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We’re Engaged! OMG LET’S PLAN.

Oh my GYASH. Remember back in 2016 when I was fiddling around on Bumble in traffic on the 405 (standstill traffic Mom – standstill), swiped right on someone I thought was probably an ad – (the kind where they throw J.Crew models in the mix to keep you swiping) – only to discover he was actually a real-live person? A person I immediately sassed, to the tune of: “Oh sweet, you work for Arthrex? You better be glad I switched to Interior Design cuz I’d run you out of the O.R.” –> (operating room… I used to work for his competitor). Hook line & sinker, people! Maybe not, but everyone who’s ever done online dating knows that every time someone’s intro to you is: “Hey, how’s your day?” – a kitten dies. So I guess it got his attention. Anyhow – I soon came to realize this clown lived 16 hours away, but we had such a fun ping-pong-pen-pal-ship over the course of the next week that we decided to meet in person.

(And I figured there was about a 30% shot he could be a serial killer who might chop me up & put me in a freezer), but thankfully, I had one Dan Mulligan do some unsolicited 007 recon, aka Mully called all his med device cronies in Colorado to get the skinny on Chris (he passed with flying colors). So that clinched it – we finally met.

I think doing long distance in general is hard enough, but starting that way seemed like the most impractical thing ever… but in a way, it helped us get to know one another the old school way, like it was 1994 (on the phone).  We carried on flights back and forth every few weeks and split time between San Diego & Crested Butte for about a year and a half, until I left my Technicolor SoCal flip-flop-and-bathing-suit life and relocated to the fairytale mountain wonderland of Crested Butte, which is cuter (and snowier) than any town in any Hallmark Christmas Movie you’ve ever seen.  And then another year and a half later, on top of a mountain in Telluride, we got engaged.

He (Chris) also turned out to have the kindest soul of anyone I know and is the most laid back, down-to-earth and fun guy ever – who shares my lunacy and affinity for Gus (to a heart-exploding degree… and if you saw him with kids, your uterus might explode). He is endlessly supportive, has a rock-solid moral compass, loves his family and friends with the fire of 1,000 suns, has an effervescent curiosity about the world and an eagerness to get to know everyone, and such an appreciation for nature… he also has a complete inability to sit still on vacation (next time we’re on a beach I’m seriously going to drug him)… but also, such a quiet humility (and serious lack of vanity), which I have always loved. He always apologizes first (I STILL CANNOT BELIEVE THIS. HE LITERALLY JUST DID IT 5 MINUTES AGO.) and he takes the things to heart that you say, then actually does / implements them. I’m not even kidding. But I mean, we can’t have it all, because he also thinks wet towels dry best wadded up in a ball on the floor and will never remember to put the glass lid back on the canister of Q-tips in the bathroom, but I’ll pick my battles.  The man is an endangered species. He is as good as they come.

I’ll stop gushing, but oh wait!  Could we all please do a slow clap for his ring game?

For someone who never cared much about rings, I love, LOVE this thing. It has mixed metals (the little prongs that hold the oval are platinum so they’re more discreet, and the band is gold) and every person who sees it asks if it’s vintage, which gives me a tickle in my shorts.

MOVING ALONG…  the thing about getting engaged at the ripe age of 38 is that I have a very clear vision of what I want, and all the nitty gritty details of the thing do not stress me out – which I think they do a lot of brides – so I’m fortunate in that way.  Not sure if that’s a product of my job and being used to putting a million details (and spreadsheets) together, or if it’s thanks to all 897,464 weddings I’ve physically attended or been a bridesmaid in. I’ve for sure been able to take note of all the amazing things my friends have done…  Let’s roll through them, shall we?

 

CUES I’M TAKING:

 

1. Destination Weddings are the BEST. Because you get to stretch the festivities out for a long long weekend, because everyone who’s there has time to hang and get to know one another, and because being in a beautiful place far from home puts everyone in vaycay mode renders them super relaxed. Chris & I are so on board with this.  Anyone who brings any stress to that week is getting tossed into the ocean… omg I’m kidding!!! (Sort of…)  Karrie & Tim did a destination wedding in Anna Maria Island, Florida and it was one of THE most fun weddings I’ve ever been to… if you’ve never seen their wedding video, do yourself a favor and take 10 minutes to watch it:

Last year, our friends Kait & John got hitched in Harbour Island (Bahamas), which was a crystal-blue-water-magical backdrop for their nuptials and such a fun getaway. PS how fun is this girl? Most chillaxed bride with the most killer taste, ever.

