Carnival Cut-outs

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Carnival cut-out by the talented Kate Taney

Don’t know what a carnival cut-out is? Yes you do, just like I did, but I never really knew the name for them.

I googled and googled until I discovered that the classic name for that lifesize thing that ya stick your head through is called a carnival cut-out!

Have talented friends? Me too. My beloved pal Kate started asking us a lot of questions leading up to our wedding. She wanted to know about Sam’s secret dress and the wedding cake, she wanted ceremony location details. Sam and I were alarmed. Then Kate showed up to the wedding toting this carnival cut-out, which was not only a huge hit at the reception, but was so imaginative, beautifully done and thoughtful. If you can’t tell there’s a Milk Bar cake, which our pups Luda and Winston are peeking out from behind. There’s a rainbow flag, of course, and our dresses are pretty spot-on. I was completely blown away. Some of our guests who dared instagram themselves as the two brides are now shown here for your enjoyment …

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Wedding Whites – Nightfall

After the gorgeous toasts and the sinful meal (Are brides supposed to gorge like that the night before their wedding?) we had one more trick up our sleeves for our Friday night rehearsal guests – Movie Night!

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We bought two carts full of blankets from Ikea. We forgot that they don’t have bags, so the blankets were spilling all over our car. My mom helped us wrap each blanket in twine.

Friday evening was planned to every last detail by both me and Sam. I really pushed for those mountaintop toasts, but I have to give Sam credit for the movie. This was her idea. We wanted something fun and lowkey, because after all, Saturday was going to be a big day. After dinner and s’mores we led our guests down to the great lawn where we had a giant blow-up movie screen set up on the edge of the lake. Meg from That Time Events set out the blankets (An Ikea purchase as a gift to our guests) and lanterns to make everything super cozy, while Lisa and Stephanie from Cedar Lakes Estate made sure there was wine and popcorn for all.

We kicked off the festivities by releasing giant paper lanterns into the night sky as a slideshow of photographs lit up the screen in the background. We nearly set a tree ablaze, but otherwise the lanterns went up without a hitch. Then it was movie time. Sam and I had settled on cult favorite Wet Hot American Summer. We weren’t surprised that most of our aunts and uncles had never heard of it, but we were shocked to find that some of our cousins just a few years younger than us had never seen this gem. We curled up and enjoyed movie night until Sam and I were ready to sneak off to bed.

My dad still maintains that Friday night was his favorite part of the weekend. It was a warm, no-frills evening for everyone to enjoy being together and for us to spoil our guests (and ourselves) a little.

Of course, Heather Waraksa was there to capture the magic.

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Wedding Whites – The BBQ

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Naturally once we had everyone wearing white and drinking booze it was time for a BBQ.

The group headed down to the open air Dining Pavilion where a fire roared in the stone pit and where Meg, from That Time Events had arranged mismatched vintage plates among wildflowers and lemon-filled vases full of yellows and creams. We offered our guests custom designed paper bibs by Sand Scripts to keep themselves safe from splatters of sauce.

Lisa from Cedar Lakes Estate cooked up a BBQ that guests are still raving about. I, of course, required pulled pork on the menu, but the fried chicken was also unbelievable, not to mention I ate about two plates of mac & cheese and made a mess of myself with the corn on the cob. I ate so much dinner, in fact, that I was too full to dive into the s’mores bar that was situated around the fire. That’s okay though, I watched everyone else enjoy the homemade marshmallows, which included flavors like vanilla, toasted coconut and pumpkin. The fire crackled and the whole place smelled like summer camp. We played an ipod playlist of folk and bluegrass tunes.

We also used Friday night as an opportunity to showcase some of our favorite wines. The bar for the evening included a Firefly cocktail, beer, and some of our favorites  from vineyards we’ve visited, including Rusack Vineyard Chardonnay, Archery Summit Pinot Noir, Erath Pinot Noir, and a Lieb Vineyards white blend.

