I Guess I Do

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Work & Life

This is my life in a nutshell. A constant struggle with my work/life balance ratio. These past couple of months I've taken on new projects in addition to my full-time job and blogs, projects I dreamed of having, but projects that have led to two minor meltdowns and one slight panic attack. 

I was getting everything I wanted, but I was also getting in over my head. And I knew that. I thought I would try bikram yoga to relieve the stress. Let me give you a tip: If you suffer from panic attacks and claustrophobia, being surrounded by sweaty old men in speedos doing downward dog will be your own personal hell. 

This past Sunday I caught up with my friend and mentor, the amazingly talented screenwriter behind the movies Stepmom and Because I Said So, who was also struggling with balance in life. But she said something that stuck with me. She said, "If we aren't stopping to have fun, then what is all of this for?"

So this Labor Day, let's stop. The work will always be there, but it's the life that passes you by. Savor every moment with your friends and family this long weekend Un-Brides, I know I will be!

See you all Monday...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wedding Planner Confessions

Now I've let all of you brides out there (including myself) bitch about the wedding planning process - from the cost to the family chaos. But what about the other side? What about those people who have to put up with brides on a day-to-day basis? It's those people who should be receiving a medal of honor. 

Enjoy I Guess I Do's first installment from those who work behind the scenes and have lived to tell the tales. 

After getting married in 2006, I moved my way into wedding planning at a private event center in a well-known city.  During my years in this job, there were a lot of things I learned about the industry and as a professional.

Wedding Professionals are Humans Too
Your wedding day should be a wonderful, special, memorable experience.  Of course, you want everything to be perfect.  But, try to remember: You are not the world’s first bride.  There are an entire team of people helping to ensure this day goes as you want it – but not all requests are feasible or logical.  When your caterer says “it’s not a good idea for you to leave the reception for two-hours to take photos and keep your guests waiting” – just take the time to consider what they are saying.  This day is a celebration for you, but also for your guests, and does not give you the right to treat everyone around you like a doormat.  And the brides aren’t the only guilty ones – I have been yelled at and insulted by grooms, maids-of-honor, and parents of the couple.  Though I loved my job, it was not the easiest position to be in when some people felt it was okay to treat me like a servant.
I once listened to my colleague, “Abby,” be screamed at over the phone by a client.  “I have left you several voicemails and you haven’t called me back!  It is so unprofessional!”  Abby listened to the abuse for a short time before interjecting: “My mother passed away unexpectedly and I had to travel out of state to handle that.”  Remember: Vendors are people – they get ill, they have family obligations, they experience car trouble and weather issues, and sometimes, they just plain forget or make unintentional errors.  Everyone is human.
Wedding planning is not a two-way street, but more like an intersection with an overpass and a tunnel.  There are a lot of people involved: you, your significant other, vendors, family, friends.  The best way to get through the entire process is to treat others with respect, review orders and information when instructed, ask questions when you have them, and enjoy this time as much as possible.

