Sunday, March 29, 2009

Gown Shopping II, Electric Boogaloo

So with my sister in town this week, I have been taking her back to some of the dress shopping locations to see my favorites and help me come to some sort of decision. Revisiting each place has been great -- much better than the first time around. We've uncovered some great nuggets of awesomeness at each stop so far. We revisited Nicole Miller, and were pleasantly surprised to find out that 1. the discountinued gown was not yet sold out, and 2. the gown below comes in a new color! It's called "latte," and it's very similar to this color but a little less pink and a bit closer to ivory.

On our revisting of the White Dress, we had a very interesting experience. The three that I had tried on before, all got thrown out of contention. My sister convinced me to try on a Reva Mivasagar dress "just for fun," because it looked so cool hanging on the rack...little did we expect that it would look so great! Once again, as with the previous dresses I posted about from the White Dress, the picture is not a good representation. The fabric has lots of delicate embroidery and lace detail. It was fabulous.

Going back to all these places is definitely helping me narrow things down. I have a clear frontrunner at this point...should I tell you? JT doesn't want to know what gown I pick -- do you? Or would you all like to be surprised when the big day arrives?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

J'adore Bleu Boheme

JT, my sister, and I met with the fantastic Bleu Boheme folks today to start going over details (menus, timelines, decor, etc.). Each time we go back, I love our venue more and more! Here are some photos I shot today. Hopefully you can see why we love it so much.

This is the main dining room.

The brick end of the room will be the "dance floor" area.

And finally, here's my niece enjoying herself while the grown ups talk business.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Venue Ideas: The Linkery

As you know, JT and I have decided on our venue and are quite pleased with it. However, I'd still like to share some of the other places that we considered when we began hunting. Just because they weren't right for us doesn't mean they won't be right for someone else, and obviously there's something special about each place, otherwise we wouldn't have ever considered them.

The Linkery is a fantastic farm-to-table restaurant in North Park. We've been fans since it first opened up in the smaller location back on the corner or 30th & Upas. Now that they've moved into larger digs, it's even better!

For the quality of the food, I find the prices to be totally reasonable. And if you are a beer lover, then you will never want to leave. There beer menu dwarfs their food menu significantly.

With the overall earthiness of both the red and brown decor and the culinary philosophy, we thought this was a great potential venue. However, they don't do full venue buyouts. They can seat 80 in the regular dining section, but in the interest of keeping true to their regular customers, the front seating area would still be open to the public. But if your party is smaller, they have a private dining room in the back that can accommodate up to 40. Too small for what we wanted to do, but since we love their food so much (and their philosophies on dining in general), we will probably be using this for our rehearsal dinner!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The White Dress, and an Identity Crisis

This Sunday I decided that I am done with gown shopping. I have looked at too many gowns at this point. So many that my judgment about which ones I've liked best is becoming very clouded.

JT and I went to the White Dress in Corona Del Mar. This was by far the most traditional dress shopping experience of the bunch. There were lots of gorgeous dresses that you would expect to see at a wedding salon. And lots of very sweet, helpful sales people gushing all over me, telling me how amazing I looked. I chose to visit this salon because they were having a Vineyard Collection trunk show, and I was curious to see this collection because it's relatively affordably priced (keep in mind "relatively"). I tried on a LOT of dresses. But it was narrowed down to three. Of course, since this was one of those "traditional" shops, I couldn't take any pictures. We'll have to rely on the designers pictures, which truthfully do not do these dresses justice. They looked much better in person.

This is "Hayden" from the Vineyard Collection. Honestly, I think it looked better on me than it does here, because of how the light is reflecting on the fabric. But it looked very sexy and glam, and was really flattering to my figure.

The next one is by Anne Barge. I hesitated to try it on, because the silhouette is so "bridal," but the details are so cute. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the bust line has all these intricate pin tucks. Plus the dress has pockets!

