Friday, February 29, 2008

Weekend Jaunt

On Saturday, FI and I are trekking to Newport to meet with Belle Mer's event planner/consultant, Jennifer. Jennifer has been very helpful so far -- patiently listening to my ideas and working to gather the necessary items. She's bringing together several samples of tablecloths, rentals, etc for us to look at. My inspiration for the color can be found here: I love the dark aqua/teal color used for the chair covers and tablecloths, and Jennifer thinks she has a cloth very similar.

We're also looking at potential rehearsal dinner venues:

Newport Vineyards ( Newport Vineyards is actually located in Middletown, RI, but it's about a 5 min drive to the Newport town limit. It is probably the most popular vineyard in the New England area, and it should be beautiful in mid-May. They do have a permanent tent structure, as well as a wine garden and a "barrel room." Given the smaller number of people at our rehearsal dinner, we'd probably opt for the wine garden or barrel room. The only real drawback to Newport Vineyards, though, is the need to hire outside caterers.

Forty-One North ( 41 North is a "marina resort," meaning that it is a marina, hotel and restaurant in one. So, while you're dining you can look out at docked yachts. And if you're too tipsy to drive, you can crash there, too. The place seems very upscale and modern, and it's right on the water. The rooms that they have available for rehearsal dinners are actually on the 2nd floor, but they have wrap-around decks and lots of windows. I'm excited to meet with Leslie, the events manager, tomorrow and tour the space. It seems like a real possibility.

H2O ( We're not actually visiting this place tomorrow, but I wanted to include it in my list of possible rehearsal dinner venues. I spoke with Dottie, the owner, last week, and unfortunately it doesn't open for the season until April. It's a contemporary waterfront restaurant with live music many nights, including Thursdays. The pictures on the website look awesome. We may walk by and peek through the windows if we have time. If we don't use it as a rehearsal dinner site, it could definitely be an "after party" spot.

Finally, we're going to visit a Catholic church that actually agreed to marry non-parishoners (finally!). It's St. Anthony's in Portsmouth, RI, which is about 15 mins away from Newport. It seems very cute, and unlike many of the other "evil church ladies" I've talked to, the receptionist was very nice. That's a good sign. We may even meet with the priest! Keep your fingers crossed that he agrees to perform the ceremony.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Running of the Brides

Now that I've partially recovered from the craziness that is "Running of the Brides," I think I can write about my experience. This was the first time that the semi-annual Filene's Basement sale was held somewhere other than the Downtown Crossing store. Hynes Convention Center proved to be a good replacement, though.

Preparations started on Thursday, when my mother flew in from NC to be a part of "Team L-Boogie." After picking her up from the airport, we made a Target run to get all the necessary supplies -- hats, shirts, blankets, and posterboard. Although I had initially anticipated getting everyone pink shirts, I couldn't resist the green "Everyone loves an Irish girl" shirts. So, green became our official color.

We were a small team -- just me, my mom, and bridesmaid Erica -- but it's all about quality, not quantity. We arrived bright and early at 6:15, and yet there were still about 50 people in front of us. As my mom held our place in line, I went in search of coffee and doughnuts. Thankfully, there was a Dunkin Donuts nearby. At 7:00, they allowed everyone inside, but not to the actual room of dresses. Although I think we lost a few spots in line due to the "dual" escalators up and a few weaseling cutters-in-line, we still managed to be in the first third of the line.

At 8:00, the doors open and we made a run for it. Erica and I managed to secure about 15 dresses between us (they're heavy!) and a space in front of a mirror. Unfortunately, in the process, we lost my mom. After trying on a few possibilities, I set out in my undies to trade the "no's" and find my mom. After about 10 mins of hunting, I located her by her tall green hat in the middle of the store. She had a few dresses and had been waiting on us to find her.
Reunited, we spent the next 2.5 hours trading dresses and holding onto our "maybes." Erica almost got into a fight after some "poachers" tried to take some of my dresses. She may be small, but she's fierce! Overall, though, it was just way too overwhelming to find anything. Since both Erica and I had class at 11:50, we decided to leave empty-handed, but with a great story!

