Wednesday, December 14, 2016

WTF, Pinterest?

I had never really used Pinterest in the past, because (with the possible exception of Snapchat) I find it to be the most pointless of all the social media outlets, primarily because collecting photos of food and craft projects that I’ll never actually make isn’t really my idea of a good time.

But even I can admit that when it comes to wedding planning, Pinterest does have its use as a central place to collect ideas and inspirations for the big day. So I eventually set up my account and began creating boards of dresses I liked, venue décor that captured the aesthetic Remus and I were going for, and engagement rings that wouldn’t have him sweating his ability to pick out jewelry for me. And this led to my new favorite daily check-in: my page of suggested pins.

Based on the photos I’ve pinned to my board, Pinterest now regularly updates my homepage to feature things it thinks I’ll like or be interested in (something most of you were already aware of, I’m sure, but it’s a whole new world to me). And some of the stuff Pinterest suggests is, quite honestly, batshit insane.

So with no further ado, the first installation in my new series of posts that I’m calling, WTF, Pinterest? I guess this one is the all-rings edition.

On my board of rings I liked, I pinned a selection of rather simple and very similar photos of square stones in silver settings, some with various configurations of side stones. How Pinterest gathered from those pins that I would be interested in this gold and green dragonfly monstrosity, I’ll never know.

I think these were brooches (or possibly pasties) that someone mistook to be rings. We all make mistakes.

Liberace called the owner of this ring (from the grave!) and kindly asked her to tone it down a bit.

Just because you’re getting married doesn’t mean you have to give up your street fighting ways. With this engagement ring, you can sport your bling and leave the brass knuckles at home since this piece of fine jewelry doubles as a weapon.

I assume the owner of the dragonfly ring also owns this piece of work, or at least wishes she did. Whoever said, “less is more,” obviously never went jewelry shopping via Pinterest.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Adventures in Wedding Expoing

Over the years I’ve been to enough food, travel, and job expos to know that expos really aren’t my thing. They’re always overcrowded and too warm, they’re mostly occupied by aggressive vendors who adopt the “hard sell” mode of marketing, and I’ve never once came out of an expo with anything substantial enough to feel that it had been worth my time. But there’s one thing that keeps me coming back: the potential promise of free stuff.

I, like most people, love free stuff. Swag bags full of tacky tchotchkes, poorly performing pens, and magnets featuring companies I’ll never contact that won’t even stick to my stainless steel fridge? I want it. Free food samples, even if it’s just a wintergreen LifeSaver? I need it. A discount off a full-priced product or service just for attending this event? Not as good as something free, but I’ll take it. A drawing to enter to win something free and fabulous? I came prepared with a sheet of my return address labels; sign me up!

So with this starry-eyed vision of freebies galore, I signed Remus and myself up to attend a wedding expo at a downtown Chicago hotel. An impressive list of DJs, caterers, photographers, dress shops, and bakeries were listed to attend, so maybe if we found vendors we liked we would get a discounted rate to hire them for our wedding. At the very least I figured we would get some free cake out of attending.

My first warning that this expo would not be what I was hoping for came before we even entered the main room. Set up right outside of the main entrance/exit doors was a local photographer who glommed onto us on our way in. Oozing smarmy charm, he asked us all about our vision for our wedding day, and when we told him the venue we had chosen he excitedly bragged about how he shot weddings there all the time, pulled out a sample photo album taken there, and name-dropped the venue manager in case we didn’t believe he was actually familiar with the place.

“You see this shot? I’m actually lying on my stomach in the aisle to get this shot of them exchanging vows. That’s how committed I am to capturing perfect moments; I will lie down on the floor to get them.”

OK…I don’t anticipate we’ll ask our photographer to roll around on the ground for us, but good to know that you’d be game…

He continued to flip through the album, showing us various shots he could mimic for us in that same space, and waxing poetic about his epic use of natural light. To my amateur eye, the photos looked fine, though nothing spectacular, but his pushiness alone was turning me off bit by bit with each passing second. Then he clinched the “never gonna get it” deal when he got to the final page of the album that featured the photographers credits.

Along with his photo and bio, there was a headshot of a woman on the page.

“That’s my ex-partner,” he explained. “And my ex-fiancée.” This second part was said with such disdain that I’m sure wherever that woman is now she felt a chill go down her spine. And why he felt the need to share this level of detail with us, I can’t imagine, when it would have been much simpler to say, “This is someone I used to work with,” or even simpler than that to say nothing at all.

“Oh, that must have been awkward, to lose both your fiancée and your business partner,” Remus politely commented.

“Eh, whatever. She was fucking crazy, anyway. Better off without her!”

And I was done. No way in hell was I any longer going to entertain having the day celebrating our love and commitment include a man who would openly--to clients!--describe the person he once planned to spend his life with as “fucking crazy” and as being “better off without her.” He could be willing to lie on the third rail of the Blue line to get the most epic of photos and I still wouldn’t have hired him.

