Thursday, September 27, 2007

Make your own wedding rings!

I just came across this amazing place. New York Wedding Ring, located in both New York and in San Francisco, lets you make your own wedding ring or engagement ring. How cool is that? The price strikes me as being a bit on the high side, but think about how awesome it would be to tell the grandkids that not only is your wedding ring completely original (you can design it yourself), but that you also made it with your own hands?

Now, these rings definitely do not look "homemade" at all.

Palladium rings

Palladium ring with gold inlay

Diamond and Peridot Engagement Ring

Blue cultured diamond engagement ring

In case you didn't notice, you have the opportunity to make rings in palladium, in addition to gold and platinum. So not only can you DIY, but you can DIY out of a really awesome metal as well. If Calvin and I were located on either coast (alas! we are not, but will be in the next five years if all goes according to plan), we would definitely consider doing this.

How do you feel about making your own wedding ring?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Oh, the places we'll go, part 4

Part 1- What we were looking for
Part 2- So Calvin vetoed Mexico
Part 3- We almost went to Spain, but had one small problem- Calvin had fallen in love with someplace else.

Calvin had fallen in love with one place....

Picture is from National Geographic.


And we both fell in love with one place in particular- Ikies. Nestled on the outskirts of Oia, Ikies offered private outdoor jacuzzis, breakfast on your own private terrace, and the nearly impossible perfect 5 rating on tripadvisor.

Check it out.

A view of the property.

Isn't that terrace amazing?

The rooms aren't to shabby either.

Look at how beautiful it is at dusk!

Only trick was, while Greece is new to Calvin, I have been to the Greek islands before. Although it was while I was backpacking through college, and was only on Santorini briefly because we missed our ferry stop in Ios (think MTV spring break, only with Aussies instead of Americans), I still wasn't settled on going someplace I had been before. Besides, we wanted city! And I am not a big fan of Athens. And somehow, to me, Greece just doesn't sound too exotic.

So what if we went to Istanbul as well? Turkey sounds exotic. And we could stay at MiSafir Suites, a place that has (say it with me now :-D), amazing tripadvisor ratings. Just look at it:

That way I could get my passport stamped in a new country as well.

Like all the places thus discussed, there was just one trick. This time, it was that there is no good way to get from Santorini to Istanbul. Flights must go through Athens, and there are two airlines available: Olympic and Turkish. Flights are expensive, and it seemed difficult justifying spending $800 to go to someplace mostly because I wanted to go to someplace new. But what if we just went to Turkey?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Three years ago today...

Calvin and I watched Lost in Translation.

We had spent the previous year getting to know each other bit by bit. We found ourselves alone in a table in the dining hall when all of our mutual friends decided to get dessert simultaneously, and he let his friend (who was one of my housemates) and I stay in his dorm room when a tornado went through our college campus; later that year, he joined my Bible study. That summer, we stayed up late playing chess most every night, since both of us were working on campus. That, and a crazy weekend roadtrip with some friends to Arkansas to go to a drive-in movie theater. Early that fall, we had coordinated a birthday party for that same friend/housemate; we chased sunsets and discovered a "secret" lake located not to far away in the farm country that surrounded our college.

But three years ago tonight, we watched Lost in Translation. Calvin had broken up with his longtime on-again off-again lady friend, and my housemates were all off doing various things (i.e. they had a marching band commitment) . We watched the movie in my room (the single! No roommate for me that year!) in the house, and when the movie was over, he looked at me. And said "Meg, I have to tell you something. I'm not quite sure how to say this, but I'm really a of you."

And there you have it.

Us then:

At the drive-in in Arkansas.

Serving people at that friend's birthday party. (Yes, it was in a coffee shop- the one we worked at and I lived above in college. As an aside, about this time, that same friend of ours had a dream that the two of us were getting married.)

And now:

In DC a couple of weeks ago.

Right before hearing DJ Tiesto.

Happy anniversary, my love.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Just shoot us! Part 2

Earlier, I blogged about the photographers who didn't make the cut. Now, you must be wondering, "Meg, those photographers were awesome! Rob is sooo affordable, and I can't get over how amazing Steven's photographs are. Can your photographer actually be better than either of those?"

And the answer for us is YES!

Check out our photographer, Ken Blaze. Absolutely amazing. Not only did he agree the Saturday before Easter at my favorite locally owned coffeehouse, but when it was closed due to the inclement weather (yes, Cleveland does get blizzards at the end of April), he was gracious enough to direct us to the nearby and open massive Seattle-based coffeehouse chain.

Ken is a very organized, laid-back kind of guy, with whom we quickly developed a rapport. He is a photojournalist by training, and has not only covered the Cleveland Indians, Cavaliers and Browns, but has also covered the Special Olympics, President Bush and has done work for ESPN. Ken has recently left his job as a photojournalist for the Willoughby News Herald to shoot weddings and freelance full time- well, full enough to do that and also take care of his newborn son, Luca.