Everyone in the store was wowed at how great it looked on me, myself included. I never would have thought that I'd like something like this...but I did. A lot. It was playful and fashionable. I think I was 30 seconds away from buying it. But then they stuck a veil on me, and suddenly I was a bride. This should be a good thing, right? Something just felt off. Here I am, championing the consignment shop, the budget friendly alternatives, the bohemian "non-bridal" I really going to end up wearing a white, A-line strapless with a veil? From a bridal boutique?

We tried on one more gown. No one in the store thought I would like it as much as the previous two, but I actually loved it equally. Perhaps because it was closer to what I had imagined myself wearing from day one. This is "Britta" by Melissa Sweet.

Again, the photos do not do it justice because what makes this dress so special is the delicate floral beading on the chiffon, which just doesn't show up in the photo. But, I think this is actually out of my price range.

So, my dear readers, I implore you to leave your feedback. Do I stay true to my original vision of being the offbeat, hippie bride that I am, or do I embrace the brideyness for all it's worth?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hooray for Dream Bridal LA

Alright, once again, I feel a little guilty for recommending an LA vendor, but we just don't have anyone doing this in San Diego*.

Dream Bridal is a shop specializing in selling sample and gently worn designer gowns for significantly less than you would buy them in a boutique. It's primarily an internet based business, so actually not even technically a "shop;" however, Britta, the remarkable woman behind this business, allows brides to come to her home to view and try on the dresses. I love this, because unless you just can't go on the photos when it comes to wedding gowns. Doesn't matter what it looks like on the model, or mannequin or another really have to see what it looks like on you.

I tried on 4 dresses, but I'm just going to show you the top 2. You know from this post that I love Jenny Packham. This has been on of my favorites of her designs, so I was pleased to find it here at a reasonable price, and more pleased that it looked good on me.

That's the fabulous Britta behind me holding the dress tight, since it was, of course, a bit too big. I felt very comfortable in this dress -- I feel like it's very "me." Here's Britta's photo of it, so you can see the detail a bit better.

The next one is another Claire Pettibone. When I saw this gown online, I thought it was beautiful, but worried it wouldn't look good on me. I'm glad I was wrong.

What's really amazing about this gown is the detail. It's hard to see in the dark photo that JT took, but there's so many delicate details, and I just LOVE how unique this dress is. You'll never see another bride in a dress like gorgeous is the back?? Here's Britta's photo so that you can see some the detail work more clearly.

I would absolutely recommend checking out Dream Bridal if you're looking for a designer gown at a significant savings....just don't buy either of these two gowns until I've made up my mind!

*There is technically a similar business based in San Diego called Bride Couture, but I haven't found any of the designers that I like on their website, which is why I have not visited them. But check them out -- they might have something you like.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Creative Attire Ideas

One of my potential money saving ideas when it comes to my wedding ensemble is to take a fairly simple gown and dress it up, making the accessories the star. This weekend, I'm planning on checking out the Jenny Yoo "wedding alternatives" collection. An alternative to spending $3,000? I'll take it! Here are a few of the simple but cute designs in the collection, all for less than $1,200:

And how cute would one of these dresses look paired with one of these fantastic shrugs? The jackets below are from Etsy sellers Bonzie (left) and English Dept. (right)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Praise for Single Stone and Rose Cut Diamonds

I'm so excited to finally have my engagement ring in my hands. When JT proposed, he did not have a ring for me. He wanted to make sure that I got exactly what I wanted, so we shopped for one together and ultimately decided to have one custom made.

We began by online shopping. Two sites in particular: Twist, which is based in Portland, and Clay Pot, which is based in Brooklyn. Once again, San Diego kind of let me down on the shopping front. I tried and tried, but couldn't find any unique jewelry stores anywhere in the county. Well, that's not entirely true...I did find some unique ones, just not any that carried anything close to my style. San Diegans must not be fans of modern minimalism.

