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Less than a week after our wedding, I am brimming with images and impressions of the wedding and our new married state. I’m not sure that those ideas are ready for organized sentences just yet. Soon. I promise.

Today, I’d like to share an essay my friend Hila Ratzabi wrote about her interfaith relationship. The essay, “Invisible Revisions: One Jewish Perspective on Interfaith Relationships” is a beautiful piece. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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An Intimate Surprise

Recently, I read about Intimate Surprises  in the Smith College alum magazine. Surprise presents… what a great idea! We all know how life (you know, laundry and the like) can get in the way of the more important things. The things that took priority in the beginning of a relationship and perhaps get forgotten from time to time. The things that should never be forgotten.

I contacted Jennifer to ask about how the surprises work.  Be sure to scroll to the end for your coupon.

 

How did you come up with the idea for Intimate Surprises? 

My husband and I were talking about how so many of our friends see  to spend more time on their careers and families and kids than they do on their relationships. The job and kid obligations come first and if there’s any time and energy left over maybe they go out for a night as a couple at some point. And staring at each other over a plate of pasta or sitting in the dark in a movie theater didn’t sound terribly “intimate” to us. I said to him, “There should be some sort of Cupid of the Month club to help couples remember to take time out for themselves.” And so Intimate Surprises was born.

What kinds of “surprises” are included in the packages? 

Each month as a different “theme.” The first month is all about warming up – to the idea of a monthly surprise and to each other. Each month contains up to five items, which can include toys, activities, and enhancers. The themes are really just a starting point, something to tie it all together so it’s not just a bunch of random things arriving in the mail.

Since couples are so different, how do you personalize the gifts or ensure that they are right for your clients? 

With up to five items there is sure to be something that appeals to everyone. That said, the items are also designed to provide fun for men, for women, and for both of them together as a couple. The idea is to bring a couple together, to help them explore the intimate side of their relationship. But it’s also about fun, just doing something together where the focus is on enjoying themselves. And while each month has a theme it’s really just for guidance – what couples do is ultimately all up to them!

How are the packages delivered? 

Surprises are delivered via priority mail in plain brown cardboard boxes. Nothing to pique the interest of nosy neighbors.

The “surprises” can be given as gifts. What is the most unique gift situation you’ve heard of (bridal party gift to the newlyweds, shower gift, etc.) 

We’ve received the nicest emails from people. What’s surprised us is how diverse our customers have been – many couples married more than 20 years, a couple who counsels newlyweds for their church, a couple serving in the military overseas. We’ve also had same sex couples order surprises. I think the ones we love to hear about are the couples who have been together for a long time, it just goes to show that when couples take the time to care for their relationship it really makes a difference.

Giving a gift like this can be potentially embarrassing if the wrong person finds it. If I order one and then my mom comes over and see the box, what should I tell her is inside? 

Aside from the plain brown box, the surprises come in lovely silver organza bags and we’ve heard from a few customers that they’ve actually re-used the bags for other purposes. One woman’s mom actually liked it so much she asked where her daughter got it from. Obviously, she didn’t tell her. That said, my parents know all about our business and what we’re doing and they think it’s great. But thank god they haven’t placed an order! I don’t think I could handle that.

What would be your dream Intimate Surprise to receive from your love? 

A promise to always keep things fun.

 

Please use coupon code TEN001 to receive 10% off your online order. Read more about the different kinds of surprises (all natural, hotel, etc.) here.

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If you are looking to take classes this spring, I hope you’ll consider the classes I’m offering through Rec & Ed this April and May:

 

Intensive Italian for Travelers

Writing for Special Occasions

Preserve Family History

 

 

I think you’ll be *particularly* interested in Writing for Special Occasions. I’ll be sharing some secrets I’ve learned as a Personalized Wedding Poet.

 

For more information, here is the link to the catalogue.

You can register here.

 

Here are the details:

 

Writing For Special Occasions

Have you ever been asked to write a speech or poem for a special occasion? Do you enjoy expressing your own thoughts in a blank card presented to someone special? Get your creative juices flowing. Explore different forms of poetry and brainstorm ideas. The instructor will guide you in a workshop session to edit and perfect your work. 2 classes.