The Wedding Industry is not a Non-Profit Business
If you hire a true professional, you can expect they will be just that: Professional.  Along with the experience and expertise they encompass, they also have knowledge of things that will and will not work.  Trust the advice of your vendors: You may not like what you are hearing, but they are trying to do what will provide you with the best services and selections possible.  But, those services and selections cost money. Vendors have to cover their cost in products, staffing and labor, wear-and-tear, insurance, equipment, utilities, clean-up, and more.  When asking for something out-of-the-ordinary, your wedding professional may have to consider any additional costs incurred for training, gas, products, and any other part of your request that continue to reduce their profits.  After all, they can’t stay in business if they give everything away.
Most wedding vendors aren’t in their role as a hobby – this is their career.  And a career means a reputation.  Think about this before asking a caterer to remove items or ingredients from the menu, or requesting a photographer to give you access to all digital copies of photos so you can ‘just print them online.’  Quality of work is very valuable for wedding professionals, and they want to keep it that way.  Referrals go a long way, and it’s hard to attain those when clients continuously ask vendors to cut corners or cheapen their product and/or service.  Professionals want to put their best foot forward, but there is a different between “bending over backwards” and “sacrificing integrity.”
My venue once dealt with a client who bashed us online for A FULL YEAR after her wedding because we refused to offer her a “skimpy” version of one of our higher-priced menus for a cheap dollar mount.  It was not a fair offer and it did not display the best capabilities of our culinary team.  After this snag in her planning, she found anything and everything to complain about because she definitely had a “champagne taste on a beer budget.”  By the time her wedding day rolled around, her Event Manager (and the entire company) were exhausted from her continuous unreasonable demands.  Though she eventually admitted her actual wedding day was perfect, she had a very hard time ceasing her negative reviews, I believe, because she failed to be realistic about what could and couldn’t be done.  And when it was all over, she had nothing left to do but go on a rampage.  
And by the way, reminding your vendors about how much money you are spending isn’t the best way to get what you want either.  If I could count the number of times I heard a father say “we’re spending [insert number] dollars with you,” I would have more money than he actually spent on his daughter’s wedding.  Spending money doesn’t require any wedding professional to give you a discount or a special deal – it means you are paying for what their products and services are worth.  Be pleasant, understanding, and patient – and they just might be willing to throw in a few freebies!
Beware of Online Reviews
One thing I rarely consider now: Online Reviews.  Believe it or not, some vendors can pay to have negative reviews taken off a website – so be cautious when a wedding supplier has nothing but glowing reviews.  It could very well mean they are top-notch, but it could also mean they found a way to have those nasty criticisms removed.  And, let’s not forget: frustrated clients tend to complain a lot faster than blissful clients tend to spread the word.  Remember the ol’ phrase “there are two sides to every story?”  Well, there are.  Although I might be biased, my venue was a terrific place – well-experienced sales and event management, a seasoned chef and culinary team, accounting and legal experience, and positive relationships with local photographers, florists, hotels, etc.  Even so, I can recall a few times I read a negative comment from a bride or groom (or a guest who knew nothing about the requests of the couple) and could quickly recall the specific event and exactly what had happened.
“They didn’t tell us there was a 20% gratuity!”  (Well, service charge is different than gratuity, and this is notated in all menus and special offers, which you received.  It’s also found in the Contract and Final Event Order, which both have your signature beneath “I understand.”) “When we sat down to eat, our food was cold!”  (Um, because you were busy talking to guests and ignored our numerous reminders that your food was waiting for you.  No food will stay piping hot on a porcelain plate for 20-minutes.) “I hated the appetizers – they tasted awful!”  (It’s unfortunate this client didn’t like the appetizer.  Chances are, they contained an ingredient that didn’t appeal to this particular person.  My husband hates spinach and I love it, so his review of spanakopita would be very different from mine.  In some cases (not all), it could be that the taste buds are to blame – not the Chef.  )
One of the worst cases was when a bride told me everything was fine when I approached her several times throughout the day and night.  We did have one miscommunication regarding her champagne for the dressing room and she assured me it was okay.  But Monday morning, she sent her mother and new husband in to give me a lengthy list of problems from the ceremony and reception – none of which, anyone addressed on the actual day of the wedding.  It’s impossible for me to correct a problem if I don’t know it exists.  If you have a real problem – one that is truly going to affect the day – address it with your vendor on the spot (in a polite manner) or just let it go.  Don’t wait until the opportunity to resolve it has lapsed.
Some reviews are valid, it’s true.  Just remember: Most vendors NEVER have the opportunity to defend themselves against complaining clients who didn’t read their contract or final order thoroughly (a common mistake), didn’t listen to advice regarding vendor concerns (remember, they know what they’re doing), failed to provide proper instructions or directions, or realized they just spent $25,000 on a day that they’ll never get back (some brides actually experience depression afterwards - seriously).  It’s okay to think with your heart, but remember to think with your brain!
Remember What This Day Is About
I loved my job and seeing the outcomes of the wedding planning.  But after three short years, my husband and I relocated, and I realized: I was ready for a break from weddings.  I witnessed countless couples who argued through numerous planning meetings, who stretched their budgets too thin, who spent more time talking about linen colors than their vows, and who seemed extremely stressed every time we spoke.  It saddened me to see clients so engulfed in the material aspect of this event, that they forgot what was truly important and experienced numerous emotional breakdowns.  When going through your plans and encountering a problem, simply ask yourself: “Will this issue really matter in a year?”  Even in my own wedding, I stressed over my DIY table d├ęcor, and 7 years later – my husband can’t even tell me what it looked like!
When it comes down to it, please don’t forget what this day is all about.  Yes, you want it to be beautiful, and fun, and memorable.  But if you relax and think about what’s really important – THE MARRIAGE – your day will be nothing but beautiful, and fun, and memorable, and perfect.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Planning 101

