Going to the Chapel

The engagement of Laura and Gavin... and then some.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Home Sweet Mid-Rise

After becoming best buds with our real estate agent after spending more time with him than we did our friends for about two months, we found a place to call home. After the wedding, you can find us at:

360 W Wellington
Chicago 60657

We close on Friday, March 23 and start the heavy lifting that day. Painting commences soon after. (Hurry and sign up now as a volunteer mover or painter! Space is limited and highly desirable!) We won’t be fully moving in until after the wedding so that we aren’t leaving our things in an empty apartment for multiple weeks right away.

The vitals on our place:
  • One bedroom.
  • Enough room to fit all of our crud. Enough said.
  • One side of the unit is entirely windows, so lots of sunlight and a great view of… the building across Sheridan. ;-) The other side of the building has lake views.
  • A roof-top deck for sunning, taking in the view, watching the fireworks off of Navy Pier in the summer and a close-up view to the planes for the Air and Water Show as they semi-buzz our building. Ok, the plane part is an exaggeration… I think. We figured we’d be able to grill up there and were very excited about it, until we found that this is not the case. We can, however, take food and drinks up there at our leisure.
  • Cheap laundry!
  • A park and the lake-side running path are at the end of our block.
  • We’re about three blocks north of Lincoln Park – 1 mile from the zoo, 2 miles from the beach. Bring your walkin’ shoes!

Parking is going to be a nightmare and we’ll be counting our pennies carefully, but we love the space and location and know we can live there happily as we adjust to living together after seven years of dating sans co-habitation.

We expect everyone to visit and visit often. Those bearing food will receive special treatment.

Kiddie Favors

We made the decision long ago to invite children to our wedding. They tend to be a hit on the dance floor, and everyone loves the chance to show off their little ones to family and friends they haven’t seen in a while. Plus, little girls are usually fascinated by the proceedings of the entire day and it’s really cute.

It’s well known however, that little kids are bad news when they’re bored. And we know they’ll have no use or interest in the favor we’re giving at the wedding. So in an effort to keep them quiet during the dinner and speeches at the reception, we made the kids their own flavor of wedding favor. It also assures that the little ones will let mom and dad know for weeks just how awesome Laura and Gavin are. Ha!

The element I’m most proud of, although it will likely be the piece the kids play with the least, is a Gavra coloring book. It’s basically just a wedding activity/coloring book. The big kids are going to be jealous.

I also went to the party store with Mom and picked up some sure-to-please goodies for the young set.

  • Wooly Willy magnetic toys – the magnetic baldie that you put facial hair on with a “magic” pencil.

  • Crayons for the coloring books.

  • Crazy straws! No alcohol for the kiddies, but they can still have fun with their beverages.

  • And what my mom claimed was a must-have in case a kid really starts to act up – Chinese finger traps!Apparently she used to trick us with them when we were little? I hate them… and that’s probably why.

Hopefully the youngest guests think they’re as cool as we do! If not, we’re taking them back, proclaiming them “MINE!” and not sharing. Go ahead. Tell on us.

One Month to Go!

It hit me as I wrote an e-mail to everyone that I work with yesterday about my upcoming time off that we have one month (now less) until the wedding. I can’t really say that time has flown by – we’ve been very cognizant of how quickly things were coming all along. I can say that I thought I’d be much more prepared at this point. I’ve been in hyperspeed every night and weekend for wedding-related “stuff,” including apartment hunting, and yet there is still SO much to do.

People can’t seem to believe that there could possibly still be things to do.

People, people, people.

This is the most tradition-filled, personalized event we will ever probably plan in our lifetimes, and it’s also the only time we'll get our entire set of families and closest friends in one room. No one has ever been to a wedding where people don't notice the details. Whether they’re critical or raving, they discuss everything - flowers, timeline, booze, food, DJ, etc, etc, etc. People love to complain about weddings, so it’s natural that the hosts would want to make sure they’ve done everything in advance to make sure it’s a fun, memorable day where everyone can have fun – not just the bride and groom!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Showered with Details

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this very thing before, but the thing I love most about the wedding and wedding planning so far is how much it brings families together in the most joyous, giving way possible. I feel closer to many members of our families than I have because of how wedding planning really makes you need your family and gives you so many reasons to learn about them and their traditions while spending extra time together.

Saying that is partly due to the unbelievable amount of work that went into the shower my aunts threw me a couple weekends ago at Macaroni Grill in Wheaton – my favorite restaurant. My cousins and aunts clearly spent hours on all the little details that they know I notice, and I can’t even imagine how much time was spent behind the scenes in addition on things I don’t even know about.

