Thursday, April 17, 2014

planning our wedding: say no to pinterest


i'm serious. 
SAY NO TO DRUGS PINTEREST.

i was adamant about not using pinterest to plan our wedding because what pinterest is for women is like what porn is for men: addicting and reality-skewing. it's a serious addiction (much like any social media), but particularly unhealthy during an emotional wedding planning process.

the reason i have a strong point of view on this us because i have such a strong inclination for ocd behavior with tools like pinterest. it's the visual candy store no one could've imagined, but someone created and now we are like flies drawn to an electric fly trap. 

knowing this about my tendencies, i told myself i would not use it to plan the wedding and committed to it. (i also committed to not look at any wedding blogs.) if you are like me, i highly recommend staying away from pinning your way to some "dream" wedding. you will likely get carpel tunnel, blurry vision, a wedding budget explosion, and a disappointed spirit. 

in full disclosure, i did end up pinning a few times to capture some ideas mostly for the boutonniere, bouquet and make-up. i made a secret board with 30 pins, but it's public now so you can see what i drew some inspiration from.

by saying no to pinterest, 
  • i noticed i would be most tempted to use it when i wanted to escape my current reality. i could taste it in my mouth....the deliciously distracting images, and i wanted it baaad. these were the times i was most grateful i committed to saying no to pinterest for the duration of my wedding planning.
  • i could keep my eyes focused on making value-based decisions, not emotionally-based decisions. 
what do you need to say no to?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

planning our wedding: why we said NO to a bridal party

as i've watched friends get married, i would make my secret list of people who i'd choose to be in my bridal party for when the time arrived. giiiiiiiiiiirl, i know i'm not alone on this...can i get an amen?

yet when it came down to it, i chose to toss that list out the window.

actually, i think the value behind a bridal party is beautiful. it recognizes the people closest to you who have stood beside you and your relationship, and who will hopefully continue to stand beside you in your marriage. these are the people who will help you live out your marriage - because marriage is work and painful at times. it's heart-moving to see all those people physically standing beside a bride and groom. 

but the decision to NOT having a bridal party was pretty simple. we asked ourselves: 
  • Q: why does it feel so bad to have to have to rank our friends? 
    • A: we don't want to rank our friends! they're all meaningful to us in different ways. 
  • Q: is there a way we can involve our friends without putting such a large financial burden on them? 
    • A: a resounding YES. so we said NO to having a formal bridal party. 
we believed we could still honor those people closest to us without having them incur the often large cost of being part of a bridal party. especially for women, being a bridesmaid can be painfully expensive. but because we love our friends, we're willing to spend the money. i have done so in the past without any regret. 

there was a period in my 20s when all of my close friends were getting married, and i was invited to be a part of many of those bridal parties. without a doubt, it was an incredible honor and, i was also making practically poverty wages working at non-profits and living in the bay area. i was genuinely unsure how it would all work out financially. for one wedding there is usually: a bridesmaid dress, sometimes matching shoes, hair & makeup, bachelorette party and all the associated costs, hosting a bridal shower, bridal shower gift, wedding gift, time away from work or family, flights or gas, etc. for some of my friends, i couldn't even afford to give them a wedding gift because i was financially tapped out after all the pre-wedding affairs.

