Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sidenote: Troubling Conversation with a Friend

I was Google Chatting with a friend of mine on her birthday, before she left for dinner with her fiancé. I told her to have a great time at dinner, to which she says,

“Well, I mean, before this it was always which one is he going to propose on (she was only dating him for 3 years before he proposed), after that, it’s just gravy.”

How weird is that. Really. I mean, I don’t think like that.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Catering Conspiracy

I’m convinced that there is some sort of wedding-site mafia operating in Houston, and if I don’t post tomorrow, will one of my friends let my fiancé know what may have happened to me?

As I said yesterday, I was feeling guilty about going over the budget for the caterer, so I wanted to at least try and do my homework and find another caterer that might be less expensive. One thing I had to keep in mind was that the reception hall would charge a $1500 “surcharge” for using an outside caterer. That’s right, there is a surcharge for going with an outside caterer, along with a 60 day limitation. Not 60 days from the date of the event, which I could understand, or even 6 months from the date of the event, 60 days from the day you sign the contract, whenever that may be (and the outside caterer has to go through an “approval process” within that time frame.

I tried to work with their “in-house” caterer for a while, I really did. I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt after the extreme delay in response to the initial quote request. I had sent her a menu selection to get the quote, so I asked if we could do a tasting the next time we were in town, which happened to be a weekend. I asked her if we could schedule a tasting for the upcoming weekend, as we were coming in from out of town. Her response:

“This weekend is not good for me, as we have an event. Actually, weekends are never good, because most of our events occur on the weekend. Let me know what other time works for you.”

I didn’t reply, because I had told her that I couldn’t meet for a while on the weekends. I do understand that most of these vendors will not usually want to meet on the weekends, but most of them have been very understanding, once I explain that we are planning the wedding from out-of-town. One reception site vendor even came in early before the morning reception started out. So, to summarize 1) reception site charges extra to use other caterer, 2) other caterer proves very difficult to meet with, and 3) I only have 60 days to find another caterer.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Catering Question

Recently, I tried to get in touch with the “default” caterer for the reception site. I was less than hopeful, since while we had been deciding between the two reception halls, we had gotten quotes on the catering, and it took 4 days for the woman to get back to me, and from that point, it took another 5 days for her to get back with a quote. What a quote it was, the per-person rate was pretty high. We had thought that one way to bring the cost down was to offer a fruit and cheese display instead of a traditional appetizer. She actually priced that as higher than an appetizer.

We were also somewhat disappointed in the actual selection in the menu choices. Seeing as how this caterer was pretty pricey, we were expecting a nice list. The list of dishes was pretty good, but it basically broke down to we have this many sauces, and we’ll put them on chicken, steak, seafood, or duck.

I decided to at least do my homework to see if I could find a better caterer. So, I found a wonderful website, where I could put in my contact information, and caterers would call me if they were available for the date of our wedding. I put in my information, and not 15 minutes later, the chef/owner of a catering company in Houston called me. She talked about what kinds of foods my fiancé and I liked, and later that evening had faxed me a 5 page menu and 6 different package prices, all of which were less expensive than the “chosen” caterer.

Next Time: My Conspiracy Theory

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Finding the One (Dress)

Even though I know it's a little early to start looking for a dress, I'm terrified that I won't be able to find "the one," and I didn't want to get so wrapped up in school that I shouldn't go dress shopping because I had too much else to do.

We went to Houston, where the wedding will be held and where my parents live, and I invited one of my sisters (the one in town, I didn't exclude the other one) and my mom to come shopping with me. I decided to try looking at this one dress shop near my parent's house, which is not the nicest dress shop, but does carry TONS of different styles. One of my good friends found her wedding dress there, and I absolutely loved it.

I went in hoping to try on several Watters dresses that I had seen online, and the shop was an authorized Watters store, but only had one or two dresses that I wanted to try on. Apparently, you only have to carry a few styles to be an authorized dealer, so it's good to call first. Anyway, this is the sort of shop where you can go through the racks yourself, look at the dresses in their plastic bags, and pull them into your dressing room yourself. So we did.