We walked into the restaurant and you could tell from the entrance that the back had been closed off… and there were a LOT of people back there. I was blown away by everything when I walked in to the party room (by myself since Gavin peeled off for the bathroom and Mom had kept on walking while I tried to drag Mark with me and he dropped free mints all over the floor before fleeing to the bathroom after Gavin…). The room was FULL. I don’t think one more person could have fit in there.

Friends we hadn’t seen in some time due to busy conflicting schedules. Family I only get to see during Wally and Silke’s Oktoberfest. Family friends and friends’ parents I hadn’t seen in too long. And my closest family members – including the beaming grandmothers. (We had spent Saturday night hanging out with Nonna and Diane, both of whom were so proud that they had helped confuse me out of "knowing" the shower was that day... foxy Italians...)

I have to admit, I knew the shower was happening, and then doubted myself, and then knew again before arriving. How I knew is my little secret, but it wasn’t any one person’s divulging that tipped me off. I’m crafty like that. Despite knowing, I was still genuinely surprised – by the amount of work that went into it rather than the date and location of the event itself. Within seconds my event-planning eye took it all in – the amount of organization and the detail – and I was so flattered and amazed that everyone would take so much time on something for Gavin and me.

Details, details. I devoured them in an instant.

  • The room looked like a perfect blend of Tuscan cozy charm and Valentine’s Day/wedding cute class.

  • The flowers were a gorgeous splash of spring colors, tulips included.

  • The tables were decorated with pink tulle to jazz up the restaurant’s stark white paper table cloths, and adorable place cards and favors waited for guests at each spot. (Heart-shaped measuring spoons: “A dash of love.” “A pinch of patience.” Etc. I made those two up... And heart shaped tins filled with M&Ms.)

  • Hand-made chocolate covered strawberries drizzled in pink and white chocolate.

  • A beautiful cake wishing us “All our dreams come true” circled by the cutest string of scrapbooked letters spelling “Laura and Gavin.” I kept the letters…

  • And then… the embarrassingly ginormous pile of presents. I had never seen anything like it in my life, and felt like a guilty little kid on Christmas when I saw it since the registry is a little like a note to Santa. “Dear loved one, for my wedding this life, I’d like a toaster and 12 napkin rings.” Have I mentioned how happy a wonderfully wrapped/bagged present makes me? I get girly giddy – squealie even. Perhaps it’s a delayed reaction from my time at Hallmark? I wanted to take pictures of some of the presents before we opened them though!

I really felt like everyone GOT me. That's such a wonderful, surprising feeling. My family members clearly understand my tastes, loves and level of OCD-ness over things like a party. I’m a hard one to “get” since my interests, obsessions, demands, expectations are all over the board thanks to an overly-rounded (some call it well-rounded…) childhood and being raised as part of a generation weaned on self-esteem. I also have a perfectionist mother who taught me well! Gavin and I were happy and relaxed the whole time, blissfully unaware of the issues that were apparently happening throughout the party. (Ignorance is bliss in some situations. If something is going badly on the wedding day, we don't want to know if we don't have to!)

I couldn’t have imagined anything more perfect. Not possible.

As for how the shower itself went, we had a fantastic time. Gavin did, as he mentioned in his last post, smile for all of the present opening no matter what and the pictures look great. You don’t realize how much you’re under a microscope (or camera lens) until you see the pictures. Lesson learned for the wedding! We didn’t open a single gift that we didn’t like or know what to do with, and every time the (gorgeous) wrapping came off we were humbled by how generous everyone had been.

So… I’m sure there’s a different, hilarious, even painful perspective from the four guys in attendance – Gavin, Dad, Mark and Brian – but I for one felt blessed that Gavin and I had two of the greatest showers of ever two weekends in a row.

1) The happy couple posing among the details.
2) Gavin and Mark's "surprise" entrance post bathroom-hiding.
3) Mom and me arriving.
4) My wonderful aunts! From left: Aunt Sue, Aunt Mary, Auntie Diane
5) The shower cake.
6) Opening a gift. Clearly, we're enjoying this!
7) The beautiful bridesmaids minus one - beautiful Jes!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bridal Shower in Batavia

On Sunday the 11th of February, my side of the family threw Laura a bridal shower at my Aunt Jane and Uncle Ken's home in Batavia. As the dutiful groom that I am, I also attended. It was great to see my grandmothers, aunts, and cousins all in one place. I realized I was out of my league when we played a game referencing the names of a variety of cakes. I believe my Aunt Rita and the Grandma duo split the honors for most correct answers.

