Thursday, January 28, 2010

Honeymoon Hullabaloo

The big discussion this past weekend was about the honeymoon. Destination, dates, how we'll get there, where to spend money, what to do, etc. I have to admit that I had one of my least attractive moments in our relationship during one of these conversations. In my defense, I'm completely obsessed with travel and basically live for the next trip. And it just felt like what I wanted wasn't mattering to anyone and the honeymoon was the one thing I could be a spoiled brat about. So I was...

First, we started looking into destinations and it became clear that none of the places I'd suggested made sense from a weather perspective. They were either going to be too wet or too cold for us to really enjoy the beaches or travel around the towns. We're also likely to visit Australia/New Zealand in the future since MJ’s cousin lives in New Zealand. It's also easy to add Thailand/Bali onto a future India trip. So, we went through the list and Hawaii became more and more attractive. I finally caved into MJ and agreed that we would go there. Now, I know it will be amazing and I will eat my words, but it wasn't where I'd always dreamed of going. It's so typical - SOOO many people go there for their honeymoons (and I know you're thinking 'well there must be a reason for that...'). And it's not as exotic or far away. But, MJ is right - we'll get to do it in a way we'll never get to again and it has everything - amazing beaches, mountains, culture, city life, remote islands, romance, views, history, and (most important to him) volcanoes! His face just lights up when he thinks about going to a volcano. I think even if I didn't like Hawaii I'd have the time of my life going with oh-so-super-excited MJ!

On top of the destination discussion, I'd kept saying we'd use my miles to go first class. But, when we searched, we discovered it would take all of my Delta miles plus half my AmEx points. Now, this is exactly what those points are for and MJ never said we should use them, but I became really sad about it. Afterwards I realized I was more upset because I've gotten so spoiled with the constant influx of miles I used to get from years of traveling every week for work that this is a huge blow. It's also hard spending them all in one place when I've basically hoarded them for so long and almost never used them on myself. But, again, a totally bratty response.

As I mentioned before, I'd wanted a 3 week honeymoon, which got cut down to 2 because of the reality of taking time off of work. Luckily, the 2 weeks ended on Labor Day, so I figured we could get in like 16 days. But, as we started looking at flights, we discovered we really couldn't leave until 8/22 evening or 8/23 morning. Then, Maneesh realized he had a really close family friend's wedding this summer that he had to attend. The first wedding is July 4th weekend, which is a big family weekend (of my family) and he'd feel bad missing it. The other wedding (they were having two) is on 9/4. So the only option was to come back a few days early from the honeymoon to make it to the wedding. So... instead of 8/22 - 9/6 (which I begrudgingly had accepted), we'd only be there 8/23 - 9/3!! I realize that this is not a huge deal in the long run because it's still a whole 12 days and it will be an unforgettable trip, but I got really upset at the time. I have dreamed about my honeymoon my whole life and wanted it to last forever. I wish reality didn't get in the way!

Now I realize the last few paragraphs don't paint a flattering picture of me. But I'm including them here for two reasons: 1. I want to be honest to you, my dear reader, and that includes about my own faults. and 2. I actually learned from my bratty episode :)

I have spent most of my life taking care of myself. I decide what I want to do, rationalize it to myself, and do what I can to make it happen. Heck, at work, I only have to do the first 2 and then tell other people to do what they can to make it happen! LOL just kidding! So, if I want to go to Hawaii for 3 weeks, I figure out a way to go to Hawaii for 3 weeks. When I wanted to live in Europe for a year, I even found a way to get my company to pay for me to live there and travel back to the US every 2 months. But things are going to be different now. Not that MJ doesn't do every single thing in his power to make me utterly happy, but my decisions are no longer my own, they are "ours." I'm no longer the only person effecting my decisions or what I do. And, likewise, my decisions and brattiness affect someone else. (The fact that my bratty episode about using points made MJ say he didn't want to go to Hawaii any more was just terrible!)

