Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Year of the Dog

I recently read an article in the New York Times about this solar year being a lucky one for weddings. Unlike last year (the Year of the Rooster, which was supposedly really bad for weddings, or big life changes, as I had heard elsewhere also), this Year of the Dog is good. It is especially good b/c this year happens to have two 'lichun,' or beginning of spring. Supposedly this double-spring phenomenon happens every five years and ppl plan nuptials around then (did fiance plan it that way? -- yeah right). I don't really believe this stuff but it is good to know that we're doing something right and that not everything I'm planning has to be an ordeal or has to have ten things wrong with it (or shall I say 450 things wrong w/ it?).

Some other stuff that I have to get done:
- invites
- decide what to do about hair & makeup (I want to check out some dept. store makeup counters)
- get other 2 dresses
- get/make veil (I'm now in the phase of wanting a floor-length one, though I don't know how to sit w/ that on)
1-2 months before (from the Knot Guide)
- try out veil w/ hairstyle
- shape eyebrows
- makeup trial run
- test out at-home masks or pro facial
2 weeks before
- final haircut/trim
- drink lots of water & exercise
- full hair trial
- eat right (eat fruits & veggies; cut out salt & fat -- hope I won't be PMS-ing)
1 week before
- get massage (if can afford it)
- bikini wax and final eyebrow shaping
- final facial (but not day before!)
- final trim for fiance
- avoid salty snacks and alcohol
1 day before
- drink lots of water
- deep-condition hair
- pro manicure & pedicure
- take long, relaxing bath (I'll skip this)

Here's the full article that I mentioned above b/c I know NY Times will archive it and then make you pay to get access (but I put it in tiny print so you can scroll through it if you're not interested and it doesn't make it seem like this post is that long):
Entering the Year of the Wedding

Published: January 29, 2006

WOMEN wishing to marry might try to hurry the process along, slyly dropping hints about rings or blatantly pressuring boyfriends to pop the question. But not Jennifer Chung.

Ms. Chung, who is Chinese-American, held off her wedding plans until just the right moment so she could get married in the Year of the Dog, which begins today, the first day of Chinese New Year.

Her reasoning was based on luck, not logistics. Ms. Chung, 29, an account supervisor at Gigante Vaz Partners, an advertising agency in New York, considers the Year of the Dog to be an auspicious one for weddings. Last year, the Year of the Rooster, was thought to be particularly unlucky for marriages.

The reason many Chinese (and half-Chinese) couples are choosing Dog wedding dates over Rooster ones traces back to the solar calendar. The Year of the Rooster, which began on Feb. 9, 2005, and ended yesterday, did not contain a lichun, or beginning of spring. (Lichun usually falls on Feb. 4, the halfway point between the winter and summer solstices.) A year without a lichun is called a "widow year" or "blind year," explained Theodora Lau, the author of "The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes" (HarperCollins, 2005). "The thinking is that if you get married in a blind year, you didn't look at what you were doing, and you could get divorced next year."

Many couples, both tradition-minded and modern, took notice, postponing wedding plans last year. (According to articles in the Asian press, would-be brides and bridegrooms in China shunned the Rooster in large numbers, often leaving wedding-related businesses there with empty reception halls.)

The Year of the Dog, which will end Feb. 17, 2007, will span two lichun, Ms. Lau said. "It's very lucky to see spring in the beginning of the year and in the end. A lot of people would love to get married in a double-spring year."

In late 2004 Ms. Chung's mother first mentioned the significance of the calendar to her daughter. "It stuck in my mind," Ms. Chung recalled. She then relayed the concern to her boyfriend, Jay Wilkins, who had already asked Ms. Chung's parents for her hand in marriage. Fortunately he was on board for a Year of the Dog wedding. They'll walk the aisle in March.

Ms. Lau said this phenomenon, which occurs every five years, has long drawn couples to the altar. "Ancient matchmakers would tell parents who were paying for the weddings, 'This is a lucky, prosperous year.' " she said. "It was a way to draw in business."

It still is. Albert Chu, manager of the Golden Bridge Restaurant in Chinatown in New York, says "the two springtimes" ought to create a surge in wedding banquets. "We've had a lot of calls asking to reserve the party room," he said.

