Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How the Octopi Got Engaged: A Cautionary Tale

Phew. Okay. I've been on the fence about writing this very long post for a loooooong time, but I'm feeling brave, so I'm going for it. This is the story of how Mr. Octopus and I got engaged, and I'm telling you straight off the bat: it will not make you tear up with its sweetness. You might judge me for it. It's not a happy one. But I want to share it, so here it goes.

In the summer of 2008, I had fully realized that I was ready to marry Mr. O. We had been together for six years, we'd been living together for two of those, and we were more in love than ever. Our lives were totally intertwined, and I knew that he was my one and only, my family, the center of my life. I hesitantly broached the subject of marriage with him, and found that we were not quite on the same page. Did he love me? Yes. Did he want to spend the rest of his life with me? Yes. Did he ever want to be with anyone else? No. But marriage? Not ready for that yet. I think that this is not uncommon for men, and I could accept the fact that he needed some time to process the idea of such a huge commitment. I stayed quiet about it, and gave him his space.

By December, Mr. O had indeed processed it. He let me know that he now felt ready to get married, to commit to being my husband, and for me to be his wife, and to start actively thinking about a wedding. YAY!, I thought. We talked about engagement and engagement rings, and we talked about our wedding. In my heart, I felt engaged. We both knew we were getting married, and we were excited about it, and we were actively planning on it. We started talking about things like a year, a season, a location, guests, ideas and hopes and dreams for our wedding. I was thrilled to death, and so excited to marry the man I loved.

But I didn't have a ring on my finger, and I found that an engagement ring is a much bigger social symbol than I had previously thought. I discovered this because when I brought up the idea of our wedding to various friends and family members--even people who knew us, knew how in love we were, knew that we were serious and this was real--they looked at me like I absolutely had three heads for discussing a wedding without a ring. I felt that the proposal and accompanying ring were essentially a gesture and a formality, a "kickoff" to a process that was really already happening. Apparently, not everyone does. I was getting the message, over and over, that there was an enormous, uncrossable gulf between Not Engaged and Engaged, and Engaged was completely off-limits until I had that ring on my hand. I felt like I had to pretend that absolutely none of this was happening, and that Mr. O and I hadn't already mutually agreed to start down an exciting and serious new path together. I felt incredibly excited to be marrying the love of my life, and I felt incredibly hurt when my (our!) excitement about our decision was met with a gigantic collective eye-roll, because we were Not Engaged.

And that's where the crazy starts. Here's what you have to know about the two of us: I feel most comfortable when I've got a clear sense of where I'm going, so to speak. Not having a plan or agenda (both daily and in the overall life sense) gets me very rattled. I do not do well with suspense, waiting, or letting the chips fall where they may. My fiance is my total opposite in this regard. He believes much more strongly than I do in fate, in things happening when they're meant to happen, and is very content to just float along wherever life's currents lead him. I'm a go-getter, while he tends to be a fairly enormous procrastinator. Generally, this difference is good for each of us. We balance each other out. In this situation? The one where he was the sole decider, planner, and executor of purchasing a ring and planning a proposal, and where I was supposed to be idly waiting for whenever he decided to spring it on me? It was the recipe for a perfect storm.

So we started talking about marriage in earnest in December, and I started receiving You Don't Have a Ring Ergo You Are a Crazy Obsessive Overeager Bridezilla Face right around that time too. The mature, sensible response to this would be to say, "screw what everybody else thinks. We both know we're getting married, and he can choose a ring and propose to me when he feels ready." This is not how I reacted. Instead, I lost my ever-loving mind. It was really hurting my feelings to know that some of my loved ones were laughing us off, and I felt that the only way to get people to take us seriously was to get Officially Engaged, and time was ticking on and on and on without being Officially Engaged, and I just......lost it.

Now, I might be type-A and detail-oriented and organization-happy, but I am not high-strung, and neither is he. Neither of us are intense or highly emotional people; in fact, we're both quite easy-going and mellow. Our relationship is very low on drama. So when I tell you that as the months rolled by without an engagement, there were tears? Badgering? Oh my God, am I mortified to tell you this, but actual bouts of actual yelling and shouting? You know it was bad. BAD. He begged me to be patient, but my patience was just gone. In my worst moments, I wondered if he was, for some reason, torturing me on purpose. I mean, in my defense, I had been fully 100% on board and waiting for marriage for nearly a year at that point, but for God's sake. Would you want to propose to someone who cried, and hassled, and (cringe, again) yelled at you about it? Would anyone?

Now, obviously, the last thing on this Earth Mr. Octopus would ever do is deliberately torment me. You know what he was actually doing in those months that passed by? Procrastinating a little, yes, but mostly trying (and succeeding) to pick out the perfect ring that I would absolutely love and be thrilled to wear forever. Thinking of different options for proposals that would make me happy, make for a cute story, and allow him to be creative and do it on his own terms. But I could not see it that way. It was this big giant secret that he couldn't discuss with me, and in the total absence of a plan (that I knew about), I drove myself nuts inside my own head.

Ultimately, he proposed to me in May 2009, simply, at home, before we went to work in the morning. It was not the proposal he had hoped to give me, but it's what he felt he had to do, because as I hope I've made clear by this point, I was becoming a total banshee. I had all but backed him into a corner. Now, I do not worry at all that I pressured him into marrying me. We really, really, really love each other in an extremely true-love way, and I am fully confident that he is and always has been as excited to marry me as I am to marry him. But did I pressure him into proposing to me? Yes. Yes I did. And I could not feel any more horrible about it.

Hive, I regret virtually everything about how Mr. Octo and I got engaged. In fact, I think it's one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made, and it's one of the biggest regrets I have. I am mortified by the way I acted. It was utterly, utterly uncharacteristic of me, and I still can't fully explain why or how I let myself lose it so completely in the time that I was waiting for him to propose. In the days that followed our becoming Officially Engaged, I felt like a cloud cleared out of my brain, and I was totally overwhelmed with guilt and embarrassment about how I'd been behaving. I cried my eyes out to Mr. Octo, apologized relentlessly, asked him to forgive me for how I'd treated him. I feel so horrible about it that, a year-and-change later, I still don't like to talk about it, and if it comes up, I still feel compelled to apologize for the whole situation. (He has always forgiven me, obviously, because he's amazing.)

