The emergency lipstick remover

Sunday, November 29, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , | 0 comments

One of the cautionary tales people will tell you about buying your dress off the rack or at a sample sale is the amount of money you'll spend on removing stains and alterations. When everything's said and done, you can spend hundreds more dollars on a dress that was initially a steal. Personally, I think the dress can still be a huge deal depending how much you purchased the dress. A new dress can still need alterations, and if you're careful with your purchase you'll spot expensive stains or alterations before buying the dress.

Well, here is where I may have made a rash mistake. I purchased my Mori Lee gown for a cheap $175 during a sample sale at a bridal expo. It was well within my budget of $250 and a style I'm very happy with - white, A-line with an elegant train. I still need the top tightened a bit (my aunt used to be a seamstress and she offered to make the alterations), but I noticed a small lipstick stain under the armpit -- a stain I think I accidently made while trying on the dress. I figured I would easily get the dress dry-cleaned. How much would that cost, right? Well, dry-cleaning a wedding dress can cost upwards of $100.

While I initially thought I would spend the money to get the dress cleaned, I thought, 'It's just one stain. Can I remove it myself?' I googled, "removing lipstick stains," and I found these tips: Try removing the stain with a delicate wash cloth soaked in warm water. If that doesn't work, use a little bit of liquid dish washing soap. Since lipstick is an oil-based stain, dish washing soap might help remove the stain, if not lighten it until it's barely noticeable.

Sure enough, it worked! The lip stick stain is no longer there and the dress looks brand new! No need for the extra cash in getting the dress dry-cleaned! Now, it's time to get the dress altered...

* Note: You might not want to attempt this on large, very noticeable stains. I say, if it's larger than a dime and the stain has been there awhile, get it drycleaned!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , | 0 comments

I just wanted to take the time to express my gratitude for all the blessings, big and small. I'll always be grateful for the family and friends who enrich my life. Happy Thanksgiving to anyone who's happen to chance upon this blog! And if you're planning an upcoming wedding, congratulations! I know this is an exciting time, and I'm grateful to experience it. I'm also grateful to be able to share every step of this process to anyone who might be able to benefit from my experiences, ideas and mistakes (hopefully few!). I'm savoring every moment of this process and I can't wait for the moment and thereafter we say, "I do."

I received one more thing to be grateful for today-- a little gift from my little sis, my early wedding gift.

Check it out!

A genuine pearl bracelet from her trip to Hawaii

Sorry about the quality of the photos. My phone camera takes crappy photos! Guess I will be wearing pearls on my wedding day! Thanks, sister!

The Dress Envy begins

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , | 0 comments

I know I have my dress, but I covet this dress, and any dress by this Filipino designer: Veluz Reyes.  Elegant, stylish, yet modest. Beautiful!

Veluz Reyes

How can you not like details like this?


This is a term cleverly coined by A Practical Wedding. Let me apply it here to my frustration to bridesmaid dresses. How on earth can one knee-length/tea-length dress cost so much? I swear I've purchased similar dresses for at most $60. I know I said my bridesmaids are purchasing their own gowns, but I don't want to clean them out of everything they own just so they can look nice at my wedding. They're already doing so much for me. it is, I don't want them spending more than $100 on the dress. That's a little tough because it's hard enough finding dresses in plum. Here's where I'm picky. I like purple, but I love a particular shade of purple--plum, a reddish/deep purple hue. This is the color my fiance and I agreed on. He wants this shade for his groomsmen's ties. It's hard to find this color in the style we want, and because I'm so picky, I know the least I can do is find dresses that are affordable.
I've searched high and low. I've even checked out non-wedding stores like Nordstrom, JC Penny and even Kohl's, but they just don't seem to have the style I'm looking for. I've also checked out Express, Windsor and Ann Taylor...nada.
I found one at David's Bridal, a plum tea-length dress for $99 with the sale that ends this Sunday. I don't know, the dress is fine...but I think I can do better. I have a few days to make up my mind...don't want to miss a potential deal for my bridesmaids.


Monday, November 23, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , | 0 comments

Even though our church coordinator assured me it was ok, I still don't feel comfortable walking down the aisle in a strapless gown. I'm not really too much of a conservative, but I am a product of a Catholic school education and after years of covering up for mass, I feel a little awkward standing in front of a priest with exposed shoulders.
So what to do? I've purchased my gown and I love it.  How about a bolero? It's a kind of mini-jacket that can be really stylish and make a normal strapless gown pop out. I'm not sure if I'll buy one (wow, $100-$200 for one bolero! That's almost as much as my entire dress!) or if I'll have one made. But here are some to provide some inspiration:


Grow your love

As we have been plannng our wedding I've thought about messages or themes we wanted to convey. Yes, it's a party, and yes, we want aesthetically pleasing images, but we wanted it all to mean something in the end, rather than wedding-porn-worthy photos. That's when I became fixated on the theme of growth. Marriage is not the pinnacle of love -- it moves forward, it progresses, it evolves from the day vows are exchanged.
Yes, I am guilty of looking at hundreds upon hundreds of wedding photos in the blogosphere and I've coveted countless dresses, centerpieces, decorations and photography angles. But I noticed something when I drew up a preliminary timeline for our ceremony and reception. All of this will last five hours -- just five. All these months of planning and daydreaming culminates in five hours. When put in that perspective, you start to realize that letting you life revolve around five hours is pathetic. The abundant, lush centerpieces you see in that photo will all wither and die in a matter of days, hours even! That $1000 you paid that florist was used for a whole 5 hours, and only remembered by you. Sure, your photographer may have captured lovely shots of your bouquet, but who else besides yourself and a few family members are going to look at it again?
Nothing material will ever really take the place of two people's love and their commitment to nurture that love. But thinking about it, all these shortlived, materialistic things that we spend on does nothing to really convey what our love is about.
 So how do I balance the practical side of me -- the one that's screaming at me to forget all these materialistic things and high-tail it the altar in my jeans, with the girly side of me-- the one who likes things chic, stylish and a bit more refined?
There's no easy compromise, but I think I found one area that both sides can agree on--the centerpieces. Walking around the Asian Mall in Westminster, CA, my fiance and I noticed gorgeous potted orchid plants. They were in stylish bamboo pots and were only $12 each. They were simple and minimal, but our eyes were instantly attracted to them.
If I were a guest, I would rather take home flowers that will last longer than a day. Guests can keep it, plant it or water it at home. The orchids would be long-lasting tokens from our wedding that would only need nurturing care. My fiance and I loved the idea of potted orchids as our centerpieces --especially since they're beautiful, eco-friendly, affordable and they fit nicely with our theme--growth.
Here are some potted orchid centerpiece examples. We thought of dressing up the base with extra flowers and candles.

Not bad, huh?

Our dream budget

So far, we have booked our ceremony site, reception venue and photographer, and I've purchased my dress and DIY invitations. So far, everything is within budget. We feel really happy with all of decisions we've made and things are materializing into the wedding we really want. While I had an anxiety attack over my dress the following morning after I purchased it, I have since realize that I made a smart buy. I really do love this dress. I even tried it on again last night and danced around my room.

But if you're wondering why the fiance and I are strictly following the numbers down to every penny when we seem to have so much room to work with in our $15,000 budget...well, we're actually shooting for way less than that. $15k is the absolute maximum we can spend. Meaning, 15K is the number we can safely afford without cleaning us out of money and savings. But my fiance and I don't make loads of cash right now and spending even less will help us out even more. We have no choice but to spend no more than 15K on everything, but our actual dream goal? 13K would be more like it. That would mean about 10k for the wedding (yes, the popular goal amount for most budget weddings) and 3K for our honeymoon. Going through our expenses so far, seeing how much everything costs and exploring cost-efficient alternatives, I think a 10K budget encompasses all the things we want and excluding things we don't need. It will be a tight squeeze, but here's trying.

I've realized that I don't need to spend $1000 on a wedding dress. I found one I love for a fraction of that cost. I don't need the $700 veil or the silly boudoir photo shoot. We realized that with some research we can find places, products and services that we're happy with for much less than what the wedding industry says we need to spend. We realized we don't need a florist to do all of our flowers, we don't need a wedding planner or a stylist. We're not being cheapskates, we're just saving ourselves tons of money for a wedding that actually reflects us and our tastes. That's what we really want, and if we go a tad over--it's ok. We've budgeted for that flexibility and we'll still have the wedding that reflects us. Amen!

But some folks in the blogosphere will say, "Oh, well why not have your wedding in the park? It's sooo much cheaper. Or just have a picnic at home. Just serve finger foods or little desserts. If you don't have a wedding that's hipper, greener and cheaper, you're not being true to yourself!If I want a semi-traditional wedding, with a some formality then who is to say that's not being genuine? People who know us know that we looove to eat. Having vegetarian finger foods does not reflect us at all. And we like to dress up a bit. What I'm saying is just as you shouldn't feel bad for wanting what you want--no matter how conventional or unconventional it is, just as long it's what you want and not what anyone tells you should want. Whatever it is, there are ways to achieve it practically, cost efficient and within the amount of money you can spend. Word!

Photographer booked!

Sunday, November 22, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , | 0 comments

I'm happy to report that we have booked our photographer! Our budget for a photographer is quite paltry and we knew they would have to be under $1000. We interviewed and researched dozens of photographers, but they were either too expensive or just not the right style we were looking for.

I love photography and the things that stand out to me are color, lighting, composition, texture and angles. I want someone with a true concept of photojournalism and art. Every photographer we came across claimed they did photojournalism work, but as someone with a journalism background, I know what photojournalism looks like. Having a group of people stand in front of a camera while frozen in a pose is not photojournalism. I love looking at the unique ways photographers can tell a story and relive a moment through their camerawork. We found a photographer at our last expo who was offering the main things we wanted--unlimited hours and all copies of unedited raw images--for $900. But I just wasn't excited about his work: boring front-on angles and stiff poses. No personality, no spontaneity, no fun.

Then I remembered someone I had worked with before -- a photographer whose work I thought captured the kind of photos I was looking for. He is relatively new to the wedding photography world and was able to offer me an affordable rate for all the things we wanted-- unlimited hours, 2 photographers, copies of raw images and 20 edited photos. And because he knew me, we were able to negotiate the price down. I can't really say exactly how much we agreed on (it was mostly a friend discount and I can't say if he'll do it for anyone else at that price) but I will say it was well within our range (actually much better than I expected).

So how was I able to find a quality photographer below $1000? Well, networking and connections was definitely key. But the main thing was the art of haggling. When our photographer first quoted a price it was still a tad over our budget. Then, at the risk of total rejection, we told him what we could afford. I was afraid to look at his reaction when we named the price, but he was willing to work with us. That's when he reworked the package down to a very affordable price, taking out the items that weren't our priority (videography, coffee table book, etc) and reached the price we could afford. Not only did we score a photographer in our budget range, but someone whose work is very quality. YAY!!!!