Everyone was full of food and wine by the time darkness had fallen and it was time for a surprise …

Wedding Whites – Mountaintop Toasts

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With the right plans and the right people, the night before a wedding can be much more than a mere rehearsal dinner. Inspired by festive rehearsal dinners that I’ve had the good fortune to be a part of, most recently my dear friend Leanne’s, I wanted the night before our wedding to be a celebratory kickoff for a weekend of fun. Joined by those friends and family who were a special part of our wedding ceremony or planning process, we had pretty big plans for Friday night, the first part of which was entirely out of our control; That plan was sunshine and a warm, clear evening.

We decided to make this a white party, of sorts. Because we were not having a traditional wedding party nor were either of us wearing white for the wedding, we thought it would be fun to have everyone in similar dress for Friday night. This way we could get wonderful photos that had a true wedding look about them. Our Friday night invitations read: This is your turn to wear wedding whites! Please wear your favorite white, ivory, or neutral outfits.

The evening began down by “the deck” where we had a quick wedding rehearsal. Then me, Sam, our parents and siblings as well as our ceremony escorts and readers all headed up to the mountaintop for toasts. Cedar Lakes Estate has two locations where couples typically get married; the deck, which we found more intimate and where we had to get married, and the mountaintop, with plenty of space and stunning views. I knew we needed to find a way to include the mountaintop in our wedding, and pre-dinner toasts were the perfect opportunity. When we arrived up there our gorgeous guests, all decked in white, ivory, cream, pink  … and on and on … were mingling and sipping, bubbly in every hand. Our marvelous designer Meg, of That Time Events had arranged all of the chairs in a large circle. After a few minutes Sam and I began the festivities by welcoming our guests and thanking them all for being a part of our wedding weekend. Then we opened up the floor.

Among the speakers were my mother Irene, Sam’s Godmother Shelley (who released two silver star mylar balloons into the sky as a throwback to the day Sam was born, when she arrived at the hospital with a star balloon that read, “A Star is Born”) and many of our friends both old and new. There was laughter and tears, declarations of love and reminders of embarrassing moments past. The toasts were a perfect kickoff to a big, love-filled weekend.

After the toasts it was time for a BBQ …

Insert Lesbian Wedding Joke Here

I’ve always viewed lesbian weddings in black and white. You either have two girly lesbians (what’s the lingo these days? Lipstick is out, femme is in?) or you have a big butch wedding with one bride in a suit waiting at the end of the aisle. This is totally unfair, and I know it. Every single relationship is different, therefore I should acknowledge that every lesbian relationship is different. Just because this is glaringly obvious doesn’t mean that it had ever occurred to me before. I think my fear was that if we planned this as a lesbian wedding then we would be overlooking that this was, really, a wedding.

I was careful how I approached the ‘lesbian’ factor. I was conscious to toe the line between lesbian wedding and wedding. For some guests, the same-sex element was half of the appeal. I didn’t want to ignore that, but I didn’t want to make the wedding a gay pride party. This was a wedding to celebrate a marriage, and that’s what I wanted it to be. Still, what’s the use of ignoring the elephant in the room?

At our rehearsal celebration on Friday night, some of our friends and family gave speeches and made toasts. For both me and Sam, it was one of the highlights of the whole weekend, and I am absolutely going to tell you more about it in posts to come. On Saturday, at the actual wedding, both of our fathers said a few words, and then Sam’s brother Jonathan (the best man) and my sister Katy, (the matron of honor) both gave speeches. Every one of them had heartfelt and wonderful things to say, and listening to their words are moments I will hold dear in my memory of the weekend.

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(Did I mention she looked gorgeous while doing it?)

