BHLDN: Ur Dstntn 4 Xpnsv Arts n Crfts 4 Ur Wdng

This post is the first of what I hope will be at least a two-part series focusing on BHLDN, Anthropologie’s fairly new wedding line. “BHLDN?” you may be asking, “OMG WTF is that srsly like 1 of the new abbrevs kidz r usng these dayz?” Actually, BHLDN is short for “beholden” – see how the vowels have been removed? Vry clvr!

To its credit, Anthropologie marketed the gingham-and-twine aesthetic long before magazines, web sites, and other retailers caught on. In my rather reductionist cultural narrative, first came Anthropologie, then came the Great Recession, then came the DIY movement, and now here’s Anthropologie capitalizing on the premaritals who still have money and admire the “vintage country hipster” look (a term coined by Special Someone) but are too lazy to DIY. It’s brilliant. This way, well-to-do modern brides can have the whimsical, countrified, “bloggable” wedding of their dreams without breaking a nail – or burning themselves with a glue gun, as it were.

But for those of us whose paper snowflakes somehow always turned out asymmetrical (I choose to blame being left-handed in a right-hander’s world for my lamentable scissor skills), assigning our arts and crafts projects to BHLDN comes with a hefty price tag.

Take, for example, these Glittered Letters. At first I read “$34” and figured it must include the whole alphabet. These things are made of cardboard, for Pete’s sake. It has to be the “German glass glitter” that drives up the price, because each letter is $34. If Mary Catherine and Maximilian choose to go the Glittered Letter route for their wedding, it will cost $782 just to have their names displayed in sparkly cardboard and $816 if you throw in the ampersand. Queenie and Quentin, meanwhile, are plain SOL – the letter Q is not available.

Clothespins! How quaint! Of course, anyone who actually hangs their laundry on a clothesline (or uses clothespins to clip bags of Tostitos, like I do) knows you can buy 50 of them at the grocery store for two bucks, sometimes even less than that. But if it’s “hand-stained” clothespins you’re after, BHLDN will sell you 25 for a mere $28.

Livia Cetti, the artisan who created this paper bouquet, was probably one of those kindergarteners whose tissue paper flowers the teacher always held up as an example for the rest of the class. Crafty in both senses of the word, Livia has turned her talent into a business, selling “hand-colored crepe paper” arrangements to BHLDN, which in turn peddles them for over $200. (Hand-colored and hand-stained decorations are really in these days, if you couldn’t tell by now.) Why settle for real flowers when you can spend even more on paper ones?

These coasters are probably more remarkable for the catalog description than the price. “Who doesn’t love a mirthful print atop rich Lokta paper?” BHLDN’s copywriter asks. Why, I used to wonder the same thing myself! Then I surveyed all our prospective wedding guests and, sure enough, BHLDN is right: everyone loves a mirthful print atop rich Lokta paper. Our friends and family will be just tickled to rest their gin rickeys on these handmade paper bev naps. And compared to most of the other BHLDN merchandise, they’re practically a steal at $18 for a pack of 50.

You could easily find a makeshift cake topper that looks kind of like this one at Value Village. But it probably wouldn’t have “Swarovski-studded vines” encircling the love birds, so what’s the point? On the other hand, when you blow $598 — more than half of your cake budget — on the topper, you get stuck with the plainest, most boring-looking wedding cake of all time (as shown above). What to do, what to do? Just take comfort in BHLDN’s assurance that this cake topper will “sit beautifully on a shelf or tabletop for years to come,” while the leftover cake itself will have developed a thick crust of freezer burn before you even hit your first anniversary.

Well, I think you get the picture by now. If hand-dyed paper and hand-twisted wire are what you’re into, go wild at BHLDN. For a small fortune, you can tell your wedding guests you made all your own decorations and they will actually believe you.

Coming soon: an analysis of BHLDN’s “Hair Adornments” collection!


Further Reflections on Gift Registries, or In Which I Once Again Reveal Myself to be a Terrible Person

Another day, another opportunity to talk about gift registries. And you thought I was getting married to enjoy the benefits of lifelong companionship and health insurance with someone I love. No siree, I do it all for the All-Clad.