that's why we decided to honor our friends by asking them to participate in other small and meaningful ways:
  • give a toast at the rehearsal lunch: my sister helen, steph, zack, michael and matt all gave heartfelt toasts. the time they took to write and share their reflections meant a great deal to us. 
  • speak at our wedding: we had five formal speakers and my sister annaha, who read a poem. it was an enormous gift to have our friends reflect on and write a five minute talk they would deliver in front of everyone - on topics we chose! this was no small task, and we were grateful for their honesty and vulnerability in sharing. 
  • come be with us in the morning of our wedding: samuel asked a couple of guys to hang out with him as he got ready for the wedding, as did i. it was so lovely to have friends to simply be with us. 
  • come to a ladies' weekend (aka bachelorette party): this was my way of having some time away with special women in my life, relaxing at the beach in santa cruz and eating delicious meals. i felt super aware of the costs associated with going away for a weekend, but also felt like it was important to do this. so samuel and i agreed to pay for the beach rental in santa cruz, which cost us $950. it was a lot, but it felt like a way i could say "thank you" for being a part of my life. plus, the ladies coordinated and cooked all of the meals and we ate extremely well. nom nom nom. 
    • note: this was different for samuel. he didn't mind his boys throwing down cashmoney for him. haha. they went go cart racing, white water rafting, and ate a lot!
  • be our ring-bearers: in a typical wedding scenario, i would've asked my nieces to be my flower girls. but we didn't think having flower girls was necessary and they were already part of the family processional. also, i didn't want to spend money on buying special dresses for them when they already have a lot of cute clothes. then it dawned on me....it would be really meaningful to me if they brought us our wedding rings! so my sister dressed them in cute clothes they already had, and told them the importance of their role. i thought it was a great win-win. and the best part...my precious nieces got to play a typically male role. i'm all for that!
  • lastly, the way we thought about the bridal party was this: inviting someone to attend our wedding meant that we were inviting them to participate in our marriage, for life. all in all, it's like everyone was part of our bridal party. : )
so we stood up there alone...

...but together with everyone.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

planning our wedding: 4 things we delegated that thoroughly surprised us!

it's tempting to want to control every aspect of your wedding, to have it be "perfect." i implore you to let that go of that mentality as soon as possible. it will make life easier! plus delegating is a great solution to wedding control issues. : ) 

the beauty of having six weeks to plan our wedding was that our time constraint made it clear we simply couldn't do all of it. i am so glad for the gift of delegating some things out to people who i love and trusted. 

1. bouquet & boutonniere. i wasn't even sure i wanted flowers at first. they can be very costly! anyway, i can't remember if heather offered or if i asked, but the thought of heather making my bouquet felt like the right call. she's so talented with floral arrangements, and she is so dear to me. i knew having something she made for me would be really special, kind of like wearing annette's earrings. i showed heather a picture of a bouquet i was drawn to for it's simplicity and colors and asked if she could make something like it. i completely trusted her judgement and eyes for beauty and let it go. i was so surprised and delighted by what she created the morning of our wedding. it was...perfect. 

2. the welcome table. oh emily grady. she is a saint. here are a few things about emily i appreciate: she cares a LOT, she got married a few months before us, has a great rustic sensibility, and is impeccably organized. i knew that she and her husband would go above and beyond welcoming our guests because they are naturally like that. they give their all. i merely handed her the stuff i had for the welcome table, asked her to do what needed to be done, and then thanked her. i knew all would be good in the grady's hands. and it was! (see below, the little mason jars and yellow ball flowers were small things that emily brought from her home.)
3. family dinner venue. we needed to find a restaurant to host 30+ guests for dinner on saturday night after the wedding, which was no simple task. we asked my oldest sister to help us with this search, negotiate the terms, and be our liaison. it was so helpful to have my sister do the heavy lifting in this process. easy to say: everyone RAVED about cafe pro bono. the meal was so good that we went back there with our wedding coordinators to thank them, and gave a gift card to one of our speakers to enjoy a meal there as well. we loved it that much!

4. cake & toppers. when chris said he would make a cake for us as our wedding gift, we were thrilled. we didn't know what to expect. but classic chris....he sent us a list of questions to think about regarding what the cake and its meaning to us. when we got back from europe, we met with chris to discuss his questions and share our favorite cake inspiration. in the same discussion, he asked us about toppers. honestly, cake toppers wasn't even something i cared about, but chris mentioned sheri and then things changed. i love her work and i love her, and commissioning sheri to make us cake toppers felt like a good decision. i told her that samuel calls me bird and i call him my bunny and that we do this little affectionate nose-to-nose thing. and with that kernel of information, we had one of the most exquisite and tasty wedding cakes i had ever seen and tasted. (yes, i'm biased.) 


