Ryan and I recently got engaged in December and here I'll chronicle my journey of planning my wedding. Since we got engaged in December, 2011 but don't plan on getting married until Fall, 2013, we have quite some time.  I chose not to create a BRAND NEW blog because that's literally impossible to upkeep with That Girl is Hoisin and Ask Phivy.  This may not be the BEST way to chronicle things, but hopefully it'll still work!  Feel free to ask me any questions you may have on Ask Phivy about my wedding planning process.
Click here to read about the engagement story.

March 07, 2013 - 
shoot 'em up: registry style
There are a lot of factors to consider when registering for wedding gifts, especially if one or both of you have lived on your own or you currently live together. Like, do you really need ANOTHER skillet? But think of it this way - this is one of the few chances you get to invest and even "splurge" a bit (ahem, because you may not be the ones buying it) for more expensive, luxurious items. So instead of going to Home Goods to get a discounted skillet, why not register at William-Sonoma for one that a guest would be more than happy to purchase for you? At the same time, if you already have 15 sets of towels and enough flatware for a party of 12...what's there left? Another factor -  in most Asian cultures, typically guests give money, not gifts. What's an Asian-American couple to do?

The thing about registering for gifts is that it's ultimately a "wish list" not a "demand list." These are just ideas of things we'd like to have at the start of our marriage, but by no means do guests HAVE to purchase one or any of them. Ryan and I decided to have a small registry to start off with. Without knowing where exactly we'd be settling down, we had to assume the size, location, and needs that we'll need as we get closer to the wedding and our marriage begins. We first took inventory of what we have and will not need. That helped narrow the list down. We also considered things that will be handed down to us (things like fine crystal or platinum pots/pans). Next, we decided on the top 3 places we'd like to register at (apparently registering at a bank is frowned upon) and decided to go with: Crate & Barrel, Macy's, and Target. We wanted to keep the stores location-agnostic with the ability to purchase and ship online. A lot of our guests are flying in from out of state or country, so we don't want them to have to hull it around with them. After, we asked our married friends and my sister (who works with a lot of kitchenware) with suggestions that we may not have thought of. They had great ideas - from zesters to storage containers to knife sets, having friends and family recommendations help with deciding what products are the most useful versus novelty saved us a lot of time.

Once a month, Crate & Barrel hosts a private event for registries (awesome!) and it just so happened that the one at The Grove hosted one last weekend. Ryan and I took this opportunity to go and check it out. They closed down the store, had snacks and beverages, and we (along with any other couples that RSVP'ed for that day) had the entire store to ourselves!
The sales associate started off with the basic layout of the store - cutlery, flatware/dining ware, cooking, furniture, etc. Next, we each got our very own scanner, which I used as a pretend-gun for the most part. I mean, I'm sure it's just a rule that you have to pretend to shoot someone with this scanner.
Ryan and I started off in the kitchenware (with a list of items that our friends and my sister gave us in hand) to make sure that we didn't forget anything or get too far off-course. Ryan and I chose to have a mix of both pricier items (espresso maker + frother) and affordable items (plastic cutting boards). We didn't want guests to feel obligated to fork over more money they weren't comfortable with or be forced to "go in" with another guest. I will admit, while scanning things like toaster ovens and coffeemakers were fun, I had the best time scanning smaller items (wooden spoons! zesters! mixing bowls!) Things that girls just kind of appreciate if they spend time in the kitchen. 
The great news is that because the store is practically empty, there are plenty of sales associates to help you if you have any questions. It could be questions about how many settings we should register for to what kind of knives best suit my style of cooking. In fact, we met with a great sales associate named, Kermit (I will never forget his name), who gave us a demonstration of the different types of knives (German vs. Japanese vs. American blend). Ultimately, when choosing knives, it's about what feels right in your hands (twss) and not the brand name. Also, when it comes to cutlery, think about what comes in a block and what you have to buy separately. 
When it comes to flatware or dining sets, it was recommended to register for an extra 1-2 sets to account for breakage, losing items, etc. I didn't even think to do that - the last thing you want is to register for a set of plates only to find out that they discontinued and now you have 5 plates but 6 bowls. Registering extra to account for breakage (especially in my household) was super smart.

Overall, Ryan and I were really happy with the start of our registry - a total of 28 items. The list can be updated / removed and additional items can be added all online, so it's a seamless process. 

I kinda wish once you scanned an item, it would just magically appear. 

December 02, 2012 - 
check, check, and what?

Lately I've been getting questions on AskPhivy about wedding planning, the trials and tribulations, and what Ryan's and my process is like. I feel like Ryan and I have a pretty solid idea of what we want and how to go about it. I attribute that to the fact that we were engaged for a full year before we started planning anything. Having a long engagement isn't as bad as everyone says it is - we spent the first year casually talking about getting married, what our motif would be, colors, size, budget, etc. Without the time ticking around us, we didn't feel the need to rush into anything; therefore, we didn't feel the need to second-guess or over-think our decisions.

But in the past month, we've made HUGE progress in our wedding planning, including:

Locking down a ceremony location:
my sister & me in front of the church after we attended their mass
Locked down the reception venue:
ryan and i talking about what we can hang and how we can arrange the ballroom
+ Date confirmed (November, 2013!)
+ His & Hers wedding bands (we were together when we bought them)
And most importantly...WEDDING DRESS = Ordered!
from left to right: christine (my sister/MOH), jane (bridesmaid), me, atissa (bridesmaid), bri, and rhona
The wedding dress process was a weird one at first. I've gone wedding dress shopping 2-3 times before - once with my mom and sister in Ohio right when I got engaged and another time in NYC when I was with Ryan's sister and my mom. Both times were fruitless. What I did get was a sense of the type of dress I wanted. I went to several places that ranged in style and prices, from Vera Wang and Caroline Herrera to a local NYC boutique on the 2nd floor of a cafe. But no luck, everything was pretty, but not the one for me.