This is my third post about gift registries, but I’ve only written 18 posts total, which means my materialism can be quantified. Oddly enough, I have experienced a complete turnaround in my views on wedding registries. A couple years ago, when I figured any future wedding of mine would consist of a backyard commitment ceremony between me and my cats, I thought all unattached young adults should throw themselves huge parties and register for gifts in protest of the maritals. Seriously, just because you’re one of a pair, are you any more deserving of nice pots and pans or serving ware? Single people like to entertain, too, you know! (I sure did, back in the day. Now I just watch Antiques Roadshow.)

I still think unbetrotheds deserve to be able to register for gifts (and not face disdain), but I am no longer joining them in protest. Although at first I found registering for our wedding gifts an extremely awkward and bizarre prospect — in what other context can you say “I would really appreciate it if you bought those $200 candlesticks for me even though we see each other about once every five years”? — I have learned to relish it. I stalk our registries (Macy’s, Crate & Barrel, and Pottery Barn, FYI!!!) almost daily to see what has been purchased so far. Please don’t hate me, Wedding Guests. Just know that your presents, I mean presence at our wedding, will mean so much to us.

As long as this post has degraded into an unflattering confessional, I will reveal one of my most embarrassing secrets. Not only do I stalk my registries, I stalk yours too! Not daily, mind you. But if I know your first and last name, and you have gotten married in the past five years or will be getting married in the near future, you can bet I have spied on your gift registry once or twice. And I have judged it.

The Knot is good for one thing and one thing only, and that is looking up gift registries. On their home page is a little box on the right side where you can type a premarital’s first and last name and Voila! Links to all their registries (assuming they are registered at large chains) will magically appear. You can then while away a slow afternoon at work, amusing yourself with supercilious little thoughts such as, “$250 for a vase?? Who does that?!” or “Girl, no one is buying you that mango pitter. Because everyone knows it’s STUPID” or “Not even Le Creuset can save your sorry cooking.” I know it’s wrong, but we all have our vices and mine is judging your choice in place settings. (Enough with the plain white bone china, already!)

Just as fascinating to me as the registries themselves is observing what people actually buy. The items that always seem to go quickest are the entertaining pieces, such as serving platters and fancy stemware. I believe this has to do not only with price point, but also the fact that this type of gift tells the recipient, “I expect you to return the favor by inviting me over.” For this reason, I too like to give couples gifts they will only use when throwing parties. That way it’s a gift that keeps on giving [back to me]!

The registry items that the last minute gift-buyers usually get stuck with, or that never get bought at all, are the mundane kitchen gadgets. Really, as useful as a whisk may be, no one wants to buy it for you. That’s a gift that says, “You’re 33 years old. You really should have bought one of these for yourself ten years ago, but you didn’t so now I have to.” (Don’t even try the “weddings are an opportunity to upgrade your stuff” rationale – everyone knows you can buy a perfectly good whisk for under five bucks.) No one who gives you the whisk is going to say, “I can’t wait for you to open my gift!” Instead, they will probably say, or hopefully just think to themselves, “The whisk was the only thing left on your registry. Seeing as how it cost $9.95 and I didn’t want to come off as a cheapskate, I bought you six of them. You’re welcome.” Of course, the possibility of this happening didn’t stop me from registering for these same mundane kitchen gadgets. I am counting on getting those Oxo Good Grips ergonomically correct measuring cups. I mean, what if I have arthritis some day and find it painful to lift half a cup of sugar? Whatever would I do? Buy them for myself? You must be joking.

Above image of the All-Clad collection stolen from this link, which I assume stole it from All-Clad.


An Unpaid, Unsolicited Advertisement for The Future Mrs. Darcy

I have a few regrets in life, and one of them is my wedding invitations. Although I once touted the personality-less, mail-order, template-based online invitation megastore as a way to save time and costs, I have quickly come to regret it. My MagnetStreet invitations are painfully boring. More importantly, my invitations were not designed by Kristen Cox of The Future Mrs. Darcy; as such, they will always remind me of my mistakes.

