Thursday, January 31, 2008

Honeymoon (and trip) planning tips

Calvin and I planned our honeymoon without the help of a travel agent. I'm definitely DIY when it comes to travel, and this was no different. (I've used a travel agent once. It was fine. But I could have just as easily done it myself.)

Planning this trip was different from the other trips that I've planned for a number of reasons. First, while we were concerned about price, we were also concerned about service (especially for the 18+ hour flight to Bali!) We booked our flights through Singapore Airways, because we have both heard really good things about their service (and food!) Since the flights are so long, we looked at seat guru to help us pick our seats. Not that we were willing to spend any amount of money (I did keep an eye on prices for several months), but if you are traveling that long, it can be nice to have the better service. Tip: The airline may not tell you what model the plane is when you book, but by comparing the airline's seat diagram with seat guru's, you can get a pretty good idea.

Another airline tip: Many airlines (especially foreign airlines) will let you do a stopover for free at their largest hub. We're stopping in Singapore without any additional cost.

All of our hotels were found using tripadvisor. Whenever we travel, we check out TA for reviews of potential hotels, and have yet to be misdirected. Naturally, that was our key resource for hotels for the honeymoon. Tip: The fairly recently redesigned site is much better at making it available, but definitely be sure to check out the specialty lodging/B&Bs tabs on the site, if you are looking to stay at smaller, locally owned places.

Finally, I've found tripadvisor's travel forums to be especially helpful when looking for a more general view of things to do in a particular location. Tip: Like most any online message board, take what is written with a grain of salt. Try to find a couple of people who seem to have similar interests and views on traveling; their suggestions will be the most useful. When my mom and I traveled to Playa del Carmen, I avoided the advice of people staying at large, all-inclusive resorts, since we prefer to stay at smaller, boutique hotels and explore the local restaurant scene. At the advice of a couple of other people with similar travel preferences, we were directed to an absolutely amazing restaurant off the strip that was completely authentic Mexican.

If you have other travel planning trips, please share them!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


That's right, folks. We have purchased our wedding rings.

We had a really good experience with Calvin's Artcarved engagement ring, and decided that we wanted to stick with Artcarved for our wedding rings- because of the guarantees and their lifetime resizing promise. So we went to look at rings last week, and placed our order this week. In the process of doing this, we learned that January is one of the slowest months of the year for jewelers, so it is a lot easier to negotiate prices.

So. On to the goods.

It's important to note that I specifically did not want a wedding ring with stones (diamond or otherwise.) We do quite a bit of traveling, and I would rather have a non-flashy wedding ring that I can wear all the time than to have a separate ring for travel.

Given the no bling requirement that I had, we also decided to get matching bands. Now, I know that matching bands is something that very few people seem to do these days, but...we just liked the idea.

My ring (4mm milgrain):

Calvin's ring (5mm milgrain):

(both images from here.)

Did you and your fiance/husband opt to get matching rings? Why or why not?

*apologies to Frank

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Registry take 4: Household items continued

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we were less than thrilled with our Macy's experience, and were still on the search for a china pattern.

On a whim, we decided to check out Dillard's at Beachwood Place- to both check out jewelry for the day (I'm on the hunt for earrings) and to see what their china looked like.

There were several patterns that we liked, and while the registry person was helping another bride and her mom (who had made an appointment), she was as attentive as she could be towards us. As a bonus, Dillard's had a table set up with a tablecloth, and we were encouraged to "try out" as many place settings as we wanted, to get a sense of how things would look on a table. (This try out was also encouraged for crystal and flatware. I thought the whole thing was pretty nifty, as you could really see how everything would look together.)

We set down a whole number of place settings, and one clear winner emerged:

Stratford Platinum by Noritake.

Platinum banded for Calvin, interesting shape/design for me. After we found it, we kept talking about it, and unlike every other china pattern, we were increasingly excited about it. (I'm serious. Calvin is about as excited about the china as I am. No joke.)

While silver is not available in stores, it is available to be ordered from a store- and the website. And they carried our pattern (at a cheaper price than Macy's!). We were sold on Dillard's. Having also gone through the registry process at three other stores, we decided to do this one completely online.

The online registry is the most awesome registry we have come across. Seriously. It is smart about adding/removing items, and is updated instantly. And we have yet to get the dreaded "this registry is temporarily unavailable" message.