I filled my mom and sister in on what I thought I wanted, something on the simpler side, with textured fabric, maybe taffeta, dupioni silk, and ruching, or folding of the fabric across the bodice, sleeveless or strapless, but no halters. My sister was a champ, she found some really great dresses for me to try on, while my mom found a lot that she liked but were nothing like I had described. I found two that I liked; one we called the "southern belle" dress, which had thin strips of horizontal fabric layers all the way down the dress, and the other had a bodice with some fabric layering and light beading, but it still wasn't "the one." I ducked outside the dressing room and found a dress in the right size, which was taffeta with thin straps and a sweetheart neckline out of ruched fabric and beading that was concentrated on the bodice, but sprayed onto the top of the skirt. We called that dress the "boob-tacular dress."

All of the dresses were nice, the boob-tacular one was the best, but I really couldn't picture wearing it in church. I'd have to find it in another search. I'm glad I started early, it's not as easy as I thought it would be.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pre-Marriage Counseling, Part 3

Well, I've relayed the trials and tribulations of the process so far ( and ), but I have yet to talk about the first meeting with the deacon who will be performing our ceremony.

Normally, the parish requires the couple to wait two weeks after meeting with the counselor to meet with the deacon, which we found out, was so that the counselor could compose her letter of recommendation to the deacon. We (and by we, I mean I, because I'm the Catholic person in the relationship) convinced the marriage coordinator at the parish that we could overlook the two-week waiting period, since we were coming to Houston from Austin. It's not that we were incredibly eager to start our counseling, but you can't set the date at the church until you've met with the deacon. I thought my fiance was being paranoid (we were 14 months away from our date), but we (I) set up the appointments for the same day.

As I relayed in my first two posts, the counselor less-than-loved me and thought my fiance was really amazing. Well we went back to the church that afternoon, and she was still meeting with other engaged couples, so we saw her walking around behind the receptionists window. Since it was near the start of the hour, my fiance grabbed a newsletter from the end table and stuck it up in front of his face. Very mature, I know. A few minutes later, she came out and saw us, with my fiance trying to hide behind the paper, a little embarrassing.

The deacon called us into his office, and was very pleasant, it seems like this meeting was a get-to-know-you sort of thing. He did ask to see the results of the FOCCUS test, since he couldn't see the marriage counselor's report yet. He saw our responses, and there were several categories that we were to discuss with him where we had "bad answers" ("bad answers" are any answers in which you disagree with your future spouse, or you agree, but the answer is not the "right" one as designated by the test). Most of the questions we "missed" were in the religion-related of the test. He looked at the two of us, sitting expectantly for his verdict on his couch, and he said, "Well, it looks like you two really haven't talked about some of these things, have you?" "No," we said in unison. "Well, OK, I think we'll probably need to meet about once a month - about 6 times total, and then I'd like for you two to sign up for the marriage retreat offered by the diocese." Boo, we thought we'd only have to do one or the other.

Then he got down to business, and asked about the wedding date and time we'd like. There are two venues at the church, and we thought we'd go with the smaller venue, and go with the later time, so we could move right into an evening reception. He looked at our date, and our time was already taken! That's almost impossible, we thought we'd have the first pick. The deacon said that if we had any chance at all of the couple moving the date, it would be this couple, since they've changed their date 4 times. Aargh, well, we're keeping our fingers crossed.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Demanding Reception Hall

We finally chose a reception hall!

We convinced my parents to stretch the budget a little bit, and we were able to book the reception hall that we wanted, and it only took a week to get the contract signed.

Step 1: Have "discussion" with mother to decide who will call the site to get references, as they are not listed on the Better Business Bureau.

Step 2: Phone call with reception site manager to tell her what references are, since she sent a list of "recommended vendors" the first time.

Step 3: After the weekend, call mother of bride who previously held a reception at the site.