We appreciated all of the presents that we received. It was exciting to start thinking of where all of these great things would go in our new home. The empty condo in my mind slowly began to fill up with each present we opened. I was much more excited about the iron we got, as Laura does not plan to do much of the ironing.

Unfortunately, my excitement did not show as well in the pictures we took that day. Although I was very sincere in my thanks in person, most of the pictures did not reflect my excitement with the pictures. I took a crash course in constant smiling for the next shower as Laura will probably note in the next post. A note for any groom who might stumble upon this post, Keep Smiling!

Anything related to food at the shower was great. The food that Jane cooked was delicious, the eclairs and other pastries from Naples Bakery were amazing as usual, and the box of recipes will bring us tasty meals for years to come. Yum!

*A note on the pastries - I took the extra sweets to my office the next day, as no one seemed to want the temptations at their house. They received rave reviews from everyone in the office that day, and I was surprised to hear how many of the women in the office who knew of Naples Bakery. I thought it was a well kept McCann family secret, and wouldn't you know it, the woman in the next cubicle had her wedding catered by Naples Bakery over 20 years ago.

The bride and groom are grateful to all of the women in Gavin's life who made the day so enjoyable!

1.) The lovely Valentine's Day-themed details.
2.) Laughing at Colleen's joke and present-opening advice.
3.) Dessert from Naples Bakery. Mmmmm. Eclairs.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bridezilla Army!

Hilarious picture I found while looking for a cartoon picture of a monster bride or wedding. Hopefully I haven't been one of these!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Luxe Tuxes

The tuxes are picked out, and the boys are turning in their measurements. This, coupled with 99% of the bridesmaids having picked up their dresses already, means we are not having a naked wedding. I believe the Catholic church forbids such celebrations anyhow, so this worked out well.

After bargain hunting and pitting a couple tux shops against each other, we went with the original tuxes we liked at After Hours. We somehow managed to get the tux we liked best AND get all the discounts we were gunning for – low price for the guys, half price for the ring bearers and Gavin and the Dads are free. Bargaining master, that Gavra.

During the process, we looked at the tux place next to House of Brides on Roosevelt – Back Tie. The stores are connected such that you can see from one into the other. While browsing the tie rack, the store of white dresses and all colors of bridesmaid attire caught my attention. The contrast was other-wordly.

The bridal shop was a frenzy of groups of women grabbing lots of lace, satin, etc off of racks, rushing them to dressing rooms, weighing in on every single thing they saw and cooing and emoting all over.

The tux shop’s four customers were looking stoicly at the few options on display, asking what their options were, color swatches please, ok let’s do this one for everybody.

What happened along the line to make bridal shops such a strange, over-the-top phenomenon, while tux shops stayed so simple? I’ve been saying all along that it would be fantastic if there were just one store with a finite number of choices on display for absolutely everything wedding related. The bride walks in and picks from each category, and poof!, wedding complete. Things would coordinate very well that way too. I’m sure couples could be creative enough to personalize a wedding in other ways… Quite the pipe dream, huh?

Decisions for this wedding have been like nothing I have ever experienced. Every decision is weighed in on by everyone who hears about it, although their opinion is usually not solicited. Even those decisions for which I knew what I wanted to do within days of us getting engaged have been questioned and dragged through the mud to the point that I’m not even sure what I had in mind originally! I was a strong decision maker before this process. Now I can’t even pick shoes without coming home and asking my Mom what she thinks, or Gavin if she's not around, or my poor Dad if all else fails as he looks at me like I've really lost it - asking him about shoes. Not normal! Perhaps I've become more democratic? Perhaps this is just a crazy process. It is what it is!

Picture: We don't know those dudes, but their tuxes are luxe.

Five Layers of Goodness

The cake was almost as easy a decision as Thomas, our photographer. Few things in life are simple lately, so we definitely enjoyed the Saturday morning when we met with Joy from Pastry Pantry.

When we walked into the office where they let her rent out a room to store her creations in Glen Ellyn, the smell of sugar was unreal. The room’s four walls were lined by cakes of all sizes, colors, frosting types and decorating persuasions. Very visual – perfect!

We viewed her book of past creations, showed her some pictures of our own, and settled on a customized buttercream design of our creation, combining the elements of our wedding day and the things we liked most about other cakes.

There are tiers, flowers, rosettes, pearls frosting and… oh yes, the innards.

The easiest part of the entire planning process thus far might have been picking our cake flavor. Joy had set out two plates of samples for us to try. The first one we tried was it. We sampled a couple others to make sure, but that was the one. We didn’t even try them all or finish our cake samples!