With Christine in town for Thanksgiving, one of my bridesmaid (Jane, in the brown/white striped sweater above) decided to host a day where we would go to a couple of boutiques with close friends to help find THE ONE. When talking budget (which is always sensitive), I knew what my overall budget was, but knew that it was lower than what most boutiques would carry. We opted to go to two local stores in Orange County - Mon Amie and David's Bridal - just to start.

We went to Mon Amie in Costa Mesa first with an appointment at 10am and it was a great start. After I told the older consultant my budget, she made sure that nothing went over it by $500-$1,000 to make sure that I wasn't going to blow my load for a dress. There were two that really stood out. They were both over my budget by $500-$1, was something I definitely wasn't comfortable with putting down immediately. Plus I was already getting hangry (hungry + angry), but the great thing about the consultant was that she wrote down the dress style #s as well as the prices and let me know that she would inform me if I ran the risk of having them sell out or discontinue the style. I felt secure with knowing those were in my back-pocket if I fell short elsewhere.

Between Mon Amie and David's Bridal, the girls and I went to eat brunch at the Westin Costa Mesa...for the simple fact that they had all-you-can-drink mimosas for $10. How can you beat that? 
Having a drink (or three) before going to the next store was what we needed to recharge. We also made sure not to drink TOO much because then I'd probably end up buying a black wedding dress (and I'm not THAT edgy, lol).

Now before you poo poo David's Bridal (I know I did), you should know that I actually bought my wedding dress from there!! But I was like most new brides-to-be...I figured David's Bridal was a sh*t show. A cattle call of brides that come into a huge room of plastic-covered dresses that spanned from end to end with really no distinction among dresses. And we're right - it's just like that. But within the generic dresses of lace and tulle are a few gems and a lot of the Vera Wang White collection were really beautiful in person as it was in their photos. But if you're looking for a small boutique from local designers or a $7,000 Monique Lhuillier original, you won't find it here. If you're also looking for one-on-one service, you won't find it here, lol. They have one consultant per two brides. Luckily I had five girls who were willing and able to pull out dresses they liked for me.
At David's Bridal, I was expecting to just pick the Vera Wang White dress that I had "reserved" in my David's Bridal profile. I tried it on. It was nice...and that was the end of that. Walking down the aisles of the SALE section (oh yes we did), my friend Bri, pointed out a dress and noted something peculiar. I pulled it out and was like, "Meh, let's try it on, because it does look cool." After the first try, we all knew it was THE ONE. After trying on the other 3-4 dresses just to cover the bases, we all went back to the one that Bri pointed out. It was perfect. It was also under budget and also the last day of the sale. SERENDIPITY.

I put on a veil. I sat down with the dress. I bustled it and walked around. And before I knew it, I was ringing the bell (a David's Bridal tradition) and made 2 wishes: one for my wedding and one for my marriage.

P.S. Three days after finding and buying my wedding dress, Bri (far right), got engaged. And YES, I knew the whole time and had to keep my trap shut.

So now that we have everything done...Ryan and I keep wondering when the stress is about to set in. I know it's going to happen and I am not looking forward to it.

March 15, 2012 - 
disapproving parents disapprove
The old adage of when you marry you don't just marry the person, you marry the whole family, is very true.  You not only blend two, individuals lives together you also blend two (often times very different) families.  For some this is an easy transition - if your parents happen to be family-friends, if you happen to live in the same town and your parents are acquaintances, or even if you come the same culture or background.  Anytime there is some sort of mutual ground, most couples have an easier transition from "his and her family" to "our family."  But not everyone is that lucky.

I'm sure you guys gather that I'm a very family-oriented person.  My two sisters are my Maid and Matron of Honor, I flew out to Ohio to visit my Dad within 12-hours of being notified that he was going under brain surgery and stopped all work for a week to help him recuperate.  So when looking for a husband (hunting season was in session), I wanted to make sure that my future husband was also close to his family.

When Ryan and I first started dating, I could tell that him and his two sisters were somewhat close.  As close as one could expect most families to be.  Now, Christine and I talk everyday.  Nina and I email every other day.  I talk to my mom at least 4-5x a week.  I didn't expect everyone to be THAT close to their families, but it was nice to see that he respected his parents and his older sisters and that they weren't like at war with one another.

But in the beginning of our relationship,  Ryan's parents openly did not approve of our relationship.  But why you ask?  I am so fabulous!  I know!  That was my reaction too!  But while my family tends to be moderate to somewhat progressive culturally, his parents remained very traditional.  Here's what I had going against me:
  • I am Vietnamese
  • I had previous boyfriend(s)
  • I was not a confirmed Catholic
  • My parents were divorced
  • They did not know my family or anything about me
Ok, 4 out of those 5 things I could not help.  I could not help the fact that I am Vietnamese.  That my parents are divorced.  That we are from Orange County and not LA.  Now, Ryan's ex-gf and her family were extremely close family-friends with Ryan and his parents (still makes me nauseous to this day), so you can imagine Ryan's new girlfriend comes into the picture and they know nothing about me.  They didn't know where I came from, my background, what my moral foundation was.  So they did what most parents do: what they didn't know, they feared:

They feared that since I came from a different culture, I wouldn't understand or respect Ryan's Filipino culture.  They feared that since I had previous boyfriends I was "tainted," or that since I was not confirmed as a Catholic, I would make Ryan stray from his religion and beliefs.  They feared that since they didn't know my parents and since my parents were divorced I had no morals or values.

