Friday, July 17, 2015

Our Wedding: My Bridal Look

Hey, friends.

Believe me when I say I have frequently thought about picking up posting again, yet simultaneously was fine with... not. But now, with Jonathan's and my 1st anniversary already behind us, I don't think there will ever be a better time to chronicle the details of our Big Day. Because I want to, and if I don't do it now, I never will. The details are already starting to slip...

You already know about the location we picked. Now, let's talk about all of the things I spent money on to look like a Bride instead of a normal human being for approximately 12 hours.

Warning: long post a'ho.

I went wedding dress shopping with my sister (Maid of Honor), best friend Cassie (Matron of Honor), and mother. I had absolutely no idea where to start (despite having a pretty good idea about what I liked). Thanks to Yelp, I found Janene's Bridal in Alameda, CA --  with the best reviews, great selection, and affordable prices.


I scheduled my appointment for September 2013, and we made an afternoon of it. Lunch, coffee, trying on thousand dollar dresses. The usual.

My budget was set at a flimsy "around $1500," which essentially meant "hopefully closer to $900, but willing to spend $1800 if it's the prettiest," so the associate at Janene's sent me off to pick out whichever dresses I felt like trying on. This wasn't a Say Yes to the Dress / Kleinfeld's type of experience, where the associate goes, "I know just the dress," and then goes off to hand-pick five dresses that work best with your body, budget, and bridal dreams without you having to lift a finger. It was insane to look through row after row of dresses, trying to focus on price point, but also praying I'd find options that fit with the flow-y, twirl-y fantasy I'd been pinning and envisioning for years. It helped that I am an incredibly tactile person, and I could simply run my hand over most dresses and determine undoubtedly that it wasn't the dress for me. (Why are you a thing, taffeta?)

Truthfully, I'm not the best shopper. I don't like trying on clothes, and I don't like attention, or spending money, or time constraints. Shopping for a wedding dress was something I had been aching to do, but also dreading with every fiber of my curvy, above-average-sized body. I had no idea how I was going to make a decision about which dress looked best when I was certain not a single sample size would zip up or close. I was momentarily optimistic when the sales associate told me every sample was a size 12, but it didn't take more than one strained pull of a dress over my mammoth booty to realize that they were really a size 8. Being a size 10-12 at the time, I was confused and awash in disappointment that simply putting on a dress was such a physical chore.

I grabbed several dresses that seemed to fit my style, and then I saw without question the prettiest dress in the bunch. The dress is called "Willow" (Style 1350) by Blush By Hailey Paige. It was also over budget, but I picked it up anyway. When I walked into the dressing room with the handful of dresses, my entourage offered a reassuring "oooouuuu" when they saw it.

Then, when I walked out wearing it, there was the stereotypical gasping and tearing up, even though it didn't fit at all and the back was gaping open. It was so soft and twirly and everything I'd hoped to find. Since we all loved it so much, I had my size 8 sister try it on so I could see how it would look when it actually fit someone. Even though Kim was already skinny and pretty, it made her look even skinnier and prettier. The dress is mostly tulle, with soft, thick handkerchief lace, and has just enough train to feel super bridal.

Needless to say, it's the dress I bought. $2100 before alterations, because I'm dumb and have no sense of what money is. (Warning to future brides: I was told alterations would be about $300-$400 when I bought the dress, but they ended up being $750 all said and done. And that's without having the dress taken in at all. I regret not shopping around for a better deal, because it's so easy to get taken advantage of when you have no idea what is normal.) I don't even have pictures of me in the dress from when I tried it on, so here are some snapshots from the wedding -- thanks to our wonderful friend and photographer, Joe Gunn.

The shoes were the most challenging part of the whole thing. I had very specific requirements and there ended up being not a single shoe website that I did not scour looking for right pair. I knew I wanted to avoid anything higher than a one-inch heal because  Jonathan is only two inches taller than I am as it is.

No heels, because we would be outside in grass and dirt throughout the night, which also meant closed-toed.

And finally, the shoes had to be solid navy to match the bridesmaid dresses. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a solid navy, closed-toed shoe with no heel that's actually affordable?

Hard. Really hard.

I found a few perfect options, but they were either sold out in my size or discontinued. Eventually I found these by Seychelles, which -- though not solid navy -- would look solid from the front, and the black in the heel area would tie in nicely with the black shoes the groomsmen/woman would be wearing.

The shoes (called "Whisper In My Ear") are no longer available with Seychelles, unfortunately. (Here's a clear marketing photo of them I found on Google.) They had a few additional colors, as I recall. I'm so grateful to have found something I can continue to wear!

And with that image, let's talk about jewelry.

I thought jewelry would be easy, but it turned out to be one of the last things I finalized. I fell in love with these earrings from Lulu Frost ("Demeter") and convinced myself I didn't need a necklace or anything other than these because they were perfect and could hold their own.

