Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Unthinkable

I interrupt my venue visit series to tell you about the crisis I alluded to in my previous post. During our visit to McLean Gardens Ballroom, the caterer was excitedly telling us about their packages, how the room is normally set up, and how the appetizers are served when I reached for my glass of wine and noticed - my engagement ring was gone.


My reaction was noticeable because Mr. Bronx said, "Woah" and the caterer asked, "What happened?" In the moment, I figured it's not a big deal, I probably left it on my desk at work and we'll just return there so I can get it after the tasting. I was sure of this as I NEVER remove my ring during work but I did recall it being really loose since my office was cold. So loose in fact, I moved it from my ring finger to my middle finger. The tasting continued but I had that nagging worrying feeling throughout. Still, I was sure that I would return to my office and all would be back to normal.

After the tasting, we drove back to the office. I greeted the security guard, took the elevator up, walked into my office, turned on the overhead light, and looked on my desk. There was nothing there. My eyes widened. I immediately looked all around my desk, through papers and under the keyboard, nothing. I called Mr. Bronx in the car and asked him to look in my gym bag thinking maybe it was so loose that it came off when I put my clothes in there. Nothing. I dropped down on all fours in my office and looked on the floor in case it slid off my desk. Nothing.

I went back to the lobby and asked the guard if anyone had turned in a ring. No. I asked the gentleman mopping the lobby. No. Asked him to ask the woman who removes the trash from our offices. No.

At this point, I was panicked. I return to the car where Mr. Bronx was waiting, got in, closed the door, and sobbed uncontrollably all the way home. When I arrived home, I dumped my bag, went through all pockets, and everything I was wearing. Not there.

All I could do was cry. And cry.

Mr. Bronx proved his amazingness (it's a word) throughout this ordeal. He just comforted me and said, "We'll get another one." The best thing he said to me was, "Why are you crying? We're still engaged. It can be replaced." To which I replied some babbling, bratty mess about wanting my ring. I was out of my body and I must have looked like it because I could hear Mr. Bronx calling me by my full name repeatedly like he was trying to get me back into this world.

I.was.miserable. I think I cried myself into exhaustion. I woke at 4AM. My mind was racing about where the ring could be, all these possibilities, how could I be so irresponsible. Race. Race. Race.

I got dressed and went to work. I went through every nook and cranny of my office. I sent a company wide email offering a reward and left notes for the cleaning staff. At this point, I've done everything I could do. It's been a week and I am losing hope of ever finding my ring.

I feel terribly guilty. I never lose anything. How could I lose something with such importance? The worst part is that I have no clue what happened. It's like it disappeared into thin air.

Thankfully, it's insured and can be replaced but that's not the point. The replacement ring will be just that - a replacement. It's not the ring he chose, it's not the ring he proposed with. It's not the ring he worked hard for and thought about and hid from me. It's none of that. Still, it could be worse. It could be a total loss.

Sometimes as I am drinking my morning tea, I am reminded of the ring that would bump the mug and I remember it's not there. It sucks. Or I'll wash my hands or do the dishes at home and feel like I forgot to put it back on. Sigh, I miss it. My mind is always looking, always thinking, "Maybe if I check here." I have had to tell myself to let it go. I said my prayers to find it and if that is to be it will just appear much like it just disappeared.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Venue Visit: McLean Gardens Ballroom

In this series, I'll be detailing the venues we've visited, our impressions, and, if I have them, pictures. Of course, these are all our opinions with what we want for our wedding in mind. All of these venues are beautiful and if you can make them work for you, you will not lose out! What you've missed: Top of the Town, Josephine Butler Parks Center, City Club of Franklin Square.

Next, McLean Gardens Ballroom.

Please excuse Mr. Bronx. He has a knack for walking right into my pictures. You'll see.

I am not sure how I heard about this venue. Try as I might, I cannot recall. There are virtually no pictures of it online and I could find no one that had heard of it. At any rate, I contacted them for rates and was invited to a tasting by their exclusive caterer, Washington Parties. Tastings are always fun, so off we went.