It all seems unbelievable, but I do empathize with their point of view.  You just don't know!  Why would you want your youngest and only son to date someone that you knew nothing about?  But like I tell all of our Ask Phivy readers, this isn't a fight I could fight.  This wasn't a "me against them" fight.  This is a battle that Ryan had to bear.  Only he could prove to them what a positive influence and a stand-up person I am; I mean, what was I supposed to do?  Storm in their house and demand respect and the benefit of the doubt?  SURE, that would go over REAL well...

So little by little, Ryan fought for me.  He calmly explained how my mom actually escaped a terrible marriage and really, how bad is a divorce when both parents are mutually happy without one another?  He'd explain how close I am to my parents, how much I respect, honor, and truly do love my parents and family.  And eventually, when I did meet Ryan's family and parents, they could see it.  Whenever they asked, "Oh when was the last time you talked to your mom?" and I replied  "I spoke to her on the way home," it was met with shock.  "How close are you with Nina?" "Pretty close, I just saw her last Christmas, but I just sent my niece a cute little present yesterday, so hopefully she gets it by the end of the week."  These little seeds of proof helped sow the fact that I'm not what they feared the most.  

By in large though, the most important factor when "winning over parents," is having the actual son (or daughter) show what a good influence you are on him.  When Ryan and I started dating, he may have seemed a little lost to his parents.  He was working full-time, but they weren't sure what he wanted to do or what he wanted to be.  Seeing a positive influence (going back to school, recommitting himself to his family, having a sense of direction, etc.) and a positive change in his life is really the ultimate win.  

I think another thing that helped was that I didn't try to compete with Ryan's family.  I wasn't trying to steal time away from them the same way I wouldn't expect Ryan to ask why I speak to Christine so often.  The bottom line is, family comes first.  I never questioned it when Ryan couldn't make it to the movies because he had to clean the pool - in fact, I often would go over and help clean the backyard with him.  I didn't argue when he had to drive 3 hours to the family business to help them with something.  I took this as an opportunity to go learn more about the business and take a small road trip.  You have to put in the effort to commit yourself to helping the family as a whole.

In addition, Ryan had to fight double-time.  Not only did HIS family not approve of us...MY sister (Christine) didn't either!  So not only did he have to prove ME to his family, he had to prove HIMSELF to Christine.  I don't know the ins and outs of what he did or how he did it, but just know that Ryan was surrounded by doubters whom he had to win over.

You can't argue with the facts.  If you want to be received positively by your in-laws, you have to positively affect the family and your significant other.  At the same time, he has to show his family and parents all that you bring to the table and all that you bring to his life.  They don't know you.  They don't live with you, they didn't raise you, they don't know what a great person you are.  So it's up to him (and you) to prove you to them.  He has to do the convincing, you just have to support his facts.

I'm also pretty close to Ryan's sisters outside of just normal family functions.  I speak to his sisters on a semi-regular basis and consider them friends outside of my relationship with Ryan.  But that takes effort (not hard effort, but like any relationship, it takes time and energy).  I truly do feel that since Ryan and I have been together, his family has only gotten closer and that makes me feel good.

I'm now happy to say that Ryan's parents are like my second-set of parents.  They have welcomed me into their home and lives arms open.  They treat me the same way they treat their daughters and have the same expectations of me as they do them.  I treat them with the same respect and honor as I do my own parents. We've come a long way, but I wouldn't trade it in for anything - it makes appreciative of the relationship I have with them. 
my future MIL
Based on some past Ask Phivy questions and some horror stories I've heard from either friends or friends of friends, I've kind of categorized different types of potential in-laws and how to deal with them:

THE WE DON'T WANT ANYTHING TO DO WITH YOU - Most Asian families are hard nuts to crack.  The parents are strict and protective (hello, Tiger Mom!).  You're also Asian?  Good!  You are not the same kind of Asian?  BAD.  With cultural differences, it's important to draw parallels.  "You like pho too?  I know this great Vietnamese restaurant, I'll take you to it."  Again, it's important for your significant other to do the heavy lifting on this one in regards to convincing his parents.  You're his support.  It's up to him to help you break into their trust circle, you can't bombard into this one.  If, after years and years, the in-laws will never accept you for who you are or how great you are, it's up to you and your significant other to decide when to fold.

THE WE WANT TO BE ALL UP IN YOUR GRILL - The other extreme are SO's parents that want to know exactly what you're doing when you're doing it and who you're doing it with.  You would think if your parents trust you enough that his parents would too.  But if they're calling, texting, and sending smoke signals to see what you're doing with their beloved son, it's because they either don't trust him, or worse, they don't trust you.  Your SO has to be the one to preemptively check-in with his parents (especially if he still lives at home).  I find that if he preemptively lets them know "Hey mom, going to happy hour with the gf, will be home around 8:30pm or so." she'll know that he didn't get into a car accident on the way home and is lying in a ditch somewhere.  Now, it may feel emasculating to have to "check-in" with his mom in front of you, so being encouraging and supportive of doing it will save a lot of missed calls and yelling matches outside of the restaurant.