Kristen Cox has not asked me to write her an endorsement. For all I know, Kristen Cox has a vague idea that I exist, but that’s about it. As far as she knows, I am just some girl who’s getting married and whose mutual friend, Sarah, is throwing the bridal shower and asked Kristen to design the invitations. Actually, according to Kristen’s blog, Sarah didn’t even ask her to design the invitations – she told her she was having trouble finding some other invitations had admired on Etsy. Brilliant use of the passive-aggressive, Sarah. Of course you knew Kristen would come through with some gorgeous new designs on short notice.

When I first started thinking about wedding invitations, I stalked Kristen’s web site, which did I already mention is called The Future Mrs. Darcy? With the Jane Austen reference that immediately conjures images of Colin Firth in his ruffled collar and muttonchops, how could you go wrong? All her different designs are inspired by famous literary and film couples, and all designs are unique and beautiful. Seriously: she has a new one called “Anne and Gilbert” based on Anne of Green Gables. It’s as if I found my graphic design kindred spirit! A new bosom friend, if you will! As Gilbert Blythe might say, I am so soory I didn’t choose Kristen Cox as the designer of all my printed wedding materials. Might as well go drown my sorrows in cherry cordial with Diana Barry, for I have reached the depths of despair.  Alright, that’s enough with the AoGG allusions – see what not hiring The Future Mrs. Darcy will do to one’s soul?

In terms of cost-savings, MagnetStreet was the better deal, but in retrospect I would happily pay a little more to have invitations that I enjoy looking at. As for the MagnetStreet invitations, I just want to put them back in the box. I’ve actually had a dream about Kristen’s “Fred & Ginger” design – that’s how badly I wish we had ordered it. Although I think I was correct in saying once that most people don’t spend too much time staring at invitations — they glance at them and think “F%#k yeah, wedding!!” or “F%#k, I have to buy those a$$holes a gift?” — at the time I wasn’t thinking about how I would feel about our invitations. If we had ordered them from Kristen, I know I would not be able to wait one day to send them out — yours would be in your mailbox by now. But these MagnetStreet ones are so blah that I don’t even have the motivation to address them and am using all kinds of stall tactics to avoid sending them out in a timely fashion.

Well, what’s done is done. All I can hope for at this point is to get pregnant right away – not because I am particularly ready for motherhood, but because I desperately want an excuse to order Kristen’s irreverent baby shower invitations (if one of my good friends volunteered to get knocked up for the cause, that would also work). Are you, too, sick of baby shower invitations featuring ducks and cradles and teddy bears? Because this woman has designed a baby shower set called “Doin’ It.” No further endorsement necessary.


Self Improvement

One of the best things about planning a wedding is that it forces one to think more seriously about self-improvement. One of the worst things about planning a wedding is that it forces one to think more seriously about self improvement.

I’ve always found the term “self improvement” a bit too synonymous with “self indulgence” and “self absorption.” (As a blogger I am really one to talk – ha!) It doesn’t help that I dated a guy, briefly, who told me with a straight face that self improvement was the number one most important thing in life. That may have been a more admirable statement if his methods for improving himself extended beyond weightlifting and social climbing. And for all his talk about personal betterment, he did not even keep soap anywhere in his apartment. I know this because when I tried to wash my hands, the only soap substitute available was his roommate’s Noxzema face wash. That guy was also disgusting, but at least he made no claims to be a self-improver – that I know of, anyway.

Even though I tend to call B.S. on most attempts at self improvement, this upcoming wedding has indeed forced me to think about changes I should make to some of my habits. The reason for these changes is rooted in superficiality — I just want to look good at my wedding! — but hopefully they will have an impact lasting beyond July 30th. (We’ll see if they even last beyond these particularly self improvement-heavy last few weeks.) One of those changes, which I talked about in the last post, is wearing make-up. I feel better when I wear it and I look more professional, but I usually just don’t take the time to put it on. Hopefully I will start (though that’s a very optimistic “hopefully” when the alarm goes off on any given weekday morning).

