Wedding recap, Part 1: Aftermath, plus The week before

I’ve needed more time than I anticipated to get ready to write these recaps. The wedding and everything around it did a little bit of a number on me. The first out-of-towners arrived 10 days before the wedding; the last of them left 4 days after the wedding. That’s two solid weeks of thinking about the logistics of hosting and entertaining guests, and that’s a pretty damn tall order even when you’re not also getting married.

It did get to me in the end. My mood got a little unstable, and I might have done a spot or two of spontaneous, this-is-all-too-much type crying, when it was the Tuesday after the wedding and we’d made it through but there were still seven guests staying in our two bedroom apartment, and I needed sleep like a baby needs…sleep, and I ran away to a friend’s place to have a nap. That might have happened, I can neither confirm nor deny. By the time the last people left, late on Wednesday night, my body was starting to show signs of illness, and then I spent the whole night and next day with a fever, moaning about feeling simultaneously too hot and too cold and having zero appetite, which was an outstanding way to spend M’s last day before going back to work, which was also coincidentally the first time we had together in a two week period that had included marrying each other.

But I do feel better now. And now that I’ve had a chance to get a little perspective on it, I can see that my crumbling at the end was an expected response to the circumstances. Here’s the problem: having a whole bunch of people suddenly come visit at once takes up a lot of time, and leaves no space for actually getting stuff done.

In the run up to the first people arriving I was buzzing around trying to cross off things on my to do list (remind me to write about The Saga of the Dress), but not everything was finished before they got here. Eh, I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to find 20 minutes one evening with my fiance to write our joint thank you speech, or to take my mom with me when we stocked up on all the booze we needed for the wedding, or to go buy the flowers and then hang out with my bridesmaids while we assemble them into bouquets.

But nope. Of course, that is not how it works. Instead, what happens in these situations is that you spend an hour getting twelve people to agree on where to have dinner, and then another hour getting them there, even though it is a 10 minute walk away. This one is walking slowly and is lagging behind, this one is eager to go and forges ahead but gets lost, these two decided to take a detour, someone else is too hot and is unhappy.

The good news is, even though the people were work, they were also reassuring. The low background hum of panic in my head did in fact subside for a while when my mom and bridesmaid arrived. The wedding stopped seeming so abstract and became just a thing I was going to do with my best supporters around me. We were going to have fun, and everything was going to be ok.

And though I wish I could have held onto that feeling for longer, there were lots of wonderful parts to that week. Spending a good chunk of time giggling like a crazy person over very silly things with bridesmaid R, taking my brother B with me to do  the final try on of the dress and him approving of it, hanging out at the pool while our various friends from different parts of our life met each other, and them telling us afterwards, “your friends are so cool!”

And being looked after. My mom dispatched me to a nail salon for a mani-pedi. Local friend Z, who is a makeup genius, volunteered to do my wedding makeup and we did a trial and she did a brilliant job. Local friend V who is better than me at hair came over, and then helped me get closer to working out what the hell to do with my hair. There was my hen’s night.

Definitely there were good times, but there was also a lot of pressure, self-imposed, to make sure everyone was enjoying themselves enough, and there was not going a minute without being asked another question, and there was no time out alone or with my man, and stuff on my to do list was not getting done. Stuff got shoved aside for later – We’ll do this on Bintan! Once we get there everything will be easy! My mom assured me that online she had found out there was a booze shop close to the resort to get all the drinks from. Surely we’d easily find time to write the speech. It would be no problem to finish off our playlist, to edit the processional song to something usable, or to do everything else that was still undone.

Everything would work out.



(It didn’t really all work out.)


What to do with your wedding photos after the wedding

Jane, of A La Carte Albums, is a rockstar, and has gone and written this ridiculously useful post full of SOLID GOLD information for me. Everything you need to know, and all your options for keeping photos including very frugal ones. She knows her stuff. Thank you, Jane!

First up, managing your digital files. Digital files get corrupted, which sucks. Here’s what you need to do:

Get all your digital files in one place. Consider renaming, or adding to the metadata if you have a tool that will do that, the names of the people in the picture, so you remember 20 years from now. Then copy them to a second place – in the cloud is nice (dropbox is free for 2 GB, and google drive, too.) Or maybe a flickr account. Also, burn a CD. Burn a new CD every anniversary (with or without new additions), and look at them before you burn to see if anything got corrupted and needs to be restored from elsewhere. Print the important ones at least as 4x6s, and distribute prints widely to people that will actually keep them.