One of the best decisions I made in the planning process was to hire a wedding planner. I had no clue where to begin planning a wedding in Los Angeles, so I started searching for the best ones in LA. While scouring the interwebs, I saw that Geller Events was voted number one on City Search and chose them because one of their reviews stood out to me: "They are super nice, but bulldogs when they need to be." Sounded like my kind of women. Kyle was sold because he got to play with their dogs and eat chips and salsa at all the meetings. Doesn't take much to win a man over.

Now I may fall into that creepy category, because I still do monthly dinners with our wedding planner Paige Blatt. Did I really hire a wedding planner or am I simply paying for friends? I should probably ponder that question...

But here are some things you should consider before hiring a planner of your own:

Regardless of what you decide to do, also think about the idea of a Day-Of Coordinator. Those can range from 500-2k and may be easier on the wallet. It's always nice to have someone on hand that you aren't related to (so yelling at them isn't as easy) that can deal with setup, take down, or emergency situations (like if the shuttles never show or grandma goes missing, trust me I've seen it happen...)

Wedding planners certainly aren't a necessity but are definitely nice to have. Only you can be the one to make the decision if one is right for you!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Katie & Scott : Keith Lee Studios

Meet Katie & Scott. By the looks of their beautiful, rustic St. Louis winter wedding, you would have thought the planning process would have been just like the pictures--perfection. Little did you know Katie's week before the wedding was full of sleepless nights, tears, and breakdowns but the tears have since turned to laughter. A missing priest tops the list of one of the many I Guess I Do moments at this St. Louis affair! Enjoy Katie's story in her own words below...

It feels quite timely writing this blog and reflecting on our wedding over the 4th of July. When Scott and I knew we were dating seriously, I began daydreaming about our wedding far off in the future one day. We liked the idea of having it over the 4th of July weekend. When Scott proposed on Christmas Eve in 2012 (at the restaurant where we had our first date), we started thinking about dates, venues, colors, themes, and the million other choices in between. Instead of a brightly colored summery wedding, we realized that we wanted something a little different...a rustic, winter wedding in December. 

Let me back up a few steps…Scott and I first met at a toga party in St. Louis, MO. A grand, romantic story we can share with our children someday, right? I was having drinks with my friend Joanna (matchmaker credit) when she invited me to her boyfriend’s friend’s party. A party hosted by the rowdiest of crowds: law students. Sounds like a blast! Why not? Not knowing this was a theme party, I showed up at the party sans toga. Within the first 30 minutes, the party host (and my future husband) came up to tease me about not adhering to the dress code…. in quite a cute, flirty way. Before leaving the party, Scott made sure to ask for my number. Apparently, I left at the exact right time. He will neither confirm nor deny having lost his toga shortly thereafter. Rumor has it 4Loko was involved. 

We went on our first date about a week later...and although I played hard to get...the rest was history. We dated for a summer in St. Louis, then did the long distance game for 1.5 years when Scott moved to Chicago to start his job. I eventually joined Scott in Chicago where we currently live. 

After a lovely Christmas Eve engagement, we started to think about the big decisions. Chicago or St. Louis? What time of year? Full Catholic mass? Who will be the bridesmaids and groomsmen? How many people? Within a month we resolved these items and got to work on the little fun details that turn a wedding into one of life’s greatest parties. 

Through the process, Scott made only 3 requests: 1) bowties instead of ties (every man should get to be James Bond for at least one day), 2) a DJ instead of a band, and 3) that we have a proper first dance (aka take dance lessons). Other than that, he was a happy camper with everything else. 

