Friday, September 24, 2010

This Is It*

I've been with Mr. Octo for eight years. Most of the time, it doesn't feel like that long, or like that big of a deal. Our day-to-day life together is pretty uneventful: a cup of coffee, a load of laundry, bills paid, maybe a movie, maybe a long walk.

I feel like the preparations for our wedding have given us the opportunity to transcend that. I have been reflecting on, and really feeling, the weight of our past and our future and our family and our friends in a way that I usually do not. I had my iPod on shuffle a few days ago, and a song came on that I hadn't heard or thought about in years. It was a song that was very meaningful to me when I studied abroad in college because it reminded me so much of him. I would lay in bed at night, in the dark, and listen to the song, and try to cry quietly enough not to wake up my roommate because I missed him so much. Normally I think about my student loans, whether or not Daffodil needs more food, what Mr. Octo might like for dinner, if I've exercised enough times that week. When I heard that song, I paused and was stricken: I have loved this man very, very, very much, for a very, very, very long time.

I am just overwhelmed by the feeling of the history we have together, and the history with our own families and our own friends, who are now all here together. We are building a family. It seems like such a simple thing--I mean, families are pretty much one of the oldest and most fundamental social structures in the world--but this week I have been blown away with the feeling of how powerful having and creating a family really is. I have never felt so obviously, visibly, tangibly loved as I have this week, and the wedding hasn't even started yet.

I'm marrying the man I love today, and all my friends and his friends are here, and all of my family and his family is here, and it's amazing. I'm so excited (SO excited, in fact, that I fell asleep at 12:30 AM, woke up at 4:30 AM, and did not sleep for an instant afterwards, ARGH!). I'm so happy that I could cry right now, here in my hotel bed.....but I'll save that for Heinz Chapel.

I'll see you all soon. And when I do, I'll be a WIFE!

*Post title is an homage to the fact that this is it, as in, our wedding day is here. But also to the fact that my go-to background noise during my many, many, many hours of wedding planning was the Michael Jackson documentary of the same name. I must have watched it seven times in total in the past few months. One of the things I will definitely remember from our engagement is Mr. Octo coming home and exclaiming, "again?!"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Different Kind of Thank-You Note

Guess where I'm blogging from?

Logan Airport.

Guess what that means?

The Octopus Wedding Weekend has officially begun.

I think I fooled some of you last week with my thank-you post, as I realized afterward that it sounded a whole lot like a "signing off as a Miss!" post, but I've still got one of those on deck (I think. Hopefully. As long as things don't get too crazy). So, yeah. I'm heading to Pittsburgh and I'm getting married. At this point, I have so much adrenaline coursing through my system that I can't properly articulate my feelings about that, so instead I will say: AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!! Also, EEEEEEEEEK! And WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Before I go, I wanted to mention a little task I checked off this week that I'm really happy about. I know that brides and grooms often give their parents thank-you gifts before the wedding, but Mom and Dad Octopus felt that really wasn't necessary, and by this point, our bank account is looking bedraggled indeed. However, my parents have been involved in our wedding planning process since day one, and I felt like I really needed to do something to convey to them how I felt about it.

I popped into PaperSource and picked up these cards, because in case you forgot, I am a crazy dog lady who will buy literally anything with a French bulldog on it:


Then, I really took my time to write them long, thorough, heartfelt messages. I tried hard to convey how I felt about their support and participation in planning our wedding, and how I feel about them as parents in general (Mom and Dad Octopus are spectacular, if that's not clear). They haven't read the cards yet, but I am absolutely certain that when they do, they'll really appreciate them.

I feel really good that I did this, and if you've got a person (parent or otherwise) who was particularly meaningful to you in your engagement, I would definitely recommend that you make a little time to write them a special note to let them know. I know my letters will make my parents happy, and after all they've done for me in the past sixteen months, I want them to be happy. I'm glad I took those few minutes to really put my heart on paper for them to read. Now I feel like there's nothing I didn't get a chance to say, you know?

Alright, y'all. My flight is boarding in ten minutes and I am so jittery with nerves and excitement I feel like I need to go pace around until then. WEDDING!!!!! AAAAAHHHHH!!!!

Did you make a special gesture for anyone before your wedding?

