Venue Shopping!

Looking at venues an be an overwhelming process; I get it. It took me around 3 months to research when I finally decided on something. The site that won my heart was a garden.

Walking

Here’s to hoping that your venue process will be smooth!

The size of your guests list will impact your venue. Have you decided on your list of guests? Get on it! Once you’ve estimated how many attendees you might have for the big day, it’s time to venue shop. Depending on the size of your guest list, this will narrow down many different ceremony or reception sites. Smaller parties tend to have a more intimate setting with many options, whereas if you have a large party, only a few venues can hold over 200+ (at least in the Bay Area).

Reception

Don’t set your heart on a specific date. Many venues only have a few dates available because people book in advance. Your venue may be the one choosing your wedding date! Be flexible.

Other things to think through when choosing your venue.

Do you want your ceremony and reception to be at different locations or all in one? Because MG and I also had a Chinese tea ceremony before our traditional ceremony, we wanted our families to be at one place throughout the day. This also saves money because you’re paying for one place! If you decide on two different places, ask yourself, do you want something indoors or outdoors? Church setting? Garden setting? Barn? Golf course? Winery? Antique reception hall or a conference center (like the Bentley Reserve in San Francisco)? Your style also needs to sync up with your venue. For instance, we wanted something rustic so we looked at barns in the beginning. When we realized barns only hold about 100 people, we had to brainstorm again what else we would like, and we settled on a garden theme. 

Tea Ceremony

Think about venue lighting for photography. Many people forget about this. Sometimes the light can be too harsh. Maybe the ceremony backdrop is directly in the sun. This could give the photographers a challenge. Sometimes sunlight can creep through the trees and make your face splotchy with shade. If it’s indoors, make sure there’s enough lighting. Ask your venue owner if you could see some pictures and Google some images from the venue that you’re looking at. See if you like those pictures before booking the site.

Ceremony

Keep in mind that the venue may look different in different seasons. This is especially true when looking at outdoor sites. When we looked at venues, it was in the winter. Because it was a garden, it was dull, grey, and everything was brown. We had our wedding in the Spring, and everything had bloomed so it was a totally different scene. Lighting could also change. Try and see the vision! Take a look at our Winter vs. Spring pictures!

Site

IMG_1132

First look

Ceremony

Ceremony

IMG_1131

Dance

Find out if the venue serves food or alcohol. This is especially important if you are on a tight-budget. If the venue serves food, wonderful. I’m sure you can negotiate a reasonable price for the night. If they do not serve food, ask what types of food can be catered. Some venues only work with specific food vendors. If the site does not serve alcohol, you’ll need to also find an alcohol license, which is an additional fee. Fortunately for us, our venue had a buffet. Thankfully we didn’t have to pay per person, and we paid one flat fee for our party.

Ask if there’s a food-prepping room. If you do go the outside catering route, ask if the venue has a food-prep room. This is really important! Think about a catering business having to make so many different platters of food. If there’s a prep room, they are able to put it all together right before serving vs platting and delivering, which could cause the food to get cold or melted.

Wine, specialty cocktails, and open bar? Really important to ask about alcohol options if you have a budget. Open bar is pricey! Other options can be that there are a few specialty cocktails for the night or  you can simply pay for house wine and champagne. If your guests want other drinks, have a cash bar. We only paid for wine, champagne, and beer. Liquor was based on a cash bar. We decided on this because our family doesn’t drink much so an open bar wouldn’t have made sense for us.

Reception

Ask if your venue has a coordinator. Most of the time there is a ceremony coordinator and a primary reception contact. These are the people that ensure your wedding is on schedule and things are running smoothly. The ceremony coordinator will be working with your officiant to make sure the wedding party knows what they are doing day-of. The reception contact usually make sure your food is being served to the right people first, cake is cut at the right time, and the lighting/sound is just the way you want it. However, do not confuse your venue coordinators with a day-of coordinator. I highly recommend a day-of coordinator for all the details that you worked so hard on.