I was a little more...particular…with just about everything. For the venue, I knew I wanted a rustic, hard wood floor, exposed brick location. I did some research online and found the perfect place. The Moulin. The food is catered by the restaurant above, Vin de Set. After getting a tour, we wasted no time booking it. There was a little mix up with a holiday party, but after a minor heart attack, the Moulin was ours for 12/14/13. Their staff is amazing. They walked us through every step of the planning process and on the day of, made sure Scott and I always had a beverage in hand. 

We aren’t cake people, but we LOVE cupcakes. Selecting The Cup was a no brainer. They taste amazing and we have some great date memories there. Bloomin’ Buckets was a joy to work with. Barb brings her own special blend of class and creativity to the flower arrangements. 

As the big day approached, the reality that I was getting married struck me like a sledge hammer. Poised. Relaxed. Glowing. Calm and Collected. These are the words I would use to describe the flawless brides in magazines and on the perfect pinterest boards. On the week leading up to the wedding, I was not one of those brides. Even after being in several weddings, nothing could prepare me for the reality of a million little details coming together for one day. I am not a natural delegator, so I definitely took on too much. For all of the soon-to-be-brides out there, I would 100% recommend relying on your bridesmaids as much as possible…for the sake of your own sanity. 

5 days before the wedding, I descended into slight hysterics. Scott had a job interview and couldn’t make it to STL until the Wednesday beforehand. I couldn’t sleep from all the stress. I called Scott every few hours crying…usually without an actual reason. He would manage to calm me down, but it was getting dicier by the day.

3 days before the wedding, Scott finally arrived in STL. We went out to dinner, drank a glass of wine, and he convinced me that everything would feel better after a good night’s sleep. Before I fell asleep that night, I told Scott I was sorry for being a crazy person lately and asked him if he still wanted to marry me. I’ll never forget what he said, “Of course I want to marry you, but I never want to plan a wedding with you ever again.” I could not have agreed more =) 

The day of our rehearsal was a little rough. Our priest, the man who married my own parents 34 years earlier, was scheduled to arrive in town on the Amtrak from Springfield, IL. My mom and I waited eagerly at the station for him. His train arrived as scheduled and we watched from the parking lot. We watched and waited...and waited...and watched the entire train’s contents get their cabs or their rides home. And there was no priest to be found. We tried calling his office, where they confirmed that he got on the train as scheduled. Of course he was not answering his cell phone. I had visions of him asleep on the train continuing on to Kansas City.

As I began to hyperventilate, my family and friends convinced me to get ready for the rehearsal as planned. Meanwhile, one of the groomsmen was googling how to get ordained as a minister. About 30 minutes before the rehearsal, I got a call from a friend saying they arrived to the church early and wanted to warn me the steps were icy. I shouted “IS THERE A PRIEST AT THE CHURCH?” Somehow he had gotten himself to the church. It was a Christmas miracle, literally! 

The day of the wedding, my vision came to life. Our colors were gray, silver ivory and pops of rustic greenery. Everyone and everything looked perfect! It was a major success that we managed to get hair and make up done for 13 women on time for an 11am wedding. My sister/maid of honor’s speech was fantastic! We nailed our first dance to Ray LaMontagne’s “You Are The Best Thing”. The reception food was delicious! 

However, we also had our fair share of I Guess I Do moments:

- It snowed 3 inches the morning of the wedding. Great for pictures, not so great for transportation. Thankfully we planned for this and the wedding party and guests were staying at a hotel just 2 miles from the church.

- Due to the weather, one of the groomsmen’s flights was delayed. He was able to hop on an early morning flight and arrived in town about 1 hour before the wedding. In about 5 minutes flat, he walked into the hotel, changed into a full tux, jumped on the shuttle and arrived at the church like a champ.

- The shuttle to/from the hotel was taking inefficient routes in the snow, so guests weren’t arriving as effortlessly as I had hoped. As a result, the wedding ceremony started 30 minutes late. I am always tardy, so truly I could not care less about this. I was determined not to walk down the aisle until our family arrived.