THE WE WANT YOU TO TELL OUR SON THINGS (OR DO THINGS FOR OUR SON) - This is when the parents use you as the middle man to secretly incept ideas and actions into your SO. Imagine them saying things like, "I'd really like our son to get his heart pressure checked," and "How is our son's cholesterol?  Has he seen a doctor lately?"  These "hints" are really just them wanting you to check up on their son to make sure he's doing okay.  They could also ask you to do things for him like "Can you make sure that he's eating enough vegetables?" and "Did you drop of his dry cleaning for his interview tomorrow?" as invasive as this seems, I think the intention is there.  His parents entrust you enough to help their son.  No it's not your job to be Mother #2, but you do care for their son and often look after him anyways.  I often tell Ryan's parents that Ryan's a grown person, he knows when he's sick enough to see a doctor, he knows to eat vegetables and exercise.  I tell them that I agree we're all the same page of wanting him to be as healthy and safe as possible but it's not my job to lecture him.  Plus, Ryan won't listen to me any more than he would someone else.

THE WE USE MY SON TO TELL YOU THINGS - Often your SO's parents know what they want, but they don't know how to tell you.  It could be "I'd like for her to come to church with us more often," to "We'd like to invite these people to your wedding."  But since they're not YOUR parents and they can't just TELL you these things, they use their son to tell you.  My advice here is to let your SO know that you are open to ideas and if they're his parents' ideas, you'll welcome it as if they were his.  His parents shouldn't have to use their son as a human shield.

THE DEMANDERS BUT NOT PAYERS - This is more about wedding planning than day-to-day.  Some parents definitely have a say and opinion but don't have want (or can't) contribute to the special day.  What to do when they keep inviting their 3rd cousin's ex-girlfriend's niece?  This one can be handled thanks to the venue's capacity and what you consider "fair."  For me, each set of parents get 1 table for friends.  That's 8-10 seats that they can invite 4-5 couples as their guests.  No more.  This is what I can afford, and this is what the venue can hold.  Giving them these types of restrictions (and often, blaming the venue for capacity) is the key to setting parameters without hurting feelings.

THE ACCOMMODATORS - During wedding planning, while most parents have an opinion (and sometimes, too strong of an opinion), there are parents that don't really voice it.  Everything seems fine.  Everything is a good choice.  Sure.  Whatever you want.  This leaves you second-guessing what they truly do think, "Are they being NICE or do they really like this idea?"  The best you can do is just open that line of communication  - perhaps they really ARE just that flexible.  Unless you hear otherwise (most likely from your SO), they're happy with your choices.

THE STEP-PARENTS - This can be tricky because how do treat his step-parents?  My best advice here is to take lead from your SO, but always treat all parents with respect and kindness.  Even if he hates his new stepmom or stepdad, it's none of your business to be short or crass towards them.  Just like how you can't really get in between sibling arguments, you shouldn't get involved in the ins and outs of step-parents versus real parents.  Treat his step-parents the way you would treat his real parents.
my parents with me & ryan on our engagement dinner

February 27, 2012 - 
wedding dress shopping, round 1
My dad recently had brain surgery for the removal of a benign pituitary tumor so I rushed back home to Ohio to be back with him and my family (he's doing fine, we expect him to be released some time this week), thank you baby Jesus.  My dad (like all dads in the world) hates making anything a big deal when it comes to his health: "Oh it's just a little brain tumor, I'm fine."  Me: "YOU HAVE TO HAVE BRAIN SURGERY, I WILL BE THERE IN 12 HOURS."  Flying home for a family emergency is never fun, but it was really important for me to be there with my mom, sister, and of course dad.  Since my dad is recuperating in the Surgery ICU department, we visit him several times a day but for about an hour each visit so he can rest and recover and we don't overwhelm him.  Spontaneously before an afternoon visit, my mom suggested we take a look at wedding dresses after our visit.  I shrugged...sure, why not.  I have my mom and I have my sister - the two more important people (aside from Ryan) there and it might be a good break from hospital visits.

We took a look at a few local wedding boutiques online and since it was later in the afternoon on a Sunday, decided to just spend time at one - Henri's in Polaris.   I called in advance to see if I need to make an consultation appointment if I wanted to browse.  I believe the exact words of the sales associate was, "Honey, there is no such thing as wedding dress browsing because once you see our dresses, you'll want to try them on." <-- Well that just made me want to NOT try anything on in defiance!  So we walk in and it was literally like the entire season of Toddlers and Tiaras had exploded in my face.  SEQUIN.  SATIN.  GLITTER.  BEDAZZLES.  EMBELLISHMENTS.  TUBE DRESSES.  RUCHING.  My eyes didn't know where one dress ended and where another one began.  It was clearly prom season and I was a decade too late.   After circling through a barrage of Midwest teens squeezing their bodies into ill-fitting dresses, I finally asked the (clearly gay) man at the counter where I could find the bridal section.  "Oh, right over there," as he points to behind me.  Thank you baby Jesus again.  I thought I would have to wear a pageant dress to my wedding. 

I get to the bridal section and it was like a completely different store.  There were maybe a tenth of the amount of people there and the music playing was no longer LMFAO but Celine Dion.  Ah, perhaps this is where I belonged.  Except I'm not THAT old.  But who doesn't remember the first time they saw The Titanic?  I digress.