4/21 – 4/28

6:30 – 8:30 pm

(Page 12, Spring 2009 catalogue)

 

Preserve Family History

Don’t let the intimate stories of your unique family history pass on with loved ones. Learn how to collect these special stories from your family. Discover how to get started and complete an interview. Develop a better understanding of how to craft the questions, answer questions and what to do with the final product. 1 class.

5/7

6:30 – 8:30 pm

(Page 12, Spring 2009 catalogue)

 

Intensive Italian for Travelers (Level 1)

4/20 – 5/13 (Monday/Wednesday)

10:00 – 11:30 am

(Page 21, Spring 2009 catalogue)

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BravoBrideI first came across BravoBride in a New York Times article . It is an online marketplace *just* for weddings. Perfect. I’ve been scouring the website weekly since I learned about it. Everything from dresses and diamond rings to favors are for sale, used and new.

 

Why pay full price in this economy?

 

Founder and recent bride Susan Alexander Shapiro tells us more.

 

 

***

Susan Alexander Shapiro, founder BravoBrideHow did you come up with the idea for Bravobride?

 

I got married this past July 4th and when I was planning the wedding I found it frustrating to pay for expensive wedding items that I’d use once and only for a few hours.  I looked on Craigslist and Ebay but there wasn’t anything focused on just the bridal industry.

 

What is/was the most “out there” item for sale on your site? What is the most common item for sale?

 

We have a pair of ‘wedding boots’ on the site that are really unique. Our most popular items are definitely wedding dresses.

 

How is your site different from Craig’s List or other similar lists?

What sets me apart is that you won’t find fish tanks and bicycles on the site, we only focus on wedding products. Craigslist and Ebay are probably my biggest competitors but you have to search through so many things on Craigslist to find what you are looking for and it’s only for certain regions. Our site is nationwide and we have an advanced search so you can quickly find what you are looking for. The site is also broken down into different categories, such as dresses, jewelry, items for the ceremony and reception and more. Unlike Ebay is completely free to list items and there’s never a sale upon commission. There are a few other sites that that sell used wedding dresses but we are the only site that doesn’t charge a listing fee or take a commission upon sale.

 

What can the “unbride” find on your website?

 

The “unbride” can find everything from non-traditional wedding items, like these blue shoes to a Guide for the Groom book so you’re soon-to-be husband can help with the wedding planning.

 

What guarantee does a bride have that the product advertised is indeed what the seller says it is? In particular, I’m thinking about the rings and the more expensive items?

 

That’s a good question. Like Craigslist, we follow the buyer beware rule. We can not offer a guarantee since we are only connecting the buyers and seller and don’t stock actual merchandise. For more expensive items you may want to deal only locally or use a payment service where your transaction can be protected.

 

It is wonderful that you support the Go Red campaign. How did that relationship begin?

 

I wanted to support a cause that was for women since our site is geared towards brides. The Go Red campaign is near and dear to me because both of my Grandmother’s had heart disease and if effects more woman than cancer.

 

What was the best part of your own wedding?

 

Honestly the whole day was wonderful but I think the ceremony was the most special part. My husband’s aunt married us and they meant a lot to me.

 

 

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Read a little more about the history of BravoBride here. You’ll get to see Susan’s husband Mark, too.

 

Have you bought something on BravoBride? Tell your story here.

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We’ve all been to weddings where we’ve watched the wedding party awkwardly pose before a fake column or lawn. We’ve seen the obligatory kiss and the hand holding. Nothing looks natural. Everyone looks like a bad actor in a pretend wedding.

 

You don’t need those pictures, but you do want a visual memory of the day that documents real events.

 

I recently spoke with Tony Richards, a wedding photographer with a photojournalistic style, who offered some hints about how to find the best photographer for your event.

 

First and foremost, Tony suggested that you ask photographers about their style. A photographer who is a photojournalist will lean towards more natural, candid shots. For example, they will be able to capture true emotion in the guests and bridal party and include details from the space (flowers, architecture, natural beauty, etc.) A more formal wedding photographer will rely more on portraits and formal poses. 

 

Here are some samples he shared with me:

 

By Tony Richards

 

By Tony RichardsBy Tony Richardsby Tony Richardsby Tony Richards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You will probably want a mix of both styles in the end: a photographer who is a photojournalist, but can also be relied upon in order to set up a few posed family shots. (Aunt Lolly would be terribly offended if she wasn’t asked to pose, at least for a few minutes.)