“Well, it’s been nice talking to you, but we need to get inside.” I started sidestepping toward the entrance while frantically making “get the hell away from here” eyes at Remus.

“Wait! Let me get your contact info! You and I need to talk more.”

“We’ll hit you on the way out.” He was right by the door; we would inevitably have to cruise by him again.

“I’ll be looking for you! We need to nail this thing down!”

The rest of our wedding expo experience was downhill from there. There was the DJ company spokeswoman who looked like one of Hugh Hefner’s Girls Next Door and couldn’t even answer the most basic of questions like, “what’s the average rate for a full night of DJ service?”

There was the all-in-one company (wedding planners, DJs, lighting, and photographers) who apparently let someone’s high school daughter be their front person, who robotically read without pause or eye contact--through a mouthful of metal braces--their templated sales pitch script.

There was the custom suits joint who couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that we weren’t having groomsmen and only Remus would be the one in need of some natty threads, so they kept trying to sell us on the package deal we could get for “all your groomsmen” if we had them create the groom’s suit, despite our continued reminders that, “We’ll only need one suit. One. For him. His suit. He’s the only one suiting up.”

There was the Florida travel booth who wouldn’t stop trying to sell us on attending one of their time share pitches for a chance to win a free honeymoon in Florida, despite our assurances that we weren’t interested in time shares, time share pitches, or Florida in general.

And worst of all, there was the wedding cake bakery who ran out of cake samples before we even got there. What kind of bakery attends a day-long expo and doesn’t plan to bring enough cake?!

The only swag we collected was business cards and fliers for wedding vendors we would never contact, and as we approached the exit doors we remembered that the original photographer we met was waiting to pounce on the other side. Using my ninja-like skills, I sidled up to the door to peek out and saw that he was currently engaged with another couple. When he turned his back to grab a sample album (hopefully the one featuring his crazy bitch ex!) I signaled to Remus to “GO!” and we hustled out the door, down the hall, and into the elevator bay without looking back.

I recently reached out to our venue’s preferred décor vendor to set up a time to talk about adding some decorative touches to the space for our big day. They replied that they’ll be at a wedding expo at our venue at the end of January, so we should come talk to them there when we can be in the actual space.

Great. Looking forward to it. I hope there’s free cake this time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How to Guarantee Your Proposal Won’t be Featured on

To say that my wait for Remus’ proposal became a bit torturous is an understatement. We openly discussed when we wanted to get married, and once agreeing on a timeframe, wound up looking at venues, finding one we both loved, and putting a deposit down on said venue, thus securing our wedding date. And all before he actually proposed.

I was eager to let our nearest and dearest know when to mark their calendars, but Remus insisted we wait until he “officially” popped the question. I argued that putting a deposit on a venue is pretty official, but his definition of “official” included a ring on my hand, because “if you tell people we’re engaged and you have no ring to show them, they’re going to think I’m some kind of moron who can’t get his shit together.”

So fine, I’ll wait until you get a ring to let people know we’re getting married. How long could that take? A couple of weeks? Maybe a month? Fine, whatever. We booked our venue almost a year and a half in advance, so there was plenty of time.

But Remus’ job had other plans. For the next five months any lunch hour he planned to spend perusing Chicago’s jeweler’s row was overtaken by fire-drill emergencies, unreasonable last-minute client demands, and project plans that were so mismanaged that it’s a wonder they ever got done. Hoping to get to the jewelry store before it closes at 7:00? Sit your ass down, we need to pull another all-nighter. My wait for the proposal dragged on and on as his work life became more and more tyrannical, and the doubtful “does he even really want to get engaged?” seed started to take root in my mind.

He has since left that job for one that actually champions a work/life balance for its employees, and I’m not sure which once of us is happier about that. As our “year and a half to go” timeline crept closer to “one year to go,” I started to get extremely anxious about when we could finally spill the beans. He eventually shared that “it’s out of my hands at this point,” leading me to (correctly) assume that a ring had finally managed to be ordered.

Then came the weekend that I was convinced it was coming, because homeboy could not have been throwing up any more signals.

I had made Saturday night dinner reservations at one of our favorite restaurants to celebrate his first week at his new job. That Friday night--while at a wedding DJ showcase, of all places--he mentioned that he needed a decent headshot taken for his profile at work, so he might dress up a bit for dinner so I could take some photos of him that night, too.

“What are you going to wear tomorrow night?”

“I don’t know…jeans and a not too terrible top, I guess?”

“You should wear a dress. You look so good in dresses.”


At some point in the evening I commented on how shitty my unpainted nails looked.

“You should treat yourself to a manicure before dinner tomorrow night.”

Sure…maybe I’ll do that… (and I did).