The ballroom is nestled in a residential area in DC near the National Cathedral. Residential communities can be nice but in DC that usually means no parking. Strike one. Besides that, it has an inviting exterior and was surprisingly impressive when we stepped inside. A nice foyer greets you and the ballroom can hold our guest list comfortably. The tasting was actually pretty good. Mr. Bronx loved the crab cake balls, mac and cheese, and fruit with goat cheese and pistachios. For me, the tres leches and mango mousse cake were to murder for. We chatted with the caterer about how the room is normally set up and found that we didn't love the way the buffet would flow. Strike two. Next, we toured the upstairs where they have a bride's room that can also be used for babysitting. It was nice and useful. The foyer is usually used for cocktail hour which is nice but seemed too small for our 145 guests. Strike three. In the end, this wasn't the best venue for us but still a lovely venue with 2 fireplaces and a large easily decorated room. The caterers seem eager to please and were a pleasure to meet. We'll keep them in mind but not this venue. I still consider McLean Gardens Ballroom a great find.

Check it out:
The foyer that would greet guests and serve as a cocktail hour space. Sadly, it's too small for us.

Inside the ballroom. Nice columns and two fireplaces.

I do feel the need to add a disclaimer to this post as we were dealing with a crisis and our minds were a little distracted during the visit. I'll tell you all about that in my next post.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Venue Visit: City Club of Franklin Square

In this series, I'll be detailing the venues we've visited, our impressions, and, if I have them, pictures. Of course, these are all our opinions with what we want for our wedding in mind. All of these venues are beautiful and if you can make them work for you, you will not lose out! What you've missed: Top of the Town, Josephine Butler Parks Center.



This place is grand. The location is right in the city across from a park that is great for pictures but also near to other great sites for pictures. It is within walking distance to many hotels and very easily accessible by metro for our out of towners. The food and beverage minimum is a low $6K. It was looking great on paper. One evening, the Mr. and I decided to stop on by and take a look. The space was expansive. We loved the columns and the marble floors. The security guard actually let us in to take a better look. Yes, we were peering in like peeping toms!

Once there, Mr. Bronx noted that, for a ceremony, those beautiful columns would be a problem. Also, disappointing for us would be that the dancing is in a totally separate area that doesn't really fit our tastes. After taking a better look at the fine print, (there were fees I hadn't noted for parking (both upfront and per car), it wasn't looking good for this venue.

This would be the pic where Mr. Bronx pointed out the people leaning in to see the bride and groom. He doesn't like that very much.

Still, I contacted them for a more formal visit before I completely ruled them out. Twice. Never heard back. In my book that means I need to turn the page on to the next venue.

EDIT 4/28/2011: I actually returned for a formal visit to the City Club. Turns out, they were undergoing a contract renegotiation and couldn't conduct visits or reserve dates for a bit. Something in my gut told me to return.

It is a great venue. The ceremony and reception with dancing can be held in the lobby. The club itself can also be used for the reception and cocktail hour. There are 2 levels, 2 bars, and rooms for the bride and groom to get ready. All this for a fairly reasonable (for DC) price of $2500 rental and packages at about $85pp all inclusive.

In the end, we decided against this because of Mr Bronx's concerns about the ceremony set-up and I didn't really love the decor in the club itself. But it's still a nice venue and it's worth a visit if you are a couple looking for a city feel to your wedding.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Venue Visit: Josephine Butler Parks Center

In this series, I'll be detailing the venues we've visited, our impressions, and, if I have them, pictures. Of course, these are all our opinions with what we want for our wedding in mind. All of these venues are beautiful and if you can make them work for you, you will not lose out! What you've missed: Top of the Town.

Next up, Josephine Butler Parks Center.


I love the look of this venue. It's historical, in the city, and a little different than what I think our guests are expecting. There were fireplaces throughout and a lovely staircase. There were juliet balconies and a terrace on the second floor. We liked the hardwood floors and accessibility to the Malcolm X/Meridien Hill Park for a ceremony. And the rental includes chiviari chairs! Which, believe it or not, is a sticking point for Mr Bronx! He wants nice chairs.

