Engagement Party Hi-jinks

A few weeks ago I drove to a college friends’ engagement party on Long Island. I had to wait to post this because it was a somewhat traumatic trip. The pain has since faded and I’ve been able to see the good, so here goes.


It’s a beautiful Saturday morning, when I embark from Philadelphia, PA to Shoreham, NY. GPS programmed, Lilly dress on, overnight bag of beach gear packed, 172 miles to go. Traffic is lousy, but I’m making progress. Mile 80, my car begins to violently shake and I lose the finer nuances of steering control on the NJ turnpike. Ammmmaaaazing. It’s Saturday of Labor Day weekend I’m 2 hours from home and about 2 hours from my destination, “What the heck am I gonna do?” Okay, you’re right, I didn’t say “heck” but this is a PG blog.

Gift from God #1, I was near an exit and the toll collector directed me to a Chevy Dealership nearby. I rattled 8 miles down the road to a little town called Avenel, NJ. I find the Chevy Dealership and think, “I’m saved!” I wander inside in my Lilly Pulitzer Dress, RL shades and white Guess heels, and ask “Is the service center open?” You should have seen the looks I received as I thought to myself, “I just had to drive up in this outfit, didn’t I?” Sadly I am told the service center is closed, but a very attractive car salesman takes pity on me, takes a long look at my PA plates, and proceeds to call every mechanic in the surrounding area.

After about an hour he finds 3 places that are open and said they would “loooooook” at a car, but gave no guarantees on fixing it. One of these places is about 200 yards down the road, so I made my way down there. After nearly bursting into tears telling my story to the owner of the auto shop, he agrees to look at the car. Up goes my Impala on the lift, and moments later in comes the owner shaking his head saying, “You gotta see this.” I wander into the garage (still in Lilly, mind you) to see my rear right tire is torn about 1/3 of the way around. The tire had somehow begun to shred layer by layer without losing air but significantly effecting my ride (hence the crazy shaking). Gift from God #2, the shop had a used tire in the right size and he was able to change it out quickly. I really wish I had video of me standing in an auto shop in a Lilly dress with a completely stunned look on my face. And he did all this for $26!!!! So if you are ever in Avenel, NJ and need a car fixed please see Mr. Pete San Giorgio at Avenel Auto Care Center on Rt. 1 South, and tell him I sent you! I showed my dad the new tire when I got home and he was impressed with the work done and that I was not swindled (and my dad loves that car more than he loves me).

I return to the road, Mile 89. I eventually arrive at the party, THREE HOURS LATE. Are you serious?!? I’m never late. I was mortified. My third gift from God for the day came when I gave my hostess gift to the Bride’s mother and she exclaims “How did you know?!” as she opens the bottle of Relax Riesling. Apparently it’s her favorite. “Whew, as least I got that right!” I think to myself.

The Bride hands me a margarita, I proceed to have a blast at the party. They even had Karaoke!!! I sang “These Boots are Made for Walking.” Yea, you wish there was video of that. My college guy friends treated the crowd to their own rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and there is video! I really hope you can see this.

Aside from being egregiously late, and singing off key, the party was amazing! The Bride’s family opened their home to everyone and everyone pitched in to help with the event. The Bride’s uncle catered the food, and now their wedding caterer certainly has big shoes to fill! The Bride’s aunt used her late grandmothers heart shaped pans to make the lovely cake you see below. The Bride’s parents graciously hosted both families and lots of friends, not only for the party, but overnight in the house and in tents outside their beach side home. We all woke up with the sun and spend the day by the water laughing at the photos and videos, and getting sunburned. It truly was an amazing weekend, absolutely worth all the car trouble.

DIY Invitations

Lately I have received more and more DIY invites to weddings. I think this can be a really wonderful way to save money and/or be more creative with your invites. There are some very beautiful, yet affordable, options out there if you shop around. Staples, Walmart and other office supply stores sell kits with invites, response cards, envelopes etc. Also sites like Etsy.com offer access to artists who can create silk screened invites or other hand made options. Or you can go serious DIY and buy paper, calligraphy pens, die cuts, paper cutter, ribbons and a unique hole puncher at craft stores like Michael’s or Joanns. I say power to you if you start from scratch!

However, when you do it yourself there are some things to think about since you as a Bride are not a stationery professional and likely haven’t done this before. Think of writing your invites like you did assignments in Elementary School– Who, What, Where, When all need to be included. Also the How is achieved with guest information cards and perhaps a listing of your website, which would serve as a back up for all this information. It’s my opinion that your website should not take the place of any event details though, unless your intention is to have a paper free wedding! (An undertaking I would love to see).

Invitation:
Usually a 5″ x 7″ish card on heavy paper announcing your marriage. Information to be included: Parents hosting, bride and groom’s names, ceremony day, date, year, time and ceremony venue including town and state. There are lots of phrasing resources on the net, so I won’t duplicate those efforts here. ***Optional: You may put on the same sheet at the bottom “Reception immediately to follow” and the place of your reception, if you don’t want to have a separate reception card.