Our other friends Caitlin & Tom got married in Mendocino (Northern Cali) last Fall, which was also one of our favorites: the venue was so stunning and laid-back, and we got to spend so much time with the oh-so-warm & gracious bride (and really everyone at that wedding was so awesome)… I mean, look at this happy little tart! I DIE over her photos, by the insanely talented Anni Graham.

Getting to that Mendocino wedding made the whole weekend an adventure – which is another thing I love about destination weddings – it’s the journey to them!  We did a meandering drive from San Fran up the coast with an old friend of Chris’, stopped into a few little tasting rooms and tucked away beaches on the coast on the way up & back. It was heaven.

2. Smaller, Intimate Weddings. This is great in theory and tough to do.  Guest-listing, so I have heard (and am already starting to experience) is maybe the most difficult and stressful part of the planning process. How on earth do you do it? There are so many people we love who have been close to us during different parts of our lives… and if you invite so-and-so, then you have to also invite so-and-so… and before you know it, you have a list of 500 people and you’re going to be in debt for 500 years to throw a 5-hour party. And the thing is, every huge wedding I’ve been to has felt (to me) kind of impersonal, because I knew the bride and groom didn’t even have time to say hello to everyone, let alone have quality time with their nearest & dearest. Or eat. Which just made me feel overwhelmed for them… like it was a party for everyone else, but not for them. I once heard someone say there’s nothing more depressing than seeing brides and grooms shaking hands with people they’ve never met before at their weddings, and I wholeheartedly agree…. But to each his own.

Money isn’t fun to talk about, but the ugly truth is that the guest list is the #1 factor in your budget – for each person you invite, it’s not only the food & booze dollar amount per head, but every additional person is also an additional place setting, more decor, more chairs, more tables, more allthethings.  Chris and I are at this juncture in our life, too, where everything is happening at once: we’re also shopping for a house, probably going to start a fam sooner than later before my eggs go up in flames, I just opened a storefront, blah blah blah. So, nuts! Do we spend our down payment money on a 5-hour party and then start saving all over again? (…I say yes!) Just kidding, I say sort of …e.g. let’s find a way to be smart and do both. The wedding thing you only get to do it once, and it is LITERALLY the only time everyone you both love will be in the same place at the same time.

As a note, the average American wedding these days costs just under $35,000. The average Southern California wedding (what’s up, La Jolla!) is closer to $50,000…. Or, 50 “wedding dollars” as my friend Kendra calls them to take the sting out. I think a lot of the ones we’ve been to the last few years go up from there. Catering & alcohol accounts for probably about 40% of your budget, so guest count is a huge factor. I got a few good bits of advice recently from friends that I think are worth noting:

  • One friend said they had about 120 guests, which was a good number, but that 60-75 would’ve been ideal. Then followed with: “If you ever have to ask yourself, ‘ehhhh, should we invite so-and-so?’ – then the answer is no.”
  • Plus ones are given if the couple is either engaged or living together.
  • Another friend reminded me that life will inevitably have ups & downs, and marriage will be hard, so to only invite the people closest to you who will stand up for and support your marriage during those tough times.
  • Another friend said, “if you’re on the fence about anyone on your guest list, ask yourself if it’s worth it to you to cut them a check for $500 to attend your wedding.” Sounds brutal, and I’m pretty sure I choked on whatever I was chewing when I heard that, because while that is jarring, it’s not inaccurate.

This chart is actually super helpful… especially with the: “When was the last time you spoke?” and “Would you want to spend 15 minutes alone with this person on your wedding day?”

But while budget is obviously a consideration, I’m at peace with and far less concerned with the money part, and WAY more concerned with the vibe of the tribe that’s there.

3. Weddings That Have a Great Flow. And behind every great flow, there is for sure a great planner. Personally, I think having a planner is e-s-s-e-n-t-i-a-l. Your wedding is a HUGE investment – and so short lived – and so to me, hiring a day-of or month-of planner is the best way to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch, and that you ACTUALLY get to enjoy it. It’s not unlike hiring a designer when you are building or renovating a house: why on EARTH would you spend all that money and not have someone quarterbacking the thing to make sure you’re making sound decisions on things that have so much permanence and allocating your budget properly?