As it turns out, my mom and I decided to go back in the afternoon. It was MUCH calmer, with all the dresses back on the rack and very few people milling about. And, I actually found a dress! Granted it's only a "maybe" dress, but a $4000 Henry Roth gown for $500 is hard to pass up. Even if I decide to go with another dress, I'm sure that I can sell it for at least that much.

In the end, I'm glad that I went to the actual "Running of the Brides" for the experience, but if you're actually looking to find a dress (a "the ONE" kind of dress, that is), then you should definitely wait and go after the crazy mad dash is over.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

***Wedding Dress Update***

After leaving a message for Josette at Saks on Tuesday, she finally called me back today. The conversation went something like this:

LegalBeagle: "Hi Josette, this is LegalBeagle, and I was calling to see if you'd talked to David (Reem Acra rep) about my dress."

Josette: "I'm sorry, what is this in regards to? Have I met with you already? I seem to have lost your paperwork..."

LB: "Yes, on SUNDAY, you were my salesperson. The Reem Acra dress, remember? The one that would have to be specially ordered, and David was going to check and see if Reem Acra could even do it?"

J: "Reem Acra? Oh, was it one of the trunk show dresses?"

LB: "Yes, I tried it on about 3 times and spent a good half hour talking to you and David about it."

J: "Oh, riiiight. Let me call David and get back in touch with you."

Can you believe her? This is a $8100 dress. This would be a HUGE commission for her, and she not only LOST my paperwork but apparently completely forgot about me. She is by far the WORST salesperson on earth. Then, she has the nerve to call me back and leave this message:

"Hi Laura, I just spoke with David at Reem Acra, and they can do the dress. It'd be a one of a kind original, off the runway JUST for YOU dress. They're holding the material and everything for YOU, so you need to call me back immediately and let me know."

Seriously?! First, she didn't remember me, and now I'm supposed to drop everything and cough up $10,000 on the spot. The nerve. I think I'm going to try and find David's number and call him myself. I just can't bear giving Josette the commission.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wedding Dress Shopping: Part 2 in NYC

BM Erica and I headed to NYC for the weekend to do a little wedding dress shopping. On Saturday, I went to Kleinfelds and Saks, and, on Sunday afternoon, I went to Bridal Reflections. Here is my rating guide:

1st -- Kleinfelds: Rene was so patient and super-sweet. She patiently held my hand as I walked through hundreds of racks. Since this was my first appointment, I didn't have as clear of an idea of what I wanted, but by the end, I had a distinct style that I gravitated toward. Rene also let me know prices (and those out of my range) before I tried on any of them.

2nd -- Bridal Reflections: Christina was very nice, but I felt a wee bit pressured by her. She was, however, extremely helpful and very accommodating to my changes and suggestions. However, Christina picked out gowns that were way out of my price range (even though I had explicitly written down that range on my profile sheet). How terrible it would have been to find THE dress, only to discover that it was $12,000!

3rd -- Saks: Josette seemed very rushed and basically flat out told me they didn't have what I was looking for. Fortunately, Reem Acra was having a trunk show, and I found my perfect gown on my own. And, I am the one who talked with the Reem Acra rep, David, about ordering it in a particular color and style.

Dress Selection
1st (Tie) -- Kleinfelds & Bridal Reflections: Although Kleinfelds probably has more dresses overall, Bridal Reflections' gowns are all out and easily looked through (unlike Kleinfelds which has most of them in a back room and in plastic). Additionally, many of the sample gowns at Kleinfelds had seen MUCH better days (the Monique Lhuillier "Scarlett" gown was practically falling apart). Those at Bridal Reflections were much cleaner and in better condition overall.

3rd -- Saks: As mentioned above, Saks had a very poor selection. In fact, the only gowns that were actually out were those associated with Reem Acra's trunk show. All other gowns were in the back, to be selected by the salesperson based on your descriptions.