These are probably obvious lessons to many of you, especially those of you who are married, but the actual living of it was new to me. MJ and I have been very happy together and have been very successful in balancing our needs in our relationship. But changing my long-awaited honeymoon plans to accommodate his real life needs and using my carefully harvested points on someone other than my family triggered some instinctual "I don't wanna!" reaction in me. And realizing I didn't have the power to change the things standing in my way was eye-opening. The whole idea of it being "our" decision was so new and different than it was when we were dating. We will no longer have the option of making decisions about where to live, what to do on holidays, when to vacation, how much to spend on a car, etc. independently of one another. All these decisions are now "our's," not "his" or "mine."

So, at the end of the day, we will be spending “our” points to spend 12 days in Hawaii on “our” honeymoon. And I’m honestly really excited and can’t wait to spend it with MJ :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Venue and Date Booked

So, unfortunately, my mom got very sick last week, so MJ and I couldn't go to Reston. Besides being concerned about her, it was too bad because MJ couldn't see the venue and it was our last chance to talk through things with my dad before he left for a 2 week trip to Germany. But the good news is we agreed on a contract with the venue last week and booked Rose Hill Manor for August 21st! And my parents talked to the pandit in Austin we wanted and he's available as well!

The pandit is actually a family friend we've known for a very long time. My mom was very close to him and his wife (she used to call my mom her other daughter), but his wife recently passed away. He conducts weddings for most of our family friends in Austin and is very good - the perfect blend of religious gravity and inclusion of non-Hindus. As an added benefit, he's Marathi, like MJ's family! So they're really happy that he'll know their traditions as well.

Another side effect of my mom getting sick is that we put the Save the Date on hold until she was better to give an opinion. I don't mind the picture thing as much anymore and we're still looking around for the right look. I want it to look Indian, but kind of through a Western artsy lens. Hopefully we'll get it ready soon. The other thing I've been realizing lately is that most couples seem to put a picture of themselves on their Save the Date, something I hadn't even thought of. That puts an added level of pressure on it, because we'd have to find the right type of picture and then also make sure we both look good. Or we take a new one to send out, which will definitely make us both nervous!
Speaking of pictures, our really good friend, who's an amazing photographer, agreed to take some engagement pictures of us. Unfortunately, the weather's been so gross that it hasn't been possible. I'm really looking forward to it though, as I think they'll be so personal and beautiful! A lot of people also recommend getting engagement portraits done by your wedding photographer before the wedding, so that they can get to know the couple better and you can use the pics at the wedding for display and to add personal touches. So I've also started researching photographers.

In other fantastic news, I've already lost 4.5 lbs since MJ and I got engaged!!! And this is after only going to the gym once! I've just changed my eating habits and it made that much of a difference. I still have a very long way to go, but it's very motivating. Unfortunately, I seem to have sprained my knee on Saturday, so the full force gym action is a little slower than expected. I went this morning and had to hobble home in pain after a lackluster workout. I'm trying to convince MJ it's ok to take Alli to help me lose weight, but he's dead set against it. I'm not even sure if I would, but it would be nice to have some help, especially as a vegetarian.

We've also started condo hunting in my neighborhood. We're not sure whether we should look for a 2 bedroom or a large 1 bedroom, though we're leaning towards the latter, especially if it has a den/office space we could use for guests if needed. We figure we'll be staying there for 3-5 years, so it's not like we need to find the place we plan on staying in forever and raising kids in it or anything. Kids? Yikes! Let's take it one step at a time!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Let the Discussions Begin

I am SUPER excited that my best friend and her husband are flying in for our engagement party! I know I can't expect this kind of stuff all the time, but I can still be really excited when it happens :) It makes me feel super-special and even more excited about the party! I'm so touched!

