Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The ceremony details: programs

Our ceremony program was a last-minute rush job with SO MANY issues. The first problem was the complicated layout that I thought of -- I wanted it to be longer than it is wide, similar to our invitations, and I somehow figured out how to fit everything on 11x17 paper (with the intention of later cutting it). The layout had sections of upside down text, sideways text, etc. and it was difficult to format it all. To add to it, it was really not ideal to print on 11x17 paper b/c not many printers can print this large size. Someone also planted the idea of a tabbed program in my head 2 weeks prior, even though I told myself it'd be too complicated. I ended up convincing myself that it would only take an extra 2 cuts to make it a tabbed program, which I thought would significantly up the 'wow' factor, but which increased the agita 8-fold.

I also wanted a bi-lingual (another complication I should have done without) program where it's English on one side and Chinese when you flip it to the other side (complete with Chinese tabs). It took forever to get the Chinese translation of everything -- I asked at least 3 different ppl for their help and they each had different ideas about stuff (and one person even made mistakes that someone else had to catch). I couldn't ask my parents about this b/c they've never been to a church service, much less a wedding ceremony, other than the tea variety (not that it stopped them from giving input about the wrong word being used on someone else's program). And I didn't want to ask the resident church secretary b/c he's quite annoying and I was under the impression that we'd have to pay him, which I was set against b/c I knew that even though he was invited to the wedding, he wouldn't give a gift (and I was right). I think I got all the wording just 1 week before the wedding -- talk about last minute!

Yet another mistake was desiring ivory-colored paper to not only match the invites but also b/c white isn't a good Chinese wedding color. I ordered the paper from OfficeDepot (only place that seems to carry 11x17 ivory paper -- other places have canary or blue, but no ivory!) and it took forever to get to me (from the incompetent out-sourced ppl who took the order to the slow delivery, it was a nailbiting experience whether I'd get the paper in time).

Aside from the planning, there was also a PRINTING SOAP OPERA! Like with the invites, I had issues printing the Chinese, so I had to lay everything out in Illustrator. However, b/c I am just a novice, I couldn't set the margins to print correctly and my friend offered to set up the layout using tables in Word. So I had to re-input everything into Word (and different Word versions give different results) and eventually print it out at work after-hours. The printer though, did not completely cooperate and I couldn't print all the double-sided pages. So I printed out the 2 separate pages and double-sided it at Dear's workplace, only to discover that we hadn't printed it correctly (some stuff didn't line up so when we went to cut it, things were cut off). So we printed the stuff all over again the next night and brought it to Kinko's to cut the next morning (they charge about $2/cut, though we got differing prices when we called different locations, which we were fine with, rather than cutting each one with a paper cutter at home as we did with the invites) . However, the MORON didn't listen to my instructions and ended up making the cut in the wrong place, cutting all the tabs off! So she re-made the copies using my last original but it not only came out ugly (it had all the lines that I had drawn on it to signify where to cut), but was missing Chinese text (which I didn't know until MIL started folding the programs). Totally frustrated, I decided to make the margins really wide on all the pages so that there wouldn't be a chance of cutting things off. This kinda made things a bit ugly but we finished printing it all out that night and rushed to Kinko's before it closed to explain how the person totally screwed everything up. This time, the guy actually very carefully cut everything up (he even stacked pieces of cardboard on top of the paper so that the blade wouldn't rip the top layers of paper) and things came out OK (nothing cut off, though some things came really close to the edge). He apologized for his dumb and barely educated cohorts who don't have any hopes of advancing in life and wished us well for the wedding. Then I went home and my mother and cousin volunteered to fold all the programs that night. :)

And of course, we ran into more problems when tying the programs together with ribbon. I bought 3 rolls of ivory satin ribbon from AC Moore a while ago, thinking that would be enough. And I have leftovers from the invitations (not satin, but would match) for "just in case." But when assembling everything, I didn't bring the extra ribbon and we ended up cutting up strips of leftover tulle and using that to tie everything together. The tulle gave the programs a different look (kinda airy and fluffy) but it did the job. When in a bind (no pun intended), remember that tulle can be versatile and cheap!