Monday, September 20, 2010

After-Party Dress: The Results

Okay, so a little while ago, I wrote about how I had developed a crippling case of lust over a blingy, over-the-top, super-fun after-party dress.


Problem? It was $138. You all were very, very, very persuasive about convincing me I should--or needed--to buy that dress. I went so far as to put it in my shopping cart and stare at it for a good, long while. But in the end? I just couldn't pull the trigger on it. Normally, I'd have no problem spending $138 on a cocktail dress (in fact, I think that's a pretty good price for a cocktail dress). The issue with this one was that I knew in my heart that I'd never, ever wear it again. I never wear ivory, I don't usually wear sheath silhouettes, I often wear sparkles but never THAT much, and considering all the money we've been dropping on everything else......I just couldn't spend $138 on a total one-off vanity purchase.

I didn't give up on my after-party dress dreams, though. My pragmatic mom and sister both suggested, "why don't you just wear some jeans and a cute top?" This was obviously the sensible route, but no. I just desperately wanted a fun, cheap white party dress. I looked everywhere. Macy's, Target, Forever 21, H&M, TJ Maxx, the vintage store up the street. Nothing! Nothing anywhere! I was very, very close to giving up and going the jeans-and-top route after all, when yesterday......while out shopping for paper products and honeymoon, ahem, outfits........I FOUND IT.

Marshall's. $29. Giant fake flower, polka dots, fluffy tulle skirt. Juuuuust ridiculous, over-the-top, fun, and cheap enough to meet the criteria. I went ahead and donned my wedding accessories to give you a better vision, but you'll have to fill in the blanks on the updo, fake eyelashes, and feathery hair item.

The fit in the bust is definitely not ideal, but whaaaatevs. It was $29 and I'll be wearing it for a max of two hours, and everyone will be drunk anyway.

My photographer, Mr. Octo, felt like a foot-in-the-air pose was appropriate with the skirt.

I am psyched about finding this dress! Fluffy skirts and polka dots are much more my speed than sequined sheaths anyway, and at $29, I don't feel guilty about buying it. Score!

Are you having an after-party, and did you want a particular type of outfit for it?

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Big, Open, Sloppy Thank-You to Everyone

Phewwww. Hive, it's been some week. Everyone always says that the week before your wedding is so crazy, and I did not exactly know what that meant. If I can be totally honest, I also secretly believed that it would not apply to me. I'm super-organized, I don't have a ton of projects to keep track of, and I am nearly always cool as a cucumber in high-pressure situations. I'm usually a pretty unflappable person, but this week, I've been.......flapped.

It's a combination of a lot of things, really. I am constantly worrying that I'm forgetting something, or that I'm going to forget something. I've been having crazy wedding dreams almost every night (most recently, it was that I woke up the morning after and could not remember anything about the wedding, except that it was "only okay." I was so pissed that I had spent so much time and money preparing and couldn't remember a single thing about the entire day!) Our entire house is a mess because we've both been so busy that we haven't had time for anything more than a surface picking-up, and our living room currently looks like a jewel-toned bomb explosion as I wrap up all the last little projects.

To top it all off, we had to spend an unexpected $200 at the vet this morning when (skip the rest of this sentence if you're squeamish!) Daffodil suddenly started showing symptoms of what turned out to be a severe urinary tract infection, and those symptoms were kind of gruesome, and, um, bloody. So THAT was a bit rattling.

Oh, and also, I've been counting Weight Watchers points like a demon to prepare for that white dress of mine, and it's making me really cranky. I want a mothereffing breakfast burrito and a cupcake, you know what I'm saying?

So, yeah. Lots of things to do and not a lot of time to do them. Lots of money to spend, lots of things to remember, and also, lots of emotions to have. Bridesmaid/Cousin Katie asked me the other day if I was getting excited, and I replied that yes, I am incredibly excited, and also a little......sad? Sad for the same reasons I'm excited, actually. I'm over-the-moon psyched about all the fun, joy, and excitement that the wedding is going to bring (in EIGHT! DAYS!), but then once it happens, it's over! 24 hours of having a gigantic celebration with all the people I love in one place.....and then it's back to the grind. Bridesmaid Erica told me that for a little while, it was hard to look at her wedding photos because it was so bittersweet, remembering how meaningful and immensely joyful it was, but also being reminded that that day was a once-in-a-lifetime deal. I think I see what she means now.