I mentioned in my last post that my family discussed the wedding quite a bit last weekend. It was interesting that some of the things that one of us was taking for granted wasn't so obvious to every one else. One good example was that I wanted to take pictures after the wedding. I think this is probably the Western influence in me, but I figured if I spend more than an hour getting ready, I should have some frame-worthy portrait type shots. We're also not doing engagement pictures or anything. On the other hand, my dad was even surprised I'd need to change clothes between the wedding and reception! This makes sense, because in India there's traditionally only one outfit and the wedding and reception kind of blend into one another. This also led to a decision of whether to do the wedding and reception right after one another or to give guests a break to change, then come back. I can't recall an Indian wedding in the US that didn't give people a break, but, again, it's not traditionally how it's done in the Motherland.

Another good example was the gift discussion. I remembered that my mom had mentioned in the past that she didn't like gift registries, so I asked what she thought we should do. My parents both replied that they didn't think we should get gifts. Not "no boxed gifts," but no gifts altogether. I was really surprised as I'd never heard of that at any wedding. My mom thought that if we didn't ask for gifts, only really close people would bring something and it would be from the heart. I disagreed and thought if we didn't say anything people would either bring whatever they wanted or cash. I really want to avoid waste and thought if people brought whatever they wanted, it would lead to duplicate items or things we wouldn't/couldn't use. Then you feel bad getting rid of it because it's a wedding gift, but you now have 10 gravy boats and no coffee maker or whatever. So the "no gifts" idea didn't seem practical. None of us liked the "no boxed gifts" option where people only bring cash, though it is getting more and more popular and is definitely the most practical. (No judgment, but asking for cash just seems a bit cold to me.) I figured we do need items to set up a "home" and it would be nice to look around and remember the loved ones who gave them to you. My mom's point was that, if you do a registry, who cares who paid for it, you picked it out! LOL Fun discussions!

Colors have also made for interesting discussion. I had wanted to use mustard and deep purple as my reception colors because they were Indiany, but totally different. But, apparently, purple is considered inauspicious, so that's out. I just didn't want to use the standard red and gold that's used at most Indian weddings. Unfortunately, my mom is pulling the auspicious card, and thinks the reception should be red and yellow. LOL I also made a great (electronic) save the date that was an artsy black & white photo of an Indian bride with red script on it. I absolutely loved it and sent it to my family. I was so excited to hear what they'd have to say about how cool it was! The first comment back? It'd be better if it was colorful.

Actually I was kind of sad about the last one. I'm finding the things I've been most interested in are the venue and the electronic stuff. The latter means the Save the Date, the website, and the slideshow so far. I know my brother will do an awesome job with the slideshow, but I'm afraid the Save the Date will end up being pretty typical and the website will be too formal. But we'll see. And the venue really is awesome! I ended up having to scrap the first website I created, because they ( put a massive banner at the bottom when other people look at it, which was annoying. I've decided to go with instead. Though it's not as Indian looking, they do online RSVPs for free and have flash intros and lots of cool free aps. We'll see if I end up changing it again. I've gone through MANY options.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Location, Location, Location

Whew! What a weekend! After being in and out of work since the Tuesday before, I finally returned on Thursday. Then, right after work on Friday, my family came from DC. We haven't seen each other since I got engaged, so we had some major discussions all night about what everyone was thinking for the wedding. MJ's family came over for tea right after lunch on Saturday, where we had some similar (but less intense) discussions together. Both families also brought some sweets and gifts, so the whole thing ended up feeling like an official blessing from the parents. Within 30 mins of his family leaving, my family had changed clothes, cleaned the apartment, packed, and was in the car. We then drove to DC in record time (4 hrs door to door with a stop for gas on the way) and had dinner at home. We left around 9:30 on Sunday morning and were out the entire day looking at venues:
  • The Westin
  • Sheraton Premiere
  • Algonkian
  • Meadowlarke
  • Cherry Blossom
  • Raspberry Plains
  • Rose Hill Manor
The funny thing is I went to DC for this whirlwind trip to see Foxchase Manor, but after talking to my family and seeing these, we decided it wasn't even worth the drive to see it! We also checked out some hotels close to Raspberry Plains and Rose Hill Manor to get an idea for costs for our guests, transportation options, and possibilities to have a meeting room nearby. My family also rented out two community centers for the wedding weekend, so my dad showed me those as well. So we saw a lot in one day!
Alright, so you saw a lot... did you like anything? Drum roll please... 17 days after I got engaged, we've already found a wedding venue! Some of them aren't even worth mentioning, but Meadowlarke is gorgeous but not available any Saturday in the summer and it would be a bit tight for 200 people. I got the feeling my family liked Algonkian, but I thought it was a bit drab and uninspired. Raspberry Plains had gorgeous grounds and views, but the inside of the house was over-decorated and the lady seemed extremely inflexible and hard to work with.