But alas, everything was done by Thursday (albeit less than perfectly) and I could focus on other things for Friday. If I had to do it over again, I would have allotted a full month to the program and I would have either cut out the Chinese part or asked for translations a lot sooner.
An imperfect picture of an imperfect program

When flipped over, the Chinese side

My favorite part of all was the centerfold, which I thought of just 2 days before we were to go to print. At first we were going to put the words of the musical interlude in the middle ("The Water Is Wide," sung by many artists through the years, including Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, & the Indigo Girls at the Lilith Fair in the late 90s) but then we weren't sure whether or not we'd be able to get the sheet music for the trio to play it and upon closer inspection the words had a negative slant to it. Then I read on someone's blog about including a timeline of your relationship and I kept thinking in my head how there were times where our lives intersected but we either didn't see or notice it until much later. I imagined this as 2 ropes intertwining back and forth and to make it more romantic, I decided to draw it as a ribbon. And the cherry on top of it all was when I thought of using the old saying "tie the knot" and illustrating that with the 2 ribbons being tied together and forming one wider ribbon. If I had more time, I would have made the ribbon illustration a lot neater and nicer (like drawing it better in Illustrator and making the heart wider so that the ribbon used to bind all the sheets together would fit within the heart, instead of seemingly cutting it off).
(click on image to enlarge)

programs in basket (after everything was over but before we cleaned up the dining area from all the DIY)

You can see the wicker basket when full of all the programs (including the tulle-topped ones) in this picture (never mind the somewhat f'ugly tablecloth that we got at the last minute from the 99-cent store -- it's still 10 times better than the naked table by itself):

Another part that I liked about the ceremony/program was one of the readings that I chose, "Passionate Shepherd to His Love" by Christopher Marlowe. I like the theme of love and Christian imagery that it incorporates and I thought it'd be cool to actually use something that I learned in college (English major geek speaking). It was surprisingly a lot easier to find the Chinese translation of this than to translate the other stuff. Besides the help of BM in locating translations on the Web, I factchecked the translation by going to the Donnell Library on 53rd Street, which carries a lot of foreign language books (the biggest collection in the NYPL system). Then I had a reader do this in Mandarin (since I think that dialect sounds nicer, is more formal, and that's what a lot of my side of the family speaks) while the other Chinese readings were in Cantonese (for Dear's side of the family).

Monday, October 30, 2006

How it all came down: the afternoon

As I mentioned in a previous post, we got a 1960s checker cab instead of the usual limo option. Despite my mother and aunt's protestations about not having an "appropriate" method of transportation and the extra finagling for rides, I loved this part of the wedding and didn't regret it at all. It was a great conversation piece (some of our friends still talk about it to this day) and it made a wonderful prop for photos (even for other ppl getting married that day who stopped by to snap a photo, the driver told us). I think the cab, quintessentially New York, was also cool enough to stand alone and not need any of the excess decorations that ppl sometimes put on limos, just a simple "Just Married" written on the back window by the driver after the ceremony. The cab is also roomy (though not roomy enough for all the bridal party + photographer & his assistant so FIL ended up getting some van to drive them b/c BIL didn't want to drive) and a head-turner. Along the way, ppl honked or waved, with a huge smile on their face (I'd like to think they were honking for me, but I think it was really for the cab). And for a few moments on one day in my life, I savored the attention (but once I was out of the cab, it was a different story).
Because the cab was a few minutes late (which he apologized profusely for and also offered to stay a little later at the end to make up for it), waiting for it to bring us to the church was tense, since the alloted time to get to the church was already tight on the schedule. It did, however, give me a chance to call Dear (who arrived at the church hours earlier), which was nice, without ruining the seeing the bride beforehand thing. The cab's driver (totally forgot his name already), was really nice, though a bit inexperienced about driving downtown, in my opinion. There was crazy traffic that afternoon and it took us more than half an hour to get where we needed to go (it should take only 10 minutes) and he took a wrong turn on Centre Street and ended up making a U-turn. Of course he apologized profusely for this and I don't hold this against him in any way but I am just relaying events as they happened. And so that you don't think I'm just hypercritical, I'll add he was nice enough to go out of the car and get me a drink from the trunk during a red light. Other than the lateness, everything with the cab was wonderful. All this for $400 for 4 hours (includes tip already) -- not bad, if I do say so myself. (The one limo company we contacted b/c of my mother's concerns quoted $450 for the same amount of time and he was already very busy for our day, and could only *try* to squeeze us in.) Anyway, if you want to make a unique statement (there are other cars available besides checker cabs), the owner of Film Cars is super nice (but was unfortunately busy on that Saturday for some movie shoot -- who would put Denzel Washington ahead of me?!) and I highly recommend them.

