Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weight Be Gone!

My parents are extremely different from one another. We've always known this. However, planning this wedding highlights their differences quite a bit. My dad's approach has been to set milestones and work towards them, in order to make decisions and move forward as quickly as possible. My mom's approach has been to do research, meet with vendors, and then discuss with as many people as possible to make the most informed decision. Basically, my dad is driving towards making decisions and my mom is working to make sure we're making the best decision that is backed by the most people. The two approaches don't necessarily work together seamlessly, so we had some issues in nailing down a schedule. But, they've been married for over 30 yrs, so they were able to work through it and get through to one another. I think the revised schedule is a compromise between both options we'd been discussing before (1. wedding, straight into cocktail hour, reception and 2. wedding, lunch, break where guests leave, cocktail hour, reception) and makes most people happy. The compromise is that we need to change the hotel that our guests will be staying at. But hopefully the new one will work well too. It's definitely better for the overall schedule and sanity of the wedding party and guests!

I've been frustrated with my inability to give losing weight the attention it needs. This past month has been particularly bad, as I've had an incredible amount of stress on many fronts and was really struggling. While I didn't actually gain much weight back, I definitely didn't lose the 5 lbs I wanted to in March. My knee is still messed up, but I'm trying to work through and do short amounts of time on different cardio machines to work through it and make time in the evenings to go after work, where my muscles are warmer. This means no social activities during the week, but I don't mind that as much as I thought I would. Things have gotten a bit better at work, which helps a lot with my stress level too.

Additionally, I'm starting a juice cleanse tomorrow. I'm doing the Blueprint Cleanse, which is very popular New York right now. Basically, you drink nothing but 6 fresh fruit & veggie juices each day for 3 days. (You can do it for more or less, but 3 is recommended.) It's supposed to help with removing toxins, losing weight, better skin, immune system, allergies, energy level, etc. I'm a bit nervous, but I used to fast and eat/drink nothing but water one day per week for a few yrs in high school and part of college. It was hard at first, but totally normal after that. I also did feel a lot healthier and had fewer cravings for bad food during the rest of the week. So I think 3 days will be tough, but I'm excited about the results. I feel like it'll get me more in touch with my body's needs and I may even be sick less...

To prepare for the cleanse, you're supposed to cut out meat, eggs, grains, dairy, etc., so I've had nothing but fruits, veggies, nuts, and beans since Monday. I haven't been that hungry (besides last night before bed, when I was starving and was seriously craving mac & cheese), but I am a bit tired. That could be more from not sleeping well with a mosquito attack and some temperature issues than my current diet though. Anyway, just in the prep time (i.e 2 days so far) I've lost 2.5 lbs! Woohoo! I'm finally on a downward trend of losing weight again.

The annoying part of the cleanse was scheduling it. You can only start on a Mon, Thurs, or Fri. Monday would be nice cuz you just do it at work every day and don't think about it much. But you'd have to prep all weekend. This Mon was the day after MJ's bday, so it would've been hard to prep before. I'll be in DC again this weekend and wasn't sure I'd be back in time to get the delivery and didn't want to wait 2 weeks. Friday kinda sucks cuz you're doing it the whole weekend and everyone's eating around you, so it would affect your social schedule. Thurs sucks, but it seemed like the only option. So I'm going to be juicing on Friday when we drive to DC and on Saturday while my mom's cooking yummy foods that everyone's happily enjoying. Sigh... Wish me luck!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Photojournalistic? Candid? Formal? What?

So, when I was home last weekend, we discussed the photographer. I've realized this is one thing that I do feel a bit princessy about. Because so many people who mean so much to us are coming from far and wide to wish us well and celebrate with us, I want some beautiful images of the day. I won't be able to take it all in and I want to remember every moment forever. I also want some nice portraits of MJ & I together, since that will really mark the beginning of our lives together. That being said, photographers are expensive! Much more so than we expected. My dad had originally budgeted $2k for photography, since the one person we'd talked to at that point charged that much. But none of the ones I've looked at start at less than $3k and that's for the most minimum package. We need at least 10 hours of coverage, so we definitely need more than the minimum. My dad and my mom also don't agree on whether we need professional coverage for the mehndi and sangeet in the days before or our family/friends pics are enough.