On a smaller scale, I'm also feeling the same way about my time as a blogger here, to be perfectly honest with you! I have loved writing for Weddingbee, and I'm really kind of a little sad that soon I'll be Mrs. Octopus, meaning that there won't be a whole lot left to write but my recaps, after which I'll pretty much be finished with blogging. I doubt I'll start a newlywed blog, because seriously, my life is not very interesting. I don't know what I'd write about. So, I'll just be.....done. And I'm going to miss it!

So, I wanted to make sure I thanked you all right now, in case things really get nuts next week and I have no time to write. I have gained so much from being a part of this community. Thank you to everyone who sent me private messages just to tell me that you like my writing; it totally made my day every time. Thank you for giving me lots of good suggestions on how to fix those annoying red dots on my arms (although it turns out that keratosis pilaris is STUBBORN, DAMN!). Thank you for recommending the hairstylist I booked after I had my first meeting with a hair scam artist. Thank you for talking me out of attempting to prepare an entire cookie table all by myself (and a HUGE thank you to the Pittsburgh locals who offered to make some cookies for me, I still can't get over how incredibly generous that was). Thank you for responding so kindly when I wrote about what a great guy Mr. Octo is. It meant a lot to me.

Thank you for picking my wedding day necklace (it was totally the right choice, too). Thank you for telling me about your secret single behaviors in a ton of hilarious comments that still make me laugh every time I read them. Thank you for being super, super, super nice and supportive (to me and to each other) when I told you about how I turned into a relentless psycho while I was waiting to get engaged. Thank you for giving me a bajillion awesome suggestions about things to do and places to see on our honeymoon.

Thank you for recommending the transportation company we're now using to haul the bridal party around. Thank you for appreciating MOH/Sister Lauren's hard work on the bachelorette party she ultimately didn't get to attend. Thank you for helping me pick my wedding band design (I did go with #1!). Thank you for suggesting the cocktail recipes we're now serving at our reception.

Thank you to my fellow Bees for being ridiculously cool and great. I have met a good handful of Weddingbee bloggers now, and they are, unfailingly, an amazingly interesting, smart, and funny group of women. I consider all of you my friends. Special shout-out to Seashell, who has been a sympathetic and supportive ear as we each work through some very sad (and similar) circumstances surrounding families, loss, and weddings, and special shout-out to blog-friend-turned-real-life-friend Seahorse, who is awesome, and very almost-married. Good luck and best wishes to you both, girlfriend. I will be thinking of you, and doing my best not to text you with frantic excitement on your wedding day, as I suspect that is probably not going to be helpful. Oh, and special shout-out to Pengy, who is hilarious, and who did not judge me that one time I drunkenly e-mailed her.

Okay. Oh, have I also mentioned that one of the things I'm feeling this week is sloppily emotional and sentimental? (Don't worry, though. Prepping the antibiotics to heal my dog's urinary tract will probably clear that up RIGHT quick.) I've run out of steam now, and I need to go cut like twenty thousand more dinner menus, and I have no cute way to wrap up this post. So I will just say: thank you again, Weddingbee. My wedding quite literally would not have been the same without you, and I puffy-heart you all.

What do you feel like you've gained from Weddingbee?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

After We Rehearse

Bridesmaid Clara and I have been BFFs since third grade. Our friendship spans a kind-of-unbelievable seventeen years; we went to elementary school, middle school, high school, and college together. She is also the wise soul who met Mr. Octo at university band camp, insisted that he was the perfect guy for me, and dragged me to that fateful toga party so she could introduce us. Over those many, many years, we have also gotten to know each other's families very, very well. Due to our friendship with each other, our parents became friends as well, and it's really just all pretty adorable.

Clara's parents were able to retire fairly young, and felt that life in our small-town home in upstate New York just wasn't going to be enough for them. They decided to retire to--of all places--Pittsburgh! They refurbished an old row house in a historic district of the city right near our reception location into a total dream home, and they have been unbelievably generous in opening up their home to the Family Octo every time we've needed to trek down to Pittsburgh for wedding planning sessions. They've hosted my mom, my sister, and me quite a few times over the course of our sixteen-month engagement, and they'll be doing us one more epic favor before the wedding is over: hosting our rehearsal dinner.