For the physical album, your concern is getting things in an archival format, so that the pictures won’t deteriorate over time.

Old-school paper albums with photo corners are a great combination of awesome and affordable. And I love that they are really archival, which is important for that heirloom, grandkids looking at it and making fun of your hairstyle aspect. I remember sitting in *my* Grandmother’s living room, looking at a big book with black paper pages and black and white photos held in with photo corners! Definitely a “not broke, don’t fix it” solution.

As to *which*, there are lots and lots of good options, both online and readily available in crafty stores, but I have a particular fondness for screw-post types like Kolo and others make, because you can add and subtract pages. This is good because a) you don’t have to design your layout to a page count; wiggle room makes things a lot easier and b) you can add stuff later, like honeymoon or kid pictures, or subtract the pictures of your cousin’s then-boyfriend-now-ex who everyone now hates.

If you fall in love with handmade Italian leather albums with gold leaf details, this stops being a frugal option, but the pretty (while truly awesome if you are into that) is not more archival; all as long as the paper is sturdy and acid-free, you’re pretty much good to go even if it wasn’t designed to be a photo album; Watercolor artist books made for sketching/on-the spot painting are also nice, and can be found very inexpensively at the art supply store. If the cover is ugly or plain, paint/collage over it.

If you don’t like the look of photo corners, check out “glue dots” and “adhesive sleeves” – basically, go hit up your local scrapbooker for knowledge on how to get your pictures to stay on with the look you want. Removable is better than totally glued down/collaged, in my opinion, in case you ever need to make copies or have something restored.

Leather that was actually made from a cow that you can get on an 8×10 or above book for less than $30ish is not good leather. Possibly not even good pleather, so if you are someone who actually notices the PVC fumes in bad pleather or is going to be really sad when the spine shows wear really quickly, don’t get cheap leather/pleather. Bookcloth/fabric/paper can be really lovely and quality while still being affordable. (This is more important to keep in mind when buying online; in person, your fingers and nose should tell you all you need to know.)

The Design-and-Print Album option 1: Blurb is still my favorite of the paper/pressbook places, because I think their design software is pretty easy to use and the quality is solid for the price.  Also, get on their mailing list a while before you want to order your book, because they hand out coupon codes like candy.

I would not even hazard a guess on how these will look in 75 years; I just don’t know, but I don’t trust regular paper the way I do photo (silver halide) prints or good giclee prints, which have actually been tested for archival-ness.  There is a lot of competition in this market, but it is not always obvious who is quality-for-a-good-price and who is cheap-because-cheaply-made. Pay attention to details like paper weight and sewn bindings (usually good) versus glued (more variable depending on the skill of the person making it and the glue used.)  Design software that warns you when you are trying to make a low-resolution image print too large is a useful thing to look for when choosing.

Design-and-Print Album option 2: Adorama Pix has added books that use actual photographic pages, basically flush albums; I haven’t held them in my hands yet, or tried their design software, but have been hearing good things and I know they are solid as a print lab; they are more expensive than paper, of course, but you’ve got more assurance of longevity.

Get an archival box, like one of these, and fill it with 4×6 prints, and keep it where you will open it up and look at it occasionally. If you use the option that many labs have of printing the pictures with a quarter inch white border, it’s easier to look through them without worrying about fingerprints.

Books designed to be designer/architect’s presentation books are often very good looking, and can be (but aren’t necessarily, read the info carefully) archival and are look really cool in a very modern way, if traditional isn’t your style. You would be making bigger prints to fill these, which edges up the price. Prat and Pina Zingaro make lovely sleek options.

The make frames, sometimes sold as for children’s artwork, that are designed to be easy to switch pictures in and out of. Get one or two for your wall/coffeetable, and commit to changing the picture in it every month; you get to revisit the wedding memories in an album-like way, without sitting down and looking through a book. A mat between the photo and the frame both makes it look more elegant, and protects the photo from becoming stuck to the glass from time or humidity changes.

See? Solid freakin gold. 

