Oct 22, 2005

  • Last updated on May 10, 2007 at 11:05 am
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Something else to note: Shop around and make sure to ask whether you will own the photos. Some of my friends had to order the pictures from their photographer, which added up in the end. I can print as many shots as I want from Costco for .17 each, whereas my friends were paying $5 bucks and up per 4x6. CAVEAT: Look for the hidden costs. Do not fall into traps!

Also, the question comes up: film v. digital? The purist photographers would probably say film. We did all ours in digital and dont regret it one bit. You can store your pics on a DVD forever, whereas once dust gets on film, you are screwed! So consider your options. We are in a high tech digital age now, so its very very hard to tell even if a photographer used film. Even black and white digital is just as complex. I think my pics are evidence.

Finally, if you are looking for a wedding photographer who does photojournalistic work, go to I found John & Joey that way. I think you should check out the photographers in WPJA. Many are at the top of their profession and ARE photojournalists. Many have won awards besides with their wedding work and they are experienced in doing weddings. The problem, I found, with hiring a straight photojournalist is that they aren’t in tune with some of your wedding needs and it is a little much to have to deal with a bunch of relatives who want their pics taken all the time, and all the chaos that comes with a huge Asian wedding (John had to deal with over 300 people that day and worked for us for 10.5 hours). I just couldn’t imagine having a photojournalist who does just newspaper work having to handle all of this wedding chaos (I considered a photojournalist student, as well, who was good and much cheaper but didn’t want to risk it b/c she had so little experience). Also, I found this GREAT GREAT photojournalist in Berkeley (some of her photographs made me CRY when I saw them!), but we didn’t go with her b/c she lacked the professionalism that John had (e.g., she forgot about our appointment!) and didn’t seem like as safe a choice b/c she has less experience doing weddings. I just didn’t want to risk it. Your wedding day is the last place you want to take risks, in my view. Also, many photojournalists will NOT make an album for you. You will end up with a box of photos or negatives. John and Joey also do albums and did things for us such as creating a page displaying a slideshow of our photographs and scanned everything onto DVDs (Indeed, they are very high tech!). They were wedding pros and take excellent pics and you get all the frills that come with a wedding photographer, but their pics, thank god, were not posed. Anyway, check out WPJA. Caveat: Not all photographers in WPJA are of the same caliber, so you may want to see who has won awards in the last couple of years and go with that photographer (that’s how I found mine).

  • Last updated on May 10, 2007 at 11:03 am
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I almost skipped the ceremony programs but decided to go ahead and make them because it was nice for my relatives to see the ceremony agenda and to recognize our officiant, my grandmothers, my parents, and bridal party. I bought the paper for the cover at Michaels and there was one piece of paper inside and I printed the agenda and bridal party names on the inside piece of paper. The outside cover is creme with some floral details but I added the red ribbon to incorporate my red theme. Total cost = $25.00.

  • Last updated on May 10, 2007 at 11:02 am
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As for the menus, we bought white cardstock at Office Depot (about 200 sheets), and used of each paper for our menu. I did the printing at Kinko’s, and as you can see, the menus are in Chinese/English. The menus were actually a big hit because our guests could see what dish was coming next, and with a 10-course banquet, it really did create anticipation and excitement. The hardest part with making the menus was that my husband and I wanted it to look authentic Chinese so we bought a double happiness stone stamp from H2 Cards and my husband painstakingly stamped each of our menus - YES, all 332 of them! It was very painful because the stone stamps are not like rubber stamps. Sometimes they come out imperfectly and the Chinese ink pad is very temperamental. But they turned out beautifully. Cost = $30.00 for paper and printing costs at Kinko’s. The Chinese stone stamp cost around $16.00.

As for the name cards, I bought some perforated name cards at Office Depot and they worked for us. You can’t really tell they are perforated unless you look very carefully. With all the booze we served our guests, I doubt they noticed the perforation. The perforated name cards ones are much quicker because you can create a template on Word and just run them through your laser printer and then tear them apart. However, tearing them apart so they look nice is quite a task in and of itself. My husband, thankfully, did this part, although he did complain because it took several hours. The other option is to buy name cards that are already scored I know they have this at papersource. I had a friend who did this and you basically have to create your own template, lightly tape each one on a piece of paper and then run it through your computer. I think this option is more time consuming, although there are no perforation marks at all. Also, if you have a calligrapher and you don’t mind spending the extra money, I think the scored ones are a great option. Cost for the perforated name cards = $5.00 for 40 name cards. I needed about 320, so I spent $40.00 for name cards.