I'm not sharing this with you just because I'm a masochist and I like letting the entire Internet see me at my absolute worst. I'm sharing it because I know there are a lot of waiting girls in the Weddingbee community, and I really hope that maybe this will help you avoid feeling how I feel now. Believe me, I feel you. I read your board posts and I fully know how you feel. Being completely in the dark and totally out of control of something you really want to happen for months at a time is awful. Awful. I FEEL you on it. Have faith in your fiance, though. Just trust that it will happen. Because believe me, the worst-case scenario is thinking back on your waiting days and the day he finally proposed and feeling, instead of joy and romance and pride, guilty and ashamed of yourself. WORST-case scenario. Seriously.

I am really hoping someone out there relates to this. Anybody? Anybody? Also, if you are reading this and thinking, "Wow, Miss Octopus had a hidden layer of psycho this whole time and I never even knew it," then I understand. I somewhat feel that way myself. But, can you be at least somewhat gentle in your comments? As you can tell, it's a sore subject.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Scraps, Bits, and Pieces

Oh, uh, hey guys! So, you know my wedding? The one I blog about, and that's happening in 89 days? I'm wondering if, perhaps, you've noticed that I haven't posted any actual evidence of projects related to that wedding in quite some time. It's not because there aren't any happening! I swear!

I've actually been really busy with a whole bunch of wedding projects, and I'm excited about how it's all turning out. The only problem? Nothing's finished! I've got scraps and bits and pieces of different things laying all around the house, but for various reasons (mostly related to money and materials), I can't fully wrap up any of them yet. Related note: does it drive any of my fellow type-A brides NUTS when you have a thing on your to-do list that's 90% finished, but because of that remaining unfinished 10%, you can't check it off yet? There are like four different things on my list that are taunting me in this fashion. I am so neurotic.

Anyway, I thought I would give you all a few shots of the things I've got on deck, just to reassure you that there is, in fact, a wedding in the works over here.

Table numbers, which I decided not to complete until I pick our table linens, so I can decide what color backing (shimmer gold? shimmer copper? shimmer chocolate?) would look best with the tablecloths. Like the chairs, this is the type of thing that, a year ago, I could not have ever imagined I would think about, let alone care about. Yet here we are. I'm just going to roll with it.

Rough draft of booklets for the out-of-town bags (not gonna lie, I LOVE these already)....

This is not the shade of red I was envisioning. Either my computer or my printer needs some tweaking. In other news, holy shit! I made that map ALL BY MYSELF!

Pretty, pretty, pretty, shimmery chocolate brown invitation envelopes....

....and faux-ligraphy (yes he is totes invited although I'm not sure that's the correct address).....

....and envelope liners, which were an absurdly time-consuming and unnecessary little detail, but suuuuuure are pretty.....

....and, oh hey! My wedding jewelry arrived! I was leaning strongly toward the necklace from LuxeDeluxe to go with my wedding dress, and the hive concurred with me, so I pulled the trigger and went for it. Also, reader kjpugs reassured me that LuxeDeluxe's jewelry looks a lot bolder online than it does in person, which turned out to be true--that 1" crystal doesn't look nearly as flashy as I worried it would. So thanks, kjpugs!

In this one you can see the pretty pearl bracelet I also ordered from LuxeDeluxe to match. Although you can't tell in this MySpace-esque self portrait, it has little crystals between the pearls. SPARKLY!!!

So there you go: the half-baked state of my wedding planning.

September brides, how are your projects shaping up?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Let's Talk About Something Kind of Serious

So, as much as I love wedding planning, I also love marriage planning. And one of the things Mr. O and I have been doing to plan for our marriage is attending couples' counseling. I have always thought that going to counseling was a good, proactive, helpful thing to do. Before our pre-marital therapy sessions, I hadn't ever been to see a therapist myself, but I knew how well it worked for people in my life who wanted to work through some stuff. Also, in my career, I interact with a lot of social workers and mental health clinicians, and I see firsthand the good work that they do. So, I felt very positively about the benefits of counseling.....but the thing was, I had no idea how counseling actually worked. I basically imagined it like taking a multivitamin. Take this pill, and through some kind of magical body chemistry process, you get healthier.

And then Mr. Octopus and I started going to counseling, and I realized I had been missing a key aspect of the process: counseling is hard, and requires a lot of work on the part of the counselees. We actually started out seeking grief counseling after his mother's death, but as our grief became less immediate, the sessions evolved into more generalized pre-marital/couples' counseling. That's when we both figured out that counseling was not a passive activity--definitely NOT like taking a multivitamin. The first thing that makes it hard is that, in order for the counseling to be effective at all, you have to really open up, a lot, to your therapist, who is (obviously) a stranger. It was hard for me, anyway--I am not comfortable being very emotionally forthcoming to people I don't know well, and I often walked out of our counseling sessions feeling very exposed, which then made me feel somewhat unsettled. I knew, though, that that it was good for us, so I kept it up despite my slight discomfort with the process.

The second thing that I wrestled with was accepting the fact that we could have a very happy, healthy, fun-and-love-filled relationship, yet still have issues and problems, things that we couldn't entirely solve ourselves. We both had to acknowledge, to ourselves and to our counselor, some sticky things in our relationship that straight-up weren't working. Also, not only did we need to acknowledge it, we had to do the harder work of taking our counselor's advice (and, sometimes, the hard truths she laid on us) to heart, acting on it, and consciously changing some of the relationship patterns we had established. For example, I am very Type A and he is very Type B, and it causes some conflict. He needed to step up and take an equal share of responsibility in running our household, and I needed to stop micromanaging, supervising, and generally inserting myself into his business. We're also at very different places in our careers right now, and grappling with what that means for each of us has been a bit of a struggle in the past year or two. Trying to work through all that wasn't exactly fun, but we are both really glad that we did it.

We've now wrapped up our pre-marital counseling, and I feel like I learned a lot. I'd like to share some of the things I took away from our therapy experience.