Let me back up by saying that I have NO idea what I want my wedding dress to look like, but I know what it can't look like: it can't look like Ryan's sisters' respective wedding dresses.  That is my criteria.  Oh and it should be ivory.  Luckily for me, Ryan's sisters both wore/will wear slim-fitting dresses so this would be an opportunity for me to wear something fuller.  Not BALL GOWN full, maybe just A-Line or mermaid.  From what I've read there are essentially 5 different type of wedding dress cuts:
  1. Straight - this one is as descriptive as its name, it's more slimming and like straight-legged pants, can be flattering if you're tall and flat (aka: skinny and do not have a pooch).
  2. A-Line - this one is probably the more popular of the 5, it's much more princess-y and is forgiving for those who are self-conscious about their hips/legs.
  3. Empire - this Grecian-type dress is perfect for a more casual wedding (or if you're pregnant) as it cuts straight from the bust and flows down and slightly out.
  4. Mermaid - this was popular in 2011 for the red carpet, I don't know how people walk in it.  So much shimmy shimmy.
  5. Ballgown - when I think of ballgown, I think of Bridezillas because this dress is the kind that when you walk in, the dress had walked in 10 minutes before you.  Great for the drama, hard to go pee in.
The bridal department had about 3-4 racks of white, ivory, egg-shell, and every other possible derivative of the color.  After sifting through quite a few, I found 2 that I wanted to try on.  DAMN YOU LADY ON THE PHONE YOU WERE RIGHT!  Ugh, I wanted to resist just out of principal.  The two dresses looked eerily similar to one another, which was great because at least I kind of honed in on a style that I liked.  This bridal salon also allowed my sister to take photos (most upscale places do not), so I was pleased with that, but was definitely not pleased with the lighting.  Pretty for the dresses, horrible for my face.  Why does it have to cast so many shadows!  But I digress again.  Just so you ladies know, when you try on wedding dresses, the typical wedding dress sample size is a 10.  But don't let that fool you - these are NOT vanity sizes, these are old-school sizes where a 10 is really a 6 and a 2 is probably a 3T.  When you try on a dress, if it's too big, they'll use clips (huge, industrial size paper clips...they're pretty much chip clips) to tighten the dress in.  If it's too small, they'll use scraps of material to help fill in the space so you are decent.  It's really to see what the dress would look like versus getting the exact fit.
The first dress I tried on was a size 8 and it was NOT as big as I expected to be (a blow to my ego, yes).  As I was trying to step into a bunch of white material without falling over and out of my fitting room, I didn't actually FEEL like I was trying on a wedding dress.  I was just trying on a formal dress...a fancy dress.  Not MY wedding dress.  Certainly not because I was getting married.  I was clearly in denial - I think I blocked it out out of self-preservation.  But the moment I stepped out, my mom was in awe.  The shock and awe.  She loved it...and you know, the more she loved it, the more I loved it.  I took a few pictures, walked around (stepping on the dress) and as we ooh'ed and ahh'ed over the dress, it SLOWLY started to sink in what exactly I was doing.

Fucking looking for a wedding dress.  To be married in.  WTF.  This is bananas.
I tried on the second dress but we didn't love it as much but it was nice to compare/contrast.  My friend, Jane, who was married in 2005 (and is a bridesmaid) said one thing that I will never forget: "Try it all on...and once you find THE ONE, you stop looking."  Much like your fiance, you have to stop looking once you find something that you love.  The more you start looking, the more you start to second-guess if you've made the right choice.  So right on so many levels. While some women know EXACTLY what they want in a wedding dress, I started my hunt by ripping out pages in magazines and bookmarking pictures.  Though the dress I tried on wasn't THE ONE, it was still beautiful and is definitely a contender.

February 21, 2012 - 
the itch i had to scratch
I'm not a romantic.  Well, that's not true.  I feel like a heavy majority of girls are romantics, even the ones who guff at flowers or other romantic notions. The girls who find it SO CHEESY when guys give girls flowers (they die!) or chocolates (I'll get fat!) or teddy bears (space wasters!)...except, when THEY'RE given them...hen it's all, "OMG best boyfriend ever!!  Love him!!"  [I hate those girls]

So while I never said I didn't love those things - admittedly balloons and flowers, which are the biggest money-wasters of all time, are actually my favorite things about holidays like Valentine's Days and 3 month anniversaries.  But there was always a piece of skepticism in the back of my mind.  Over a year ago, Ryan and I had a discussion about our "5 year plan," and when I admitted that I can't think that far, he thought that was so bizarre and seemed personally offended.  "What do you mean you don't have a 5 year plan?   EVERYONE needs a 5 year plan."  My simple response was, "But I don't know what life is going to throw my way, so it seems senseless to have a 5 year plan when inevitably something will go awry."  To me that made perfect sense, right?  How am I supposed to know where life takes me - what if I get a new job?  What if my family needs me and I need to move back to Ohio?  What if Ryan and I break up (he hated whenever I had that as one of the possibilities)?  You just never know.

I guess it can be attributed to the fact that when my parents got divorced, my mom always instilled in me to have a "rainy day fund," and that "you don't know what life throws at you so you might as go with the flow."  I grew up with the sense that I had no idea what life had in store and whenever I had "planned" anything, it always went a different way.  I had planned on going to get my MBA, but have since put that on hold indefinitely.  I thought I was going to move to Michigan and be with my now ex-boyfriend, but that obviously didn't happen.  See!  You just never know!

The last straw was when I had planned on purchasing a new car, I had Ezio (my 6-month puppy) and was planning on purchasing an SUV.  He's going to be a big lab, I might as well make room for him so we can go hiking and have some fun!  I couldn't envision any part of my future, non-existent wedding, except for Ezio in a bow-tie...that part I knew about.  That part, I got excited for.  It was tangible, it was fun.  So when Ezio passed away due to seizures, it was like my world crumbled.  SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU PLAN THINGS?  This was my victorious "in your face" to Ryan.  I TOLD YOU SO.  When you plan things (like buying an SUV to go hiking with your dog), THINGS always happen.