I am also doing my best to eat a little less and move a little more. The “eating less” part doesn’t come too easily to me, for just as self-improvement was that hygiene-deficient toolbag’s foremost concern, food is my foremost concern. I basically plan my whole life around my next meal. Conveniently enough, I love to cook and have a pretty good understanding of what you should and shouldn’t eat (and tend to be somewhat evangelical about it – just ask Special Someone, who permanently gave up fish sticks, an old weeknight staple of his, shortly after he met me). So, since this post will otherwise be way too long, I’m taking the opportunity to revive my old food blog, The Economical Epicurean, for a discussion of the pre-wedding diet*. If you’re curious about it, click here. If not, I don’t really blame you – self-improvement is a load of crap.

*Said diet is like all diets in that it claims to not be a diet: just “small lifestyle changes,” with recipes included.

**If I may toot my own horn a bit, The Economical Epicurean, by some fluke, is now ranked 5th on this list of the top 50 cheap food blogs. There are a lot of great blogs on that list, so color me flattered! (And also mystified, as I hardly ever update any more.)

Stupid question: does anyone know how to make the font smaller on WordPress? I’m sure it’s quite obvious, but of course I can’t figure it out. These asterisked items should appear in a smaller font.


Wanted: Makeup Advice, or How Not to Look Like Dame Edna on My Big Day

Maybe I should rename this blog Vain Bride or Shallow Bride, because this post, just like the last one, is about looks. Now, let me preface this by saying the wedding must really be getting to my head, as most close friends can attest I don’t brush my hair regularly and any makeup I wear usually ends up on my teeth. (I told you my chompers are big, but did I also mention they’re always in the way?) So, I can safely say I am generally not looks-obsessed, but the prospect of a wedding has kind of turned me into one of those beauty pageant moms, except in this case I am both mother and daughter. I accept the analogy makes no sense, but neither does any of this.

A few months ago, I received an unsolicited email from some online service called OurWeddingDay.com. (You recently engaged gals out there will be shocked at how quickly they find you, too.) After a close reading of this email, titled “10 Tips for Wedding Photography Makeup,” I not only felt inspired to start this blog, but also came away with two important messages: 1) I’m hopelessly pasty and 2) a professional makeup artist is at least as essential to any wedding as the officiant, although a professional can only do so much to treat congenital pastiness.

Until then I had been determined to not hire a professional makeup artist or hairdo artist on the day of the wedding. When I’ve had makeup and hair done for other weddings, as a bridesmaid, I have always been disappointed about looking like a drag queen with a Grandmother-of-the-bride bouffant. This seems to be the result no matter what I tell the beauty professionals, so I fear even my own wedding will be no different. Poor Special Someone, it’s enough he’s marrying someone who calls herself the Skeptic Bride, but he really didn’t sign on to wed a Dame Edna lookalike.

I’m still pretty set on doing my own makeup — such a rebel I am — though it might not be a bad idea to get a test run at one of the mall counters or Sephora or some place. Anyone have any advice on this? Favorite makeup counters? Favorite drugstore products? Good techniques for making makeup stick around for the whole night? I NEED YOUR HELP. And not just for the wedding – this is something I’ve needed help with ever since the first time I came home from work looking like a two-bit whore, mascara smeared all under my eyes. I would prefer not to be Goth Hooker Bride, though I guess that’s a preferable alternative to 75 Year-Old Transvestite.


Love Bites

I used to think it was pointless and sad for brides-to-be to go on strict weight loss regimens and sometimes even resort to plastic surgery in preparation for their weddings. After posing for engagement pictures and seeing them posted on Facebook, I fully understand the reasoning behind it.

Woof.