So I'll quit yapping and introduce our photographer - Don Le

In defense of "Budget Weddings"

Friday, November 20, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: | 0 comments

I've been reading some discussion about the term "budget wedding," and it turns out some folks are over it, even the champions of all things thrifty can't stand the term budget wedding. Why? Well, it seems there's a reverse reaction -- instead of the pressure to afford all the extravagant details, there becomes the pressure to fall under some price point. Like $10,000, that's all I could spend. And I'm going to try to afford all the things that I feel I'm supposed to have within that budget. Instead, have an honest wedding that reflects who you are. Thus, achieving it under a certain budget shouldn't be the real reason you celebrate. True, true and true.

But let me defend the term budget wedding -- because let's face it. There are people on a budget, especially now. People simply can't afford to spend more than $15k, $10k or $5k. I would love to invite everyone I know to my wedding, have a grand, semiformal feast and host an outdoor music festival, but that can't happen with the money we have. Whatever your price point is, if there's a maximum cap, it becomes a budget wedding. My friend spent $25,000 on her wedding, and even though that's astronomical compared to my budget, it was a budget wedding for her. Her wedding included a guest list of 500 people -- all of whom were family and close friends. She wanted to include a full course feast to send everyone home stuffed. Food and family, that's what she wanted and that was the wedding that made sense for her. But industry insiders would have told her that $25,000 for those must-haves would be insane. She simply had to find creative ways and stretegies to stretch her dollar and have the wedding that she wanted.

This is what this blog celebrates. Not falling under a specific budget, but finding thrifty and practical ways, creative ideas and opportunities to have the wedding you want within the monetary constraints you have. Because so-and-so spent $40K on their wedding, doesn't mean you have to and the same goes for so-and-so who spent $5K. So what if I want the church wedding, the dress with a long train, a sit-down dinner and a professional photographer following us around. Those are the things I want, those are the things that feel comfortable to me and not because someone else told me those are the things I need. So, our tastes are semi-conventional. Don't assume just because our wedding doesn't fall under the usual laidback, hippie-picnic-in-the-park criteria that it's not genuine. Have the wedding you want and I'll have the wedding I want. If we can do it under the budget we can afford, then that's just the icing on the wedding cake.

Let Love Grow

Here's another great favor/place-card-in-one idea. When a co-worker told me about paper you can actually plant I had to take a look. Plantable paper is embedded with seeds so you can actually plant the paper and grow wildflowers! It's a unique and very eco-friendly way to treat your guests!

I found these place-cards online and yes, the creative wheels are turning again!

Images from Hotref

You can purchase place cards from sites such as Hotref  or Asian Ideas, from prices ranging from $8.39 per pack (sets of 12) to $16 each set. They include instructions and the very cute phrase "Please be Seeded." There are also sites that offer invitations and other stationery you might need on this very cool paper.


You can DIY it.  Check out sites that sell individual sheets of seed paper such as Botanical Paperworks or Plantable Papers.

And if you think you can rival Martha Stewart in the crafty department, you can even try making your own plantable paper. Wow, major DIY goddess!

Day of Coordinator -- worth the $$$?

Thursday, November 19, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , | 0 comments

Day of Coordinators ain't cheap. We learned that early on in our planning process. DOCs in the LA area can cost $500 - $1000. The ones with great references can run up to $2000. $500, the cheapest package I've seen, still ain't chump change to me, not for our budget at least. But my future SIL implored my fiance and I to consider a DOC. She insists that hers was a lifesaver and hiring one could be a wise investment on our part.

At first, I thought we would definitely hire a DOC at some point, but now I'm not so sure. Well, for one thing, our church comes with a ceremony coordinator. She will know what typically needs to happen during the ceremony. She'll take care of the procession and the ceremony program. We will have our groomsmen hand out programs and usher guests into the pews.

At the reception site, we'll have a staff setting up decorations, place cards and centerpieces. A head waiter will make sure the timeline is followed.  We also have a handful of friends and family who are willing to help out and have so far offered their services. We will have timelines for everyone for follow so that they'll know what needs to be done and when. As detail oriented as we are, we will pretty much have everything planned to the minute detail the day before the wedding. If we did hire a DOC, all she would do is make sure those duties are executed. But is it worth $500 (at least) to have someone make sure everyone is doing their job?

Yeah, it's true that DOCs can potentially make your day run smoothly. Who wants to stress out when the DJ starts playing music on your banned list? Or when a guest has an issue with their meal? Then again, I will be even more stressed if I see that I've paid my DOC $500 just to make sure people have found their seats and grabbed their favors. Seriously, with all the friends and family offering their help, is it really necessary?

I don't SIL seems pretty adamant that we're making a HUGE mistake if we don't hire a DOC. Maybe I am stingy, but I'm thinking it's not really necessary. And if some minor glitch happens, we're not really the kind of people to stress out about it. Yeah, it's our wedding, but who said it had to be a perfectly orchestrated production. It's a gathering of our closest family and friends. Who's gonna care that toasts started at 1:30 p.m. instead of 1:20 p.m.? ..I dunno...I'm sure I'll have a better idea as we get closer to the main event...

Food tasting = yummy, free food!

Last night, we had a food tasting at our reception venue to help us decide on our menu. We already had an idea of what we wanted, but since the Rococo Room offered us a complimentary food tasting, why not? I mean, who can pass up free food?