Aisle

I did research on venues at herecomestheguide.com (great resource!). Once I narrowed down how big of a space I needed for the venue, there were only a few pages to choose from (vs in the hundreds). I found Wildwood Acres and made an appointment the following weekend to look at it. When I got there, I immediately loved it. The venue owners were great to work with, and we synced up right away. I knew this would be the place for my tea ceremony, ceremony, and reception.

Tell the venue your budget. Most of the time, they want to work with you. Negotiation is key here. To our surprise, the venue owners worked with us and our large party. We even got a great deal! Work with the venue, and I’m sure they will provide you with the best. Our venue owners even threw in a coffee cart for mochas, cappuccinos, and lattes. They also provided grilled cheese sandwiches as snacks at the end of the night. Both were surprises to us, and our guests loved it!

In the end, if you walk through to doors and you can picture yourself with your gown on (or tux/suit), pick it.

Married people, any advice that you want to include? Share!

Love,
Jay
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Fun Fact: We chose this site because it was different from other weddings that we’ve attended. Truthfully, people forget about weddings since they go to so many in their lifetime. We just wanted people to remember this venue so we chose it. Good tip, decide what you want people to remember and spend your budget accordingly. The best part? This venue had tiered seating for the tables, which means that people could overlook the dance floor.

Dance

All wedding pictures by Orange Turtle Photography

  

2 Year Wedding Anniversary

Today marks two years that I’ve been married to my Mingus!

Peep

We’ll be going to dinner in the city tonight, not sure where yet. Then this upcoming weekend we’ll be going to Yosemite National Park. I’m a total fan of the outdoors. For our one year we went glamping (glamorous camping at Costanoa). This year will be a whole new outdoors adventure.

I keep discovering new things every year that I’ve been married. We’ve had a few fights along the way, but we come out stronger and learn more about each other. Here’s just a few things that I’ve come to know in the past year.

1. Marriage is about complimenting one another.

What I mean is that when I’m feeling down, he needs to be my motivator. When he’s feeling stressed, you need to be the comforter. If you’re both having a bad week, go out and celebrate that the week is over and a new one is starting. Focus on the positives.

2. Inspire each other. 

What are your significant other’s strengths? Make sure you encourage those skill sets and continue to be the one to inspire creativity. In the past year that I was a housewife, I started many new hobbies. Not once did MG ever tell me to stick with just one. I picked up the guitar, signed up for a half marathon, started blogging, and decorated the house. When I decided to go back to work, he was there to look over my resumes until I landed a job. This past weekend I even picked up watercolor painting. Hobbies help you to balance your time, cause every once in a while you need some personal rest.

3. Just talk.

Talk about work. Talk about your friends. Talk about TV shows and movies. Talk about what’s bother you, stressing you out, what makes you happy, even the little things that make your day. Talk about everything (yup, even what you had for lunch). Carve out time for one another so that you can have these moments to catch up on each other’s lives. I’ve come to realize that sometimes life just gets busy. You come home from work, cook dinner, eat, shower, watch some TV, go online, then you head to bed. Eventually your spouse becomes just a roommate. It happens, and it’s no one’s fault. So give each other some time every day to talk. But just some advice, your husband might not remember what you talk about right before bed so pick another time to talk. Ha! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

To my MG: To many more escapades with you!

Husbands/Wives, what kinds of things have you learned while being married? Please share some advice!

2 years

Come back on Wednesday for more wedding posts! This time around we’ll discuss venues!
Jay
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All photography by Orange Turtle

  

The Most Important…

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you begin wedding planning? THE DRESS!

You’ve got the ring, now it’s time to start the dress search. It’s every girl’s dream to find the most beautiful, gorgeous-est, amazing dress for the big day. There are shows upon shows of girls looking for their dresses. It’s such a big deal! YAY!

But nope. Not for me. I hate, nay despise, dress shopping. I love normal shopping. I can spend hours. Ask any of my friends, I can shop for 10+ hours and still go on; it’s a talent. But I cannot do dress shopping. The only other time I had to find a fancy dress was prom and that was dreadful. I don’t know what it is, I suppose just having this set expectation but never finding what you really want.