The following night Remus dressed up in a button down and sports jacket, and I put on a dress that went with my freshly manicured nails. Before leaving for dinner he suggested we head up to the rooftop deck on our building to take those headshots. On our way up he commented: “I hope there’s no one else up there…”

OK, Casanova, I’m picking up what you’re putting down…

I now had no doubt in my mind that the proposal was about to happen.

So we went on the (vacant) rooftop with views of the Chicago skyline just as sunset was starting on an unseasonably warm and sunny November evening, and I took a series of headshots of him. And then…we left for dinner.

Why the hell didn’t he do it on the rooftop?! Is he doing it at the restaurant? I was pretty clear that my #1 rule for this whole thing was “no public proposal”…

We had a fantastic meal, complete with drinks and dessert (holla, Siena Tavern), and then…he suggested we go grab another drink somewhere else. He suggests Sable. Which is the somewhat swanky bar/restaurant where we met for the very first time.

Oh…he’s going to do it at Sable! I guess that’s appropriate, and I can get past the “no public proposal” stipulation as long as he doesn’t make a big show of it.

We get a cozy table for two at Sable and enjoy a couple of cocktails. And then…we head back home.

What the fuuuuuuuuck?

“Let’s stop by the park near our building before going home.”

OK, so we’re doing this in the park? Yes, we must be doing this in park. We’re on a bench overlooking the river, there’s no one else here, the sun has set and the city is all lit up and glowing, any second now he’s going to pull that thing out of his pocket and officially ask me to marry him!

And then…we went home, changed into our pajamas, and settled in for the rest of the night. And my brain kind of exploded.

What the fuckety fuck fuck fucking fuck??? He was totally going to do it tonight! Right? Wasn’t he? What was all that “wear a dress,” “get a manicure,” “rooftop,” “bar where we met,” “romantic bench time in the park” bullshit about??? Did he chicken out? Does he really not want to do this? Am I one of those psycho-bitch girlfriends who pushes to get married when her boyfriend has no interest? But we openly talk about it all. the. time. Is he just messing with me? Was he purposely trying to throw me off all night long so that I’ll be truly surprised when he actually does propose? That’s so cruel! What a fucking asshole! What in the ever-loving fuck is going on??!!

My inability to maintain a poker face around Remus was exacerbated that night and he could tell that something was bothering me. When he made the mistake of asking about it, I burst into tears.

“What are you doing? Are you fucking with me? Could you have misled me any more all night long?”

I didn’t even need to mention the word “propose” for him to know what I was talking about. He insisted that he wasn’t fucking with me and simply thought we were just having a nice romantic night out. I declared I was going to bed and was in such a depressed funk all day Sunday that we barely spoke.

Coming home after work on Monday I was still feeling miserable, and as luck would have it, we had a Skype call scheduled with a wedding photographer. I was still wondering if he was having second thoughts about getting married and wasn’t even sure it was worth having this call, but that was a conversation I couldn’t even stomach having at that moment, so we carried on with the meeting.

At the end of the call the photographer promised to email us both a link to one of her full wedding galleries for us to look at, and then we signed off, I changed into my pajamas, and asked if he wanted to watch something off the DVR.

“Sure, but do you want to come into the office first and look at this gallery the photographer sent?”

I look at my phone to find no new emails waiting for me.

“Did she already send it? I don’t have any emails.”

“Maybe she just sent it to me. Come take a look.” And he heads into the office. And now I’m pissed off at the photographer (along with the world at large).

Stupid fucking photographer, can’t even manage to include me on an email when I’ve been her primary contact in setting this all up. Who doesn’t include the bride on their emails? Like the groom is of any use on his own in the wedding planning process. If you can even consider us a bride and groom since I’m not even sure he wants any of this anymore…

I grab a handful of Mike & Ike candies from the box on the coffee table, shove them into my mouth, and head toward the office, still grumbling about this dummy photographer.

And then…I walk in on Remus down on one knee in our office with a ring box in hand. The exact words that were exchanged are private--though at one point I did cry out, “I have a mouthful of Mike & Ike!”--but he officially asked me to marry him and I officially said yes. And he explained that he didn’t even pick up the ring until that day, so he never had intended to propose over the weekend, but knowing it was coming soon he apparently got a little overzealous about what was to come and misrepresented a multitude of prime proposal moments.

And that is how to guarantee your proposal won’t be featured on have it done while you’re in your pajamas with a mouthful of candy after have a mini-mental breakdown.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I am not a patient person. I’m also not particularly fond of surprises. So when forced to wait for a surprise I know is eventually coming, I find myself in a very special sort of personal hell.