His philosophy seems to differ from every other photographer that I have come across. As a photojournalist, he is trained to tell stories through pictures. He will do the requisite posed pictures, but aims to do them as quickly and painlessly as possible. Ken shoots what he sees, and does not do a lot of the Photoshop special effects that many photographers do. If a detail is there, he shoots it. If not, he doesn't try and recreate it.

Ken's packages are (we feel) a bargain for what you get. While his rates have gone up a bit since we booked, I think that he is definitely worth considering. Packages start at $850 (for four hours), and go up to $5000 (unlimited hours, plus two albums). All of his packages include 4"x6" proofs of all images, plus a DVD of all the images, and the rights to make copies, as long as you don't sell them/use them in advertising. Most packages also include the making of a "story of the day", which is a set of 30-50 5"x7" photographs capturing what he feels is the story of the day.

We are not hiring a videographer, preferring instead to just go with the pictures Ken takes.

The photos below are from the wedding of April and Ron.

Aside from Ken being a great person to work with, we were really struck by the emotion that he captures on film. Other photographers make great magazine spreads, but with Ken, the photographs are so real, so filled with emotion, that you feel as though you are there. When we were going over various weddings he shot, he knew each couple, and would point out funny situations that happened, or details that were going on when the photo was taken. Like the black and white photo above of the couple kissing by the lake- it was completely unposed.

So there you have it- our photographer. When you were looking at photographers (and other vendors), how much of it was based on "clicking" with them, versus the quality of their work?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Just shoot us! Part 1

With film, that is. Aside from booking the church and reception venue, booking the photographer was the most important thing for us. Calvin and I both spent a lot of time looking at various photographers in the Cleveland area. Having determined that we wanted photos done with more of a photojournalistic approach, and figured out our budget, we basically narrowed it down to three. (In Cleveland, as I've mentioned before, you don't necessarily have the panoply of options that you have on the coasts). One other important thing for us was a disk of the high resolution images, so that we could reprint all the pics we wanted.

I now present to you the runners' up in this pageant :-)

Rob Rife- you can view his blog here
His rates are on the lower end, with two packages: $1,400 or $2,100. The main difference is whether you get printed proofs and an engagement session, or just a disk. Even the cheaper package is for 10 hours at unlimited locations.

Steven Mastroianni- visit his blog here.
As you would expect, his prices are higher. Packages range from $1,500 for six hours at one location and a disk of the images to $4,450 for unlimited locations and time, 4"x6" proofs of the images, and a professional coffee table style album. The same package minus the printed proofs and album is $2,750. The images on his website are very polished and magazine ready.

Now, we didn't actually meet with either of these photographers, as we wanted to meet our first choice first. And as they say, the rest is history. Stay tuned to find out who the mystery person is.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A love letter to Cleveland

Dearest Cleveland,
Ah, Cleveland, the city where my heart resides! From the Rock Hall to Jacobs Field, you have a lot going for yourself.

But city I love, you are a very strange bird when it comes to weddings. You operate on a different wedding planning clock than the coasts do (and what magazines tell me!). Places aren't typically booked a year in advance. Prices are much lower for just about everything. But you lack the availability of floral designers, couture dresses, photojournalistic photographers and interesting venues that are found other places. So many of your residents, both vendors and family, still do weddings how they were done in the 1980s. While I can chicken dance with the best of them- not only am I from Cleveland, home of the Polka Hall of Fame, but I'm also German- Calvin doesn't want that. How you force us to be resourceful to seek out vendors and locations that seem to be readily available elsewhere in the nation!

But you have your hidden strengths and talents. Your restaurant scene is phenomonal, with too many choices for a fabulous rehearsal dinner. Michael Symon's Lola or Lolita, the Baricelli Inn, Paladar or Sarava.




And you are really easy to get to and around, whether by car, plane or public transportation. While understated with an inferiority complex, you really have a lot to offer people who are visiting. You frustrate me, but deep down inside I know I will always come back to you.



Has anyone else found significant differences between what is in magazines/books/blogs/websites and what is available in their area? And does anyone have any tips for bringing out the best in cities for guests who wouldn't be there if it weren't for your wedding?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hi from Miss Dahlia!

Hi everyone, I'm Meg, and am very excited to be part of the community at Weddingbee! I've been following the site since the beginning of the summer, and can't wait to share my thoughts and ideas on wedding planning and learn from experiences of everyone!

Why did I choose Miss Dahlia? I must confess that from the time I saw the flowers introduced, I knew that Miss Dahlia had my name all over it. First, it is red, and as you will quickly see, red is my favorite color and will play quite an important part in our wedding. Second, and more importantly, it has strong family connections.