Picture: Generic cake. Not our cake.

The Invites, Cont.

Guests started to receive their invitations today!

We sent them hoping everything would arrive on Valentine's Day, but it seems some arrived early. So far, the only word used to describe them is "beautiful." Agreed! I cannot wait until the repsonse cards start to come back, for I do heart getting and sending mail.

To close the chapter on the invite saga, things worked out ok in the end. The stationer was completely awful to work with the rest of the time, refusing to fulfill very specific requests (an updated invoice - not hard), using phrases like "as I told you before" when I didn't hear back from her when the invites were due, etc. We weren't sure if we were going to have invites to send out, but she seems to have tried to prove to me that she was quite professional, and out-professional me.

Although she managed to be even more rude and uncomfortable after the incident resulting from the previous bad service, the irony is that we actually got much better service after the hiccup... or belch... in the process. Finally, everything was documented, I received very clear answers to my questions, and she always assumed the worst of our conversations, and so was actually prepared when I contacted her in any way.

I love the invites, but can't express how happy I am that I will never voluntarily have to work with that woman again.

On the upside, Jess did our awesome map that I'm loving. Despite the big deal made about the map coming from an outside designer, the stationer liked it so much she's tossing lots of side business to Jess. Hooray! Note that the map as shown here isn't quite right. The colors and illustrations got messy when saved as a jpg!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Good Thing Our Wedding Will Only be 1/4 Italian

It was a wedding-themed Christmas this year. Our gifts were oddly adult, including kitchen appliances off the registries, tools, a cake topper and girly luggage for the honeymoon. Oddly, we were pumped about everything! We're definitely feeling the urgency of just three months to go now.

In keeping with the Christmas theme, we gave our parents a
wedding-appropriate gift this year. A little preview of things to come... in a much more dramatic manner. We treated our parents to Tony n’ Tina’s wedding at Piper’s Alley in the city.

For those not familiar, it’s a tacky but very fun clash of improv, musical, Broadway play and audience-interactive performance. Tony and Tina are a stereotypical Italian couple getting married with all the gaudy frills and taste to match. Slicked hair, sequins, gold and poofy, bedazzled dresses were all the rage among the bridal party.

We had a great time and loved getting to hang out with them all together. They definitely laughed harder at the jokes and over-the-top antics than Gavin and I, but that’s probably because they’ve been to enough weddings that a lot of those antics actually brought up “remember that time when…” conversations about weddings they had attended!

To me, it was weird how much the show really felt like a wedding. Things were crazy all around the room and the conversations the cast struck up with the “audience” were inane, but it didn’t seem THAT weird. Maybe it was the cold medicine. Or maybe it was because we’re sure to have some wacky moments during our own wedding day that will turn into future “remember that time when…” moments for our guests.

Exhibit A: The awesome invites Gavin and I made for the parentals.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Muddy Waters on The Knot Boards

Written Dec. 18, and not posted until Feb. 13 for reasons you'll understand below!

Planet Sick of Wedding Planning. Population: Me.

Avoid using the woman we did for invites if you'll ever need wedding invitations down the road. Ask me for her name so that you can steer clear! I'm not going to include it here because she'll probably find this post and threaten me like she did after I posted questions and a complaint about her services on The Knot boards. Apparently, those boards are actually a big deal and are crawling with wedding vendors checking out what is said about them. Craaazyyy, although, I suppose understandable. Unexpected all the same.

There were quite a few errors on the proof that I, the perfectionist editor, felt should have been caught before sending us a "final" version. It is a beautiful invite, but I'd like to see the text centered, typos corrected, etc when it arrives as a "final." Another proof costs money with our vendor. Brides who have ordered from other places tell me their proof arrived in perfect or near-perfect form. So I posted casually (it's a message board!) using words like "crappy" and "shady." Adequate words of that sort. She treated the post like it was written in the Tribune and started quoting it as slander. Ummm? Just when you thing the Web is safe kids, some friend or favorite customer of the person you wrote about lets them know and makes your life hell. Over wedding invitations. I stand by my "shady" comment.

If you're a bride-to-be now or in the future, don't post anything on those boards unless it's totally neutral. Apparently, it's not actually an anonymous community. For a lot of local and small vendors, it's a serious marketing tool. They'll track you down...

But There Can Only Be One Flower Girl

Kids crack us up constantly. Especially when we have conversations with them. Clearly, we don't get to interact with children enough these days to be past that point where it's funny every time...

We got unexpected reactions from the kids in our wedding party when we did the official asking over the summer.