All of this sounds like a big hassle, I know, and I know that some brides don’t care for this, but I felt like my guests really appreciated the details, especially since most Chinese banquets aren’t all about the food and not about the ambiance or elegance. I guess that was part of my theme - focus on the banquet, but don’t skimp on the details so that the event is formal and high-class.

  • Last updated on May 10, 2007 at 11:00 am
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We bought red cardstock from Michaels and printed them on a laser printer (here it is pictured on our fridge) They did their job - gave our guests our wedding date, where it was going to be, etc. The back contained hotel information. We sent out 350 STDs. Cost (paper, labels, envelopes) = $64.00

P.S. If you need to cut paper for your STDS, invites, or anything else, SKIP THE PAPER CUTTER! You can go to Kinko’s and there is a GREAT machine that does all the cutting for you (it doesn’t matter how thick your stack). Each cut is around $1.50! We did this for our STD cards (each 8x10 piece of paper was cut three times) and they also cut our menus for us (each 8 X 10 piece of paper was cut twice). I fell in love with Kinko’s after they cut my STDS and menus!

  • Last updated on May 10, 2007 at 7:34 am
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So that was my wedding day, in a lot of detail, although there are so many other details that I just couldn’t go into everything. This website has been so instrumental to my journey and to my planning that I owed it to everyone to give back and to share my experiences. Below, are some words of advice that kept me sane and allowed me to truly enjoy one of the most beautiful days of my life (thus far).

1. KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE. I know that your wedding day is important, but once you lose perspective, you will no longer enjoy planning your wedding and everything will be a burden. The planning is very stressful, but you have to remember the larger things in life. If one small detail does not happen, you will still be married, and that is the important thing. If you start feeling overwhelmed, try to think of all the wonderful things that you and your fiance have shared. Think of your family, and think about all the things that make you happy. I knew some girls who quit their jobs to plan their weddings (yes, I’m serious). I just couldn’t understand it. But anyway, my point is that, this is another big task and you have to remember that it is a means to a wonderful end (your life together with your fiance).

2. FIGHT THE URGE TO BE A BRIDEZILLA. Your wedding day is precious to you and your friends, but DO NOT talk about it 24/7. Your friends do not want to hear about this all the time, nor do your bridesmaids. Do not make crazy demands of your loved ones. I hear this all the time from my friends who have sisters or friends who just think that the world has to stop b/c they are planning their wedding. Do not think that people have tons of cash to lavish on you or your wedding either. My advice is that if you are picky in terms of hair or make up (for your bridesmaids, or your mother), you should pay for it. Someone I knew was forced to have her hair in an updo and to pay for it, when she didn’t even like it, and she HATED it and didn’t appreciate the bride for it either. They are not friends anymore. Bottomline: try as hard as you can to divorce yourself from having the perfect wedding. Your wedding day will be beautiful because you are in love with your fiance and you are beginning this journey together. As far as I was concerned, if all the details fell to crap on my wedding day, I still would have been the happiest girl on earth.

3. FIGHT THE STRESS. I’m not sure how you will do this, but you need to find your own way. 2005 was one of the most stressful years of our lives. My husband and I sold a house, bought a house, he was up for partner at his firm (and made it! Yay!), and I was in my first year of my fed. Clerkship. And then, once we bought the house, we ended up spending 3 months doing the gardening and landscaping ourselves. There was so little time on our hands. But what kept us sane was that we continued to do the things that we enjoyed, like taking weekend getaways together, working out, taking walks, and having dinner once a week somewhere nice. Whatever it is that keeps you grounded, you have to continue that. If you stop all those things just to plan your wedding, you will find yourself unhappy and stressed out. I would highly recommend yoga or running. You definitely need to get the aggression out in some way. Planning my wedding, at times, felt like studying for the CA bar exam b/c there were so many details in my head at any given time, but my commitment to my fiance and to our life together, and my commitment to my normal workouts kept me happy, healthy, and sane.

4. FAMILY ISSUES. I found during my wedding planning that weddings are, ultimately, about the coming together of two families. I also found out that whatever family issues you or your fiance have, those issues will come to the fore like a load of bricks. What that means for you is that everyone will want to have something to say. Everyone will have words of wisdom to impart. You will feel the pressure to conform and to do what everyone wants. I think this is so hard, especially if you have multiple cultural issues to negotiate. My fiance and I made a lot of compromises though. We made sure to make small concessions here and there, but in the end, the vision was ours. You have to tread delicately, though, because mothers and MILs are very sensitive. Somehow, though, everything just works out b/c people love you and they will do what you want.