bonus: the day of coordinating. there was of course, delegating the entirety of the day to our friends cara and amy. we did as much prep as we could and then handed over everything to these two extremely capable women. they gifted us with an enormous sense of relief and freedom. having day-of wedding coordinators is like being pregnant for nine months, and right before you go into labor, someone else takes over. cara & amy delivered our baby. how's that for a metaphor? 

ps. if you're looking for a wedding coordinator, cara is available for new clients. i'd be happy to put you in touch (email me at lizsong (at) gmail.com or comment below). 

anyway, all this to say....
there was an element of surprise and delight i couldn't have created if i did everything on my own. i simply loved being surprised on my own wedding day by the beautiful creativity and service of my friends.

as much as samuel and i wanted to host an awesome experience for our community, i think part of what made our wedding so special was that we were also able to receive from our community. we had to stop believing we were "being a burden" by asking for help, but rather we were inviting our friends to participate, to ask them to invest in us. 

a wedding can be a beautiful opportunity to give and receive love from our community. i'll hold this learning close to my heart for many years to come.

how might you let go of perfection and invite deeper friendship/delight/surprise into your wedding planning process? or even into your life?

Monday, April 14, 2014

planning our wedding: everything is expensive, but these 5 things are FREE!

here are some ways i didn't just "save" money, i didn't spend any!

1. borrow your friend's jewelry. at my ladies weekend (aka: bachelorette party), i asked everyone to bring any/all of their gold earrings. i tried them all on and knew immediately which one i wanted to wear. the sweet thing was that the pair that jumped out to me belonged to my oldest childhood friend annette. it was particularly meaningful because we chose not to have a bridal party, but still wanted our close friends to know they were precious to us (upcoming blogpost on this topic). i stood as annette's maid-of-honor and hadn't planned on reciprocating that role for my wedding, but it was special to have a piece of her hanging on my ears! FREE (and priceless)!


2. do your own hair. i could've gotten something elegant and fancy done, but the occasion didn't really call for it. because our whole wedding was more low key, i didn't have any problem curling my own hair. (side note: i felt more confident doing my own hair than my makeup so i paid someone for that. you can see how much i paid here for my lack of makeup skills. *gulp*) the morning of my wedding, my friend steph drove to michael's and found the flower i wore in my hair for under $5. she and mary helped me clip it in and voila! hair done! i think steph said not to worry about the cost, so if i'm remembering correctly, i guess it was FREE! ;-P 



3. look around your house. you may be surprised by what you find tucked away in your cupboards and closets. we ended up using the following that we had on hand: large canvas, clothes pins, straws, card stock, floral tape, pillows, markers, compostable utensils, some nice dinner size napkins, and a shell alice (sister-in-law) found last summer in france to hold our rings. 

most of us tend to be accumulators. we own a lot of stuff "just in case." well, time to dig into your "just in case" stock pile and use them up. you've already paid for these items so it's not a new expense. 
FREE! 

4. borrow everything you can think of. instead of creating more waste or purchasing things you won't use again, ask around. if you want to have those cute glass water dispensers with lemons in it (i did!), i'm sure someone in your community has one. ask around. people want to support you! or maybe you have a friend who has a really cute sense of style and would be willing to loan you a few decorative things here and there, ask! call on your community for support. 
FREE! 

on a related note: one thing that samuel and i were clear on was that we would much rather spend money on a small gift (we chose a pair of movie tickets) or a meal with someone who helped us, rather than spend that money on buying one-time goods for the wedding. connecting with people outweighed having the "perfect" __fill in the blank__.

