Friday, July 30, 2010

Hair Trial, v2.0

Remember my first, disastrous hair trial? Where the stylist informed me that there was nothing she could do with my "too short" hair, put it in a ponytail, and charged me $35 for twenty minutes in the pleasure of her company?

The ONE good thing that came out of that experience was getting lots and lots and lots of recommendations from Pittsburgh hive members for more talented (and more ethical--yes I'm still bitter) stylists. WB readers redherring and briana_2835 recommended Brooke Rockwell, and since I'd also seen her name on the Knot and she came highly recommended by my makeup artist, I figured she must do really good work. My most recent (and last-before-the-wedding!) planning trip to Pittsburgh included a trial with Brooke, and I am relieved to report that it was a total success!

I showed her these inspiration photos:

(All from here.)

and here's what she did:

The only thing that I might change is I think I'll ask her to weave the pieces of the bun a little tighter on the wedding day. I have lots of hair. It's always the first thing stylists say to me, including Brooke: "wow, you have so much hair!" So, my one concern was that my hairstyle looked so big. It was approximately the size of a Cinnabon. See?

We also talked about the bridesmaids' hairstyles. The girls and I were thinking of going for a soft, half-up, half-down look for them, like this:





Brooke did a really nice job with my hair, will come to our hotel room on the wedding day to do our hair, and charges a really reasonable price per person. Win all around!

Did you have to do a few rounds of trials before you found the right vendor?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Two Sea Creatures Walked Into a Bar......

About a month ago, Mrs. Dahlia let the Boston bees know that she'd be in town for a few days, and was wondering if anyone might be interested in getting together for some dinner and drinks. Miss Seahorse and I took her up on the offer, and it turns out that Miss Seahorse is exactly as fun and nice and interesting as she seems on her blog (which is to say, very!). So, now we are blog-turned-real-life friends. The Internet is magical!

Anyway, MOH/Sister Lauren was in town visiting me for a few days, and she and Bridesmaid/Cousin Katie are both avid Weddingbee readers, so I texted Seahorse to see if she was around. She was! So she and Fancee came over to my house and we all drank wine and talked about weddings (and some other stuff)! Lauren and Katie were extremely thrilled to meet a real live Weddingbee blogger in the flesh (I mean, other than me--I am not exciting to them).

Fun fact about Seahorse and Fancee: they are both tiny. Like, kind of elfin, actually. They're both a solid six inches shorter than I am. I think it's probably better that the three of us didn't take a picture together, because it might have looked scary, like I was going to eat them both after the photo op was done. But I do have some other pictures!

Weddingbee spouses-to-be, totally game for Internet-friend meetups. Daffodil, however, had to be bribed onto the arm of the couch with a piece of Pirate's Booty. She is mid-chew.

I said, "make those faces you always make on your blog," and they knew exactly what I was talking about. Ha!

Here are Seahorse and Daffodil bonding. My dog is basically a marshmallow with legs.

I didn't have any bee, seahorse, or octopus items for us to hold up. So, instead, we held up Mr. Octo's Hans Moleman, Captain America, and Doctor Who toys, and Daffodil's stuffed sheep. Use your imagination.

Then, after Seahorse and Fancee left, Lauren prank-called our dad (who is a regular hunter) pretending to be the ten-point buck that eludes him every hunting season. We're both really broke. You have to make your own fun.

Thanks for coming over and hanging out with us, Seahorse and Fancee! It was super fun! Also, PS: we got a sneak peek of their wedding invitations and wedding dresses, and it's all fabulous. You're going to love it!

Have you made any friends through Weddingbee?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Hive, Mom Octopus and I had a super-successful and productive trip to Pittsburgh this weekend, and I'm feeling more and more and more confident that this wedding of ours will pretty much come together. I have LOTS of exciting stuff to tell you, but first....

Mr. Octopus, scram. You can't read this one!

