin by their pool in the Hollywood Hills. One of the weddings is in Malibu, and the other is in Palm Springs, and I just cannot wait to say, for the first time in our relationship, that the boy and I are on vacation. Officially.

– Making things! I have actually gone to a supply store and purchased everything that I need to get started making wax carvings for jewelry. This is something I’ve wanted to do for literally years and years. Why I have yet to try is beyond me. Although, here’s a good excuse: The second I left the shop, it dawned on me that I’ll need a benchpin, which requires a table to clamp it to… even if I were to decide to go ahead and make a mess in my apartment, we are severely lacking in surfaces at the moment, and certainly in surfaces that can be lost to this or (gasp) ruined.

– Healthy eating! A’s new diet is forcing him to eat all of the things I would want to make and eat anyway. Beans and veggies simply done play staring roles. I think he’s actually learning to like it.

– Registering for some fabulous pieces! I started a tentative registry a while ago. It was very practical. Practical is great, and I want it to stay that way… but… we have a good amount of the basic everyday things we need already. Rather than replacing them, I’d like to go ahead and get an awesome set of fine china, some things I’ll want to treasure forever. And then suggest a charity for donations as well. Balance. With that in mind, I went to wander the floors of Bloomingdales the other day, and it was lovely to pretend and daydream.

I’ll take any suggestions you might have for cheering up. Girl could use it.

XO,

A

 

Advertisements

The Catering Saga Comes to a Close… Almost.

I’ve been busy. And the fiance has been around a lot. We had the holiday weekend, and he and I have the unique ability to spend ALL of our time together when we’re not forced apart by things. Like, one of us has to go to the pharmacy for something so we go together. Attached at the hip. Some might say codependent. But we also have the ability to get through two or three weeks apart when traveling for work without trouble, so I’m not worried.

We’re going for a tasting with a caterer tonight. It’s been raining absolutely nonstop for a full day and it’s not supposed to let up for the next week or so, which always makes me want to huddle up in bed and shirk responsibility, but this is a fun responsibility at least. My A did choose this week to start on a diet, an attempt to make sure he fits into the tuxedo he bought the day before we met two years ago. The tasting is sure to break every rule in his book, which I feel terrible about, because he’s showing such dedication. He’s eating beans and eggs whites and vegetables for breakfast; it’s unheard of! But, it’s a breaking of rules that must happen.

It’s down to the cheapest option with eight hors d’oeuvres, or the full meal with the ladies who make me smile. They continue to be so amazingly on top of things – calling me or emailing again to get answers from me when I delay. They are blowing me away with their responsiveness.

We’ve happily resigned ourselves to spending some dough. We can make the money work, and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to truly host all of our loved ones.

There’ll be this tasting tonight, and one more next week, and then we choose! There’s little more I love than checking something off a list.

All my love,

A

 

The Rentals Saga Begins… and Maybe Ends

I’ve had a few experiences through wedding planning that have made me disappointed in the people around me. Early thoughts about the wedding threw me into a bit of an existential crisis. Crisis is a harsh word, maybe too much, it seems to evoke the idea of action. As though my worries caused me to upend my life in some way. There was no such drama, but internally – and on the comments sections of a blog or two that frequently doles out advice – I was a small mess. One of my friends was letting me down, and I saw this as my moment to end that relationship. After some mulling it over, some hemming and hawing, I chose to do nothing but whine to one of my girlfriends about it after making them pinky swear not to say a word. My parents were sometimes annoying – reading them at first as I tried to figure out what everyone was willing to do or give to make this happen was a game I had not yet played with them.

But now, the dust seems to have settled and I’m letting everyone be their truest selves and not taking it personally. Two of my ladies, though, M and M we’ll call them because that’s what their names begin with, have really stepped it up and are being sweet beyond sweet. When we went dress shopping, they insisted I always sit in the front seat of the car, that I not carry a thing. They took my picture and oohed and aahed. When we went to Bridal Garden, which is a self service dress salon, they hauled my heavy dresses, maybe 30 of them, into my dressing room, zipped and tugged and clipped me into one after another without a complaint and with a loving tear or two shed.

And just last week, one of the M’s took me a whole hour and half into the wild’s of Jersey to go thrifting and look for dishes. I have it in my head that one way we could save on catering is to find all of our own dishware and serveware second-hand. A quaint and charming mish-mash of chintzy florals and gilded edges and the occasional animal portrait or scene of daily life. We could keep what we want when it’s all over, and sell the rest.

