Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pug Vendors Part II

My vendors continued...

I actually found 39 East Photography mentioned on the Weddingbee boards.  CK is very talented and a pleasure to work with, both leading up to the wedding and on the day itself.  It is important to hire a photographer whose work you respect, but also someone whose personality meshes with your own in order to make you comfortable on your wedding day.  And CK was that person for us.

In terms of the quality of his work, you've seen the photos that I've posted.  While many photographers are on the photojournalistic side of the fence these days, CK is truly that guy.  His photos have a subtle, atmospheric quality to them that portrays the mood of the moment--they have a muted elegance to them that seems timeless to me.  There are many styles out there and you just have to find something that works for you.

I think CK excels at capturing sentimental moments, and beautiful bride and groom photographs such as the ones below. 

Orna Maymon of Ornamento
As I previously mentioned, Orna did an amazing job with our flowers.  I did not do a vast amount of vendor research, partly due to planning from across the county, and I'm sure I could have found a less expensive florist, but Orna was so pleasant to work with, talented, and very familiar with our venue.  She was incredibly understanding of our budget and never ever made me feel judged--she did not blink an eye or say a word when I eliminated typical items such as all bouquets (including bride's bouquet), boutonnieres, escort card and cake table flowers.

Ceremony: In-house hotel A/V

Reception: iPod/my brother in law
We used an iPod for the reception music, with the hotel's A/V services for amplification and a microphone for toasts.  Even with a group of about 50 people, it was very helpful to have the speakers.  If it's in your budget, I recommend a speaker/microphone system even if you are going the iPod route.

One of our lucky stars blessed us with a brother in law who was the perfect emcee.  He was articulate, watched the timing of the reception so he could properly introduce the toasts, shoe game and cake cutting, and added just the right dose of humor to his words.  Furthermore, having a family member as the emcee helped contribute to the evening feeling so personal.

See, he's funny even when he doesn't have a microphone

If you are thinking of having a friend/family member act as your officiant, I highly recommend it.  I should note that Kevin and I are not attached to any religious institution and therefore there wasn't any other officiant that was a natural choice.  For us, having our friend as the officiant it made the ceremony very personal and comfortable, and I was honored to have her standing with us at the ceremony. I wrote the ceremony because I did not want her to have the stress of coming up with her own text, but otherwise she took it away with flying colors.

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
I've never stayed at a Ritz-Carlton and don't know if I will ever have the opportunity again (waaahhh...), but for our wedding, it was amazing.  We knew going in that we were paying a premium for this venue, but we heard from others who had stayed there that the level of service would be incomparable.  So what did the Ritz-Carlton have to offer?

1.  Awesome surroundings and facilities.  Our guests raved about the Ritz--the hotel itself and its grounds, which were, to say the least, gorgeous.

2.  Outstanding customer service.  The Ritz makes very clear that it considers service a top priority.  It was palpable that every single member of the staff worked to ensure that each guest was happy and that things ran smoothly, not only during the wedding but during the entire weekend.

3. A de facto day of coordinator--every couple who decides to get married at the Ritz is assigned an event coordinator.  For us, this was huge.  We worked with Lesli Mack--she was the one who told me that we did not need to hire a separate day of coordinator because the Ritz provides many of the services of a DOC and the size of our wedding (50 people) was manageable.  Lesli was very capable, and as a guest noted after the event, "had her shit together" the day of.

I mean look, I'm practically worshipping the woman

4.  Food. This ain't no standard throwaway hotel fare.  We had several seafood dishes on our menu, which for a large group can be hard to cook properly, but they were perfectly executed. Everyone raved about the food--delicious, beautifully presented, and ample but not slopped-on portions.  It was very important to us to have outstanding food at the wedding for a variety of reasons, and we were thrilled at how things turned out.