Of course I’m no great beaut anyway, but don’t start blaming our photographer: she’s wonderful. Her quickly growing business is called Emily Rose Portraits and I highly recommend her to all those in the Tampa/Orlando areas and all those who, like me, are willing to fly her up for a wedding – her rates are so reasonable that even with the cost of plane tickets she’s a steal compared to most DC-area photographers. If she reads this, she may feel compelled to jack up her prices, so act quickly all you pre-maritals (and you post-maritals, too – she does beautiful portraits of children and families).  She was in town this past week visiting family and offered to take our engagement photos. I hope to post some on this blog eventually, even though they make me want to:

1) get braces again (am deeply regretting not wearing my retainers religiously all those years);

2) tone up and slim down (somehow without changing a thing about my lifestyle);

3) start brushing my hair and perhaps even start using “product” (a more difficult prospect than one might think);

4) start wearing HEAVY cover-up; and

5) take smiling lessons (someone must teach these – perhaps an enterprising former beauty queen or someone).

I know the engagement photo session cannot promise to turn tragically unphotogenic couples into supermodels; it’s merely about capturing how happy you look and how excited you are about getting married. Emily did a great job of that. It’s not her fault I look like a shark about to chomp on Special Someone’s head in most of the pictures — that’s just what my face does. But now that we have these engagement photos behind us, hopefully by the time the wedding’s over and we’re looking at those pictures, I’ll be used to it. I won’t be all “Oh my gosh, I look like Jaws! All memories of our wedding are ruined!” Instead I’ll be all “You can tell from the nonstop appearance of my huge-ass teeth that I was smiling the whole night!” That said, I’m still really hoping Special Someone’s dental plan at least partially covers orthodontics.


Lake Weddingbegon

As the income gap in this country continues to widen, something like the top one percent of earners control around 35 percent of the nation’s wealth. This estimate may seem rather conservative to anyone who has ever created a wedding registry. I am now convinced that the earnings of Martha Stewart and whoever invented OXO Good Grips account for a good third of our GDP.

Back in the old days, I am told, you didn’t tell your wedding guests what you wanted them to buy you. It would have been considered rude. Instead, friends and relatives picked out platters that you never would have bought for yourself or gave you cash envelopes. Gift receipts? Please! If you didn’t like Aunt Esther’s vase, you just put it on the neighborhood yard sale table or donated it to the Salvation Army. Ideally, though, you kept all your gifts for sentimental reasons and even if they lacked functionality, they still found a home in a china cabinet.

Wedding gift-giving has really changed since my parents got married thirty years ago. Not to sound like the Garrison Keillor of wedding nostalgia, but it seems to me that economic “growth” in America has actually led to less choice. Betrothed couples tend to register at the same stores — Macy’s, Crate and Barrel, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and a few others — for the same few utilitarian brands — Cuisinart, All-Clad, Kitchen-Aid, and of course, Martha Stewart and OXO Good Grips. We register at these stores for convenience (anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the world can send you a present from PotteryBarn.com) and for these same brands because they are generally high-functioning and good values. But if you visit the homes of other newlyweds, you will not notice much variety from one kitchen to the next.

Despite our expressed preference for useful (and not so useful, see Exhibit A: OXO Mango Pitter) kitchen gadgetry, one somewhat antiquated thing most of us do is register for china. (Here, china is a broad term meant to include “sets of plates, cups, bowls, and saucers” but does not necessarily imply these items are official china.) But how many times are you really going to use your china? Maybe the plates will make an appearance a couple times a year. But are you going to set every formal table with a cup and saucer? Even if we were to some day host Thanksgiving or Christmas, I think we could do without teacups for the entire family. Of course, all families are different and some are more formal than others, but in general entertaining has become a much more casual endeavor over the years. The wedding gift business acknowledges this casualness on the one hand (Exhibit B: we registered for measuring cups; I want them, but can you imagine a more boring, utilitarian gift?), but also cleverly ignores it by making prospective married couples feel they haven’t hit adulthood until they own 16 sets of the same china pattern.

We have free will and can choose to forgo this whole registry nonsense. But upon further reflection, gifts are great! Who am I to be griping about getting things I actually want? For example, the Kitchen Aid pasta maker attachment: at around $100, it is something I would never buy for myself. But if someone else buys it for us, not only will I be grateful, I might actually use it and invite them over for homemade pappardelle. I just hope they don’t expect to eat it off a gold-rimmed Kate Spade dinner plate.