A case of baseball cards - my love has a whole suitcase filled with these! We're sitting on a goldmine.

Only $5,000 for the full dining set.

Seems, though, we went to the wrong place. We can’t so much look for ‘antiques’ if we’re serious about this. I suspected as much, and we went home empty handed. I can’t tell you how touched I was, though, that M immediately offered to drive me when I was toying with the idea of doing this. That gesture, and the memories of spending the day together, poking through the bits and bobs of the Antiques Capital of New Jersey, long ambling walks down the road and long ambling talks up the turnpike – I’ll truly hold onto that for a long time.

Am I wasting my time trying to continue the search? Ebay or Craigslist sound better than more miles clocked? Does anyone know someone who did this successfully?

~A

It’s Oh So Quiet

Ah, where did the time go? I have no excuse – we had Hurricane Irene blow through this weekend, leaving us to sit around the apartment for two days straight with nothing to do but eat an inordinate amount of junk food and drink one whiskey soda after another. I could have written, I should have written… But sometimes chips and dip is just more important.

I’m coming at you tomorrow with a post about a trip my lovely friend M and I took to the far reaches of New Jersey in search of plates. Yes, plates. For the wedding. It masqueraded as a fun day trip for two ladies who like digging for treasure, and that it was. But it turns out, when you go to what is lauded as the “Antiques Capital of New Jersey,” everything is appropriately inflated in price and picked over by older gay gentlemen in suits who know what they’re looking for.

Turns out, I need to get to a massive Salvation Army or something in the suburbs instead if I’m going to find what I’m looking for.

Au demain,

A

Catering Conundrum

I mentioned that another thing we’re still working on, and admittedly technically ‘late’ on, if you adhere to any standard timeline, is catering.

It’s driving me crazy, and making me completely rethink our wedding actually. Not, of course, having it or not. No, a canape could not make me consider calling it off. Ha. But really, in New York, I don’t understand how you can have anything close to what they would call a ‘budget wedding’ (I know everyone has A budget), unless you shake the guest list out and take it down to 30 people. But we just can’t – we had 30 people at our closest-family-getting-to-know-you engagement party. Without a single friend, a single aunt, uncle or cousin on my dear A’s side.

So when we were first trying to decide on what to make the whole wedding look like, we had the option of a restaurant buyout which made sense to me. It already has decor, you can read tons of reviews or go spy on a date there to see if you like it. It is not complicated – they feed people there every day. Only thing is, on a Saturday evening in New York, any restaurant equipped to hold our guest list is accustomed to making bank – thus, a buyout is a whopping $25-$30k. It also lacked the charm and romance that my A wanted, which is not a bad point. I thought The Park looked pretty with large trees shooting up through the interior. I’d never been, he associated it with groups of bros going to get wasted and do a lot of blow in the bathroom. Immediately off the list!

A loft didn’t feel quite ‘us,’ and we confirmed that when we went to go look at one. Besides, we’re into being creative with this, but the idea of having to start with a *completely* blank slate seemed daunting – and like costs would quickly add up. That sent me on the lookout for a space that had some history and romance already intact. Once we had it down to two, one got knocked off the list because realistically, it was too small. It was beautiful, though, and it had food included. And the building itself was originally built as a home for one of my ancestors. Can’t get better than that. At that time, I was alllllll gung ho to choose really great food. I am passionate about food in a way that sometimes baffles my fiance. The amount I can eat without really gaining weight also seems to baffle him. Anyway, this gung ho-edness led me to believe that the venue without food included was better! Finding a caterer would be a fun adventure! Until I started getting quotes back. Or rather, until I started *trying* to get quotes and finding that many caterers wouldn’t even bother, let alone treat me with respect, as they explained how small my allotted food budget actually was. I will tell you what it is, because I wish I’d seen what some of this comes out to earlier on. I’d relied heavily on New York Mag’s caterer listing, which seemed so comprehensive. I don’t know where they get their ‘starting at’ quotes per head, but I’ve found them to be maddeningly off base. I started wanting to go no higher than $12k for 120. $100 per head. Not high, but I didn’t think it was so stingy. Got laughed at. Stretched it to $14k. $116 per head. Got advice, but no offer. Now it’s at $18k and still I’m imagining some guests going home grumbling about us.

