Yes to the Dress: The Long Way There

It's probably safe to say that most women have given a lot of thought about the dress they would be wearing on their wedding day. For a long time, I thought that I'd be wearing something very minimalist and modern, more like a v-neck or spaghetti strap sheath dress that hugs the body but flows flatteringly loose down my hips. That's what my BFF thought would be suitable for me, too. But after braving a 3-hour wait in line last week at the Monique Lhuillier sale, and trying on (among other things) the type of dress I had always envisioned myself wearing, I was disappointed to find out it doesn't work for me. I needed a dress with more structure.

After talking to friends and colleagues, I learned that many others had the same predicament--what looks good in our heads sometimes just doesn't look good in real life. Fortunately, when I first started off dress shopping, I tried to keep an open mind. Even though I really liked the minimalist and non-frou frou look, I kept looking for other things that would work, maybe even better than I would ever imagine. For instance, I knew that I don't like the mermaid-style hem, but I didn't want to ding it off the list until I've seen how bad it is for myself.

After seeing a lot of brides look stunning in lace dresses, I decided that I had to try one on. I instantly loved the look of lace an A-line dress I tried on at a boutique--so classic, fits me just right, stunning...but also can be very pricey. A staff member at the boutique where I first tried on a lace dress said lace dresses started at $3000. Aside from the sticker shock, the dress was also quite heavy. Hence, I set out to look for a lace dress that would not set me back several thousand dollars, but I was mentally prepared for the possibility that I was not going to find a lace dress within my price point. Indeed, a very pretty lace dress at the Monique Lhuillier sample sale was $3000, and something with more taffeta than lace was $2000. Yeah...so much for trying to score a lace dress at a sample sale price...

While I did not completely give up on the idea of getting a lace dress, I went back to the drawing board to explore other options. After looking at wedding blogs to see what independent designers are coming up with, I actually revisited something that I thought would have been too frou frou for my taste: tulle. Some Etsy sellers have come up with very pretty and fun yet sophisticated looks with the fabric most associated with poofy ballerina skirts. After seeing those designs, I actually wanted to try out tulle dresses.

I did a bit of research and talked to friends to scout out boutiques in the LA area that had sales and outlet sections, and those were places that I planned on hitting next with my friends in tow. However, a coworker called me up yesterday while shopping at Nordstrom Rack--she alerted me to a shipment of wedding dresses, of different styles and price points! I know that Nordstrom had a bridal suite (which someone else I knew got bridesmaid dresses), which is probably the source of such dresses at The Rack. I kept a healthy dose of skeptcism in mind, but had a good feeling about this. I called up a friend who lived nearby, and we met at the store this morning. I got there before she did, so I started loading up the shopping cart with all kinds of dresses, including one on the mannequin that instantly got my attention.

Within an hour or so, I walked out of the store with The Dress.

The Dress isn't quite perfect yet, since it needs a bit of alteration, but it's just the right style for me and suitable for the venue (a historical site). It is pretty and classic, yet constructed of layers assembled in a modern manner; the A-line dress skims my body in a flattering way without adding extra bulk. I love the fact that it is much lighter than all of the dresses I tried on so far. Nope, The Dress is not a lace dress...it is comprised largely of tulle and silk. When I saw it on the mannequin, I just knew I had to try it on. My friend said that she wouldn't have picked The Dress off the rack for me, but once I tried it on, it looked pretty and my face just lit up.

What's even better is that I wound up getting a $2000 dress for far less than half. Even with alterations, I'm saving a ton of money. So yes, it is possible to get married in style without breaking the bank. Here's a tip for dress shopping--first, come up with a budget for the dress; second, think about what cuts of your regular clothes look flattering on you (so that you can look for those attributes in a wedding dress); third, shop around at places high or low and try on all kinds of different things. That trying-on process will give you a better idea of what works and what doesn't work for you. If the dress is too expensive in one place but you really love it, remember which designer made it, what the style number/name is, and shop around.