Clay Pot and Twist both carry gorgeous designs by smaller designers, so you can easily find something that won't look like the same engagement ring that all the women in your office have. But, when it came down to it, we didn't feel comfortable making such a big purchase without seeing the ring in person. So, we headed up towards LA, and that's where we found Single Stone.

Single Stone is a jewelry shop with two stores in San Marino and Los Angeles. They specialize in custom work and antique diamond cuts, like the rose cut. I fell in love with rose cuts looking at the designs by Me & Ro at Twist. Unlike the modern round/brilliant cuts that are pointed on the underside (or have a "pavilion," to use the correct terminology), rose cuts are flat on the bottom and have more of a dome shape. They aren't quite as brilliant and "blingy," but that's what I love about it. And it's so see so few of them.

So Single Stone had several beautiful rings that were close to what I was looking for, but by the time we ended up in their store, I had figured out exactly what I wanted: a rose cut in a matte bezel setting. So they offered to make it for me. And the custom job would be much more affordable than ready-made rings of similar designs I had seen elsewhere. Win win.

When it was finally ready and we went to pick it up, it was even more beautiful than I expect. Most importantly, it was exactly what I wanted. I could not be happier with it! Yay for Single Stone!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Venue Winner: Bleu Boheme

I had intended to blog about all of the other venue runners-up before telling you about the winner. But many of you have already heard (from me) that we've booked Bleu Boheme, and I'm sure you're eager to hear more about it.

Bleu Boheme is a French restaurant in the Kensington neighborhood of San Diego. It's rustic countryside French, not "fussy" French -- the menu is populated by peasant favorites like boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin. Since we're both huge foodies, you know it's delicious! I personally thought the duck confit that we had the last time we were there was out of this world.

The decor is, as JT's sister-in-law expertly put it, both elegant and adorable. There are huge chalkboards lining the walls with the day's menu. The walkway from the bar area to the dining room is made out of corks. The whole vibe was perfect, and led us to the "bohemian chic" theme that will be our wedding.

Some of the other major selling points were the cost and the helpful staff. Because we are having the reception during the day, the minimum food charge is super low. And there is no bar minimum -- we're just charged for what is consumed (which can be regulated a bit by what you choose to have them stock). The dining room can seat 80 snuggly, which is perfect for us. We wanted to keep it around 70-80, but we didn't want everyone sitting in a giant room where the tables are 10 feet apart from each other. Tight room = more interaction, more fun! The bar area will have some extra seating for the cocktail hour, which will be cleared during the meal for a dance floor afterwards.

Plus, Alana in the events department has been fantastic to work with so far. She's made it a breeze, offering to let us adjust the menus however we see fit, suggesting that we plug our Ipod into their sound system rather than having a DJ (gee, she read my mind!). We couldn't believe how much Bleu Boheme ended up being exactly what we were looking for!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I Heart Glamour Closet

After the high-end retail boutique, JT and I headed off for a completely different kind of shopping experience. Glamour Closet is a shop in West Hollywood that sells designer samples. I really, really wish that something like this existed in San Diego, so that I wouldn't have to tell like-minded brides to trek up to LA, but it's totally worth the trek. I was amazed by which designers they had in stock and the condition of each gown (most were practically brand new -- there was only one that I tried on that had visible damage, and it could be easily repaired). Plus, the staff was so incredibly helpful! Once you arrive, they give you ribbons to mark which gown you want to try on. Then, they let you browse on your own, at your own pace. You select the gowns, and they bring them to the dressing rooms where they help you try them on.

For the first gown, I'm sorry to say that I didn't write down who the designer was. That's because even though it's a gorgeous gown, I didn't think it was right for our bohemian garden wedding. Too formal. But a great find for someone else.

Next, Reem Acra. This is a gown that retails for about 5K that they are are selling for nearly 50% off.

I was so excited to see that Glamour Closet had Jenny Packham gowns! I adore her designs, but figured I'd never be able to afford them. The retail on these that I tried on is between $3,500 and $5,000, but were being sold here for only about $2,000. Here is the "Swoon" gown.