After a lot of frustration, I finally have four caterers who have been friendly and professional and given me detailed proposals and menus.

– One is super well known and on the recommended list for my venue. Their proposal, once tax and service fees are added, will come out to 33% more than I was supposed to spend, and will give guests passed hors d’oeuvres and stations for two hours, plus open bar and then three little hors d’oeuvres style desserts. Can I stomach paying a whole third more than we intended and not even have a full meal for grandma to sit and enjoy? We’ll have seats, sure, and tables… but if we need to have seats for everyone, then do we have regular full tables?

– One caterer is outside of the city, a bit more beach bbq than formal fete, but I like the idea of mixing it up. And that approach to cooking, I think, makes it slightly more affordable. I’m still waiting for a proposal from him, but he was very nice and enthusiastic and said he’d have it to me today.

– One caterer is small scale, but the few reviews I can find for him are positive. I loved him over email, not as much on the phone. He sent a proposal that comes in under what we’ve now stretched the budget to be, but it is for eight passed hors d’oeuvres for two hours, and mixers. Eight. Eight. Once I add in the liquor, either from him or from us, it will be at our limit, and we will be serving eight hors d’oeuvres. He says it will be plenty, if we break them up so we do lighter first and then heavier the second hour, it will feel more like the flow of a meal. But still!

– And finally, my favorite of the bunch so far, a boutique prepared foods shop in Williamsburg that was so cool and friendly and persistent in getting us information and getting their questions answered so they could help us. They’re into what’s fresh at the farmers market, and they believe that they can give us hors d’oeuvres, and a three course meal and stay within our budget!! They made me smile, just talking to them. They also made sure to speak to our contact at our venue before sending us the proposal so that they fully understood what they needed to bring in and what the flow of the evening could look like. I love that kind of proactivity!

Wow, that was a lot of words, dudes, and no pictures. Apologies. But is this really and truly what people in NYC pay for weddings?! Should I try to find a school gym to rent out instead of our beautiful Park Ave townhouse to cut some costs?

~A

Dancing Royalty

Reporting to you with wedding related mumbo jumbo:

We’re at a bit of a standstill. There are two big things that my much-hated-by-some-and-yet-actually- really-helpful-if-you-have-a-strong-will-and-know-what-to-ignore-as-WIC-evils Kn*t checklist tells me I’m behind on. Caterer and entertainment.

I’ve been waiting for my love A to get here so I can throw all of our DJ options at him to see which he likes. He’s very excitable and romantic and over the top sometimes, which is a big part of why I love him so. As such: He’s talked about a marching band to lead us down the street from the ceremony… to the Catholic Gap (sounds dirty, no?) waiting point… to the reception. He’s talked about a live band that will have everyone on their feet all night. He’s also talked about being excited to put together an iPod playlist of his own (that will be the best ever) and call it a night. All over the place.

Feeling the beat from the tambourine, oh yeah. From Pacing the Panic Room.

We do know a band that is pretty amazing and just our style and would be excellent for part of the night. I must say though, I think it’s really hard for a band to consistently and without doubt get people to dance. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it just stinks. This particular band does some lovely New Orleans jazz, but how is A’s mom going to do the Electric Slide to that? And how is my mom going to get her fix of the hora? Do you think they do a jazzy rendition of Hava Nagila?

I’ve seen more than one successful iPod wedding, but I don’t want us to have to do an ounce of work on our wedding day. And I just know we’d end up running over to the AV tech guy at the venue asking him to switch songs if we go that route. Yes, AV tech guy. We have to hire him, in order to use their sound system (It’s not cheap either, she whispers).

Which way do you guys lean? Band? DJ? iPod?

Sooner than later,

A

 

The Plan

The plan is for him to come back to our home base, for the two of us to enjoy some down time. To hole up, forget the world. Recalibrate.

We need it so badly, after nearly two years of busting our backsides working on our business followed by one week of disassembling all of it. We used to think we felt drained because it was a lot of work. Now we feel drained because if we actually ‘felt’ everything that we’re entitled to feel, it would be just too much. We are numb, we are bummed, we know that we have to think up a new way for life to be. But before we do that, we’re going to indulge ourselves. We’re going to clean up and dress real snazzy; take a mini vacation or two, and then take a real vacation.