I tried on my wedding dress for the first time since Bridesmaid Clara's seamstress mom went to work on the alterations. It was also the first time I had my all my accessories, including my veil and my jewelry, on hand. It's not quite perfect yet. We shortened the straps a little too much, so I thought the fit in the bust looked a bit sports-bra-esque. I can't get over the feeling of not having any sort of bra on, either, regardless of how structured the corset is, so now Bridesmaid Clara's mom is sewing bra cups in. Oh, and after months of yammering on and on about how corset-backed dresses are the best because they're so adjustable and forgiving? Yeah, I felt like I was in an iron lung once they laced me into that thing. Looks like my "no amount of grad school weight gain could screw the fit up!" stance was a little misinformed.

But guess what else? None of those issues really mattered, because once I put the dress on, and I put my jewelry on, and I put my veil on, I could not believe it. I was a bride.

This is the face of a person who is really, really, really pumped about seeing her whole wedding get-up for the first time:

And finally, I would like to show you the picture that makes my heart scream a little. Have you found a wedding-related thing that just makes you irrationally cuckoo bananas with glee? Here is mine:

!!!!!!! VEIL !!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE YOU VEIL!!!!!!!!!!! 108 inches of sheer, swishy, floaty, raw-edge VEIL! Veil veil veil. I LOVE YOU! Veil.

Dear Everyone,

We're all getting married to someone we love! We're all brides! We all get to feel like this and talk about it to each other! Isn't it awesome?! Aren't you SO excited?!


Thursday, July 22, 2010


I fell for our reception venue, the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, pretty much as soon as I walked in. The funny thing is, though, that I almost didn't go visit it at all! When I was touring wedding venues with my mom, my sister, and Mr. O, we popped into the museum on a whim because we had a few free minutes, and ended up loving it. It wasn't on the original "To Tour" list because when I was first searching for reception venues, the museum had almost no visibility. I was only aware that they hosted events at all because references to it popped up occasionally in various forums I was searching.

Once we booked our reception at the Children's Museum, I sometimes felt a little frustrated, because as much as I loved the space, I could find virtually no photos of it set up for a wedding reception. If you go back and check out my posts on our venue, you'll notice that the only photos of our reception space are random, crappy shots I pulled from various Flickr streams here and there, and there's absolutely nothing that might give you an idea of how the site looks when prepared for an event.

Well, no longer! I've been getting the impression that the Children's Museum is trying to increase its popularity as a reception venue--it's now listed on The Knot (it wasn't there when I was looking), it offers a larger variety of catering options, and now, glory glory, the event coordinator told me there's a gallery of event photos on their website! Want to finally see some good pictures of where we'll be celebrating? (All photos from here.)

Our cocktail hour will be in the museum lobby, like you can see in this wedding:

Then, our reception will take place in the Great Hall. Here are some events that used the more traditional round table set-up...

...while this event used a less traditional mixture of round and long rectangular tables, and put some lounge seating at the end of the room (which is long and skinny).

Looking at these photos gets me all excited over our venue all over again. I love that funny light-up stork in the lobby, the marble walls, the huge high ceilings, the giant white balloons.....the whole thing, basically. YAY! WE'RE HAVING A GIANT PARTY IN HERE!

I don't know yet how we'll be setting up the room, but I will soon! I'm blogging to you right now from Logan Airport, where my flight to Pittsburgh is delayed by an hour or so (bless your free wifi and general awesomeness, Logan Airport). Unbelievably, this is my last trip to my beloved 'Burgh before our wedding, and it's action-packed: hair trial, finalizing the flower plan, dress fitting, logistics meeting to plan the reception layout and schedule and pick the table linens, menu tasting, rehearsal dinner're going to be hearing a lot from me next week, basically.

It's starting to feel very real now! Our invitations are in the mail and I am a liiiiittle giddy about the prospect of beginning to receive our RSVPs back. People are saying things like, "it's getting so close now!" rather than, "oh, you've got some time." I'm making day-of timelines and picking linens and tasting our dinner menu! The days when I was aimlessly prowling around the Internet coming up with crazy ideas ("Mindy Weiss suggests having a 'breakfast box' delivered to each guest's hotel room the morning after the wedding! I'm totally going to do that!") and downloading every pretty picture I saw seem very far away now. There's a real wedding in the works here!