As you can see, very daring. I love how the shape looks on me, but I'm worried that it's a bit TOO daring.

Here's is the Jenny Packham "Anne." I think this was JT's favorite of the day.

I almost wish I hadn't found so many great's just making the decision so much harder!
One more gown I'd like to share is by Elizabeth Fillmore. I love how avant garde it is. What doesn't translate well in the pictures is the bottom of the dress. It's adorned with these rough lace strips. Super cool. I wish it looked a little better on me.

So, now's your time to weigh in. What are your favorites from this trip?

Planet Claire

OK, the Claire Pettibone shopping experience certainly was an interesting some ways, exactly what I expected. In others, a complete surprise.

One thing that surprised me was how disappointing most of the gowns were in person. I expect gowns that look great on runway models won't always look great on me, but shouldn't they at least look good on the hanger? The poor sample gowns looked like they had been through some serious abuse. And much of the ivory dresses looked almost yellow.

It was kind of refreshing that I didn't fall madly in love with a $5,000 gown that I know I couldn't afford. All of the ones I tried on were pretty underwhelming...except one: the Demetra. It looked FAB. Here's a photo of it from the Dream Bridal website, a source that sells samples and gently used designer gowns.

What has been the most surprising about gown shopping is that oftern what looked underwhelming when I was browsing collections online has ended up looking great on me, and vice versa. What was not surprising when shopping at this particular venue was the "these gowns sell themselves" attitude that came along with the experience. Not that anyone was rude, but no one was going out of their way to help me by any stretch. And of course, there's no actual photo of me in the Demetra gown because they wouldn't let me take one.*

*Side note: I really don't understand why the "high end" designers won't let you take photos in their salons. If you really were going to "copy" one of their designs, couldn't you just as easily use the photos of their websites? Wouldn't allowing brides to photograph themselves in the dress make most brides more likely to purchase from that salon? OK, rant over.

If I do choose this gown in the end, I will probably be purchasing it used/sample/whatever to save some money.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gown shopping, round 2

After the laid-back shopping experience at Nicole Miller, I'm heading out for what will likely be a very different experience at the Claire Pettibone boutique in Beverly Hills. I totally love Claire's designs and know that I can't afford 90% of them. However, I'm hoping that one or two of the dresses that are on the low end of their collection will work for me. Here are some possibilities:

This one is a little above what my max price range is, but it's so beautiful, I think I'll have to try it on.

I'm sure most people would advise me that I shouldn't even try on dresses that I know I can't afford, because I'd just be torturing myself. But I have a secret trick up my sleeves: I plan on seeking out these same gowns through consignment shops that specialize in buying up designer samples (More on that in future posts)!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It may be years until the day my dreams will match up with my pay

I'm having a small panic moment. How do people afford weddings?? I thought that the amount of money we had set aside seemed like a perfectly respectable amount. Then I started using the budget tool on Martha Stewart Weddings. Going through each item, adding a piece here, a piece there...before you know it, I'm way over what I thought I would need. Favors? Band for the reception? Limos? Hotel rooms for out of town guests? How could anyone ever afford to do all these things? Between the food, the clothes, the venues, the photographer and the flowers, I'm tapped out. It sucks. I wish I could pull out all the stops for my friends and family, but I just can't.

But I can tell you right now that our reception music will be provided by an Ipod. Or, at most, a friend wielding a laptop with a pre-programmed itunes playlist. No way I'm paying some random $600 to play "Baby Got Back" or "We are Family" at my wedding.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I Heart Nicole

Nicole Miller ended up being a fantastic place to start off my gown search. Despite all my fears of pushy sales people and wannabe-princess gowns, I was pleasantly surprised to find an extremely helpful staff and several gowns that were cool, looked good on me, and were affordable (I think the highest price for any of the gowns I tried on was $1800).