The return policy is more strict (returns must be within 30 days of the wedding, and you get gift cards), and while the registry completion incentive is large (20% discount), it is more challenging to use (must be used in the store, 2-4 months after the wedding). These are drawbacks (especially since there isn't a Dillard's in Michigan, where we live), but thus far, we are happy with the registry experience.

Anyone else register at Dillard's? What was your experience?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Nifty planning tool

Wanderluster has tipped me off to one of the most awesome planning things ever.

Google Notebook

Seriously. I don't know about you, but I have, oh, 6.02 x 10^23 pages bookmarked in various folders in my internet browser. (Alright, so maybe Avogadro's number is an exaggeration. But I have a lot.) And it can be really hard to find the exact "super awesome red invitation" picture that I'm looking for.

Downloading them to my desktop helps with the organization some, but I'm not always good at remembering where my sources come from.

Cue Google Desktop. It enables you to save pictures and text from websites in your own "notebook" which can be divided into various sections. It automatically provides the source for it, and you can also take notes. All it takes is a simple right click of the mouse to post it into your noteback.

Check it out.

All the information you need, in one simple click.

Look at hte organization possibilities.

And, if you want, you could share it with others. This, I think, would be a perfect way to share thoughts about bridesmaid attire with your attendants- or rehearsal dinner options with the parents.

This is revolutionizing the way that I store my information. Like bookmarks, but better, because I can access it from any computer, it has the citations, and uses Google's search engine.

(All pictures courtesy of the Google Notebook tour.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Honeymoon Part 6: We've booked our flights!

You may recall that it has taken us awhile to figure out exactly where to go on our honeymoon. "Why so long to blog about it, Meg?" you may be asking yourself. Well, I wanted to make sure that we had our flights booked and all of our hotels figured out before I sharing.

(Honeymoon parts 1-what we want, 2-Mexico, 3-Spain, 4-Greece and 5-Turkey.)

In addition to those above, we also considered Argentina, Thailand and Japan.

And then we finally settled on our place: Bali. (And Singapore- since we get a free stopover with Singapore Airways, and want some big city fun.)

Image from Wikimedia

Image from Saptatours

Image from Younan's blog

You see, after all the research that we were doing (and the declining value of the dollar against several currencies), we realized that we would be spending so much on airfare that for not a whole lot more, we could fly to Asia.

I've never been to Asia. Calvin spent three weeks in India with his best friend (his best man) and his family. On the way there and back, they spent some time in Bangkok. But he has never been to other parts of Asia, and really wants to go. (As do I!) And Bali seems to provide the best of all of the places we considered: good food, beach, culture, someplace new, and the possibility of a big city adventure.

We're spending 4 nights at the Elysian Bali Villas. Located in Seminyak, it is near (but not on) the beach, and close to lots of restaurants and more upscale tourist attractions. (In other words, it's not near the college backpacking crowd. Which is good. I did the whole drunken college student thing for a couple of days in Ios, Greece, and that was plenty for me. For life.)

Bedroom looks good...

Complete with our own private pool!

I think I could handle this living room....

We will then be spending 4 nights in Ubud (cultural mecca) in the center of the island, at the Komaneka Resort.

Check out that view!

Overlooking the rice paddies!

In case we tire of the staring at the rice paddies and decide to venture out in the world, there is a lot to do.

Like go to the Sacred Monkey Forest.

Who doesn't want to see monkeys?

And after we leave Ubud, we are headed to Singapore for 4 nights, staying at the Fairmount Singapore (formerly Raffles the Plaza).

The room- pic from

The view (every room comes with a balcony!) - pic from

Needless to say, both of us are psyched for this trip. Seriously. I'm not sure if I'm more excited about the wedding or about the honeymoon. Anyone else feel really excited about the honeymoon? (And anyone else want details about planning such a trip? We did it without a travel agent, and I'd be happy to share my tips.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Registry take 3: the "fun" stuff (and a weekly update)

Having after considering kitchen gear and regular household items, it was time to consider the "fun stuff."

Since before we were officially engaged, Calvin has wanted to register at Crate and Barrel. While I like the store quite a bit, Calvin really likes it. And after registering at our other places, we had not yet seen everyday place settings (dishes and flatware) that we liked.