I get by with a little help from my friends (and family)

[I am married and weddinged! I wrote this post last Thursday, on the 4th of October, in the only free time I had to myself in a week, but ran out of time to publish it before we all had to hustle off again. Standby for wedding recaps coming at ya like a beam like a ray like a kestrel*. It was wonderful and it was difficult.] 

The first three guests arrived a week ago, and then three more arrived, and then five arrived…The last seven days have been a whirlwind of people wrangling, flower shopping, flight time checking, poolside hanging, spreadsheet consulting, insomnia. In a few hours we will be off to the Registry of Marriages to do the legal thing and then we’ll all take the ferry to Bintan and then I’ll suddenly feel much calmer (I’m hoping).

It’s been a rollercoaster. The joy of being reunited with loved ones, combined with the harried-ness of making sure all their needs are attended to. For the first three days M and I didn’t get so much as ten minutes alone together. There have been six people staying in our apartment, and the lounge is basically a backpackers hostel now. Happy Hour is downstairs at five all day long.

And I had a whole thing I was going to write about how my friends have been crazy awesome about being supporting me and getting into the spirit and showing us love, but right this minute there are 4 guys and 1 mother buzzing around me and I don’t think they’ll let me get too many more sentences out. You’ll have to wait for the recaps.

Meanwhile, M and I got respectively bucked and henned the other day:

Electro Girl, Electro Boy

I was in a crazy 80s-belly-dancing-bride-goes-to-a-rave get up that bridesmaid R orchestrated, and it was ridiculous but also unexpectedly flattering.

My get up included an apron with my initial, sequins around my wrist, and a requirement to have a wooden spoon about my person at all times. (Sorry the pic so small).

Onward to the wedding!

PS. If you don’t understand the electro reference, please go ahead and discover The Mighty Boosh. Here’s a clip to get you started.

*Yes, this is a Mighty Boosh reference.

Weddings: What does it all mean?

[The wedding is the weekend after this one. The first out of towner, one of my brothers, is arriving in just two days. Between running around getting dress fittings, working out the drinks plan and whatnot, and panicking whenever I read someone else’s wedding blog, I’ve started composing a million blog posts in my head, but not finding the time/headspace to write them out. In the ramp up to the wedding, this is the post that managed to come out of my head nearly fully furnished.]

I’m really fascinated by the idea of ritual. I have a world view that’s heavy on skepticism, which precludes a belief in the supernatural. So rituals, to me, are essentially meaningless. But what is a wedding, if not a series of rituals to perform?

(Drunk groomsman says: “It’s a party, that’s what!).

Ok, I get what rituals are for. They are for marking transitions in life, for acknowledging them, for performing them by making something physical that is actually abstract – they are for making meaning. There is some kid of psychological need in humans to do this. Ritual and ceremony are universal, they’re in every single human culture. Even the Neanderthals did it.

If you believe in God, or magic, or take the word ‘auspicious’ seriously, the distance for you between the symbolism of ritual, and the thing it symbolises, might be pretty short. The Catholic church teaches that the communion wafer does not symbolise the body of Christ, but that it is literally the body of Christ. And even if a ceremony involves nothing more than spoken words, you might still believe that on a supernatural plane, something eminently real is going on.

But I don’t believe that stuff. In eleven days, M and I are going to go through the motions of a wedding. Afterwards, nothing magical will have happened. Our souls will not have become cosmically bound together by a higher power. No supernatural changes will have occurred. We’re still be just two people, standing side by side, making the decision again and again to live our lives together. The only difference is now this decision about how we want to live our lives will be bolstered by law, which itself is only a set of rules people made up, and also has no transcendental reality to it.

But our minds run on symbolism. Look at language. It is sound. It is a series of vibrations traveling through the air, reaching your ear drum, vibrating it. The sounds don’t inherently mean anything, but within a given language everyone agrees on what they mean.

Walking down the aisle in a white dress, on the arm of my dad, to stand in front of family and friends, and then exchange rings, doesn’t inherently mean anything, which is why not all marrying people do that way. But my mind nevertheless considers it a symbol of something greater, even though symbols are arbitrary. Like with a native language, I can’t very easily separate symbolic things in my own culture from the things they represent.