We decided to check out Rose Hill Manor due to its proximity to Raspberry Plains, though we had the feeling it was too small for us. And we all absolutely loved it! The grounds and views are also really beautiful, but the house is very open and grand while somehow still feeling intimate. It feels like you're in you're own house, but just way nicer ;) There is also a great courtyard in the back with a pool perfect for floating candles during cocktail hour. It will be a bit tight and we cannot go a single person over 200, but we all loved it! There's a great balcony and we won't need to decorate as much as the walls are yellow and red. The guy was also really great to work with and they've had Indian weddings there before. One of my criteria was to be able to take pictures on the grounds and this will be just gorgeous! We can also have the DJ and dance floor a bit separate from the dining tables to allow people to move around and do what they want to do. There's even an area that's perfectly made for putting in a mandap! Basically, it was the best of all worlds and had everything we wanted. It was also available on the date we wanted and was within (or at least close to) our price range. So we have a contract and my dad's putting in the payment today! Woohoo! (ok, to be fair, we're going to wait to make everything official until MJ looks at it next weekend, but he's guaranteed me he won't say no!) ;)
So 18 days into being engaged, we have a location and I'm getting married on August 21! I've started telling a few close friends (and, you, obviously), though I know I should wait until the contract is in. It's just that so many people will have to fly in that I want to make sure they reserve the date well in advance.
Ok, and, yes, maybe I'm starting to get a little excited... Seeing the venues and both families together made it all seem a little more real...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Where to Go? Everywhere!

As much as I never fantasized about my wedding, I have dreamt about my honeymoon for as long as I can remember. I love to travel and I guess I see a honeymoon as the ultimate vacation. Cost is less of an issue than usual, and people do things they wouldn't normally - swim with the dolphins, stay in a hut on a remote beach, explore a cave with a flashlight, visit a monastery at sunrise, etc. I used to always say I'd take a 3-month honeymoon when I finally got married, go to multiple countries, and just explore. So you can imagine that the honeymoon destination conversation has been a big one with MJ. Unfortunately, reality strikes and 3 months is more likely to be 2 weeks (though I have suggested on occasion that I could continue on the honeymoon without him...this idea was not well received). MJ really wants to go to Hawaii. He gets so excited thinking about exploring a volcano it makes me laugh. I wouldn't mind Hawaii, but it doesn't excite me as much. I was pushing for Australia/New Zealand on the pretense that it's so far that we're unlikely to go again for some time. Plus, his cousin has a beach house in New Zealand he's told us we could use. But it'll likely be winter there when we go, so that's not quite as compelling. I'm also trying to put Thailand, Bali, Morocco, and the Galapagos Islands in the mix. (Let me know if you have other ideas!) MJ also wants to include South America, Greece, and Japan, so I think we've covered almost every continent! It's such a big decision! I wish we could go everywhere! Until we have a confirmed date, it doesn't make sense to try to decide on a honeymoon, but honestly I'm more excited about confirming it! ;)

Speaking of dates... though we don't have a final date, it looks more and more like it'll be either 6/26 or 8/21. Woohoo! To finalize our date options, I had to call a panditji's cell phone yesterday, which was an interesting experience. But we got what we needed and everyone seems comfortable with these options. I'm hoping for 8/21 to give us a little more time to plan and it seems like a better date for a honeymoon and future anniversary trips :) We're still researching invitations as well. My mom wants them printed on both sides (Hindi on one, English on the other), which may limit our options. Some of them are so pretty, I'd really like to see some physically.