I had, of course, studied the Nicole Miller collection online, so I had an idea of which ones I wanted to try on. Gown #1 didn't impress me that much in the catalogue, but when I tried it on, I thought it looked great (JT agreed).

Gown #2 was also a great gown, but didn't quite feel as much like "me" as #1.

Gown #3 was surprising. I love the look of a mermaid cut, but always thought that it wasn't the most flattering to my figure. But the extremely helpful sales associate, Marissa, suggested that I give it a try, and I was surprised at how good it looked.

Gown #4: Don't let the fact that I'm not smiling in the photo fool you...I LOVE this gown (I think I just didn't realize that the shutter was firing at that exact moment).

This one was my favorite going into the appointment. I think that the photo sells it a bit short, and here's why: this particular gown was actually 2 sizes too big, so I don't think that it was quite "settling" right in the way that it would have if it had been the correct size. And there's one big problem -- this gown has actually been discontinued. Which means that I can only choose from the sizes that they currently have in stock, since they won't be making any more. And, of course, they no longer have my actual size. So, if I wanted to buy this gown, I would either have to buy one size smaller and have it let out or two sizes bigger and have it taken in (Marissa suggested that the first would probably work better, because 2 sizes down is a lot of fabric to remove). Kind of a bummer. I'm hoping that after weeks of shopping at other places, I won't decide that this was my favorite only to find out that they've sold out completely.

All in all, I tried on way more gowns than are seen here (I only took photos of the ones I thought looked best). Marissa was so great bringing me gown after gown and not minding at all that we wanted to take pictures of so many of them. Bonus points to Nicole Miler for the awesome staff!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Good things come in small packages

I spent almost 12 hours at the office on Friday. Towards the end of the day, I called JT to tell him that since I would be home pretty late, I'd like him to pick up dinner. He informed me that he came home to find that there was no power at the house. It was a long week.

So totally worn out, I returned home, thinking about how hungry I was and how much work lay ahead of me for the weekend, but when I got home, not only was the power back on, but I found this sitting on the bed:

There it is - our wedding ceremony permit.

I think we both knew that we wanted to have our ceremony at the Marston House garden in Balboa Park before we knew anything else about when or where our wedding would be. I used to work in Balboa Park, and I've always loved it. It's tucked away in the northwest corner of the park, so there's usually not many people that make the trek up to see it. But once you're there, there are all these great little nooks and's beautiful.

For those of you paying very close attention, yes, there is a planter right smack in the middle of the lawn. I've looked around at other blogs, boards, Flickr galleries, etc, to see what other people have done to avoid the planter when creating the aisle, but it seems like everyone pretty much just walks around it. I think we can come up with some more creative way of arranging the seating to make it so that the planter doesn't end up actually being in the aisle. But we'll see.

Ceremony Music for Cool Kids

In case you don't already know, music is a huge part of life for me and JT...especially for him. The illustrious JT is the creator and editor of and has a solid career as a freelance music journalist (in addition to his day job, which is also in journalism). So needless to say, having cool music at our wedding is uber important.

JT and his brother (also an editor for Treble) were recently tapped to come up with some cool wedding song selections for Inkfancy, the blog of the Seattle-based design and letterpress company of the same name. The timing on this ended up being amazingly appropriate, considering he was asked to contribute right around the time that we go engaged.

You can check out my soon-to-be-brother-in-law's first installment of the feature, ceremony music for cool kids, on Inkfancy right now! JT's contributions, cool songs for the reception, will follow soon after, so stay tuned for that.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Things That Scare Me

I'm kind of terrified by the idea of dress shopping. Being swallowed alive by some tulle monstrousity that a sales girl convinced you to try on? Clingy white fabrics showing off every day I skipped the gym? Spending hours in bridal salons without finding anything that feels like "me"? Or worse, falling in love with a gorgeous dress only to find out it costs twice what I can afford to pay? All frightening scenarios.