Johnson Lau, owner of Highlight Studio Wedding Center, a Chinatown wedding planner, said his business has recovered from the 20 percent dip in bookings he experienced last year. "We've already booked 50 for this coming year," he said.

For other Chinese-American fiancées, marrying in the Year of the Dog is not as clear a choice as it might seem. Peggy Pei-Yi Hwan, 32, a research analyst at Standard & Poor's in New York, is also planning a Year of the Dog wedding. Upon reflection, a Rooster date would have been cause for some concern. "My family is superstitious, and I've inherited that to an extent," she said. "Part of me is relieved that I'm not getting married in a year that is considered bad luck."

She and her fiancé, Geordie Hebard, settled on a March wedding, but once a date was determined, the couple was unexpectedly whipsawed by another cultural and religious issue: Lent.

"We had a hard time finding someone who would marry us," said Ms. Hwan, who was raised as a Protestant. "It's considered a sacred time, so a lot of conservative Episcopalian ministers won't perform the service." The couple has secured a willing officiant for their March 4 ceremony, luckily.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Budget

I've been reading "The Knot Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World" and it's been very helpful. [I also finally finished reading through a whole stack of (very heavy) magazines that a friend lent me.] I like that, since The Knot is based in Manhattan, they include New York-centric stuff like the idea that the average price of a wedding in metro areas cost twice as much as the national average. Very helpful so far has been the guidelines on how much to spend for each of the many aspects of a wedding so this weekend we discussed the budget (were we supposed to discuss this earlier?). Here is their breakdown (with my modifications):
  • Banquet (50%): cake, Pig Day stuff, cake cards, drinks
  • Photography & Videography (12%): photo, video, albums (though we could probably postpone the cost of the album until later b/c it takes that long to create)
  • Attire (10%): wedding dress & alterations, shoes, Chinese dress, evening gown, veil, accessories, groom's attire, hair and makeup
  • Ceremony (3%): officiant, location fee, programs
  • Stationery (3%): invites, postage, thank yous
  • Music (8%): ceremony music (organist/quartet?) and reception music (band/DJ?)
  • Flowers (8%): bride's bouquet, bridesmaids' bouquets, boutonnieres, ceremony decorations
  • Gifts (3%): favors, gifts for BMs (aside from their dresses) and GMs
  • Rings (3%)
  • Transportation (2%): rides to ceremony and banquet, parking
  • + 5% extra for miscellaneous stuff: marriage license, unforeseen costs, etc.
It is going to be a crazy amount of money! I'm not sure if we're saving enough money. :( On the brighter side, we met with 2 more photographers this weekend and I think we're close to making a decision. I also re-met with one during the week that we met last weekend to see some proofs. The guy that I like was very friendly (seemed very honest) and has been doing this for 16 years. He started out at one of those Chinese "Mc-Wedding" places and the stories he told back the feeling that I got when we visited Eternal Wedding out in Flushing. He said that ppl would ask for specific photographers so when he went out to shoot a wedding, they'd tell him "Today your name is 'Robert'" or some photographers would call last minute and say that they're sick and can't make it so they're sending their backup and then they'd go shoot another wedding. Similarly, when we went to Eternal Wedding, I asked about a photographer (Tony) that someone recommended. I thought it was a long shot to ask b/c the person who recommended him said that he only does the studio portraits yet this woman trying to sell us stuff said of course we could have Tony. And she hesitated, ever so slightly in the affirmative, when I asked her if all these pictures that she was showing me was by Tony. Anyway, this photographer that I do like was also used by two other ppl that I know and his price is not bad. He also showed us a sample of a very nice album (the Queensberry) which we saw at a previous photographer. The other photographer that we met with seemed a little green and I'm not crazy about her album choices (they seemed like the ones that you can get through Ofoto). But she did seem very eager and nice.