The funny thing about being the first in my family to get married is all the unknowns. Luckily I have a few friends who have been helpful and willing to share their information. Both got married in TX, one a year ago and one three years ago. My mom has a few good friends she can ask as well. But it's a touchy subject with some and we don't want to make anyone uncomfortable by asking them certain questions. Which makes it hard to find out stuff - like how much are you supposed to spend on flowers? How much jewelry should we buy? What are the challenges with getting invitations printed in India?

The other exciting news is that we setup our engagement party! We were able to confirm the upstairs bar at Pravda for a celebratory drink with some friends the night before the Superbowl. I think MJ and my brothers are going to stay to watch the game together too! We sent out invites using pingg, which I like so much better than evite. So far it sounds like people liked it better as well and quite a few will be able to come. I'm looking forward to it!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

We Still Haven't Celebrated!

The date seems to be coming together, though it's really soon, so it's a bit overwhelming for my family. MJ and I will go there in 2 weeks to see the location too. Hopefully we'll be able to confirm it then! Once the date and venue are set, everything else can start to come together as well. But, basically I'm planning on being in VA like every other weekend! I'd originally hoped to look for a condo while wedding planning, but I don't think we'll have time any more. That may have to be a newlywed activity...

Today's first challenge (besides my continuing health stuff) was looking for a location for an engagement celebration. I got in touch with a million places to book a private party after looking at reviews, etc. There are two options now that are available, and we're waiting to hear back from a few others. (We're not doing a massive celebration, just a toast with a few close friends.) The date also had to change as my parents are coming here next weekend to meet MJ's before they leave for India and MJ and I are going to VA the weekend after to look at venues and meet with other vendors. So hopefully we can do it the weekend after or the night before the Superbowl. I also made the invitations on, though we'll send it out only when we're sure about the location.

The next task for the day was setting up a wedding website. We wanted something free and Indian-looking, but not cheesy. We chose's Black Magic theme. So, yes, I've officially signed up for and, two wedding websites. Scary! We don't have much on the site yet, but it's ready to go. Our good friend takes beautiful photographs and agreed to take some engagement pics of us, which we're hoping to use on the site as well.

Another challenge with having a wedding so soon is that our original plan for wedding invitations may not pan out. My mom and I are going to India in April and had planned to buy them there. But, if the wedding is in June, we won't be able to send them out in time. So I've been looking around online to see what the cost difference really is. My best friend, who got married three years ago, said the difference wasn't huge and she got hers made in the US. So another thing to research! There are so many different types as well! It's a bit daunting to try to pick just one. And is it supposed to match the colors and theme of the rest of the wedding?

My mom and I also started discussing some of the details about the mandap, favors, and colors. So far we agree on all of the things we discussed, but we're not finalizing anything or picking specific items yet! ;)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Atypical Bride

I’m by no means a typical bride. I didn’t dream of my wedding as a child – in fact, instead of imagining ourselves as brides, my best friend and I would imagine ourselves as co-business owners. She would be a fashion designer and I would run a famous store selling her clothes. When romance entered into our fantasies, it was only to note that our husbands would be best friends also and we’d all live in a duplex so as to always be close to one another. This carried on into adulthood inconspicuously and I simply don’t go to friend’s weddings imagining my own. Despite the many weddings I’ve attended (both Indian and American), I fear I haven’t learned very much. I honestly have absolutely no idea what I want “the Big Day” to look like. A traditional wedding sounds as great as a contemporary one. An outdoor wedding works just as well as one in a hotel. DJ vs. band? Buffet vs. sit-down? No idea. Include speeches at the reception? Skits? Dances? Sure, why not? What kind of flowers? Uhh… we have to have flowers? So the wedding planning has already proven interesting and I’m clearly in over my head…