I am going to share the ending of my sister Katy’s speech with you. She didn’t just give an incredible MoH speech, which was poignant and funny and candid, but she also took the opportunity to acknowledge what we were all here to celebrate. This was a same-sex wedding and here we were, in a candlelit barn filled with our nearest and dearest. There were many different kinds of people in that room, from my 88-year-old conservative Grandfather (who ends every phone call with, “Love you both”) to Sam’s Jewish aunts, colleagues, childhood friends and glam gay best friends , and many of our college sorority sisters, and every single one of them was there with love and support for us. We never once, over the course of planning this wedding, had to worry that someone might disapprove, or that a family member wouldn’t show up. Everything about planning this wedding felt normal. It felt right to plan a wedding so that I could marry the person I love, and it felt right to include all of these beautiful people, and this was worth acknowledging. My sister ended her speech with these lines:

This is a real life modern family. The rest of the world is very slowly learning what we here have already known for years, that love is love.  A family can be comprised of so many parts but in the end it’s love and friendship that holds it all together. Laura and Sam, congratulations, I wish you all the happiness in the world and love you both dearly.

She had to pause for a moment when she said “love is love,” as the entire wedding had erupted in big, boisterous applause. It was worth saying, and worth noticing, that in this room we didn’t see ourselves as different. We saw ourselves as family.

Final Venue Visit

Yesterday was our last trip up to Cedar Lakes Estate before the big wedding weekend!

My parents hadn’t seen it yet, so they met us up there. Both our Jeep and their trusty old Tahoe were completely packed. We dropped off wine, boxes of gift bags and other goodies. While we’re discussing gift bags, let me just say that I want to know who began this tradition and why. I would also like to take this opportunity to say that I think they’re stupid. I mean, they are. Hey here’s a water bottle and some Advil, thanks for coming!  The whole process is just a waste of time and they really usually contain water, some headache meds and some pretzels, right? Silly.

Ok, now that I’ve made my feelings known I can move on. The lovely Stephanie led us on a tour around the grounds to show my parents everything from the ceremony spot to the kickball location. It was a gorgeous day and our fingers are crossed that September 7th looks just like it.

Also, Stephanie snapped this gem of us.

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Beep Beep! Here come the Semons!

The Final Scramble

So it’s safe to say that we both had an immensely good time at our bachelorette parties … perhaps we should leave it at that for the moment.

What’s next?

DETOX.

VOWS.

Finalizing the wedding ceremony.

Finalizing our numbers and creating a seating chart. (The seating chart is stressing us out. This shit is not easy and I am going to need to employ the help of my mom)

Final dress fittings. (Which are both next week)

Finalizing the timeline for the wedding weekend.

Finalizing the liquor lists.

Tomorrow we are headed back downtown to bring our name change affidavit (We are almost Abbys) and get our marriage license.

Then the next few weeks pass and we just stand by in shock as this wedding flies by and we actually get to be married and take some time to slow our lives down.

Hmm … So what am I forgetting?

The Ceremonious Freefall

We recently received the first draft of our ceremony from our Celebrant (Shout-out to Elizabeth!) and yesterday Sam and I took the morning to sit down and read through it.

Wow. We were both overwhelmed with emotion. The ceremony is tender yet funny, sweet and honest, and most importantly it is made up of 100% us and the people we love. We both realized that a) This is really happening and b) that we made the absolute right choice in designing this ceremony with Elizabeth (not that we had ever questioned the choice) and that our wedding is going to be beautiful.

Last year when my brother’s wife Jaine was getting excited for their wedding, I told her that I didn’t know if I could ever get married in front of people, that the ceremony sounded too public, that my nerves would kill me. She told me then what I’ve repeated to many friends since, something that I cannot remember verbatim because we were a few wine bottles deep, something that essentially convinced me of the importance of making this commitment in the presence of loved ones. “This is the only time in you’re life that you’re asking for this,” She probably said. “You want thirty minutes of their undivided attention so that you can tell each other, in front of all of these people you love, that you’re making a commitment. You don’t get to ask this of people very frequently in life, and it’s something that I think we’ve all earned.” After that night I knew that it was okay to ask everyone to pay attention, to watch us do this, and that it should be stunning and special and created with someone in whom we trust to bring our dream to life.