Kelly Zubal of Inticing Creations 
Having our wedding in Half Moon Bay, which is a bit removed from San Francisco and San Jose, limited the choices of bakers we could use because of the often outrageously high delivery fee.  Through yelp research, I found Inticing Creations, which I think is part of a collective of women-owned start up businesses with space in the Mission District of San Francisco.  

Kelly is very pleasant in person and makes one mean vanilla cake--I'm definitely a chocolate kind of girl, so it speaks volumes that we chose her yummy vanilla cake, which she makes with brown sugar (genius).  And her frostings are to die for--caramel toffee, cookies 'n' cream, etc. She didn't always promptly respond to emails, but it didn't bother me too much because our cake was a fairly straightforward affair and we didn't have a lot to discuss.

Guest photo of our yummy three tiers with white buttercream and sugar crystals

Which vendors are most important to you? Any other vendors that I'm missing? 

Photos courtesy of CK Hwang/39 East Photography unless otherwise noted

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pug Vendors Part I

Here's my big list 'o' vendors and details.

Bridal Attire and Appearance
Bridal Salon: Hannelore's, Alexandria, Virginia
Hannelore's has a wide selection of dresses and is a full-service bridal shop.  My sales consultant Sally was very pleasant and patient, although overall the store felt a tad impersonal to me.  Also, if you do buy your dress there and you do not have complicated alterations, I highly recommend going elsewhere for the alterations because Hannelore's alteration fees are fairly outrageous.  My dress was Marisa #775.  Would anybody like to buy? I'm selling it.

Alterations: Ellen's Couture, New York City
Ellen's is just a few blocks from my apartment, so score on that front (and if it sounds familiar, it's because Miss Trail Mix used Ellen's as well!).  Ellen is a no-nonsense kind of woman but her service is still personal.  She made a halter strap for my dress, hemmed the dress, and added an inner layer (to prevent the skirt from getting caught in between my legs when I walked) for half the price of Hannelore's.

Accessories: Earrings from Macy's
Macy's is Macy's, not much to say about that.  The earrings I eventually found were genuine cubic zirconia. I know, you're impressed.

(phone was in there for scale)

Shoes for Ceremony: Tahari Rose peep-toe pumps from DSW
Simple and cute. I'm not a huge shoe person and these more than fit my admittedly low aesthetic bill.

Super comfy.  Pug-approved.
Hair and Makeup: Aimee Lam 
I love Aimee.  I knew Aimee was the person to do my hair and makeup when I went in for my very fun and fabulous trial.  She is sweet, professional, and very meticulous. She is quite popular, so book early if interested--I reserved her in August 2009 for my March 2010 wedding, and in August there was already someone else interested in hiring her as well.  I beat them! I totally beat them!!

I spent much more money on hair and makeup than I had planned, but after a very lackluster trial with someone who cost half as much, it was worth it to me to splurge. Aimee played a crucial part in making me look my best for the wedding day. 

I wore no veil or other jewelry besides our rings.  Speaking of rings...

DLH is a small boutique in NYC from where Kevin and I purchased our wedding bands as well as my engagement ring.  We loved the personal service and unique designs of DLH.  If you're on the email list, they have pretty good sales every once in a while--we purchased our wedding bands during a 50% sale.

Personal photo

Doesn't it look like Kevin's ring could swallow mine? Bully.
CK Hwang/39 East Photography

Any vendors that you've been loving and would like to share?  And while I'm thinking about it, what ring size is your significant other? What ring size are you? 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Look Ma! I'm Made Out of Clay

An apology is in order. Amends must be made.

For most of our wedding planning, Kevin and I only had one pug:

The chubber above made it into my blog posts, the main picture of our website, and even our engagement photos.  See following evidence:

Photo by Ananda Lima

Then, a few months before the wedding, we got a second pug, who essentially got the shaft in terms of having any spotlight:


Sure she's come up here and there on my posts, but after all it's Miss "Pug", not Miss "Pug and then oh the second pug that happens to come along."

