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First Step to Wedding Planning: Breathe

First Step to Wedding Planning: Breathe

If you just got engaged and are feeling overwhelmed, this is the 3 part guide for you. I got engaged in 2013 and married in 2014. It’s a crazy process with too many options, too many possibilities, and too many expenses. This is a practical guide to give you advice based the the mistakes and lessons I learned while planning my wedding.

I will say that the single most important aspect of planning a wedding is knowing what you do and don’t want to focus on. Do you really love music and want to dance into the night or would you rather skip the DJ and focus on the decor? Some people want a spectacular wedding dress while others might want to spend more money on the food or venue. Whatever your preference, you need to get that settled with your fiance before moving on to looking at venues.

Questions to Get You Started

Once you’ve established what you want out of your wedding it will be much easier to budget based on the things you and your fiance see as priorities.

You and your fiance should both list the top 3 most important aspects of your ideal wedding. After you’ve done that share with each other.

Examples:

  • The food
  • DJ
  • Venue
  • Location (close by or destination)
  • Time spent with wedding guests
  • Large wedding guest list
  • Expensive wedding dress/tux/suit
  • Large wedding party
  • Additional wedding events (rehearsal dinner, brunch the day after the wedding)
  • Decor/Flowers

If you both wrote down 3 things and nothing overlapped, that might be a problem. But in that case I’d say pick the top two from each of your lists and then agree on the 5th item that’s a priority.

Questions to ask & answer with you and your fiance before wedding planning:

  • What’s the best wedding you’ve ever attended. What about it did you like so much?
  • What’s the worst wedding you’ve ever attended. What didn’t you like about it?
Death, Grief, and Pop Culture

Death, Grief, and Pop Culture

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death. I thought I’d have at least another 20 years to prepare for the death of a parent but instead my loss, and the loss for my entire family, came suddenly and unexpectedly. The most important lesson I’ve learned in the past year is that everyone handles the grieving process differently and its impossible to get everyone to say and do what you need in order to feel emotionally supported. For some people, they want to grieve in private and don’t want to talk about it. I had my brief time with that urge but it passed and then I desperately wanted to talk about my heartache but found that many people think its uncomfortable or impolite to ask me how I’m doing or even acknowledge the situation. In turn, I didn’t want to burden my friends and family with a constant barrage of tears. I went where I always go for comfort, television and movies, but found there is no safe place to be when you are trying to hide from grief.

Growing up I always prided myself on the fact that I never cried at movies. I would brag about it and make fun of my mom for crying at commercials. I thought crying equaled weakness and I never wanted to be perceived as an “emotional” girl. Of course, there’d been times in my life when I cried over a boy or a lost friendship but to me, crying over some piece of pop culture always felt beneath me. I’ve cried more in the last 365 days then I knew was humanly possible which, looking back on my childhood, seems like that damn was bound to break at some point.

The week after my dad died I was flipping through the TV channels and stopped at The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and watched for a few minutes just as the scene where Eowyn’s uncle (basically her father) is killed and she must say goodbye to him. I completely lost it. My husband held me as I cried and then I started laughing at how absurd it felt to be crying uncontrollably at a movie I’ve seen before and a scene that never made my eyes well up previously. If only I’d known that was just the beginning.

I’d been a big fan of the television show Parenthood. The father in the show, Zeek, always reminded me of my dad. So, in the final season (spoiler alert) when the show started dealing with Zeek’s heart issues around the same time my dad was having a procedure on his heart, I got very nervous. I thought, “Please don’t let Zeek die because it will make me nervous for my own dad.” And then my dad died before Zeek. I saved the last six or so episodes of Parenthood on my DVR for months because I wasn’t ready to watch my reality play out again on television.

Three weeks after my dad died I went and saw Interstellar over Thanksgiving weekend. I spent two and a half hours watching what is essentially a love story between a father and his daughter. A story about how love has no bounds in time or space. I cried quietly to myself throughout the ending everyone else thought was confusing or cheesy. This was my new emotional state.