Running late into the church

Throughout the day, everything felt very surreal, like I wasn't there and I was watching this person do everything. It didn't sink in until much later, like towards the end of the banquet. So I barely remember anything about the ceremony and things just magically happened thanks to our hard-working helpers -- my bouquet was brought to me, everyone got the right flowers, the guests were seated without any major problems. I just remember thinking to myself that I didn't want to be late and to keep everyone waiting (but I was -- sorry!), then everyone walked down the aisle like they should have (still waiting on pics of that) and when it was my turn it felt very weird to have all eyes on me. It was nice to catch glimpses of ppl I recognized (the sight of some ppl actually made me smile) and see them beaming at me, almost like I was a queen for a day.

I remember chastising my father for stepping on my dress (he kept doing it, which made it difficult for me to walk, with all the stop and go) and then the three of us (I wanted both my parents to walk me down the aisle) stood at the front until the reverend gave them the sign to kiss me and sit down. People tell me that my parents had trouble reaching me (since they are shorter and I was wearing 3" heels) and that it seemed like they didn't want to let me go (there was a long pause when they were supposed to sit down but they didn't, even though the minister motioned for them to -- I think they forgot what they were supposed to do, or never really understood).
Then before I knew it, the readers did their thing (and more, much to my dismay -- one of them decided to add his own little speech); we listened to the trio playing "Ode to Joy" (I have no idea who came up with that song, b/c I don't think I requested it, but I didn't mind it); rings were exchanged (repeating the vows were weird too, like taking on a huge responsibility); and we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife. There was then the receiving line (bizarre, but nice to see so many ppl, even ppl I haven't seen in 20 years or so) and I was so parched I don't know how I was able to smile and chat with so many ppl.
Part of the bridal party on the other side of the receiving line (best pic I have of them -- too bad it's fuzzy in some places)

The petal toss felt really short and then we returned inside and were tortured with a portrait session that someone set up without my permission (I didn't really want to do this, especially not at the church, with daylight burning). What pissed me off the most was that the order was totally biased towards Dear's family (all his extended family, and I think even church groups, took pictures before my family got the chance to). I think they even called up our co-workers (none of whom went up b/c it's not really appropriate) and ended the session (someone said, "OK, that's it!") before Dear reminded them that my family hadn't gone up yet. But my inner bridezilla didn't rear her ugly head and it ended soon enough and we were whisked away to Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO to take some pics with just the bridal party.
the paparazzi

Peeking out to say hello to the fans

It was a gorgeous day to take pictures outside and it was kinda fun to do so (I spotted 4 other groups taking pictures at the park too). After a while though, it did get tiring. At least Dear and I were able to amuse ourselves with the photographer's constant demands for kisses (some poses were really silly) and that forced at least one of us to smile. :) One thing I noticed though is that my eyes are always closed! Good thing the photographer was able to see this on his digital camera and could make us re-take the shot. Because of the photo session at church, we didn't have time to go on the Staten Island Ferry (especially sad for Dear since he loves the water) and we just stayed in DUMBO, which wasn't too shabby either.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

How it all came down: the morning of

We woke up relatively early (definitely not as early as the day before) to get our hair done in Ctown. Of course, before that we gorged ourselves on the breakfast downstairs in the hotel then we were on our way. I think we were pretty close to the schedule that BM wrote out the night before and we got to Ctown before the salons were even open. It was eerie to see a place that's usually bustling be so quiet. But even though it was quiet, my cousin still had some trouble finding parking. Anyway, my 3 BMs and I went to Amy's Salon on Pell Street while my mother went to her usual hair dresser (she got a perm weeks earlier but got her hair blown out for the day). Amy was late but 2 other hairdressers were already there when we arrived a little after 9. They started working immediately while I waited for Amy. The BMs had decided to all do their hair with curls, half up, half down. I'm not sure how they exactly felt about the end result (I think they turned out really preeety though), but I don't think they were exactly fond of the hairdressers.