Chris & I both love a wedding with a good flow – where guests aren’t confused about where to go or what to do, and where there’s always a glass of champagne or something to nosh at the ready. Where the bride and groom don’t have to worry about anything that day except having a great time. ALL OF THAT is because there’s a coordinator on site who’s orchestrating every single minute of the party and handling it à la Olivia Pope, or J.Lo. I can do a ton of the legwork – the budget, the vendor coordination, the styling – that stuff’s easy because it’s so much of what I do every day… but at some point, I don’t know what I don’t know about the nuances of weddings, and I need someone to pull it together and take the reigns so I can hang with my peeps and not have to like, take calls from the caterer who has a flat tire, which would make my brain melt.

4. Weddings That Don’t Feel Disjointed. IMO, if the venue has too many components or far-reaching seating areas or cigar bars or what have you, it just ends up too compartmentalized and people dissipate. Like a middle school dance. I love it when everyone is kind of hanging together.

5. Weddings That Have a Killer Band or DJ. This makes or breaks the party, and is a HUGE priority for both me & Chris. I remember one invitation we got last year had a line on the RSVP card that asked: “Tell us the song that’ll make you get up and dance?” – which I loved. PS: the answer is Footloose. Always. Turn that song on and I am a wind-up toy on crack who just lost her mind.

6. Weddings That Feed You at Crappy Hour. God bless things like hot dog stands, taco trucks, passed slices of pizza, etc. Especially if people have been on the dance floor all night, they’re usually starving by the time the party is over. If I could have Pizza King Royal Feasts brought in and passed at the reception, I would be happy as a clam. Or pigs in blankets.

7. Weddings with Amazing Speeches. Pass the tissues. Listening to the speeches might be my favorite and most memorable part of weddings. I’m gonna get roasted so hard, and it’s gonna be SO FUN.

PS: I kind of want to hand out vintage hankies for that very reason.

 

THE VIBE

 

Every person or vendor I’ve talked to about this wedding so far has asked what the vision is. The best I can muster is: France + Mexico had a baby on the beach. Like, in the blue lagoon. Give me fish tacos on mismatched antique dishes, tons of string lights, melting taper candles in ornate vintage brass candelabras and a laid-back but intimate, elegant feel to all of it. Like this:

{ Ceremony }

Give me all the tattered, laid back beachy business in the form of lanterns, simple arbors, white gauzy things blowing in the breeze and waves in the background. Cuz what else do you need.

{ Gussie }

We quickly nixed a Caribbean or a Mexico wedding, which would’ve been amazing but it’s a deal breaker not to have our best buddy in tow.

{ The Bridesmaids }

Yep, I still wanna do them. Lots of people feel like they’re silly when you’re in your 30’s, but I say bring on the besties, all clad in coordinating gear. I want to do anything but the normal bridesmaid-looking dresses: gunning for mismatched, embellished, rad dresses in the watered-down, cerulean palette. As laid back as I want this shin-dig to be, I do want the feeling of it juxtaposed with some pretty dresses.

Brideside is a good option: they’re more like an aggregate site for all the bridesmaid dresses out there, vs just shopping them from one designer e.g. Jenny Yoo, but to me it still feels a bit more uniform than I want… visiting there in Chicago in 2 weeks so I’ll let you know how it shakes out.  Rent the Runway is also an option I love, and they have a ton of options in the blush category, but sadly very little in the blue/green family.

We had one friend last year who had her bridesmaids all in mismatched white outfits – some were flowy dresses, others were gorgeous silk pants and angora sweaters – and it was super laid back and chic in Northern Cali in the Fall. I LOVED that. I wouldn’t even rule out doing the bridesmaids in mismatched ivory get-ups either.

{ The Dress }

Ya’ll know I let it all hang out and will tell you anything, but this one I gotta kinda keep under wraps. Generally speaking, the dress has never been my biggest priority. I don’t wanna feel like I wore a potato sack – I mean, you HAVE to feel fab – but I also can’t justify spending some insane amount of money… (though, you can always resell it and recoup some of funds). Now that I’ve been trying on a few, however, I will say one thing: BERTA. Signed, F*DGE. Co-Signed, What’s a Budget?  Bahahajahjhahah – kidding, kidding.