Once we visited, we sadly realized this is not the venue for us. I didn't like the park for the ceremony. It has a lovely water feature but it is a public community park and there was no clear area where our ceremony could happen. The facility though lovely, just wasn't very conducive to having a ceremony and reception for our 145 guests. Our event would have to take place in several separate rooms for bar, dancing, etc. We just didn't like how separated everything would have to be. There was only enough parking for 20 cars (40 if you valet) and parking is very necessary for our majority out of town crowd in a parking deprived DC.

This was a stab in the heart for me. I thought the space was so lovely and kept trying to think of ways to make it work for us. But the writing was on the wall. We had to move on. I leave you with the pics Roza of JBPC provided me. Lovely, just lovely. I hope one of you can make it work.I really do.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Venue Visit: Top of the Town

For me, the absolute most important decision in the wedding is the venue. It is where I will get my inspiration for everything from the theme to the dress. In previous posts, I mentioned that we want our guests to experience a bit of DC. We also very much want a "city" wedding. Our tastes are more modern than traditional and we really want a space that our guests will be impressed with and have never seen before. With that in mind, we set out on our venue visits.

In this series, I'll be detailing the venues we've visited, our impressions, and, if I have them, pictures. Of course, these are all our opinions with what we want for our wedding in mind. All of these venues are beautiful and if you can make them work for you, you will not lose out!

First up, Top of the Town. Top of the Town boasts the most amazing view of DC that I have ever seen. Hands down, without question. You literally see all the monuments in one sweeping view. The only thing you cannot see is the White House. I had heard of this venue some time ago, so I jumped at that chance to attend an open house there in late February.

The view did not disappoint. They also have a small terrace for cocktail hour.

For us, that's where the good ends. The space is on the 12th floor and there is only one small elevator to get you there. That just won't work well with 145 guests. We didn't like the actual room with its dark carpet and low ceiling. Also, the windows and ceiling have a strange zig zag architecture to them. To create a ceremony space , they pull out a conference room divider and the overall flow for the event is a little weird.

You may have guessed that we decided against this venue. You're so right. You might also think I was disappointed by this, I mean, the view is to die for. But, you're wrong.

I. was.relieved. I had a couple of major concerns with this venue. They have several rules and fees for everything from other vendors bringing in furniture ($250/hour) to vendor interviews ($500 a pop). They have a pretty short list of approved vendors for catering and entertainment and if you want to bring in a different vendor you have to pay the venue $500 per vendor to interview them.

Of all the rules, one stood out for us. Because the venue is on the penthouse level above residences, group dances are prohibited. No cha cha slide, no cupid shuffle, dollar wine, etc. Now that may sound like a small deal but that would be a huge problem for our crowd. We really like to let loose on the dance floor and I would hate to feel like there are restrictions on our ability to paaaaaaartaaaaaay!

So, in the end, I was relieved we didn't fall in love with the place because I didn't want to have to deal with the rules. It wasn't a total waste, however. The tasting by Catering by Uptown was really yummy so we would consider them for other venues that allow outside caterers.

Here's a pic of that awesome view. Sigh...on to the next!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"You Can't Afford Me"

Pardon me as I vent a little. Just a little.

Another day, another catering vendor telling me that I can't afford them. It's so frustrating to get some wind under your wings when you find a venue with a low rental fee that you love (a huge feat in and of itself) only to realize that you can't afford to bring any darn food in there! I have had 2 caterers flat out tell me, "You are better off looking elsewhere, good luck!" I thought they would be at least be willing to negotiate but I guess all the bargain wedding advice I've read must be wrong. You'd think we wanted the finest champagne, all we want is dinner. Preferably on a plate. Geez!

Today is a down day on the wedding rolling coaster.

Vent over. I picked myself up and sent a mass email to a number of other caterers to get some ideas of their rates. I am hopeful as one has come back with a quote just a little over what we want to spend. Light at the end of the tunnel? We shall see but cheese, crackers, and beer is looking like a fine wedding meal at this point!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

All Hail, Mindy!

Another day, another surprise wedding package in the mailbox! My great friend MII sent along a wedding planning survival kit of sorts and it's been helpful right out of the box.

Included in the package were: Bridal Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields, The Wedding Book by Mindy Weiss, and The Ultimate Wedding Planner and Organizer.