As for me, I was OK with my hair and not so crazy about the ethics of the hairdresser (more on that later). From the back, I really liked how my hair turned out. Unfortunately, she also left out these stray tendrils, like vines in a pumpkin patch on the side of my head that I didn't care for. When she curled them, it didn't look so bad, but I kept thinking to myself that I'd pin those up once I got the chance. But I never did until way after, at the banquet. In the meantime, the hair kept getting flatter and flatter so that in some pics I look like a Chinese gangsta b* from the 80s gone wild, with 2 tails (OK, more like I had these weird stray hairs that looked quite messy, which is a shame b/c otherwise the pic would be perfect). I also liked how she did the front of my hair (she created a bump in the front to help elongate my wide face) but with the addition of the headpiece, it got flattened out a bit. The veil did not help either (which I put on in the hotel, in a rush, without supervision). Anyway, the headpiece was positioned in such a way so as to be easily removable for the dress change, plus she showed me (more like BM) how to put the flowers in that we brought over for the second dress, which I appreciated. Overall, I thought going to the salon was a good deal when compared to the many other non-Chinese hairdressers that I spoke with (which ranged from $100 for just hair to $400 for both hair & makeup). However, if you were to compare to other places in Ctown, the prices at Amy's are just average (they'd be considered cheaper if she didn't play her tricks on me).
Wow, I have natural highlights!

how to add the flowers later (sans headpiece)

I won't go into the crazy details about pricing but just know that I think the usual price for a bride's hair is $35 while the price for the BMs should be $25. She ended up charging me $35 for my hair and $30 for the BMs' hair. Though it is somewhat par for the course with a Chinese business -- I feel like they are always scamming -- it's still not cool. And she tried to scam me even more by giving me back $10 less in change, which became her tip (but would have been much less if I had my druthers). Prior to this, I loved the haircut that she gave me but b/c of her disgusting behavior, once again, I'll have to find a new person to cut my hair (and I do need one now that I don't have to grow out my hair!!). :(

AMY'S SALON: B for hair, F for ethics
looks OK in the hotel, I guess

After this, one BM, my mother, and I hailed a cab and headed back to the hotel. We were only slightly late to meet my makeup artist, Alaine, who had already set everything up in the hotel room. The other 2 BMs stayed behind to finish up their hair and then went to a friend's place to get ready.

I met Alaine one day when the new Sephora opened up by where I work. That day I was sorta thinking about buying stuff to do my own makeup for the wedding, but also keeping an eye out for potential makeup artists. I think a part of me wanted to get an Asian artist b/c our features and skin are different, so I befriended Alaine (I liked the makeup that she had put on herself) immediately after she was done helping someone else. Lo and behold, I found out she was indeed a makeup artist (not just a salesperson) and I asked her to send me a portfolio. I could tell she was just starting out with weddings (her entire portfolio was just models and actors) so her prices were affordable, at just $50 for the bride and $40 for all others (that includes travel to wherever you are). Those unused to the world of wedding markup might not think this is such a great deal, but I've been quoted anywhere from $75 to $200 (also the $400 quote for hair & makeup that I mentioned above), and that's not including travel expenses. Unfortunately, I believe her prices have gone up, so if you're interested, you'll have to contact her directly at alaine83 at gmail.com. Anyway, after I found Alaine, I did some other research (I am so indecisive that even after I make a decision, I reconsider it again and again) and I thought her work comparable to even the $200 makeup artist from Bobbi Brown that lots of ppl have raved about on their blogs.
Alaine's makeup kit