As soon as we started planning our wedding, we knew we wanted quality food. So I'm really excited about our choice of venue because of its reputation for great food. It's a zagat-rated restaurat in Old Town Pasadena and the service is first rate. Oh, if you already don't know, you'll see from this post that I love taking pictures of food. Nothing piques my senses like photos of food. It's kinda like food porn, I guess.

Anyhooo...the first items we tried were the appetizers -- bruschetta, spanokopita, mediterranean stacks and beef tostadas.

The bruschetta (right) were delicious -- a taste of fresh tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and garlic. A nice tasty snack for a warm summer afternoon. The spanakopitas (middle) were crispy and surprisingly filling for such a small appetizer. The mediterranean stacks were just OK. Can't really get excited over cucumber, tomato and feta cheese. Although the feta cheese was pretty good. I don't even like feta too much, but this cheese was mild, not too salty or bitter.

The beef tostadas brought an odd mix to the mediterranean flavors. Being probably half a bite-size portion, this was quickly nixed from the list.

beef tostadas

We unanimously decided on 2 appetizers, the spanakopita and the bruschetta.

We also decided on a caesar salad, much better than the overpowering flavors in the Greek salad. I usually like strong flavors, but the Greek salad was soaked in balsamic vinegar -- although the Greek salad was much prettier on the plate. But taste always triumphs over presentation, at least to true foodies!

Caesar Salad

Greek Salad

Because of previous visits to the restaurant, we already had an idea of what we wanted for the entrees. The boneless, chicken roast is delicious and hearty, and the salmon is fresh, moist and is dressed with a nice hollandaise sauce.

The marsala sauce on this chicken is killer and the meat is tender! Always my pick when I eat here!

The salmon is D-lish!

We were allowed one other dish for the food tasting, so we decided to try their grilled rib-eye steak. We knew this might dangerous since the steak was a bit expensive, and if we loved it, we might be tempted to go over our budget. But why not? Who can pass up a free steak?

Grilled Rib-eye Steak

I thought the steak was good. I didn't think it was dry and it was tasty. But the three people in our group voted nay on it. It was just OK, they said and they liked the chicken and the salmon better. That was totally fine with me since 1) those were my top two picks anyway and 2) it keeps us within budget!

Now, for dessert! We tried the chocolate mousse cake and the tiramisu cake. I tried the chocolate mousse cake before and have since have had at least one great dream where I'm reliving the heavenly moment.

Chocolate Mousse Cake


Unfortunately, we can only pick one cake. Being the chocolate lover I am, I leaned heavily toward the chocolate mousse cake. But my future sis-in-law pointed out that the CMC isn't really a cake. It's more like a chunk of decadent chocolate filled with even more decadent mousse. The tiramisu has more of a cake texture.

Hmmm, personally, I think taste triumphs over texture. Besides, are people really going to have a fit because their cake doesn't have the fluffy texture of an average cake? CMC wins!

After our tasting, I realized our guests are going to go home with a tasty, filling lunch! Our waiter explained that the portions in our tasting were about half of what the actual portions on the day of our wedding will be. No stingy pieces of meat here!

Let's hear it for the boys!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: | 0 comments

I guess you can say that bridal expos have been pretty good to me. I mean, I can't really complain after getting a pretty good deal on my wedding gown and a cool perk for our honeymoon. But let's face it -- most of the services and products pitched at these functions are overpriced or unneccessary crap. You don't need a $500 cupcake stand (just the stand, not the cupcakes) that looks like something out the Amazon rain forest...but if you decide that you do, will it really cost you $500 to make? It's one big commercial, materialistic fest, full of things people try to convince you that you absolutely need.

My biggest gripe against bridal expos would be how they treat the grooms. I've been so blessed to have a fiance who is really involved in the planning process. And, get this, he genuinely wants to be! We're a team and I can honestly tell you we are having a blast so far. My fiance was probably more excited to attend the expo than I was. Seriously, for a straight guy, he can have a queer eye for wedding stuff. But for some reason, no one wanted to give my fiance the time or day.  But as soon as I came to the booth, every vendor fawned over me, trying to pitch their services. My fiance would ask a question and they'd pretend that I was the one who asked. No one would want to make eye contact with him Why would they ignore my fiance? After all, it's his wedding too. We make the decisions together. Nothing is set in stone until we both agree on it.
Ok, a guy at bridal expo is not a common occurrence, and many of them usually walk around with that glazed look over their eyes. But should a guy express interest, don't ignore him while he's the only person standing at your booth, waiting to ask you a question. Maybe vendors think that if they can reel me in to their sales pitch, my fiance has no choice but to give in. Perhaps they've seen enough self-absorbed, gullible bridezillas and their bored, apathetic fiances to figure that they don't need to waste their energy on a guy at a bridal expo. Just get the bride on board and you're set. Because, you know, it's her day.
I think that's all baloney. I'm not going to fall for that. The person who thinks ignoring my fiance is going get them my service is sorely mistaken. I think it just reflects how much the wedding industry is rooted in gender stereotypes. If vendors try to capitalize on that, then how do I know how genuine they really are if they just see me as some bride easily lured by some silly sales gimmick. Puh-leeeze! So, all the grooms out there, even if you don't get any love from the wedding industry, at least your lovely bride loves you! That's all that matters!

Real Wedding: It can be done!