I know you're probably thinking that it's just a really sad way to live your life.  WITHOUT HOPE?  Shut up.  I had hope.  It's not that I was depressed...I thought myself more of a realistic. Almost a cynic, so maybe not the BEST way to live your life, but it was realistic.

Two things you should also know about me.  I don't enjoy movies in general and I loathe romantic movies.  Correction - I can't stand romantic, especially TEEN-romantic movies.  Barf.  The only reason why I would see anything is for social currency (just to know what other people are talking about).  Like, I've never see The Notebook.  Gasp.  I can't even think of the top 5 romantic movies I've seen.   Blah blah blah, an underdog boy falls in love with an attractive and out-of-reach girl who moves next door.  She has an asshole of a boyfriend and confides in this nerd-boy only to realize she's loved him the whole time.  Blah blah, girl is clumsy with understated beauty.  She takes off her glasses and *boom* like 100x hotter.  Everyone falls in love.  Cute?  More like eye rolls.  Things simply don't work out that way.

So then I got engaged.  And then I saw the preview for The Vow.  And then I wanted to watch it.


When Ryan and I were watching TV and saw the preview for it, he looked at me waiting for me to squirm on the sofa out of discomfort for everything romantic movies.  When I didn't, he stared longer.  When I slowly turned to him to tell him I "kinda" wanted to see it I thought his eyeballs were going to pop out of his head.  I said KINDA!
Last week in San Francisco, I was with his sister and we had 2 hours to kill before picking up her fiance from SFO.    She suggested a movie.  I suggested The Vow.  Her eyeballs almost popped out of her head. 

So we watched it.  And I don't regret it.  No, it wasn't the most amazing movie.  But I teared up (I'm not a robot!)  Would I watch it again?  Maybe if it was on Showtime and it was free.  But what changed?  WHY did I want to watch this movie KNOWING that it's everything I hated?

The only explanation I have is that I'm newly engaged.  Has the thought of MARRIAGE turned me into a romantic?  A SOFTY?  Oh gawd, help me.  Do I now have...FEELINGS?

- February 16, 2012 - 
role playing

Ryan and I never believed in the superstition of wearing rings on our ring-finger meant we weren't going to get married.  Or talking about marriage was an omen to not get married.  We didn't go to the extreme - like I wasn't looking at wedding stuff before we were engaged (ok I lie, I totally did), but it's not like I went wedding dress shopping, so relax.  When we did discuss marriage, one of our top topics was our bridal party.  Sounds weird, I know.  But we're so close to our friends/family and we wanted to be on the same page on who would be standing up there with us. 

At first, to keep things simple, I wanted to just have my two sisters (Christine and Nina) be my Maid and Matron of Honor, respectively, and Ryan's two sisters.  4 is a good amount.  But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted my two close friends, Atissa and Jane, to be a bridesmaid.  Now I'm at 6.  
Before I asked all of my bridesmaids to be in my party (wait, I lied again, I haven't asked one of Ryan's sisters), I thought about all of the different types of situations/friends that I've had to deal with:

THE OBLIGATORY BRIDESMAID - Not that you HAVE to make anyone a don't HAVE to do anything for your wedding.  It's your wedding, do what you want!  You want 1 bridesmaid?  Do that.  You want 10 bridesmaids?  So be it.  But there are automatic "ins" for bridesmaids, right?  Those are usually close sisters/family members or BFFs.  So maybe "obligatory" isn't the right word - more like, "no brainers."

THE FRIEND WHO THINKS SHE SHOULD BE A BRIDESMAID (BUT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT) - I make close friends and I make them FAST.  But my friendships tend to fizzle out just as fast too.  Not purposefully, but for a 2 month period both me and my newly-made BFF will not have any plans and our schedules will sync up so we'll see each other every day of the week.  Then the following 2 years is full of random hellos and brunches and constant rainchecks to outings.  She was ONCE a close friend and I've shared secrets with her, but I'm not AS close as I used to be.  This friend is pretty much in line with the "When you get married, I better be a bridesmaid" friend - I actually have 2 or 3 friends who have said this verbatim to me.  And yeah, before Ryan and I got engaged, it was so harmless to say "Duh, OF COURSE YOU ARE."  But now that I'm actually engaged, it's like, "Oops, maybe I shouldn't have made those promises."  I hope they don't remember that.

YOUR BROTHER'S (OR GROOMSMEN'S) GIRLFRIEND - When Ryan's older sister got married, I was not asked to be a part of the wedding.  Which was totally fine.  I mean, I'm friends with Ryan's sister, but I'm not her confidant, I'm not her BFF.  She wouldn't sell her soul to get me out of jail.  So when I wasn't asked, I wasn't offended.  But his eldest sister always insisted I could not be a part of her wedding.  RUDE.  She had a superstition that if she invited her brother's gf, that it would be an omen that Ryan and I wouldn't get married. She saw it happen to a few of her family-friends and just came to this conclusion on her own.  In my head this was so bizarre I thought that it was just an excuse to not have me in her wedding, lol.  Cut to when she actually gets engaged, I AM a bridesmaid, so it was all for naught anyway.  It just so happened that his eldest sister and I are close in our right, so I am really happy to be a part of their big day.  But what if I wasn't?  I wouldn't expect to be asked...and neither should your brother's girlfriend.