 

When you are comparing packages and prices, be sure to ask what is included: negatives, prints (and their sizes), DVD of pictures, album type, a web gallery that guests can access later and use to order their own copies, if there will be an assistant, if engagement photos are included, etc.

 

One venue that my fiancé and I looked at in NJ had a built-in bookshelf in the dining room with a large space for our “engagement photo.” Engagement photo? I hadn’t known about this (should my fiancé have hired a photographer to be on site before he proposed?) I asked Tony about this practice.

 

Tony includes engagement photos in some of his packages because of their versatility. This more casual photo shoot, which usually occurs sometime before the wedding, allows the couple a chance to become more accustomed to being photographed, more comfortable with the photographer and the photographer can be even more creative with these shots, which makes the final shots more striking. They can be used in save the date, an announcement (like the always coveted New York Times wedding announcements), given as a favor at the wedding, etc. Hearing Tony explain it, it sounded like a lot of fun.

 

A way to cut down on the cost is to create the album yourself. There are a variety of different kinds of albums, from the old-fashioned kind you simply slip the pictures into to a digital album that is designed page by page by the photographer (or by you, if you have the technical skill.) Tony said that he particularly enjoys designing albums, especially since he can send JPEGs of the pages to the clients to ask for their suggestions before the final printing. This ensures that everyone is satisfied. (Can you remember life before the internet?)

 

Photographers are often in the way and in every guest’s picture. Tony admitted that it is hard for him to avoid being in the center of the action in order to take pictures he was hired to take. His advice for limiting this potential problem is to give the photographer a very clear schedule of events for the day. If he knows what is coming next, then he can step aside after he’s gotten the shot he wanted, without risking missing anything.

 

Overall, Tony recommended that couples be as specific as they can with him. Write out a list of people and group shots that are necessary and when they will be taken, when the toasts will be given, etc. The more information that he has, the better job he can do. If you can meet with the photographer and be armed not only with the day’s schedule, but also pictures you’ve cut out of magazines and really like, he can better understand your sense of style and your goals for the day. Finally, during the day, let him know when something changes.

 

Some religious spaces have rules about when and where photographs can be taken. You can help the photographer out by finding out about these rules ahead of time.

 

Tony’s background as a photojournalist helped him to be comfortable with large crowds and getting a good shot quickly. In the newspaper industry, you can’t ask someone to pose or try again. He uses these skills while he shoots weddings. You want a photographer who not only has the technical skills to take the pictures, but also the social skills to handle the crowds and make everyone feel comfortable with him (as a poet, I know that not all award-winning artists naturally have these social skills.)

 

Tony and his wife Grace live in Ann Arbor, but planned a wedding in D.C. recently. He said that they found a photographer through the internet and then face-to-face meetings. They were able to do most of their research online and then met with some people in D.C. before making a final decision. He said that one hint is to look for a photographer with well-lit, indoor ceremony shots. Since indoor ceremonies are often darker spaces, a well-lit photograph shows the photographer’s expertise in lighting.

 

For more information, check out his website, Tony Richards Photography. He will be relocating to D.C. and would love to hear from you.

 

Advice:

Photographers, like other vendors, seem to book about a year in advance. Start looking at websites, asking friends for recommendations, and collecting pictures that you like from websites and magazines. Meet with a few photographers so that you can best compare prices and their work. Each one should have either a web gallery or albums for you to look at in order to get a sense of their style.

 

All of your pictures don’t have to be taken by a professional. Get your friends’ perspective by setting up a Flickr or other webpage where guests can upload their pictures. You can also put disposable digital cameras on the tables and then upload the pictures for everyone to see.

 

Professional photography is an expensive venture because it requires a lot of work, from setting up for the pictures to touching up the final shots and creating the album. We all think that we have the skills to do this now that we can so easily take digital pictures, but when you see the professional photographer’s studio and work, you’ll see the difference in quality immediately.

 

Have a wedding photographer to recommend? Please use the comment section to give him or her a shout-out. Don’t forget to include the website.

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My fiancé recently went to a tux shop to inquire about the options. The salesperson asked what color his bride’s dress would be, “white or off white.” Being the perfect man for me, he laughed.

 

As we know, there are countless wedding dress styles, colors and details that can be chosen or added to make it your own. Our dance teacher last night said that she was dancing professionally when she was engaged and her dressmaker was her costumer. After the wedding, the costumer was able to turn the dress into a dance costume by removing the train and some of the details. Great idea! She said that for the wedding she wore a long scarf behind her, which sounds very stylish.