Overall Experience
1st -- Bridal Reflections: Free champagne, big dressing rooms, and instead of those horrible clips, they actually pin the gown for you, giving you a much better fit. I loved the set-up of the gowns and the ability to easily walk through and find gowns that I liked.

2nd -- Kleinfelds: This is the quintessential bridal salon, but I did think that maybe it was a bit too large and too crowded. There were so many girls running around and trying on things that space was limited.

3rd -- Saks: Not only were the dressing rooms small, but the entire bridal salon was very cramped. We were not offered water or robes, and the salespeople were borderline rude.

I had a great, if exhausting, experience, but in the future, I think I'll stick to only one or two places per trip. By my third appointment, I was definitely getting tired, cranky and confused. In the end, I found two dresses that I really liked and are potentially THE ONE, but I wanted to give myself more time to think about it. Stay tuned as I participate in the Running of the Brides on Friday!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Hallmark Holiday!

Valentine's Day holds a special power over everyone, because even though we all know it's a "fake" holiday, we still go out to an expensive dinner and buy cards, flowers, and candy. It's quite the impressive advertising campaign. I'm sure the boys would be fine with by-passing it altogether, so it must be the girls who are perpetuating this holiday. Well, duh! It's Valentine's Day, it's the day of love, don't you loooove me? Ok, so maybe it's an acceptable, if fake, holiday.

With this said, FI demonstrated his love and affection to me by making reservations (a whole WEEK in advance!) at a new restaurant for tonight. We did, however, decide to forgo gifts this year (except for the requisite card, of course). This year, the puppies got their daddy a very cute card, as well. However, since the only cards I could find were "from the DOG" (singular), we had to do a little creative editing to make it from both of them. Let's just say that I'll leave it to Hallmark to do all the drawings in the future...

And, so I leave you with a cute puppy Valentine and a hearty "Happy Valentine's Day!"

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Win for Beagles Everywhere!!

Uno the beagle was "numero uno" at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show tonight! He became the first beagle to EVER win Best in Show!

"Barking and baying up a storm, Uno lived up to his name Tuesday night by becoming the first beagle to win best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club. The nation’s new top dog was clearly the fan favorite, and drew a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden when he was picked."

The Most Annoying Words ...

... are "you have plenty of time!" Seriously, if one more person tells me "not to worry" and "you have more than enough time to plan," I'm going to scream. Apparently, whenever someone hears 200NINE, they automatically assume that planning really shouldn't start until 2009. Obviously, this is coming from people who haven't planned a wedding in a really, REALLY long time (if ever).

I can *maybe* understand it if you're planning a smaller wedding, in your hometown, and you work parttime. But, I am doing none of that. I'm a full time student in LAW school in my FIRST year. Most people can't even find the time to maintain a relationship during their first year, much less plan a wedding.

Secondly, this is a borderline destination wedding since FI and I live in Boston and the wedding is about 1.5 hours away in Newport, RI. It's not like planning a wedding in another country, but there are still logistical problems and timing issues, such as having to devote an entire day or weekend to visiting venues/vendors/etc. instead of only a few hours here and there.

Thirdly, only ONE member of my bridal party (a bridesmaid) actually lives in Boston. My entire family is in NC, my MOH and 2 other bridesmaids live in DC and the fifth bridesmaid lives in New Orleans. Thus, everything has to be coordinated and communicated through email, phone calls and frequent flyer miles. In fact, most wedding related shopping trips have occurred in NYC, since it's the midway point between DC and Boston.

Finally, we're having a rather large wedding that requires many vendors and planning. Although we have booked our reception venue, we still don't have a church or rehearsal dinner site. And, since Newport is a popular, touristy town, many places are booked over a year in advance! Newport is also a small town, and there are only so many places that fit our needs. Needless to say, we need to book these places ASAP!