Step 4: I receive an email forwarded from my mother with a copy of the contract with instructions to show it to my fiance, a future lawyer.

Step 5: My mother meets with the reception site manager (finally). Thank you, mom! :)

Step 6: Receive email with scanned copy of signed contract.

Step 7: Realize that we now have 60 days to exercise the option to use a caterer other than the one that the reception site has an "arrangement" with.

Step 8: Laugh as there is a clause in the contract which says we have to warn little children to not jump/swim in the fountain on the grounds.

Step 9: Pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate having the perfect receptions site.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pre-Marriage Counseling, Part 2

The second part of our pre-marriage counseling session (not second session, just next 20 minutes) focused on the financial planning aspect of our relationship. Now, my fiance and I are 25 and 26, respectively. He's been in graduate school, but I took a few years off when before I came back to school. He's been financially on his own for 3 years and I have been for 4, ever since we graduated from college. The point of that is, that we know how to pay rent, car insurance, car payments, etc.

Our marriage counselor asked us who was going to pay the bills. We said that we hadn't discussed it, but that Fiance had been, and so he may as well keep doing it.

Marriage Counselor -"Well, that's fine, but the bride should know how to pay the bills."
Fiance-"She's lived on her own, she knows how to pay her bills, she's done it for more than 3 years."
MC-"Groom, how would you feel about showing the bride how to pay the bills, so she knows how you do it?"
F-"Sure, fine."
MC-"I'm just concerned, because I've met couples where the husband never showed the bride how to pay the bills, and then he died, and the wife didn't know how to pay the bills."
Me -"Well, I'm a business, student, so even if he does die, I think I'll be able to figure it out."

Marriage Counselor: "Well, the next topic is that I see that you two haven't discussed the use of credit."

Note - My fiance will say that this is completely my fault, because I didn't lie and say that we had discussed and agreed on this. I'm thinking that this question involved how quickly we would pay off our student loans, buying versus leasing a car, etc.

Marriage Counselor: "Well, let's talk about it - would you two be OK with using credit cards?"

Seriously - that's all she wanted to know. We answered yes, and she was totally and completely satisfied that we had discussed it. So, that was another 20 minutes of our lives wasted.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

And so Begins the Saga of the Pre-Marriage Counseling

Our one and only pre-marriage counseling session was an hour filled with so many mishaps and frustrations that I will have to tell it in multiple posts.

Fiance and I had had a fight that morning: the day before we had decided that we needed to call the “final 2” reception sites to get actual quotes. So, the morning of our counseling appointment, we were sitting downstairs in at my parents’ house, and my lovely fiancé turns to me and says, “why don’t you go get the computer and write the email to the one place?” To which I replied, “Why don’t you?” . . . and back and forth until I got up and got the computer and wrote the email. Then I asked him what he thought of what I wrote – and he wanted me to write that they needed to include a list of everything the quote did NOT include. I had put that they needed to include a list of everything included and that his wording sounded like we thought they were going to rip us off. Anyway, I told him that if I was going to write the email, I should get the final say. In the end I did change it, I'm not that disagreeable.

So, we were in the counseling session, and we were talking about the fight, and it became quite clear that the counselor hated me. We described the fight to the counselor, and instead of asking us questions about how we both felt about the situtation, she kept saying that I was the one with the problem. Obviously I had needed help writing the email, and Fiance was just trying to help me. Right. Not - he was just being lazy and didn't want to put forth any physical effort - he was trying to help. Aargh.

Tomorrow - the financial portion of the pre-marriage counseling

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Getting to the (Catholic) Part - FOCCUS

Well you've probably been wondering why I put the (Catholic) up there, much less put it in parenthesis. Yes, I'm Catholic, and no, my fiance is not. So one of the lovely things that is required in the process of getting married in the Catholic Church is taking the FOCCUS test.