* Marriage is hard, requires tons of communication, and lasts forever. Yes, I know, everybody says this. I mean, intellectually, in my head, I knew it already. But a lot of the experiences Mr. O and I have had this year drove me to really feel the weight and the bigness and the seriousness and the difficulty of marriage in a way I hadn't emotionally understood before; to really wrestle with the fact that marriage includes struggles that don't get solved through just one good, honest talk. Mom Octopus (whose awesome marriage to Dad Octopus clocks in at 28 years and counting) has always said that marriage is hard, and after our counseling sessions, I called her to tell her that I finally, emotionally grasped what that really meant.

She responded with, seriously, the best marriage advice ever: "Miss Octopus, love is not all there is to making a marriage work. Loving the deep, true heart of a person is just the foundation of marriage. All the other parts of marriage, like running a household, managing family money, and raising children, don't just happen naturally because you love someone. That stuff comes from hard work and constant communication, which you do because you love them."

* Doing the hard work is so, so worth it. Like I said, counseling wasn't fun or easy, but I felt like our relationship had gotten deeper, and better, after we finished. It's kind of amazing to demonstrate to your partner that you're so committed to making your relationship work that you'll lay all your flaws and not-so-cute traits and contributions to not-positive relationship dynamics out there to be looked at and discussed, and you'll make a serious effort to rein them in or change them, in order to be better together. It's a tangible act of putting your relationship first.

Marriage is hard, yes. But it is also amazing, and makes us both happy all the way through, and is so worth it. I will conclude with more marriage words of wisdom from Mom Octopus:

"Every time you go through something hard with your partner, the way you both handle it can bring you closer together. Working through something successfully with someone helps you get to know and understand them a little more than you did before, and your relationship and knowledge of each other is a little more intimate every time you experience an obstacle or something tough."

I've been with Mr. Octopus for almost eight years now, and it's amazing how I continually feel like I'm getting to know him better, and to have the sense that my relationship to him is alive, an active, growing, changing thing. Going to counseling contributed to that growth, and I'm glad for that.

Would you consider going to counseling with your partner? If you have, how did it work for you?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Octopus Recommends!

I made an amazing discovery this week, and I'm sorry if I'm the last person to the party and you all already know this, but I'll just go ahead and tell you anyway: there are tons and tons and tons of fitness DVDs available on Netflix Instant Watch! Aaaahhh!!!

This has been great for me, because as I've confessed here before, I absolutely hate to exercise, and I get bored very easily when repeating workouts. Once I get bored with what I've been doing, I stop, and take a good looooooong time to pick up a new activity again. However, given that my wedding countdown is now in the double digits (GASP) and my efforts to tone my arms strictly through wishful thinking have failed, I need to pull it together, stop letting myself off the hook, and work hard. Having all these DVDs easily accessible makes it easy to experiment with different routines, and change it up quickly when I feel boredom and dread at the thought of repeating a workout I've already done. We have the Netflix disc that lets you watch anything on your Instant Watch queue via the Nintendo Wii, but I think streaming the workouts straight off a laptop would be fine too.

I've tried a few different DVDs now, and I'm going to throw out a recommendation for my two favorites so far:

Crunch Super Slimdown Pilates/Yoga Blend


This workout is about 45 minutes long and is more focused on muscle tone than cardio. I didn't work up much of a sweat while I was doing it, but my shoulders, triceps, abs, and back were all super sore the next day. It emphasizes moving through sets of poses fairly quickly, rather than holding poses for a long time. I think it would be easy to follow even if you are a beginner to yoga/Pilates.

Crunch Candlelight Yoga


I looooooved this routine. It's also 45 minutes long, and is designed to be more of a gentle, relaxing, deep-stretching yoga session than a real sweating, calorie-burning, muscle-building workout. It felt SO GOOD to do this the day after the other Crunch workout, when my arms and shoulders were sore. That's not to say that the DVD is totally easy--I never find the downward dog pose as "relaxing" as the yoga instructor seems to think I should--but it's definitely quiet and soothing. I would especially recommend it to anybody who's feeling stressed and frazzled by the state of their wedding planning (or by anything, really). Lots of deep breathing and laying on the floor is a WIN in my book.

The Crunch series in particular is almost completely available on Instant Watch, so I plan on working my way through them slowly. (Except for the Latin dance one. I don't think my dignity would ever recover from 45 minutes of awkward and uncoordinated attempts to merengue.) Do you have any particular favorites to recommend?

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Many Faces of Mr. Octopus

In our senior year of college, Mr. Octo and his two roommates (who are now both groomsmen) challenged each other to a Beard-Off, in order to determine who could grow the manliest and most luxurious beard in the shortest amount of time. This was a dumb contest for him to participate in, because his roommates were both far hairier than his baby face could ever be, and defeated him soundly. Ever since then, though, he's taken a liking to experimenting with his facial hair, and he's had a beard on and off for the past year or two. Since about February, the beard's been on--until last night!

We both agreed that he shouldn't be bearded for the wedding, because it's a fairly recent look for him, and he'd probably look more traditionally "himself" without one. Even though we've still got three months, he decided to shave it now, because he tans really easily. We worried that if he left the beard on for the summer, he could end up with a beard tan line come September, which would be hilarious, but tragic-looking.

Operation: Beard Removal progressed through a number of stages. Here's Phase One:

Daffodil, who had previously been clamoring for me to pick her up so she could sit on the bed with me, was alarmed at what came next.

Feeling very pleased with how Phase 2 turned out.....

Well, look at this stripey wonder! He deemed this look "The Tri-Force."

Remember that time I told you my fiance is a ridiculous ham in front of a camera?

Mr. Octo's inspiration for Phase 3 was cartoon villains of yore (by the way, if any bride out there is brave enough to take on "cartoon villains of yore" as a wedding theme, my fiance will probably marry you instead of me).

(Snidely from here.)

Phase 4 was so ridiculous it took a few outtakes before he could muster up the strength to keep a straight face.

His version of a straight face, anyway. Phase 4's official title is "The Hanging J."


Next, Phase 5, the "Hey Ladieeeeees!"

And we're done! After four months of beard, his clean-shaven face looked so naked to me! Look at those green eyes, though. I guess I'll marry him.

Yay! We'll call that "checking something off the June to-do list" so I don't feel guilty that I haven't picked the groomsmen's ties or brought the invitations to the printer yet.