This is giving me a whole lot of hope! I found this wedding on Weddingbee and I had to share. This couple from Finger Lakes, NY had their rehearsal dinner, Catholic church ceremony, outdoor reception for 120 people and honeymoon for under $15000 -- $13,264.02 to be exact!

They seemed to save a lot by going through their local grocery for catering, help from friends and family and DIYing their floral arrangements. I'm not sure if cost of living in Finger Lakes, NY is much different from the Los Angeles area, but they sure seemed to have stretched their buck to have a really awesome wedding!

"The Morning After" Gown

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , | 0 comments

So I mentioned yesterday that I bought a wedding gown at a bridal expo, the same expo where I won my kinda, sorta "free" honeymoon to the Caribbean. A Time for Elegance, a vendor associated with the event organizors was selling wedding gowns for a cheap $175. I had to take a look.

All the wedding dresses were hung in a back room with no dressing rooms. It was kinda weird, especially with some guy (I figure another woman's fiance) poking his head into the room. I instantly found a long chiffon gown with a lace back. It had a vintage, long, slim art decco vibe. I had to try it on, and just my luck, it was a size 8! But my enthusiasm fell when I put it on. It was loose everywhere except for my hips and I worried that it excentuated those wide babies. It was also really long and I wondered how much it would cost to get it altered.

Then I tried on a Mori Lee gown. A formal A-line dress with a train that seemed to go on for miles. When I put it on, I felt beautiful and regal. I loved getting zipped into it and feeling like everything was in place. It fit nearly perfectly (it was a little long and a tad bit loose on the top). It was traditional, but it didn't look cheap. A part of me really wants to stand at the altar with a long, beautiful train.

So I purchased it. $175 bucks! You can't beat that! My only worry was how I was going to transport the gown without my fiance (who waited for me at Starbucks) seeing it. The vendor didn't have a black bag to give me, just a clear one. I just rolled the dress up, put my jacket over it and tossed it in the trunk. When I got home, I put the dress on and danced around the house.

The next morning, I looked at the dress again. Funny, I thought. The dress looks different in the daylight. Then I noticed the beads. There are clear beads all over the bodice. Sure, I noticed the beads when I bought the dress, but I thought they were a nice touch. But now they looked like they completely covered the dress. I freaked out. I don't want to look like a Christmas ornament walking down the aisle! People who know me know my style is much more simple than that.

Oh, No! Did I make another rash purchase? On my wedding gown of all things? I freaked out. I thought about the other dress I put on. The vintage-looking dress with the lace back. Yes, a part of me is traditional, but another part of me is a little more unconventional. I kicked myself knowing I probably couldn't make any exchanges. I put the dress I bought away and refused to look at it. For awhile, I was really stressing myself about it -- like the morning after feeling following, say, a one night stand...not that I would know what that feels like...

Anyway...the point is I made a hasty decision compelled by the "buy it now!" urgency and now I don't know if I made such a great choice. Do brides go through this a lot with their dress? Is it usually all in their head?

Looking at the dress again, it occurred to me. I am overreacting. It is a nice dress. I got it because I loved the way I looked in it.

I need to get over my over-anxiety of needing to find one that will wow the whole world. I got it because it's pretty and, $175, man, that still is a great deal!

Oh...I guess you'd want to see the dress...

Here it is!

How I won a "free" honeymoon

Monday, November 16, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , , | 2 comments

I never thought winning a honeymoon was ever a possibility. Sure, I signed us up for any free giveaway I saw, but to actually win chances were pretty much slim to none. But I guess the planets aligned in our favor and the future hubby and I get to soak up the sun and sand in the Caribbean for our honeymoon! 

How did I win a free honeymoon you might ask? I attended a Bridal Expo yesterday at the Pasadena Hilton. Sure, about 90% of what you see and who you talk to are pretty much overpriced generic crap. But ocassionally you might find a golden nugget among all the BS, and often times finding that right vendor or product is worth the day spent among the wedding madness. Besides there are loads of giveaways and contests that you might, just might, win.

That's how I won the trip to St. Thomas, by entering my name in the Door Prize raffle.  For this particular raffle, the winner had to be present to win. Luckily, the fiance and I sat through to the end of the fashion show (excruciating to watch, really) and listened to them announce the winners. Our patience paid off because after the announcer pulled about 50 absentee names, I heard mine. I let out an ecstatic "Woohoo!" and claimed our free trip.

But the fine print burst our bubble, as it always does. Sure our certificate entitles us to 7 nights accommodations in their resort, but we must pay a $249 redemption fee. Bleh.

We still have have to pay our own airfare, food, excursions and tips. *sigh*
OK, so it wasn't exactly an entirely free honeymoon, but still much less than what we'd pay without the certificate. It cuts the cost down of what we would have paid by at least $1000. We were thinking of signing up for a honeymoon registery such as Honeyluna to help pay for some of the costs.

Not bad...Definitely better than nothing, and hey, it's the fricken Caribbean!

So, I'd say this expo trip was worth the chaos (my thoughts on this on later blog.) Sure, you can attend dozens of bridal shows and enter your name in countless raffles and not win a thing. It's all statistics and, well, good fortune.

Oh...and I also bought a gown at the expo...more on this later....

Coupon crazy

Sunday, November 15, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , | 0 comments

I figure the folks at Michaels are starting to recognize us. We're the crazy couple always trying to redeem our coupons. Well, why not? When you have a 40% off coupon, why not use them, right? We heard we can combine our internet coupons w/ the bounce-back receipt coupons. Well, you could...but they have to be of different values. I can combine a 40% coupon with another 50% coupon, but not with another 40% coupon. Oh, and combining a 50% and 40% coupon doesn't give you 90% off. 50% will give you the discount for the most expensive item in your cart. the 40% percent will apply to the rest of the items in your cart.