It's Chinese New Year!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Photographer's Progress

This past weekend we met with two photographers. Some may wonder, why, weren't you pretty much set on that front? Yes, two months ago we were. Even a week ago, we were. But we procrastinated and the pair that we had in mind booked another wedding for that day (they weren't exactly kind about it either, so if you want a photojournalistic style, do NOT go to Leikness-Dougherty, unless you want to be in the middle of negotiations, even setting up another meeting, only to find out in an email that they booked the spot already). I didn't exactly push for fiance to get the ball rolling with them b/c I wasn't enthralled with their portfolio and in the back of my mind I always thought that I'd be satisfied with one of those Chinese packages if things didn't work out. But in any case, losing them threw us in a frenzy to find a new photographer at this late stage. This also worried us about the co-op that we've been looking at/dragging out the process on (but that's another story for another entry). So I spent an entire day combing through the list of WPJA photographers in NYC, emailing the ones that had an OK price range and glancing through their websites to make sure that I am OK with their style and work. A lot of them had very plain or hard to navigate sites which made it a little difficult, or they didn't post much helpful info (like pricing) so I just sent a flurry of emails. A bunch of photographers responded back with pricing structures (it's such a chore to compare such different packages) and one even sent a couple of links. Surprisingly, a few could not point me to additional work online that they've done but asked us to meet with them. A few had already booked for our date but referred me to other ppl (all those referrals were dead ends b/c they were also booked). After a day of emailing, I set up appointments for 2 photographers for last Saturday and hopefully 2-3 additional ones for this coming week.

So this past Saturday was crazy hectic. After taking BM out for a birthday brunch in the Theater District, we went down to 14th St. on the East Side (the subway ride was really fast but fiance was unimpressed and we took buses for the rest of our trip -- he dislikes the subway for some reason) and then went back to the West Side, up to 28th St. We got to the first photographer a little early so we went to a nearby McDonald's to use their bathroom and work out some budget issues. By the time we got the bathroom open, it was nearly time to go so budget issues still hover over us. Anyway, this photographer lives in a pretty nice condo (or maybe co-op) and it really makes me wonder how much money these ppl make. It seems like a tough way to make a living (working these long days on the weekend and then developing prints, albums, etc.) but like the previous photographers, her apartment was pretty spacious (and you can't beat the location -- prime Manhattan real estate). And I can't believe how much trust they have -- letting strangers into their house. So this woman seemed very friendly but she only showed us a few albums with a couple images in each, which really didn't stand out to me. It surprised me b/c she said she's been published in a lot of magazines and major newspapers like the NY Times. But I guess her style is more documentary-esque and the images seemed kinda static. She gave us a copy of the contract, including prices. She seemed pretty reasonable but I'd like to see more of her work. Hopefully I can meet her to see some proofs sometime soon (she didn't have any at the time, which also surprised me).

Then off to see the other one in Chelsea. We passed through the Meatpacking District, which I've never really walked through b/c it used to be so sketchy but it is now like SoHo of yesteryear. This other photographer's studio was in a more shady section though. We were kinda early but had nowhere to hang out but inside his studio so he set us up with some albums to look through as he finished up taking some headshots for an actress. He told us that this is a busy time for him b/c it's the pilot season and many actors want new headshots. While we waited, the makeup artist that he usually works with greeted me (she claimed that she didn't want to freak me out in case I heard some noises in the back but I think she also wanted to hype up the photographer and possibly drum up some business for herself but she only does last minute stuff). Anyway, the albums he showed us were not bad but I thought the stuff he showed me online was a LOT better. You could tell his specialty is headshots b/c the stuff he had of the brides up close was fantastic. The rest of his work is pretty good too. I think his prices are a bit high but he was helpful in suggesting places downtown to take nice pictures, like by the bridges, the courthouses (the steps or with the columns), the greenery in Battery Park, or on the Staten Island ferry! I really like that idea b/c as he says, it's completely open and you get a full view of the City. I think you can also get some interesting breezy shots. He also suggested walking from the ceremony location to the reception site (if we keep both in Ctown), which I had always envisioned b/c you can get interesting pictures and you're sort of on parade. :) Looking through his albums, I also got the idea of wearing red slippers during the reception, probably with my Chinese dress. The couple in the book also took a cab instead of a limo, which I've been trying to convince fiance about too b/c I think it shows New York flavor and you don't have to rent out a limo (which I find kinda tacky). You could tell the photographer's quite artistic and so, maybe a little bit cocky (unlike the other photographer, he said he probably wouldn't do a location scout b/c he's probably familiar w/ the area already). It also didn't seem to register with him that one of the places may have a lot of big windows so lighting may be an issue.