By the way, this is some very raw Octopus you're getting right here. Since I am still on the job market, aka unemployed, aka FUN!employed, my daily routine includes: not putting my contacts in, not putting any makeup on, not styling my hair, and wearing a constant rotation of yoga pants.

How's your fiance keeping his facial hair for the wedding?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dessert, Carbs, Cheese, and Personal Touches


I've been invited to my first bridal shower! YAAAYYY!

I'm going to be a doubly-showered bride, mostly because my people are concentrated in two separate areas.

Original map from here.

#1 is where Mom Octopus is from, where I was born, and where all of her gigantic clan still lives. #2 is where I call home. It's where I grew up, where Dad Octopus's family is concentrated, and where all of our close family friends live. So, rather than asking one group to travel a few hours to meet the other, my family & bridesmaids just decided to have two!

Look how girly and pretty this invitation is. Bridesmaid/Cousin Katie picked it out, and chose it specifically because it features the font that's going to be all over our wedding stationery. Man, do I love an attentive bridesmaid with an eye for detail. ;)

Shower #1 is being planned and thrown by MOH/Sister Lauren and Bridesmaid/Cousin Katie, and although they have been extremely secretive about what exactly this shower will include, I'm pretty sure I have ample reason to be excited.

Reason #1:
MOH/Sister Lauren, who up to this point has been fully supportive of my wedding-planning mania but wasn't that into it herself, informed me the other day that she has been researching bridal showers on the Internet (including getting more and more invested in following Weddingbee for inspiration ideas) and has lots of "personal touches" on deck. She's got the bug now, y'all.

Reason #2:
A series of texts that transpired yesterday.
Bridesmaid/Cousin Katie: "Other than dessert what's your favorite food?"
Miss Octopus: "Anything bread/starch-based with creamy or cheesy sauces & toppings"
BM/C Katie: "Okay that's what I thought."

Uhhhhh, sounds to me like the menu may indeed be revolving around dessert, carbs, and cheese. I. AM. PUMPED.

Is anyone else's bridal shower top secret?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

For the Love of Chairs

I remember the very first time I heard of chiavari chairs. I read a bride's lament online about the ugly, ugly chairs provided by her venue, and how much more beautiful gold chiavaris would look, and how much more she was tempted to pay just to have those pretty chairs in her reception space. I remember exactly what I thought, too. "Oh my God, they're just chairs. You put your butt in them. That is completely not worth it."

One year later, I am eating a hearty helping of my own words.

See, the Children's Museum includes the use of its chairs in the venue rental. They're really not all that bad, as far as free venue-provided chairs go, actually. They're just simple white ones, and you can see them in this photo of our reception space (where the white arrow is pointing):

Also, don't worry, the ice-cream-printed dinosaur is deflatable. He will be put away somewhere safe during our reception. (Source.)

I hadn't given any thought to the chairs until this week, when I started planning a meeting with the caterer to go over our linen choices, floor plans, rentals, and other practical details. She mentioned their linen provider's website, and suggested that I glance over the linen offerings to see if I particularly liked anything. And that's when I found these:


Amber gold pintuck linens. SO PRETTY. Soft, elegant, one of our wedding colors. I started imagining these with our bubble bowl centerpieces with red roses and purple dahlias floating inside. And flickering votives. And the glowing globe lanterns hanging above the tables picking up the shimmer from the linens. SO PRETTY!!!!

Then, I thought, these linens are so elegant and pretty. The Children's Museum chairs, while functional and inoffensive, are not elegant or pretty. You know what IS elegant and pretty and would look gorgeous with these gold linens? Yeah. You know what's coming.


Just to torture myself, I e-mailed the caterer to inquire about chiavari chair pricing. I held out some tiny hope that maybe, because it's Pittsburgh, which is generally less expensive than other cities, they wouldn't be as pricey as they are in other areas. Ha ha. No dice. $8.80 per chair, working out to a bill of $1400 total. For chairs. CHAIRS!!!

I definitely can't (and don't want to) spend an unplanned $1400, and if I could, I know that it would be better put toward providing something extra-nice for my guests to enjoy, or paying for my bridesmaids' hair and makeup and dresses, or something else practical and logical. But, oh man, damned if I haven't been hit with a major pang of lust for those chairs.

I guess it's just that, added up, a lot of wedding stuff has to do with looks and visuals and making and having pretty things. Which, don't get me wrong, I love. I'm having so much fun being able to express myself visually and to incorporate Mr. O's and my aesthetic taste into our wedding choices. It feels great to look at my wedding dress or our flower choices or our reception space and think, "I picked that, and it's special and beautiful and really represents me/us, and I love it!" On the other hand, getting invested into the visual aspect of wedding planning also makes it kind of a bummer to know that you'll look at a particular portion of it and think, "ugh." Caring about the details has made me more inclined to want every detail to be pretty, I think.

Is this ridiculous? I know if I were reading this post a year ago, I would have scoffed at it. I have not lost sight of the fact that they're just chairs!!!, but at this point, I have invested so much time and thought into this flippin' wedding, and I so want the results of all that mental energy to be pretty and special. I suppose the upside (if you can call it that) of this chair temptation is that the amber gold pintuck linens I'm coveting will probably also turn out to be subject to a hefty upcharge, putting them out of the question as well.

Sigh. Have any of you found yourselves tempted by a splurge that you knew was objectively frivolous, but you just couldn't help wanting?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Nesting Impulse

As I've mentioned before, Mr. Octo and I have moved around a bit in the past few years. Once we finished college in Pittsburgh, we moved to Las Vegas and lived together for the first time. After three years in Vegas, we moved to Boston, where we've lived for a year now. For the most part, we've really enjoyed this sort of semi-permanent lifestyle. He and I are both fairly adventurous people who like to see new places and try new things, and living on both coasts and making two cross-country road trips in the moving process has afforded us the opportunity to do just that. We've seen nearly the entire country in the past five years, and it was incredible, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

You know what else it means, though? We have an apartment full of ancient, mismatched, cheap furnishings that have been battered to hell and back. Frequent moves, as well as just prioritizing our money elsewhere, have meant that we haven't been able to build up any kind of real "home." We have lots of stuff with no decor scheme (at ALL) and no quality, all packed into a really small, really old Cambridge one-bedroom.