Yes, life is essentially purposeless. We are biological coincidences and nothing more. But one of the quirks of our biology is that we like to invest meaning into things by performing rituals. When there’s no greater point to life, life doesn’t become empty or unenjoyable (ok, maybe during your teenage existential crisis it does). Instead, it makes the best parts of life all the more precious –  things that induce a sense of awe; art; science; joy; love; flow; the connectedness to others you can feel when partaking in a ceremony among a group of people who all agree on what that ceremony means; and a sense of wonder that our brains are sophisticated enough to experience something as amazing as loving another person so much that you promise to share your whole life with them.

Wedding makeup for a hot, humid, outside wedding

I am writing this on the day that is ONE MONTH away from my wedding. I freaked out a little when I went to google calendar the other day and noticed that my wedding day is now visible in the little calendar grid on the left. And then I wrote a list of everything wedding related I still have to do, and there were thirty things. One a day. Except that’s still not going to be enough, because really I want to be finished like at least week before. Anyway, I have now managed to cross off the line that said “figure out makeup”, so that helps.

Turns out it wasn’t as straightforward as one might think. To begin with, I’m doing it myself. Because money. Also because the physical experience of someone else putting eyeliner and eyeshadow on me makes me really on edge, and because the two or three times professional makeup artists have done my makeup, they turned me into a clown each time. Not everyone is best flattered by a solid ring of black liner, you know? Personally I look like my eyes have been punched back into my skull. A clown with their eyes punched in, that’s me.

So anyway, I have a few variables to contend with for wedding makeup.
1.Equator levels of sunshine.
2. Extremely high humidity.
3. Flash photography.

Because of 1, I normally go around with sunscreen on, which because of 2, triggers an immediate melting of  my face, which does not bode well for 3. Also not boding well for 3, is titanium oxide based sunscreen, which I choose because I also am dealing with 4, sensitive, rosasea*-ry skin.

There is a bit of a conundrum here. If you’re getting married out in the sunshine, especially if you have sensitive skin, you have to choose between protecting your face with sunscreen, or having photos where your face looks white. I think as long as there are no flashes, you won’t get the white ghost effect, so it really depends on what time of day the wedding happens, and whether or not flash photography is going to need to happen. Ours will be starting late afternoon, and definitely proceeding through many a dark hour, so I’ve decided to just go without sunscreen.

Then there’s the oiliness issue. Left to its own devices, my skin will go out of control, so I’m taking every step possible to minimise oiliness. This boils down to using a shine stopper underneath my makeup, and using a matte foundation in the form of a powder. If my nose gets too shiny, I can just pile some more of that stuff on.

It’s also recommended to go sheer with makeup if you’re getting photographed in the sunshine. Plus it just feels better in the skin. So ultimately, what is needed is a sheer, matte foundation that’s good on oily skin, has good staying power, and isn’t mineral based. Thanks to beautypedia, I compiled a shortlist:

Frugallywed’s recommended foundation options for a hot, humid summer wedding:
Clinique Stay-Matte Oil-Free Makeup
Make Up Forever HD Invisible Cover Foundation
Maybelline New York Dream Smooth Mousse Foundation
Nars Sheer Matte Foundation
Sephora Mattifying Compact Foundation
Body Shop All in one Face Base
Clinique Perfectly Real Compact Makeup
MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation
Make Up For Ever Due Mat Powder Foundation

Oh and by the way, you don’t need a primer. Primer does nothing. Here is Paula Begoun, she of evidence based skin care, which you may recall is a vision of Utopia, on the subject. Some choice excerpts: “Most primers are a blend of water and silicones and essentially function as lightweight moisturizers that make skin feel silky” and “As long as your skin-care routine is leaving your face smooth and free from the buildup of dead skin cells and excess oil, you’re not going to see much (if any) benefit from using a primer.” —> so just use your normal moisturiser, if you need it. 

BONUS: There is no sponsored content in this post, yay!

For lips, I used beautypedia again to search for sheer lipstick with good ratings, made a shortlist of options, and checked out colour swatches online, because I have very specific ideas about what kind of colour I want. Then I went to MAC and Chanel and tried a few, and ended up with Chanel Boy. Iz pretty. I’m gonna use that puppy for my cheek colour too.