After all, our current dishes are a mix of china that Calvin got at a huge yard sale for $4 (a real hodgepodge- think 11 plates, 3 bowls, 12 cups and saucers, 7 smaller plates in a really ugly pattern) and a set of dishes my grandmother got on clearance at Marc's when I was graduating college. Our flatware? A current mix of spoons, knives and forks with fake wood handles and various utensils permanently borrowed from our undergrad dining hall and the various college houses in which we lived.

A not great picture of Calvin's yard sale china from here.

We've been thinking that it's time for a bit of an upgrade. So off to Crate and Barrel we went.

The people at Crate and Barrel were friendly and helpful when we needed help, but for the most part we were left on our own, which works for us. After much debate between us, Calvin acquiesced and we did not put square plates on our registry. (Seriously. This was a months-long debate. Calvin wanted square, white dishes. While I would have preferred colorful round dishes, I was willing to get white, so long as they were round. Square dinner plates strike me as being a bit too trendy, and as I have mentioned before, once I decide on something, I have it forever.)

Here are the compromise plates:

Aspen Dishes

It was a compromise, and Calvin did put a square serving platter or two on the registry:

Entree Square Platter

Rectangle Large Plate

We also registered for flatware, glasses, and smaller kitchen items, as well as other serving dishes (and an ice bucket! How much easier hosting parties will be!). Overall, we've been pretty happy with Crate and Barrel; the online registry is much easier to use than Macy's or Williams-Sonoma, and the selection is pretty decent.

I am curious, though, to find out if anyone else had a situation similar to our square/round plate debate. What compromises did you make with your partner about what to put on the registry?

(Weekly exercise update: I did at home strength training one day, ran once, and swam once. Not great, but I've got great aspirations for this upcoming week- and my pants are starting to fit the tiniest bit looser. How are you doing?)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Registry take 2: Household items

After taking care of the kitchen gadgets, it was time to move onto other items.

While it may seems silly to register for things like towels or sheets, we only have one set of sheets that really fits our bed (the other doesn't have pockets deep enough for our mattress), and our towels are basically what we used in college (i.e. they have oh so lovely bleach marks due to clearasil and they don't match. I know that they still function fine without matching, a part of me really would like them to match.)

At the recommendation of our mothers, we also decided to register for china. Calvin and I are inheriting my great-grandmother's china (the set is round plates with a platinum band), but it would also be nice to have a set that is dishwasher safe. I grew up in a house where china and silver were used at least once a month for special occasions, so I knew that I wanted to register for silver as well.

Since we live in Michigan but are getting married in Ohio, we also wanted to make sure that we registered at a place that was in both places. We checked out Bed, Bath and Beyond, but they don't carry silver. Turns out many other places also do not carry silver. So we turned to the ubiquitous Macy's, although neither of us are really big fans of the store.

(I really liked Kaufman's and Marshall Fields better than "the new" Macy's. There's something about Macy's that just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it's the way that they went about the conversion to a single brand. Or how they failed to do market research on the Midwest and were confused when sales were down after the conversion. Or how corporate seems to look down on those of us from the middle of the country. We're not country bumpkins just because we live in "flyover country.")

Figuring that the Macy's at the Somerset Collection would have the largest selection, we made a trip out there.

We arrived at the store, and were directed to their bridal registry department, which included multiple desks with various registry...attendants? experts? helpers? set up to help out registering couples. The woman we spoke with was helpful (and I liked the feature of the registry that suggested how many items to register for based on the number of invited guests), but some things bothered me. Calvin was originally placed as the primary registrant (we've gone out of our way to make it evident that he is an equal part of this) but the woman switched it so that I was the primary registrant, since the primary receives a free subscription to Modern Bride magazine. This was annoying. There was another bride and groom who had come in with a large number of returns, and greater attention was paid to them. (They looked wealthy. They were returning really expensive gifts. And she had a very large engagement ring. I'm not saying that they received better service because they had money, but it appeared that way.)

But we were given a well-made red bag (same as what Miss Bubblgum received), which was nice bonus.

We were also given a scanner gun, and were sent on our merry way.

Choosing sheets and towels was fairly easy, as was choosing our silver pattern.