{ The Flowers }

I KIND of don’t care about flowers either. That’s one expense I can shave down, I think. Plus who’s really looking at flowers when you have a roaring ocean in the background and swaying palm trees everywhere? Lots of folks have suggested I get a gaggle of stems at the Farmer’s Market, or at least to choose in-season flowers to save some dough.

Our good friend Kait – who got married in Harbour Island last year – had almost entirely flowerless decor (except for her boutquet) and I literally didn’t even notice because the wedding was so beautiful: she used primarily things from the local landscape. GENIUS.

That said… if I did a few flowers, I’d love some peonies (totally out of season – so I’m already not taking my own advice) or king proteas. The bouquet below is bananas.

{ The Reception }

If I could pitch a big tent (ooooh a clear one!) on the beach, or just do it on the beach in general, I would be in heaven.

Except you can’t do glass or alcohol on any San Diego beaches (that’s right folks – La Jolla it is!)… And what I REALLY wanted to do – for the sake of intimacy and the sake of saving *literally* tens of thousands of dollars – was to have the reception outdoors on the grounds of (whatever beach house our families are staying in that week). I found this one and it’s perfect (complete with private beach access), but the lady won’t allow events. Nor will any homeowner or property owner, anywhere… despite my incessant attempts to offer a larger refundable damage deposit and promise to rent port-a-potties:

C’est la vie. So to that end, there are a few venues either on or across the street from the beach will do the trick. PS: Know what all of the below have in common? STRING LIGHTS. Magical and magically available at Wal-Mart.

{ The Tabletop }

I’ve had so many people tell me not to fuss over the tables, and I won’t (too much) BUT the decor is kind of my jam, cuz it’s my job. Plus, you gotta rent plates & napkins anyway – why not rent cool ones for the same cost? Give me all the mismatched vintage china, milk glass candlesticks and mixed metal glassware.

I totally love Hostess Haven out of San Diego – I doodled up a few schemes from their offering:

A good friend of ours who did a mountain wedding last year actually BOUGHT a ton of her decor – because you can buy it for almost the same price that you can rent it – and in the end, you can sell it to recoup some of the costs. So it’s a lot of legwork and probably a total PITA, but I may go that route for a few things…

*COUGH* I may have already nabbed a dozen or so mismatched vintage napkins with crochet trim on eBay.

{ Food & Drink }

My other half is a whiskey connoisseur, so maybe a bourbon bar for him? This one is from Calder Clark Designs (hey girl heeeeeey!)

Otherwise, I’ll say it: as much as I love food, I don’t really care about the food. It’s just that it’s so fleeting!  I mean, I’m not trying to feed people spray-can cheese on Ritz crackers, but I could care less about doing a bazillion dollar 4-course meal. BRING. ON. THE. TACO. BAR.  Or at least Mini Margs & Mini Tacos passed at cocktail hour – BE STILL MY HEART.

Truth be told, I’d DIE if my favorite taco joint could cater the whole she-bang (laid back and would save a bundle), but I’m quickly finding that almost all reception venues require you to either use their food & booze, or pick from a certain list of approved caterers. Also, Chris is a little bit of a traditionalist and thinks we have to feed people more than tacos… and I’m all, “IF ANYONE DOESN’T LOVE TACOS THEY’RE NOT INVITED!!!” Haaaaa j/k – but seriously – who doesn’t love tacos?  So either way, looks like I’m getting channeled into the $chmancier food category.

{ Dessert }

I so do not care about the cake. Does anyone even eat the wedding cake?? I can’t remember the last time I’ve even seen the bride & groom cut the cake. So unless Cru Cafe wants to ship me in an Orange Sherbet Cake, this is a corner I can cut via a little round cake from the grocery store with some flowers slapped on top:

Or since I’m gunning for farm-to-table Mexican fare for dinner (I haven’t given up), maybe we do churros for dessert? Or these little malasadas in coffee.

This dessert table I have always loved. It looks like it’s in my Nanny’s backyard and that’s probably why.