I enjoyed working with Alaine -- she is friendly and easy to get along with. Even after the wedding, we have kept in touch (we sorta bonded after I learned that she spent some time in Indonesia and that I went to college with her cousin). Most importantly, I like the work that she does, especially with the eyes (I think she made mine look bigger!). She gives a very natural, not overly done look (but just enough of a little something so that you know this is makeup for a special day) which is exactly what I wanted since I never wear makeup. It was pretty comfortable too -- I barely remembered I had on makeup. I just wish that I had asked her to stay for touch-ups b/c it did wear away a little as the day went on. I also wish that I had my makeup done before the BM b/c she sorta had to rush for mine (and there wasn't enough time to add false lashes). :(

You can sorta see the makeup in these pics:
And because I got tired of smiling (I don't do it often, so give me credit!), I look like I'm grimacing here, so I shrunk this photo and then edited out my mouth below so that you can still sorta see Alaine's work.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How it all came down: the evening before

By the time of the rehearsal at the church, I was quite tired and getting moodier by the minute. Everyone was pissing me off and I didn't know why -- I think I felt like a lot of things were still not done and I was too disorganized to know where to begin to finish these tasks and we had to make it to the rehearsal dinner in time, plus my hormones were raging at the most inopportune time. Also, my nails were chipping already and the cuticles were so dry that I was developing hangnails -- I was so worried that my hands would horrible in pictures, especially since there'd be pics of the new ring. But the church was decorated, we signed our marriage license (the minister would then sign it the following day to make it official and mail it off) with our brothers as witnesses, and we rehearsed the processional twice.

Afterwards, we rushed to pack up the cars to go up to John's on 12th Street for the rehearsal dinner. In choosing a place for the dinner, we had 2 issues to contend with: we figured that the guests wouldn't want to have Chinese food two days in a row, but we also didn't want to travel far from the rehearsal location in Ctown. This severely limited our options and early on we thought of Italian (since Little Italy is within walking distance) as the perfect foil & complement to Chinese (both cuisines embrace 'family-style' meals). We tried one place that received decent reviews in Zagat's but it was only alright and way overpriced. Weeks later, we finally settled on John's in the Village (not walking distance but somewhat close -- just 10 minutes drive) b/c Dear had been there for a birthday party and he liked it. We also did a test drive two weeks before and I was satisfied with both the service and the food.
But on the day of the actual dinner, I was less than satisfied. The room in the back was really dark and they set up two long tables along the wall for us. This wouldn't bother me as much if we had the space to ourselves but there were lots of other ppl there and the space was tight. The other ppl were also very loud so we could barely have a conversation (not that this would be easy if you sat on one end of the table and wanted to mingle with the other end, which is why I'm never a fan of long tables, as opposed to round). I also felt obligated to sit with the old folk since they seemed lost (this is what happens when you only eat Chinese food all the time). I was already in a sour mood so I didn't appreciate the massive agita that my parents and ILs were giving me ("Is there a set menu?" "Do we have a choice -- I hope it's not a choice b/c I don't understand this food" "What's on the menu?"), especially since I didn't have the answers (everything about the dinner was last minute and I barely remembered any of the details). And, as the set menu choices were read out, I realized that my uncle from Indonesia can't really have meat (good thing we didn't do a barbecue dinner, which I thought would be a neat idea) nor does he speak English, much less Italian (the old folk had such a look of puzzlement for things that I take for granted, like "bruschetta," "lasagne," "chicken parmesan"). You can imagine the chaos as we tried to explain what everything was while the waiter was taking down the orders. To make matters worse, the first waiter became deeply confused when he was taking the order and everyone kept changing their mind from one thing to the next. He tried to clarify things by repeating the order back to us but an annoying individual who is now related to me and shall remain nameless tried to "help" by summarizing the order in his own varied permutations. For instance (if you're not already confused by now), the waiter went down his list and around the table saying "OK, you're having stuffed mushroom, you're having the bruschetta, mushroom, mushroom, bruschetta..." but unnamed individual had to say "Everyone but blah, blah, and blah is having the stuffed mushroom, or you can think of it like 3 ppl are having the bruschetta, everyone else is having the mushrooms." The guy came back with extras of everything and we had to give it to the other table.