Poor squirt, all neglected.  Well, I made it up to her.  It all started with a squeal, when I discovered polymer clay cake toppers on Etsy:



So cute, right? I wavered back and forth whether to purchase a cake topper. Part of me said there's not much point and a waste of money.  The other part of me was like GET IT GET IT GET IT!

Then, when I realized that we could have both the chubber and squirt on the topper with us, it was game over.



I justified this purchase as being my wedding gift to Kevin, because getting a cake topper solely to make sure your second dog is included in the wedding is crazy talk, just crazy talk!!

I chose Lynn's Little Creations for my cake topper based on price and quality of work--I'm not saying it's totally cheap, but some of the other toppers cost above $150.  By the way, she books up a few months in advance, so plan ahead.

I sent her pictures of me and Kevin, my dress, hairstyle (from my hair/makeup trial), Kevin's suit, his shirt, and our two pugs.

And got this:

Squirt, you can't say mama doesn't love you.

Bonus: She gave me a bosom! How exciting.

Are you opting for a cake topper?

Last three photos courtesy of CK Hwang/39 East Photography

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Army of Photographers

So you've hired a photographer. Very important.  But what about all those other pictures that guests have taken? What if they captured moments that the photographer did not? One, or even two professional photographers cannot be everywhere.  To try and collect all the photos from our hoarding guests, I used a shared online photo site like many other savvy brides.

I created a flickr account just for the wedding, and paid the $25 or so to upgrade the account so you can have unlimited space (this was after one of our guests uploaded high resolution files that took up a good portion of our memory).  I then sent out the following email to guests a few weeks after the wedding:
We are back from the honeymoon, all rested and wishing for about 5 more months of vacation.  We can dream, can't we?  Thank you all for your love and friendship during the wedding weekend and beyond, we had an incredibly wonderful time celebrating with all of you.

While hopefully we deluged you with enough drink and food to keep you well occupied during the wedding, if there are any pictures you took that you would be willing to share, we have created a flickr account for you to upload your photos.  To upload your photos:

1.  Go to
2.  Sign in with the username: [  ]
3.  Password is: [  ]
4.  Click on the blue link on the right that says "Upload Photos & Videos".
5.  Follow directions to upload (your photos will already need to be on your computer's hard drive)
6. Ta-da!!

We know this takes a bit of effort and we truly appreciate any photos you would like to share.  Please keep in mind that the flickr account is one that can be accessed by all wedding guests, so try not to be embarrassing, okay? Actually, go ahead, what do we care.

Thank you again! 
I'm really glad we did this because while not everyone is going to take the time to upload their photos, I definitely love having at least some guest photos.  Here's a sampling:

Picture 059
Pic from the welcome event, where there was no hired photographer.

Picture 076 
Look at me dragging that man to the altar.

Picture 089
Someone seems to be having a good time. Note almost-drained cocktail.

Picture 093
 A girl's gotta eat. Notice I'm not talking to anyone. I'm focused on the task at hand.

Somebody fully appreciating the talent and hard work of my sister

I'm so glad we did this, and might end up printing little notes with the flickr directions to include in our thank you cards (NO I HAVEN'T DONE THESE YET STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT) to gently remind anyone who needs to get off their lazy ass and upload their photos.

Are you planning on trying to corral guests' photos? What approach are you using?

All personal and guest photos

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Creation of the WCCT

I asked Sister Pug to give a behind-the-scenes detailed look at the creation of our wedding cake cookie towers (WCCT), which served as our escort card favors

After extensive taste-testing (mostly by Mr. Pug), we decided upon the lime sugar and lavender sugar cookies.  But I wasn’t going to just start kickin’ out WCCTs without some extensive preliminary calculations.  Based on the size of the cellophane bags I was provided (read: one of the hundreds of boxes that just Appeared on my doorstep, courtesy of some furious internet shopping by the Pug), I calculated the size of the cookies that would fit in the bag, and decided to do a mockup.    