THE BRIDESMAID HIERARCHY - My good friend (and bridesmaid) told me a story where her other good friend asked if she was my maid of honor, when she replied she wasn't, I wasn't sure if she was secretly offended.  I mean, she IS my best friend - I've known her since I was 8 (before I've known my sister who is actually my MOH), but here's the thing: I don't know if she'd be happy as my maid of honor.  Being a maid of honor kind of sucks.  You have a A LOT of expected responsibilities and you're basically someone's bitch until they walk down the aisle.  It breaks up a lot of friendships and puts a lot of strain on family relationships.  My sister is an amazing MOH because she rules at doing things.  She made my bridal party invites.  She created our wedding logo.  I won't feel bad if I vent to her about how my mom is insisting that I have my wedding AT THE MALL (true story).  I also feel that sisters are the "automatic" maid of honor - so offense should never be taken.

THE ALMOST BRIDESMAID -   As I mentioned, when Ryan's sister got married, I wasn't a bridesmaid; however, I totally enjoyed the PERKS of being a bridesmaid.  I was asked to go to the bachelorette party (but declined because it was in New Orleans and I could not afford a $2,000 girls trip), I got my nails done with the other bridesmaids, but unlike them, I got to pick out whatever color I wanted (a burgundy) while they had to wear natural colors, I got my makeup done by the makeup artist, and I was able to enjoy a deluxe morning-of-the-wedding brunch, complete with Dom Perignon.  All the perks!  The downside: BECAUSE I wasn't a bridesmaid but am always eager to help, I was basically the errand girl.  I took behind-the-scenes photos, I made sure the bride's dog was fed, walked, and was comfortable.  I got the bride her sandals when her feet started to hurt.  I told the wedding coordinator where to set things up.  These things I did because I wasn't taking photos with the family or wedding party.  So there were pros/cons.  

Now that it's my wedding, I have a few friends that I'll definitely include in all of the fun (bachelorette parties, wedding showers, even helping me with dresses, etc.) since a majority of my bridesmaids don't live in SoCal. I just worry they might be, "You like me enough to want me to be a part of these things, but I can't officially be in your wedding?"

THE ODD MAN OUT -  Yes, you can totally have 3 bridesmaids and 4 groomsmen or vice versa.  Don't pick someone to be in your wedding just because you want to look like a "set."  You're not a salt-and-pepper shaker.

THE OTHER THINGS TO DO - Just because my slots are full (lol, gross) doesn't mean I don't want you to be a part of my big day.  So there are a lot of other options where you can be a part of the big day, for instance, in a Catholic ceremony, there are 2 readings and 3 "gifts" to be given (veil, rope, coins) by guests.  That's 8 more people (each gift is given by 2 people)...whew!  I hope my friends don't consider these roles "consolation" prizes...they're not.  After all, it's not like I expect them to man the guest book.  Trust me - NO ONE wants to do that.  You wouldn't want to do that at their wedding, so don't make them do it in yours.

- February 14, 2012 - 
family matters

When my parents divorced when I was 11, I wasn't one of those children who blamed myself or who lost all hope in love.  I actually welcomed it.  Infidelity tends to ruin someone's sense of "hope" when it comes to relationships, love, and marriage so I would be lying if I didn't say that the exposure didn't affect who I am now, my past relationships, and my relationships with Ryan.

at the zoo, my mom in mom jeans
My parents have been on and off when it comes to being on good terms - some years, they're cordial, other years they go without talking, one year they even went on a few double-dates with their respective wife/husband.  THAT was weird.  Through it all, I've always known a few things:
  • My mom came out on top of the divorce - and I'm not talking about money - not in the very least.  In fact, we moved out into a 1br apartment when I was in 7th grade.  I mean she came out on top because her life is WAY better now than it would have been with my real dad.
  • My mom has the forgiveness and patience of a saint.
  •  My real dad has a "grass of always greener" complex.
  • My stepdad rules.
  • My mom is pretty much the greatest person who ever lived.
It should also be known that I have a very estranged relationship with my real dad.  I don't know, something about being personally scarred for life, seeing people for who they are as you grow up, and setting priorities and boundaries for self-preservation.
apparently when my mom said i hatched out of an egg, they were being literal.
My real dad remarried 6 weeks after his divorce was finalized with my mom.  SIX WEEKS.  The ink hadn't even dried on the divorce papers yet.  My mom remarried 3 years later. 
one of the first new-family trips with my stepsister and stepdad.
When Ryan and I started dating seriously and knew that marriage could be in our future, I started thinking about the trickiness when it comes roles within the wedding.  If I had it my way, my stepdad would have the leading role in all fatherly duties.  He, after all, stepped in and became a role model as to what a father figure should be.  My stepdad is the strong, silent type.  A man of few words, but a huge heart.  He bought me my first car.  He still pays for my car registration!  I'm almost 30.

At the same time, I've visited my real dad on the weekends, I've celebrated Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years, etc. with him and his new family.  I've gone to the movies and malls when my other stepsister and stepbrother.  So it's not like he was out of my life FOREVER, he was just...around.