Please note that in this photo alone, we've got black, fake cherry, wicker, and white furniture. Unseen = the fake oak end table behind me.

This hasn't really bothered me until recently. When Bridesmaid Erica got married in April, we spent a lot of the downtime of her wedding weekend hanging out at the adorable house she and her husband recently bought and started working on in the DC suburbs, and Mr. Octo and I were surprised by the pangs of wistfulness we both felt when we left. Bridesmaid Erica has a front porch with a little table and chairs that you can sit on and see the neighborhood. Bridesmaid Erica has granite countertops and refinished floors. Bridesmaid Erica has a guestroom and a little backyard and a cool light fixture from Pottery Barn and walls painted nice colors and a party/sports-watching room in the basement. We have a kitchen that I believe may in fact be smaller than a prison cell, bright pink and purple towels from my freshman year of undergrad, and bathroom furnishings that just never seem to get completely clean. Siiiiggghhh.

Wait, there IS a theme here! And it's "none of the fake wood anywhere in the apartment is the same color!" I'm looking at you, horrible tiny cabinets.

The couch actually used to be pretty decent. When Mr. O hauled it out of his sister's basement five years ago. At this point, the cushions are misshapen and it is slowly turning from beige to gray. I would gladly light this thing on fire.

I've been surprised in the past few years by how typically and predictably my biological clock seems to be unfolding. For the longest time, marriage was not on my radar in any way. People would ask me if Mr. Octo and I were thinking about getting married, and despite the fact that we'd already been together for years and lived together, my answer was an emphatic NO, we weren't ready. Until, one day, we were ready, and jumped into our engagement with guns blazing. We've also happily lived in random apartments with a hodgepodge of stuff dredged from craigslist, garage sales, and relatives' basements for years, until, one day, we were both struck by a whopper of a nesting impulse. Now, suddenly, Mr. O and I find ourselves craving a real home, full of permanent, pretty, adult-appropriate furniture. Currently, the idea of becoming parents makes us both think "YIIIIIIIKES NO THANKS!!!!!", but at the rate we're going, it seems fully possible that in a year or two, one or both of us will wake up with a sudden case of baby fever.

Sigh. First things first. We can't scratch this nesting itch until after September, when the wedding isn't claiming every spare dollar we have. Can't. Wait. West Elm won't know what hit it.

Anyone else feeling the urge to settle down and build up a home with their spouse-to-be?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Booty-Shakin' Tunes

Last night, Mr. Octopus and I cracked a bottle of wine, opened our computers, and settled down to do one of the more fun aspects of wedding planning: picking the "special songs" for our wedding reception. We're possibly jumping the gun on this a little, seeing as our information sheet isn't due to the DJ for, like, two more months, but it's fun! So why not!

The very first choice we made was our bridal party entrance song. Over the past few months, we've been watching the entire series of The Wire (it's unbelievably amazing! Put it on your Netflix queue, you won't be sorry!), and we have been super into this song ever since it was featured in season 4. So, our bridesmaids and groomsmen will be announced to.....

"Move on Up," by Curtis Mayfield. We listened to this song probably four times more than necessary last night. Oh man, it's so fun.

Our entrance together is a special request of mine, because I happen to love the singer so very, very much. We'll be walking in accompanied by the sassy, fierce sounds of...

"Crazy in Love," by Beyonce & Jay-Z.

Our first dance song was a no-brainer. In fact, this was one of the very first things we've always known and agreed on about our wedding. We'll be dancing to "The Luckiest," by Ben Folds, a song that is very, very personal to us. I will cry during this song. Guaranteed.

And in a wide sea of eyes, I see one pair that I recognize.....SOB.
I love you more than I have ever found a way to say to you.......SOBBBB.
I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way to tell you that I know we belong......SOB SOB SOB!!!!

We also picked our cake-cutting song. It was actually the runner-up for our first dance song, because it's another song that means a whole lot to us. It just couldn't compare to "The Luckiest," but we just wanted to include it somewhere: "God Only Knows," by The Beach Boys.

We also have one special request song, although we're not sure where or how to fit it in. It would make my groom really, really happy to have the opportunity to bellow the University of Pittsburgh victory song with his groomsmen at some point during the reception. Not gonna lie, my two Pitt bridesmaids and I would also probably not shy away from that opportunity.

The lyrics in this video are not actually correct, though. The part where it says "fight, Pitt, fight! Fight, Pitt, fight! V-I-C-T-O-R-Y"? Every Pitt student and alum knows that the words actually are (earmuffs, Mrs. Cheeseburger): PENN STATE SUCKS! PENN STATE SUCKS! P-E-N-N-S-T-SUCKS!

About midway through the process (and three-quarters of the way through the wine), Mr. Octo and I got into a brief squabble about whether or not we should include "Copacabana," by Barry Manilow, on our playlist. He (and his best man, via e-mail) voted an enthusiastic yes, I was a staunch no. We ended up compromising with ABBA instead. Look at us, resolving conflict with peaceful compromise! We're going to be awesome at marriage.

And, just for fun, the #1 song on our "must play" list....

"Don't Stop Believin", by Journey. Oh my God I love this song so, so, so, so much. It makes me want to fist-pump my face off. Is there any better bonding experience than boozily singing the chorus of this song at the top of your lungs with your friends?

Working on our music choices was definitely one of the more fun and light-hearted wedding activities Mr. Octo and I have done together. Except for the argument about Barry Manilow. And the other brief argument about whether or not to play the Chicken Dance (he was pro-Chicken Dance. I turned into a tyrant and claimed executive veto on that one).

What did you choose for your "special" wedding reception songs? Did you and your fiance have any disagreements about what to include?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Really Gorgeous Wedding Bands

One of the most common questions people ask about my engagement ring is, "what kind of wedding band can you wear with that?"

Uh, good question. As you can see in these two pictures, the "basket" that holds my ring's center stone is really big, and set really far off from the band itself.

This means that my engagement ring does not fit with a regular wedding band at all. I've tried it on with a few wedding bands, and there is a significant, noticeable gap between them. I know some people are fine with this, but my compulsive self totes cannot handle the non-matchiness. In order to get the "flush-fitted" look I like, though, I would need a custom wedding band with a significant notch in it to match up against the basket of my e-ring.