 

Shasta Grant Huntington married recently in a dress that had blush colored smooth material under the beading.  The overlay was off-white.  She chose pale gold shoes that were Marc by Marc Jacobs; not your traditional wedding shoes! She has worn them so many times since the wedding that they are wearing out.

 

Here are some pictures:

Shasta's dress 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shasta's dress and shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kimberly Bertsch, an American who recently married an Italian in Italy, had her dress designed by an Italian dressmaker who, unfortunately, recently closed her store. The dress was modified from a designer dress by Fabio Gritti (www.fabiogritti.it). In the end, the dress was reasonably priced and fit her perfectly.

 

Here is a picture from her wedding:

 

Kim and her groom

Robin Sinins had a fall wedding and was married in a gorgeous white dress. She chose black bridesmaid dresses that could easily be worn again.

 

Here is a picture. Do you recognize our poet? I loved those flowers – they really stood out against the dresses.

Robin and her wedding party

 

 

Advice:

You choose your perfect wedding day outfit. There are dressmakers throughout the country who can design dresses based on pictures or ideas that you sketch out for them. You don’t have to buy “wedding shoes,” but rather choose a great pair that are comfortable (you will probably be standing all day) and you can wear again. Why not make your dress something you can wear again, too?

 

 

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I am in love with my fiancé, poetry, good food, and autumn. Probably in that order. (I also like Italy, but that’s for another post.)

 

As you might have guessed, good food at our wedding is *very* important to me. I simply like eating and cooking.

 

I love to cook. My fiancé jokes that most people go to a restaurant, enjoy the food and then decide to return. I go to a restaurant and feel inspired to reverse engineer the food. When we went to Chicago and I had deep dish pizza for the first time, I promptly bought the proper pan and prepared it at home.

 

Sometimes I’ll ask for a “cooking challenge” from my fiancé. For his birthday, it was a few Creole dishes (how else can we prepare for a trip early next year?) A few weeks ago, it was homemade spanakopita and I was tickled that my fiancé mentioned it on his Facebook status. My Uncle Bruno’s favorite dish is bucatini all’amatriciana and this summer he was dismayed to find out that I hadn’t made it yet. That dish in particular became a challenge in trying to find the ingredients locally.

 

Bucatini all'amatriciana

When I was growing up, it wasn’t just a priority to eat breakfast and dinner together, it was simply expected. It was the time when we talked about our day, laughed and sometimes even went over lists of things to talk about. This has carried through to my adult relationship.

 

I don’t want our wedding to be much different. I’d like to taste everything that we’ve chosen for the menu and be able to remember it.

 

Advice:

Recent brides and friends tell me that I won’t get to eat at my wedding.

 

Not eat? That’s ridiculous. I’m determined to eat and enjoy the food, the company and the day.

 

A fiction writing friend is the first person to tell me that she did eat at her wedding (a green, local-food wedding in San Francisco) and she still salivates thinking about the dishes served there. That’s the way to go.

 

We want to try out the food at venues before making a decision. I expected that there would be more tastings, but most of my contacts at venues have told me that the tastings occur after you sign the contract. I can’t fathom choosing a location without tasting the food.

 

We’ve made reservations at a number of venues that are restaurants that hold weddings (as opposed to catering halls) in order to test the food. While dinner for four is not necessarily representative of how a restaurant is capable of serving a large room of guests, it is some indication of the quality and service.

 

It has become an expensive venture. One or two places offered discounts, but generally we have been on our own. I found this surprising. With a few exceptions, most of the catering halls would not offer tastings at all. One lovely hall offered us a tasting for a price that would go towards our deposit. That seemed more than fair.

 

Each chef or contact person has told me that they are flexible with the menu. While we haven’t chosen a venue yet, I believe them. Be firm in deciding what you want to have served. Write down options, go through the menus they give you and choose your favorite dishes.

 

However, don’t make a kitchen do something they aren’t used to doing. You don’t want to be their test case.

 

The food doesn’t have to be fancy or traditional. The wedding we went to in Richmond had a selection of appetizers and then a delicious cake. Everyone’s favorite appetizer was a tiny waffle with fried chicken topped with a tangy sauce.

 

Final word: Do what you want, not what other people tell you want.

 

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