I am honestly really excited about our rehearsal dinner. We opted to keep it as intimate as possible, including only our immediate families, our bridal party & their dates, and our grandparents. While it's going to be catered, it's going to be a pretty casual, barbeque-style affair, with things like crispy chicken, caprese salad, and red potatoes on the menu. When Groomsman Nick got married last October, they also held a casual rehearsal dinner in a family home, and I really enjoyed how comfortable and relaxed it felt. I think Mr. Octo and I will really appreciate the chance to spend some laid-back time with our closest friends and family before the next day's craziness begins.

But enough about that. When I said "dream home," I meant dream home. Want a little tour?

The front porch, where we all sit and have a cocktail after a busy day of wedding planning.

Bridesmaid Clara's mom took our love of all things Pittsburgh and ran with it; she tells me that her plan is to decorate each room in the scheme of a different Pittsburgh sports team. The front room is going to be set up to seat about half the rehearsal dinner guests and is going to be Steelers-themed...

...while the kitchen/dining room area will be set up to seat the rest of the guests and will have a University of Pittsburgh Panthers theme.

The back courtyard will hold the dinner buffet (under an awning) and is going to be decked out in Pirates gear.

I looooove the sports theme! I think it's so fun for our relaxed, casual, family-BBQ style party.

At some point, a lot of guests will probably migrate upstairs to enjoy the party room....

.....and the views from the rooftop deck.

(PS: Imagine two floors of beautifully-appointed bedrooms, as well as an office/library/den, between the kitchen/dining room/front room area and the party room/rooftop deck. Dreeeaaaaam hoouuuuuse.)

I'm really excited about this!

Do you have any friends helping you out in a big way with your wedding?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Awesome Food

Heh heh heh hahahaha. That is the sound of my nervous laughter because our wedding is FIFTEEN DAYS AWAY. I mean, what? How did this happen? I have been feeling more than a little unglued in the past week or so, and I truly did not expect that I would. All that is really a post for another day, but the long and short of it is that your eight-legged friend here is pretty frazzled, and I'm going to do my very best to keep posting in the next fifteen days, but you know. I'm taking it one day at a time.

Anyway, here is a light and fun subject we can discuss: FOOD! When Mom Octopus and I made our final planning trip to Pittsburgh in July, we had a tasting of several of the things that will be on our dinner menu, and it was seriously uh-may-zing.

During cocktail hour, we're having a cheese table and a fruit & vegetable table. Mom Octo and I got to try some of the offerings from the cheese table. Now, listen. Cheese is my all-time favorite food, and I have great love for a well-assembled cheese plate. Big Burrito's cheese plate was AWESOME.

GAH! Baguette! Blackberries! Dried figs! CHARCUTERIE (fancy deli meat)! I can't tell you what kinds of cheeses will actually be on our cheese table, because apparently Big Burrito opts to use whichever cheeses are currently the freshest and best-tasting from the local independent dairy they work with. I had no idea that local independent dairies even existed near Pittsburgh, but hey, awesome. Independent, locally-sourced food is usually delicious and good for the environment, AND is super-trendy in the blogosphere right now, so win-win-win! (C'monnnn, you know it's true.)

Then we moved on to tasting our dinner options.

Not pictured: the salad greens representing our salad station. What can I tell you? It's mesclun greens with tons and tons of topping options. The mesclun greens are also organic and locally-grown. I am so on point with the Internet right now.

Also not pictured: the carving station options, because we didn't have the chance to try them. It's a fairly standard carving station, I think. We're having roasted turkey breast and grilled marinated flank steak. The turkey breast is served with two sauce options: rosemary poultry jus and red pepper cream sauce. The steak is also served with two sauce choices: horseradish creme fraiche and chipotle BBQ sauce. The station also includes garlic mashed potatoes (which we did taste, and they were SLAMMIN') and grilled vegetables.

Then, the fun one! The Pittsburgh station!

My mouth actually just watered looking at these photos again. The Pittsburgh station will serve one of my favorite foods--pierogies--but not just any old pierogies. Pierogies stuffed with aged cheddar cheese and black truffle mashed potatoes, topped with caramelized onions. Big Burrito prepares them in a skillet, so they get that dry, brown crispness on the outside. I AM NOT getting up to make the rounds greeting our tables until I have eaten one of them.