Problem? I'm not really a fan of the way wedding bands with a deep inset in them look either. I'd like a wedding band that looks "complete" by itself. But I can't have that and wear it with my engagement ring. What to do??

NEVER FEAR! I've come up with a tentative, slightly unconventional plan for what to do about my engagement and wedding rings. I think I'm going to switch my engagement ring to be worn on my right ring finger, and wear a wedding band alone on my left ring finger. A little different from the norm, yes, but I kind of like the idea of having a symbol of my marriage to Mr. Octopus on both hands. I also like this option because, for whatever reason, the wedding bands I'm drawn to are quite a different style than my engagement ring, and I think they'd look better separate than together. Want to see?

I've been casually window-shopping for wedding bands for a while now, and rings with a floral, filigree, or scroll pattern have regularly caught my eye the most. At first, I was looking for a solid ring with an engraved pattern, like these:

(Top, middle, bottom.)

But then I found some photos where the rings themselves were crafted into a floral or decorative pattern, and it was game over. So delicate! So feminine! MUST HAAAAAVE!!! Take a look:





I love this look. LOVE! I'm especially excited because Mom and Dad Octopus gave me a slammin' graduation present last month: a gift certificate to a great local jeweler in my hometown, so I can custom-design the perfect wedding band. Isn't that such an awesome gift?? Mom Octopus knew I had been worried about where and how I'd get an affordable ring I loved, and totally came through with a great idea. I don't think I'll have the budget to have a really diamond-y wedding band like a few of the examples above, but hopefully I can find the room for a few little sparkles here and there. Can't waaaaait. It will be the first (and, probably, only) time I'll have the opportunity to design a custom piece of jewelry! I'm so excited to go in and see what the jewelers can do with my ideas.

How did you choose the style of your wedding band? If you have a difficult-to-fit engagement ring, what did you decide to do about your wedding band?

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Gigantic Money Blowout

Yes, it's true. Lately, my wedding has consisted of a spectacular outpouring of money.


A few months back, I explained our wedding budget: $20-23,000, a combination of contributions by my parents, Mr. Octopus's parents and grandmother, and ourselves. That budget is now, um, how shall I say? Highly obsolete. I can sum up the main reason for the change in two words: Guest. List.

Mr. O and I started making our initial wedding plans last summer, around fourteen months out from our actual wedding day. We talked about things like the budget, the guest list, and our hopes and ideas with our families, and made some choices (big, spendy ones, like the reception venue, and the accompanying catering options) based on those conversations. The issue was that at fourteen months away, my parents were having a hard time wrapping their heads around the reality of the wedding. It all felt very real and very "happening" to me, but to them, it wasn't even close to the horizon. This is not by any means a knock on Mom and Dad Octopus; I totally understand why they felt that way. If someone approached me and asked me to sign off on plans for an event over a year away, I'd probably react like, "uhhh.....sure!" too.

The problem, though, was that they initially agreed to a guest list that, as the wedding got closer, they realized they weren't comfortable with. I have an enormous extended family, and they felt bad about leaving people out. There were other add-ons, too. Mr. Octo and I were invited to the weddings of a few old college friends, and then felt obligated to reciprocate the invitations. Mom and Dad Octopus were invited to a few weddings of their friends' kids, and felt obligated to reciprocate those invitations. End result? I think it's going to be highly unlikely that we hit our original targeted (and budgeted-for) number of attendees--120--with the 205-person guest list we've got now.

As we all know, extra people means extra money. Mom and Dad Octopus have been perfectly reasonable and accommodating about this, and since the large majority of the added guests are theirs, they agreed to contribute more money to the budget. This is fabulous and generous of them, but I'm still feeling a little sticker shock at the new anticipated price tag on the whole thing. I'm thinking that we can now expect our attendance number to be more like 150ish......which means, with the way costs are shaking out, I'll be pleasantly surprised if our wedding expenses clock in under $28,000. Gulp.

The actual, calculated "wedding budget" isn't the end of the money explosion, though. Actually, other than the added guests, my wedding budgeting has been pretty well on track. A little over here, a little under there, but really, no big deal. "This isn't so hard!" I thought to myself for a while. "I don't know why everyone says it all turns out to cost more than you think it will!"


HA HA HA! At three and a half months out, I get it now. There are SO MANY unforeseen expenses--some minor, some not minor--that, added up, make me feel like I'm shooting money out of a grenade launcher. Just all kinds of stuff......the checked bag fees for when we fly to and from Pittsburgh. The postage for all the thank-you notes that will be going out after my two upcoming bridal showers. The fact that we're going to Pittsburgh two days before the wedding and staying two days after, and all the food and drinks and random whatnot those days will include. If I added up the actual, total number of dollars that are spent on absolutely everything related to and surrounding the wedding, rather than the typical, spreadsheeted, budgeted-for "wedding expenses", it would completely blow my mind, and probably make me a little nauseous.

Don't get me wrong: I am really, really, really excited for our wedding. I get more excited about it every day. We made the choice to get married in this way, and I own that. I completely feel that having "the big wedding" was the right decision, and I can't wait for it. But, still, sometimes, I just have to stop and grapple with the sheer amount of money that is pouring out of our hands, and our families' hands. Sometimes I cannot quite come to terms with how effing expensive this all is.

Do you wrestle with the reality of how much your wedding truly costs? Am I the only one who is starting to feel like her budget is getting a liiiiiittle bit out of control?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Bee's Life: Octopus Edition

I know the big chunk of A Bee's Life posts happened quite a few months ago, but I loved this series when I was a WB reader, and I just really wanted to write one myself! Here goes nothing.....

My history with blogs:

I have always loved to write, ever since I was very, very little, and I've been into blogs for a long, loooooong time. I started my first-ever blog when I was maybe fifteen or so, using the site DiaryLand. It was really popular at the time (and was totally intended for teenage girls like myself....the website was decked out in pastel colors and daisies and kittens), but has now been far eclipsed by Blogger and WordPress and whatnot. I loved blogging even way back then, and made "blog friends" with a bunch of other teenage girls (and one boy) who also had sites there. I found it really rewarding and fun.