Somehow, the same freedom you feel when you jump ship from the 9-5 (You’re sticking it to the man! Your time is your own!) accompanies this jumping ship as well, which, we’re not sure yet, could mean a return to the 9-5. Of course these big decisions come with some of the above mentioned recalibration. Joanna just linked to an article her husband wrote about just this phenomenon, and I can’t tell you how reassuring it was to hear that others find working for yourself all-consuming, too. And I love that about working for yourself, but I can’t help but get excited about some things I would like to line up for myself with maybe just a bit of new energy, or time on my hands:

– Jewelry classes! I’ve taken some silversmithing classes before, but I want to learn lost wax techniques. Oh yes.

– Exercise! I’ve tried to get into running, and it never lasts long. I would like to consider not forcing that on myself and instead find a yoga or pilates studio that I love. Or all the cool girls are talking about Zumba, which I always thought was a robotic vacuum cleaner, not a Latin dance-inspired aerobics class.

– Puppies! I went into a Pet Smart today because the urge has been getting stronger, and then I followed that by spending two hours on the PetFinder adoption website. This cutie is in NYC, click the picture above to find out more. If I don’t adopt him, I hope you will!

– Art studio space! I also went and met with someone who’s renting out a small room within their studio. It was clean and secure and professional seeming. It would make me feel like a real artist, provided I actually went and used it. This is what I studied in college. Then I promptly went and sat in a cubicle.

– Writing! That’s what I’m doing here, but I’m also pretending I’m writing a novel. There are a lot of really helpful websites out there: “So, You’re Writing Your First Novel” and “Novel-Writing for Dummies” and whatnot. I scoffed at them until I decided I wanted to go for it, and now all of a sudden they are really helpful. I’ve always just jumped in headfirst, no ideas for the big picture, just a snazzy way to describe Our Hero’s drive through a mountain pass, and somehow I never understood why it didn’t get past paragraph number two.

– Cooking! All I ate today was a big pot of rice and beans I made… but I swear I’m about to step it up.

So, dear readers, watch this space. Self-improvement life-improvement nonsense to come on all of these fronts shortly.

Yours,

A

Strike a Pose

Just before we announced that we were turning the direction of the business around entirely, we had a few lovely tourists into our space. It was a family of four visiting from Austin, and they were nothing but friendly and curious. They combed through the place for a good long time, took the time to ask us deep questions about the business and about us. The daughter bought something she’d had her eye on, the father drank more than one cup of our exceedingly strong coffee. It had been a slow day, and we were happy to have such genuine interaction – that’s why we got into it. Some days, dealing with the public was tough, days like this it was a pleasure. We were both unshowered, it was extremely hot that day, and we felt like a couple of scrubs, trying to pull it together to look professional.

The mother of the bunch was carrying a large camera, and she asked if she could take my picture after we’d all exchanged contact information. It all felt very old-fashioned somehow. These days, we don’t get that close to someone in person, with only half an hour together. Still, I figured it was a tourist move, she was recording their comings and goings. I stood at attention, ready for a photo to be snapped. What should I do with my arms? Was my hair ok?

Turned out, she’s a portrait artist, and wanted to take more artful photos. She put me back in a position I’d been in earlier during our conversation. She moved my hand a bit, pulled the neckline of my dress so it covered my errant bra strap. She asked me to swivel my hips forward and tilt my head a bit. I felt awkward beyond belief. Before long it had turned into a full-on shoot, with multiple locations, and my fiance in on the action as well. She and her husband were excited for us, that we are getting married. We couldn’t do anything but giggle. It felt silly, but also exciting. We wanted to go along with it, we felt that we should because she asked, but we were also secretly happy to know that we were going to have some nice photos of us. It quickly became fun. Too bad we hadn’t showered. My man A laughed as she positioned his hand near the gaping hole on the knee of his pants. He talked about wishing he’d shaved while she snapped away. I said I’d wished I’d put on makeup.

photo by May Lau

photo by May Lau

Just a day or so later, we’d made the decision to close – we were in a completely different headspace than we’d been in when we met them. And then yesterday, she posted the photos publicly to our business’ wall on F*cebook. I was completely taken aback at first, they seemed not at all appropriate for that page. But after a little while to get over my embarrassment, I realized perhaps it’s perfect. We’re getting a lot of unwanted sympathy over our decision to move on. Sure, it hurts us a bit to have to do this, and it’s painful tying up the loose ends, having to draw it out like this instead of being able to just walk away from it, but maybe these photos show that we’re happy. That we’re ok, the two of us. That it’s just a new direction, and that we’re able to walk off into the sunset, the two of us, and enjoy getting married. Maybe it will stop all of the apologies and reassurances and will instead allow people to be excited for us and our next steps, which we are.