After talks with my mom and reading a few wedding articles, it seemed my choices were:
  1. Split the duties in half (e.g. my real dad walks me down the aisle, my stepdad has the first dance or vice-versa)
  2. Split each duty in half (e.g. my real dad walks me halfway down the aisle, my stepdad takes over; same with the first dance)
  3. Neither dad walks me down the aisle or has a first dance (e.g. my mom walks me down the aisle)
  4. Both dads walk me down the aisle at the same time
Ugh, not a conversation I wanted to have with either dads but I just wanted to sort it out.  Last Christmas I went to Ohio and decided to give my stepdad dibs.  Make him choose what he wanted to do.  What was important to me was the "giving away" part - oh man, just thinking about it gets me all choked up.  I mean, when he shakes Ryan's hand?  Lord, help me, I'm going to just be a ball of tears.  But what was important to my stepdad?  So I talked to him and asked him his preference...since my stepdad is a fair man, he said, "I'd like to give you away, but your dad can walk you down the first half of the aisle and I can walk you the rest of the way."  Perfect!  He said the same for the father-daughter dance; he'd like my real dad to start off and then he'll cut in  So it looks like we're going with option #2.  To really hit home, he said that it really symbolized my life - my real dad may have helped with the whole-me-being-born-thing, but my stepdad has really been the father figure my latter half of life.

My stepdad is a good man.
 looking a little more like a family than 4 asian ppl who happen to know one another

I haven't told my real dad what the deal is yet - it's going to have to be told in the "This is what's fair and how it's going to be."  Nina, my older half-sister from my real dad's first marriage, had her mom walk her down the aisle but did give him the father-daughter dance.  To both of us, it would be presumptious and rude to automatically assume he got full credit and were able to partake in duties that we hold sacred.

my older sister, nina, on her wedding day.  she is my matron of honor.
 My wedding isn't just a big party (I mean, the reception will be); the ceremony holds a lot of meaning to me and because of that, I'm very sensitive and protective of who gets to do what.  I'll keep this updated on how my real dad handles the news of splitting the duties.  It's a take-it-or-leave-it situation.

- February 12, 2012 - 
bridal expo explosion 

Today I went to my first bridal A BRIDE.  I went to one before as a bridesmaid earlier last year and it was so overwhelming and honestly?  Kinda disgusting.  You know how in Vegas you have those "promoters" who flip "business cards"...and these businesses are mostly strip clubs and/or brothels?  That's how my first experience as in any sort of expo was.  Just so many people in your face, asking if you were the bride, asking if you've picked out a vendor, asking this, shoving business cards and samples in your face.  I was like, "You don't know me like that, stand back!"

My bridesmaid, Jane (who accompanied me to this one) told me a story about her bridal expo that she went to in DTLA in which there was a FASHUNZ SHOW for Friar's which male models were dressed as friars walked down the runway and instantaneously ripped off their robes to reveal tuxes.  @__@

But this one was different; first of all, it was a lot smaller, it was held in a ballroom at UCLA and it was more vintage/retro than others (e.g. Friar's Tux and David's Bridal did not have a booth).  I would have estimated that there were about 50 vendors there in total; some were nice (congrats on the engagement!), some were pushy (have you booked your photographer yet?!!), and some just ignored me (HELLO MAKE UP ARTISTS, WHY YOU IGNORE ME?!).  Some of the highlights include:

  • Trying a huge pieces of lemon cake from Hansen's Cakes (who famously did Kim K. and Kris Humphrie's wedding cake)
  • The huge gift bag that included a Here Comes the Guide and Ceremony books, false eyelashes (I know, wtf, but I still appreciated it), and some earrings.
    wtf is this stuff?
I think the most beneficial thing to expos (and really, the main reason why they exist) is because it allows brides to meet vendors that they would not have found online or through friends.  I'm in the middle of hunting for a photographer/videographer but I mean, Googling "SoCal Wedding Photographer" is pretty much the stupidest thing I could do considering how many GD photographers there are out there.

Also, I got a haircut!
done at vicara in el segundo
- February 10, 2012 - 
an undeserved sense of accomplishment

So far, Ryan and I have done a pretty good job of being engaged, but also, slowly planning the foundation for our wedding.  We have a tentative wedding list (we're looking at about 200 guests, WTF), our wedding party (6 bridesmaids, 6 groomsmen, 3 flower girls, and 1 ring bearer), our wedding logo (because monograms are so 2000-and-late), and a tentative date (November 01, 2013).  I've also gotten my ring cleaned three times.  So in the two months that we've been engaged, I say we owe ourselves a pat on the back.

Meanwhile, my friend had me as a Secret Santa and gave me two wedding books (The Knot List and The Knot Workbook) so that's helped me kind of wrap my mind around what it takes to plan a wedding. And let me tell you - WTF, how am I supposed to do this.  I ended up having more questions than answers!  Like:
  • Do I need a wedding planner?  Ok, I get that I need a day-of coordinator, but what about one now?
  • What is my budget?  What is a normal budget?  What is the average cost per head?
  • Why is having an open-bar so expensive?
  • What kind of photography DO I like?  Editorial?  Traditional?
  • How do I tell people who may expect to be in my bridal party that they're not?  Do I just avoid that conversation?
  • What kind of wedding dresses DO I like?
  • What's OUR style? 
this is the first night ryan & i met. do not ask what anthony & i are doing, we still don't know to this day
Ryan and I also visited three potential venue locations for our reception; we purposely didn't make an appointment because we wanted to visit it as actual visitors versus potential clients.  I was big on not being "SOLD" on the place.  There are definitely pros/cons to each place - from potentially looking too "gotty" but having a beautiful garden to looking a little run-down but having a beautiful view.   The next steps are for us to research more venues, make appointments with their consultants, and narrow down the list again!  The good news is that Ryan and I are pretty much on the same page (thank GOD), can you imagine if we weren't?