Since we're on the topic of coupons--use them. Find them, scour the web for them. We saved ourselves a ton of money by doing so!

Have I found The One?

Saturday, November 14, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: | 0 comments

I don't get the "love at first sight" thing with dresses. I think I actually have to warm up to one before I can say it's "The One." My fiance knows this, but I didn't see fireworks when I first saw him. I thought he was attractive (yes, my glances lingered on him a little longer than other people), but I didn't have that lightning-crashing, "Yes, he's The One!" moment. That came later, after several movie nights and ice cream sundaes...and one particular night he showed up at my door bearing cookies he baked himself.

I went in to David's Bridal for my second appointment this morning. This time, I scrapped the dresses my sales associate put aside for me from my first appointment and told her my budget. No more than $300, I said. Pitiful, I know, but show me whatcha got!

I tried on several dresses - first this A-line chiffon dress.  I loved the flowiness of the dress, very simple but romantic. But is it appropriate for a church wedding?

I wanted to see something a little more elaborate. I tried on more sleeker, mermaid-style dresses. While I have a small, petite frame, my wide hips are what makes me a size 8. The snugness around my hips didn't really compliment that portion of my body.

I tried this taffeta A-line dress. Very pretty, but out of my budget range --with the current sale and my $50 off coupon I received from attending a bridal expo, it comes to $399. I found myself deciding between this and another similar dress (priced at $299). With tax and alterations, I would still be over my budget.

My dress consultant was about to put aside a few other dresses she pulled for me, when I decided to try one of them on anyway. It was this traditional halter A-line dress. On the hanger, it didn't look like much. Even the photo doesn't make me look twice at it. But on my body, I found myself liking it a lot. The longer I looked at myself in the mirror, the more it grew on me. It complimented my figure - flattered my small chest, my wide hips. Though simple, I felt regal and more importantly, comfortable in the dress. Random people in the store would stop to tell me how nice the dress looked on me. The good news is the dress is $249.  The bad news is that I would have to make my decision soon. It's on clearance and it's the only one they have. Oh, the pressure!

On one hand, I don't want to kick myself later, pulling my hair out wondering why I let a good deal get away. On the other hand, I don't want to make myself miserable with dress envy if I catch sight of another dress. Why didn't I get this one?

I thought of the pros and cons -- the good old standard way of making any decision. The pros? I like the way it looks on me. I think it's pretty, in an old fashioned, traditional, chic kind of way. And it's within my price range! The cons? Well, it's David's Bridal--a lot of fashionistas out there wouldn't be caught dead wearing something generic. If you knew where I work, you'd be surprised I'm considering a low-end bridal gown for my wedding. But if you look at the cons, it's really just worries about what other people will think. Isn't that what I vowed I would never do?

But I do have to think about this some more. I have to give myself a chance to look at other dresses before I make a decision. Maybe it is like finding your guy...if it is meant to be, the dress will still be there. Yeah...I'll just keep telling myself that...maybe I'll believe it...

Our church

It feels so good to cross off items on my to-do list! I have all my documents for the church squared away. Today we met with our church wedding coordinator to put down our deposit. She was so sweet and seemed like she was genuinely interested in us. I have to admit, we were getting pretty frustrated early in our search for a church venue. We tried other churches in the area, but there were always obstacles--too expensive, not available on our date, closed to non-parishoners, or we would have to wait for a once-a-month information meeting to find out any information. Sometimes I would get the feeling that a particular church wasn't really interested in welcoming us ...we were just one of countless other couples eager to get married in their church. And when you're faced with astronomical fees on top of other fees, you start to feel like maybe your kind isn't the kind that gets to exchange vows at their know, the kind without money.

But then I found St. Elizabeth in Altadena. Not only is it close to our reception site (an easy 3 miles!), it's gorgeous and the people are so warm and welcoming. We didn't have to go through a zillion steps just to meet with a priest to set a date. There aren't any unnecessary fees like a bench fee for family members to use the piano that's already sitting in the church. They ask that we pay at least $500 and that includes the church coordinator's fee (there's also a $250 marriage encounter weekend we must attend). Overall, we'll be paying $825 (we're going to give a donation to the priest and to the altar servers). Not only is the church affordable, but we feel like it's a great fit for our wedding, for us.  They weren't critical about my fiance not being Catholic. We knew instantly that this is the church where we would become man and wife. Ahhhh, Man and Wife. I'm smiling silly as I type those words.

My First DIY Trial: The Carnation Bouquet

Thursday, November 12, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , , | 0 comments

This is something I was really excited to do, and I must say I am pretty pleased with the results. I just attempted my first carnation bouquet. I'm intending to make 4 carnation bouquets for my bridesmaids. Why carnations? Well 1) they're cheaper, 2) they're easy to work with and 3) I really love the fullness and vibrant color of the flower.

I went to Conroys and bought 10 carnation flowers for $16.  This trial was done on a spontaneous whim, so I could have gone to a wholesale florist to save money, but I wasn't ready to buy bulk. Afterall, I was only making one bouquet.

I bought scissors, floral tape, corsage pins and ribbon from Michaels (supplies we can definitely use again)

Using the tutorial from Mrs. Flamingo's post on WeddingBee, I clustered my flowers together, wrapped them snug with floral tape and covered the tape with an off-white satin ribbon.