Don’t let me get you down though. That’s only me! Maybe you’ve got some great girlfriends to take you out. My sister and mom lived in a different state, so that took a bunch of excitement out.

Let’s start with the design of the dress. Don’t exclude any ideas! You’d be surprised at what might be a glamorous fit for you.

Take a look at the styles below. I’m a firm believer in wearing whatever makes you happy. Don’t listen to those apple figures means this dress. Full-bodied means this. To me, that’s trash. Try each style on and find out on your own which one makes you feel beautiful.

Wedding dress

Secondly, decide on fabric. I’m no expert at all, but in the end it comes down to, do you want something crisp, satiny, lacy, or with tulle? Having a fabric in mind will help with the search. Obviously there are a bunch of other type of fabrics, but if you wanted something satiny, there are materials like Charmeuse and Organza. This helps narrow down the choice of dresses. Within each category of fabric, there are many other different styles and fabrics.

For me, I looked at styles/designs online. I was drawn to A-Line dresses, and I knew I wanted lace. I went dress shopping with my sister and mom at 3 stores, all in one day during my Christmas holiday. I tried on everything from recycled dresses to boutique ($10k+ for designer). Worst experience… I’m just really picky and have high expectations of myself. Plus, I was looking for something original, which I couldn’t find in stores.

Look at dresses online! Don’t be scared to purchase a dress online. Wedding dress seamstresses can work miracles. If you come across something you can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably it! Just buy it.

I was looking at wedding dresses on Etsy around 2am, even though I had work the next day. I came across one dress, called MG, showed him the pics, and told him I really loved it. Immediately then and there, I purchased it. It was $200 and even if it didn’t work out, there wasn’t much money invested. I had gotten my dress! When I showed other people, all I got was confused looks. They didn’t see it then, but I saw the potential. Like I said, I wanted something original.

il_fullxfull-3

il_fullxfull-1

Look for a highly-recommended wedding dress seamstress! I want to emphasize again, highly-recommended and wedding dress seamstress. Wedding dresses are delicate and detailed. The seamstresses that have expertise with these kinds of materials will be your best friend. 

I learned the hard way… I dislike telling this story. It brings bad memories. I found a designer in Los Angeles who would help me alter the dress to a design I had a mind. I thought she would be awesome (take note, this is in past-tense)! One, she was in LA, a city known for fashion, and for another reason, she was on Project Runway! You have to be great if you’re on Project Runway right? Wrong again. I travelled three times for dress fittings (which all added to the cost of the wedding dress), and when she finally mailed me the dress 1.5 months before my wedding, nothing fit correctly. Everything was lopsided. It was horrible. It was obvious she had never worked with wedding dresses before.

Before
^^^ I looked like a behemoth. My right boob is larger than my left. One cap sleep is longer than the other. My designer had the audacity to say that it was ready for wedding day…

I cried daily trying to figure out what to do before the big day. My parents scolded me for being so confident on one dress and also proposed the idea of purchasing a new dress. But my pride told me that it would come together. I still had hope for this dreaded dress. Then I found a wedding dress seamstress in the Bay Area. And my life changed.

She worked wonders. She created miracles. She made the dress of my dreams come to life. Like I said, a seamstress that has experience with wedding gowns is what you want. Wedding dress fabrics are a whole different beast. Go with someone that has experience. Go with someone that has been referred to by a friend or highly recommended on Yelp. You’ve already paid so much for your dress, another $300-500 for alterations so that your dress fits like a glove is totally worth it.

Found a dress where the style and fit is perfect? But maybe you wanted a different neckline. Perhaps you wanted straps for the dress. Or there’s a layer of fabric that doesn’t tickle your fancy. Guess what? A good wedding seamstress can change it. If you have an idea on how to alter, more than likely they can do it. All options are open when it comes to the dress.

In the end, after 6 design drawings, 3 Los Angeles trips, lots of tears, and fighting for a vision, my dress became the perfect gown. No one has it. No design matches it. And it was exactly what I wanted. 