Ok now eyes. Obviously a waterproof mascara is needed, and I already owned Maybelline Define-a-lash, so, done. There are heaps of good waterproof mascaras around. For eyeliner that stands up to a long, teary day, Paula Begoun says gel eyeliners are the way to go. I didn’t want black or sparkles, which are apparently the only options where I live if you look in a pharmacy, so I went with Bobbi Brown in Granite Ink.

And finally, concealer, the makeup product I am more intimate with than any other. Oh concealer, how I adore you. Thank you for stopping people from telling me I look tired. I’m not tired ok, this is how my face is! I have the kind of under eye dark circles that are caused by the physiological structure of my face. I won the lottery on that one! Basically, the lack of volume under my eyes means the muscle, along with its inherent vascular system, is visible through my skin. Actually when I am super tired and things get puffy, the dark circles improve. I think a lot about some day getting restylane injections under my eyes, but until then, nothing but heavy camouflage is going to cut it. I use a corrector followed by a concealer, both from Bobbi Brown. All the other ones I’ve tried are wimps.

Oh yeah and eyeshadow. I haven’t got my eyeshadow yet. It is now item number 31 in my to do list.

*Speaking of rosacea, an interesting paper was recently published about it. Turns out, rosacea may be caused by mite feaces in your poresWhaat? And hell yeah, I’ll link to the original paper, by Jarmuda et al (2012). If you don’t have rosacea, don’t get too smug, because those mites are in your skin too. It’s good times, being a human. This has been a public service science announcement.

How to pay for everything else that isn’t the wedding

As much as I love discussions about wedding budgets, and I think there’s not nearly enough of that going on, I also think they’re a bit misleading. In the bigger financial picture, there is so much more to getting married than putting on a wedding.

Things that are not in my official wedding budget, but are marriage related include:
Rings. And I didn’t even have an engagement ring, which let’s face it, is common practice and tends to be costly. We are having wedding rings though, and those things are important to me and something we intend to wear forever. So it’s not a trivial cost.
Honeymoon. Hello. WHY does no one talk  about how they financed the honeymoon.
A physical photo album. Turns out, digital files get corrupted. I’ve got my eye on A La Carte Albums*.
Makeup, shoes, jewellery or any other thing that will get re-used but still has to be bought for the wedding.
A thousand incidental costs that will occur close to the wedding. Stuff like picking people up from the airport, making sure we have enough sheets, pillows etc. for everyone who’s staying over, taking visitors out on site seeing excursions. Giving them lots of cups of tea.

In addition, many like to indulge in such pleasures as
A rehearsal dinner, which is evidently A Thing in the States, but happily is yet to become A Thing in other places, as far as I can tell (long may this last!).
An engagement party.
An engagement
‘sesh’ oh god that term is like nails on chalkboards. Please just say session. While we’re at it, please tell me that I am not the only one who finds the term ‘adorbz’ to be kind of, irritz. It’s just really annoyz.  It makes me want to have a stomping sesh.  
Honeymoon attire. 

And probably a bunch of things I couldn’t even think of. Oh yeah, and I also just remembered that some time next year, M and I will be having a second wedding reception in our hometown, Auckland, for all the peeps there that couldn’t make it.

So that’s all quite a lot. And if you are following the guidelines of basic personal finance advice, you should be doing all of this without a) going into debt, or b), sacrificing your long term savings.

Back when I wrote the How to Decide on Your Wedding Budget series, I talked about the fact that typically you might have 10-20% of your annual post-tax income to spend on stuff that isn’t bills and other day to day expenses. So I reckoned 10-20% was a reasonable wedding cost, and chose 10% as the benchmark to use as a way of erring on the cautious side. But now I realise that it wasn’t cautious at all: you’re probably going to need the entire other 10% to fund all this other stuff. And this is assuming you don’t have even more financial demands the year leading up to your wedding – student loans, an emergency, a friend’s wedding in Bali to attend. A period of unemployment. Gah!

There’s really no way around it. The year before your marriage is going to be expensive. Your options are going to be to keep the actual wedding costs at 10% or less of your income, and watch what you’re doing with the engagement, honeymoon plans, and rings whilst hoping to have no emergencies, to keep the total under 20%, OR since a lot of people are already under a lot of financial pressure and don’t have that money to spare, do without all those extras. Though you probably still want rings. In light of my revelation the other week that plenty of people can’t really manage even just the wedding without family help, all of this is pretty bleak.