5. BE ORGANIZED. I am probably a Type A by nature, so when I started planning my wedding, I naturally created a spreadsheet with three pages, one for expenses, one for guests, and one for vendor contact information. This spreadsheet helped me keep things in order, especially for things like how much deposit I had put down for one vendor, etc. I also updated my spreadsheet a lot, especially as RSVPs were coming in. I also bought a file folder with multiple dividers so I could keep my receipts and contracts in order. You may not be a spreadsheet person by nature, but you have to find some way to keep things in order. If you are not organized, things will fall between the cracks. The spreadsheet was also helpful because by the time I brought Mylinh on, I merely printed up the sheets and let her know what I needed her to help with. The spreadsheet also help me keep my budget in order. Brides, this is crucial. You will need some type of mechanism to make sure that you keep to your budget and you will need some way to keep on updating how much you have already spent!

6. CREATE A BUDGET AND FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH EVERYONE IS CONTRIBUTING. Money is always a touchy subject. Before you start planning your wedding, you need to talk to your fiancé to make sure you are on the same page. If you end up having a different vision and start planning and then $$$ goes out of control, you both will be very unhappy. So be clear with your husband as to how much you think you’ll be spending and go from there. Also, be clear with your respective parents and ask them if they want to contribute to your wedding. The $$$ thing is a discussion that is a MUST with both sets of parents and you have to do this early on before you start planning. Our situation was tricky b/c my husbands parents are divorced, so we had to deal with those little things that inevitably come up with divorced parents. Finally, I think I would say that most people who have planned weddings will tell you that you will end up with about a 10% overrun. I am a huge budget person, but it was difficult to control the details, such as tax, service charges, etc. All those little things add up, and you just cant anticipate that. So my advice is to do a budget and add 10% for those unpredictable extras. You’ll thank me for it later.

7. BE KIND TO YOUR VENDORS! I emphasize this b/c I used to go on these boards a lot and some knotties would freak out if they didn’t a call returned in 15 minutes. Treat others as you want to be treated and they will go above and beyond for you. If you treat your vendors like crap, they will not do a good job, or they will not even want to work with you (some of my vendors confided in me that they sometimes lie and turn down jobs b/c they sniff a bridezilla a mile away to them, the trouble is not worth it). I am a busy person myself and a lot of vendors I hired have day jobs too, so I gave my vendors a 2-3 day leeway. I also did a lot of communicating through e-mail, which worked great. If there is something important you need to communicate, I’d recommend calling and then confirming via email. That way, you have everything documented and your vendor will more likely respond to you. Also, if you are having a band or other vendors at your reception, feed them. I had vendor meals prepared for my photographer, band, DOC (and her husband). This way, your vendors will be happy and can perform for you. Otherwise, they will have to stress about how to get a meal in somewhere during the night. You want them focused on your wedding, not on their empty stomachs!

8. BE A PROFESSIONAL. What I mean by this is that you need to come into this wedding planning thing like you know what you are doing. Research stores and vendors before calling people and interviewing with them. The knot is a great place to start. Reading other peoples bios and their vendor reviews is also a great way to start. You don’t have time to waste and you cant continue to see tons vendors without making a decision. I limited my options to 3 or less for each vendor and then went that way. If you have reservations about someone, don’t go with them. It’s always a leap of faith, but you have to go with your gut. So, for instance, if looking for dresses, you really need to know what you love about your body and what you want to hide. That way, you can go to a salon and tell them what you want. They aren’t that helpful, if you ask me, so you really need to give people direction. That goes for your other vendors too, like your D.J., musicians, etc. You should know what you want before meeting with your vendors. Otherwise, it is a waste of time for everyone.

I know I alluded up there to signing a contract with your vendors, but I cant emphasize this enough. ALWAYS SIGN A CONTRACT! I had a nightmare with the hair person and dealt with some real stress for not doing so. No matter whether the vendor is a friend of a friend or someone you know, you really ought to just be a professional about it. Most people will understand (professionals will). And if they don’t, go elsewhere. Sign a contract with everyone, and if they don’t have one, draft one up for your wedding. That way, there will be no confusion as to whether or not you booked them, and so both parties know what to expect. Don’t worry - as long as the material terms are there and both parties sign and date the contract, it is most likely enforceable (disclaimer that’s not legal advice, btw, just my advice to you, as a friend. You know I had to put that in there, b/c I’m in this field).

Another thing. Go to your vendor interviews with pictures and ideas so that your vendors can help you execute. Your vendors will not execute for you. They are there to provide a service for you. If you need help coming up with a vision, do a lot of web surfing, go on this site a lot, or think about hiring a coordinator (My DOC is great, btw, with helping folks come up with a vision, see her website).