There are three exceptions to this apparent ignorance/ambivalence: 1. I want to have alcohol at the reception. 2. I don’t want a long engagement, mainly because I don’t want to be stuck planning this thing for too long and because I’d rather be married than thinking about a wedding. 3. I'd like to have a mehndi ceremony, which was readily accepted. (MJ also has 2 demands: 1. He wants a slide show of pictures of us. 2. He wants to serve mozzarella sticks. (This one may have to be discussed further…))

The first exception may seem obvious, but Indians don’t always have alcohol at weddings. It’s actually considered inauspicious in many circles and neither of our families drink. But most of our friends do and I think alcohol makes people loosen up and get to know one another a little better. It also helps people to have fun and get in a celebratory mood in another long line of weddings. The second exception has proven to have its own challenges.

Ok, not a long engagement to me means I’d like to get married in 2010. MJ can’t take off work in October or November. It was decided that we wouldn’t be getting married in India, but Virginia (where my parents live) is too cold in December. So we started looking into the late summer and September. Upon hearing the news of our engagement, my parents quickly started looking for wedding venue options and it became clear that booking something on such short notice may be difficult. (I guess other people DO like the long engagement concept and book venues well in advance.) In fact, four days after we got engaged and were on our way back from our celebratory weekend in Philadelphia, my dad called to tell me he’d booked our wedding on May 30th at a place they liked! They’d gotten so excited that such an amazing place was available at all that they booked it. Luckily, we weren’t committed, but it was pretty funny nonetheless.

Now the main struggle with the wedding date is that we’re Indian and that means we must get married on an auspicious date. So, now we don’t just have to find a venue that we like, is reasonably priced, and allows us to serve Indian food, but it must also be available within 9 months on an auspicious date. Alright, so what are the auspicious dates? Everyone seems to have a different idea! We’ve consulted a priest in Queens, a priest in India, an astrologer, and multiple web sites, and there is no clear answer. On top of that, there are general auspicious dates, and then there are dates that are “more” auspicious for MJ and me. And most of them are not on weekends. So we’re down to 3 or 4 Saturdays that everyone can (tentatively, sort of) agree on. Now to look at venue availability…


I've always loved to read and generally have a few titles in the back of my mind that I'll check out next. In 2007, I was in a bad place in my life. I went through a bad breakup, was having health issues, hated my boss, and was a bystander in family troubles. I needed an escape and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something I'd always wanted to, so I agreed to move to Belgium for a one-year work assignment. In the meantime, as I tend to, I turned to books. I read The Namesake, which helped me remember my childhood and let me cry profusely about someone other than myself. Then I picked up Eat, Pray, Love. It was supposed to be an easy read and (most importantly) didn't include a love story. It was exactly what I needed. Gilbert's honest, sassy voice speaking through her devastating pain about her journey of healing and finding herself again was what I was craving. And it prepared me for the journey I was about to take to Europe and in my life. Her open voice also gave me the courage to keep an honest blog about my journey.

A little less than three years later (on 12/30/09 to be exact), under the Rockefeller Tree in New York, I accepted the marriage proposal of a man who makes me laugh and already feels like home. Four days later I came down with the flu and have been stuck in my apartment since (unable to stick my gorgeous ring in the face of unsuspecting passer-bys as I’d prefer). Yesterday, I received a Tweet about the sequel to Eat, Pray, Love and downloaded it to my Kindle on instinct. I’ve already read the first three chapters of Committed and can tell she’s done it again – she’s somehow come into my life with a message that I needed at that point in my life. The book is about her journey towards marrying a man she knows she loves. Her situation is different than mine, as it was in Eat, Pray, Love and I don’t share her reservations about the institution of marriage. But it’s somehow comforting to know that she’s on this journey with me as she was on my last major one. I thought it was fitting to start a blog again as well. So welcome!