The first photographer also gave us ideas on where to take nice pictures. She suggested the Maritime Museum at the Seaport where there is a balcony that overlooks the Brooklyn Bridge. Hopefully we'll be able to come to a decision about photographers within the next week or so. Because of all this, I'm finding that I have no time to do stuff that I really want to do, like the Winter Festival at Central Park (I always miss that every year) and Fortunoff's Wedding Survival Party (kinda like a contest with various games where you can win stuff and like the Target thing, to get you to start a registry with them).

Other decisions that need to be made soon:
- honeymoon
- ceremony location (so I can get the darned invites printed out!! This also affects who will officiate, which is another thing that I have to gripe about some other time!!)
- shoes so that I can get the dress properly fitted to length
- registry
- BMs' dresses
- music
- flowers

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Information overload

This weekend has been quite eventful. It started out on Friday with the 'Big To Do' event sponsored by Target's Club Wedd at Cipriani, which is a close walk from work for me. They had decorated the place as if it were a fancy wedding, complete with a greeter in a top hat outside. Inside huge flower displays greeted us, along with the signature light blue banners advertising the event. A bunch of ppl gave us a program, a small spiral notepad and a pen to take notes. So we walked around and viewed their displays. There were table settings, kitchen stuff, bedding, patio furniture, vacuums and other stuff you'd want to add to your registry. They set up laptops and other stations where you could set up your registry right then and there. As we walked around admiring stuff there were ppl who'd stop us and encourage us to start a registry (which was somewhat annoying). There was also a section that showcased cakes and another for flowers. A person from The Knot started off the events with some general wedding tips. As the evening went on, experts in the field of interior design, vintage style, hairdressing (Umberto), design (Issac Mizrahi), outdoor design, flowers (David Stark, I think), makeup (Sonia Kashuk) shared their ideas. Most of these ppl also happen to be associated with Target and so, they pushed their products. I think the most helpful stations were the flower guy, the vintage dude, and the hairdresser. The flower guy showed us the right way to hold the bouquet: with two hands, down low, don't want to cover your waist or your chest, and slightly tipped forward to cover your hands (unless you have a cascade bouquet or one of those long ones -- you want to hold those at a slight angle to the side). He said that you want to showcase your waist (by bending your elbows slightly so that your arms sort of frame your waist) so you shouldn't get a huge thing, especially if you're petite. He said you would hold the flowers with two hands and your father's arm would loop through your arm. I think that I would want both my parents to walk me down the aisle so his suggestion was to have them each hold your elbow. He also gave other tips like incorporating your stories into your flowers, like a guy who always gave the girl a single white rose every Friday while he was courting her and on their wedding day she walked down the aisle with a single white rose and gave it to him. He also said for those ppl who think they're not really the flower-holding type, then you could go real simple with 3 flowers or something. In the end, his new book was part of the goody bag. Looking through the book, I saw a nifty idea of holding a Bible with your flowers (one way is tucked inside the Bible, like a bookmark). I think I will steal this idea, especially since the first 'non-gift' fiance gave me was a little (maybe not so little) blue Bible (also covers the 'something blue' element). I think this look only works with a couple of flowers so I've got some thinking to do. I'm also trying to remember the first flowers that fiance gave me (we were walking past one of those flower stands and he tricked me by asking 'What kind of flowers do you think my mother would like?' and after he bought them, he gave them to me and I was kinda mad b/c we weren't really on a date). Anyway, the vintage dude was helpful b/c he said you can get stuff sewn into dresses by good tailors so that you don't necessarily need a special bra or other special undergarments. This is especially important b/c a camera flash will expose stuff underneath the white. He also said to skip the tiara (I guess b/c it's not a 'cool' vintage look) and then the hair guy afterwards said to definitely have a tiara, and a big one, haha. The hair guy was helpful also in saying it's better to have a 'soft' look, not with all that hairspray and stuff. That way you can also let down your hair for the reception and you've got another great look. This was a pretty interesting event to be at. They also passed yummy h'odeuvres (sp?) like a lobster paste in a phyllo dough shell, smoked salmon on brioche, asparagus wrapped in proscuitto, and two cakes. One was okay but the other was to die for: chocolate cake with strawberry mouse in between and whipped cream frosting with bits of toffee on top and caramelized sugar so that there were hints of creme brulee. The goody bag was also pretty cool: a light blue canvas bag stuffed with the flower book, a shampoo set from Umberto (and sold at Target), a Target silicone pad, a set of blue Post-Its, and a lip gloss compact from Sonia Kashuk, which is cool b/c on one side there is a slot to hold your ID and credit card.