The moral of the story is this: Don't tell a frantic bride that she has plenty of time to plan her wedding. There is never enough time, and it always manages to sneak up on you before you know it. Instead, just be supportive and feign interest in whatever wedding detail she is freaking out about that day. On behalf of brides everywhere, I thank you.

Wedding Dress Shopping: Part 1

About a month ago, my mother, MOH, FMIL and I went on my very first wedding dress excursion. I had 2 appointments in Boston at L'Elite Bridal on Newbury Street and Priscilla of Boston. I had a fairly good idea of what I wanted -- something very simple and lacy with an open or elaborate back (after all, my back is what most people will be looking at during the ceremony). I particularly liked the Monique Lhuillier "Scarlett" dress, from her 2005 collection:

I love the mermaid style. It accentuates and hugs my curves (what few I have), but it still has a little "poof" that makes it actually look like a wedding dress. I'm also not a huge fan of beading or sequins, so I like dresses that feature lacey accents.

My first appointment at L'Elite was somewhat disappointing. The shop was small, and it didn't offer any of the "perks," such as free champagne and nice, big dressing rooms. They had all of their gowns out on racks, and they allowed you to choose which ones you liked and wanted to try on. Unfortunately, though, they didn't have a huge selection, and they didn't carry Monique Lhuillier. All in all, I gained some experience and became more knowledgeable about the styles and labels, but I didn't find anything that I loved. So, it was on to the next shop!

At Priscilla's, we had a much better experience. It was very lovely and spacious, and everyone was able watch me model dresses on a small stage and mirror area. However, they did have a rather strict policy of only allowing brides to try on 6 dresses. As it turned out, though, I found 2 dresses that I liked -- one that was mermaid, and more like the idea I went in with. However, the other was the exact opposite -- a big, poofy, heavily beaded ballgown! I guess I can't get away from the Grace Kelly/Princess Di fairytale look afterall. Who knew?

In the end, no purchases were made, but I'm definitely more open to trying on dresses outside my original style idea. The next shopping trip is scheduled for this weekend in NYC with my bridesmaid Erica. Kleinfelds, here we come!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Turks & Caicos Islands

Since the weather is approximately -7 degrees here in Boston, I'm fondly reminiscing about the recent trip FI and I took to the Turks & Caicos Islands. Since most people have never heard of the Turks & Caicos, here's a geography lesson, courtesy of Wikipedia:

"The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory consisting of two groups of tropical islands in the West Indies . . . The two island groups are in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of the Bahamas, north of Hispaniola, and 914 kilometres (494 nmi) from Miami, at 21°45′N, 71°35′W. The territory is geographically contiguous to the Bahamas, but is politically a separate entity."

Both Bruce Willis and Dick Clark have homes in the Turks, and it was the honeymoon destination for both Ben Affleck & Jennifer Garner and Eva Longoria & Tony Parker. FI and I LOVED the Turks, and are considering returning there for our honeymoon. It was a quick and easy flight (direct flights are available from NYC), the weather was fantastic, and we often felt as if we had the entire island to ourselves. Everyone we met was extremely nice and welcoming,although I don't think we met a "native" Turk the entire trip! It was by far the most relaxing vacation I have ever taken, and I think FI would agree.

While there aren't as many activities as in Aruba or Jamaica, there's still a lot to see and do (or NOT do, if you so desire). First, the Turks are known for having the only conch farm in the world, where you can choose your own conch out of the ocean farm and have them cook it for you! Since FI isn't keen on seafood, I stepped up to the plate and tasted it, sushi-style! It actually doesn't taste like chicken... in fact, it doesn't have much of a taste at all. It's definitely chewy, though. The best part is taking home the huge conch shell as a souvenir!

The Turks also have some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the world, with a multitude of coral reefs, shipwrecks, and fish to discover. There are also many places for parasailing, wind surfing, and numerous other water sports. My personal favorite water activity is frolicking in the ocean! As a special treat, you may even meet JoJo the dolphin, a relatively tame "wild" dolphin who is often seen alongside swimmers. Unfortunately, I missed the one JoJo sighting while we were there, but FI saw him!