Ultimate moral of this story: I wish the majority of wedding blogs were about small budget weddings.  Sigh, what’s new.

*This company will edit your wedding photos and compile them into an album.  I really dig this because it meshes perfectly with the idea that your wedding photos are going to be taken by lots of people (ie, a few by professionals plus lots by multiple guests). A La Carte Albums will put them into a coherent narrative. Such a great option for those of us who can’t afford/refuse to buy the big packages from photographers.

Yes, I have wedding colours (plus, look at this jewellery)

If I promise to have a new money-related post up within seven days, will you let me unleash a barrage of pictures on you today? Even though its been two weeks since I last posted? Deal? Before you sign, you should know my image-manipulation skills extend to Paint, and no further. I just thought I should disclose that. In order for you to make an informed decision. On the plus side, I’ll try to avoid just having single images all in a column like a did last time. You’re a very tolerant audience, and if I could, a would put a free Etsy voucher under each of your seats as a token of my appreciation.

So yeah, I do have a wedding style vision, and even a colour theme. Though my approach with the colour theme is so loose, there’s a chance it will actually be undetectable. Nevertheless, this is how I’ve been thinking about it (caution, risk of wankiness ahead):

My basic take when it comes to styling things, is that context is everything. I don’t like it when gardens in a temperate climate have a tropical style. I don’t like it when guys have to wear long pants even though its 30 degrees and the humidity is 100%. I find it discordant. I believe beauty comes from harmony first.

So, colours: The Thirty-Something Bride puts it well here – you should choose colours that coordinate with the venue. I’ve always thought the colours that look like they belong here, in Singapore and surrounds, are bright and saturated. Plus there is so much bright pink bougainvillea here, no seriously it is everywhere, that to me it’s the signature colour of the place.

From google street view, this is what my nearest high way looks like

So, if I was to name official wedding colours, it would be hot pink plus intense turquoise. Something like this:

Thank you, Paint colour picker.

But then we have the small matter of how these colours don’t especially suit me, nor really any of the key players in the wedding. But it’s ok, because I reckon if each person looks individually awesome, then all of us together can’t help but also look awesome, even if we’re not strictly colour coordinated. So I’ve just told everyone who’s asked to wear whatever they want to wear. Meanwhile groom and I will kind of persevere with the colour theme, by adapting the pink and blue idea to versions that actually suit us. This translates to a hot pink flower pinned to his shirt, and softer pink flowers for me, with jewellery in a softer version of pink or blue.

So that’s colours (man, I overthink things). Then there’s general mood, which I think I have mentioned enough not to have to go into detail for, but basically: this is a party on a beach in a hot place. It’s surprisingly hard to find inspiration pictures for this, because people tend to want to go formal, having their men in long pants and stuff, which to me negates the whole point of the beachiness. Here is a set of pictures that kind of captures the tone I’m going for, though:

By Jonas Peterson Photography.

And the final layer on the bridal style cake is what I think expresses who I am. Valeria Chuba gets it, and I asked her to help me shop for jewellery. In response she sent me SEVENTY-FIVE links to various earrings, necklaces, bracelets and such. One of the things she sent me was this:

That is a necklace of mother-effing ROCKS. I love it.

Jewellery shopping has been one of the best parts of wedding planning so far (along with compiling and then rocking out to our playlist, that is). And I love so many of the things Valeria sent that I feel inclined to stomp around whilst saying in whiny tone, “Do I HAAAVE to choose?” But I did painstakingly compile a shortlist, which I present now for your pleasure and delectation…*fanfare*


Things I like include elephants and rocks that are jewellery.

(Left to right, top to bottom: 1. here 2. here 3. here 4. here 5. here 6. here 7. here)


When the rocks are smaller, that’s fine too.

(Left to right, top to bottom: 1. here 2. here 3. here 4. here 5. here 6. here 7. here 8. here 9. here)

The idea is to go necklace free, and have some big-ass earrings paired with probably more than one bracelet on each wrist. Which to choose, which to choose. I think I’m going to need to get several things, and then decide in person which ones to wear for the wedding and which ones to leave for every other day of the year. Which is handy, cos my current jewellery collection is virtually nonexistent, which is a whole other long story.