photo by May Lau

photo by May Lau

What a Partner is For

I started this thinking I would be writing about the wedding planning process exclusively. And it’s fun for that, it’s a great outlet. I have plenty of girlfriends who will sit and listen to me go on about it for hours – I’m lucky. I’m especially lucky because a handful of them are going through the process themselves, so any conversation about weddings is fueled by not one but two brides. They are long and all-encompassing. I love it. But still, I want to talk about it more and here you are, internet, ready to indulge me.

Well, the past few days have been really crazy in the realm of real life. My fiance and I are business partners, that’s how we met and it’s all we’ve known together. We work together all day and then try to have a normal life during after hours. It all kind of blends together, and it’s been wonderful, really. I totally believe that it’s strengthened our relationship in a way that few other circumstances can. But we recently encountered a major hurdle that made us decide to close the whole thing down. It was, I’ll admit, a touchy moment, something we’re hesitant to publicize. Nothing at all to do with the two of us, but it’s the kind of thing that can be polarizing and gain us enemies for our decision. I can boil it down to this: we encountered a dangerous situation in the small city where our business was located. We had been considering expanding the business there, but suddenly feeling really unsafe, we felt that sticking around and tempting fate would be a mistake. It was all we needed to pack up and close shop, heading for home in NYC.

The craziest part of this is really just the way it will effect our daily lives. It’s sad and we’re feeling sentimental, shutting down the thing that brought us together and that we’ve spent literally every day for the last two years thinking about and slaving over. But we’re also feeling really optimistic about the things it’s brought us, taught us. We’re sure we can leverage it, do something great with it. We’re also sure that this will feel like a new lease on life. All of a sudden, we’ll have time to enjoy things together, instead of always having the nagging responsibilities of a couple of entrepreneurs in the back of our minds. We can take a real vacation together and completely unplug, we can spend money on an extravagant night out or buy something new and lovely instead of scrimping so we can funnel the money toward the business. We can take time for ourselves to exercise or take classes or paint or sit in the park without feeling guilty. We could get a pet without worrying about our crazy travel schedule! And, of course, we can focus on the wedding as an enjoyable hobby rather than feeling that it’s something that has to get done when we have time. Owning your own business, especially brick and mortar, is all consuming. Goodness. We were business partners, then both business partners and life partners… I’m really looking forward to seeing what being purely life partners looks like.

Clarity

I feel like I’ve spent a decent amount of time venting frustrations here. Frustrations about expectations, frustrations about costs, and about the standards in the wedding industry that bring out all those expectations in the first place. But I’m not a whiner! I’m a positive upbeat kind of girl who believes you get back what you put out there.

So, with the clarity that it’s all gonna be just fine, just great even, here are some things I’m excited about:

– Needing to keep budget in mind is maybe a blessing in disguise. It’s lead us to search for the ones who really get us, and it feels SO good to support up and coming talents in the wedding world.

– With that in mind, I’m excited about our photographer, who is relatively new to wedding photography. I do believe she’s wonderful at what she does, and that she’s about to take off big time. I’ll share more about her once we do our engagement shoot and I have some real experience with her.

– So too is the woman who will be our florist (as soon as I send in the deposit). She really listened to me at our initial meeting, and she’s sent me excited emails with more ideas and inspiration for our set up. I love that enthusiasm! And, she came to us because she is the sister of an artist we’ve worked with for our business. I do adore a connection like that.

– Knowing that the money for the purchase of my dress goes toward supporting children’s charities.

– And of course, I’m marrying my favorite person in the world, the best man I could ever hope to know. A man who makes my heart sing and makes me think life can’t possibly get much better, even on the most mundane of days.

Even if we had all the money in the world to spend on the wedding, I would want to seek out vendors who meshed with our values, and to make sure that I felt I was giving business to people who deserved it. I would want to put trust in someone and their creative vision, once I understood that their aesthetic and ours came from a similar place. And I’m getting to do just that!

Yay love.