In the months that Parenthood was holding a spot on my DVR, I couldn’t escape what felt like a constant onslaught of men having heart attacks on television and in movies. Fathers dying seemed to be everywhere.

When did the trope of male characters having heart attacks become such a prominent thing and how can we make it stop?

I found myself avoiding dramas at all costs. I tried sticking to mindless television and comedies to escape the theme of loss prominent in every show. I’d watch Shark Tank to withdraw from my emotions only to have one of the entrepreneurs say she was doing this for her dad who had passed away. I’d listen to Nerdist, a generally funny and lighthearted podcast, and come across episodes where host Chris Hardwick talked with guests about the death of his father. I went to see Trainwreck thinking it would be a fun lighthearted movie to take my mind off things. And then I had to sit in a dark theater with no tissues as I watched Amy Schumer’s character eulogize her dad at his funeral. I wanted to run out of the theater and cry in the bathroom but I stayed and felt a bit of comfort crying alongside the characters.

There’s a moment in Pixar’s brilliant Inside Out where the characters Joy and Sadness realize that previous memories that were once only filled with Joy had become tinted with sadness. They think this is a mistake and try to fix it, only to realize memories change based on current circumstances. This moment rang true to me in regards to the process of dealing with loss and grief. When my dad died, all the previous, once joyous memories turned blue. Moments like my wedding, which were pure joy only months earlier, became too painful to think about. I couldn’t bear to look at family photos. I had to remind myself that there can be joy without sadness but part of what makes sadness so powerful is the joy that came before. My sadness was coming from a place where joy was once so prevalent and that should be something to be grateful for. If I didn’t have such happy memories I wouldn’t be as sad about all the memories I’ll no longer get to make with my dad.

Months passed and I finally sat down and watched the final episodes of Parenthood. By this time, I knew what was going to happen to Zeek but instead of running from it I embraced it. I sat on my couch and cried along with the Braverman’s for hours. It was cathartic in a way I didn’t think possible. I still catch my breath when I’m watching something and a father dies but now I find myself embracing it much more. Sometimes I find myself seeking out a sad story so I can have an excuse to let my emotions run free.

Joe Biden recently said, “…My family has suffered a loss, and I hope there would come a time, and I’ve said this to many other families, that sooner rather than later when you think of your loved one, it brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes.” I’m not quite there yet. I still have a hard time looking at family pictures or listening to my dad’s favorite songs but now I know I can turn to myriad stories within pop culture that remind me that I’m not alone in my grief. Am I feeling angry at the loss today? Do I want to curl up in a ball and cry? Do I want to laugh in the face of this new version of my life? I know now I can find a piece of media that will match my mood and my place in the grieving process. I now know that when and how I choose to process my grief is up to me and that if I want to cry at a commercial showing a loving father and daughter it shouldn’t make me feel weak. It should make me proud to have had such a wonderful dad who still impacts my life every single day.


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Podcasts: My Rush Hour Sanity

Podcasts: My Rush Hour Sanity

podcast-logoI live 12 miles from my job. Those 12 miles take me an hour to drive in the morning and between an hour and an hour and a half in the evening. I’ve been doing the commute for over 3 years and while, at some point, I did stop having small meltdowns every night (the drive home is always mentally harder than the start of the day for me) I was still relatively cranky. I’d listen to the radio or blast a new CD but I would still find myself in a much worst mood when I got out of the car than when I got in. That was until I found my saving grace, podcasts.

My husband, Kevin, was apparently an early adopter to podcasts, listening to certain ones religiously since 2009. He’d always tell me some interesting fact he’d learned from them but I never got interested enough to listen myself. After my dad died last November, I found my commute nearly impossible. No matter what song was playing I found my thoughts traveling back to my dad and my loss and I’d arrive at work in tears. I realized I needed more than a song to keep my mind occupied during my drive each day.

