Key Ingredients

Katie and Darren's wedding (seen HERE), captured by Matt Mendelsohn, gives off the most fantastic vibe. From beginning to end, the couple seem to be filled to the brim with joy, which obviously spilled over to the guests. You'll notice that none of their pictures focused on details, but there's not one picture lacking a bright smile. While the setting, the food, the music, and the details all contribute to the success of a wedding, the key ingredients truly lie in love and happiness. When everyone is there to celebrate with your on such a joyous occasion, your smile easily translate to become theirs. And you know you've done something right when this happens by the end of the night:

Note to self:
1. Smile, laugh, and enjoy myself as much as possible on the day of. Everyone else can't wait to follow my lead.
2. Start talking to the old guys coming to my wedding and give them incentive to 'let loose'.

Snapshot: Flowergirls of the 21st Century

See the rest of this adorable mini series by Jessica Strickland here, also check out many more cutie pies on the rest of her blog!


If I didn't already have a dress...

...this romantic lil' number on clearance for $200 would be mine mine mine.


Sneak Peak: Centerpiece #1

Yes, I have more than one. Stay tuned to find out why, and how I scored them for about $12 each!

Big Trouble in Little China

In addition to reader feedback, I also received a couple notes on our RSVPs complimenting the invites:

So here's a look at the final product, along with more info on the invites and the little shop they came from:

With calligraphy
(My good friend's dad addressed them for me)
the extras
(tucked inside sleeve on the backside)
RSVP Envelope
(yes, USPS raised 1st class stamp prices AFTER I purchased those perfect lantern stamps)
Like what you see and want the deal I got? Here's what you should know:
  1. I got them from Ho Tai Printing located in San Francisco Chinatown.
  2. They have a website, but it's pretty crappy.
  3. Half the people working in that store speak English. Don't worry, just start talking to them and they'll point you to the right people to talk to if they don't understand you.
  4. They probably can design whatever, pretty much however you want, if you are patient enough to explain it to them.
  5. They use quality cardstock (they don't photograph well but all of mine are pearlescent).
  6. Print quality is good, a few had minor blemishes (mine were metallic red on the cards, and metallic gold on the red envelopes)
  7. They don't have a catalog, they have boxes of 'samples' which are basically prints of stuff they have done in the past (I would not at all be surprised if you find mine in there).
  8. They can email you an unlimited number of PDF proofs for you to mark up and fax back for correction. They're pretty good about getting new proofs out in a timely manner. Make sure you check the proofs thoroughly, I almost had a recestion instead of a reception.
  9. After signing off on the final proof, it only takes 2 to 3 weeks to print them.
  10. They give you a small discount if you pay in cash.
  11. RSVP cards are $30 per set (whether you want postcards or card&envelope) which match the number of invites you order ONLY IF you use one of their templates (which means use their premade print plates), otherwise you'd have to pay additional for extra plate cost. I requested a couple different RSVP dates, and they always gave me some other date that was close to it. So I just went with it, since I didn't think a couple days make much of a difference. Flexibility saved me $40.

If you're not Chinese and dare to venture in there, I suggest bringing with you a very open mind and/or a Chinese speaking friend. I hope I didn't scare you, they actually don't bite and are quite nice. I just don't want to be cuzzed out for not giving the warning! Good luck!


Semi DIY 5 hour Tea-lights

I needed long burning tea-lights for the centerpieces. What I found were pricey and/or did not come in red. Your standard no frills tea-light runs cheap with usual burn time of 2-3 hours, I think.

I bought five 30 count boxes of red scented tea-lights from Pier1 when I stumbled upon them on final clearnace at 90% off (orig. $6 became $0.6, that's $0.02 per candle) with thought that I'd just deal with the given 2-3 hours. FFIL happens to be a candle expert, and we asked him if he can melt some of them to fill the rest to the brim of the tin container in order to extend their burn time. He came up with a much more genius idea:

That's right, just stack 'em baby*, virtually no work involved. Worried about spillage, you say? We tested it:

Uh-huh, not a drop**. Burn time: 5 hours 9 minutes. Cost: $0.04 per candle

* Most tea-lights are filled to the brim which obviously won't work, but Pier1 seem to consistantly carry these above which go on sale all the time for 20+% off. They carry a variety of colors depending on the season.
** I expect some spillage during actual usage, they are contained so it's fine as long as it's not excessive.