The FOCCUS test is an ancient test invented by "church people" to determine whether or not you are compatible. Excuse me, I just looked it up on the website - it's a self-diagnostic inventory ( The idea is that you take the compatibility test, then you meet with a marriage counselor to go over the results. After that, you're allowed to meet with a member of the clergy to set a date and start your other meetings.

Actually taking the test was much like what you would suspect. The pastor's coordinator met us in the reception area and took us to the pastor's parlor. She asked us if we would like coffee, then very sweetly brought it to us. She then handed us the test, asked us a few questions to determine which sections of the test we needed to fill out (there are additional sections if the couple lives together, has children, or has been previously married). Then, she handed us a pencil, warned us not to collude, and said she would be in her office next door.

We worked through the test independently, and while I probably shouldn't include test questions, some of them really concerned me.

  • Are you ever frightened of your future spouse?
  • Are you concerned about the amount of alcohol your future spouse consumes?
  • Are you concerned about the amount of cocaine your furture spouse uses?
  • Would you feel comfortable naked in front of your future spouse?

These questions are obviously "red flags" for the marriage counselor, but what person would answer them honestly if they actually were going to say yes to them. Who would wait until that point, when you're trying to get married to say, "Oh, yeah, and this guy really freaks me out sometimes." I guess it's a last chance effort to save people from some a potentially harmful marriage.

In answer to your unspoken question, we did fine, although when we got our test results back, I found out that Fiance is apparently concerned with my drinking. Or at least, that's now what the marriage counselor thought. He laughed the whole way home, "I swear it was an accident!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Asking the Groom

Argh. I had a fabulous idea yesterday - I thought that instead of (expensive) flower arrangements, we could have tall candle centerpieces at the tables for the reception. I looked around and found some that we could rent (see left).
Cool, right. So I was out with Fiance last night, and I said that I had an idea for the centerpieces, and I told him what it was. "Oh, why do even ask me about this little stuff, you don't need to," he says. So later I showed him the picture. "Oh no! That looks stupid." The moral of the story is not to ask the groom's opinion unless you care. ---and I do, because it's his party, too, but try explaining that to my sister.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reception Site Scouting

When we started looking for reception sites, I learned 2 very important lessons.

1) Never underestimate the power of a picture on the web. If the reception site looks like crap on the website, it will not look better in person. Ignore the little voice in your head that says it might look nice if you visit in person. That little voice is an idiot. I listened to that little voice. We went to visit one reception site that looked not good in pictures, but had a very nice price. It also had a very nice woman who offered to meet my group in the morning on a Saturday, since we were coming in from out of town. Nice ladies do not matter, though (I've actually found the opposite - more on that later). Things that do matter:

  • outdoor reception sites should not be covered with rental-type tent covers
  • those covers should not be moldy or have holes
  • the groom should not hit his head on the ceiling in the reception areas
  • faux flowers in the outdoor area are a no-no (especially dirty ones)
  • plastic tableclothes - the coated kind that your grandma had in her kitchen

I don't want to go on a rant - but, you probably don't want to waste your time going to a place that can't even put up respectable pictures.

2) Do not take cranky bridesmaids with you to look at reception sites. While it might be unreasonable to think that everyone can be in a good mood all of the time, you certainly don't want to take a sourpuss. My particular sour puss was my sister. We went on a whirlwind tour of 4 reception halls in one day - including the one she suggested (which, by the way, she only liked because they had a potato martini bar*). The one she had chose was going to be a tight squeeze with the number of guests we anticipated (and now would be too small with the ridiculous guest list), but would be cool. The second to last site is the one we chose, and it's absolutely gorgeous. One of the things I was really looking for in a site was a place to take outdoor photos - the gardens at the site are gorgeous - and still green in August (quite a feat in H-town). The site is a mansion, specifically built for wedding receptions, so it's quite large enough - room to spare, even.