On Saturday I went to Pinpoint Tailoring on the Upper East Side (it was raining, of course) where the woman was extremely helpful and encouraging. She showed how the bustle would be like (it would actually cover the rip), how the ripped strap would be pulled up, how she would sew in cups so that I wouldn't have to buy a special bra. She also assured me that the rip on the side would be covered up with beading that she'd remove from the train. All this for $425 she said. She was very friendly too. Since I was in the area, I also went to Madame Paulette, which seems to be a chain. The seamstresses that came out didn't seem to be that assuring (they pondered a bit and brought out someone else) but they came to the conclusion of using this lace that she had. It was the same color as the dress and she cut out two flowers out of it to match. It looked decent and she said they'd add some extra beading to make it fit in. In the end, she assured me that it wouldn't be a problem but it'd cost $650. I said that I'd have to think about it and she said it's fine but bring it back about 3 months before I need it. So I am feeling better about this darned dress....

That evening, we finally got one item completely done! Tai Pan Bakery is having a sale on their 'bing' ('cake', or 'cookie') cards. These cards are tucked into the invitations of the bride's side -- not sure why. We got 150 cards in total. It was freaky to have to withdraw that kind of money from the ATM, count it, then walk over and buy it. The woman selling it to us was very serious and set up everything for us step by step. She handled FFIL's questions without much conversation but with automated answers (ignoring his humor). After she counted out all the cards, she put everything on the counter for us to count. She was like a well-oiled machine, plopping down things very calculatedly, including a f'ugly digital watch as a gift for purchasing so many.

Despite completing this task, I'm starting to feel the pressure now. We still have a LOT to do and our available weekends are slowly being eaten up. With all the tips and ideas I garnered from the tailors and other experts this weekend, I've also been looking through a huge stack of magazines that a friend who recently got married gave me. So much to absorb and think about (so many great ideas to sift through!) I'm feeling quite overwhelmed. Some of the stuff we've started on but reading this new stuff is making me wonder if I should've done things differently. And I'm still wondering if we have an overarching theme or something that can help us narrow things down. And I think we need to start delegating tasks to ppl to prepare them to help us, but still have to come up with that list of tasks! Can I get an 'aiya!'?

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Some questions answered

Thanks to my friend, who sent me some quotes from Rosemary Gong's Good Luck Life: The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture, I see some reason to the madness.
The future bride's mother and father could receive money in red envelopes for "shoes" and "pants" respectively, because in Cantonese the word "shoes" is similar sounding to "harmony", and "pants" sounds like "fortune." The groom could also give unmarried older brothers or sisters of the bride "pants" or "skirt" money in red envelopes for marrying over their birth order.

Not to be forgotten, the groom receives gifts too: a pair of pants, a pair of shoes, a belt and a new wallet containing ninety-nine dollars, and the family's wedding gift of Chinese jewelry. The future bride will often send her fiancé a watch as part of the jewelry collection.
This confirms that it is NOT a suit but just a pair of pants (though I wonder if there are regional ancestral differences and what are Gong's sources). These explanations are interesting and the other parts sound good enough (I've never knew all this stuff) that I ordered a copy for myself and I can't wait to find out more. Sidenote: I got fiance a watch already. :)

And the significance of the number 9 (I always thought that the groom had to bribe the female guards that protect the bride on the wedding day with an amount with the number 9 in it because it made the number look bigger, like when things are $9.99 and you think it's not quite $10...):
Nine - connotes long life because of its similarity to the word for enduring. The Temple of Heaven in Beijing incorporates many nines in its design: The upper terrace of the altar is ninety feet tall: the platform of the temple has nine concentric circles of marble slabs. Even the marble balusters are in multiples of nine.
Doubling the digits, such as 5-5, 7-7, and 9-9, is considered good luck.
Pairing the items doubles the fortune.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006