Cheap Tip #23: Keep in mind things you need but not necessarily in a hurry. Check out prices for those items at stores you visit anyway. You never know what good deals you'll find!

Two Jobs, One Pop

I've had this picture forever, and I feel horrible that I do not know where to give credit for this picture (Sorry! If it's yours or you know where it's from, please holla!)

The Fererro Rocher is one of my favorite chocolates, and I love all things multi-purpose. Unfortunately these babies just can't handle the summer heat for my wedding, otherwise I'd be all over this favor + escort combo.


Pick Your Battle

I was going to make my own wedding invitations because I wanted to save money, and not be lured or pressured into getting the whole outer-inner-envelopes+vellum+insert+tissue+ mo'tissue+mo'envelope+mo'vellum shebang. While I love to design, paper is my least favorite medium. So despite having the paper purchased and a template all worked out, I changed my mind and went to a shop recommended by friends. This is what I got:

The colors are a bit off in the pic, and I think it looks better in person. The red sleeve is used in place of the inner envelope.

Even though it is not the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen, this is certainly one of the best decisions I've made. I saved me a world of headache and heartache by paying a few extra bucks. Now of course, shopping around for a good deal is pretty much a given. Here was mine:
  • 100 invites printed on both sides, with sleeves and envelopes (I needed less but it was the minimum order) - $128
  • 100 matching rsvp cards with printed envelopes - $30 (actually, if you ordered 500 invites, it would still be $30 to get 500 rsvp sets)
  • I printed a small insert on plain vellum that includes map, directions, and wedding website addy - $10 or so
  • this comes to a pretty good price of $168 for the whole thing

The lesson here, for the ambitious DIYers out there, is to know your limits. Ask yourself "is this worth doing myself?" If you don't love it, it isn't too easy, and the item isn't priced ridiculously, you're better off finding a reasonable vendor. Having a good gauge on when to work and when to pay can be critical to pleasant wedding planning experience indeed!


Hockneyized Thanks

I want to stick with simple for thank-you cards, and I'm digging the idea of just Hockneyizing some of our favorite wedding pics to make them. Easy, fun, and (the hockneyizing part is) free.


We attended 6 weddings in 2007, here are the things I remember most from each of them...

Wedding #1: homemade biscotti favors
Wedding #2: dang it was in the middle of nowhere
Wedding #3: gorgeous venue, yummy food
Wedding #4: how happy the bride looked
Wedding #5: the horrible DJ, and the most inconsiderate accommodation arrangement
Wedding #6: the bride's words 'oh sh*t!' carried far in the silence that preceded her walk down the aisle, which triggered a wave of laughter among the guests

In 5~10 years, probably the only thing I can readily recall is that wedding#5 had the most inconsiderate accommodation arrangement.

Note to self:
1. Make sure we enjoy each element of our wedding including the planning & making of, because it's basically meaningless to everyone else in the long haul.
2. Do not force guests to pay for an overpriced crappy room that they cannot stay in for 2 consecutive nights. If they have to stay in 2 different rooms for just 2 nights and have to lug their bags around from 11 to 3, they will fa sho' remember your @$$.


Fun with Details

With my new revelation about wedding details, I got a surge of energy to do some fun stuff. I've seen a gazillion mood boards but have never wanted to put one together because I seldom find pics from others' weddings that convey the feel I'm going for. So instead, I just went out searching for pics of elements I considered for my ChineseTea-themed wedding. Here's what I came up with:

From left to right:

Top Row (Red&Gold Cupcake, Chinese Vintage, Chopstick Favor, Sparklers, Tea Set)

2nd Row (Chinese Stamp, Tea Bag, Chinese Veil, Firecrackers, Tea Tins)

3rd Row (Lion Dance, Fortune Cookie, Take Out Box, Red Peony, Double Happiness, Florals)

4th Row (Guzheng, Red Envelope, Tea Shop, Signature Silk)


My OOT in-laws came to visit us this weekend and I had a chance to show them mockups of two elements of wedding details which are among the ones I adore most. The very supportive in-laws gave the standard 'oh that's nice' reaction, which surprisingly did not hurt my feelings (for they are not people who have even remote appreciation for details), but gave me a new perspective on the stress I have been putting on myself in perfecting such details.