Side

Cap sleeve

Tiers

Back

Dress

Front

Side

My favorite part about the dress how the tiers of lace flow. When the bustle was put in, the back was still flowing beautifully. I love that there are cap sleeves. I love that there’s a criss-cross braided back to keep it modern. Everything was perfect. Even my veil had a pieces of the lace from the dress.

Veil

Girls, get the veil. It puts the entire dress together! 

I agree that the dress is important but…What matters the most is how you feel when wearing your gown. If you’re concerned/stressing about one part of your dress, it’ll show. People can see through your smile. It’ll be visible in pictures too. Make sure the dress makes you feel like you’re invincible. That’s how you know it’s the right one.

Mrs’ do you have any other advice? What was your dress shopping experience like?

For you Bay Area soon-to-be Mrs’, check out Novella Bridal. They have affordable dresses, and I found my miracle seamstress there.

Happy shopping!
Jay
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Fun fact: MG and I exchanged gifts prior to our ceremony at the first look. I made him a scrapbook of our history, including tickets to movies, plays, and shows, poems we made up for each other, and various other trinkets. He gave me a board of all my dress designs, including the one I chose and a final picture of me in the dress. Looking back at my dress story, it’s a good story to tell isn’t it? I just hope no one has to experience it, ever…

Gift

All wedding day photos by Orange Turtle Photography

  

Wedding Invite Process

Welcome to the first of many posts, in my new wedding series! I aspire to give you key takeaways with every post so that you have some next steps if you’re planning a wedding.

Let’s start with the dreaded wedding invitation process… blegh. It’s a necessary evil step. It’s also the very first step of your wedding planning.

First thing’s first. Write out all the guests that you plan on inviting; family, friends, communities, colleagues. MG and I had a guest list of 250. His dad is one of 10 siblings, and his mom is one of 4. Both my parents have 6 siblings each. Yup, large families!

Once you’ve figured all that out, the 80/20 rule will apply here. An estimated 80% of your invited guests will attend, 20% will not. This will help you give you idea of how many guests will be present and will help you with planning for budget and venue. For us, that meant we would have 200 guest, which narrowed down many venues. Most venues have a max capacity.

Don’t overlook the importance of your save-the-dates and wedding invites! Remember that this is the first item for your guests to receive. Get them excited for the wedding!

We sent save-the-dates via email. Many of our family members are out of the country so we wanted to send them out to give them ample time to book airlines tickets. If possible, send your save-the-date 5-6 months prior to the wedding date.

I designed our save-the-dates with my color scheme (blush and grey tones).

SAVE THE DATE

Once that was sent, it was time to get the invites ready!

MG and I have a fun story. We met while I was doing a National Pageant in 2007. When we first started dating, we did long-distance for 3.5 years (who says that doesn’t work?!?). After college, I moved to San Francisco to start my career in advertising. Then we dated for another 1.5 years before he popped the question! We wanted to let people know about our history, so I put together a storytelling scroll as our invite (you can view our story in detail on our website).

Invite

For family members, I also put together a day-of schedule because we also had a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and family photos before the wedding. To get people excited for the wedding, I mailed the scrolls in tubes. We wanted something different than just a regular envelope. It wasn’t the most cost-effective way of sending invites, but this was a fun way to surprise our guests! If you didn’t notice, we also included a QR code for easy RSVPs. My husband is a techie, so it was the perfect way to show his personality.

Invite scroll
We used twine throughout our wedding too!

Send your invites 2-3 months prior to the wedding (traditionally invites are sent 1.5-2 months prior to the wedding). Don’t forget that it takes extra time for those, who live overseas, to receive your invites! Plan for this. Give yourself enough time to follow up to those who haven’t responded and also to put together the seating arrangements. Get that done and out of the way!

To further go along with the scroll, I designed our website in a scrolling manner. To take a look you can click (www.jamieandmg.com). Fortunately for me, my husband is a web developer. My dream wedding website took fruition.