The Pittsburgh station will also feature sausage-stuffed cabbage rolls (pictured next to the pierogies), rigatoni with spicy tomato sauce, and grilled kielbasa with sauerkraut. I really hope people like this station, because I think it is glorious. I know it's a little unconventional for wedding food, but it's also, in my humble opinion, fun and festive and SUPREMELY DELICIOUS. In fact, I just decided that I am going to practice positive thinking, and instead of telling myself "OMG, the wedding is two weeks away, soooooo nerve-wracking!", I will tell myself, "OMG, eating pierogies in two weeks is going to be pure bliss!" (I have been eating lightly and healthfully for two weeks. Lots of salads, no desserts. It is so grim, y'all.)

Okay, I hope you enjoyed this quick tour through the Octo Wedding Menu. I enjoyed thinking about it again. Pierogies! Carbs stuffed with carbs and cheese, grilled in butter and topped with sour cream!

Me in fifteen days. (Source.)

Are you serving any slightly unusual food options at your wedding?

Monday, September 6, 2010

RSVP Breakdown

Our RSVP deadline has come and gone, and miraculously, we have barely any responses left floating around out there! (Ahem, Mr. Octo's friend Michael.) I always think it's interesting to see how the RSVPs break down for other people's weddings, especially destination (or, as we like to call ours, mini-destination) weddings. Here are the stats:
  • We invited 205 people, a number which includes Mr. Octo and myself.
  • Of that 205, only 16 are local to the Pittsburgh area.
  • 14 of the 205 are kids under the age of eighteen.
  • We invited all guests' significant others, regardless of how long they had been together, and regardless of their engagement/living together status.
  • We did not offer plus-ones to single guests, largely because we were looking at a packed guest list already, and because every single person we invited knew a good handful of the other guests.
  • 135 of the invitees are my family or family friends, and 78 of them are attending. 42 of the invitees are Mr. Octo's family, family friends, or friends of his that I don't know, and 30 of them are attending. 26 of the invitees are people we consider "our" shared friends, and 19 of them are attending.
  • The grand total: including ourselves, we will have 129 people at the wedding (14 kids, 115 adults), for an overall "Yes" rate of 63%.
We're actually very pleasantly surprised by how things shook out. In our very early wedding talks, our families had hoped for (and budgeted for) a total of around 120 people. As we entered into our catering plans, we then budgeted for 120 adults and 10 children.

However, as you can see, my family is quite substantial. My mom is one of seven children, all of whom are married with children of their own, and her mom's sister (my great-aunt) has eleven children, nearly all of whom are married with children of THEIR own. My mom is close with a number of her cousins and has been invited to many of their children's weddings. Although my dad's family can't quite match that "Irish Catholic in the 1950s" level of procreation, there are quite a few of them, too. At a certain point, based on the feedback we heard, we were expecting that we'd need to adjust the total to about 160 people. As we have ALL learned by now, 30 more people than originally planned doesn't sound like a whole lot, but financially, it was kind of terrifying.

Like many others, though, we found that a huge rush of "Yes" responses came in at the beginning, but was later followed by a big batch of "No"s. About two weeks into the response period, our acceptance rate was holding steady at about 87%, causing a giant collective GULP amongst the Octopi, but it slowed down a lot as the deadline got closer.

We had quite a few surprise acceptances--people we really didn't think would have the time or desire or money to make the trip--and we were thrilled by them all. I also feel pretty fortunate that on the other hand, we didn't have any truly surprising declines. In scanning over our guest list, I can look at every decline and know exactly where it came from (baby due any minute, lives in Germany, 92 years old and lives in a retirement home in Florida, has three kids and lives a ten-hour drive away, and so on, and so on). I know that not everyone feels that all of their "no"s were completely understandable, so I think we're kind of lucky in not feeling stung by any of ours.