Here's my first attempt:

Ok, so the ribbon is a little crooked and some floral tape is peeking at the top, but not bad for a first attempt. I think I could use 5-10 more flowers to fill it out a bit, but I think this can definitely be a suitable bridesmaid bouquet.

One thing though, some flowers started to snap. I taped up the injured ones with floral tape and hid them in the middle. Can't tell, can you?

Newbie mistake #1: Don't jump at the first "deal" you see

OK, this may not actually be my first pre-wedding screw up, but I'm sure it will be one of many. I headed back to Michael's today for materials on my first DIY trial (more on that later), and I found Michael's $1 bin. That's when I saw these Thank You cards. Now, stationary is actually really low on my list of priorities. It's not really something I'd splurge on. We've been lucky enough to have a friend design our save the dates and a print company to run them for free, and thanks to 50% coupons we purchased pocketfold invitations at Michaels for about $22 a box (not including the extra ribbon we purchased). But ten bucks for 100 Thank You cards? What a deal!

Ok, they might not be the most glam of Thank You cards, but they were good enough for me. Going home with my find, I perused the Net to find out if I had indeed found a deal.

That's when I stumbled upon Snapfish's $.09 postcards. No, not 90 cents, but 9 cents! You can personalize each 4X6 postcard into a snazzy Thank You greeting. That's actually cheaper than my $1 find, and much more personal and creative. Snapfish also has a deal where new members can get the first 20 prints for free! Attach a 27 cent postcard postage on each, and you can send out 100 thank you cards for less than $30.

Now my once golden deal looks a bit like a stinker. OK, they're still sufficient, but the shine has worn off a bit. So I'm headed back to Michael's tomorrow with hopes of returning them. Wish me luck!

*UPDATE: Returned the Michael's coupons successfully. You have 60 days to return an item for a full refund (with a receipt).

The best of all worlds.

Monday, November 9, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: | 0 comments

Trying to plan a wedding on a budget is hard. Trying to plan an intercultural wedding can be even harder. My fiance is Samoan-Chinese. I am Filipino. Our marriage will signify the coming together of our diverse families. We want to celebrate that, the intertwining of our cultures. I want the three cultures to be celebrated in a harmonious cohesion, not as if three distinct cultures are just thrown together without any rhyme or reason. That can be hard when most of the wedding blogs and magazines I see cater to the usual traditional westernized themes.
I also want the cultures to come out in a genuine, modern and artistic way. Not the artifical fortune cookies and chinese takeout boxes you'll see in some favor stores (sorry, I'm not digging Oriental Trading Co.)

Then I saw Wedding Noveau a blog celebrating intercultural weddings, which is quickly becoming my new fave blog. There are dozens of wedding photos and inspiration boards of almost every kind of intercultural wedding, including this gorgeous Indian-Finnish wedding in Berkeley, CA.  Stunning.

(All Images by © Wendy MacLaurin Richardson)

DIY Invitations...sort of

Sunday, November 8, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , , , | 1 comments

OK, I know I said I was going to make my own pocketfold invitations from scratch. I was completely jazzed about it, thoroughly convinced it was going to happen. Well, it is going to happen...just not in the super-crafty glorious vision I had imagined.
The fiance and I decided to take advantage of Michael's crazy 50% off coupons this week. Yep, that's right. This week, take an extra 50% any regular priced item (check your Sunday paper!). Then we saw these invitation kits at my local Michaels:

They're from the wedding collection of Brides Magazine--there are 30 invitations in each box, including  pocketfold envelopes, response cards and envelopes, address labels, direction cards, seals and ribbon. 

Sure, the design is very simple, but I think they're elegant. And there are ways to personalize the look (you don't have to stick to their template.) We're going to switch out the cream-colored ribbon with a purple one, and we may add some more purple in the design, but I think they're rather chic! Not the grand pocketfolds I was thinking of making myself, but I think these are much better than anything I would have produced, and probably much cheaper!

We bought two kits for a total of $48. (We're buying another kit tomorrow using an online coupon we printed this evening). With our 50% coupons, each box was $24. That means each invitation comes out to about $0.75 per unit. For 90 invitations that includes the whole shebang, this is a great deal! With postage, we may even come in under our $150  invitation budget!

FYI: Sign up for Michael's email newsletter and you can get weekly 40% coupons. We're told that we can combine these coupons with the bounce back receipt coupons we receive after each purchase. We going to try this tomorrow to see if this works!

Money-saving tip: To cut costs we decided we will have our guests RSVP online. Our website will have a separate page just for RSVPs, so instead of reply cards, our invitation will include  instructions on how to RSVP online. Since our rehearsal dinner will be more of an informal welcome dinner, we will send out evites instead of another invitation that requires more postage. Besides, snail mail is so last century!

Thank You Card Giveaway!

Saturday, November 7, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , , | 0 comments

Check this out! I recently found Bride on a Budget's blog, and she has some really good thrifty advice for planning a wedding on a budget. She's planning a March 2010 wedding on a $7,000 budget!

Every week, she keeps us brides up-to-date with money-saving opportunities like this one--(50 ct.) 7 x 5" (folded to 3.5 x 5") Custom Thank You Cards with plain envelopes from Uprinting.

Check out her blog for more details on this giveaway! Good Luck!

Looks familiar...