September brides, what are you working on? Are you hanging in there?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Octopi Invites, Part 2

I showed you the outsides of the Octopi wedding invitations, and now I'm excited to show you the pretty stuff inside! Here's the back of the envelope again, complete with an expertly-executed return address stamp, courtesy of Mr. O:

When you open the invitation, here's what you see:

There are those unnecessary-but-ooooooh-sparkly envelope liners again....

And here are all the pieces! I cut PaperSource's purple mums paper into strips to make the belly bands, then secured them using clear stickers Bridesmaid/Cousin Katie had lying around her house.

First up, we've got our invitation. If you recall, our save-the-dates and invitation suites were designed by Gramkin Paper Studio, and I recommend them very highly. The artist picked up very easily on the general ideas of what I was looking for, delivered something lovely, and then revised the designs until they were totally perfect.

I bought a bulk pack of Paper Source's Luxe Fino paper (cover weight) in cream and brought PDFs of my invitation design to Kinko's, where they handled the printing and cutting. I was incredibly pleased with the results. The paper is a really pretty creamy ivory color, and has a nice, subtle texture. The printing from Kinko's looks great too--the ink colors are bright and strong, and it looks slightly shiny and raised from the paper. Yum. I glued the invitations to Paper Source's A7 flat cards in gold shimmer. I used a plain old glue stick, with no issues. Couldn't be easier.

Next up, our RSVP card. We did a postcard, and I especially love the way our invitation designer styled our return address on the front of the card. I do not love the fact that the polar bear stamp made an appearance again.

Finally, our reception insert. I opted not to do an additional card for accommodations, directions, or other information, mainly because the package our invitation designer offered us included one insert on top of an RSVP card. I felt like the easiest thing to do, and the most economical use of space, would be to create a reception card with a note to visit our website for more details about the nuts and bolts of the weekend.

And now, the summary of what it all cost.

Design fee from Gramkin Paper Studio: $75
Gold pens for faux-ligraphy: $9 (bought two crappy ones at $3/apiece, then the good one for another $3).
PaperSource's A7 chocolate shimmer envelopes: $50 (10 packs of 10, $5 apiece)
PaperSource's White Swirls Gold Dust vellum paper (for envelope liners): $21 (6 sheets, $3.50 each)
Return address stamp from SugarLetter: $25
ColorBox gold ink pad for address stamp: $8
Bulk package of PaperSource luxe fino cover paper: $39
PaperSource's purple mums decorative paper (for belly bands): $15 (3 sheets, $5 each)
PaperSource's A7 gold shimmer flat cards (for invitation backing): $20 (4 packs of 25, $5 each)
Printing and cutting services at Kinko's: $104
RSVP card postage: $28 (100 28-cent stamps)
Invitation postage: $44 (100 44-cent stamps)
Grand total: $438 for 100 invitations

Overall, I feel only okay about the total price tag on these suckers. I budgeted $400, but was hoping to come in under that. Ultimately, I actually went over budget by $38, which is a little annoying. I know exactly where the overage came from--I had not originally planned to put a return address on our invites, then got some feedback that this was a bad plan, hence the $25 address stamp and $8 ink pad. I mean, it wasn't exactly a wasteful extra--I've already used the stamp on my bridal shower thank-you notes, will use it again for my upcoming shower's thank-you notes, and will use it yet again on our wedding thank-you notes, so I'm definitely getting my money's worth. But......$438 is quite a bit more than I had originally imagined spending, overall.

Here's how I could have saved money on our invitations: I could have used white envelopes instead of brown, which would have allowed me to simply print the mailing addresses and our return address. In doing that, I could have eliminated the gold pens, stamp, and ink pad. I also could have scratched the envelope liners and belly bands, as they are nothing more than fun, decorative little extras. I also could have shopped around harder for non-PaperSource options. That was sheer laziness on my part. I can walk to my local PaperSource in ten minutes, and the convenience factor there was hard to resist.