My grandfather lived with my family in the last years of his life. Up until he had a stroke and passed away three years ago, one of the greatest joys in his life was gardening. Grandpa Dahlia's specialty was, in fact, growing dahlias. He was famous for them. Not just any dahlias, mind you, but dahlias the size of a dinner plate. Like this:

Image from here.
While dahlias are very much out of season in May (and I did contemplate half-seriously having the wedding in August so that dahlias would be in season) and we won't be having them at the wedding, I love that my name pays homage to my maternal grandfather.

Grandpa Dahlia in August 2004, less than 2 months before his stroke.

So now that you know why I chose to be Miss Dahlia, I thought I'd share a bit about the Dahlias. We started dating our senior year of college, when we were both involved in a non-profit coffee shop and worked as college radio DJs. We love to travel, are considered "foodies" by our families, and like to think of ourselves as connoisseurs of cheap wine (basically, anything less than $8/bottle. $10 or $11 is considered a splurge). And we have a high geek factor. In the month prior to us dating, we would caffeinate ourselves with the leftover coffee from said coffee shop to stay up late and program (or play chess). I was learning html (to build my own website! in notepad!) and Calvin had programming for his computer science classes. Since graduating from undergrad, I moved to Michigan to further my education and after a year of long-distance, Calvin moved up here to work (and spend some time with me!).

We are getting married in Cleveland, which is our hometown and where most of our families reside. While it is not the most exotic locale, it enables our living grandparents to be part of the wedding. Both of our families go back several generations in the city, so we will always be Clevelanders. Plus, we are excited to show off our hometown in as positive a light as possible! While Cleveland is the butt of a lot of jokes (yes, the river really did catch on fire in the 1970s), it has a lot of great things to offer. I can't wait to share my thoughts and ideas about wedding planning with all of you!

Very exciting news!

I want to let you know that the readership of the blog is about to grow significantly, as I will begin blogging for one of my favorite wedding planning sites, Weddingbee! I will continue to blog as Meg at Chess and Coffee, but you will also be able to follow my wedding planning adventures at Weddingbee under Miss Dahlia. What this means is that there will be an introductory post here later today for the Weddingbee readers, and then pretty much back to business as usual.

As someone who has been blogging since December '01, it is extremely exciting to begin blogging for a large audience!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

update on bridesmaid dresses

I posted earlier about how weird it is that I should tell people what to wear to my wedding. The ladies standing up for me all have exceptional (and decidedly different) tastes. That said, given that I was thinking about how burgundy/red would be fabulous for people to wear, it made the most sense to pick some sort of common color. Different shades of blue can look absolutely lovely together.

Sophi.the.bride's picture in her knot bio of lovely bridesmaids wearing different blue dresses.

However, different reds or variations of red can clash. Like the prom picture where three of us were dressed in red (that's me!), salmon and pink, respectively.

It's great that everyone else was in blue or purple so we could alternate and end up with coordinated (and not clashing) pictures

And then comes along J Crew's fall catalogue. Every two or three months it seems that they release new colors for their special occasions collection. Conveniently, one of J. Crew's fall colors is "vintage burgundy." What are the colors of our wedding? Burgundy and Champagne. What is the theme we are loosely going for? Vintage jazz and swing. This could be perfect. And the ladies would have their choice of three dresses, the Caroline, Goddess, Sophia:

I ordered a fabric swatch, and it was an absolutely gorgeous color. And I worked up the nerve to ask the lovely ladies what they thought about the dress. Thankfully, each likes them and hopefully will be able to find a style that works for her.

They are choosing from:

Caroline dress

Goddess dress

Sophia dress

As of right now, it looks like at least 2 of the 3 will wear the Sophia. For those of you that let your bridesmaids pick dresses, did any of them end up picking the same dress?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Free Software, part 3

Part 1
Part 2

Today I would like to share with you about another free piece of software: Gimp. While slightly complicated to install- you must first install the GTK+ 2 runtime installer, and then GIMP, it is a pretty powerful program once you have it up and running. More like Photoshop than either OpenOffice Draw or Scribus.

Here is an image of what you see when you open a new document:

Note how you can very easily change the size of the document and the resolution. You have the option of RGB or grayscale coloring- no CMYK, which is what is preferred for professional printing.

Here is what I get when I hit "OK" to generate the new document:

The dreaded error. For some reason, as soon as I open a new document, GIMP crashes. Regardless of the specifications of the document. Now, this may because I haven't installed the program properly, or that I am running an older version of GIMP. I have full faith that when up and running, the program is fantastic, but personally was unsuccessful at getting it running. And I have other programs that suit my needs just fine.

I'm continuing to investigate other free programs that would be useful for wedding planning and life in general. Do you have any others you would like to share?