Doesn't mean I wasn't super-dumb about it, though. I regularly wrote about the many boys I had unrequited crushes on, using their real first and last names. Then, I panicked when I realized that my diary could easily be found (and I, and my crushes, could be VERY easily identified) through a simple Google search, so I password-protected it. My sister had secretly been reading the diary (I was blogging on the family computer, after all), made up a fake e-mail address, and wrote to me pretending to be an anonymous reader from North Carolina who wanted to keep following, but needed the password. And I believed her and gave it to her. DUMB.

How did I find Weddingbee?

In late summer of 2008, Mr. Octopus made the grave mistake of referring to me as his "soon-to-be fiancee." He meant this in a vague, soon-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things way, which was NOT how I took it. Sorry, buddy, you woke a sleeping dragon with that remark. I started Googling "Pittsburgh wedding," and came across Mrs. Pineapple's posts. I read her entire blog in practically one sitting, and was eager for her to post more. Then, I realized that there were all these other bloggers on the site too, and I could read their blogs as well! SCORE!

So, yeah, I've been avidly reading Weddingbee for a very long time. By the end of this summer, it will be two years! What can I say? I really, really love the structure of the site. I love that it's the perspective of regular, normal brides. I love that you get to see how the wedding unfolds from the beginning to the end. I love how you get to learn all the trials and tribulations, the emotional stuff, the real stuff, and how everything came to be, instead of just a handful of pretty pictures. The fact that you get to follow each blogger's story as it plays out over time is really engaging to me. I think I'm not the only one, either......Bridesmaid/Cousin Katie, for example, started out just following my posts, but now reads all the bloggers. As she put it: "I just get so invested in what's going to happen next with their weddings!"

I am a total Weddingbee fangirl.

My application story:

I loved to write, and I loved Weddingbee, so I was counting down the days until I could apply to blog for the site. I started my wedding blog probably two months before the "eight months 'til your wedding day" deadline, and had an absolutely great time keeping up with it. I hadn't maintained a blog in years and years, and forgot how much fun it was. I applied on the first day of the eighth month before my wedding, so I was technically three weeks early. I was just so excited I couldn't wait!

I waited very impatiently and anxiously, and two and a half weeks later, I got my reply: rejected! In all honesty, I was quite a bit more disappointed than I expected to be. I felt really bummed out; I had wanted to be a Bee so badly! I decided immediately that I was going to give it some time and apply again, and kept writing.

And then, almost exactly a week after I'd been rejected and had decided to keep writing, FMIL Octopus died. I put my blogging on hiatus for about two weeks, and debated whether or not to pick it back up again. It was complicated, you know? In all honesty, I still really, really wanted to be a Bee, but I didn't know if it would seem crass to be all "YAY MY WEDDING!" on the Internet when privately, my fiance and I were still reeling from the most horrible thing that had ever happened to us. I tentatively started blogging again, and found that "YAY MY WEDDING!" actually made me feel a lot better. It was fun, and relaxing, and I needed something fun and relaxing. Since we had decided not to modify our pre-existing wedding plans, I still had a lot to do and a lot to blog about, and I found that it wasn't so hard to strike a balance between dealing with this very serious new development in our engagement and the sparkles-and-rainbows-and-ice-cream-sundaes of wedding planning. It can all co-exist.

So I went back and re-vamped some old posts to be more accurate with decisions I'd made since, I kept writing, and I revised my application form. I sent it in. Three and a half weeks later, I got the word: I was a Bee! I was so excited that my hands were shaking as I texted Mr. Octopus to tell him, and I swear to you that I did not hear a single word my professors said in class for the rest of the day.

On being a Weddingbee blogger:

I love, love, love writing for Weddingbee. I really value the feedback of the readers and commenters. Seriously, the kind comments and the long, thoughtful comments and the PMs and the good advice and the helpful ideas just make my day every time. I try really hard to think of new and varied post topics, and to post as often as my schedule will humanly allow, because I'm really grateful for everyone who takes the time to read what I write and to respond to it. I try to give to the site as much as I feel like I'm getting from it, you know?

However, it is practically guaranteed that if you're writing on a widely-read website, you will get some negative responses here and there. Sometimes, it's people who just strongly disagree with you or were offended by something that you said, and sometimes, it's just outright, unprovoked nastiness. I don't get a lot of negativity on my posts, but when I do, it doesn't bother me that much; I try to remind myself that I volunteered to put myself out there on the Internet, and people have the freedom to respond how they choose. That said, the truly mean stuff does sting a little.

Anyway, the occasionally unpleasant remark here or there is no big deal in the grand scheme of things; it's totally worth it for how much I love blogging for the site.

My tips for potential applicants:

1.) Don't worry about whether or not your wedding is "enough" of anything. Before I applied, I wondered if I was wasting my time. Mr. Octopus and I have no particularly interesting cultural or religious traditions, our budget is on the low side of average, and clearly, I am FAR from a DIY queen. I have already come to terms with the fact that my wedding is not going to be a stunningly beautiful, stylish event on par with some of the other gorgeous affairs that have been put together by Bees before me. It's kinda just a regular wedding. And that's okay.

2.) Be yourself, and be honest. Mr. Octopus, who knows me better than anyone, sometimes reads my blog, and often says "I like it's because it's just like you. I can almost hear your voice when I read it." I think the best blogs are the ones that are really authentic to the writer, and I personally respond best to bloggers who are willing to "go there," to occasionally tackle the hard stuff, the emotional stuff, the thoughtful stuff, and the good lovey stuff. I think that's why people like Weddingbee, you know? Because it's not just wedding prettiness, which you can find in a billion places. It's posts that you can identify with and relate to, that makes you feel less alone in the kinds of things you go through while planning a wedding.

3.) Rejected? Apply again. No seriously, apply again. LOTS of us Bees are second-time applicants. Just get up the courage and apply again. The worst that can happen is you get a "no," right? It's not the end of the world. And the best thing that can happen is you get a YES!

Okay, I'm done. I'm pretty sure this may take the cake as the all-time longest Bee's Life: A Novella. Sorry Pengy. Anyway, love you guys!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Confessions: Secret Single Behavior

So, Mr. Octopus is out of town for a few days, and I am kickin' it here by myself in our apartment. Did you ever see the episode of Sex and the City where Carrie is nervous about Aidan moving in because she won't be free to enjoy her secret single behaviors, the things you only do when you're totally alone? Well, because of Mr. Octo's trip, I have been indulging in a few secret single behaviors of my own, and because there is no shame on the Internet, I'm going to tell you what they are.