We asked Gavin’s cousins of some sort (twice removed? thrice?), Sophie (6) and Maddie (8), to be our flower girls during a family party. Of course, we asked their mother first. She was really excited and told us that they were going to LOVE this. She grabbed the video camera and we went outside to find the girls.

We asked Maddie and Sophie if they knew what a flower girl is. They said they did thanks to a book their mom had read them recently.

We asked if they would want to be flower girls in our wedding.

Maddie jumped up and down and yelled “YEAH!!” with a huge smile on her face.

Sophie, ever the observant, precocious little spud, didn’t answer. “Sophie, do you think that would be fun?” She looked around everywhere but at people and in the quietest, mumbliest way you can imagine informed us:

“But there can only be one flower girl. Maddie can be your flower girl.”

We explained that there would be two ring bearers, so it would be ok to have two flower girls. I also threw in that being a flower girl meant pretty dresses.

More mumbling. Then she ran away to continue the game we had interrupted.

The reaction was hysterical and totally unexpected. She protected her idea that there should only be one flower girl like Milton protected his red Swingline stapler in Office Space. The girls’ mom accepted for her and has since taken the girls out to try on dresses, which Maddie was dying to do. Unfortunately, things got busy for everyone this fall and we haven’t seen either of the girls since we asked them! We’re going to pick out dresses after the holidays when life quiets down.

Similarly, we won’t get to see our ring bearers, my cousin Karen’s kids who I get such a kick out of because they talk like adults, until the wedding weekend since they live in New York and are spending the holidays with their dad’s family this year. Marc (6) and Dean (4) had a similar reaction when Karen explained that they were going to be ring bearers again while I was on the phone with her.

“Marc, you’re going to be a ring bearer again.”

“No I’m not.”

“Sure you are.”

Should Gavin and I be concerned that these kiddos aren’t too into this?

Dean and Marc were ring bearers in their uncle’s wedding last summer with another boy. Dean carried the rings, and Marc was told he was the bodyguard. We hear no one was getting near Dean while he had those rings unless they wanted to risk their lives, or ankles.

Nuestra Luna de Miel Mexicana

After mulling over honeymoon possibilities, we settled on a compromise between Gavin wanting a beach to lounge on and me needing to move around and see/do things during vacation. We had also agreed that archeological ruins and Latin America would be neat-o.

We considered Brazil or Chile, Spain, climbing Machu Picchu, but knew we weren’t going to have time to plan and prep for those types of trips while planning a wedding. Also, you can no longer walk around in and climb Machu Picchu’s ruins. We aren’t willing to trek up a mountain overnight just to look for the honeymoon. Some other trip…

We arrived on one surprising destination we had never heard of after Gavin visited a travel agency in Glen Ellyn for ideas.

The Riviera Maya.

Mexico’s Mayan Riviera is a blending of dream trips for us – Mayan ruins, world-class snorkeling and diving, jungle exploration treks, all-inclusive packages and beaches. The Riviera Maya is on the Yucatan Peninsula between Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. The only downside is that it’s in Mexico! Not exactly exotic, but perfect on paper.

We are staying half the time at the Aventura Spa Palace because of its proximity to absolutely everything – eco-parks, ferries to Cozumel, day trips, you name it. The resort has a lagoon instead of a natural beach due to crazy big waves at this point on the strip. We aren’t planning to spend too much time at the resort while we staying at this one however, so the absence of beach may not be noticed too much.

For the other half of the honeymoon, we are staying at Tulum Dreams. This one puts us just a five-minute bike ride away from Tulum. Not familiar? Tulum is the ancient ruins site with buildings white-washed from sea salt that sit on the cliff over a perfectly blue ocean that you see in the plethora of travel ads suddenly circulating for the Mayan Riviera. Absolutely beautiful. The beaches are supposed to be fantastic. This second resort will satisfy our young fogey selves. We were embarrassingly excited about bikes, bocce courts, dance lessons and archery. We might have to battle the older crowd for a spot on the shuffle board courts. Don’t judge us.

Unfortunately, all-inclusive resorts come at a premium. Apparently any trip that doesn’t involve all of your belongings on your back and sleeping in youth hostels while eating two meals a day adds up. Our trip will last 10 days so that we can afford housing when we return!

Oddly, the end of the fiesta coincides with Relays weekend at Drake, which I’m supposed to make an appearance at for a meeting. We were going to skip it and extend the trip before we saw the price tag. Instead, after hanging out and relaxing in Mexico, we’ll head out to Des Moines to see everyone there and enjoy the Relays revelry. We’re still considering it our honeymoon.

A honeymoon in Iowa? Now THAT’S unique!