Sunday, February 28, 2010

Our Photographer

On the heels of my "Adventures in Bargain Hunting" posts, I thought I should tell y'all about the biggest deal we've scored thus far in our wedding planning:  our photographer.

Wedding photography ain't cheap.  And good wedding photography really ain't cheap.  Especially in the Los Angeles metro area.  The Mister and I are kinda picky when it comes to wedding photography, too.  We're fans of photojournalistic style wedding photography.  While we realize that some posed shots are necessary and we do want them, we want the majority of our wedding photographs to capture real moments, not staged ones.  And as for the posed shots, we want them to look as natural as possible, not contrived.  God forbid we end up with a photographer that takes pictures like this.

Please.  If someone even tried to take a picture like this of the Mister and I, we'd look him or her square in the face and say "No e-ffing way."  The inappropriate jokes I can think of by just looking at this photograph are endless.

Then, the Mister and I unknowingly went and made things even more difficult for ourselves by only alloting $2,000 in our wedding budget for photography.  While that sounds like a lot of money in theory, and I thought that it would be more than enough to book us a great photographer when I put the budget together, I quickly realized that the number of photographers who met our artistic standards and who were within our budget were few and far between.

Enter Julie Wilson.  I found Julie just like I found our venue, through the Mountain Lakes Wedding Association website.  She's a photographer who is based in the mountains and has photographed our venue a bajillion times (that's an exact count, btw).  Her work was great, she and her husband were amazingly friendly (it can't be under-emphasized how important it is to like your photographer as a person...they'll be with you all day on one of the biggest days of your life), and her prices were incredible.  We booked Julie (and her husband, they photograph together) almost immediately. 

Here are a few of my faves from Julie's website.  It's no coincidence that the top two are at my venue. :)

(all images by Julie Wilson Photography)

Alright.  I know you want to get down to brass tacks.  We booked "Package C", which includes 6 hours of coverage with 2 photographers - Julie and her husband, unlimited photographs, retouching as needed, an online viewing gallery, a high-resolution CD of all images taken with a copyright release, a 20 page album and an engagement photo session.  All this cost us . . .

Wait for it . . .

$1200.  That's right, we came in at $800 under budget, and booked a photographer we love!  We know this is the absolute best bargain we will get during our wedding planning, and Julie must have figured it out too, because Package C now goes for $2000.  To be quite honest, $2000 is still a really good deal.  But I have to admit, when I saw that she raised her prices I squealed a little bit and ran to tell the Mister how much money we saved by booking early. 

Was it hard for you to swallow the price of wedding photography?  Did you find a deal, like me, or did you end up having to compromise either on your budget or your artistic preferences?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Adventures in Bargain Hunting, Part II

Alrighty, everyone.  When I left you last, we had just purchased our tablecloths and napkins and were waiting for them to be made and ready for pick up.

Since the place where we bought our tablecloths and napkins had to order the fabric, we couldn't take samples of the fabric home with us.  So we went to Joann's the next day to buy samples of fabric that were as close in color to what we ordered as we remembered.  We wanted to do a mock up of our guest tables using some buckets we also bought as Joann's.  Originally, I was dead set on having galvanized buckets with flowers planted in them as my centerpieces, something similar to this:

But once I saw the buckets in person, I wasn't in love.  All the one's I found were shiny and splotchy.  We bought a galvanized bucket at Joann's, as well as another bucket in a bronze color, but ended up not loving either and returned them to the store, leaving us centerpiece-less for the mock up.  Anyhoo, I digress.  This is a post about tablecloths and napkins, not centerpieces!

We still set up the sample tablecloths and napkin fabric on our kitchen table and LOVED IT.  We thought the colors went so well together and were really happy with out decision.  About a month later, we got the call that the tablecloths and napkins were ready for pick-up.  The next Saturday, we got up early and drove in to downtown L.A.  We got to the shop, the owner showed us the merch, and I instantly became worried.  That did NOT look like the shade of purple I thought we had ordered.  It was much brighter than I remembered.  But I told myself that maybe it was just the crappy fluorescent lighting in the shop and that things would look better in natural light.  The napkins were a whole other ball of wax.  There's no two ways about it.  They looked cheap.  The Mister and I were not happy campers during the 45 minute drive home.