The agita combined with the nervousness and stress prevented me from finishing my main course (chicken parm), which was alright but not as good as the appetizer (bruschetta with avocado and tomato). A lot of ppl couldn't finish theirs either b/c the portions were gigantic (the leftovers could have been a second meal) and I couldn't take the leftovers home b/c we were going to the hotel, so I felt terrible about the vast wasting. I couldn't stomach the dessert either (the horror!!), a tartuffo. :(
note the long, narrow table and the space we're in compared to the rest of the room
note the dim lighting, mostly from candles
another source of light: a wax "sculpture" that took up a whole table, created by years of dripping candles, I'm sure


Though the service was pretty darn good (the confused waiter did well to hide his frazzled-ness and annoyance) and the food was alright, I hated being in that crowded, dark room. I think it's a good place to have a casual dinner, maybe other types of parties, but for a rehearsal dinner when ppl are apt to make speeches or special presentations (I felt uncomfortable giving the BMs their gifts though Dear had no problem giving out gifts to the GMs nor the helpers), it's not conducive to getting to know ppl. There's also no parking in that area so some of the drivers arrived as the first course was wrapping up.

Many hours later, I found myself finally at the Embassy Suites on North End Avenue in lower Manhattan. It was a gigantic headache-inducing night to coordinate everyone's ride home or to the hotel and to bring to the hotel all the necessary accoutrements. It was so agita-filled that I just gave up at this point (and from that point on I just didn't give a damn about much of anything until everything was over on Saturday night). I have no idea how ppl got to where they needed to go and how things ended up where they ended up.

If I had to do everything all over again, I'm not sure I would stay in a hotel the night before. Even though it was a convenient excuse to not have to play the Chinese door games (the groom picks up the bride from her home only after he fulfills tasks that the BMs come up with to test his worthiness and to torture him in the process), it was so difficult to coordinate all the stuff that needed to be at the hotel and then to consequently move from the hotel to the church and/or banquet hall. It also didn't help that it was freezing that weekend and many of us weren't prepared for it. If we were at my house, we'd just put on an extra sweater or something. Everyone also has the added task of packing stuff for an overnight stay (clothes, pjs, beauty products, etc.). And initially I thought I struck gold when I got a room at the Embassy b/c the suites are spacious and there is room enough to sleep 6 ppl, but I forgot that there is only one bathroom (there is a sink at the wet bar but no extra toilet and shower) so there was some inefficiency as some waited their turn for the bathroom.

It was nice to have all the women together in one place though. One BM re-did my manicure using her stash of stuff (even though I told her I wanted us to sleep early and we probably wouldn't have time to use any of it), and my cousin also packed a bunch of useful stuff (she wasn't part of the bridal party but my mother asked her to join us and I was very glad for it). I just wish that I kept my cool for the final moments, stayed organized and that we had some time to bond (or play Cranium!) instead of stressing about stuff.
note how my mother is working on the seating arrangements at literally the 12th hour as she waits her turn

As I slowly drifted to sleep at 3 or 4 in the morning, I was glad that I got all the bridezilla moments out of my system and I prayed that none of it would surface the next day.

As I previously blogged, I really like the Embassy and the suites do come in handy when you have a wedding to get ready for. However, it is a bit out of the way of everything (the closest subway is still quite a trek) but it is downtown and should only take 10 minutes to drive to Ctown (barring traffic). It is also spacious and could offer gorgeous views of the Hudson. Unfortunately I gave up that view for a lower floor so that we could get 2 double beds to fit everyone. There is also scarce parking and their lot is exorbitantly expensive (in my eyes) but it is very clean and is everything you'd expect from a Hilton property. There's also free made-to-order breakfast, as well as a regular hot buffet. If we had time, we'd also have had an opportunity to use the NYSC in the building.