Website

Believe it or not, MG also built an invitation process website while we were planning for our wedding. On this site, you can send mass emails to collect physical addresses, remind people to respond, and guests can RSVP and revise their RSVP (incase names are spelled incorrectly, change a meal plan, or add a guest’s name). This invitation site allows you to see a quick view of who’s attending, who’s not, and who hasn’t responded. Once you’ve received all your responses, you can even arrange your guests into tables with a widget within the website. There’s a product summary in the image below. In the end, this site was a lifesaver!

Are you interested in using it? We’re in Beta testing right now, so we can allow a few people to try it out. First come, first serve. We’ve had friends use it and have heard good things! Let me know if you want an account!

Invite site

Invite site

Ultimately, your save-the-date and invites should bring excitement and show your personality. Make sure it also gives your invitees a taste of what’s to come, some sneak peaks of what will be part of the big day! 

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Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful for those working on invitations.

  • Check out this iPad app, called Makr. It can help you generate some creative invites
  • Look at Laura Hooper Calligraphy. I’ve been obsessed with her work
  • Etsy has some awesome designs too. Affordable and personalized

Married people, do you have any additional advice? Did most of these tips apply to you too? Let us know!

Get to preppin,
Jay

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Fun fact: The engagement ring on our invite and website is my actual engagement ring

Rings

  

Wedding time!

Wedding season is upon us! June is a month that’s near and dear to me.

MG and I got married on June 30, 2012.

Shoes

Our two year anniversary is almost here! To celebrate and to relive that glorious day, I am going to be on a 5 week blogging theme dedicated to weddings, showing you pictures of my wedding and tips to ensure a smooth planning process (or at least as smooth as can be). I was one of the early ones to get married. I wish I had some wisdom and advice from friends during my engagement on how to plan; it would have been so helpful. So I want to do just that – share some advice. I really hope that you find these posts interesting and that it helps you get creative when planning. If you have questions along the way, ask!

Here’s a few snippets of what’s to come:

  • Tips for the invite process
  • How I shopped for my dress (I designed it)
  • How we picked our venue
  • Scheduling
  • DIY decor
  • Reception table decor
  • Photography expectations
  • A traditional Chinese tea ceremony
  • First look
  • Ceremony and reception
  • Plus, lots of tricks of the trade to have a cost-efficient but gorgeous wedding

Before we begin, know that MG and I wanted to keep our wedding costs to a minimum, while also having the wedding of my dreams. We had about 210 in attendance at our wedding because we both have large families and also both go to church. We found ways to cut costs by purchasing items online and DIY-ed many decoration pieces.

Before you begin the planning process, chew on this:

1. How many guests and what’s your budget? That’s the very first thing to think about!
2. If you like it, purchase it. You’ll rack your brain with wedding things because there’s so much out there!
3. Enjoy the process. Remember that in the end, you’re marrying someone you love. Wedding day is one day but you’re marrying the person for a lifetime.

Tea ceremony

J ready

Getting ready

Table

Decor

Cake

Stay tuned! And if you’re not planning a wedding yet, start your wedding pin board. It’s never too early! Or at least, come check out the pictures.

Happy Monday!
Jay
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All photography by Orange Turtle Photography

  

LA LA Weekend

Sun. Shopping. Food. What more can a girl ask for?

Los Angeles is a dream come true, and I’m so lucky that it’s only a one-hour flight away. MG and I visit LA at least once every 6 months which is more than enough because it’s basically our Vegas. We spend so much money on shopping and food, and when we come back into the Bay Area, it’s kind of a relief.

This past weekend we went to LA for a dear friend’s wedding. We flew out on a beautiful Friday afternoon. Clear skies colored in the perfect blue.

Airport

The airport brings up many memories for me. MG and I dated long distance for almost 4 years. I always say the airport can either be the happiest or the saddest place on earth. Lots of smiles and laughs when vacation begins, or in my case, when MG would visit me or I would visit him, then followed by a lot of tears when it was time for goodbye. Before the other person left, we would get to the airport early, sit down in the baggage claim area, and talk until it was time for one of us to board. We have specific places in the airport that we call our “meeting spots.” My favorite conversations were our “Thank You” notes. We “thanked” each other for silly things that happened throughout our vacation. “Thanks for paying for dinner, dessert, and second dessert. Thank you for almost making me late to my flight. Thank you for warning me before you fart…” I’m glad all that time spent at the airport actually worked out! Now that we’re married, we actually still keep up our Thank You tradition by writing each other notes in a journal.