So we got back to the house and instantly set up a tablecloth and a few napkins to see how they looked together and to see what the colors looked like in comparison to the samples we bought.  Yeah, our samples were way off.

Our actual tablecloths and napkins are on the left, the samples are on the right.  The flash kind of messed up the color of the fabrics a little, but this was the best picture I could get.

The problem was that we had grown to love our samples, so when the real deal didn't match up, our expectations were shattered.  I was bummed for a little while, but you know what?  I got over it!  You know why?  THEY'RE JUST TABLECLOTHS AND NAPKINS!!!  So what they're not the exact colors I envisioned.  They're still pretty close and will get the job done.  The fact that our tablecloths are slightly brighter than what I originally wanted will not make or break our wedding, and no one will notice.  When my Mom came over one day and I showed her the difference between our tablecloths and the sample fabric, she said she actually liked the tablecloth color better precisely because it is more vibrant.  And I knew she wasn't b.s.-ing me (I can tell when she is).  And now, 3 months after our tablecloths and napkins came in, I absolutely love the tablecloths!  The napkins I'm still on the fence about.  Not because of the color, but because we should have bought a more heavy duty fabric given the fact that we'll be serving barbeque at our wedding, including ribs.  We still may use them more for their decorative factor, and then supplement with paper napkins, I don't know.  We still have 7 months to figure that out.

So, despite the initial disappointment in our tablecloths and napkins, I view this whole adventure as a blessing in disguise.  It happened pretty early on in our wedding planning, and having go wrong so early on really gave me the perspective that I need.  You do the best you can, but you can't expect perfection.  The only thing that could ruin my wedding day is getting left at the alter.  So long as we get married on that day, that's all that really, truly matters.  The rest is just icing on the cake.

Have you just had that moment when you realized that your wedding's not going to be perfect, so you should just give up trying to make it so?  What triggered the realization?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Adventures in Bargain Hunting, Part I

A while back, after talking with my FSIL about deals she scored for her wedding, which is six months before ours, she suggested that we go to the Los Angeles Fashion District to buy tablecloths.  She found a place there that would make tablecloths for 60" round tables for $10 apiece, including the cost of fabric.  Since my venue charges $10 a piece to rent white tablecloths, and everywhere else I researched charges at least that, if not more, to rent tablecloths, I jumped on this idea.  Early one Saturday morning, the Mister, his sister, her fiance, a dear friend of ours and I all grabbed some Starbucks and made our way into downtown L.A.   We left early to try to avoid this:

When we arrived at the District I was almost immediately overwhelmed.  It is SO BIG.  And every store looks like this:

So needless to say, you best be prepared to really dig to find what you're looking for.  After looking through some basic polyesters, the Mister and I came to the agreement that we wanted deep purple tablecloths and maybe some sage green napkins.  With all the selection in the Fashion District, I did not expect it to be so hard to find cheap, deep purple fabric!  Most of the purples we were brighter than what we were going for.  We were hoping for a deep, muted, almost eggplant, purple, and what we were finding was more bright plum.

The first place we went was the shop where the Mister's sister had bought her tablecloths.  We didn't see the color we were looking for, and moved on.  After searching for what seemed like forever, and getting into one very heated bargaining session with a vendor over some fabric we didn't even really want but he was trying to sell to us anyway, we FINALLY found some cheap fabric in the color we were looking for!  We were almost ready to buy, and then discovered that this shop, as well as most of the fabric shops in the District, only sell fabric...they don't sew the tablecloths for you.  Dang it!  So FSIL ran over to the shop where she bought her tablecloths to see how much they charge to just make the tablecloths if you bring the fabric in from elsewhere.  $7 per tablecloth.  Not bad, but our end cost would have been around $15 per tablecloth, not quite the deal I was looking for.