Then I figured that if I was going to go through the effort of doing a mockup, I may as well do it as accurately as possible, because can you imagine if at the end of all that they didn’t f’in fit in the bags.  So I ‘made’ some out of cardboard and wrapped them in paper to make them more cookie-like.

Two options: three cookies on bottom, or two.  I kinda liked the symmetry of the 2 and 2, but it looked chintzy, like I ran out of cookies.  Pug made the decision – 3 and 2.  And thank goodness, they fit.

FAST FORWARD A FEW MONTHS (‘let’s do the time warp agaaaaain’).  I decided to make these babies last minute, since I was convinced the whole bake-and-freeze process faded the flavors.  Oh ok, so really, it’s because I spaced out and all of the sudden was like – CRAP THERE WILL BE NO FAVORS IF I DON’T GET MY BAKING ASS IN GEAR.

Essential Tools: (1) flat, old school, rolling pin and clever little devide that keeps dough of uniform thickness
(2) professional-style, synthetic, nonstick ‘Exoglass’ round cookie 

I will merely mention here that I had carefully calculated the absolute square footage of dough I was going to need, after re-visiting some grade-school equations involving pi, but still ended up with, oh, approximately 3 times as much dough as I needed. Hehe.  Guess I should’ve paid more attention in Geometry. 

Look how perfectly round they are, courtesy of the Exoglass.  Just makes my heart swell with pride.

After cooling, it was time to frost these little coins of happiness.

I used a basic royal icing recipe and added gel food coloring – light green for the lime, and light purple for the lavender, cookies.

The key was to pipe the icing (with a #5 tip, for more precision) around the perimeter first, and fill in centripetally.  Then smooth with spatula dipped in water IMMEDIATELY (I conscripted the husband to be my spatula-bitch).  Note:  I figured out halfway into a panic-stricken sheet that piping a whole buncha cookies before smoothing was a baaaaaad idea – the icing just dried too fast.  Those got used for the bottom layers.

Once thoroughly dried, Pug and I assembled them with dollops of additional royal icing into magnificent WCCTS! 

For the crowning touch, I made some violet-type flowers to go on top, but that’s a whole other chapter in my crazy checkered past.  Ta-da!

See? See how inferior she makes me feel?  And who uses the word "centripetally"?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sign My Butt

There's a fuzzy line between joyously, tastefully celebrating yourselves as a couple at a wedding vs. unwarranted ego-centric narcissism.


And on which side falls a guestbook that is comprised solely of engagement photos of you and your loved one? Well, because this is what we did, I'm saying that it absolutely falls on the side of justified and tasteful.

Remember our Halloween-themed engagement photos?  I decided to put those bad boys to use by making an album of them for guests to sign.  So totally like a regular guestbook, except plastered with pictures of me and Kevin. 

The two popular places from which you can order your photobook are MyPublisher and Blurb.  Mrs. Ramen ordered from both companies and wrote a great, thorough comparison.  Overall, you can find great reviews (and some meh ones) about both, but with Mrs. Ramen's review and my own finely honed instincts, I went with My Publisher. 

Using MyPublisher was easy (although choosing the photos and template layouts was time-consuming because I had to exercise free will), and in about five days, we received this:

Here's a look inside:

My favorites of the bunch:

At the wedding, we set up the book on a table with pens and a sign (Word-designed and inkjet-printed) asking people to leave us a note.  I love the messages that people left for us, and nobody came up to my face and told me how narcissistic I am.  Our photographer, CK Hwang, captured the following photos of our guestbook in "action":

It was clear when people had had a cocktail before signing our guestbook.  One lengthy message began with congratulatory wishes and then devolved into berating me that I should give Kevin cheese more often and let him eat cheese as much as he wants because it makes him happy and isn't that what I want.

Wow, if that isn't advice to live by, I don't know what is.

Are you going to use a guestbook? If so, what kind?