Also, when you see your vendors, you should go there with a budget in mind. Do not be vague about it. Tell them how much you have to spend on their services and go from there. Otherwise, you will go WAY OVER on your budget. Even if the vendor does not usually do such small jobs, or charges more than you think you can afford, you should discuss with them whether they can accommodate your budget. You’d be surprised how many vendors will break you a deal, or will work something out so that you wont go over your budget.

9. MAKE IT MEANINGFUL. Gosh, I should have put this first, but as I was thinking about what I could tell brides that would really make it worth it, I felt like this goes without saying, but is something we all forget about as we are planning our weddings. Do not get bogged down in the details. Remember what counts. It gets hard to do this, especially if you end up having a big reception like me, but there are things you have to insist on to make your wedding meaningful.

For instance, many of us spend so much time thinking about the table setting or our name cards that we forget the reason why we are planning our wedding to begin with, to celebrate getting married to the love of our life! My husband reminded me again and again during the wedding planning that our ceremony HAD to be meaningful. So we did things that were meaningful to us. We picked an officiant who is a friend of the family’s, who took time to find out about us and our relationship. We wrote our own vows (which made me burst into tears during our ceremony!). We got married in our backyard amongst only family and close friends (everyone else, including work colleagues and my mothers third cousins sister, were invited ONLY to the big reception).

Only those we really knew got to witness our vows. We spent months laboring over our backyard, planting flowers, weeding, etc. We also made sure to include our families in our ceremony (so, for instance, my mother and I made that arbor with the flower balls and ribbon that I got married under), while my MIL brought in the Tibetan Buddhist flags for good luck and the Tibetan umbrellas to signify entrance into a sacred space. I talk to you about my ceremony because that is the easiest example to explain, but my overarching point is that you must follow your heart and remember not to overlook making it meaningful! I had one or two experiences where I've attended lavish and expensive weddings but felt underwhelmed at the end. All the details that went into these $100,000+ weddings were more than impressive, but in the end, I felt a little hollow, like there was something missing. Yeah, the chivari chairs may be great, and the sushi bar and martini bar were awesome, but I would have preferred to witness love in the making.

10. HAVE FUN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY. Almost a year after my wedding day, I am adding this little bit of advice because even though my wedding planning days are long gone, I have to tell you, I have nothing but good and fond memories from that special day. So many brides let the wedding thing get to their heads and forget that it’s also about having fun and enjoying one of the most profound moments of your life. If details fall apart on your wedding day, please do not stress out about it – or worse yet, cry! At that point, there’s nothing to do but to relax and just go with the flow. The straight truth is that SH*T happens in life and no matter how organized a bride is, something inevitably will not work out as planned (for example, in my case, a bunch of my family members (including two wedding attendants) were late to my wedding ceremony b/c of traffic, my videographer was so annoying, and Yank Sing wouldn’t let me hang up lanterns as we had discussed without signing a contract that would make any attorney cringe…and there were other things too!). When things happen that you don’t expect to happen, take a deep breath, remember why your wedding day is happening (so you can marry your beloved fiancé!), and just smile. Honestly, I’m not sure how or why this happened, but a sense of calmness came over me on my wedding day – and I’m not sure if my pictures indicate this – but I was so happy and overjoyed that nothing could take that happiness away from me. Bottom line, though, do what you need to do to let the stress dissolve and have a little fun!

I will update as I think of more things. Good luck to you on your wedding day. JUST REMEMBER: No matter what, it will be a beautiful day for you because you’ve found love, and that is something to celebrate and be truly thankful for!

More to come in the future, I hope, including a more detailed DIY section and more vendor reviews!

  • Last updated on May 10, 2007 at 7:21 am
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Finally, here are some tips on looking at, and finding, a dress:

1. Do not bring TONS of people to help you find a dress, especially to a salon like David’s, Trudy’s, etc. Frankly, when they are busy, it is just too hectic. NO one will be happy. Plus, everyone will have a different opinion and you will just get confused. Find one or two people you trust and have them go with you to all of your salon visits. My mom is like a shark (so smart, honest, and practical) and she helped me narrow down my choices and made everything SO easy. She was the only person who came with me to all my salon visits. I have done the same thing for a friend of mine, since her mother is in the E. Coast. I remember all the dresses she has tried on and can give her an honest assessment of what I think works.