Monday, October 23, 2006

How it all came down: the morning before

I started this day bright and early (7:30!) in the Flower District, making decisions about flowers with BM's friend, who helped with the flowers and shall be called floral friend (or FF) from this point on. Yes, I had planned on doing all the flowers by myself but when everyone told me that I was crazy, my BM enlisted the help of her friend who's done flowers for friends' weddings before. So I still had a pretty active, hands-on role with the flowers but I didn't have to do the extra complicated stuff and there was someone there to guide me on what to do -- a good compromise in the thick of wedding craze. Anyway, FF and I had met up two weeks prior at the market to see what's in season and to take note of prices. I told her that my budget was $300 (I purposely undershot this figure, knowing that I'd go over), that I wanted a fall color palette (specifically orange, red, yellow) and that I'd like callas in my bouquet. I also told her about the arrangements that I wanted for the church, which would be moved to the banquet hall later on, the corsages for the mothers, and all the boutonnieres.

So the Friday before the wedding, we rushed around the various crowded shops to get choice picks (7:30 is right in the middle of the primetime -- towards the end of our stay we were sorta scrambling to get nice stuff). FF had already set aside some flowers she saw (she got there a little earlier) and I approved this bunch of roses from store 1 vs. roses from store 2, etc. In the end, we got 1 bunch of deep red roses & 2 different types of red callas for my bouquet; 2 bunches of yellowish-orange roses and 2 bunches of yellowish-orange callas for the BMs' bouquets; 2 bunches of red roses for relative boutonnieres; several bunches of orange, orange/yellow, yellow/red carnations for the pews; 1 stalk of lavenderish-red orchids for the corsages; 1 bunch tinted euculyptus, 2 bunches wax flowers, 1 bunch lavender, and 1 bunch Japanese hydrangea for the church steps arrangements. All this went over my meager budget but still came in under $500.

At the flower market, once you pick out the flowers, you get a bill from one of the workers who prices everything for you off the top of his head (I think there's some scamming going on there). Then you bring the bill to the counter to pay while some other guys wrap everything up (somewhat neatly) for you. Some places take credit card but some don't and at one of the places we had to pool all our money together to get what we wanted. After buying all these flowers (heavy and bulky, but fit in the car), we headed down to the church where we could start arranging things. We got buckets of warm water to let the roses drink and bloom, and we prepped them by removing thorns, outer petals and leaves. We also started to arrange the carnations for the pew buckets while FF started working on the bouquets. FF also showed us how to make the relative boutonnieres (just a simple red rose) by snipping, taping, and sticking a pin through. With the help of 2 BMs and a friend (Dear also helped prep the roses and cut the floral foam to fit the buckets), we were done by lunchtime. At that point, FF continued working on the bouquets (she had done 2 BM ones already; I think and they were so lovely!) while I went with a BM to the friend's place to do our nails.
pictures of our work area (I think the flowers are so pretty even before they're arranged)

close-up of BM bouquet before the ribbon was tied on and before the roses opened up more

Sometime between this and the rehearsal, BM's sister went and got a bunch of cheap roses for the petal toss at the end of the ceremony and an ad hoc tablecloth for the sign-in table at the church.

The outer petals we pulled off the roses, plus some of the carnation petals for good measure.

A word of caution/tips for DIYers who would also go to the Flower District to buy flowers -- I think the prices are more flexible than you would think so I think there's room for bargaining, especially since a lot of the places only accept cash when you do not have a business account with them. I, however, was too chicken and bewildered to do so myself. I also sensed some shady business dealings and overall I thought it a shady business that there are no displayed prices, just some guy who quotes prices from his head (as I mentioned above). And FF said 2 different ppl at one store quoted her 2 different prices. Also, you should buy a little more than you think you need b/c some of the flowers were already damaged when we opened them up (we also did some damage as we worked too).


The pretty bouquets sitting in plastic takeout containers, ready for safekeeping for the next day (note the notches cut in the covers to keep the bouquets standing straight in the water).

My bouquet, decorated with ivory double-faced ribbon and round pearl-head pins.