I've only briefly thought about cakes (it's probably too early anyway) but I remember when I saw this episode of Gilmore Girls, that I loved this cake that Sookie made for her wedding. It's so beautiful with the edible sugar flowers (this was the first time that I saw such realistic edible flowers). Unfortunately, sugar flowers are very expensive since they are handmade and I probably won't want a yellow cake so this is probably going to be filed in the 'nice, but not for me' category.
However, Sookie has made other cakes on the show. The one on the right, she made this past season for an upcoming wedding at the Inn. Though I don't care so much for the design (too square and modern), what the cake is made of sounds delish. She calls it her "dark chocolate s'mores wedding cake."

This cake at the left, was made for Lorelai and Max. Unfortunately, that didn't work out and Sookie had to scrap the whole cake (I don't remember if it showed her destroying it). This also may not be a good omen for our cake. But I noticed that this cake is very similar to the first pic (maybe they used the same form and just painted it?), even down to the tiger lilies.

Here's a cake (not made by Sookie) at the Gilmore vow renewal (see in the background; click picture for enlargement). I like this cake's simple design but what I really like is the cake topper -- an elegant silver monogram. I like how the big "G" is in the center, flanked by a smaller "E" (for Emily) and "R" (for Richard).
I am pretty sure that there were other cakes on the show but I have to find the pics.

So to share a little story about the cake hunt so far (not that we've really been looking). After a dinner one night in the Village, we strolled towards Veniero's for dessert. On our way there, the cakes in the corner shop down the street, Something Sweet, caught our eye. I had always wondered about this little bakery, especially since they are so close to Veniero's, how the competition must be difficult. In the window, we saw pretty little cakes (fake ones of course) and a sheet of paper advertising the prices for wedding cakes. We decided to go in. Fiance asked some questions about the cakes and the proprietor came out to discuss it with us. She was very nice and friendly, asking us about our wedding, when it is, how many people, etc. With so many people (this was back when the number was 300)
she recommended that that we get a small tiered cake for show and then have sheet cakes made for the rest of the people (besides, she doesn't have the capacity to make a tiered cake big enough for that many people -- everything is made in that tiny little shop). She also told us about Chinese couples that she has dealt with, how you can have three layers or five layers, but not four (sounds like "death" in Cantonese). Since we're having a fall wedding, she said that she could make something with cranberry (her eyes lit up as she said this). Recently, she made a cranberry cake for someone. All of a sudden, she took out a tart and pushed it across the counter for us. She told us to take it. We couldn't and she said she knows how hard it is for young couples, so we should take it. We said that we wanted to buy something and even said that we don't really like tarts so that she wouldn't force it on us. So she offered something else. We tried to refuse so we said we'd buy something else. Somehow we got to talking again (she recommended French restaurants to try, some similar bakeries to check out). She also told us how she can make any filling, except cannoli because it's Italian and that's what Veniero's does. So drawing the conversation to a close, fiance said we'd buy some other stuff and get something for my mother. She seemed to agree -- we got a mango mousse, tiramisu mousse, and a chocolate cranberry tart. At one point she had also shoved a brownie bite across the counter, sticking it into a white paper bag for us and insisted we take it. We were about to pay as she was wrapping things up. Then a guy came in and was very dismayed to learn that we got the last mango mousse. When he walked out, she refused to take our money. The guy walked back in after consulting with his wife and ordered something else. The woman said "We don't take tips" so as to not give the other guy any ideas that she was giving stuff out for free. After more insisting (and after the guy paid and left) we resigned to taking this boxful of stuff. We felt so bad and left with a business card (but no price sheet b/c I think her prices are flexible). Good thing is also that she can make the cake with two weeks' notice (though we would probably tell her earlier to work out the details). Afterwards, since it was fairly early, we stopped by the Verrazano Bridge and enjoyed these pastries. We didn't have spoons for the mousse so at first we were licking it bit by bit. Then we decided to break the chocolate tart and use that to scoop up the mango goodness and that made it so much better! The cranberry really complements the chocolate well and mixed with the mango, it really made all the flavors that much more pronounced. So yummy!!!