2. Be realistic about your budget. Know what you want to spend, and don’t forget the little extras (e.g., it cost $60 to have a row of covered buttons sewn on the back of my dress), tax, and alteration costs (which is around $200 or more!). And factor in the cleaning cost of your dress too, which ranges around $100-$300 per dress. My budget was around $2K, and I really didn’t spend much more than that, which I was really happy about. Know that upper limit and stick to it. Chances are you will find what you want at your price. Don’t feel pressured to get something you can’t afford, especially since you are only wearing it once!

3. If you are able to, take some pictures of you with the dresses on before you buy. Some salons will not allow you to do this (House of Fashion in Sac does, Trudys and Amy Kuschel do after you decide to go with them, and I think David’s does). That’s where your digital cam comes in. Man, I thought some dresses looked hot on me, but when I put it on my computer screen at home, they looked horrid. Things sometimes look different than what you imagined in your head and at the salon.

4. Try to understand the market before you buy a dress. As my husband continues to point out to me, the market is often segmented so that there is a price point for everyone. Know what those price points are so you are informed and can begin to look more into your price point (this goes with everything, not just dresses, although I found segmentation to be most clear with wedding dresses). Here is my short list of the market as I came to see it, although this is not an exhaustive list by any means.

a. Designer dresses. If you want to wear a dress that you’ve seen in In Style, US Magazine, or what celebrities have worn, you probably want to get a Monique Lhullier or Vera Wang. Expect to pay between $4,000-$7000 (or more). This link has a good description of the three hottest bridal designers: I would note, though, that I’ve heard people getting cheap Vera Wang dresses at her trunk show in NYC, so I guess you just have to be savvy if you are about the designer dress and don’t want to pay an outrageous amount. For these dresses, in the bay area, I know you can get them at Unique in Burlingame and Gingers and Bridal Galleria in SF. Nieman Marcus also carries some.

b. Smaller Designers/custom dresses based on a number of styles for that season. I would put Amy Kuschel, Miosa, and Jin Wang into this category (BTW, I would also check out if I were in L.A. I loved her dresses but thought it’d be too inconvenient to go with her line b/c her flagship store is in L.A. She has gotten some hype b/c celebrities like Britney Spears have fancied her BM dresses for parties. She also has a great BM line). These dresses will probably run you between $1800-$4500 or so, most falling in the mid-range of $2-3K (tho’ Jin Wang is more expensive and not worth it, in my view). These designers create a line of 20 or so wedding dresses each season and after you decide on a certain style, one will be made to fit your bodys measurements. This is probably a good option if you can swing the price and if your body is unique in some way (petite, big bust, etc.). Alterations, even if done well, sometimes botch up a dress if too many changes need to be made.

c. Popular Salons carrying a large number of dresses in many price ranges. I would put Trudys in Campbell and House of Fashion in Sacramento in this category. I’ve noted above that I didn’t have the dandiest experience at these salons, but that is because they are so popular. Do NOT go on the weekend, if you can help it. It gets to be very busy and I didn’t like it when girls would see me try something on and then want to peel it off my back b/c they thought it looked good. Also, girls tend to bring so many people there that it gets very crowded and stressful. It was stressful enough to try a dress on with just my mom. I really didn’t need 5 other moms, and 10 other BMs looking at me and making various comments as to how they thought I looked in the dresses I tried on. I felt a little self-conscious and couldn’t really take in the dresses I was trying on. The good thing about these salons is that they have dresses in various price ranges - beginning around $500 or so and going up to about $4,000 or $5,000 (I think Trudy’s may carry some designer dresses). These salons are a good place to start if you have NO IDEA where to begin, although the experience may be a little stressful and overwhelming if you go at the wrong time.

d. Discount salons. There’s this place in Sacramento called Bridal Mart that I would put in this category. They have tons and tons of dresses and I think you are supposed to take them off the racks and try them on yourself. I don’t know about as many discount salons in the Bay Area b/c I work in Sac during the week and was able to figure out what was out there. However, I’d probably also put Davids Bridal in this category. The price range in this category is probably $300 and up, although most dresses I saw were in the $500-600 range. I am fascinated by David’s Bridal b/c a lot of their designs mimic more expensive designers and I found their dresses to be very pretty. The dresses tend not to be made of expensive material (like silk), but for what you pay, I think David’s Bridal is a great choice. Also nice is that when you go to the salon you can try the dress in your size (whereas salons like Trudy’s will only have a size 10 and it will have to be pinned on you so you can only get an idea of what you will look like). You should probably look out for sales, though, because after I visited Davids, they called me to let me know that the $300-400 dress I tried on was going for $250 or something like that. So keep that in mind when buying and shopping at Davids.