- Our ceremony was designed to blend a few Jewish traditions (Scott’s religion) into the Catholic mass. This would have gone smoother if Scott had been able to successfully stomp on the glass on the first try. Or the second. Thankfully, the third time was the charm!

- Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures at the church with my favorite aunt. Luckily, the videographer was able to capture some great moments.

- Our planned receiving line at the reception never quite got into formation. We were distracted by the crab cakes and champagne...

- Scott’s brother, the best man, slipped into a British accent during his speech. This started a rumor that he studied abroad in the UK and the accent stuck.

- My newly minted husband spilled red wine down my dress. Against all odds, I managed not to kill him on the spot. Luckily, our wedding assistant had some kind of spray that gets out red wine stains.

- In another Jewish party-foul, when we went up into the chairs for the Hava Nagila, Scott got thrown out of the chair. If you ask him about it, he will proudly inform you that he stuck the landing.

- Our DJ played the wrong Rihanna song…but the world kept spinning. 

Honestly, I had forgotten about these I Guess I Do moments until writing this (well, except for the MIA priest, but I can actually laugh about it now). To us, our wedding day was the best day of our lives. At the reception, we took a few moments to ourselves to take in our surroundings. This was the physical embodiment of our new lives together - our friends and family buzzing around, dancing, laughing, and sharing in our special day. On December 14, 2013 I was lucky enough to marry the one person that I want to spend every minute of every day with for the rest of our lives. What could be more perfect than that? 

 Photograher: Keith Lee Studios  Videographer: Tower Studios  DJ and Photobooth: Complete Music  Cupcakes: The Cup  Make Up: Ali Lee  Hair: Aveda Salon @ the Chase Park Plaza Hotel Florist: Bloomin’ Buckets Dance Lessons: Dani @ Arthur Murray Chicago Ceremony Venue: St. Francis Xavier College Church @Saint Louis Univeristy  Reception Venue: The Moulin  Transportation: The MAC Shuttle, St. Louis Transportation
Wedding Dress: Dimitra’s Bridal Chicago - Designer: Alvina Valenta  Bridesmaids Dresses: Bella Bridesmaid - Designer: Monique L’Huillier  Tuxedos - Designer: Vera Wang Invitations, Save-the-Dates and place cards: Courtney Callahan Paper Rehearsal Dinner: Charlie’s Gitto’s On the Hill

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Skincare

Much to my dermatologist's dismay, I enjoy the sun and always will. But gone are the days of tanning beds, Sun-In, and Baby Oil. If I lay out, it's only for an hour every week, after I lather on my SPF moisturizer. 

I've gotten lots of freebies throughout the years at work, liking some and hating others, but here are some of the skin care products that have stuck around--ones I swear by. 

After all, a little sun won't hurt anybody. And when my dermatologist would yell at me, I would lie and say it was helping my Vitamin D deficiency (which in a twist of fate, I found out during the panel after my blood clot, that I really do have). That's some psychic shit right there, ain't it?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Seattle Wedding

We had the pleasure of heading to Seattle for the first time for a wedding this past weekend. Now if you remember, Joyce & Thanh's Hawaiian nuptials were already featured on the blog. Their I Guess I Do moment being that they had to scrap their plans for a big wedding and have a quick small one in Hawaii because of the uncertainty of her father's pending liver transplant.

Well good news, Joyce's dad got a new liver and her and Thanh finally got to celebrate with all of their family and friends! Their reception was held at the beautiful Plateau Club surrounded by tons of things I'm not used to seeing in LA -- trees. The couple's love for games was shown through their Jenga Guest Book and Trivial Pursuit place cards. I went 0-5. Shocker.

Overall, it was a quick trip but a great one. We got to explore the waterfront and fish market, which I surprisingly enjoyed despite my disdain for seafood, and more importantly got to catch up with all of our old South Bay friends.

I would definitely go back and next time try to make a pit stop at the Seattle Grace Hospital, maybe McDreamy or Meredith would be there. Yes, I'm that random person that still watches Grey's Anatomy. What can I say? I was taught the importance of dedication.

Have a great week Un-Brides!