I don’t want to give anything away, so until my post-wedding posts I will remain tight-lipped about the ceremony, but I can tell you that when we reached the part where she had actually written, “Both brides take a deep breath …” right before our vows, we both did take deep breaths, and I realized that my nerves are going to be out of control in that moment, and that I will definitely need a strong drink immediately following the ceremony. I am trying to keep this deep breath approach in mind as we enter our final, crazy month of planning. Putting together this wedding has been a blast and a blessing but let’s be honest, we’re dealing with a lot of personalities–our own included–and there are times when the stress brings us to the brink. I’ve called my mom in hysterics because one tiny, innocuous detail has me reeling. Sam has given me a big, loud dose of “I have NO ONE” when she’s been driven nuts by the rest of us and she just goddam misses her mom.

Wedding planning has not been a roller coaster, it’s been a freefall. Ever been skydiving? Planning a wedding, which sounds so safe (like bungee jumping, which actually turned out to have much more dire consequences for me than skydiving, but that’s neither here nor there) is actually like those 60+ seconds after you’ve left behind the safety of the plane, when you’re merely spinning around in the atmosphere, trying to decipher which way is up, which way is down, and reminding yourself with each second that ticks by, “Enjoy this! Don’t miss a moment! It’s going to be over in an instant!” We are one month away, right at the moment before the chute is pulled and a calm envelops your body as you float to earth in absolute serenity. At the point right before that,  your body is bouncing in the shock of gravity and though you know you’re going to make it, you can’t be certain.

So. Our ceremony is amazing. We’re both excited and stressed, and so we’re going to part ways. On Thursday morning Sam and I will both board planes. Hers will be headed to Vegas, mine to New Orleans, and we’ll get back to wedding planning next week.

Venue Visit

Until last week we hadn’t been up to our wedding venue since late fall. Last week we went up twice. Summer at Cedar Lakes Estate is unreal. The greens are so green and the lake so serene. Obviously a poetic kind of beauty.

Our first trip up was on a Friday afternoon to see about securing some spirits for the wedding weekend. We brought Sam’s dad Richard and her brother Jonathan along for the ride and gave them a tour of the grounds. They loved Cedar Lakes as much as we did and both really understood our vision. Even with camp going on and kids running around, it was impossible not to see how wonderful it’s going to look for our wedding when all the little brats are back in school. Just kidding. I was reminded of my own summers at Sparrow Lake Camp in Ontario where my siblings and I took swimming lessons in the lake, made friendship bracelets for hours and played Capture the Flag. Those were some good times.

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Me & Sam by the sports fields

Anyway. We went up again a few days later to do a serious wedding run-through with our wedding planner Cheryl, florist and designer extraordinaire Meg, and the Cedar Lakes girls Lisa and Stephanie. By the end of the day we were so excited and so overwhelmed. We made plans to go back up in August to leave even more stuff for the girls. Before we left them that afternoon they were lugging boxes of our wedding necessities into storage. Such hands-on women, we’re so thankful for them.

Basically the place looks gorgeous and we all know what needs to be done in the next six weeks. We have phone calls to make, liquor and linens to secure, and a seating chart to tackle. We’ve given ourselves a deadline for each task, rather than saying, “Okay, let’s get all of this done in three weeks.” I work incredibly well with short deadlines and a divided to-do list. I love crossing things off so sometimes I even add a few easy extras to the list (like the two e-mails I had to send that took a total of thirty seconds combined).

I think we’re in good shape and I’ll try to include updates of all of the smaller details as everything comes together. It is coming together! I’m so excited that I’m sharing a gorgeous pic. Enjoy!

The beach at Cedar Lakes Estate

The beach at Cedar Lakes Estate … and the BLOB!