The sun was blazing so once we got into our hotel, I put on my bikini and immediately went to lay out by the pool. Finally, some vitamin D and a slight tan! Why can’t all Fridays be like this…

Poolside

Our hotel kinda looks like the Tower of Terror right?

Hotel

Fridays should also always have milk tea. For me, that would be honey dew milk tea!

Milk Tea

And my number one thing I must do in LA is go to K-town and get Korean food! Kang Hodong Baekjeong is one of MG’s top 5 favorite restaurants. It’s Korean BBQ in a very traditional and basic way. Some meats are not marinated, and the side dishes are egg, bean sprouts, and cheese with corn. The food is cooked over coal by the server at your table. Be prepared to wait over an hour at this restaurant. MG and I waited an hour for a table for 2 at 10pm. I’ve been told some people wait 3 hours! Worth it? Yes, at least once!

BBQ

Korean BBQ

Meat

Is that an entire prime rib eye? Yup. Get it! So deliciously marbled. We ordered the beef platter for two for only $60. It seems like a lot of food, and it is. Which means it’s the perfect amount of food for me!

Saturday was the day of the wedding. We got dressed up, then went to Chick-Fil-A for a pre-dinner snack. Yum! Truly the best milkshakes you can order at a fast-food restaurant.

Chick-Fil-A

Present
I dream about this image – MG delivering me a HUGE gift (hint)

Polaroid
The bride and groom had us take polaroids to replace our name cards for the reception!

Cake
The best part of any wedding is reconnecting with old friends! And cake.

Such a great trip to LA! Oh yeah, and one more thing that made this trip epic – I learned how to use chopsticks the correct way! I’ve gone 26 years without using it the right way. Now I’m a true Asian!

What’s on your must do list for LA?

What did you do this weekend?
Jay

  

It’s All In The Details

I love going to weddings! As a lover-of-crafts, I immensely enjoy looking at all the details. Most of the time, these things just get overlooked. Not I. I look for the tiniest details because I know that the bride actually thought about these things (yes, from experience).

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to my friend Joe and Rachel’s wedding in Fairfax, California. It was an outdoors ceremony and reception, all held at Deer Park Villa. I’m definitely a fan of outdoor weddings – I had one myself! I love the fresh air, the shrubbery, and I especially love to see how the bride and groom put the garden theme together.

Me & my eyelashesReady for the wedding! I never get dolled up anymore, therefore a selfie was a must. Plus, I usually suck at putting on eyelashes, but I did it right this time, so I’m showing them off!

Redwood GroveThis is the ceremony and reception site – Redwood Grove. Beautiful!

Wedding CeremonyThis is the backdrop for the bride and groom. I love the romantic feel. I also adore those white buckets that hold the aisle flowers.

BackdropClose-up of the backdrop. So pretty!

Names
I really like the candle holders that we scattered around the venue.

Smores
An SF favorite! This was actually my first time having an It’s-It (ice cream sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies then dipped in dark chocolate) How come I haven’t had this amazingness before?

TablesThe centerpieces were lovely. I noticed that some of the flowers were even sprayed with gold! 

Glassware
I think that glassware, with candlelight during nighttime is stunning. Am I the only one?

SmoresIn addition to the wedding cake, there were make your own smores. It was getting a bit chilly at night so this was perfect.

Photobooth
And of course, MG and I utilized the photo booth.

On another note:  I’m cat-sitting my sister-in-law’s cats! 3 cats in one household is definitely a cat lady’s dream! Look at these cuties.

Cat WeekendYou obviously know the first one. It’s Chubs! Then meet Lily (she’s sitting so pretty). Finally, meet Olive (Chubs and her get along so well).

What did you do this weekend?
Jay