Reception Card:
Traditionally Reception info is usually listed on a smaller card, approximately 4″ x 5,” included with the invitation. This card might say “Reception immediately to Follow” or “Dinner and Dancing” with the location information. Contrary to popular belief this is not the same as a response card. Guests will keep this card for their information.

Response Card:
This is what guests return to you with their regrets or acceptance, and perhaps their food choice. Since they are sending this back to you, it should not be the only place pertinent information is listed on their invitation, such as the the location of your reception, website, or the hotel information. I suggest discreetly numbering these cards on the back in case you can’t read someone’s handwriting. This way if an illegible card is returned to you, you can check the code # against your master guest list to tell you to whom you mailed the invitation with the corresponding number.


Accommodation Information Card:
Most Hotels these days have a prepared card they will give you when you reserve a block of rooms. These fit conveniently in with the rest of the invitation package. Or you could make small sheets on your computer with a small map on one side and hotel information as well as directions on the other. This would be your resources piece of your invitation. This could also be a nice place to put your website.


Inner Envelope:
All the items listed above go inside an inner envelope. Do not seal this envelope. On the outside, write the first names of the intended guest(s). This can be informal, for example your parents’ could say “Mom and Dad” and your friend’s could say “Liz and Guest.” This is also where single unmarried guests will take their cue on whether or not you’re inviting them with a date. So your single friend Liz’s may just say “Liz” as well.


Some of the samples I found (like the one shown above) featured a folder instead of an inner envelope, you could write on the back of this as well.

Outer Envelope:
Now you slide that envelope into this one. On the outside you’ll need neatly printed mailing addresses with formal salutations. If you have lousy handwriting like me, I recommend computer printed stick-on labels, especially the clear ones which look less obvious. Don’t forget your return address in the left corner or on the back on the envelope flap, and a cute love stamp too!

P.S. The USPS now offers custom stamps! You can upload a photo of you and your fiance, your dog with a red heart in its paws, or anything your heart desires to be made into your very own custom stamps!

Photo credits: blue and red invite, Etsy – Mwilson Shop; inkjet reception card, ehow.com; response card and accommodation card photographed by me and created by Bride Lissa Bee; and Best Occasions Invite Kit available at Walmart.

Panic

Holy mother of God. I just found out my already busy Summer 2010 wedding calendar got even more jammed. In the past 16 hours 3 of my family members announced their nuptials. Winter weddings need to come back in fashion. Oh man. I needed to vent. Somehow I will make this happen. I don’t even know what to do right now. Here is my list thus far and I have a sinking feeling I’m missing some. And I already have 2 in one day, how am I ever going to pick?!

(deep breaths, deep breaths)

May 1, 2010 – South Jersey
June 12, 2010 – Philly suburbs
June 26, 2010 (2 different couples in one day) – Downtown Philly and upstate NY
July 24, 2010 – DC
September 4, 2010 – upstate NY
October 2, 2010 – South Jersey
October 8, 2010 and October 9, 2010 (hindu & christian ceremonies for 1 couple) – Manhattan

Coworker Plus Ones?

A friend asked me for advice on giving coworkers plus ones or not after reading the “Date Dilemma” post from last month. I’ve read some conflicting advice on this topic. If you look on the knot.com you can find lots of helpful guest list Q&A, so I would encourage you to look it over. I think my best advice is to assess your specific group of invited coworkers. Personally I would make this decision by asking myself a few questions…

1. How crammed is my guest list already?
2. Do I (or my spouse-to-be) know my coworkers spouses, sig. others, partners etc. well?
3. Are the majority of invited coworkers married?
4. Married or not, could my work crew all attend as a group of singles and still have fun?
5. Are there other singles being invited who they could mingle with?

If my guest list is kinda tight…I would seriously assess if the work crew could all attend as singles and have a good time together and/or with other singles. Even though some may have spouses, I likely don’t know them, so I think saying to your work friends, “Yes I would love for you to be a part of my special day, but due to my big family, I’m inviting people from the office to come stag,” is totally acceptable. Chances are all your work friends will love to hang out as a group.

If my guest list is not super tight… I would still have the above thought (no reason to spend extra cash). However if 9 out of the 10 co workers you’re inviting are married I would probably just invite all the Couples and give that one person a plus one. Seems fair.

Anytime with the singles, just decide what’s best for your event, your guest list and YOUR HEART and stick with it. I think more than anything guests notice consistency when it comes to who got invited with or without dates.

Registries to Love

I love shopping for my friends wedding gifts probably a lot more than a normal person should. I get totally involved in looking at the registry and finding a gift that means something to me and to them. I also try to link things together (as evidenced by my last post). But I digress, this post is about the fabulous-ness that is Bed Bath & Beyond and Macy’s.