When I saw this locale, the deja vu feeling hit, until I realized...hey, I have been here before! Right where that random woman with a suitcase is sitting! Really?! At Los Angeles Union Station? That is so cool! I never knew you could rent out space there! Not every venue will advertise itself as a wedding venue. If you know of a place that you adore, it doesn't hurt to ask, right?

Call me old fashion...

Friday, November 6, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: | 0 comments

Really, I'm not...that old fashioned, but I love this dress. Sure, it's not your usual strapless gown, but I love its elegant vintage vibe. This J. Crew Daphne dress sold out long ago, but you can still find it on the web, like this one for $895. But, alas, it's still out of my budget. *sigh*

The Bridesmaid Look

I have to admit, there are a few things related to the wedding that's not included in our budget. These include the bridesmaids' dresses. I know some brides cover this for their bridesmaids and it would be great to be able to do so, but we just can't afford them. I've been assured by blogs and other people that this is perfectly fine etiquette. I found a bridesmaid style I love: deep purple, strapless, not too long, not too short. Pair them with gold strappy shoes, and they're rockin'! My ladies will be hotties in them...not that they aren't already :) The look is appropriate for an afternoon wedding--not too formal, but not too casual either. I want my ladies to stand out among all the guests.

But of course...the price. I would love to find a really affordable outlet for them. I think it's only fair that I at least be able to find them an outlet that won't rob them of everything they own. The search continues...


Thursday, November 5, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , , , , , | 0 comments

Need a super easy way, but unique way of presenting your table numbers or seating cards? If you like strawberries as I do, Style Me Pretty has a cool tutorial. You don't really need much. The strawberries do all the work!

Wedding related things to do this week:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: , | 0 comments

Gather church documents - I will need an updated baptism certificate as well as a copy of my first communion and confirmation certificates. I'll also need a letter of permission from my orginal parish at Queen of Angels church to marry at St. Elizabeth. My fiance will need a copy of his baptism certificate as well.

Shop around for:

1) Wedding Gown (headed to Wedding Row in Temple City, CA, as well as a place in LA where I hear you can find a real trasure for DIRT cheap! I will keep you posted!).

2) Decide on a style for bridesmaids and search for an affordable place  to buy them.

3) Decide on who will be in our wedding party and contact them (We already have our bridesmaids and groomsmen confirmed.At this time, we'l also decide who else will take part in the ceremony.
4) Delegate responsibilities among court.

5) possible photographers -- there's one I have in mind, a photographer I've worked with before. I really like his work and I trust him. Hopefully he's available!

6) Florist - or decide if we really need one. Bridesmaids bouquets and centerpieces we're doing ourselves. We'll probably need someone to work on groom's and groomsmen bouts, church decorations and my bouquet (although I'm seriously contemplating going the Trader Joes or Costco route!).

7) Confirm DJ - Yay for family hookups!

8) Wedding Coordinator - Do we really need one? With the church coming with ceremony coordinator and the restaurant taking care of decorations and set up...what else is there for a Day of Coordinator to do? But we definitely need to make sure we keep the day on a tight schedule -- ceremony is at 11 a.m. and our reception venue is reserved until 4 p.m.

9) Hair and Makeup - with our ceremony at 11 a.m. we'll need someone to be able to travel to our location.

10) Work on Save the Dates - We need to send them out by the end of November.

11) Start working on web site.

Non-related wedding items: the fiance, the fam and I saw This is It over the Halloween Weekend. RIP MJ!

Free Wedding Website

There are a number of sites out there offering free wedding websites, but lets you add music to an intro slideshow of photos (definite e-shoot spotlight!)

Now that I am an etsy whore...

Monday, November 2, 2009 | by Newlywed | Labels: | 0 comments

I want this...Doesn't match my engagement ring, but for $110...

Save the Date!

Yes!!!! Our date has been secured!

Our top two priority items are crossed off!

Church site for the ceremony: check!

Affordable reception venue: check!

Sooo, without further delay, here they are:

Ceremony Site:
St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church
1879 N. Lake Ave.
Altadena, CA

As I blogged before, St. Elizabeth is a lovely church in Altadena. While we weren't able to afford our first choice, the grand St. Andrew church in Old Town Pasadena, we are very happy with our alternative find. In fact, I love the small intimate feel of the church much better than the echo-y accoustics at St. Andrew. The surrounding courtyard is beautiful and it's only 3 miles from our reception site in Old Town Pasadena!

Reception Venue:
64 West Union Street
Old Town Pasadena, CA 91103

The Rococo Room at Cafe Santorini is a place we've been eyeing for awhile, and just couldn't book it until we had our church squared away.  We chose this place for a variety of different reasons:

1) Location: Old Town Pasadena. 'nuff said.

2) Price: For roughly $30 a person, you get 2 appetizers, bread, salad, a choice of two entrees, two sides, drinks and dessert.

3) Quality: Food is plentiful and D-lish. Mouth still waters whenever I think of their Chicken Marsala. Great service as well!

4) More for your buck: The tables, silverware, plates, glasses, linens and (my favorite) Chiavari chairs are already included. I don't have to purchase a huge wedding cake--a variety of cake (including tiramisu!) is included. (We will, of course cut into a smaller cake for that to). For $125 extra, they will even set up decorations, which pretty much eliminates the need for a Day of Coordinator (the church provides their own ceremony coordinator).

Overall, for a Saturday afternoon reception for 110 guests with food, drinks, cash bar and champagne toast, we are looking at a $5,500 bill (out the door). High five to our wedding team!

Jump for wedded joy!

Love it.