On the other hand....I was aware of those spending shortcuts the whole time, and I knew throughout the invitation-creation process that I was spending more money than strictly necessary, and I just went ahead and did it anyway. Ultimately, I'm okay with it, because I absolutely love these invitations. They turned out exactly how I was imagining them, and I just think they're so pretty. I spent a fair chunk of money (and time!) on those decorative little extras, but....they're so fun. And decorative. And pretty. And isn't that what a lot of all this wedding nonsense is anyway?

I also learned a thing or two about the whole "hand-crafted wedding" thing in the process of making these. I will be the first to admit that when I first started reading Weddingbee, I sometimes didn't "get" DIY projects. When I saw gorgeous, but clearly labor-intensive, handmade details, I often thought, "Pretty!......but no one is going to notice that, ergo it was kind of a waste of time." In the process of making these invitations, I've realized how untrue that is.

Now, I am no crafting goddess, obviously. This was pretty much my first-ever homemade undertaking, and I didn't even design, print, or cut them myself! Our invitations are not DIY in the "I made them myself, and don't forget to look for my Etsy shop opening in fall 2010!" sense. They are DIY in the "everything was cut with a dinky pair of scissors I bought in the school supplies aisle at CVS, and for that matter nearly every single envelope liner and belly band is visibly crooked in places, and not one invitation is glued to the gold shimmer backing evenly, and there is some truly botched faux-ligraphy in there, too" sense. But you know what? I'm really proud of them. I spent a lot of hours and put a lot of care into all the elements I included in our invitations, and I'm really happy with how it turned out, and I think they're beautiful, warts and all. So, I realized that it doesn't matter if no one else notices the envelope liners or the shimmery cardstock or the belly bands. I took a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction from the process of making them, and that's enough for me.

Did you learn anything new from planning something for your wedding?

A Thought on Bridesmaids' Dresses

I know I still have to show you the insides of our invitations, but that post is just not quite ready yet. So, in the meantime, I thought I might as well prompt a little light-hearted debate by throwing an opinion out there that might be a touch controversial. Hey, we're all melting to death (on the East Coast, at least), why not sit inside in the air conditioning and argue on the Internet?

Anyway, here it is: when searching for bridesmaids' dresses, I was not (and still am not) particularly concerned with whether or not my bridesmaids find their dresses re-wearable. (Is this news to you, Octo-Bridesmaids? Sorry! Don't hate me!)

So, I have two reasons why. First of all, I have six bridesmaids, and unless I told them to choose and wear literally whatever their hearts desired, I don't think I possibly could have picked a dress that all six would happily wear again and again. For example, Bridesmaid/Cousin Katie often opts to wear dresses that feature texture and detail, but none of the other girls do. Bridesmaid Leigha has strawberry-blonde hair (heavy on the strawberry), and because of her coloring, doesn't usually wear the cranberry red color that I love so much. I did decide to go for a range of non-matching options in the hopes that each bridesmaid would find a dress that was especially flattering and comfortable to her, but I don't think I realistically could have found an option that would make each of the six girls think, "YES!!! This is my new go-to cocktail dress!!!!"

For the record, these are their bridesmaids' dresses.

MOH/Sister Lauren is wearing the one on the left, Bridesmaids Clara and Hannah are wearing the strapless one, and Bridesmaids Katie, Erica, and Leigha are wearing the one with the sweetheart neckline. (Source.)

Second--and this might be the controversial part--I don't necessarily think bridesmaid dresses need to be re-wearable. I think they should fall soundly within a reasonable budget (however "reasonable" is defined for the women in your party) and I think they shouldn't be something that the bridesmaids would be embarrassed to wear again (a highly unflattering cut or material, for example), but other than that, I dunno. Wearing a dress that the bride chooses, even if it's not necessarily something you'd choose yourself, is kind of a hallmark of the bridesmaid experience, I think, and it's one that I didn't feel compelled to revolutionize.