Last night I went to BB & B to get a wedding gift, shower gift and engagement gift from three different registries for three events occurring this month and next. Because my schedule is crazy, I arrived at the store at 8pm. Expecting the wedding counter to not be staffed I went to one of the regular checkouts to ask for registries to be printed. HOWEVER, the wedding counter was still open and the sweetest gentleman nicely printed all three registries for me (and none were particularly easy to find since apparently my friends have either common names or ridiculously hard to spell names). I was totally impressed with the customer service. Then I very easily found the gifts I wanted and was even able to get gift wrap at 9 o’clock at night. It’s all about the little things in life folks!

In general I love when people register at BB & B because there is a such a variety of items as well as a variety of price ranges, which I find is very important to guests of different life stages. Also ordering online is easy and fast if you can’t get to the store. Both the store and website allow you to do one credit card purchase although items may be from more than one registry and they even offered to ship my in store purchase to the different Brides and Grooms for free!! I knew I could ship from the web to the couple but not from the store… I was like a kid on Christmas. Since I go to a lot of weddings and pre-wedding festivities anything that saves me time and energy is a plus. Also I like shopping, so I have fun going to the store, but many wedding guests don’t like shopping, and even they could quickly purchase and ship a gift through the BB & B system. So if you’re looking for somewhere to register BB & B gets my vote!

A second registry I can’t get enough of is Macy’s. Admittedly this is partially because their China department is my guilty pleasure, but their stores and websites are very user friendly too. I have also ordered from multiple registries in one purchase on their website and in store. (A friend recently had trouble doing it in store, but I think the clerk just wasn’t versed in how to do it.) Macy’s obviously has more of a selection when it comes to certain items (dishware, china, and housewares) being a larger department store. Also tends to have the fancier more exclusive things you might need as a new couple. Overall, I think the greatest invention for Macy’s,
BB & B or any other registry system is the “Ship to couple” feature. If you’re not attending the wedding or shower, it takes all the work out of how your gift will arrive, and even if you are attending you don’t have to worry about carrying it or breaking it on the plane. So a second vote goes out to Macy’s Bridal Department.

Photo is of one gift wrapped by BB & B, one by me and the third gift I shipped to the couple!

Recipe Shower Part 2

So the Recipe Shower has come and gone and I have failed to post this for quite some time. My apologies. By day I work at a University, so it’s a busy time of year.

In the end I chose to give my friend a recipe for my Chocolate Wacky Cake, which is my grandmother’s WWII ration recipe featuring no eggs or butter. It’s delicious! If you want to try it out it’s super easy to make, recipe is at the bottom of this post.

As I said in the last post, I love to give a themed gift so I picked out a rectangular cake pan, spatula, and wisk to give with this recipe, since these are items you would need to bake the cake. Luckily I noticed that mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons had all already been fulfilled on her registry. The Bride loved all her gifts, and as she is an avid baker, I know she will especially appreciate a cake recipe. I have to give a shout out to the Maid of Honor! She did the sweetest thing I’ve seen someone do with all the recipes. She bought a photo album type book with single slots for each recipe card and collected the recipes at the shower and slid them all into place. This way the Bride’s recipes are organized and kept all in one place. Bonus-they stay clean under their plastic page protectors!!! Genius. I will definitely add that to my bag of tricks for the next shower I throw.

I got some twitter traffic about how one plans a recipe shower or what exactly that meant, so here is a brief run down. For the person(s) hosting the shower, plan as you normally would. Pick a date, place, make your guest list, but when you mail invitations include an index card or printed recipe card with each invite. You can usually buy packs of recipe cards at grocery stores or kitchen supply places with pretty graphics and fun details such as notes that feature “From the Kitchen of… ” or “Cook with Care Instructions.” Explain to guests on the invite to fill out the card with a recipe of their choice for the Bride (and Groom) and bring it to the shower. Even guests who are unable to attend are able to contribute by mailing their recipe on the provided card to the couple.

Using this invitation to contribute a *free* recipe is also a way to steer guests away from giving a tangible gift at the Shower (if the Bride and Groom are on board with that), especially in this economy a lot of couples are saying one gift on their Wedding day is enough. You could phrase it “You’re invited to a Cooking Shower! Hosted by Sarah’s Bridesmaids. Instead of gifts the Bride requests of gift of your cooking skills! Please share a favorite recipe on this card and join us for good company, tea and desserts on September 19, 2009 at 2pm at the Cambridge Tea Room, West Chester, PA. Please RSVP to Eliza by September 5, 2009 at (phone or email).”

Here is the recipe: Grandma Betty’s WWII Wacky Cake

3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. cocoa
2 teas. baking soda
2 teas. salt
2 tbs. red wine vinegar
2 teas. vanilla
2/3 c. vegetable oil
2 c. cool water

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another. Slowly stir dry ingredients into wet mixture. Pour into a lightly greased rectangular 9″ x 13″ pan or split between two 9″ round pans for a layered cake.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes. Enjoy!