You'll see pictures of the dress in due time. ;-)



When friends and family first saw us after the news broke, the first thing they want to see is the shiny hardware, and the second thing they do is ask when the big date is. Well...we don't know. Although we have an idea of when we want to get hitched, it's not entirely up to us. Most of it has to do with the venue. There are a few limiting factors: availability, cost, and capacity. Many places get booked up more than a year in advance, so it takes a lot of work to come up with alternatives. Fortunately, I'm not one to have some grand vision of some fairy-tale wedding (too expensive and frou-frou for my blood). As long as the place is affordable yet pretty, not old and stuff, and is flexible enough to handle catering and entertainment, that's fine by me. Given how much the venue alone costs, I first looked to public parks and facilities. There are a few beautiful gardens and arboretums in the area. Some of them do have very good prices, though the hours for ceremonies are often limited (wanna get up early for a wedding taking place somewhere beetween 7 to 9 a.m.? How about literally chilling in the sunless garden after 6:00 p.m.?), liability insurance is required, and there may be limited electrical outlets (which puts a damper on the entertainment part of the party). Some community centers in affluent areas sound pretty decent as reception locations without breaking the bank. I then looked at museums, since I've always been into the more modern, urban, and minimalist style. The ones I've looked into so far strike out on account of capacity (can't hold as many people as we'd like to invite), costs, or potential complications for the catering staff. We then looked at the online brochures for hotels and country clubs, which have varying price ranges, flexibility regarding outside caterers and alcohol, and fees here and there. Some of the private venues, while more expensive than public spaces, can actually be fairly reasonable. In the course of my search, I came across a blog that is fairly helpful: My Quest for an Affordable, Unique Wedding Venue. There is a lot of information on a number of venues gleaned from emails from venue operators in the Southern California to prospective renters. This handles a lot of the initial legwork for me. Let the arduous task of driving around town to check out venues begin...


At the crossroads

Wow. It's crazy to log in after not doing so for months...and find out just how many months have passed by. Life had gotten very busy, and my priorities have changed. While my enthusiasm for photography and style hasn't changed, I certainly haven't been following fashion quite as much (a product of having less time), while my love for cooking has grown. These changes have forced me to think about whether it is time to take the blog in a different direction, or give this blog a proper farewell. Since this outlet of expression has been fun, and I've put in a lot of thought and energy into this blog, I've been dragging my feet on whether to pull the trigger. Suddenly, I have a reason for giving this blog at least a last hurrah. I now have the fun yet stressful and daunting task of planning the biggest party of my life...on a budget, of course. I'm shocked to find out how much a wedding costs, particularly in the LA area. While I have a lot of ideas on how to keep costs down (namely, a lot of DIY's), I already find myself having to make difficult decisions on limiting the guest list, which is extremely difficult given the number of good friends I have. Yet, I'm confident that my equally budget-conscious Mr. Right and myself will be able to pull this off--we absolutely refuse to incur debt like some people around us have done. Some of my friends have been able to put together a fabulous wedding without breaking the bank, so I'll be consulting with them for sure. So, for the final season, I bring to you Hot Off the Sales Rack: The Wedding Special. :-P


Scallop and Cucumber Salad

News flash--two posts in two days during crunchtime! But I can't help myself. Since I needed a simple but tasty dinner tonight, I finally got around to trying a cucumber and scallop salad from the New York Times. I think it's worth while to watch this video for the instructions. If you don't have the time, here is the recipe.

A mandolin slicer, which I don't currently have, would have really sped up the process of making the salad. Nonetheless, it was fairly quick, and I actually like to have my cucumber slices a bit thicker and crunchier. I didn't add as much vinegar or salt as the recipe called for, but I like it just the same.

The toasted sesame seeds are listed as a garnish, but in my opinion, they're actually a major ingredient. I really like the nutty taste that they bring.

Next time, I'll need to add a bit more salt to the dressing, and crack some black pepper over the scallops as they cook. Even so, tonight dinner was very satisfying. :)