On top of the hours of coverage, I'm convinced we need at least two photographers on site. I don't think one will be enough to capture everything that will be going on, especially during the bharat and reception.

Then I want to make sure we get all the digital images. I found out some photographers say they give you the images, but they're just proofs. I want the high resolution files that I can print in any size. My thought process is that I can make an album or canvas myself, even get them printed in India for cheap. My brother can do it on his Mac. Why pay thousands of dollars to a photographer to get an album printed? ...But I do want them to digitally correct the photos. Most do this, but it's something to ask. They only go through and remove blemishes and Photoshop a small percentage or none at all, but they usually will color correct, white balance, and density correct all.

To make matters more complicated, I wanted to do an engagement shoot and MJ and I really want to do it in NYC. We love NY and DC doesn't hold the same special meaning to us. So we also wanted to find someone who would give us an engagement shoot for free (or cheap) and would travel to New York for cheap to do it. Ideally, they would've shot here before, but let's not get carried away...

Probably the most important thing is style. I like an artistic, photojournalistic style, but MJ and my mom noted that someone these photographers were too "in your face," in that the images were so zoomed in you couldn't get the feel of the whole day. You couldn't see anyone other than the bride and groom in any pics. You had no idea how many people were there, were they laughing or crying, was anyone around when the bride was getting ready, etc. So we need a good balance.

And they need to have shot Indian weddings before. This experience will be invaluable, as it could be overwhelming if it was their first time. We also want them to be able to capture the moments that are meaningful in our tradition, which may not be obvious unless you've been there before.

So I went on a hunt for the perfect photographer. I've looked at hundreds of sites, gotten recommendations from friends, co-workers, blogs, other photographers, etc. I've mostly emailed and talked on the phone, but we finally met some in person this weekend. It's basically all we did this weekend. My family met with 5 and MJ & I are meeting 1 in NYC tonight. We're now thinking we may want to get an album in addition to the digital images.

It's amazing how much of a difference meeting in person makes. One that I wasn't that interested in before the meeting is probably our favorite right now. They were very professional, friendly, had great quality images & albums, have photographed many Indian weddings, and have photographed at Rose Hill Manor many times. They're also very cost effective for the wedding day. However, they're very pricey for the 2 days prior and, I suspect, for the engagement shoot.

I'm also really glad my whole family went to each of the appointments. Everyone had different perspectives on each of the photographers, which helps us all to make a decision. My dad pointed out that the photographer I thought would be my favorite didn't show the same creativity in his Indian shoots as his non-Indian. So, even though he had an amazing style, we wouldn't necessarily get that in our images.

The hunt is still on, but it's consumed me the past few weeks. We're probably not getting a videographer, so the photography is going to be key in remembering the event. We've also been discussing getting a digital slideshow and maybe even a photo booth! Fingers crossed we find the perfect one soon! (I want to get engagement pics done before my mom and I go to India!)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Making Major Progress

This may seem fairly obvious, but I think that the wedding planning process starts to prepare a couple for being married. You're forced to talk about serious issues we all tend to shy away from when we're just dating - family, money, life's priorities, etc. That being said, MJ has been amazing the last few weeks. We've had some tough discussions and are still struggling to get used to talking about them. However, he amazes me. He's such a level-headed man who has shown me time and again he's ready to stand next to me as my husband. Now, that sounds super cheesy and a few of you may have even gone "awwwwww," but I assure you we're not a roses and candlelit couple. We're pretty much always goofy and he loves to irritate me constantly. But, isn't life with someone who makes you laugh and can respond to life in a mature manner what it's all about?

I've also been trying to use this wedding planning time to learn more about MJ's family. Of course I know them and have spent a fair amount of time with them, but I want to know more! I want to understand what it's like to be a part of their family. Since I'm going to be joining it in a few months, I want to know how they celebrate holidays, how they fight with each other, what they do on birthdays, etc. It's been interesting and the thought of being a part of a family other than my own is so hard to imagine, let alone prepare for. But I'm trying! :)

In weight loss news, I've lost 9 lbs and allowed myself a cheat day. In that one day, where I did not go overboard, I gained back 2. Grr! I hate my metabolism. And my busted knee for not allowing me to work out!!