5. if you can't find it for free, forget about it. sometimes it's easy to get married to an idea you simply "can't do without." well, you can. if it costs something or requires too much work, it may not be worth it. try to simplify your process by cutting things out. it's likely that very few people, if any, will even remember...and you probably won't either. make your wedding planning process as easy as possible. it's such an emotional time, so reduce any additional stress. FREE and FREEING!


most of all, it was vital for samuel and i to keep coming back to two things:
  • as special as our wedding day would be, it is just one day. it's one event. what is far exceedingly more important is that we spent time preparing for our lifelong marriage, not just an event. 
  • my friend heather reminded me that "your wedding is a celebration of you, not a reflection on you." remember that you're creating a space to connect and celebrate with dearly beloved guests who love you! they are not there to judge you, they're there to love on you!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

planning our wedding: regrets

as much as i loved our wedding day, i wish i could've done two things differently:

1) been more inclusive with our invite list
2) hired a videographer

i want to share my regrets because i could only learn these after the fact. if i could change these two aspects to my wedding day, i would.

invite list
initially, i wanted a very small wedding. i'm talking in the order of 20 people or so total. this would've meant we would've had to exclude a lot of people we care about. we "tried it on" for size and it didn't sit right in our guts. so after we made our initial all-inclusive list, we kept narrowing it down over and over until we could get our total count down to approximately 100 guests.

unfortunately, i held onto "100" as some magic number that would keep things "intimate." i'm not sure what i was thinking because there is no magic number.

email invites were sent and while we received responses, we calibrated our invite list. it was only a few weeks before the wedding when i started to feel more flexible about who came. my spirit of exclusivity changed to a spirit of inclusivity. i wanted more and more people to be a part of such a special day. 

but at the same time that my attitude changed, we were also getting very close to the date. i felt bad about inviting people so late in the game. i was afraid it would communicate that i was only inviting someone because a last minute spot opened up, but they weren't on my "A-list." so instead of just being courageous, i decided not to invite the people i had a change of heart about.

i wish i had been honest and brave.

fortunately, i had the opportunity to reconnect with one of my friends after the wedding and before we moved out of california. it was so good to catch up and learn what he'd been up to since he got married earlier in the year (a wedding i was invited to and had attended). my heart hurt that he was someone i didn't invite. so at the end of our conversation, i told him i was sorry that i didn't invite him. i told him that i wish he had been there to participate. i meant it.

videography
it didn't even need to be amazing videography, i would've been happy to have my iphone recording it.

when we got engaged, samuel asked what i thought about hiring a videographer. i told him i didn't care to have one. "as long as we have some good photos, it's fine. i don't want to spend money on it." :-\

i wish i had revisited this topic along the way. since our whole wedding day turned out to be something neither of us ever expected, something more meaningful than what i had imagined...we wish badly that we had it filmed. i wish i could watch mary, alice, don, and heather speaking, to watch the emotions shared between samuel and i, to laugh when i spoke embarrassingly, to catch glimpses of our beloved guests enjoying themselves... all those moments that i couldn't be a part of or was too overwhelmed with emotion to receive fully, i wish i could re-live the day through video. 

i'm also saddened that we won't have something to show our kids one day. 

do you have any regrets from planning your own wedding? what are yours? 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

month 6: learning to undo 31 years

i guess it was inevitable.
our biggest conflict to date happened this month.

ouch. 


it hurts to fight with you, lovey.

but it hurts more to close my heart towards you. 

there i was: feeling annoyed and self-protective, withholding an open heart.

why? because i felt hurt by a flippant, insensitive remark you made during a particularly vulnerable time. you already know this because i told you during our two-day conflict resolution process. i just wouldn't let it go. i tried, but my ego refused. i could literally hear you telling me that you were hurting, but i refused to hear it with my heart.


it only took me saying a "flippant, insensitive remark...during a particularly vulnerable time" for me to get it. what a humbling moment. ugh. this is my humanity in full force. 31 years of living a life that's about MEmeMeMEmeMe! and now, i get the opportunity to unlearn that M.O. each day i'm with you. lucky me.  

no really, lucky me...


i get to practice with you. you gracious, generous, and kind man. my beloved husband. always receiving me with open arms. like this time. : ) 


tonight, i'm remembering our vows and what i said to you six months ago:

"in our marriage, i commit to love and accept you exactly as you are, as you've shown me. ... but most of all, i commit to being fully myself with you. to be honest, vulnerable, and open with you always."

i'd like to try it again & again & again. to be honest, vulnerable and open. i've heard "practice makes permanent." i'll keep practicing. hehe. 

in other news...i want to remember a few things about month six:
this month was the first time we've been apart for six days! you got to live bachelor life and cook delicious meals, eat two dozen cookies, and sit around in your underwear with no one to have to share your cashew nut butter cookies with. i LOVED that you had space to create, and i really hope i can help foster that spirit in you (excluding the cookie monster spirit). 



we also took our inaugural bike ride of 2014! 26 miles of pure montana glory! monster hills and all. it was beautiful to imagine what this spring would hold with you along the pacific coast. i'm both scared and thrilled to adventure with you!




look! you're working on your comics. humor requires a lot of seriousness. 

stop it. too cute.
your favorite new animal. can't believe bison took the ranks above ralph, ralph, ralph, ralph, and ralph.  
lookin handsome. rar.

what a life huh? *le sigh*

loving you a little more each day,
your korean [in russian please] kaka bird

Friday, April 11, 2014

eat: pozole

of all the pozole i've tried, this is the best one i've had.

i love making a large pot so i can have it over and over. the flavor only gets richer. 

the recipe calls for chicken, but you can use pork or i make mine vegetarian (or "pozostrone" as someone has called it. lol). adding those extra veggies takes from the authenticity of it, but what the hell, let's get the fiber flowin.

Ingredients
*Note: You can downsize the amount of ingredients if you want to make a smaller pot. If you want, you can also make it more juicy or more thick, depending on how much broth you put in.
  1. 1 large can of hominy
  2. 7 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless for less fat) OR a medley of your favorite vegetables
  3. 10+ California Chilis (dried)
  4. 7+ garlic cloves (I like putting in a lot!)
  5. Large pot of chicken (or vegetarian) broth 
  6. Salt (to taste)

Cooking Instructions
The Puree
*Note: You can prepare this the day before, or if you want to make a lot at once, it freezes well. I would make more than you need, in case you find that you need more while making the soup.
  1. Cut off the stem and de-seed the dried California chilis
  2. Bring a lot pot of water to boil
  3. Boil chilis until soft; don’t leave them too long or else they get diluted
  4. Blend the soft chilis and garlic cloves together, until smooth; use some of the boiled chili water if needed
    • It should turn out sort of thick and pasty
  5. Put this aside until you’re ready to cook the soup

The Soup
  1. Rinse the hominy
  2. Cube chicken
    • for vegetarian version, i use carrots, zucchini, mushrooms (and whatever else i have in the fridge) instead of chicken. 
  3. Bring chicken broth to boil
  4. Boil hominy, chicken and puree together for about 20-25 minutes, making sure that the puree dissolves.
    • I put about 3 heaping mounds of the puree into the broth to create a rich red color
    • Since the california chilis are not spicy, you can put in a lot and not worry about spice level
  5. The soup is ready when the chicken is cooked through and you have a nice color to the soup
  6. Put in some salt to taste and voila! you've got yourself pozole.

Side Fixings:
Cabbage – thinly sliced
Radish – chopped
Onion – diced
Cilantro – chopped into small pieces
Avocado – small pieces (optional)
Tostadas
Lemons

planning our wedding: our vows


samuel and i decided to write our own vows because we wanted to be intentional about what we were promising to each other before God and our community. we discussed that it was important to choose every statement, to be deliberate about everything we said. they are probably some of the weightiest words we will ever speak to each other. we wanted them to count.

in fact, we're celebrating our six month anniversary tomorrow by reciting our vows to each other again. to remember the covenant we made to each other on october 12, 2013. 

here they are. 

samuel's vows
Liz,
You're the one I've been waiting my whole life for. You're the girl of my dreams, only my limited imagination could never capture how breathtaking you are, how gracefully you move through this world, how loving you are towards me, or all the many little things that all add up to make you, well, Liz. 