And then, as if this girl can read my mind, Miss Meg over here had this up when I did my usual readings this morning.

I guess I knew this all along, but I really am doing all the little stuff for me. Maybe 3 people will notice them, but that's enough for me.


Wish Jar

How cute would this be as the wish bowl/jar? I would totally bust it out for the anniversary bouquets I expect every year :D I'm all about re-usability, baby!


Something Old

Classic Tiffany heart pendant, a gift from FFIL to FMIL 20+ years ago which I will tie to my bouquet... absolutely perfect!


Mango Avocado Shrimp Salad

My new favorite salad (found here). Ooberyummalicious, perfect for summer. Enjoy!

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large firm-ripe mangoes (2 lbs. total)
2 medium firm-ripe avocados (1 lb. total)
2/3 cup each thinly sliced green onion and chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon minced fresh hot red or green chile (or 1/2 tsp. dried red chile flakes)
1 pound (70 to 110 per lb.) peeled cooked shrimp

1. In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, oil, and sugar until sugar dissolves.
2. Dice mangoes and avocados into 3/4-in. cubes; add to bowl. Add green onion, cilantro, chile, and shrimp. Mix gently. Serve or cover and chill for up to 1 hour.


5 Minute Bracelet

My DIY wedding bracelet:

Beading basics are as straightforward as anyone can imagine. You put some beads through a string, crimp or knot at desired locations to keep beads in places, usually add some kind of closure to make it usable and viola.

Instructions for DIY Bracelet

1. Fresh Water Pearl Beads 6-8mm - $8 / strand
2. Swarovski Crystal 4mm Bicone Beads - $4 / 18 pcs
3. Beading Cord - $3 / spool
4. Toggle Clasp - $3
5. Crimp Beads - $ 3 /50 pcs
6. Basic Beading Pliers - $7 ea

1. Cut 8" beading cord (adjust length as desired)
2. Crimp one end attaching one part of the toggle.
3. Use the other end of the beading cord to string through your desired bead pattern and length. The above is simply (pearl, pearl, crystal, pearl, pearl, crystal...)
4. Tighten and crimp the other toggle part.
5. Trim excess beading cords from both ends.

*Rough estimate of what a beginner will need and use to make bracelet similar to the one above. Price of components vary with quality and design (i.e. a sterling silver toggle set can be $15 each while a pewter toggle set can be $2). Beading materials can be easily found online, at local craft stores, or even big chain stores with craft departments such as Wal-Mart. Items are usually purchased at some minimum quantities (as estimated above) so this amount listed can actually make a few to several pieces.
** Practice makes perfect. If you're a first time beader and the first time or two the project doesn't come out exactly the way you want, cut it up and redo. The only thing wasted is the bit of beading cord and a couple crimp beads!

There are also plenty of instructional videos out there if you want to get fancy.

Here's the rest of the DIY jewelry I made to wear with my wedding dress:



Cheap Tip #17: Let experience pay you!

Whatcha think of these flowers? How about the photography? Not too shabby for FREE, right?

It's true, amateurs/hobbists like us (me the florist, my brother the photographer for pictured samples above) are not especially easy to find. Because they don't advertise, you must sniff them out. Because they don't do this for money (or they do it for little money and mostly love), you must be very flexible and respectful of their art. Because they lack experience, you must do much research to make sure one with high potential is chosen.

Here's how:

1. Dig around Craigslist. There's about 0.2% of gold,0.7% silver, 2.6% aluminum on CL, and the rest is pure crap. If you're a good miner, with a bit of luck, you just may find something usable. Also consider putting up 'wanted' listings on CL, you never know who may be stumbling by. Hobbyists like me, browse a little for gigs when in the mood.

2. Get the scoop from those around you with common goals. Participate on boards/forums pertaining to your interest and inquire about the sources of their great finds. If a knottie's bio include DIY projects you love which you're incapable of doing yourself, ask if she's interested in doing it for you for a small fee.

3. Find out about services provided by schools in your area. Students in programs like cosmotology, photography, graphic design, hospitality management, music... all are potential wedding vendors for a fraction of the price from professionals.

4. Get referrals from the experts. Love the work of a specific vendor you can't afford? Contact them and tell them your budget, they may have apprentices or others they have worked with to refer you to.

Keys to success: Time, Patience, Flexibility