For example: I was a bridesmaid for the first time in April, for my beloved friend and mutual bridesmaid, Erica. She chose this dress for us to wear:


It's beautiful, for sure. However, I will not wear it again, because it has spaghetti straps. I've mentioned before that I've got quite a bit going on in the bra department, and because of that, strapless bras are the bane of my existence. When left to my own devices, I never wear dresses that don't allow for normal-bra-wearing. Does it bother me that, in my case, it's not re-wearable? Not in the least. It's a lovely dress, it was comfortable and flattering, it was reasonably priced, and I would happily wear anything that Erica picked, regardless of how closely it matched something that I would pick for myself, because that's how being a bridesmaid typically works.

So that's my confession. I think the dresses my bridesmaids are wearing are classy, simple, pretty, re-wearable in theory (as in, cocktail-length and fairly casual fabric), and reasonably inexpensive, and I think that's good enough. If they do like their dresses enough to wear them again, I'll be thrilled, but if they re-sell them or stuff them in their closets and forget about them forever, I won't bat an eye......and I won't feel especially guilty about it, either.

What's your stance on this issue? How important was it to you that your bridesmaids' dresses be something that the girls will really, truly, wear again?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Title Redacted Due to Excessive Spluttering and Swearing

Here's a conversation I had recently:

Octopus: "Bridesmaid/Cousin Katie, can you do me a huuuuuge wedding-related favor? Would you mind checking around with a few different transportation companies to get price quotes on how much it would cost to rent a mini-bus or trolley to pick us girls up before the ceremony, then take the whole bridal party to the reception after the ceremony and portraits are over? We'll need to get picked up for the ceremony around 3:30, and then it will need to take us to the reception around 6:30, so a total of about three hours."
BM/C Katie: "Sure, no problem!"

One Week Later

BM/C Katie: "So, I got those quotes for you. The cheapest I could find was $750, and the highest was around $1,000."
Octopus: "HA HA HA HA HA! Katie, you are so funny. No seriously, what are the REAL rates for three hours' worth of mini-bus access?"




ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME? Maybe my expectations were way too low on this, but I wanted to theatrically spit out a mouthful of water when I heard that quote. Seven hundred and fifty dollars? For a fifteen-minute drive to Heinz Chapel, a two-and-a-half-hour wait, and a fifteen-minute drive to the reception? I have accepted the fact that many, many things in wedding planning cost more than I expected (or, sometimes, more than I believe to be reasonable or fair), but that one shocked me. No way I could justify spending $750 on something from which we'd get thirty minutes of active use.

So, I re-configured the plan, thinking that maybe we could swing a one-way group transportation option. Mom Octopus and I figured that between parents and other various relatives, we could manage to get everyone carpooled over to Heinz Chapel (the entire female contingent of the bridal party alone can roll up packed into Mom Octopus's slammin' Dodge Caravan!), then opt for group transport over to the reception.

Every bride's dream, no? (Source.)

I contacted a transport company again, this time specifying that we were looking to rent a mini-bus or trolley for fifteen minutes. Pick us up at Heinz Chapel and drop us off at the Children's Museum, that's it. They're five miles apart. Quote: $415. Now, I'm not exactly sure if $750 for three hours is over-the-top expensive, but I am absolutely certain that $415 for fifteen minutes' worth of transportation is really and truly highway robbery.

So what do we do now? We could use the same carpooling strategy back to the reception, but that would require that my mom and the other drivers hang around during bridal party portraits, missing the cocktail hour. We could cab it, a la Mrs. Star, although Mr. Octo's face fell very heartbreakingly at the thought of not enjoying the festive, celebratory, champagne-popping group bus ride that he'd anticipated after the ceremony. We could rent one of those fifteen-passenger vans for the day, although we'd be utterly stuffed in there, and I still don't know who'd drive it.....

Can you think of a better solution? Pittsburgh brides, did you find any better rates than Bridesmaid Katie and I did (and if so, PLEASE tell me about it!!!)?