We decided to head back over to the original shop to give their fabrics the once over again. We told the owner our dilemma, and she said she didn't have the fabric we were looking for in stock, but she could order it and still make the tablecloths for us for $10.  Hallelujah!  She pulled out a swatch book and showed us what she could order.  I immediately saw what I thought was the exact shade of purple we saw at the previous store and was sold.  The Mister wasn't so sure that it was an exact match.  We debated going back to the previous store to buy a sample, but they had a 3 yard minimum purchase, and a) I didn't want to waste the money, and b) I was tired and didn't want to walk back. So the Mister acquiesced, and we bought our tablecloths and decided to throw in some napkins too at the last minute.  We were informed that they would be ready in several weeks, so we'd just have to wait to see how they looked.

... To Be Continued

(All images from Suzie's Cottage)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wedding Crushes

Very early on in our wedding planning, I began searching the interwebs (and searching...and searching...and searching) for inspiration to guide me in planning our day.  I soon realized that the few weddings I found that really spoke to me were more than just inspiration...I was crushing on them like I was in the 9th grade again and they were the hunky senior quarterback.  I'd save them to my favorites, and look at them every day, longing for a wedding just like theirs.  I'm sure there was sighing and swooning aplenty.  Like any good teenage crush, the infatuation would fade out after a while when I found some other new wedding to crush on, but there are a few where my love has endured.

My original wedding crush was on Catherine and Andrew’s wedding, which was featured on Snippet and Ink. I just love, love, love the casual elegance this wedding oozes. I love how the decorations are minimal because the location itself is so beautiful. And I am obsessed with her gold Dior flat sandals!!! Once I saw that picture of her in those sandals, I knew that I would be wearing gold flat sandals at my wedding, too.  I'm still on the hunt for the perfect sandals.

Then, I found Claudia and Michael's wedding on Green Wedding Shoes and immediately began drooling. The picture of the bride and groom in a canoe? To die for. And I love the shade of green they used. Green is my favorite color, btw, and will be playing a predominate role in our wedding, along with purple, my other favorite color. I even was going to use planter boxes as our centerpieces, since I love theirs so much, but had trouble finding one I liked. I'm sure I'll tell you more about our centerpieces in a later post.  Though this wedding is beautiful all around, the ceremony and lunch portion resonates with me more than the more formal dinner reception.

And last, but certainly not least, are the two Weddingbee bloggers whose weddings I absolutely adore. Mrs. Cowboy Boot and Mrs. Cherry Pie.  If you are trying to plan a rustic yet elegant affair like I am, you should seriously go check out their weddings.  They've posted so many beautiful photographs in their recaps, to try to pick just one or two to post here that sum up their weddings would be preposterous.

Did you have any "wedding crushes"?  Fill me in, I'd love to know!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You Had Me At "Sleeps 18"

My venue search was long and I left no.stone.unturned. For realsies. You should see my "venue" folder under my bookmarks. Anyhoo, the search began well before the Mister even proposed, and by the time he became involved I had already developed a spreadsheet with all of the contenders. Not knowing exactly what the Mister would want, I included everything from beach-front locales, to mountain cabins, to Palm Springs hotels, to public parks in our town and neighboring cities. Then, with one fell swoop, most of the list was axed when we finally had our first real discussion about what kind of wedding we wanted, and the Mister said, with certainty in his voice, "I want to get married in the mountains." I was ecstatic, since getting married in the mountains was my original vision of our wedding. I even had us stay at a resort at Lake Arrowhead for our last anniversary to secretly scope out the place. The mountains to which I am referring, for all of you non-southern Californians, are the San Bernardino Mountains, which separate the eastern part of the Los Angeles basin from the vast desert that lies to the north.

Isn't it purdy?

So I began crossing venues off my spreadsheet, only to realize that my mountain selections were lacking, to say the least. The ubiquitous wedding websites didn't really include many mountain locations, so I had to really get creative with my searching. Luckily, with some diligent Googling, I found the Mountain Lakes Wedding Association's website, which had a list of mountain venues. What a godsend! We researched all of the venues listed on the site, and after eliminating the ones that were out of our budget, or were too small for our guest list, we trekked up the mountains to start our site visits.