Rosepoint by Wallace Silversmiths

China was another story. We didn't see anything that really caught our eye. Over the holidays, we kept going back to Macy's (in a whole variety of locations- both in Michigan and Ohio), and just didn't see anything that we loved, which was a bit annoying.

I also learned while visiting a store in Cleveland that no store in the area actually carries silver in stock- which was the whole reason for registering there. This was annoying.

Finally, their online registry, much like Williams-Sonoma, seemed to be down quite a bit of the time. And neither of us really liked that the registry was tied to

On a whim while in Cleveland, we decided to check out another department store for china- and we ended up closing our entire Macy's registry as a result of the china.

Anyone else register at Macy's? What was your experience?

Monday, January 21, 2008

The best part of wedding planning...

is the tasting.

I've been looking forward to the tasting since we got engaged. Seriously- who doesn't like free food? And while Calvin and I had been assured by many people that the food at our venue would be fantastic, we were unconvinced.

Unconvinced, that is, until this past weekend, when we had out tasting.

Marisa, the event coordinator at the hotel, arranged for us to have a tasting for us and our parents. We arrived around noon, and were led to a small meeting room that was set up with a couple of tables; before the food arrived, we looked at a couple of linen options (we're renting deep red table linens) and napkin folds(!).

The dining table, complete with textured burgundy linen.

Another linen possibility- cotton/poly blend burgundy cloth.

Who knew that napkins came in so many folds?

We decided to go for the napkin fold that will contain a menu, since we will be doing menus for the reception. The napkins will remain white, and the menus will be burgundy colored.

And now on to the really good part (the food porn!). The food competition. In these events, we had to decide 4 of 6 hors d'oeuvres, 1 of 2 salads, and 2 of 4 entrees.

First event: hors d'oeuvres.

Clockwise from left: tomato and mozzarella on foccaccia, jumbo shrimp shooters, and fig, gorgonzola and proscuitto in phyllo

Parmesan breaded artichoke with tomato confit.

We also tasted beef spring rolls and mushroom truffle risotto wrapped in phyllo.
Winners: shrimp shooters (the moms' favorite), breaded artichoke (my favorite) and beef spring rolls (the dads' favorite). Rounding out the top 4 was the fig & gorgonzola, minus the prosciutto so our vegetarian friends can enjoy more than one tasty treat. Calvin liked then all.

Then it was salads:

Green salad with poached pears, pecans and gorgonzola

Tomato and mozzarella with arugula
In a surprising upset, the winner is: Tomato and mozzarella (everyone's favorite!)

And then it was time for the entrees:

Pesto chicken with risotto (and check out the pattern on the tablecloth!)

Chicken stuffed with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes

In another upset, winner of the meat eater's entree is: pesto chicken. (All of us were shocked at how tasty it was!)

Eggplant roulade with polenta

Squash and portabello mushroom stack

This was a photo finish race, as both were delicious. As Calvin plans to order the vegetarian entree, we left it up to him. The winner is: eggplant roulade.

And then there were the desserts. As I've mentioned before, we're having creme brulee instead of cake- so we had the opportunity to taste 5 different flavors of creme brulee. The goal was to pick the top three finishers, so that we can serve our guests a trio of creme brulee.



Lemongrass (although it tasted more like lemon.)

Rose (!)


First place winner: Rose.

Almond was a distant last place. The other three flavors- lemongrass, coffee and vanilla- all had their strong supporters among the group, and there were not two that really stood out.

So. We could use your help. Which two flavors out of the three (lemongrass, coffee and vanilla) would you chose to go with rose creme brulee?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Calling it quits over a name?

Now, I've blogged before about how I'm not changing my name- and this decision is one that Calvin 100% completely supports.

(What I have not blogged about extensively is that I actually do follow celebrity gossip).

I know that others have different opinions about name changing, but this, for me, is extreme. According to E! Online's Marc Malkin, Eddie Murphy and Tracey Edmonds have called it quits over her refusal to change her name.

Murphy and Edmonds in presumably happier times.

According to a source, "“He was insisting she change her name. It was a huge issue. They were arguing about it before they left for the wedding.”

I know from discussion on Weddingbee and elsewhere that name changing can be extremely contentious, and that grooms often feel very strongly about this.

How does you groom feel about you changing or keeping your name? Did you consider his feelings when making your decision?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Holy Tuxedo, Batman!"* (and a weekly update)

Image found here

We're getting married!