My sister complained the entire time we were there. As soon as the site representative left to get the information packet - "Ewww, the walls are peach" (not really - they're stucco) - "But the chairs are pink, they won't match" (I love the chairs, they're a lovely rose color with dark wood, and they will too match :) ), and all other sorts of nonsense. Not really what you want to hear when you're picking a site. Actually, maybe it is - you need someone to point out all the flaws that you see. Or, maybe, you just need to take an honest friend - who's not in a bad mood.

*Potato martini bar - The reception hall serves mashed potatoes in a martini glass, at a bar where all the toppings are lined up for you - which strikes me as a little gross and awkward. Why would you want to eat mashed potatoes out of a tall martini glass? It might be cool during a cocktail hour - but then, why would you serve mashed potatoes during the cocktail hour? I don't get it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Quick Note from the Legal Front

Perusing the web, Fiance directed me to this little gem:

A New York Post article about a couple suing their florist for providing the wrong flowers. Note: I don't advocate this at all. This is ridiculous.

Some additional commentary on the subject:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wedding Planning is a Great Way to Procrastinate

I may not have previously mentioned this, but I am a graduate student, which means, at this time I should be studying for some midterm or another. Unfortunately, this weekend there was a slight kink in the plans. My apartment complex is a lovely mix of retail and residential space, which is normally quite nice. Until the retail space management throws some sort of extravaganza weekend without notifying the residents. OK, maybe they did notify us - if you count sandwich boards on the sidewalks. Saturday afternoon, they finally put up a flyer, "Cocktail Party and Fashion Show - 6:30 pm, Free to the Public." Awesome. If there's one thing that we grad students love, it's free liquor and food.

So, Fiance and I take the dog down to the party, which we realize is now the entire length of the mall. Very cool. The band, which had been performing soundchecks all afternoon, is awesome, playing mostly 70's music, with some recent hits. After about an hour, we head back up so I can hit the books, which works for a little while, after all, there is an 8-piece band performing 100 ft. away, but at least I don't have to turn on my iTunes. Promptly (?) at 8:30, the fashion show starts, the band providing the great background music - and they don't stop until 11:00 pm, which does not help the studying that is supposed to be going on.

The best part is that I am getting great ideas for songs that I want to hear at the reception. We're still 10 months away, and fiance makes fun of me all the time for it, but I am paranoid that I will forget to include a song that I really want to hear. Which is silly, we're going to have a great time, and the right DJ will take care of that, but in the meantime, it's been fun making a list of what I (I mean we) want to hear. So the evening was punctuated with, "Oooh, oooh, I have to put this song on the list" and "This is definitely not going on the list," followed by vague "uh-huhs" and "what?" as I interrupt the important football game taking place. Oh well, who'll be so glad I thought to make the list? Probably only me, but at least I had fun doing it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

We Booked the Photographer

We’ve booked a photographer, but of course not without some sort of mishap. Fiance and Mom came to the photographer, which was good, as all of the great questions I had thought about asking completely flew out of my head. We're still not sure about when the reception will start with relationship to the ceremony (will there be a gap, how long of a gap, how long would the gap be for the photographer). Note to Self: write down questions and bring them to vendor for when you get tongue-tied - avoid Mom and Fiance staring at you blankly while waiting for you to talk.

At this particular photographer, the price structure makes it cheaper to book the photographer for the whole time if the gap is for less than half an hour. As the woman pointed this out, Fiance suggested, “Well, you can always just take pictures of us dicking around between the ceremony and reception.” At which point, she doesn't react in shock and outrage (she was in her 20's), but she certainly didn't laugh. She said something about how some people book the photographer for 12 hours and then found a reason to leave the room while we looked at albums. I laughed while Mom pretended to not be horrified by her future son-in-law.


Every once in a while, I'll take the time to write down my thoughts on a particular "adventure" and emailed it out to my friends, because I can't believe what's happened. Sometimes, they tell me that what I've had to say is funny. Now that I've embarked on one of the most exciting adventures in a girl's life (I'm engaged), I thought I would blog it.

Honestly, I'm not sure where this will take us, but I'm not that sappy of a person, so hopefully I won't get too mushy.