That’s where we are so far! The budgeting is hard, the guest list is hard, blah blah blah… but we HAVE to make it all fun, right??  I told Chris we should sit down together and figure out what we’re comfortable spending and what’s most important to us, slap a number on that budget and then just pull the triggers so we don’t have to fuss for the next 11 months, cuz that’s not worth it. To recap:

Best Advice I’ve Gotten (So Far) on Weddings:

  1. “For every hour you spend planning the wedding, spend another hour working on the relationship. So many people get caught up with the right dress, the perfect centerpiece, that they forget it’s only a party at the end of the day.” –Read this somewhere… I repeated this to Chris and he was like, “yeah babe for sure – we’ll be doing plenty of hours of hiking this Summer.” Bahahahhaha.
  2. “Stretch the event out as long as possible.  It will go so fast for you and even 4 days won’t be enough time with everyone.  So host a destination, days-long event, so you can have one-on-one time with different people as they trickle into town.” –Caitlin Johnson
  3. “Splurge on the photographer.” –Roni Haskell // “Photography is the only thing you take with you.” –Caitlin Whiteside – I am SO ON BOARD with this.
  4. “Hire a videographer!!!” –Everyone.  And sadly, everyone I know who hasn’t done videography has had major remorse afterward; everyone who has says they still love watching theirs – or watch it every anniversary and reminisce. The other amazing point someone made was that: as the bride & groom, you’re so busy that day / behind the scenes getting ready etc that you actually miss seeing so much that goes on. But videography gives you that and lets you not only relive the day, but have a window to everything you didn’t see.
  5. Hire a planner. –Everyone
  6. Have your bouquet professionally done, but use Farmers Market flowers or in-season flowers or local greenery for your bridesmaids, tabletop, and any other florals you need.  –Kait McGrath + Melissa Pevic + Michaela Fraser. You can even have a little shin-dig with your bridesmaids and put bouquets and arrangements together. You can also repurpose your bridesmaids’ bouquets as centerpieces.
  7. “Don’t worry about making anyone else happy. Be weird and do whatever the hell makes the two of you happy.” –Mia Martino Howe (Love this one!)
  8. “Use your gut and don’t do a single ‘should’ ” –Laura Hammer-Hill
  9. “The entire wedding will take cues from the bride and her demeanor. So if she’s freaking and stressed, everyone else will feel that. And if she’s super relaxed and happy, everyone else will feel that, too, and follow suit.” –I don’t even remember where I heard or read this, but I think it’s one of the most profound pieces of wedding advice I’ve ever heard. 
  10. “We planned our wedding around what was convenient for our parents, but it was not what we wanted. If we had it to do all over again, we would’ve done things completely differently, and done the whole thing somewhere else.”
  11. “No one eats cake.” –Kait McGrath
  12. “Take a half a Xanax while you’re getting ready.” –JoJo Hodges (this one made me snort)
  13. “Do a first look.” –Everyone I know who has done one.  It’s the bit of advice I keep getting: that when you walk into your ceremony, seeing everyone you love in one eyeshot will trigger major waterworks and be overwhelming in and of itself; that that alone is enough to take in, but add to that seeing your almost husband or wife for the first time that day, and it would be overload. So because both of those moments are so special, everyone seems to advocate breaking them up into two. The first look is also one of the only times that day you’ll (almost) be alone and have an intimate moment between the two of you.
  14. “I wish we’d had gone smaller crowd, less formal, just close friends and family on a beach.” –Dawn.  Note: this one is the most resounding theme I hear, time & time again. Every person I’ve talked to says they wished they could’ve had a more intimate, smaller wedding.
  15. “I don’t remember the food at all–it may have been sandwiches (hot and cold) cheese balls and crackers, and veggies and fruit trays. I really don’t remember. All I remember is dancing. Lots of dancing.” –Missy Phillips Cooper
  16. “Carefully curate your playlist.” –Melissa Hobley.  “Start your music must-haves playlist now. Write every song down as you hear or think of it so you can prioritize later because you’ll have hundreds you’ll want to dance to.” –Amy Kitchen
  17. “Regardless of the details you decide on, more important things are happening here – like learning how to communicate better, set limits, make joint decisions, compromise, listen to one another, etc. Use this as an opportunity to learn how to work together as a team day-in and day-out.” –Amy Kitchen

You deserve a trophy or at least some orange slices if you made it thru this post without a nap or a pee break.  Thank you guys for all of your wonderful well-wishes and gracious help so far!!!!!! We are stoked. And semi-stressful as this stuff can be (*violins*), I have never loved me some Chris Driscoll more than I do now.

xoxoxo,