Unfortunately for wedding planning, I've been slammed at work. One of my co-managers had to take a leave of absence in Brazil for personal reasons and, instead of replacing him, I took on his projects. So, instead of leading 2 projects, I'm leading 5 with 2 teams I haven't worked with before. That hasn't been great for the time I can spend on wedding researching, talking to vendors, and overall planning. Luckily, I can still continue to look at photographers and makeup artists in the evenings. More on that in the future.

So, MJ and I left in a whirlwind after work on Friday and drove to DC for a weekend of wedding preparations with my parents and brother. We were all up until 2 am discussing some items. It was good to have my dad able to talk directly to MJ. Otherwise, I'm usually the go-between when they have questions and I'm sure some things get lost in translation. We discussed the engagement ceremony, decorator approach, and the event schedule.

On Sat afternoon, we were supposed to sign the contract with the decorator we met with last time I went to DC. But one of the caterers recommended another one to my dad this week who was supposed to be the cheapest in the local industry. So we booked appointments with both decorators in the same day, figuring we'd know better what we wanted to do after we met with the new one.

Our schedule on Saturday was jam-packed! I started the morning with a work call at 8:30, then we met with the new decorator at 9. She came to the house and showed us her previous designs. She was a very quiet Hispanic lady, but she had done many Indian weddings and had even worked at our venue multiple times. Our general impressions were that she could definitely do the work, but we would have to come up with the ideas ourselves. She wasn't as much of a designer as a doer, but that may not be such a bad thing, since my mom has so many ideas and the venue is already very beautiful and doesn't need much to make it beautiful. The best part was that she was almost half the price of the other decorator and was giving us more (a welcome arch, crystal strings on the centerpieces, etc.). So we decided to cancel the contract signing with the first decorator to give us time to think through the decision.

After rushing her out at 10, we rushed to meet with a DJ at 10:30. He had some great ideas and was very professional, but was expensive than we expected. He got us more excited about the lighting as well. He's a friend of a friend, so he said he plans to give us a considerable discount, but we don't know how much yet.

We then rushed from there to meet MJ's brother and the owner at a restaurant for potential catering options. The food was absolutely amazing and the presentation was also really great. The owner also had some dishes specially made for us and didn't even charge us for everything we ordered.

Then we were off to the venue. I was so excited that MJ was finally going to see it!!! It was even better that MJ's brother would be there as well. In fact, I'd only seen it once and it was on a terrible rainy day, so I was pretty excited too. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we went straight to the back to look at the patio and pool area. We spent almost 2 hours going over the details of the entire day, in the back, inside, and in the front. We got some more ideas for decorations and for the flow of the guests. The owner of the venue was also there and he had some great ideas and was so helpful. He created a suggested floor plan for us and our vendors to use as well. MJ and his brother loved the venue and MJ said seeing it was the highlight of the trip. I forgot how beautiful the space is...

After the venue, we went to see the hotel (Hampton Inn) closest to the venue for MJ's family to potentially use for their guests. But, after seeing it and talking to them again about their rates, we weren't as convinced it made sense. Then we went to the hotel (Hyatt Place) in Sterling, VA that my family was planning to use for our guests. The rooms and lobby are much nicer, but the rate is half of what we were getting at the Hampton Inn! So we decided to explore sharing the hotel across both families. MJ is going to ask his parents about it when they get back from India and my dad is going to negotiate with the hotel accordingly. There are a few things we need to include if we share the hotel, like a meeting room for MJ's family and extra shuttles that we wouldn't if it was just our side.

After the hotels, we picked up groceries and went home around 5. Soon after, my family came over for dinner. Some of them hadn't met MJ before, so it was a bit of an occasion. But it went well and everyone had fun. Unfortunately, we were all exhausted and everyone left around 11. I think we all slept like rocks that night!!

So we made a lot of progress this weekend. This morning we took it a bit easy. My parents, MJ, and me took a walk in the sun to a nearby lake and just chatted. It was nice seeing MJ interact with my family all weekend. This was the first time we'd been there since we got engaged and it felt nice to see everyone together. It helped to envision us all as one family :)