Lessons learned from our guest-list adventures?
  • Ain't no such thing as a courtesy invite. I'd say you should start with the mindset that everyone you invite will make their very best attempt to be there with you, and a great many of them actually WILL be able to be there with you.
  • While it's your wedding, it's not totally about you (or at least it wasn't for my family, anyway). A lot of my extended family members don't know me very well, but they do know a lot of the other family members that were invited. Same idea with some of my parents' friends. I am totally okay with this. Weddings are fun, and offer up a chance to eat tasty food, drink tasty drinks, and dance and socialize with lots of people you don't see very often all at once. I know some people choose to keep their weddings intimate, inviting only those that they personally feel close to, which is awesome. This was not really an option for us, but ultimately, I'm happy about it. I think my parents were well within reason with who they chose to invite, and I'm really happy in knowing how much they'll enjoy themselves celebrating with our big family and big social circle.
  • Do not invite more people than you can pay for. Seriously, don't. Our invitee list started at 165, then went up to 185, then eventually went up to 205. Every addition came with the understanding that it was driving our potential wedding budget up. In other words, we committed to the added guests, but we (by which I mean the whole Family Octo) also committed to the possible extra costs. We certainly weren't thrilled about possibly forking up the cash for 205 guests, but we were prepared to do it. I would seriously advise against putting yourself in the terrifying position of inviting more people than you can feasibly pay for.
September brides, how did your RSVPs shake out? Anyone else have any wisdom to share from the process?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Hive, thank you so much for your great suggestions on our stocking-the-bar issue! I have some sad (for me) news regarding The Great Beer Debate. When I was home for my bridal shower, I was describing our beer choices to the Parents Octopus, as well as gleefully noting how Weddingbee mostly agreed with me that a light beer was not a necessary menu option.

But surprise! Mom Octopus informed me that Dad Octopus wants to drink Labatt Blue at the reception, and since Dad Octopus has been so easy-going, diplomatic, and supportive throughout the planning of this whole shindig (and holds a hearty share of the purse strings), what he wants, he gets. I mean, my first suggestion was that an alternative to the Labatt would be for Dad Octopus to develop better taste in beer, which he chuckled at, dice. Labatt Blue is on the beer menu.

Then, tonight, I assembled an informal tasting panel consisting of Mr. Octo, MOH/Sister Lauren, and BM/Cousin Katie to try out some of the cocktail options you all shared with us. Want to see the winners?

Cocktail #1
A combination of ingredients based on suggestions by commenters Miss OceanBeach SF and 7SEVENJ9: orange juice, ginger ale, and vanilla vodka. Everyone, you should make this beverage as your TGIF evening drink tonight. I don't know why this combination of mixers never occurred to me before, but it was DELICIOUS. After I mixed it up for the panel and handed out the glasses, everyone started announcing, "oooooohh! this tastes really good!"

Soon-to-be in-laws toasting (to their mutual appreciation of fart jokes, probably)

Katie enjoys a cocktail, a slice of Upper Crust pizza, and the new issue of Martha Stewart Weddings. What else could a person possibly want?

A logical name for this drink would be something like "Creamsicle" or "Orange Blossom" or something, because that's what it tastes like. However, after 2.5 drinks last night, it occurred to me that maybe we should refer to it as a "Daffodil" on our bar menu. As an homage to my precious boo-boo, who is yellow and sweet, as is the drink. Get it?

Sweet? Yellow? Yeah?

Is this too cheesy and doofy to handle? And, I mean, if a person happened to Google "French bulldog silhouette" to try to find an image to put on the bar menu to make the connection between drink and dog abundantly clear, would this be crossing the line into "I love my dog SOOOO MUCH" psychosis? Please advise.

Cocktail #2
For the other mixed drink, we sampled (and liked) a dressed-up variation of a basic cranberry & vodka: cranberry juice, citrus-flavored vodka, seltzer water, and a squeeze of lime. Dry and fruity. Yum.

So, the final bar menu will include: Yuengling, Sam Adams Octoberfest, Labatt Blue, and Harpoon Cider as our beers, whatever Dad Octopus chooses for our wines (I'm not picky about those), and Creamsicles/Daffodils and the fizzy cranberry-citrus vodka drinks. Yum!

Notably, we're not serving champagne. I don't think people tend to order it from the bar that much, and I've observed firsthand that all the champagne poured in a champagne toast often isn't finished. We'll just have wine at the tables, and guests can toast with that if they'd like. I do love a good glass of bubbly, but I just think this is an expense that is easily cut.

What's on your bar menu?