I never knew what emotion to expect when I would finally meet the one I was to marry. I had convinced myself that it would be excitement, a spark, butterflies in my belly, an angelic choir singing, movements, tidal waves, hurricanes. Instead it was peace. A deep peace. A peace that told me that I could finally rest. I had found her, I had found you. 


Whatever we've gone through thus far in our relationship, and whatever our relationship has gone through in our lives, the ups, the down, the any-which-ways, the peace has always remained. Peace. You bring me at peace with the world. 

I am SO happy to be marrying you.

Here is what I promise for myself:

I promise to always be true to myself and what I believe is right, and what I believe is truth. 

This means not just going along with movement of the world around me, tossed to-and-fro with the tide of the times. I will be true to myself, so that I can be fully true to you. 

I cannot promise, in the toils and snares that life throws at us, to always feel love towards you, but I promise to always act lovingly towards you, knowing that God has placed me in this world for you, and you for me, and in that act of love and service, love itself will blossom. 

I promise to be the best husband I can be to you, encouraging you, protecting you, providing for you, and orienting my life towards making you the purest and best form of yourself. I promise to be the best father I can be to our children, raising them up in a Godly household, instilling in them the values that we hold, in love and in discipline. 

Here is what I promise for you:

You are a wellspring of life and a fire in this world. I promise to let you know when you burn me, or when you soothe, or when you excite. I promise to not smother that fire, but also not let it rage out of control. 

You are an artist, a creature created in God's own image, to create. You've created beautiful things, meaningful things, you open the eyes of the world to a breathtaking reality. I promise to nurture that creativity, to encourage you in your craft, and recognize that your best, your brightest, your most glorious moments, are moments of creation. 

You are a women, a wonderfully mysterious being. I will never promise to always understand you, but I will promise to always try. Our differences are a gift, an idea that we will both spend a lifetime working towards. I love you, I love our differences, and I love what we are together. 

Finally I promise that you will always my one, my queen, my bird, forever.

---------------------------------
if you thought this was well-written, need help writing your own vows, or know someone who could use help, my husband is a pop-expert in speech writing. he would be happy to be of service!
---------------------------------

liz's vows
samuel, 
you are the love of my life.
sometimes i still can't believe that you and i have ended up together. 
i didn't know that i was capable of loving someone as much as i love you until you showed up and asked me to REI.

one of the first things i was drawn to about you, is that you have this ability to create a big wide open accepting space for me to be fully me -- in my beautiful wild ways and in all the ways i'm messed up. you accept me exactly as i am, and you love me over and over again regardless of me being a tender baby bird or one with ruffled feathers. you've demonstrated to me how God loves me over and over again regardless of what i do or don't do. He simply loves. like how you simply love me.

in our marriage, i commit to love and accept you exactly as you are, as you've shown me. 

you know that i wasn't a very good student. i can barely memorize a haiku. i got a D in calculus and stopped buying books in college b/c i never read them. but when there was a class i was super excited about - like macro econ - i studied really hard, went to every tutorial, solved every problem and aced those classes. i loved asking questions, going to extra study sessions, and genuinely understanding the class material. i'm really excited about you, samuel mandell. i want to keep learning about you, as you grow and change. i want to stay curious about you and discover why i love you over and over again. 

in our marriage, i commit to being your best student. 

i was looking at this picture of your mom the other day, her eyes filled with kindness, coupled with her mischievous smile. and i was reminded of something she told me during her last days.... that we have to work hard at marriage. 

whatever comes our way, i commit to working hard at our marriage - with deep kindness and some mischievous ways

but most of all, i commit to being fully myself with you. to be honest, vulnerable, and open with you always. 

you are my best friend and the best gift i could've asked for, and i receive you with my whole heart.
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