Between the aqua blue water, soft white sand, and peaceful, less touristy atmosphere, Turks and Caicos are definitely on our possible honeymoon location list! I have no doubt that we will be back at some point in the future, though, regardless!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Let's Go Back to the Beginning

"Let's start at the very beginning; a very good place to start."
~Maria, The Sound of Music*

My fiance (FI) and I met on a sidewalk. He'd probably say that we met at a bar, but in actuality we met outside a bar on the sidewalk. I was living in Washington, DC at the time, and he was visiting the city with some friends from Boston. It was a Saturday night, and I was out with my girlfriends in Adams Morgan, bar-hopping. As we walked towards Tom-Toms, I could hear a couple of guys talking behind me. They were discussing how to get to a bar that was recommended to them ... some place called, Pom-Poms? Being the polite Southerner that I am, I turned to them and said "actually, it's called Tom-Toms and it's right down the street. We're going there now, if you want to follow us." And so, they did. I ended up talking to FI for the rest of the evening, and, at the end of the night, I gave him my real phone number (a statement unto itself). The rest, as they say, is history .... sorta.

This story is obviously complicated by the fact that we were living in two different cities and states, and I was moving to Michigan at the end of the summer to start law school. Not to be daunted, FI still called me the NEXT day (yay to no "3 day rule!"), and we talked every day after. We'd email each other long, grammatically correct emails about everything from sports to broadway shows. We were both sarcastic, with a dry sense of humor and a healthy respect for witty quips. We would talk on the phone until 2 or 3 am, or whenever he fell asleep. Our first "real" date wasn't until a few weeks later, in June, when we met in NYC for the weekend. After that though, we managed to see each other every other week until the end of summer. We spent an unbelievable week at the Bellagio in Vegas, and we (only half) jokingly pledged to get married if "Time to Say Goodbye" was the next song the fountains danced to...

And, it was at that point, about a week before I was to leave for Michigan, that I realized I didn't want to live a day without him by my side. So, instead of moving to Michigan, I moved to Boston. Then, not only did I get FI everyday, but I also gained 2 wonderful beagles -- Fritz and Samantha -- to love and cherish. I spent the year working for AmeriCorps and reapplied to all the Boston area law schools, ultimately choosing BUSL. I have never regretted my decision, and everyday my life is blessed.

*What's interesting about this line from The Sound of Music is that FI used to write and record rap songs (yes, my straight-edged stock brokering FI), and he reworked the lyrics in "Do-Re-Mi" for one of his raps.

A Modern Affair

I love the idea of a Grace Kelly, princess bride affair. There must be something in girls' DNA that makes us long to be princesses, and except for proms or debutante balls, weddings are really the first (and only!) chance we get. For this dream, Newport, RI is definitely the place to find your "castle." There are a multitude of Newport Mansions along Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay that were the summer "cottages" of the Gilded Ages' rich and famous -- the Astors, Vanderbilts, and the "summer White House" of President Eisenhower to name a few. Rosecliff is famously the wedding mansion, since most people choose this one for their nupitals due to its white marble facade and dual, sweetheart staircase.

So, no problem, right? I should just pick a mansion, buy a big princess ballgown and channel Grace Kelly as I'm walking down the aisle. Of course, that wasn't going to happen. That would be too easy, too traditional, too "what everybody else is doing" ... and so, this Southern Belle, princess bride has gone "mod." Modern, contemporary chic in a Renaissance town? Now that's a challenge! That's unique! That's ... impossible?? Mais non! Enter Belle Mer.

Belle Mer is located on Goat Island, so it has fantastic views of the water and the Newport Bridge (just like many of the mansions). But, it was recently renovated and redecorated to reflect a "simple chic" design -- HUGE french doors/windows that open onto the waterfront lawn, all white interior with modern fireplaces and gorgeous chandeliers. As soon as we walked in, we knew it was THE place. After looking over the available dates, we picked a Friday night in May 2009, and paid our deposit. Our reception venue was set!