When Mr. Octopus is out of town.....

.....I do not eat well. Mr. O is a really good cook, is really into non-processed foods, and is usually in charge of making dinner. Most nights, he makes a big, healthy meal that includes an entree and a side. Yesterday, alone, I ate one of those tangy frozen yogurts for lunch (and I can't imagine the staff of my local Berryline doesn't recognize me by now) and two slices of toast with peanut butter and a pear for dinner. And some tortilla chips. And I enjoyed it.

.....I watch ridiculous things. The last time he went out of town, I had a multi-day Sex and the City marathon. This time, I did a double-header of Notting Hill and My Best Friend's Wedding on Netflix Instant Watch while cutting out liners for our invitation envelopes. It's not even like I can't watch silly romantic comedies when he's around, because he might grumble a little about it, but I sit through Dr. Who, Battlestar Galactica, and a re-watch of all six seasons of LOST, so he owes me. But, for some reason, I just enjoy watching fluffy things a lot more by myself. Also, I hadn't seen My Best Friend's Wedding in years and years, and upon re-watch last night, realized that the premise of the movie is actually kind of insane and disturbing, am I right?

.....I am a HUGE couch potato. Mr. Octo and I usually prompt each other to get up, move around, and do things, but when I'm alone.....nope. I could be a professional relaxer, if such a thing existed. Left to my own devices, I am perfectly happy to spend hours and hours and hours lounging around. Reading, watching movies, surfing around on the Internet, whatever. Case in point: it is mid-afternoon as I write this, and I am still unshowered. In fact, I am still in my pajamas. I ate breakfast at noon. Because I am still on the job market following graduation, I have a LOT of free time on my hands. There are probably several more hours of lounging in my future today.

.....I am a paranoid maniac. This one is not fun, but it's true. Whenever I have to sleep alone in our apartment, I double-check the shower and all the closets to ensure there are no criminals hiding inside. I triple-check the locks on the door. I quadruple-check the fire escape. And I sleep with a kitchen knife on the end table. Yes, I do. I watch a LOT of SVU, you guys. You can't be too careful.

So there you go. All my secret single behavior, confessed. Your turn: what are the things you do only when your significant other is gone and you're alone?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jewel Quest*

Here's a sampling of my June to-do list: research & arrange wedding day transportation (uuuggghhhhh), assemble all the parts of the invitations (I can't wait to never cut another envelope liner ever again), work on a detailed day-of and overall weekend timeline (boy do I wish I could afford a DOC), and choose wedding jewelry (WOOOOHOOOOO!!!!).

I love jewelry. Love it! I've been casually browsing jewelry options for quiiiiite a few months now, and I've got a couple of options that are now the heavy contenders. But first, I'll remind you what my (glorious, fabulous, can't wait to wear it) wedding dress looks like, so you know what I'm trying to match the jewelry up with.

Except you, Mr. Octopus! Don't read any further or I'll slap ya.

Oh, hello, lovah....

You can't see the trim under the bust and on the hip that well, but it's a combination of pearls and crystals sewn over some lace. It's a little sparkly and shimmery, although the pearls and crystals are all ivory like the dress, so it's a fairly understated effect.

So, okay. First of all, I ultimately decided not to get my ears pierced. Love the idea of earrings, hate the idea of piercings, can't be bothered to find a decent pair of clip-ons. Also, since I don't wear earrings any other time ever, I feel like I might actually look a little weird with earrings on. That means I'm pretty much looking for a necklace and a bracelet. So far, I've mostly focused on finding a necklace, because I figure that's going to be the real "statement" jewelry, and the bracelet will pretty much be an accent that complements it (and you should know that I do feel pretty ridiculous talking about jewelry with this level of analytical seriousness, haha). Anyhoodle, here are the necklaces that have made me think "OOOH!":

Necklace 1: LuxeDeluxe's "Diamond Glow"


I love the big statement this necklace makes, but I do wonder if it might be a little MUCH with my dress. I wear a lot of necklaces with pendants, though, and that big ol' crystal is very alluring to me. On the other hand, given that it's a fairly large (1") rhinestone, I wonder if it will look kind of, well, cheap? Con of this one: LuxeDeluxe (an Etsy seller) does not allow returns unless the jewelry is damaged. So, if I go for this one and decide I don't love it with the dress after all, well, too bad for me.

Necklace 2: Blue Nile Pearl Solitaire


This one is just so classic, simple, and elegant. Pro: The only real pearl (and real diamond) of the three necklaces. Con: Quite a bit more expensive than what I would ideally like to spend. Con Again: The pearl is only 6-6.5 millimeters in diameter, which is really pretty darn small. Pro Again: God, that's pretty. Also, I could wear it again and again and again basically forever.

Necklace 3: Kate Spade Scatter Necklace


I think this one strikes a nice balance between the bigness of the first one and the simplicity of the second. It's 32" long, so I'd probably wrap it around twice (that's what she said??). Also, it's the only one of the necklaces that's yellow gold, not white. If you remember, my shoes are metallic gold, and my bridesmaids are wearing metallic gold shoes and yellow gold jewelry (of their choice). To use another over-the-top phrase, a few ladies have expressed concern about the "clashing metallics" factor. I tend to think that my shoes will barely be seen and it won't be noticeable if my jewelry doesn't match the bridesmaids' jewelry, but maybe I'm wrong? Con of this necklace: it's the only one that doesn't have any sparkle factor, and I do love a little sparkle.

Hive, you haven't steered me wrong yet. I straight-up love hearing your feedback. So I'm going to request your advice and opinions yet again, and I'm going to debut my first poll to do so!

Which necklace do you think is the best fit for my dress?

Necklace 1 from LuxeDeluxe
Necklace 2 from BlueNile
Necklace 3 from Kate Spade
None of them! Keep looking!

What's your jewelry going to look like, and where are you getting it? If you picked "none," do you have any other suggestions?

*This post title is a shout-out/inside joke to MOH/Sister Lauren. She knows why.