Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Vendor" Post: Deposit a Gift

I put the word "vendor" in quotes there because, well, they're not really selling us anything. Except for a small service charge, using Deposit a Gift is free! But they are just one of the companies we're using for the wedding, so I'm including them in our vendor posts to explain what Deposit a Gift does and why we chose this type of registry for our wedding.

Deposit a Gift is a type of registry in which contributors give cash to the married couple, instead of specific gifts. The couple lists types of things they would use the cash for, and gift-givers can contribute any amount toward that goal. I particularly like this because it can be difficult to buy a wedding gift for someone if you're living on modest means, and this allows people freedom to contribute what they can toward what can be very expensive things--unlike regular wedding registries, where you have to choose whatever you can pay the full price for, and that may not be something you wanted to give.

While there are several online cash registries out there, we ultimately chose Deposit a Gift because it was extremely tough to find a bad review out there. No matter where we turned, we heard "easy to use" and "excellent customer service". In fact, many users referred to the owner by name, praising her for her personal assistance. How often can you say that about a big online business? They also had no hidden fees, no weird surcharges...pretty much no fees at all. Creating an account was super easy, and we are very happy with our registry.

We chose a cash registry because we've already been together for several years and have built a home together. We already have all the household things we need, most of which have been passed down through our families and are things I would never consider trading in for shiny new things. People have said to me, "your wedding registry is your chance to get that fantastic 8-in-1 hairdryer/martini shaker/blender!", but we are not really ones for fancy gadgets or anything like that. As I mention in my registry, I would honestly be the happiest if everyone donated to the two charitable causes we listed. I listed CHANGE, Inc., where I work, and the one thing I've been dreaming about for my wedding is being able to walk into my executive director's office and hand him a big check, because I personally know that we're worried about budget cuts and we're struggling. I literally daydream about this, which I don't do for anything else on the list. We wanted people to be able to choose from a variety of things, but the main takeaway was that we wanted them to give us things we could do, not things we could have. We want people to contribute to our future together and to help us support causes we care about. We hope people are just as excited to give us these kinds of gifts, instead of the custom monogrammed soap dish, or whatever people usually put on their registries. (Can you tell I don't really know much about weddings?)

If you'd like to see our example, you can view it here.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wedding dress shopping!

When I mentioned that I had been wedding dress shopping, many of my friends seemed interested in the idea of having me post pictures of all the wedding dresses I decided not to choose. So here they are!

One note: these dresses were all dresses I either liked or loved; if I had known that I was going to write a blog post about them, I would have tried on some truly awful ones just for fun, but I didn't! Most of these dresses were finalists, but I ended up finding the perfect dress somewhere else and bought it on the spot. Also, you'll notice that I mention that Noah helped me pick out my wedding dress. It will soon become clear that not having the groom see your wedding dress (and, further, not having him see you before the wedding) is a tradition that does not have any significance for me--and not just because we're already married. I loved having Noah be part of this process, and even if we had chosen not to do the civil ceremony we would still have bought a dress together and taken our photos before the ceremony, just like we're planning to do in October!

Explanations of the dresses, in order:

1. This was the only dress that we discounted right away because it just didn't look right. I think it was something about the tiny sleeves that made me look a little out of proportion. I liked the general style of the dress, but it's one of those things where you like it on someone else.

2. I LOVED this dress--particularly all that intricate detailing. It was pretty much a work of art. It didn't end up being a finalist, and I can't remember why. I'm guessing that it was the price, since a dress that detailed and beautiful is equally expensive. Also, my dad hated it, but I didn't know that when I did the rankings because I sent my parents the pictures later.

3. This one had mixed reviews among my helpers in wedding dress shopping (Sarah came with me, fulfilling her maid of honor duties, and Noah gladly agreed to tag along for a second opinion). Noah loved it, and Sarah didn't like it (though she came around). After looking at it for awhile, though, it kind of seemed like it clashed a bit with my skin color. It made my finalist list, but if I hadn't already chosen a dress I would probably bump it off and replace it with the second dress.

4. and 5. I'm lumping these together because they were so similar. This was the kind of style I mostly was leaning toward--light, lacy, and simple. At least one of these was a finalist.

6. This dress was the only one that actually fit me without having to be pinned. I liked it when I tried it on, but now I don't like it anymore. This is why it pays to not throw down money for something right away! I'm not sure why I don't like it--maybe because they way it fits makes it seem a little less elegant and a little more "I'm sexy and I know it".

7. This was pretty much our #1 choice. It was the first dress we tried on, and we didn't take pictures of it at first because Sarah was held up getting here and we forgot to bring a camera. (Sarah, being a good maid of honor, remembered all the stuff I forgot.) So after we finished trying on all the dresses, we tried this one on again and loved it just as much. If I hadn't already bought a dress, I'd probably buy this one. My wedding dress muse was my friend Halley, who got married last year and wore the most beautiful dress I'd ever seen. This one reminded me the most of hers--so no wonder it was my top choice. ;-)

8. This dress was just an astoundingly gorgeous dress. It also weighed about 20 pounds and had a huge cathedral-length train. I fell in love with it, and if I were getting married at the National Cathedral it would be perfect. But for a casual outdoor wedding, it just didn't fit the occasion.

So, what is my real wedding dress like? I guess you'll have to wait until October to find out! :-)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vendor Post: Sarah Culver Photography

I can only give preliminary details about our photographer since I haven't met her in person and we won't be taking any pictures with her until the wedding day, but we've already had such a good experience with Sarah Culver that I wanted to introduce you to her and her work!

Sarah Culver is based out of Annapolis, MD. She has a really cool photography style--more of a photojournalistic perspective, vs. the traditional posed photos and such. I really loved her style because the first thing I told her was that I primarily wanted pictures of my guests having fun. I didn't need a lot of photos of myself (although obviously we'll have some), and I certainly didn't need a bunch of photos of our place settings and decorations--the "stuff" of the wedding. We're not going to have a lot of fancy decorations, it's not going to be terribly stylish or trendy, but what really is going to make beautiful photos is that we have so many great people that we're hoping will be there, and since I can't possibly notice everyone at the party having a great time, that's what I want pictures of.

I found it funny, the way I found Sarah. I read a fantastic wedding blog called Ruffled, and I noticed a post on the blog in November, entitled Backyard Maryland Wedding. My first thought was, "could this be a local wedding photographer?". At this point in wedding planning, I hadn't the faintest idea how one goes about finding and hiring a wedding photographer, and we were having trouble finding someone local whose photos we really connected with. My past experience in looking at wedding photographers was that, if I was looking at a blog post, I was more likely to do more research into the photographer if I connected with the wedding being photographed. Which of course...I didn't, in this case. I didn't really love anything about the wedding I read about on Ruffled--it just wasn't my style at all. But I know excellent photography when I see it, so I researched Sarah anyway because her photography was clearly several steps above any other photographer's work I'd seen in my research. As luck would have it, I loved every wedding on her actual website, and got in touch with her right away. Several emails and one Skype conversation later, I was sold!

I'm very much looking forward to working with Sarah in October, and I have complete confidence that I'll be able to look back and see the most important part of my wedding--all my closest friends and family together with me. :-)