The surprise I refer to is Remus’ marriage proposal (this is written before said proposal has happened, with the promise to not publish it until afterward). Being one of those couples who knew pretty early on that we were in it to win it, the idea of us getting married was initially bandied about within the first month of our relationship (specifically when I was asked if I would take his last name if we were to get married, a topic to be explored further at another time). By the end of 2014, when we were already living together and openly acknowledging to anyone who cared (and probably a few who really didn’t) that we did plan to eventually marry, I made the prediction that he would pop the question by the close of 2015. I was told in no uncertain terms that he wouldn’t be asking by then. I scoffed, figuring it was a ploy to keep me off the scent. Then 2016 rolled around and no proposal had happened. That’ll teach me!

Having never seriously entertained the idea of ever getting married until I met Remus when well into my 30s, I don’t have a fantasy “dream wedding” in my head to work off of, so I really have no idea how I’ll go about making wedding plans and decisions. I’m also not dying to get a ring on my finger because, while I like fine jewelry as much as the next girl, I’m mildly concerned about losing it or getting mugged for it. And I’m definitely not looking forward to trying to arrange a fun party for all of our guests when there are certain long-distant relatives I already know will balk and stammer at the choices we’ll make (head’s up to all: there will be no bridesmaids or groomsmen! Clutch your pearls now and move on!). So for these reasons, I don’t mind postponing the inevitable. But for the very simple reason of, “What the hell are we waiting for?!,” I find myself going a little crazy waiting for the axe to drop (or insert your own more romantic-sounding proposal metaphor here).

The topics of our engagement, wedding, and future life together are all open for discussion at any time; we can apparently talk about these things ad nauseum, we just can’t actually do them. At the end of 2015 we jointly met with a financial advisor to discuss working toward our future goals--wedding, buying a home, retiring early and living a baller life--and cited 2017 as our (admittedly broad) target wedding date. We discussed the ideal time to host a wedding and decided that spring would be the least likely to conflict with preexisting birthdays, vacations, and holidays. OK, I thought, so a Spring 2017 wedding it is.

While visiting our families for the holidays we openly talked about our plans to have a wedding soon-ish, assuring them it would be on our home turf of Chicago. Remus even cited his fondness for the venue of a friend’s wedding we had attended earlier in the year, which was news to me. I was promised that we could go window shopping for rings in January, so he would have an idea of what I would like. OK, so proposal in early 2016. That coincides with planning a wedding for Spring 2017. All systems go!

It seemed like we were both on the same page, until a weekend afternoon spent casually discussing upcoming travel plans sent everything I had built up in my mind cascading down like dominoes. After talking about our big spring trip for 2016, some smaller excursions coming up in the summer, and a potential idea for a long weekend getaway in the fall, Remus mentioned how next spring he’d like to do a truly major vacation, like the Pacific Coast Highway trip we took the year before. I instantly felt my stomach drop out from underneath me.

That would be Spring 2017…is he not thinking that we’ll be doing something kind of important in that timeframe…?

I cautiously broached this very question with him, trying to make it clear that I wasn’t attempting to pressure him into making a decision here and now, while desperately trying to establish if I had actually created this phantom wedding timeline out of nothing.

“Oh…well, maybe. I wasn’t really thinking of that.”

“OK…well, we had previously said spring would be the best time to do it. And had set 2017 as the target year. So that would mean Spring 2017. And if we’re doing it then, that would mean we should be looking for a venue soon-ish…so…” I trailed off, hoping he would fill in the unspoken, do you think we might be getting engaged now…ish?

I got the exact opposite reaction I was hoping for, as he cited fall as perhaps a better time, or if we pushed things to 2018 it wouldn’t be the end of the world. And while either a fall or a 2018 wedding certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world, I felt immediately devastated because even hypothetical wedding planning can apparently push the most level-headed woman to the brink.

I was in a funk for the rest of the day, feeling sadly disconnected from the man I’m almost always in sync with, and troubled that he apparently wasn’t ready for this major life step that I didn’t seem to be afraid of.

When I finally came to him in tears that night, fretting about us not being on the same page, and declaring, “This is why I hate surprises! I’m a planner!,” he assured me that we were on the same page, and it wasn’t an issue of him not being ready, but that he simply wasn’t ready to propose that instant. While my practical nature says, “OMG, can we just do this thing already?!,” his slightly-more-romantic nature wants the time and breathing room to plan out and enact a proposal that I won’t see coming, will make for a good story to tell others, and neither of us will ever forget. And so I need to relax and let him have his time to plan the moment, because the proposal is the one part of the whole wedding circus over which men are able to have complete ownership, which I realized after he pointed out, “If it’s any consolation, once the initial ask is done, you’ll get to plan pretty much everything else.”

And that’s when I remember everything that goes into putting together a wedding--Do we have to have a theme? Who officiates when neither of us have any religious affiliations? When do I have to start watching Say Yes to the Dress?--and I’m in a whole new special sort of personal hell.

Follow-up: We got engaged on November 7, and are planning at Fall 2017 wedding.