I have my first gown shopping appointment this weekend at the Nicole Miller boutique in La Jolla. I have high hopes, for two reasons. First, their bridal line is very affordable (I don't think anything is priced above $2,000). Second, their collection has a lot of dresses that I don't think look like your typical wedding gown (as my sister can tell you, I'm also afraid of looking too "bridey"). I plan on checking these out at my appointment:

And my favorite of the collection:

Since it's a small boutique, I'm hoping it will be a good first dress shopping experience and a way of easing me into the bigger salons that I'll be visiting later this month. And despite my nerves about the experience, I am excited to see these dresses in person.

Oh, and another thing...I plan on bringing JT with me to go gown shopping. Most people find this VERY odd when I tell them that. But I just can't imagine making such a huge purchase without his input. After all, I'm gonna help him pick out his suit, so why shouldn't he help me pick out my dress? What are your thoughts on the idea?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Great Venue Search: The Tractor Room

The Tractor Room is another awesomely offbeat option for a memorable reception. The interior is sort of "nouveau hunting lodge," and the menu has lots of game dishes (like buffalo, boar and venison) to match. I've really enjoyed both the food and the cocktail menu on the times I've visited.

It wouldn't work out for us, though. Once again, space was an issue. Though I tend to think of 80 guests as being a small reception, the Tractor Room can't accomodate that many in their dining room and would have to spill the seating out on to the patio. So if you've got an even smaller group with an adventurous palette, give them a ring. Their pricing structure was pretty affordable as well.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Great Venue Search: El Camino

El Camino is a quirky, hipster, Mexicana-themed restaurant in South Park, which also happens to be our hood. It's flooded with pink lighting, there's vinyl graphics of mariachis on the walls, and a couple of TV monitors are continuously running movies where luchadors are the main characters. JT and I thought this would make a really creative venue possibility...our minds raced with ideas of sugar skull favors, Dia de los Muertos inspired cake toppers, and loteria cards as save-the-dates.

The upside: An affordable menu, between $30-40 per person. The downside: The place would be a very, very tight fit for our 80 guests. And though we think the theme is pretty damn cool, our more conservative extended family (especially those that did not spend their formative years in southern California) might not find the Virgin Mary and Jesus lights on the wall to be as amusing as we do.

Restaurant Reception 101

So the fiance and I liked the idea of having our reception at a restaurant for several reasons, one of the most important ones being cost - a restaurant would already have all the necessary tables, chairs, dishes, etc., therefore we wouldn't have to rent much of anything. When looking to book a restaurant for a wedding reception, there are a lot of different ways you can go. If you're thinking of doing the same, here are some things to keep in mind.

The full-venue buyout
: If you're looking at a small restaurant without a lot of large private dining rooms, you'll probably need to buyout the whole venue. We talked to a few small to medium sized restaurants, and for a Saturday night, we were quoted on average between $8,500 to $13,500 to buyout the place for the evening. For some places, this only included food. For some, the minimum could be met through a combination of food and bar. For all, there is an additional service charge (usually 20%) and tax on top of that.

The daytime option:
One money saving tip that my fiance's brother and sister-in-law passed along to us was to ask the restaurants if they would be open to letting us have a daytime reception instead of evening, especially if the restaurant isn't typically open for lunch. This way, they can still open for dinner and don't lose any dinner business. The minimum will be much lower, and some might not even ask you to meet a minimum at all.

Understanding the restaurant's priorities:
Some of the places we contacted hadn't ever been approached to host a reception before, while some had hosted several in the past. For one venue, they weren't keen on the idea of closing down the restaurant to their regular customers. And hey, you can't blame them for wanting to put their loyal customers first! For another, I just couldn't seem to get them interested in helping me. They responded to my initial inquiry with an enthusiastic "yeah, we'd love to host your reception!" but then failed to return my subsequent calls and emails. While I get that not everyone thinks that my wedding is their number one priority, it is my wedding...and having to work with someone who didn't at least make me feel like I was a priority would get old fast.