But once I was able to wear my dress during the fittings, it was clear that the dress needed a necklace. I searched high and low for an affordable necklace to compliment the earrings I loved, to no avail. A week before the wedding, my mother and I started a search for new jewelry, and just three days before the wedding, we found a simple and classic solution at none other than J. Crew.

I sent these two blurries to my bridesmaids to show them the updated look, which featured two necklaces -- one for the ceremony, and one for the reception (no longer available) -- plus earrings that could match both.

Though sad not to where my beautiful Lulu Frost earrings, they ended up being a lovely addition to my casual rehearsal dinner look, of which I have no photos.

I think, in the end, I made the right choice. I felt lovely, and these had an intense amount of sparkle without being too flashy or garish. A little flash of gold -- two bracelets that belonged to my grandmother, and now belong to my aunt -- served as my "something borrowed."

Lastly: hair and makeup. My Matron of Honor, Cassie, decided to gift me my wedding day hair and makeup, specifically because she knew I would love her friend Lexie's work. Which I do. I love her.

Lexie Lazear does makeup and hair for brides, and wig-building and make-up design for musical theater productions in the SF Bay Area. She also teaches classes on doing the perfect cat eye, and everything else you could ever imagine about makeup.

Since I had recently discovered how much I adore a bright lipstick, we decided to go with a simple eye and bold lip. I had some hair extensions that my sister gave to me (which she got from her friend Heather -- more on Heather in another post to follow), and that miraculously matched my hair exactly. I wanted my hair to be pulled back, but still show off the length, so Lexie put it in a low side pony. Which left the perfect place for a strategically placed flower.

This eye makeup. Did. Not. Budge. It was still as beautiful as ever as I headed off to bed at 1 AM.

I may be one of the least photogenic people I know (I'm a huge supporter of the selfie), but I still felt so amazing all day -- despite my dress being le tight around my poor wide rib cage all night, which made eating food impossible difficult, until I was finally able to remove the bustier/bra. (Removing that mid-party was the moment I truly, finally, understood what freedom was.)

I'm not a fussy person when it comes my every day look, and I don't have occasion to be fussed over and complimented on the regular. It was nice to hear such lovely things all day about my dress and hair and makeup and everything else and feel like I could say "Thank you!" without having to avert my eyes and blush with modesty, or find a way to counter it with self-deprecation.

Because honestly? I was proud. I worked really hard and so many decisions and so much thought went into every little detail, and while nothing was perfect (I'd be lying if I said losing an extra 20 lbs wouldn't have made me any happier), I felt immensely proud of myself and everyone who helped bring my look and the entire wedding together. Because although we had vendors and a coordinator to help with day-of planning, nearly everything was designed or created or curated by Jonathan and me (though, in all sincerity, mostly me). And there's nothing quite like seeing all of your ideas and planning come together into something that others get to enjoy.

Coming up? Jonathan's wedding look, our bridal party, invitations and paper stuffs, all of our music picks (with download links!), decor and details, photo booth silliness, the whiskey bar, and more!

I'll leave you with a picture of the most important wedding day accessory (aside from a new husband on my arm):


* all images are property of Stacy Hyatt at The Sleepy Peach unless otherwise noted (photographs from our wedding by Joe Gunn Photography)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Food Friday: Bistro Don Giovanni | Grilled Bistro Burger

I've been looking forward to revisiting this burger at Bistro Don Giovanni for nine whole years, and on our 5-year anniversary (of dating!), I got to return to Napa with Jonathan last weekend to enjoy this Top 20 burger before indulging in some wine tasting.

It's amazing how time and exposure to other foods influences our taste buds. Back in 2006, after Oprah featured the list on her show and myself then committing to trying all 20 of GQ's Best Burgers in America, naturally I tackled the ones in my own state first.

The Bistro Burger falls at #11 on the list, and was also the first gourmet burgers on the list that I ate. In fact, I think it's likely it was the first gourmet burger I ever ate up until that point. I remember (in 2006, at 20-years-old, scoffing at the $14 price tag. (Note: I'm amazed the price has stayed the same all these years... I've since paid $18 easily for a delicious gourmet burger.) I remember being absolutely astounded at the quality of the meat, the flavor, the texture. It was a truly revolutionary experience for my taste buds.

So, nine years later, does it live up to my memory? Yes and no. Yes, in that it is truly a delicious burger -- certainly as good as it was then. It'd be difficult to go back and not order it. Thinking about the juiciness makes my mouth water just writing about it. But also, no, in that I am less 'wowed' than I previously was, which speaks more to my many years of burger tasting than it does to the deliciousness of this particular burger.

If you're in the Napa area, I highly recommend stopping by and enjoying this burger and some delicious wine for lunch.