I thought I’d make podcast listening into an extension of my job and only listen to podcasts about marketing and branding. I quickly realized I was bored and didn’t want my commute to feel like more work. So, I went to the App Store and just typed in keywords of stuff I wanted to listen to: film, television, pop culture, film reviews.

I now listen to podcasts morning and night and have even started a walking routine at work each day to keep myself moving. I use my favorite podcasts as motivation, I’m only allowed to listen to those when walking. I’ve been thoroughly entertained by these shows and am thankful for the companionship they provide me each day.

Finding a podcast that connects with you is a very personal thing. I’ve found that certain qualities keep my attention much better than others. I also find that I’m more quick to dislike a podcast due to one person in a round-table not being my cup of tea than I am to, say, stop watching a television show because there is a character I dislike. Perhaps its because these are real people or because radio always feels like a more intimate medium. Without further ado, here are the people who’ve gotten me through the last seven months.

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Wedding Etiquette Can Kiss My Ass

Wedding Etiquette Can Kiss My Ass

Wedding Reception

I’m getting married. I’ve been engaged for almost 4 months now and in that time I feel like I’ve entered a new society with new social norms and rules I never knew existed. I’m excited to marry Kevin but the sheer volume of wedding etiquette and the “you need…”, “you have to…,” “you can’t…,” “you shouldn’t…,” “you must…”  of wedding planning feels more like peer pressure than advice.

Everyone says, “It’s your day. Do whatever you want” but then I see the looks on people’s faces or hear the tone of disappointment in their voices when I say I don’t want a wedding cake (I don’t like cake) or that I don’t want to spend money on a wedding dress unless I can wear it again. When I mention my lackadaisical attitude about my dress people then ask what I’m going to have Kevin wear. I’m supposed to pick out what Kevin wears? I don’t think so. He’s an adult. I think he can figure out what to wear to his own wedding. Somehow the fact that I trust my future husband enough to dress himself makes me seem like I don’t care enough about my wedding. It’s this type of backward nonsense that is making my head spin.

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The Start of Adulthood

The Start of Adulthood

Adulthood

In honor of the beginning of the end of my twenties, I am going to add adulthood to the list of topics I will discuss in this blog. Originally, I wanted this to just be a place to discuss film and theatre but the reality is that I don’t see enough of either to sustain a consistent blog. My life, on the other hand, is pretty full right now.

My 28th year consisted of: (in this order) moving in with my boyfriend, Kevin, getting a new job, finally feeling like I have a career and a career path, buying a home, getting engaged, starting wedding planning. The last year has been a “run head first into a brick wall called adulthood” kind of year.

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The Queen of Versailles: What Jackie Siegel Taught Me

The Queen of Versailles: What Jackie Siegel Taught Me

The Queen of Versailles

I’m neither a wife nor a mother but I hope to someday be both. Sure there are lots of books and older women to give me advice on how to be good at both of these roles. But sometimes the best way to learn how to do something right is to see how its done oh so wrong.

A lot has been written about the documentary The Queen of Versailles (2012), a film that follows the wealthy David and Jackie Siegel as they start to build the largest single-family private residence in the United States, only to have their livelihood threatened by the Great Recession. They start the film living an opulent lifestyle and end with their homes in foreclosure, their housekeepers and nannies gone and the company in numerous lawsuits. The previously written articles* about the film perfectly sum up the cavalier attitudes of the uber wealthy and the lack of any real world perspective this class of people has. For a look at the selfishness and foolishness that got many individuals, and corporations, into the great decline, this film is superb. It should be required viewing every 7 years or so, just enough time for people to start getting comfortable and lax in judgment once again.

Watching this film as I am on the cusp of really becoming an adult, whatever that means, I came away from this film with another lesson learned. The Queen of Versailles has provided me with some amazing perspective on what it takes to be a strong woman, have a good marriage and raise respectful children. 

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