With the flash, you notice the different callas: the darker one had a yellow center and the redder one had a dark center

Posing with the bouquets


Spraying everything with water to keep it fresh

See how the relative boutonnieres opened up so much -- I think more of the outer petals should have been removed.

The groom's boutonniere (dark red calla with wax flowers)

I wanted Dear to have double callas but the market didn't have any mini callas so 2 of the regular-sized ones would have been too big.

Close-up of my brother's boutonniere (red rose with wax flower) and the GM's bout. (yellow rose with wax flower)

Close-up of mothers' corsages (they are composed of 3 orchids wired together; I think they are phalenopsis)

Originally FF wanted to order cattleya orchids (just one big one) but the price we were quoted was way expensive and I'm kinda glad b/c these turned out well and there were also leftovers to use for my hair in the evening. The one stalk of orchids we used was either $10 or $15 (don't remember).

Fathers' boutonniere (yellow calla with wax flower)

In retrospect, I think the GMs should have had the callas to match the groom and the fathers should have had the roses.


FF putting the finishing touches on the Japanese hydrangea arrangements for the church steps (we could have used more flowers for the large vases -- I didn't know how they'd sit in the vase -- but I think FF did a good job of filling them up with what we had).

The ingredients for the tall arrangements from left to right: Japanese hydrangea (I wish we got the longer stemmed ones b/c the vases were a lot bigger than we thought but so pretty on their own too!), wax flowers, lavender, tinted eucalyptus.

We got the hourglass-shaped vases from the clearance section in Target for $20 each, which are totally reusable (just have to figure out where). They are huge, about 17" tall I think, with a wide mouth, which made it difficult to fill in with a limited budget. The flowers for this part were less than $100.


Our rendition of the pew buckets a la Martha but way cheaper, using about 12 stems of carnations for each bucket.

view down the aisle towards the doors (ignore how the floral monogram is crooked on the doors -- we eventually fixed that)

view up the aisle towards the steps (the lights are on only at night b/c during the day the huge windows let in a lot of light)

With a bunch of 25 carnations for $7.50, this was a lot more economical than using hydrangeas. I think they were just as lush-looking and maybe even nicer than Martha's, since they were such bright colors and fit in with my color scheme. The buckets were purchased from Wal-Mart for about $1.50 each (we bought 12), 2 packs of floral foam were about $6 (I think), and we hung each with tulle (part of a 1000' roll that we used for the favors as well -- purchased from AC Moore using a 50% off coupon for a total of $5, I think).

Before FF got her hands on the pew arrangements, our creations looked a bit ragged and sparse:

Then she worked her magic and they came out much neater and so happy-looking:

Once the buckets were hung on the pews, we added some water into the buckets. The cube of floral foam stuffed into the bottom to hold the flowers in place also helped to keep the flowers hydrated.

OK, so I worked on the flowers a little too, so it's like grading myself here but I have to say FF did a phenomenal job. She doesn't do flowers professionally but I did pay her a little something and I have to give credit where it's due -- she went above and beyond what I expected (she said she'd work on the bouquets only and just show us how to do the other stuff but she ended up also putting the finishing touches on the stuff we worked on, plus the church step arrangements which turned out to be quite a challenge). She was very organized and did a good job with the limited budget I gave her (I changed relative boutonnieres to roses instead of carnations at the last minute so I'm sure we would have stuck to the budget even closer if I hadn't made that change). She also thought of solutions I wouldn't have, including coming up with a variety of flowers for my hair for my second dress (the flower we saw at our first meeting weren't available on the actual day we needed them). I also thought the bouquets came out beautiful (though I'm surprised they didn't come out as nice in pictures), the groom's, fathers, and GM boutonnieres were nice too, as well as the mothers' corsages. When I saw all the completed flowers, my stress level definitely declined a few notches at their gorgeousness. I'm not sure if FF would be interested in future work but if anyone is interested, I could definitely forward her your info.

Final thoughts: One thing I didn't think of until I saw pictures is that I should have used a different flower for Dear's bout. b/c the dark red calla was barely visible against the black tux in pictures. Perhaps there should have been some small lighter-colored accent flowers or foliage behind the calla....