Side note: after the wedding is over, I am launching my own rental company that deals exclusively in upgraded linens, chivari chairs, and mini-buses, and I am going to live out the rest of my days as the new incarnation of Pittsburgh's robber barons of yore, Andrew Carnegie-style.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Octopi Invites, Part 1

Well, I've done it! I have completed the first major semi-DIY project of the Octopus wedding planning! Want to see the finished results of my handiwork? I hope so, because I'm kind of ridiculously proud of them. I DID A PROJECT, YOU GUYS!

Okay, so here is the outside. The envelopes are Paper Source's A7-size, in chocolate shimmer.

I have intended to do faux-ligraphy on my invitations since forever, and I do love the way it turned out. After a few test runs, I chose a font called FranciscoLucas Briosa from for it. I picked it because the flourishes on the capital letters are pretty, but the font is, overall, pretty simple, easy to trace, and forgiving of mistakes. I printed each address onto the envelopes in black (which was, contrary to what I expected, not hard to see at all), then traced them with a gold pen.

I started out using this pen for the tracing, and I heartily DO NOT recommend it:


I'm not exactly sure how to describe what happened with this one, but after fifteen or so envelopes, the ink started looking really faded and the nib wasn't nearly as fine as it was at first. Result? Faded, thick, blurry-looking printing. You can see an example of these less-than-stellar results here:

Obviously not horrible, but the next pen wrote much more clearly, and the ink is much more opaque and shimmery. You can most definitely tell the difference when looking at them in person.

After going through two pens, I wised up to the fact that this was probably not normal, and bought a new pen of much better quality.


This pen lasted me for the rest of my faux-ligraphy adventures, with much clearer and prettier results. I regret the semi-unfortunate quality of the first forty or so envelopes, but not enough to go back, buy new ones, and re-do it all. Live and learn. Also, note to potential faux-ligraphers: it takes friggin' forever. FOREVER. It's kind of relaxing, in a tedious and mesmerizing way, but seriously: between the printing and the tracing, prepare to invest HOURS and HOURS in this. If I hadn't spent the past month in a state of post-master's unemployment with utterly nothing else to do, I can't guarantee I would have stuck with this project.

Anyhoodle, here's the back. Per Jellyfish's recommendation, I bought a return address stamp from Etsy seller SugarLetter, and stamped the back flap in gold ink (using a ColorBox brand inkpad). Well, actually, Mr. Octo stamped the back flap. Apparently, I am a totally incompetent stamper. He took the reins after I completely screwed up five or so envelopes, and did the next ninety-five beautifully. Who knew stamping was one of his untapped skills?

A perfectly-executed stamp by Mr. Octo....

As compared to this hatchet job by yours truly. Note how our names didn't come out right and I "fixed" it with my gold pen. I wish I didn't have to block out my address for privacy's sake, because it's even worse under the brown bar. Sorry, recipient of this envelope.

Inside, another detail that took forever but I just love it anyway: envelope liners. I used a PaperSource decorative vellum paper called White Swirls Gold Dust.

Paper Source also sells plastic templates for creating envelope liners, but trust me: you don't need 'em! The envelopes themselves are their own built-in template! I just dismantled an envelope that I screwed up in the faux-ligraphy printing process, traced the flap, and cut it out. Voila! Instant template!

As many bees have mentioned before me, don't bother trying to make your liner go all the way to the bottom of the envelope. No one can see it, so it's a waste of paper. Halfway down is totally fine. I attached the liners to the envelopes using a plain old craft glue stick. Here's a tip for the remedial DIYers like myself: don't glue the bottom of the liner. I am kind of embarrassed to share that, because it seems so obvious in retrospect, but it didn't occur to me at first. The liner has to slide up and down as you open and close the envelope! I didn't even think of that until the first five or so were done, and now I've got a few envelopes with crunchy, wrinkled liners. Good thing I always started each step using the invites for my elderly, distant relatives who will neither notice nor care about such missteps. ;)

Okay, I think that's enough for this time. In the second installment, I'll show you the actual invitation suite, as well as a cost breakdown and some reflections on the process.

Did you tackle faux-ligraphy, envelope liners, or stamping? How did it turn out?