For the real contenders, we scheduled actual visits, for others we just did covert snooping operations. We started in Big Bear and the general consensus was that the drive was too long for our guests, most of whom will be coming from out of state. Having to fly in and then drive 2+ hours to Big Bear was just too much. Hell, we didn't even want to have to drive that far! Plus, none of the venues gave us that "this is it" feeling. So we made our way to Lake Arrowhead, which is also in the mountains, but is much closer than Big Bear. There was one front runner in the Lake Arrowhead venues, and it was the only one we bothered to schedule a visit - the Hidden Creek Lodge.

We pulled up to the front office and waited for the wedding coordinator to show up for our appointment. We decided to sit outside because it was so nice out. 15+ minutes later, she still wasn't there. I was tired, a little carsick, and getting pissed off. No bueno. I was seriously considering leaving, but walked back in to the office instead to see where the hell she was. The girl manning the front counter saw me and said in one breath"ohmygod, I completely forgot to tell her you were here." The wedding coordinator came out, all apologetic, and took us over to the lodge. Within two minutes, we knew this was where we wanted to get married. I mean, how could you pass this up?

The lodge sleeps 18 comfortably, and when you rent the lodge for your wedding it includes those accommodations for one night. Score! Plus you can add on an extra night for their regular "non-wedding" rental rate, so we did. We'll be going checking in Friday afternoon, giving us plenty of time to set up and do a rehearsal (if we decided to do one, that is) and make Saturday much less rushed. We've invited our closest friends to stay with us in the lodge for both nights. We check out Sunday morning. What I love the most is that it gives us the freedom to let our wedding be less tightly scheduled and more organic.

Most women talk about their dream dress, but I've always been more of a dream venue type of girl. What about you? How did you find your venue?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pleased to Meet You!

Hello, everyone!  It's so lovely to meet you. I'm Erica, a 29 year old attorney living and working in Southern California's "Inland Empire" and planning the wedding of our dreams.  We got engaged a little over 8 months ago, and wedding planning has really helped me reconnect with my creative side.  Since I was a teenager the primary outlet for my creativity has been writing, so as I started getting into the thick of wedding planning I found myself wanting to start a wedding blog.  I hemmed and hawed for a while, but here I am!

Before we get into all the wedding details, how about you get to know me and the Mister a little better?
The Mister and I on a park bench in San Diego.  This was taken the weekend he proposed to me!

We met in March of 2007 on I was a recent law school graduate and had just moved to Southern California to be closer to my family, who moved there when I was a sophomore in college. I didn't grow up in SoCal, so I didn't know anyone other than my parents and sister when I moved to the area. I thought I'd give Match a whirl, and low and behold, it worked! The Mister is an engineer who was born and raised in SoCal, an avid hockey fan, a video game junkie who waivers between recovery and relapse, and all-around fantastic person. We had our first date on the day my subscription to expired. We've been pretty much inseparable ever since, and his friends and family have welcomed me with open arms. I feel so lucky to have met him and gained not only a partner in crime, but a whole posse!

We got engaged in June of 2009 in San Diego.  The Mister's work was holding its annual summer event down in San Diego (tailgating and then a Padres' game) and we decided to go down to San Diego a day earlier and make a 3-day weekend out of it.  The Mister was being so romantic, I suspected that he might propose.  But the romantic moments would pass and then I'd just forget about it and enjoy our long weekend.  Always one for surprises, the Mister was dead set on catching me off-guard with the proposal, and boy did he!  We were relaxing in our hotel room before heading over to the ballpark, just watching TV and not even really talking.  Once it was time to go I made my way to the door and the Mister was behind me.  As I opened the door he said "Wait!  I forgot something."  I turned around and he was on his knee with a ring in his hand, and the rest is history.

I look forward to getting to know you all through this blog and share my wedding planning experiences.