It occurred to us, well, yesterday, that this is January. We're getting married in May. February, March, April...May. 4 months.

Weren't we just at six months last week? Where did that time go? How the crap are we going to get all of this stuff done in the next couple of months? I'm not talking just about optional things. No, it's things like addressing invitations, booking hair and makeup, and Calvin getting his attire together. Yikes.

I could use some help here (or at least the knowledge that there are others who are feeling totally and completely overwhelmed.) Suggestions? Tips? Anyone else feeling inundated with the number of things that need to be taken care of?

(On the "lose a bit of weight to fit into the dress so it doesn't need alterations" front, this past week was a success and a failure. "Success" because I lost some weight- even if it was due to a stomach bug that I got just before leaving for Mexico. Failure, because I didn't exercise at all due to said stomach bug.)

*quote from here

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Red Carpet" inspiration

I don't know about you, but I really like awards shows. The glamour, the glitz, the cattiness- all of it. Especially since I'm still trying to figure out an updo for my hair at the wedding, and the red carpet seems to be one of the best sources of inspiration.

But the Golden Globes, sadly, were not to be. The Fug Girls, in this post, pretend that the show really did go on, and that Rachel Bilson wore this:

Now, wouldn't this make an absolutely fabulous wedding dress? I'm imagining something along the lines of a more casual, backyard affair. I have no idea who made her dress, but I did a little bit of digging and found some similar dresses:

Silk Charmeuse dress By Watters

Long-sleeved David Meister at Nordstrom's for $368

Calvin Klein at Nordstrom's for $178(!)

Have you found inspiration from your wedding by celebrities? (And anyone else bummed about the Golden Globes?)

Registry take 1: Kitchen Gear

Over the past couple of months, we decided to register for wedding presents at a variety of places. It was important for us (me) to make sure that the items on our list really are things that we want for a long time to come.

(Sidenote: My mom sometimes teases me about how I will search high and low for exactly what I want, and when I find it, that's it. I will have it forever, or until it wears out, whichever comes first.)

We cook a lot- 4+ nights a week, not counting the nights that we do a quick meal courtesy of Trader Joe's frozen food aisle. Our current pots and pans are my grandmother's Revereware, as well as a cast iron skillet and a stockpot that we picked up at a discount closeout store.

Image found here.

Seeing as the pots have outlived my grandmother, I would say that she really was set for life. Too bad that modern Revereware is not nearly as awesome.

My grandmother's pots work fine, but the handles don't always insulate against the heat. We decided on All-Clad.

Image found here.

I've become enamored with All-Clad's saucier pan after hearing rave reviews about it on Indiebride.

Saucier pan available here.

It seems that Williams-Sonoma is the only place that carries that amazing saucier pan our of all the typical registry locations. So of we went to Williams-Sonoma.

When we arrived (6ish on a Saturday evening), the store was pretty empty. There was some confusion when we were filling out the paperwork, but it was eventually straightened out. We had done our research and knew pretty much exactly for what we wanted to register. Only exception was knives.

We also spent close to two hours trying out every single knife in the store. The woman that was helping us was well-informed and patient as we went back and forth between several knives. Eventually, we settled on the Wusthof Culinar- mostly because it felt the best in my hands. (Calvin recognized that between the two of us, I'm the one who is more likely to cut myself.)

Wusthof Culinar.

Calvin did pick out a Shun Kaji Santoku that he loves, and added that as well.

Calvin's dream knife.

We did register for the All-Clad pots and pans, as well as other miscellaneous kitchen items, like cookie sheets, muffin tins and a mortar and pestle. During this time, we were left alone, which suited us just fine.

Overall, our experience setting up a registry at Williams-Sonoma was fine. There was some confusion when we were filling out the paperwork, and our password to update online didn't work at first, but things are set up now. Updating the registry online is a different story; things aren't immediately added or removed, making it difficult to make sure that items were actually added or removed. I've got 2 single wine glasses that we put on the registry that took way more tries than it should have in order to remove them. And the registry server seems to be down periodically- and by periodically, I mean nearly every time I try and update it- which is irritating.

Anyone else want to share their experience with Williams-Sonoma? (And has anyone else having difficulty with the online portion of the registry?)