I had recently griped that wedding paraphernalia was all discombobulated and I needed to get organized. PRONTO! Like the great friend she is, she listened and acted! And she was right on time!

Bridal Bargains is so easy to read and finding ways to save money on every aspect of the wedding is a snap! As you can see I have already gone through and tabbed ideas I liked!

The Ultimate Wedding Planner and Organizer is a binder with slots for business cards and separated folders for all the planning aspects from flowers to food. It also includes several pages of wedding advice and pages for notes. It even includes a hole punch!

But the best of the bunch is this momma right here!

I.LOVE.THIS.BOOK! I have seen many a wedding planning book, website, and magazine in my day. If you read enough you realize that a lot of them include the same information - timelines, dress advice, blah blah. But this book is different. Yes, it includes your typical advice but opens your eyes to things you probably haven't considered. More than a planning book, it's an idea book. It tackles the ins and outs of renting a tent and getting a dance floor. It helps you consider your vision AND your guests when choosing your wedding elements. There is real planner advice from a professional who has been there. It is the BEST.

I'm so happy to have it and I am sure it will be a beat up, marked up, post-it-noted mess, when I'm done with it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Venues That Will NEVAH be!

The great thing about living in major city is that the venue possibilities are seemingly endless. Any type of wedding you want to achieve can be attained. At a price.

So if your budget isn't unlimited, chances are that there will be wedding venues that you can only dream about. Here are my favorite DC venues that will never be for us but perhaps some lucky DC bride can snag one.

First up, is Mr. Bronx's dream venue. The Pavilion Room at Ronald Reagan Building. I love the octagonal shape of the building, it's natural light and clean lines. Sadly, the $23K food and beverage minimum knocked this one out of the running for us.

Oh, the National Museum of Women in the Arts! How great would it be to host a wedding at such a venue? I love the historic architecture. The mezzanine is perfect for cocktail hour. But perfection costs $12K for rental fees. Booo!

Lastly, the National Building Museum. A museum dedicated to the history of buildings and architecture is sure to be breathtaking and it does not disappoint. What is disappointing, however, is the rental rate, $16-30K. Yikes!

If you are a bride that is able to use one of these venues, I'm so happy for you (read: I hate your guts)! Just kidding. Kind of.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Inaugural Wedding Meltdown

On the previous episode of my life in wedding planning, we decided to put our feet down and locked down DC and a big ole wedding shindig as the way we would celebrate our marriage.

A couple of days later, I got my tax return. Now, I don't know about you but my tax returns sure don't look like they used to! Being a grownup is so overrated. Well that seemingly irrelevant occurrence led me down wedding meltdown aisle. You see, I had plans for my return and uh, what I got wasn't enough to accomplish those plans. It threw a wrench in my wedding saving plan. So I, again, thought to myself, this is just so much money to save, then spend on one day and I'm putting other financial goals on hold for a year to accomplish it. Sure we could do it, but that doesn't mean we should.

By the time, Mr. Bronx arrived home, that little seed in my brain turned into -i'msosickofplanningthisweddingit'sdrainingmyenergyandwehaven'tevenreallystartedandit'ssomuchmoneytospendandidon'tknowifit'sreallyworthit - ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?!

After he looked at me like I had 85 heads, I more calmly explained to him my frustrations then suggested that we do a small wedding for 50 guests followed by a meal and called it a day. Being the great groom he is, he said he'd be fine with that.

Great! Problem solved.

Nope! Not even 5 minutes later, I was taken over by a feeling that we may regret not having a big party. A celebration with dancing and jubilation and music was always part of our vision. I started to think that if we went the intimate wedding route we would miss the big bash. Wheels were turning, back and forth, back and forth in my brain. Then I simply said to Mr. Bronx, won't you miss being introduced at the reception? And he simply responded, "I would."

That was it. The decision was made. After having the whining meltdown, with my emotions ALL over the place, we ended up right where we began (again)! If you are keeping count that's the 5th time we went around this merry-go-round. In the end, it was a simple answer to a simple question that made it clear what direction we should go.

So the inaugural meltdown has a happy ending. I'm glad we had all the waffling though because I feel sure in that we actually thought it through and this is what WE want not what we feel is expected of us. Venue search, here we come!